Author: Ali Luke

Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Annoy a Blog Editor (and What to Do Instead)

The post Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Annoy a Blog Editor (and What to Do Instead) appeared first on ProBlogger.

Ways to annoy a blog editor

This is a post by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke.

Are you (inadvertently) annoying bloggers you want to impress?

If you’re hoping to build a great relationship with a blog editor – maybe so you can land a guest post, or interview them on your blog – then this post is for you.

Because you might just be getting yourself on their blacklist without even realising.

For ten years, I’ve been the owner-editor of my blog Aliventures. I have an assistant for some admin tasks, but emails still come through me. And while my blog definitely isn’t the biggest out there, I still get a fair number of annoying emails.

Back in 2013–14 I spent some time editing Daily Blog Tips, where I fielded a lot of comments, enquiries, guest post requests, and so on.

With both Aliventures and Daily Blog Tips, I’ve had plenty of wonderful interactions with lovely readers. But a few readers obviously didn’t realise their comments or emails were guaranteed to irritate me.

Some of the mistakes I’m about to go through might seem fairly obvious; some might not. I’ve tried to explain why each one is so annoying to an editor.

If you’ve been making some of these mistakes, don’t worry. None of them are awful, just annoying. And all you need to do is avoid making them in future.

#1: Leaving a Comment With a Keyword as Your Name

Have you ever seen (or even left) a comment on a blog with the name field filled in as something like “SEO guru” or “India Travel Tips” or “Top Freelance Writer”? I can understand why people do this. Even though it won’t help you rank for that keyword (links in comments are no-follow), it might tempt a curious reader to click on your name and visit your site.

Using a keyword as your name is really irritating for the blog editor. It looks shady and spammy. And no-one wants any part of their blog, including their comment section, to look like that.

It’s also a technique often used by actual spammers. So for many blog editors, seeing a keyword in the “name” field of a comment is such a red flag that they’ll delete your comment altogether.

Instead: Use your actual name. (If you don’t want to use your full name, just use your first name). It’s not that hard. And don’t think you can get round this with something like “Ali Luke | Top Freelance Writer”. While a blog editor might let it stand, it doesn’t leave the best impression.

#2: Sending Vague, Unanswerable Questions by Email

While I welcome emails from readers, and an always happy to answer a question or two, sometimes their emails just leave me scratching my head.

They’ll be something like, “I want to write stories, please can you help?” or even “How do I become a writer?”

If I only received one email like this it wouldn’t bother me. But when I get similar emails regularly, I can’t help but feel a little exasperated. These questions could easily take me a whole book to answer. They’re not really something I can answer in a quick email.

I can’t imagine what response the emailer is hoping for. Maybe they think they might be able to strike up a mentoring relationship or similar. Or perhaps they think I have some special writing secret I only give out privately and won’t share on my blog.

While I’m not cross about these emails – I’m sure they’re well-meaning – I do find them a bit frustrating. I usually respond by sharing a link to one or more of my favourite writing websites, and giving my best wishes. But I’d really love it if these people would figure out one specific question I could help them with.

Instead: If you’re emailing a blogger for help and advice, ask something specific. (Check their blog first to make sure they haven’t covered it already).

If you’ve got a fairly broad question you want answered, you could frame it as “I’d love to see you blog about…” Most blog editors are happy to receive reader suggestions.

#3: Making Snide Remarks About Typos or Mistakes

With a degree in English Literature and a Masters in Creative Writing, I like to think my grasp of the English language is more than reasonable. But like everyone else I make the occasional typo or mistake. (And I don’t always proofread quite as well as I should.)

One of the most irritating things blog readers can do is to point out those errors in a nasty – and public – way. They may leave a comment saying, “Wow, I thought you were a professional writer, and you can’t even spell”. Or they’ll take issue with a particular word or phrase I’ve used that’s perfectly correct in British English (which is what I use for my own blog and many of my guest posts).

Instead: Do alert a blog’s editor to any typo or mistake you spot. Believe me, they’ll want to know. But do it in private (by email or direct message) and be nice about it. Something along the lines of: “I think a typo slipped through in your first paragraph (‘potatoe’ should be ‘potato’). Just thought you’d like to know.”

#4: Starting an Argument in the Comments

On large blogs, I’ve seen the attitude among some readers that the blog is a “public forum” and they should be entitled to have their say – even if they’re being nasty to other readers.

This is really frustrating for a blog editor. They’ll have to spend time checking the comments, and potentially deleting ones that fall foul of the blog’s commenting policy. (Even if the blog doesn’t have a commenting policy, editors will still quite rightly delete comments that are hostile and rude.)

Remember: even if the blog you’re reading is large, it’s still someone’s website. It isn’t a public forum or social network. (Even sites such as Facebook and Twitter can delete your posts if you write something truly outrageous.)

Instead: If you disagree with someone, there’s nothing wrong with saying so. But be civil, and if you wouldn’t say it in the blogger’s living room then don’t say it on their blog. If someone else attacks you, either respond calmly or not at all. (Sometimes, it’s best just to walk away.)

#5: Ripping Off Their Content

If you want to really wind up a blog editor, here’s a great way to do it: steal one of their posts and publish it on your own site.

While some spammers do this fully knowing it’s wrong, I’ve also come across occasional readers who are new to the blogging world and simply don’t realise they can’t republish other people’s work on their own blog.

So, just in case you’re wondering, here’s what is (and isn’t) okay:

  • You can quote other bloggers. (Make sure you clearly identify the words you’re quoting, and that you name the blogger and link to the source of the quote where possible).
  • You can link to other bloggers’ posts to recommend them to your readers. You can republish a short excerpt from the post (but again, make sure it’s identified as a quote).
  • You can’t publish someone else’s entire post unless they’ve given you explicit permission to do so.
  • You can’t publish images from their post without explicit permission to do so.
  • You can’t take someone else’s post and rewrite it sentence-by-sentence to make it your own. If you’re using their structure and their thoughts, the fact you’ve switched lots of words for different ones or reworked some sentences doesn’t matter. You’re still committing plagiarism.

Instead: Normally, the best thing to do is to simply write your own original blog posts. That way there’s no danger of ripping off someone else’s work. But if you particularly love a post someone else wrote, you could write something inspired by it. (Make sure you link to and acknowledge the original.)

If you really want to republish someone’s post, email newsletter, etc. on your blog, then email them and ask for permission.

#6: Emailing Badly Written, Off-Topic Guest Post Suggestions

In my email inbox, I have a specific label for ‘bad guest post pitches’. Here are a few lines taken verbatim from various emails under that label. Note that these were all guest post pitches for my blog Aliventures, which is about the “art, craft and business of writing”.

“I can provide you 100% Copyscape protected the interesting and informative article that will be helpful to your readers. […] I have also articles published in some of the major websites.”

“I write excellent content with good information that will be appealing to your audience along with attractive images and infographics. I write on varied topics like health, marketing, gifts, travel, etc.”

“I`ve got some useful and unique content about Business Correspondence Skills, that would naturally attract the attention of the authors and the audience alike.”

I’m not sure what people hope to achieve with guest post pitches like this. I suspect they send out so many that eventually someone agrees to take a post from them.

As a blog editor, I’m not going to accept a post that’s off-topic for my blog. (It’s annoying that people email me without even checking what I cover.) And if the pitch itself is badly written and full of spelling mistakes, I won’t want even an on-topic guest post from that writer.

A milder (but still annoying) form of this is when people email me saying something like, “Can I send you a guest post to look at?” I need more than that to go on.

If you’re pitching a guest post, send an actual pitch. And don’t think sending a email like this to get a “Yes, send it on over” response will get you a foot in the door. It just makes you look a bit clueless).

Instead: Write a great guest post pitch. Tell the blogger the topic or title you propose to write about, and make sure it’s firmly on-topic for their blog. Don’t feel you’re “not good enough” or that your blog “isn’t big enough” for you to pitch a guest post yet. Trust me, your pitch will be far better than most of the ones coming the editor’s way.

#7: Asking for a Link to Your Post

This might seem a little controversial. But as a blog owner/editor, I find it annoying to receive link requests.

Yes, I know getting links to your blog is really important and a big part of offsite SEO. But I get so many link request emails that they always come across as an irritation, not a great opportunity.

The requests I receive often seem like they’re generic template emails, too. They either tell me they’ve linked to me and they’d appreciate a link back (reciprocal link exchanges isn’t a good idea in SEO terms), or that they noticed I linked to someone similar to them in a particular post and want me to link to them too.

(I assume they’re using a tool to find backlinks to their competitors so they can target bloggers to request links to their posts as well.)

However brilliant your post is, the truth is most blogger editors won’t have much time to invest in checking it out. Plus, if I wrote a post six months ago I’m not interested in going back and updating it to add more links.

Instead: By all means seek out links to your blog. But don’t email loads of big-name bloggers in the hopes of getting somewhere. Instead, build up relationships with blogging peers who write about your topic. (This is a great idea for lots of reasons, not just to get links.) Then once it’s appropriate, let people know you’d be happy to link to them any time they have a post they’re particularly trying to promote. Hopefully they’ll return the favour. But don’t be upset if they don’t.

 

Most of these mistakes are easy ones to make. You might think they’re all little things, and that editors shouldn’t get annoyed by them. But imagine receiving the 20th irrelevant, badly spelt guest post pitch in a week, and you’ll see why editors might not have much patience left.

Have you been inadvertently making any of these mistakes? What will you do differently next time around?

Image Credit: Ben White

The post Seven Sure-Fire Ways to Annoy a Blog Editor (and What to Do Instead) appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Seven Easy Ways to Write Better Titles for Your Blog Posts

7 easy ways to write better titles for your blog postsToday’s post is by ProBlogger Writing Expert Ali Luke

The most important words in your post are the 6–10 words in the title (also known as the headline).

These words determine whether or not the rest of your post ever gets read. They can guarantee failure, or give your post a great shot at success.

And yet many bloggers treat their title as an afterthought. They either run with the working title they thought up when planning their post, or come up with something half-hearted just so they can publish.

So you can see how much titles matter, let me offer you three different posts. I’ll call them:

  1. More Reader Engagement
  2. How to Get More Comments
  3. Five Ways to Encourage Readers to Comment More Often on Your Posts

Which would you prefer to read?

I’m guessing it’s #3. (Which is, in fact, one of my posts on ProBlogger.) But each title could refer to the same post.

The good news is it’s not hard to get better at writing titles. There are a few straightforward techniques you can use instantly (or with just a little bit of work) to dramatically improve your titles.

Here are my seven favourites:

#1: Be Specific, Not General

A post titled ‘More Reader Engagement’ could mean almost anything. Is it about comments, social media, readers taking action, or what? It’s a general title that could apply to all sorts of posts.

But a post titled ‘Five Ways to Encourage Readers to Comment More Often on Your Posts’ is clear and specific. If you see that title on Twitter or in your email inbox, you’ll know exactly what you’ll get from that post.

Some bloggers think a vague title will intrigue readers, who’ll then click it to find out what the post is about. The truth is, readers have so many other calls on their time and attention that unless you’re a personal friend they’re probably won’t care enough to click.

#2: Use Numbers Where Appropriate

If you look at any magazine cover, you’ll see that numbers are used prominently.

Numbers are a great form of specificity. A post that promises ‘five ways’ is very different from a post that promises ‘100 ways’.

Here are a few example of how different types of titles could be adapted to include numbers:

How to Set Up WordPress
How to Set Up WordPress in Five Simple Steps

My Top Lessons Learned from My First Year of Blogging
My Ten Top Lessons Learned from My First Year of Blogging

How I Dramatically Increased the Size of My Newsletter List
How I Increased the Size of My Newsletter List by a Whopping 351%

Should You Have Comments On Your Blog?
Should You Have Comments On Your Blog? Four Experts Speak Out

It won’t always make sense to use a number in the title of your post, but quite often it will. Of course, it often makes good sense to use numbers in your post, too. (For more on that, check out How to Use Numbers Effectively in Your Blog Posts.)

#3: Use Powerful Adverbs, Adjectives and Phrases

Although I’m not a fan of hype (which I’ll come to in a moment), you do need to sell your blog post a bit in a title. This means using powerful words that grab readers’ attention.

Here are a few examples of titles from ProBlogger, with the powerful adverbs, adjectives and/or phrases highlighted:

Try reading each of those without the highlighted words. They still sound like interesting posts, but aren’t quite so compelling.

Some good words to consider using are:

Words that promise something readers can do easily:

  • Easy
  • Quick
  • Simple
  • Straightforward

Words that promise something readers (probably) won’t already know about:

  • Secret
  • Little-known
  • X won’t tell you (e.g. “ten secrets top bloggers won’t tell you”)

Words that position the reader alongside experts and people they look up to:

  • Like a pro
  • Expert
  • Professional (e.g. “the tools professional editors use”)

Words that promise a comprehensive resource:

  • Epic
  • Ultimate
  • Only (e.g. “the only guide to WordPress you’ll ever need”)

Words that warn readers of danger to avoid:

  • Mistakes
  • Red Flags
  • Warning

But make sure the words are justified. Don’t say your suggestions are “easy” if they require substantial background knowledge or take a lot of time. Don’t call your 500-word blog post an ‘ultimate’ guide. Which leads me to…

#4: Don’t Over-Hype

Your title is a promise. It sets readers’ expectations for your post. Unfortunately, some blog posts have a great title, but the post itself doesn’t deliver on its promise.

Yes, you might get readers. But they definitely won’t be sticking around to read anything else you’ve written. You might even get comments, but they won’t be complimentary!

I don’t want to worry you, or make you feel anxious about titling your posts. Most bloggers are likely to under- rather than over-hype.

But if you’re using a particularly powerful promise in the title (such as ‘The only WordPress Guide You’ll Ever Need’), ask an honest friend or fellow blogger to take a quick look and tell you if the post really lives up to the title.

#5: Don’t Make Your Title Too Long

There’s no absolute rule on how long your title should be. But try not to make it any longer than it needs to be.

‘Seven Easy Ways to Write Better Titles for Your Blog Posts’ is 60 characters long, meaning it will display in full in search engine results and can fit into a short tweet or social media post.

It’s also short enough for a reader to take in quickly.

But it I called this post ‘Let Me Share My Top Seven Easy Ways to Write Much Better Titles for Every Single Blog Post You Ever Create’, it would lose a lot of its impact. It’s too long (106 characters) to display in full in search engine results. And it’s much too wordy: readers might glaze over partway through.

And if I’m this wordy in the title itself, they might think the post is going to be similarly bogged down.

As a very rough guide, I suggest aiming at around 5–10 words or 50–80 characters for your blog post titles. CoSchedule has some great information on optimal title (headline) length here: What Really Is the Best Headline Length?

#6: Use Square Brackets to Add Extra Information

One nifty trick to keep a title short but still give readers an idea of what they’ll be getting is to use square brackets.

You simply add them to the end of your title, like this:

  • How to Set Up WordPress in Just 20 Minutes [Video]
  • Five Powerful Ways to Start Your Blog Post [With Examples]
  • Your Ultimate Guide to Editing Images for Your Blog [Roundup]

There’s no rule about what you can or can’t put in square brackets, though the ones I most often see used are ‘[video] and ‘[with examples]’. It’s a way to concisely promise an extra benefit and/or of give readers more details about what to expect from your post.

#7: Swipe Other People’s Titles (Then Twist Them)

Finally, one of my very favourite titling tricks (especially if I’m stuck) is to swipe someone else’s title.

Is this legal? Yes, there’s no copyright on titles.

Is it ethical? Yes. I’d avoid doing it if they used a very unusual title format. In most cases, the formula they used for their title is very similar to plenty of other titles out there already. And I’m going to be ‘twisting’ the title anyway.

Here’s a worked example of how you could choose a title and come up with your own spin on it:

Original title: Deadlines – Are they Good or Bad for Your Blogging?

This could become:

Blogging blog: Comments – Are They Good or Bad for Your Blog?

Academic blog: Deadlines – Are They Good or Bad for Your Students?

Small business blog: Email Sign-Up Incentives – Are They Good or Bad for Your List?

Each of these follows the same underlying format as the original (a key word or phrase followed by a dash, then ‘Are They Good or Bad for…’). But each is unique.

Here’s another example:

Original title: 3 Principles of Building an Engaged Blog Audience

This could become:

Parenting blog: 3 Principles of Raising Kind Children

Organisation blog: 5 Key Principles of Organising Your Kitchen

Leadership blog: 7 Principles of Running Engaging Meetings

Go back into your archives and take a look at the titles of three posts from earlier this year. (I suggest you look at these rather than more recent posts so you have some distance from them.)

Would you read those posts if you had only the titles to go on?

Can you spend a few minutes tweaking the titles to make them more compelling? For example, could you add a number or a powerful adjective? (Be careful you don’t change the post URL though, or links to your post will break.)

If you’ve got questions, or you’d like to share your ‘before and after’ versions of your titles, just pop a comment below.

The post Seven Easy Ways to Write Better Titles for Your Blog Posts appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Five Ways to Encourage Readers to Comment More Often on Your Posts

Get more comments on your blog posts more often

Do you wish more readers would comment on your blog posts?

Some bloggers think commenting is dead. And while that’s not the whole picture, there may be some truth in it.

When I started blogging back in 2008, Twitter and Facebook were only just taking off. And if readers wanted to respond to a post, they’d normally leave a comment on the blog itself, rather than tweet or comment on a Facebook thread.

You might think that if you had more readers then you’d get more comments. But that isn’t necessarily true. Some of the big blogs I read only get one or two comments per post. And smaller ones can often get dozens.

The truth is, readers do still comment on blog posts. And there’s plenty you can do to encourage them to do so more often.

One very simple way is to deliberately invite comments by asking a question at the end of your post. But this isn’t your only option.

I’m going to go through five key ways to encourage more comments, and encourage readers to keep coming back and commenting. As you read through, think about which one you could put into practice this week.

#1: Comment on Other Bloggers’ Posts

How often do you leave comments on other blogs? If it’s rarely or never, it might be part of the reason you don’t get many comments on your own blog. Not because of karma, but because of reciprocity. If you leave someone a comment, they may want to repay the favour.

But for this to work you need to comment on the right sort of blogs. Commenting on big, well-known blogs may get some initial traffic to your new blog. But chances are it won’t bring the busy blog owner over to your blog to comment.

Instead, look for smaller blogs that are at a similar level to yours. Maybe they have few or no comments, or they’ve just been launched.

Where can you find blogs like that? A great place to look is in forums or groups aimed at bloggers, such as the ProBlogger Facebook group. Search for your own blogging topic and see if anyone’s mentioned that they blog about it too. If so, visit their blog and leave a comment on their most recent post. They may well leave a comment on your blog too.

You can also establish a relationship with a group of fellow bloggers, reading one another’s posts and (at least sometimes) commenting. It can be a good way to start discussions in the comment sections of all your blogs.

#2: Open Up Room for Discussion in The Way You Structure and/or Phrase Things

If your blog post comes across as the final word on a particular topic, it may put readers off commenting. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing – sometimes you may want to write a long, definitive post, and you don’t really care how many comments you get. But if you do want to get more comments, it’s worth thinking about how you phrase things and even how you structure your post.

While an explicit “Leave a comment below…” call to action can be a great way to boost comments, you can also create ‘setups’ to get people commenting.

For instance, in your post you might use phrases such as:

  • “I’m sure I don’t have all the answers…”
  • “I’ll list ten of my best ideas. And I hope you’ll share yours in the comments.”

And then at the end of the post you could write something like, “As I said earlier, I’m sure I don’t have all the answers. I’d love to hear your opinions on this in the comments.”

With a list post, you might stop at an odd number (such as 9 or 19) so you can ask readers, “What would you suggest for #10 on this list? Let me know in the comments.”

#3: Respond to the Comments Readers Leave

If you don’t already reply to comments, make it a habit if you want to get more of them. Readers may not bother commenting again if they don’t receive a response. And if other readers think you don’t read the comments, they may not take the time to leave their thoughts either.

You might want to set aside 5–10 minutes each day to check for comments and reply.

While you don’t have to respond to every comment, you may want to do it until you’re getting more than a handful of comments per post. You don’t need to write long replies – sometimes just “Thanks” or “Great point, I hadn’t thought of that” is enough. As well as helping you build a relationship with your readers, replying to their comments instantly boosts your comments count.

#4: Use Readers’ Comments in Your Blog Posts

One brilliant way to encourage readers to comment is to use their comments as part of a future blog post.

There are several ways in which you can do this:

  • Write a blog post inspired by a reader’s question or suggestion. One of my posts, Seven Habits of Serious Writers, was directly suggested by a reader (whose contribution I acknowledged in the post). Not only was he happy I wrote the post he wanted, it also ended up being one of my most popular posts that year.
  • Quote a reader’s comment in a blog post. Maybe a reader has said something really insightful or something that sparked your train of thought. You could write a post that quotes their comment and expands on or responds to it.
  • Ask for comments you’ll use in a blog post. This works well if you’ve written a post that can easily be extended. For instance, if you’ve written, “Ten Lessons Learned from Ten Years of Parenting”, you might ask readers to leave one of the biggest lessons they learned in the comments, explaining that you’ll pick the best of these to quote in a follow-up post.

#5: Let Readers Subscribe to Comments

You might want to install a WordPress plugin (such as Subscribe to Comments Reloaded) or use a commenting system such as Disqus so readers can subscribe to comments.

This means if someone leaves a comment, they’ll be alerted to any further comments on the post. They’ll see you’ve replied to their comment, or that another reader has added to the discussion.

It’s easy for readers to comment and then forget about the discussion entirely. Letting them subscribe to comments means you’re much more likely to get follow-up comments from them.

Getting more comments isn’t just about getting more readers or using calls to action at the end of your posts. There’s plenty you can do – in your posts, in your comments section, and even on other people’s blogs – to encourage your readers to comment more often.

Which technique will you be trying out in your next post? Tell us about it by leaving a comment. And if you have any other great ideas, feel free to share those too.

Image credit: Mārtiņš Zemlickis

The post Five Ways to Encourage Readers to Comment More Often on Your Posts appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

The Difference Between Pages and Posts (and Making the Most of Each)

Written by ProBlogger Expert Ali Luke

When you think of a blog, you probably think of the posts. You might go to the site to read the latest ones (often on the home page), or they might go straight to your inbox. And if you follow the blogger on social media, you may well see them posting links to their latest posts.

But posts aren’t the only type of content you need to create as a blogger.

Whatever blogging system you use, you’ll have two different ways to publish new content: as blog posts or as blog pages.

Understanding Posts and Pages

On a blog, articles (or news, stories, etc) are published as posts. These appear in reverse chronological order, with the newest posts at the top of the list or (in a grid layout) on the top left of the screen.

Blog posts normally have a timestamp showing when they were published. And readers who have subscribed for updates by RSS or email will get these new posts automatically.

But blog pages are a little different. They are what’s known as “static” content. That doesn’t mean they never change (you can always update a page),. But they won’t be superseded by new pages the way blog posts might.

For instance, you might have blog posts for “2015 roundup”, “2016 roundup” and “2017 roundup” all available in your archives. But would you have multiple pages for “contact details 2015”, “contact details 2016” and so on? Of course not. You’d just update your one Contact page.

Pages are used for content such as:

  • Information about you and your blog
  • A “start here” list of posts
  • Sales information about your products
  • Terms and conditions / privacy policy

Key pages are normally linked to in the top navigation.

Pages don’t have a timestamp, and don’t go out to readers through RSS/email. You can allow comments on pages, but most bloggers don’t as it rarely makes sense.

Using Posts and Pages Effectively

To get the most out of your blog, and to make it a great experience for your readers, you’ll want to make good use of the different attributes of posts and pages.

Here are some key ones to think about:

Posts

Categories: Posts must have a category. This helps organise your blog, especially if you use categories as a navigation option or let readers filter your  post archiveby category.

Make sure you set a category for each new post, or it’ll default to “uncategorized”. You can also rename this default category to something that would make sense for many of your posts. For example, if you write about parenting, your default category might be “kids” or “tips”.

Tags: You may want to use tags to help further organize your pages. They can be a good alternative to having loads of categories, and can help readers navigate your site. But don’t just duplicate your categories as tags. Yoast SEO has some good information on how to use categories and tags as effectively as possible for search engines.

Pages

Password protection: While you can password-protect a post, bloggers rarely use this option. Pages are more commonly password-protected, and can be a quick and easy way to provide some of your readers with exclusive content. For instance, my newsletter subscribers have access to a mini-library of ebooks on this password protected page.[a][b][c]

“Parent” pages: A page can be a “parent” to other pages. For example, you could have a general “Products” page, and pages for your three different products under it. When you set up the three product pages, you can select “Products” as their parent page.

Depending on your blogging platform and theme, “Products” may appear in your navigation menu with a drop-down showing the three products pages beneath. (You can also set this up manually, arranging the menu however you like, in Appearance → Menus in WordPress.)

The URLs for the pages will include the parent’s permalink (e.g. www.nameofblog.com/products/firstproduct).

Hopefully this has clarified the difference between posts and pages. If you’ve never created a page for your blog before, why not try one now? Log in to your blog’s dashboard and create a new page (it’ll be a very similar interface to creating a post). An “About” page is a great one to start with, and you can find some tips on crafting a great one here.

The post The Difference Between Pages and Posts (and Making the Most of Each) appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

4 WordPress Formatting Tips to Make Your Posts More Readable

More Readable blog posts WordPress Formatting

This post is by ProBlogger Writing Expert Ali Luke

You’ve finished your post, and you breathe a sigh of relief. After a quick edit you publish it to your blog, and wait for the comments, tweets, shares, or any sort of feedback.

But once again, you get nothing. There may as well be no-one reading it.

So what’s the problem? It could be that your writing isn’t as strong as it needs to be. But there’s also a very good chance the problem isn’t your writing.

It’s your formatting.

Over the years I’ve reviewed dozens of different blog posts, and most of them were fairly well written. But some were really let down by poor post formatting: the post just didn’t look good.

If you’re not convinced that formatting matters, compare this screenshot…

… to this one.

These are two versions of my post Six Simple Ways to Improve Your Writing Environment (and Get More Done). They both have exactly the same text. But I know which one I’d rather read.

Your readers are busy. They’re distracted. They want an easy, engaging read – not a daunting wall of text.

So what’s stopping you from getting the formatting right? Maybe one of these sounds like you:

  • You haven’t really thought about it before. You’re a writer, not a designer, and it never occurred to you to bother with formatting.
  • You’ve got a vague idea that formatting matters, but you’re not really sure how to go about doing it. What if you make your post look worse rather than better?
  • You haven’t figured out how to use the formatting features built into WordPress.

I’m going to take you through four key formatting features you can use straight away to make your posts more readable. And don’t worry. I’m definitely a words person and even I can manage these.

I’ll also be showing you how easy it is to format text using the WordPress editor. Even if you’re not using WordPress, most blogging platforms have similar features.

(As you read this, you might want to have a draft post or old post ready for editing in a different tab so you can try out the different features.)

#1: Short Paragraphs

Plenty of white space helps make your post readable. White space is all the stuff around the words. If you have short paragraphs (or lists, which we’ll come to later), you’ll already have extra space where your words can breathe.

Adding extra paragraphs is super easy. Just position the cursor wherever you want a new paragraph and hit Enter:

There’s no absolute rule on how long is too long for a paragraph. But if it goes over four or five lines, you may want to consider splitting it.

Tip: If you’re used to more formal writing (perhaps academic or business writing), having short paragraphs may seem odd. If that’s the case, you might want to read How to Write a Paragraph in 2017 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed).

#2: Subheadings

I like to think of subheadings as signposts that help orient readers within my post. Almost any post can be broken up into subsections, and each one should have a clear (and hopefully enticing) subheading.

While it helps readers who are skimming for information, it’s also useful for readers who are reading your entire post. Subheadings prevent them from feeling lost or confused along the way.

I like to use Title Case (capitalizing all major words) for my subheadings, but you might prefer to capitalize only the first word of the subheading. Just make sure you’re consistent.

To create a subheading in WordPress:

  1. Type your subheading on its own line wherever you want it in your post.
  2. Click on the subheading and select “Header 2” from the “Paragraph” dropdown.

Before:

After:

Tip: When you’re planning your post, think about the subsections and potential subheadings you want to use. This will help you create a good structure right from the start.

#3: Bold Text

Bold text is a great way to call attention to a key point or important sentence. But it’s easy to overuse, and I suggest bolding only one or two sentences per subsection (depending how long your subsections are).

Some bloggers use coloured text instead of bold text. This can work if it fits with your branding, but it can also look a bit amateurish and distracting.

To create bold text in WordPress:

  1. Highlight the sentence you want to bold.
  2. Click on the “B” in the WordPress editor.

Tip: Try to avoid bolding only one or two words – it can make your text look choppy. I also tend to bold only the first sentence of a paragraph. Having a bold sentence in the middle or at the end of a paragraph can also look a bit odd.

#4: Lists, and Using Bullet Points

Sometimes it’s easiest to write a list as a regular sentence. For instance, I might write:

In this post, we’ll take a look at paragraphs, subheadings, bold text, and lists.

But if each item on your list is more than a word or two, it will be easier for readers to take in if you lay them out using bullet points.

In this post, we’ll take a look at:

  • Paragraphs – keeping them short
  • Subheadings – helping your reader navigate your post
  • Bold text – pulling out key points
  • Lists – using bullet points

To create a list in WordPress:

  1. Set out your text as a list, with each item on a different line:

  1. Highlight the entire list and click the “Unordered List” icon, which looks like this:

Tip: This method creates an unordered list with bullet points. If you want to number each item on your list, use the “Ordered List” icon (next to the “Unordered List” icon). A numbered list will automatically renumber your items as you add new ones – even if you add them to the middle of your list.

I’m sure you’ve already seen these formatting features in use, and have tried using some of them yourself. Hopefully you’ll feel a lot more confident about using them now to make your posts more readable.

Here’s a mini-challenge for you: look back at your three most recent posts, or perhaps your three most popular ones. Try using at least two of my suggestions to improve the formatting, and let us know how you got on.

The post 4 WordPress Formatting Tips to Make Your Posts More Readable appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

3 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational

make-blog-post-conversational.jpg

This post is by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

You’ve probably heard that your blog posts need to be “conversational”.

You may also have been told why: to create a sense of connection with your reader, keep them engaged, and make your blog sound less like a lecture and more like a discussion.

That’s all true. But making your writing “conversational” can be tricky – especially if you come from a business or academic writing background.

If your blog posts tend to sound a little dry and stilted, here are three simple ways to change things.

#1: Talk Directly to Your Reader

Write your post as if you’re talking a specific reader. Picturing an actual person may help – someone you know in real life, or who comments on your blog. You could even imagine you’re emailing them, or writing a Facebook post or comment.

And use words like “I” and “you”, even though you were probably taught not to at school or work. When you’re blogging it’s totally fine to write from your personal experience, and to invite the reader to step into your post.

Here’s an example from Jim Stewart’s post 9 Tips for Recovering Your Google Rankings After a Site Hack. (I’ve highlighted each use of “you” and “your”.)

If your WordPress site has been hacked, fear not. By following these tips you can fortify your site and kick wannabe hackers to the kerb.

And provided you act quickly, your WordPress site’s SEO traffic—and even its reputation—can recover within 24 hours.

This is clear, direct writing that speaks to the reader’s problem. And it’s easy to read and engage with: it’s almost like having Jim on the phone, talking you through fixing things.

Note: As Jim does here, always try to use the singular “you” rather than the plural “you”. Yes, you hopefully have more than one reader. But each one will experience your blog posts individually. Avoid writing things like “some of you” unless you’re deliberately trying to create a sense of a group environment (perhaps in an ecourse).

#2: Use an Informal Writing Style

All writing exists somewhere on a spectrum from very formal to very informal. Here are some examples:

Very formal: Users are not permitted to distribute, modify, resell, or duplicate any of the materials contained herein.

Formal: Your refund guarantee applies for 30 calendar days from the date of purchase. To request a refund, complete the form below, ensuring you include your customer reference number.

Neutral: Once you’ve signed up for the newsletter list, you’ll get a confirmation email. Open it up, click the link, and you’ll be all set to get the weekly emails.

Informal: Hi Susan, could you send me the link to that ProBlogger thingy you mentioned earlier? Ta!

Very informal: C U 2morrow!!!

With your blogging, it’s generally good to aim for an informal (or at least a neutral) register, as if you were emailing a friend. This makes you seem warm and approachable.

Typically, you’ll be using:

  • Contractions (e.g. “you’ll” for “you will”)
  • Straightforward language (“get” rather than “receive” or “obtain”)
  • Chatty phrases (“you’ll be all set”)
  • Possibly slang, if it fits with your personal style (“thingy”, “ta!”)
  • Short sentences and paragraphs
  • Some “ungrammatical” features where appropriate (e.g. starting a sentence with “And”)

You might want to take a closer look at some of the blogs you read yourself. How do they create a sense of rapport through their language? How could you rewrite part of their post to make it more or less formal? What words or phrases would you change?

#3: Give the Reader Space to Respond

Conversations are two-way, and that means letting your readers have a say too. If you’ve decided to close comments on your blog, you may want to consider opening up a different avenue for readers to get involved, such as a Facebook page or group.

When you’re writing your post, don’t feel you need to have the last word on everything. You don’t have to tie up every loose end. It’s fine to say you’re still thinking about a particular subject, or that you’re still learning. This gives your readers the opportunity to chime in with their own expertise or experiences.

Often, you can simply ask readers to add to your post. For instance, if you’ve written “10 Great Ways to Have More Fun With Your Blogging”, ask readers to contribute their own ideas in the comments. Some people won’t feel confident about commenting unless explicitly invited to do so, ideally with a suggestion of what they could add (e.g. “What would you add to this list?” or “Have you tried any of these ideas?”)

On a slightly selfish note, if you’re not sure about the value of comments, remember it’s not just about your readers getting more out of your blog. Some of my best blog post ideas have come from a reader’s suggestion or question in a comment. And many other comments have prompted me to think in a more nuanced way about a particular topic.

There’s no one “right” way to blog, and some blogs will inevitably be more conversational than others. If you’d like to make your own posts a bit more conversational, though, look for opportunities to:

  • Use “you” and “I”. Talk directly to your reader, and share your own experiences where appropriate.
  • Make your language fairly informal. Don’t worry about everything being “correct” – just let your voice and style shine through.
  • Open up the conversation by inviting readers to comment, or encouraging them to pop over to your Facebook page (or join your Facebook group).

Have you tried making your blog more conversational? Or is it something you’re just getting started with? Either way, leave a comment below to share your experiences and tips.

Christin Hume

The post 3 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

How to Plan Your Blog Post from Start to Finish

Plan your blog postsThis is a post by ProBlogger expert Ali Luke

Do you plan your blog posts? Or do you dive straight into the writing?

A lot of bloggers barely plan their posts (if they plan them at all). They’re either too eager to get started, or feel rushed and see planning as a waste of time.

But taking just five minutes to plan your posts can make a huge difference to your blogging.

Here’s why.

Five Great Reasons to Plan Your Posts Before You Start Writing

#1: More Planning = Less Editing

By spending five minutes planning, you can often save yourself 15 or 30 minutes of editing. If it’s clear at the planning stage that a post isn’t quite going to work, you can easily change it before you start writing, which will save a lot of time and effort.

#2: A Good Plan Makes it Easier to Write

While some bloggers feel that planning kills their spontaneity, I find a plan liberating. It’s much easier to write when you’re not trying to keep everything in your head and constantly worrying you’ll forget the next three points you want to make.

#3: Well-Planned Posts are More Engaging for Your Readers

If your post wanders off the point and doesn’t deliver on what you promised in the headline or introduction, readers will understandably get fed up. They may not finish reading it. And they certainly won’t be eagerly subscribing to your blog for more.

#4: Planning Can Help You Come Up with More Ideas

The process of writing down your ideas and getting them into a structure can often spark off new ideas. Some may help you deepen the post you’re planning, while others may give you the seed for a whole new post. If you find it hard to come up with new post ideas, plan more.

#5: You May Have to Plan if You’re Working With an Editor

Chances are that at some point in your blogging career you’ll have to write a plan. If you pitch a guest post or a freelance piece, you’ll often be asked for an outline. If you’ve never planned your own posts, writing a plan for someone else to read may feel very daunting. So get some practice in now.

Before I run through how to create a plan for your next blog post, let’s take a quick look at what a plan might actually look like.

The Plan for One of My ProBlogger Posts

Initial idea: “Should You Stop Taking Comments on Your Blog?”

I’ve been blogging for so long my ideas often take the form of potential titles, as this one did. In the end the title became “Should You Disable Comments on Your Blog?” (which is far more succinct), but it was good enough for the planning phase.

The Plan

This is the brief version of my plan for the post:

Introduction – why close comments?

Prominent bloggers who removed comments – Steve Pavlina, Seth Godin, Copyblogger (brought them back), Michael Hyatt (brought them back).

Carol Tice (Make a Living Writing) – always answered comments but clearly not sustainable.

Deciding what to do about comments

Close them or not? Link to Charlie Gilkey’s post

Other options:

– Anti-spam plugin

– Close comments on old posts

– Use Disqus / FB comments

Conclusion – comments are valuable but you don’t NEED to have them on your blog

Now this is a very bare-bones plan. This might be enough for some bloggers, but I tend to flesh out each section with a few more notes before I start writing. (I’ll be recommending it as part of your own planning system in a moment.)

You may also have noticed that my plan has “Introduction” at the start and “Conclusion” at the end. Every plan I write includes these sections, and making sure I have those in place helps to give my posts a solid structure.

Using a Standard Template for Your Blog Posts

At its most basic, a good blog post template looks like this:

  • Introduction
  • Main body
  • Conclusion

If you want, you can use that template for your posts. However, some bloggers like to go further and create a more detailed template to make their blogging easier. A great example is Michael Hyatt’s blog post template, which he details in Anatomy of an Effective Blog Post.

You may want to develop your own template, or even a template with variations for different types of post, to help you create plans quickly and easily.

How to Plan Your Next Blog Post

Of course, this isn’t the only way to plan a blog post. But hopefully  it’s a useful starting point for you. Once you’ve tried it out, you can tweak and adapt it to suit your workflow.

Step #1: Write Down Your Topic or Idea

Write  down the idea/topic for your blog post. Turn it into a working title, which often helps pin down the format of the post. For  instance, “7 Ways to…” is clearly going to be a list post.

Step #2: Create a Mindmap

On paper, or using an app, create a mindmap for your post. Write your title (or a short version of it) in the centre of the page, then jot down your key points around it. You may find that you start coming up with more details – perhaps an idea relating to one of these points, or a link to include. Write those down too. If your mindmap starts getting unclear, circle or highlight your key points in a different colour.

Step #3: Type an Outline

Type your key points into an outline, with any sub-points or extra details beneath each point, as in this example (from my plan for the post you’re currently reading):

Using a Standard Template for Your Blog Posts

– Introduction, main body, conclusion
– Michael Hyatt’s template

How to Plan Your Next Blog Post

– Write down your topic or idea
– Create a mindmap
– Type an outline

At the start of your outline, add “Introduction”. And at the end, add “Conclusion”. Even if you don’t include any further details, it will remind you to write those sections.

Write down the topic, and come up with a working title to help you pin down the format.

Step #4 (optional): Flesh Out Your Outline

For a very short post, or one where you know the material well, you may want to omit this step. But again, I believe that every minute you spend planning will save you several minutes of editing.

Go through your outline, and write a few notes for each key point. What will that section of your post cover? Are there any resources (yours or other people’s) that you want to mention and link to?

Now, it’s finally time to write. Hopefully you’ll find drafting your post easy, as you’ve got the whole structure laid out for you. And at a glance you can see where you’re up to and how far you’ve got to go, which can help you pace your post appropriately.

For your next blog post, challenge yourself to spend at least five minutes planning and see what a difference it makes. 

And feel free to share your plans with us in the comments.

The post How to Plan Your Blog Post from Start to Finish appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Should You Disable Comments on Your Blog?

This is a post by ProBlogger expert Ali Luke

When you started out blogging, you were probably thrilled when you got a comment. People were reading your posts, and cared enough to leave their own thoughts.

As time went by, you probably found some of the comments very useful. Maybe they sparked off an idea for a different post, or gave you a perspective you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.

But if you’ve been blogging for a long time, and your blog gets a lot of traffic, those comments may be starting to become less of a delight and more of a chore.

Responding to five comments on every post might take only ten minutes, so it’s no big deal. But responding to fifty could take you the best part of an hour.

If you write two posts a week, that’s two hours you’re spending on comments. You could have written another blog post in that time.

Even if you hire someone to respond on your behalf, you’re still paying for their time. And that money could probably be better spent getting help with something else.

So it’s no surprise that some people who run large blogs decide not to have comments at all.

This isn’t a new thing. Way back in 2005, Steve Pavlina closed comments on his self-development blog. In 2006, Seth Godin closed comments on his business blog.

In recent years, it’s become something of a trend. I’ve seen several blogs I read (avidly!) close their comments sections.

Copyblogger removed their comments in 2014, and then brought them back in 2016.

Michael Hyatt removed comments from his blog in 2015, and then brought them back a year later.

A few months ago one of my very favourite bloggers, Carol Tice from Make a Living Writing, decided to close comments on her blog. I’ve often glanced through the comments there, and I was always impressed by how often and how thoughtfully Carol responded. But I completely understand that it wasn’t sustainable.

What about your blog? Should you stop taking comments altogether? Or do you think blogs should have comments?

Deciding What to Do About Comments

When you launch a blog, chances are comments are enabled by default. It’s easy to run with them enabled, but there’s no rule that says blogs must have comments.

Here are a few things you might want to think about.

  • What value do you get from comments? Does your blog attract thoughtful, engaged readers who leave comments that spark off great ideas for you? Or are most of the comments spam or very short comments that don’t really add any value?
  • Are you happy with how much time you currently spend moderating / answering comments? You may well be. On my Aliventures blog I post only once a week, and rarely spend more than ten minutes a week answering comments. This is perfectly sustainable for me.
  • Would your readers prefer to interact with you in a different location (e.g. on your Facebook page)? Obviously there are pros and cons to doing this. But some blogs encourage readers to leave feedback on social media platforms instead of (or as well as) commenting on posts themselves.
  • Do you get worried or stressed over comments? Even if it doesn’t take you long to respond to comments, they can still cause a lot of anxiety – especially if you’re writing in a niche where readers tend to be snarky or critical.

There are no right or wrong answers here, and different bloggers will come to different conclusions about what to do. For a couple of useful perspectives, take a look at:

Blog Commenting Isn’t Dead – It’s Different, Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing

This is a thoughtful, detailed look at comments and whether or not we should disable them on blogs, along with an in-depth explanation about the “Campfire” (a thriving Facebook group Charlie runs for his readers) and the role it plays in encouraging conversations.

Do Comments Actually Increase Your Search Traffic? A Data-Driven Answer, Neil Patel, Quick Sprout

This post digs deep into whether comments benefit your blog in terms of search engine traffic, and concludes that they have a small impact. (Obviously, you might be looking for different benefits from comments.)

Of course, removing comments doesn’t have to be a decision you make once and stick to forever. Like Copyblogger and Michael Hyatt, you may want to experiment with removing comments for… say, a year. You can always re-enable them.

If you don’t want to switch off comments completely, but want to reduce how much time you spend dealing with them, you might want to think about:

#1: Installing a Robust Anti-Spam Plugin

Removing spam comments can take up a lot of time. (And if you don’t weed them out promptly, they make your site look bad). To save yourself a lot of effort, install a good anti-spam plugin such as Akismet. It  will remove almost all spam comments before you even see them.

#2: Closing Comments on Older Posts

There’s no rule that says you need to leave comments open forever. Many large blogs close comments on older posts after a set period of time (e.g. two weeks, one month, etc.) Readers can all join in the discussion when the post first goes live, but readers who stumble across it a year later won’t be able to comment. This can cut down on spam, and means you have a smaller number of conversations to keep track of at any given time.

You can change this under Settings –> Discussion in your WordPress dashboard. Look for the line that says “Automatically close comments on articles older than (X) days” and set (X) to whatever you want.

#3: Using Disqus or Facebook Comments (or Another Plugin)

While many bloggers are happy with WordPress’ built-in commenting functionality, others prefer to use a different system. Disqus and Facebook Comments are both popular, though there are other options as well.

For a look into the pros and cons of each, check out James Parson’s post Facebook vs Disqus vs WordPress Comments: Which to Use?

Ultimately, what you do about comments is entirely up to you.

Some bloggers have strong opinions, and feel that comments are a defining feature of a blog. But most people are fairly pragmatic about it, and agree that comments are valuable. They add to the discussion, can bring in interesting ideas / alternative perspectives, and create a greater sense of “buy in” for readers. They can even potentially help with search engine traffic by providing extra content.

But comments also come at a cost – your time and attention – and it’s up to you to decide whether they’re worth it.

Do you currently have comments enabled on your blog or not? Are you thinking about changing this? Let us know your thoughts below.

The post Should You Disable Comments on Your Blog? appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

5 Critical Elements You Need to Check Off for Every Blog Post

5 critical blog post elements

This post is by ProBlogger subject matter expert Ali Luke

Over the past few years, I’ve conducted a lot of blog reviews for fellow writers. It’s always great fun to read other people’s posts … especially when they’re on topics that are totally new to me!

Along the way, though, I’ve noticed that there are five critical elements that far too many bloggers miss out of their posts.

Could your posts be missing any of these too? They are:

1.       The Hook

2.       Subheadings

3.       Transitions

4.       Links

5.       The Conclusion

#1: The Hook

I’ve never seen a blog post that didn’t have an introduction. I’ve seen plenty of posts, though, that had over-long introductions without a hook: a compelling reason for the reader to keep going.

Here’s an example of a good hook, from Laney Galligan’s post 5 Ways You Can Use Facebook Groups to Benefit Your Blog:

That’s right, more than 1 billion people are using Facebook groups. That’s where the conversation and community is happening and it’s something you can easily create for your blog.

Laney makes the benefits clear (Facebook is where “the conversation and community is happening”) and also makes an implicit promise that this post will teach the reader how to “easily create [that] for your blog”.

The first few sentences of your post, too, need to convince the reader that your post is worth their time.

#2: Subheadings

Very short blog posts (say, under 400 words) don’t need subheadings. Anything longer, though, can normally benefit from being broken into sections.

If your post is missing subheadings, it’s easy for the reader to get lost midway.  When that happens, chances are, they’ll stop reading. Subheadings help because they act like signposts: they tell the reader where they are and what’s coming next.

For more help with subheadings, check out my podcast for ProBlogger, How to Use Subheadings to Add Structure to Your Blog Posts.

#3: Transitions

A transition is like a little bridge from one thought to another. Sometimes, you don’t need a transition at all (a subheading can essentially serve the same purpose). If your post feels disjointed or abrupt in places, though, you may need to add in a quick transition.

Often, a transition is helpful before any major new section of your post. They can also be used to introduce lists.

Here are some examples, from Nicole Avery’s post How to Reduce Your Time on Social Media to Increase Your Blogging Productivity – you might want to read the whole post to see how these work in context:

There are two different ways that I see social media impact bloggers’ productivity negatively.

 

How does this behaviour on social media impact their productivity? It impacts it in three key ways:

 

It doesn’t mean that you can’t be on social media, it just means you need to take a more planned and proactive approach to how you go about it. Here are two actions you can take to help you:

#4: Links

While it’s not absolutely essential for your post to contain links, it’s almost always a good idea to include at least one. Both internal links (to your own blog) and external links (to other websites) matter.

  • Links to past posts on your blog help readers dig in … and stick around.
  • Links to posts on other people’s blogs position you as someone helpful and knowledgeable.
  • Links to your products or services help you make more sales.
  •  Links to books on Amazon can bring in affiliate income – and also make you look helpful and well informed.

It’s often appropriate to include links throughout your post, usually to give more information about a particular point. If you quote someone or give an example, you should provide a link too.

Sometimes, you might not have many opportunities to link within a post (or you may not want to distract readers – e.g. in a how-to post): if that’s the case, you could include some “further reading” or “where next?” suggestions at the end.

#5: The Conclusion

Of all the missing elements, this is probably the one that seems to get left off the most! If you finish your post too suddenly, though, it not only seems weirdly abrupt to readers … it robs you of a great chance to direct their next actions.

There are several ways to tackle the conclusion: personally, I think it’s good to sum up briefly (if only in a sentence), and to give a “call to action”. You can find out more about those in the ProBlogger podcast episode How to Write a Post That Contains a Call to Action.

Here’s an example of a conclusion that encourages the reader to take action based on the content – this is from Colin Gray’s post How to Get Your First Podcast Sponsorship:

If you’re looking to dip your toe in the waters, but sponsoring your blog is a step too far, then try your podcast. Build a relationship there and who knows, it might lead to your blog, your video channel, your social media.

If that gives you the time and the space to spend time on the content you love, offering more and more value to your readers, then it’s worth an ad spot or two. Give it a shot!

When you’re busy writing a blog post, it can be difficult to think about everything you need to include … you’re probably hurrying just to get all your ideas down.

As you edit, though, use these five critical elements as a checklist: make sure you’ve included each one – or that you’ve got a very good reason not to!

Which of these five elements do you find yourself inadvertently missing out? How could you include it in your next post? Share your thoughts or tips with us in the comments!

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

The post 5 Critical Elements You Need to Check Off for Every Blog Post appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Find and Pitch the Perfect Guest Posting Opportunities

Find and Pitch the Perfect Guest Posting Opportunities

Today ProBlogger Subject Matter Expert Ali Luke is guest posting about guest posting.

So, you’ve realised that guest posting has loads of benefits for you and your blog, but you’re not quite sure how to go about it.

Maybe you’re worried that you don’t have enough experience.

Perhaps you haven’t even got an active blog of your own right now.

That’s absolutely fine. Most host blogs just want someone who can write reasonably well.

(It’s also OK to guest post even if you don’t have your own blog: some authors do this to promote their books, for instance, and freelancers do it to promote their services.)

If you’re worried about whether your writing’s good enough, ask a blogger friend to help you edit your guest post: a second pair of eyes can be invaluable here.

Choosing a Blog to Target

Where should you post? It makes sense to aim for a well-known blog with a big audience, though if this is your very first guest post, you may not want to go straight for the top. (Some bloggers do, though – so if you’re feeling confident, try it!)

Great blogs to guest post for are:

#1: Blogs that you already read regularly. This is definitely the best place to begin: after all, you already know these blogs well, and you may have left comments or shared posts, meaning there’s a chance the host blogger is already familiar with you.

#2: Blogs that are new to you, but well-established in your niche. I’ve been blogging for 9 years and I still keep coming across great blogs I never knew about! Check out the blogs that big-name bloggers in your niche link to (either in posts, in their sidebar, or on social media).

I don’t recommend Googling “list of blogs to guest post for” and choosing a list with hundreds of blogs on it. Guest posting isn’t a numbers game: it’s much better to write one or two great posts for one or two great blogs.

How to Know if a Blog Takes Guest Posts

The first thing to look for is a page on the blog titled something like this:

  • Guest post guidelines
  • Submission guidelines
  • Write for us
  • Submit a post

(Check the navigation menu, the sidebar, the About page, and the Contact page for these. Or you can type into Google: guest post guidelines site:[URL of the blog] to find any page/post on that blog that mentions “guest post guidelines".)

If there aren’t any guidelines visible, look to see who’s writing for the blog. Are there any recent guest posts? Anything written by someone who isn’t the blog owner / editor might be a guest post … though if the same names keep coming up again and again, they’re probably freelance writers.

Once you’ve found a blog to target, it’s time to come up with your idea.

Coming Up with an Idea

If you generally find it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, you might want to check out the six months of blogging prompts (free).

When you’re pitching a guest post, your idea should be:

  • In the right niche. I know this sounds obvious, but there’s no point in sending a post about credit cards to a blog about parenting toddlers!
  • A good fit for the audience. Copyblogger and Helping Writers Become Authors are both excellent blogs with an interest in good writing … but Copyblogger is about copywriting and Helping Writers Become Authors is about fiction.
  • Not too similar to other recent posts on the blog. You might want to find a category on the blog that hasn’t had many posts recently, and come up with an idea to fit that category.
  • Appropropriate for the tone of the blog. Most blogs, for instance, won’t be keen to publish an angry, ranty, sweary post. (Of course, on some other blogs, that would work perfectly.)

I’d suggest coming up with two or three ideas for the blog: personally, I like to offer one main idea and a couple of alternatives.

Note: We’ll be going into more detail about guest post ideas next week and providing extra guidance on how to shape these not only to the blog itself but also to your own objectives.

Developing Your Idea into an Outline

Before you pitch, your main idea should be fleshed out with a brief outline or idea of what you’re going to cover. A list (with or without bullet points) is fine here. For instance, for this post, that list might look like:

Title: Finding Great Guest Posting Opportunities and Pitching the Perfect Post

This would cover:

  • Where to find blogs to post for (and what NOT to do)
  • How to come up with ideas that are a good fit for your target blog
  • A sample email for pitching your ideas
  • The importance of following guidelines

A quick list like this makes sure that the host blogger’s expectations line up with what you plan to deliver.

Occasionally, you may find that a host blogger likes your idea but wants you to cover different or additional points – it’s always easiest to get this clear up front, rather than to write a whole post only to end up making substantial changes.

Should You Write the Whole Post Before Pitching?

Some blogs like to have the pitch alone (title plus outline); others prefer to see a finished post. Check their guidelines to see what they specify.

There’s nothing stopping you, of course, from writing the whole post before you pitch (and just keeping it to yourself): if you’re feeling a bit anxious about doing justice to your pitch, this can help! You may, though, have to make changes based on the blog owner’s response to your pitch.

Writing a Pitch Email to the Blog’s Editor

This is where many would-be guest post writers get stuck! It can be really daunting to sit down and email a big-name blogger who you’d love to write for … what if you screw it up?

If it’s any comfort, that big-name blogger probably gets dozens of terrible pitches from SEO companies every single week.

To stand out from the crowd, just:

  • Present an on-target idea (you should have that already!)
  • Be clear and concise (don’t give detailed paragraphs about your backstory)
  • Use correct spelling and grammar (ask a friend to proofread for you)

You don’t need to have any special credentials … you just need to show that you can write decent English and that you won’t be horrible to work with.

In case you think I’m setting the bar too low here, this is a real email I received a couple of weeks ago, for my blog Aliventures (my tagline there is “master the art, craft and business of writing”):

Hey,

I am content writer specialized in Health & fitness niche, and I chanced upon aliventures.com. I must appreciate that the content of your website is par excellence and exceptionally useful.

I’ve been a blogger for about 10 years, with special interests in Health & fitness, Ayurvedic counselor, and Sexologist. Today I am a recognized expert in the subject, and over the years, have consistently contributed articles and blogs to top sexologist related sites.

I am looking forward to attaching myself as a guest blogger to your site by contributing an article to aliventures.com. I assure that the article will be highly informative and educative to your audience. While I am not looking at any monetary benefits, instead we could consider the possibility mentioning my site/resource just once within the article.

Do let me know if this sounds good and works for you.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Regards,

[name removed]

Content Writer & Editor

I’m sure you spotted some of the glaring problems with this pitch:

  • It’s clearly been sent to lots of different blogs. You can tell because it doesn’t address me by name and it has my URL instead of my blog’s name in the first paragraph (which means the writer likely has a long long list of blog URLs that they’re contacting).
  • The topics are completely irrelevant to my blog on writing. I have never posted anything on Aliventures about health and fitness (or sex)!
  • The writer doesn’t pitch an actual topic at all, but they assure me the article will be “highly informative and educative”. I’m not convinced.
  • It’s pretty clear their aim in guest posting is purely to get a link.

Trust me, you can do a million times better than this.

Sample Email to Use When Pitching a Guest Post

Here’s an email you can use for your pitches: just fill in the [bits in square brackets].

Subject: Guest post submission: [title of post]

Dear [blog owner],

Would you be interested in a guest post titled [title of post]? It would cover:

  • [Key point 1]
  • [Key point 2]
  • [Key point 3]

If that’s not a good fit, would either of these suit you?

  • [title of alternative post]
  • [title of alternative post 2]

I blog at [name of your blog] and I’ve also written for [any other blogs you’ve guest posted on, if applicable].

Many thanks for your time,

[your name]

If there are specific guidelines about how to submit, make sure you follow those: for instance, if you’re asked to include links to samples of your work, do that!

Tip: Some blogs have quite detailed guest posting guidelines, and I find it helps to print those out and go through them point by point so I don’t miss anything.

Following Up on Your Guest Post Pitch

If you don’t hear back (and there’s no Out of Office reply or similar), follow up after 2 weeks. Anything sooner looks a bit pushy – remember that big bloggers will get a LOT of requests, and if you press too soon, it’s easier for them to say “no” rather than take the time to review your post.

Don’t leave it forever to follow up, though: it’s embarrassing for a host blogger if they lose your email and only find it again two months later. (I’ve had this happen not only with guest post pitches but also a magazine article submission: trust me, it’s best for you and for the editor if you follow up politely rather than assume that they didn’t want it…!)

Here’s an email you can use when following up:

Sample Follow Up Email

Dear [name],

I just wanted to check if you received my guest post pitch on [date]? I’ve copied that email below just in case it went astray.

No problem if it’s not quite right for you, or if you need some time to think about it.

Thanks very much,

[your name]

(Make sure you do include the original pitch. Don’t expect the blogger to trawl through their inbox for it… and there’s always the possibility it ended up being eaten by a spam filter.)

Guest posting is one of the best ways to boost your blog’s traffic and to build your own profile within the blogging world. Pitching can be a little scary – but once you’ve done it a few times, it does get much easier!

Have you written any guest posts yet? If you’re nervous or if you’ve got questions about finding opportunities, coming up with ideas and pitching your post, just leave a comment below.

Guest Posting Series:

Next week, we’ll be covering writing the guest post itself: making sure you’ve got an idea that’ll work for your host blog and for you, using your bio wisely, including links, and even including visuals.

So far:

7 Powerful Non-SEO Reasons to Try Guest Posting

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