Tag Archives: Creating Content

6 Ways to Boost Your Blog Traffic in the New Year

The post 6 Ways to Boost Your Blog Traffic in the New Year appeared first on ProBlogger.

6 ways to boost your blog traffic in the new yearThis post is based on Episode 177 of the ProBlogger podcast.

Did your blog have a bit of a holiday slump?

Many bloggers find they lose momentum with their traffic in January. So if it happened to you, you’re not alone.

Your readers were probably online less than usual. A lot of my fellow Aussie bloggers struggle at this time of year because their readers are enjoying the beach or off on vacation.

You may have taken some time away from blogging as well to spend time with friends and family.

But now you’re back at your desk, and want to start working on your blog in earnest.

Today, we’ll be looking at six things you can do to boost your traffic and get it back to where it was (or perhaps even higher).

Tip #1: Focus on Creating Shareable Content

Head to BuzzSumo.com and type in your URL. You’ll discover what content from your site was shared the most during the previous year.

Look at the top three or four posts and ask yourself, “Could I repurpose that content into a different medium?”

Maybe you could turn a blog post into a video or a SlideShare presentation. Perhaps it could even become a podcast.

If something’s been shared a lot as a blog post, and you repurpose it into another type of content, chances are the new version will be shared a lot too.

Another question to ask is, “Could I update this?” Perhaps you could do a second post with a fresh take on that topic for the new year.

You could also ask yourself, “How could I apply this format to a new topic?” For instance, on Digital Photography School posts such as “21 Mistakes that Wedding Photographers Make” always do well. A post like that could be repurposed for a different part of our audience. How about “21 Mistakes that Travel Photographers Make”, for instance, or “21 Mistakes that Portrait Photographers Make”?

Other options are to do a roundup post (where you link to other people’s content on the topic, as well as your own), or even interview influencers in your niche about that topic.

Tip #2: Create a Highly Valuable ‘Mega Post’

On Digital Photography School, we sometimes publish what we call ‘mega posts’. These are long, in-depth posts that are often titled “The Ultimate Guide to…”

Here are a couple of examples:

With these posts we choose one of our categories (e.g. “landscape photography”) and put together a 5,000–7,000-word post that covers the area in depth. They take a lot of time and effort, but they get shared a lot.

Along with the post, we normally create an email opt-in where readers can enter their email address to get a downloadable version of the post. So these posts also help us grow our email list.

To make the most of the time you invest in creating mega posts, you might also want to turn them into an autoresponder series or a free online course. You could also repurpose the content for SlideShare or for videos.

Tip #3: Create a Series of Blog Posts

Another great way to build momentum is to run some kind of event or project on your site. An ongoing series of blog posts – particularly one that addresses a core problem your readers want to tackle or a goal they want to reach – can really build excitement and anticipation.

Announce the series to your readers, and explain what’s coming up. This gives them a reason to subscribe and keep coming back to your blog.

You might even want to build some sort of challenge into your series. This gets your readers not just reading your content but also taking some action. I first did this with the “31 Days to Build a Better Blog” series, which gave readers a little bit of homework each day.

Getting readers to engage and participate can really build a sense of energy around your blog. And it can help you grow your traffic a lot.

During the series, you may want to publish content more frequently than usual. When I ran the “Find Your Blogging Groove Challenge” on the ProBlogger podcast, I did a week of daily shows (instead of publishing two shows a week). Each day there was a little bit of teaching and a challenge. This resulted in a huge increase to our download numbers during that week. And even when I returned to the normal frequency, the numbers were still higher than they were beforehand.

Tip #4: Create Guest Content in Other Places Online

You’ve probably come across the idea of “guest blogging” before. But guest content can encompass a lot more than just blog posts (though those are still well worth doing).

Your guest content could include:

  • Answering questions in Facebook groups relevant to your blog (without spamming or being overly self-promotional). People in the group will see how useful your answers are, and this will naturally drive traffic to your site.
  • Being interviewed as a guest on someone else’s podcast. (Here are some tips on how to pitch yourself as a guest.)
  • Taking part in an organised Twitter chat, perhaps as a guest or the main interviewee.

With all of these, you’re adding value to someone else’s blog or podcast. And in return you get to borrow their audience and profile.

You can find more about these ideas and others in Episode 37 of the ProBlogger podcast.

Tip #5: Warm Up Your Email List

Sometimes our traffic drops off because our email list activity has also dropped off. If you haven’t sent an email to your list recently (or you’ve only been sending promotional emails), send them something useful.

For example, you could answer some frequently asked questions you get. Or you could write a short article that tackles a particular problem your readers may have.

Another good thing to do here is to update your autoresponder sequence (a sequence of emails that go out automatically to new subscribers). They can easily become dated over time, and refreshing them to highlight your best recent content can really help drive traffic.

You can learn more about autoresponders in Episode 70 of the podcast.

Tip #6: Pick a Fight (Yes, Really!)

Name something big you want to attack as a community, and announce it to your readers.

I’m not suggesting you pick a fight with another person, or that you pick a fight for the sake of being controversial. Instead, choose something you’re going to be passionate about during the next few weeks or months. Something you want to take a stand on.

It might be tied in with a series of posts you’re writing. For instance, I was talking to a blogger who writes about fashion for mums, and she’d decided to write a post each month on the topic of body image to help readers think more positively about it.

Fights can be positive. By giving your readers something to rally around, something to believe in, you can really build momentum on your site.

Any one of these things could get your traffic out of a slump. And if you can do several of them, you’ll hopefully give your site a real boost, creating energy and anticipation among your readers.

If you try any of these – or something else completely – to grow your traffic, leave a comment below to tell us how you got on.

Image Credit: SpaceX

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Have Blog, Will Travel: Tips For Blogging On the Road

The post Have Blog, Will Travel: Tips For Blogging On the Road appeared first on ProBlogger.

Tips for blogging on the road

This post is based on Episode 243 of the ProBlogger podcast.

If you’re travelling over the holidays – to see family and friends, or just for a vacation – then you might be worried about you’ll keep up with your blogging. (This can also be a challenge if you travel regularly.)

Here are five broad options you might like to consider, depending on your situation.

#1: Take a Complete Break

A break will allow you to focus on your trip. It will also give your readers a break, which can be a good thing from time to time.

#2: Get Ahead Before You Go

If you write and schedule posts ahead of time, there won’t be so much to handle while you’re on the road. (This is something I do quite a lot.)

#3: Use Your Archives

While you’re away, you could republish some of your popular posts (perhaps after editing them a bit), or publish posts that link to some of the best pieces in your archives.

#4: Use Guest Bloggers

You could ask one or more guest bloggers to post on your blog while you’re away. And ask if they’re happy to answer comments as well so you can have a proper break.

#5: Work While Away

Finally there’s the option of blogging on the road, which is what I’ll be covering in the rest of this post. But to make things easier for yourself, you should probably stick to straightforward posts that don’t take too much writing or managing. (This isn’t the time for an in-depth reader poll or a huge multi-person interview post.)

Working While You’re Travelling

When I started blogging in 2002, smartphones weren’t really a thing. My Nokia offered rudimentary internet access, but it was a very slow and clunky experience.

Back then (and even today), most bloggers would find internet access along the way. I’d look for an internet cafe, or borrow a computer from the friend I was visiting. Sometimes I’d visit the local library, which often had computers with internet access.

I’d take a notebook and outline my blog post on the go. Then when I was at the internet cafe, the library or my friend’s computer, I could write that blog post quickly and efficiently. So if you want to travel without any technology, it’s certainly possible.

But these days most of us travel with some sort of device, whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or a combination of them. So let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of using each one.

#1: Blogging from Your Mobile Phone

While you can create text content on your mobile phone, I find it cumbersome. I wouldn’t want to write much more than 100 words. Anything longer would be slow and frustrating, and I’d make a lot of mistakes.

But some things are easy to do from a mobile. For instance, I might check in on social media, interact with comments, or even make minor edits to blog posts.

So if you’ll be focusing on the social media side of your business while travelling, a mobile phone would certainly be an option.

#2: Blogging from Your Tablet

In the past I’ve found using my iPad to create content a bit clunky. But a while back I won an iPad Pro with a keyboard, and I can plausibly use it instead of a laptop.

Obviously a tablet takes up a lot less space than most laptops. So if you’re on holiday for a week or two and just want to be able to check in on things and do a bit of work if/when inspiration strikes, a tablet could be a great option.

My iPad has apps that let me do pretty much anything I need to do with my blog, such as log into the backend of WordPress. (I can also do it through a browser on the iPad). I can chat with my team, access Google Analytics, and much more.

#3: Blogging from Your Laptop

When I’m on a work-related trip I always take my laptop. Presenting at a conference is more reliable from a laptop. And chances are I’ll be working on the plane (each way), in the hotel, and so on. I’m much more effective on a laptop, and so for me it’s definitely worth taking.

But you might think a laptop will be a nuisance to carry around. Or you might be concerned about losing it, particularly if it’s an expensive one.

Whatever technology you choose, you then need to decide how to fit it all in while you’re on the road.

How do you juggle blogging with being on holidays, or at a conference? Obviously you want to focus on whatever you’re there to do – spend time with your family, catch up with friends, network at the conference, etc.

I’ve already given you one key tip: schedule as much as you can before you go, even if it means working extra hard for a few days or weeks.

Beyond that, I’ve found that what helps the most is to have a routine for working while you’re away.

With smartphones, it’s easy to be “always on”. But this can really intrude on time with family and friends. Find some blocks of time where you can work: perhaps a small block every day and a few bigger blocks for tackling larger tasks.

If I’m travelling with my family this means I’ll either get up early to do my social media, check my email, etc. or work after my kids have gone to bed. In either case I keep the main part of my day free to either spend with friends and family or be present at the conference I’m attending.

With any larger tasks I couldn’t schedule ahead of time (such as sending out a newsletter), I make sure I’m clear about when I need to do it, rather than springing it on my family. I’ll tell my wife Vanessa and the kids, “I’ll be working on Wednesday morning for two or three hours. I’ll need to find a cafe somewhere, and I won’t be with you during that time”.

Scheduling blocks of work ahead of time like this also helps me:

  • Mull over the task I’ll be tackling, such as figuring out the subject line for an email or getting clear about the structure of a blog post in my head.
  • Work efficiently. I can get a lot done in an hour if I know what I need to tackle and I get straight to work.

That being said, I generally try to avoid mixing work and relaxation too much. Even if we get our energy from blogging, we all need breaks from it too.

How do you handle working while you’re away? Share your tips with us in the comments.

Image credit: Oliur

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13 Key Ways to Lower Your Blog’s Bounce Rate (and Why it Matters)

The post 13 Key Ways to Lower Your Blog’s Bounce Rate (and Why it Matters) appeared first on ProBlogger.

13 key ways to lower your blog's bounce rate (and why it matters)

Bounce rate is a Google Analytics metric that tells you the percentage of people who “bounce” off your site (i.e. visit your site and leave from the first page they arrive on).

To find out your bounce rate, log into your Google Analytics account.

(If you haven’t set up Google Analytics on your blog, do it. It’s powerful, very useful, and completely free. You can find out more about Google Analytics in episode 30 of the podcast.)

Once you’re in Google Analytics, go to Audience → Overview and look at the Bounce Rate. You should see a little chart and a percentage that looks something like this:

On my Digital Photography School site the percentage is around 78%. That means 78% of the people who arrive at the site only view the page they arrive on.

You can click the little chart or select from the dropdown menu to see the entire chart for the previous month (or whatever period you select):

Most blogs don’t see much day-to day-variation in their bounce rate. Mine changes slightly when I send out our email (which I’ll talk about soon), but chances are your blog has a steady, even line when you view your chart.

Interpreting Your Bounce Rate

A high number (say, 99%) means a lot of people are leaving your blog without checking out any of your content beyond the page they arrive on.

A low number means a lot of people are sticking around, and looking at more than one post or page on your site.

Bloggers often think a high number is bad and a low number is good, and later in the post I’ll be showing you ways to lower your bounce rate. But it’s worth keeping in mind that a high bounce rate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For instance:

  • You might want readers to leave and do something else. For instance, if you promote affiliate products you probably want to send readers away to buy them.
  • You might want people to call your business. And a high bounce rate might suggest that’s working. People are finding your site, and then picking up the phone to call you.
  • You might sell products through a major e-retailer such as Amazon or eBay. If you are, you’ll need to send people away from your site.
  • You might be getting readers to sign up to your email list through a popup tool that doesn’t load another page on your site.

How to Drill Down When You’re Looking at Bounce Rate

While looking at the bounce rate for your entire site can be interesting, it’s better to focus on specific pages. You can do this by going to Behavior → Site Content → Content Drilldown, and clicking on the page you’re interested in. Here’s an example:

On ProBlogger, the bounce rate for the front page is 61%. That’s lower than our site average, which is normally in the high 70s. When people arrive on the front page, they’re probably trying to figure out what the site is, what content they’re interested in, and so on. So it makes sense for the bounce rate of that page to be relatively low.

Some pages on ProBlogger have a really low bounce rate. On the “Start Here” page it’s 54%, and on the job board it’s 35%. That’s great, because it means people are clicking to view individual jobs.

Other pages have a much higher bounce rate. One post from 2012 gets search engine traffic every day, but its bounce rate is 91%. People arrive, see that the information isn’t relevant for them, and leave.

How to Look at the Bounce Rate of Different Sources of Traffic

Another thing to be aware of is that bounce rates vary depending on the traffic source. In Google Analytics, you can go to Acquisition → All Traffic → Channels to view the bounce rates for different sources of traffic. It’ll look something like this:

On Digital Photography School, Google traffic bounces away at 77% and social media traffic bounces at 81%. But email traffic has a much lower bounce rate – 55%.

So when I’m looking at lowering the bounce rate there, I’m particularly interested in the Google traffic because more than half of my traffic comes from Google. And most of it comes from first-time visitors. I’d love them to stick around and hopefully subscribe.

But I’m not particularly bothered about lowering the bounce rate for email traffic. It’s already pretty low, and those people have already subscribed.

13 Straightforward Ways to Lower the Bounce Rate on Your Blog

Now that you understand bounce rates, and how to break it down by page and traffic source in Google Analytics, let’s go through some ways to lower it.

#1: Make a Great First Impression

When someone comes to your site for the first time, they decide within seconds whether it’s credible, is relevant to them, and has content worth reading.

And they base those decisions on your design, branding, tagline, and other clear indicators to the benefits of them reading.

#2: Work on Social Proof

If you have a testimony from a reader (or from someone well known), include it. If you’ve got a lot of Twitter followers or email subscribers, put the number on your site. If you’ve been quoted or featured in mainstream media and can use that publication’s logo, use it.

These are all signals to first-time visitors that your site is credible and useful.

#3: Remove the Dates on Your Blog Posts

This might be a bit controversial, but I’m going to suggest it anyway. Consider removing the dates on your blog posts. It can help make a good first impression – especially when you have a lot of older evergreen posts.

On my Digital Photography School site I have a post about shutter speed that I wrote in 2007. It’s just as relevant today, but if I included the date on that post people would inevitably judge it as less worth reading.

#4: Make Your Site Easy to Use

It might sound obvious, but people are more likely to click around on your site if it’s easy to do. Make sure your site loads quickly, and make your content easy to read.

For more on this, you might want to listen to episode 176 of the podcast where I talk about creating scannable content: making sure the text is easy to read, having clear navigation, making your site responsive so it’s optimised for mobile, minimising interruptions, and so on.

#5: Focus on High-Quality Content

If a first-time reader lands on a well-written, articulate article that enhances their life in some way, they’re going to click around. So focus on writing consistently good posts that help your reader as much as possible.

And investing time to write great content improves your blog in other ways too.

#6: Ask Readers to Connect in Some Way

Normally you want readers to make an ongoing connection with you – perhaps by subscribing to your email list or following you on social media. Make strong, clear calls to action in various parts of your blog to encourage readers to connect to you.

This will help keep readers coming back to your site as return visitors, which will reduce your bounce rate over time. On Digital Photography School we see that people who come back every day click around at a much higher rate than first-time visitors.

#7: Create Portals for Your Site

This is one of the best things I’ve done on ProBlogger. On the front page we have icons for different ‘portals’ (under “I need help to…”). The same icons also appear in the sidebar next to every single post.

Each portal is a special page that includes a video greeting (where I make a personal connection) and a call to subscribe. There’s also lots of information on each portal page. It isn’t a category page with links to our latest posts. Instead it’s a curated list of the best content we have.

These portals have reduced our bounce rate a lo. The individual portal pages have a bounce rate as low as 40%. If you’d like to know more about them, check out episode 114 of the podcast.

#8: Create a “Start Here” Page

Our “Start Here” page is featured prominently in our navigation: it’s the first item in the menu. It’s targeted at first-time readers, particularly those coming from Google who hopefully spot the link in the navigation and click on it.

You don’t have call yours a “Start Here” page. An “About” or “My Story” page could serve the same purpose.

#9: Make External Links Open in a New Tab

When you link to another site or blog from one of your posts, a simple way to ensure you don’t lose your reader is to make the external link open up in a new tab (or window). That way, the reader won’t actually leave your site.

This is simple to do in WordPress. Simply edit the link and click the checkbox to open it in a new tab. There are also WordPress plugins that can handle this for you, such as Open external links in a new window.

#10: Link Back to Older Content from Your Posts

When you write your next blog post, challenge yourself to create links to at least three of your existing posts. For example, you could link to a previous post that covers something you mention in greater detail.

Another option is to add suggested reading (or listening) at the end of your post. While you can do this using a plugin, I like to add in my own so I can choose exactly what I want to encourage readers to look at next.

You could also create an interlinked series of posts, which can be great not only for lowering your bounce rate but also for exploring more complex ideas on your blog.

#11: Link to Popular Posts in Your Sidebar

If you’ve got a post (or several posts) you know are popular, make sure they’re really easy to find. You could highlight them on your About or Start Here page. But you can also link to them in your sidebar.

You can do it with a text link, or you can get more creative with a button or a banner. For example, on ProBlogger we have an image in the sidebar that links to our “How to Start a Blog” post, with the call to action text in the image itself.

#12: Create a “Sneeze” Page

In the menu on Digital Photography School, we highlight a post called “Tips for Beginners” because it’s always popular with our readers. If a reader clicks that link, they end up on what I call a “Sneeze” page.

This page introduces the topic, then lists 40 or so different posts we’ve written that are relevant for beginners. The point of the page is to get people “sneezed” deeply into our archives.

You can also write entire posts with this in mind. One we produced for Digital Photography School is “21 Settings, Techniques and Rules All New Camera Owners Should Know”.

#13: Make it Easy to Search Your Site

Many blogs don’t give readers the opportunity to search their content, or bury their search bar somewhere low on the page. This makes it hard for readers to search for information they particularly want.

Make sure your search bar is easy to find. You want you readers to find the right content as easily as possible.

I know that’s a lot to take in. So here are some practical steps for what you can do next:

#1: Identify the top three posts on your site that consistently get a lot of traffic.

#2: Have a look at the bounce rate on each post. Are they all similar, or is one much higher or lower than the others? Can you figure out why?

#3: Try to optimise those three posts to reduce the bounce rate. You could add a call to subscribe, include further reading, or add extra links in that content.

If you want to go further, create a “Start Here” page for your site, or create some “Sneeze” pages or posts to list your best content in particular categories.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below to let us know how you get on.

Image credit: Markus Spiske

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What if You Can’t Find Your Niche?

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How to find your niche

Are you struggling to stay motivated with your blog writing about the same thing again and again?

Or are you flitting around between lots of different topics, trying and failing to find one thing you want to write about?

In the old days of blogging, bloggers were often advised to be very specific – define a niche on a very narrow topic (e.g. “iPhone covers”) and become the expert in that particular narrow field.

Thankfully, things are more relaxed these days. Many bloggers have a fairly broad remit, and it’s become far more common to think about having a niche demographic than a niche topic (which I wrote about on ProBlogger way back in 2007).

Of course, bloggers still need some sort of niche. It’s hard to think of any successful blogs that cover every single topic the blogger could possibly be interested in.

But if the path to finding your niche is a little rocky, don’t worry because…

Plenty of Bloggers Don’t Succeed with Their First Idea

There are lots of bloggers out there who took a while to find their niche. Perhaps you’re one of them.

Some bloggers started a blog that took a long time to see traction. It took Chris Brogan eight years to get his first 100 subscribers. And Brian Casel reveals in this post that

My blog received less than 20 visitors a day. My newsletter did not exist. I had been blogging for years, but couldn’t connect with an audience, let alone create a product they might buy.

before he finally gained traction with a three-step strategy.

Other bloggers try several niches before finding the one that’s a perfect fit for them. Johnny B Truant started out writing about weightlifting and running for diabetics, used to set up WordPress blogs, and now runs the publishing business Sterling & Stone alongside Sean Platt.

So if your blog seems to be growing very slowly, or you’ve tried out a couple of niches that just weren’t right for you, take heart. It’s an experience many, many bloggers have faced.

Including me.

When I began blogging in 2002, it was out of curiosity. It wasn’t until a year later that I started my first photography blog (a camera review blog thatI later re-launched as Digital Photography School). And during 2004 I started a lot of different blogs – it got up to 30 at one point. I launched ProBlogger in September 2004, and it wasn’t until 2005 that I went full time. (You can read the full story here.)

Finding Your Niche

There’s no magic way to find the perfect niche for you. But here are some questions you might like think about that could help you choose.

  • What have you already tried in terms of blogging? Were there any aspects of it that you particularly enjoyed? Maybe you had a blog about meal planning that you struggled to feel interested in, but loved writing a post about cooking alongside your kids.
  • What blogs or magazines do you read? Could you write about similar topics?
  • What topics can you imagine yourself talking about or writing about for years to come?
  • What sort of blog would feel like “you”? If your current topic seems like an uncomfortable fit, something you wouldn’t want to talk to your friends about, then maybe it isn’t right for you.

I know many bloggers feel they don’t want to confine themselves to a single niche.

If that’s you, maybe you’d find it helpful to focus on your audience instead of on a particular topic. For instance, you might want to write for “parents” or “retirees”, covering multiple topics that would be of interest to that audience.

For more help finding your niche, listen to my podcast on how to decide what your blog should be about, which covers 15 great questions to ask yourself.

Are Your Early Blogging Efforts Wasted?

If you’ve been working hard for months or even years on a blog only to decide your heart really isn’t in it, you might find it very hard to let go.

It can feel like all those words and all that effort to grow your mailing list or to increase your pageviews were a waste of time.

But there’s a different way to look at it. All that work was vital in getting you to where you are right now, and none of it was wasted. The skills you learned, from setting up WordPress to crafting great blog post titles, will be a huge help to you with your next blog.

(If you decide to start a completely new blog, rather than changing direction with your existing one, you might also want to look into selling your first blog.)

When Thomas Edison was working on his nickel-iron storage batteries, he told a reporter, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

Hopefully you won’t need to go through 10,000 blogs before finding your niche. But you may well need to try out a few wrong paths or false starts before finding the best way forward for you.

Is it Time to Change Direction, or Start Something New?

As you’ve been reading this post, you may think your blog just isn’t a good fit for you anymore. You’re struggling with motivation to write there. Perhaps you got into that niche because you thought it would make money. Or perhaps you picked a topic that interested you a couple of years ago, but is no longer something you find engaging.

Is it time for a change of direction? You could refocus your existing blog. Or you could launch something completely new.

If you’re going to start a new blog, check out these podcast episodes:

Even better, you can work through our (completely free) Start a Blog Course. Sign up here and get started straight away.

If you’re going to refocus or even relaunch your existing blog (especially if you haven’t written much, or anything, for a while), listen to our podcast episode on how to relaunch a dormant blog.

Finally, if you’d like a hand brainstorming about your new niche, come over to the ProBlogger Community group on Facebook. (Start your post with the hashtag #ask, so we know it’s a question.) We’ll be glad to help you.

Image credit: Tim Mossholder

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How Long Should Your Blog Post Be?

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How long should your blog post be?

Today’s post is by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

When I started blogging in 2008, there was a (roughly) agreed-on standard for blog posts: you should post around 500 words every weekday.

Now that I look back on that, it seems pretty silly. Some topics can be adequately covered in 300 words, while others might need 5,000. And some bloggers have a naturally terse writing style, whereas others like to dig deep and give lots of examples.

Around the end of 2013, long-form content became much more popular in the blogging world. (Here’s Darren’s post about ProBlogger’s own experiments with writing longer posts.) Then, as now, it seemed clear that Google had a preference for in-depth content.

But during the past few years, short pieces of content have become increasingly popular as well. Twitter, for instance, is often described as a “microblogging” platform. While plenty of people use it for general conversations or promotional tweets, others do use it in a blog-style way. Take a look at James Breakwell (@XplodingUnicorn)’s brilliant tweets about family life, for instance.

Lots of blogs also carry relatively short posts. Gizmodo is a good example, with very frequent news / time-sensitive posts. For instance, eBay is Knocking 15% Off Everything Just for Today was 168 words.

So should you write short posts, long posts, or something in between?

The answer is, as you might have guessed, it depends. You need to find a post length that suits your content, your readers, and (perhaps most importantly) you as a blogger.

But before we dig into those considerations, let’s take a quick look at length vs frequency.

Blog Post Length vs Frequency

While it’s not a rule, blogs that publish short posts usually publish them more frequently than blogs that publish long posts.

You can see why this makes sense for both the blogger and the reader. You might publish a 400-word post every weekday, or a 2000-word post once a week.

If you want to increase the length of your blog posts, you might also want to decrease how often you publish them. Otherwise you’ll burn out, and your readers will get overwhelmed.

(Sidenote: I’ve never unsubscribed from a blog because they posted less frequently than I wanted. However, I have unsubscribed from blogs that posted too frequently, especially if the quality of posts wasn’t consistent.)

So, with the caveat that changing the length of your content will likely mean changing the frequency too, here are some key considerations when thinking about how long your blog posts should be.

What Suits Your Content?

Some topics pretty much demand in-depth posts. If you’re writing about something that involves lots of different steps, such as “How to start a blog”, it’s probably not going to be short.

But other topics work best with short content. This is particularly the case for blogs that aim to entertain rather than inform. Readers may delight in reading lots of short anecdotes about your kids, but be put off by a rambling story.

Of course, you probably have a bit of flexibility on how exactly you approach your topic. So if you feel you want to write short posts rather than in-depth ones, come up with post ideas that would work for that. Instead of “How to start a blog”, you might write “How to register a domain name” or even “What is a domain name?”

What Suits Your Readers?

The next key consideration is whether your readers would prefer shorter or longer posts. If you already have a reasonable number of readers, you could survey them to find out. You could also take a look at your most popular posts in Google Analytics, or the posts that get the most comments or shares. Does short or long content seem to resonate better with your audience?

You might potentially find that your readers like a mix of posts. Maybe they want fairly short and to-the-point posts most of the time, with a much longer piece of content occasionally thrown in.

What Suits You?

Last, but certainly not least, comes… you. Are you the sort of writer who naturally produces concise, impactful posts like Seth Godin does? Or do you love to dig into a topic and write a post that covers every angle?

If you’ve been trying to write long posts but struggling to stay motivated and productive, it could be a sign you’re better suited to sharing short, succinct pieces of content instead. On the other hand, if you’ve been writing three or more short pieces every week and it feels like you’re on a content treadmill, writing one long piece every week or even every couple of weeks might work better for you.

The great thing about blogging is there are no “rules” on how a blog post should look. You’re free to write 10,000-word epic guides (such as Neil Patel’s Online Marketing Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide), or posts with only a few words and mostly pictures or embedded tweets (such as Buzzfeed’s 19 Hilarious Back-To-School Tweets From Parents Who Have Been There), or anything in between.

Quick note: If you’re concerned about the SEO benefits of short vs long content, it’s worth knowing that many experts believe longer content does better on Google. However, if you and your existing readers prefer short posts, don’t force yourself to create long content. It will  only rank well if it’s really good (and gets backlinks).

So what sort of content will you create: short or long? It’s completely up to you. Have a look around and see what others are doing, experiment with different lengths yourself, or come and discuss short vs long in the ProBlogger Community.

Image Credit: Markus Spiske

The post How Long Should Your Blog Post Be? appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

Everything You Need to Know About Inserting and Editing Images in WordPress

The post Everything You Need to Know About Inserting and Editing Images in WordPress appeared first on ProBlogger.

Do you feel confident using images in your blog posts?

While there’s no absolute rule that bloggers need to include images, most bloggers will include at least one eye-catching image in each post (normally at or very near the start).

However, it’s easy to make mistakes with images. We’ve already covered how to obtain images legally so you don’t accidentally infringe on someone’s copyright. But in today’s post, I want to go through the process of uploading and inserting images.

Whether you’ve just started blogging or you’ve been blogging for years, I hope you’ll learn something new from today’s post. We’re going to start off with the basics, and move on to some more advanced tips and tricks.

He are the ten things we’re going to cover:

  1. How to download an image from the web
  2. How to upload an image to your blog
  3. How to insert an image into your post
  4. How to align your image within your post
  5. How to resize your image
  6. How to turn your image into a link
  7. How to add alt text to your image
  8. How to edit your image in WordPress itself
  9. How to keep your image file sizes low
  10. How to optimise images for retina screens

#1: How to Download an Image from the Web

Brand new bloggers might feel a bit stuck at the first hurdle: downloading their chosen image.

Once you’ve found an image you can legally use, you’ll need to download it to your computer. (While it’s technically possible to insert it in your post using its existing URL on the web, this “hotlinking” is a bad idea. Many sites don’t like it, as it puts extra strain on their servers. And if the image file is removed from its current location, it’ll disappear from your post too.)

To download an image, right-click on it. You should see an option such as “Save image as…”. (It may be worded slightly differently depending on your browser.)

Download image

Click on “Save image as…”, and then select the folder on your computer where you want to save it.

On sites that act as a library of images (such as Pixabay and Flickr), you’ll normally be able to choose from different sizes for the image. Here’s how it looks on Pixabay.

Select image resolution

The numbers on the left are the dimensions of each image in pixels (width by height). The numbers on the right are the size of each image file in kB/MB. As you can see, larger images equal much larger files.

It’s up to you what size you choose. (We’ll cover this in more detail in sections #9 and #10 on this list.) Note that on Pixabay you need to create a (free) account to download the largest images.

#2: How to Upload an Image to Your Blog

After you’ve selected and downloaded an image, you need to upload it to your blog.

On WordPress, log in to your dashboard, open up your chosen post (or start a new one), and click the “Add Media” button.

Add Media button

Then click the “Upload Files” tab. You can either drag and drop your chosen file to upload it to your blog, or click the “Select Files” button to browse through your computer folders for it.

(Note that whichever you choose, the original file will remain on your computer. Only a copy of it is uploaded.)

If you want to, you can upload several images at once.

#3: How to Insert an Image

First, position your cursor where you want to put the image within your post. (Click at the start or end of a line of text, or click on a blank line.)

Your uploaded images be available in your media library. Click “Add Media” then the “Media Library” tab (if it’s not already selected for you) and you’ll see them.

Insert image

To insert an image, click on it and you’ll see this panel on the right-hand side of your screen.

Attachment details

You can set the alignment of the image, add a link, and choose the size you want it to be displayed. We’ll be covering all of these later on in this post. (You can edit your image to change any of these details after inserting it.)

Click “Insert into post” to place the image in your post where your cursor is.

#4: How to Align Your Image Within Your Post

If you inserted your image without changing the alignment setting, it may not appear exactly the way you wanted. Perhaps you intended to have it above your text, centred, or at the start of your post. But instead it’s right-aligned alongside the text.

Change alignment of image

(Dummy text generated by fillerama on “Doctor Who” mode.)

To re-align your image, click on it and then click the “align center” button on the mini-menu that pops up.

Align Center Button

(You can also click the little pencil button to edit the image, where you can select the alignment, size and more.)

Your image should now be aligned correctly in your post.

#5: How to Resize Your Image

If your image is too big, you can resize it by clicking on it and then clicking on the edit button in the mini-menu.

You’ll see details about the image. Click the dropdown menu next to “Size” and you’ll see a range of options.

Resize image

If one of the listed sizes works for you, select it. If not, click “Custom Size” and enter a width or height for your image in pixels. Whichever you choose, the other dimension will be adjusted automatically.

Click the “Update” button at the bottom of the screen, and you’ll be returned to your post with the image updated to your chosen size.

Note that this process doesn’t change the size of your original uploaded image, so the file size will remain the same. (We’ll cover more on this later in this post.)

#6: How to Turn Your Image into a Link

At some point you’ll almost certainly want to create an image that readers can click on to go to a different page.

For instance, you might want to create:

  • A “start here” page showing the featured image from several posts, with each image linking to the appropriate post
  • A page of book reviews, with the cover image for each book linking to the book on Amazon
  • A custom “buy” button for your products, with each one linking to a PayPal or shopping cart page

To add a link to your image, click on the image and then click the little “edit” button that appears to get the Image Details screen.

Click the “Link To” dropdown and select “Custom URL”. You can then enter whatever URL you want the image to link to.

Add link to image

Make sure you click the “Update” button to save your changes to the image.

An even quicker way to add a link to an image is to copy your link, then click on the image and paste the link (press Ctrl+V on a PC or Command+V on a Mac). This will automatically add the link to the image.

#7: How to Add Alt Text to Your Image

Alt (alternative) text is normally used for accessibility. It provides a short description of your image that can be read to people using screen-reading software. (It will also appear on the screen as text if the image fails to load.)

Note that this is different from a caption. If you enter a caption, it w’ll be displayed immediately beneath the image in your post.

You can add alt text to your image when you’re editing it. Simply fill in the Alternative Text field with whatever text you want.

Add alt text to image

#8: How to Edit Your Image in WordPress Itself

It’s normally best to edit images before you upload them using software such as Photoshop (or, if you want a free alternative, Gimp or Paint.NET).

But sometimes you might want to make adjustments to your original image within WordPress. You can do this by clicking the “Edit Original” button in the Image Details panel.

You’ll then see this screen.

Edit original image

You can then resize the image. (You can only scale down, not up.)

Note: it’s best to do this before making any other edits.

You can also rotate the image, or flip it from top to bottom or left to right, using the buttons immediately above it.

You can crop the image by clicking on it and dragging to select your chosen area. Here’s the original image flipped left to right, with an area selected so it can be cropped.

Crop image

To crop the image, you then need to click the “crop” button on the top left above the image.

Once you’re happy with your changes to your image, click “Save” beneath it, then “Update” on the next screen. You should now see your new image in the post itself.

If anything goes wrong, you can restore your original image using the “Restore Original Image” option.

Restore original image

#9: How to Keep Your Image File Sizes Low

The larger your image files, the longer they’ll take to load on your web page. And this can potentially affect on your site’s performance. If your site is really slow to load, readers may simply give up and go elsewhere.

There are several ways you can keep file sizes down, including:

  • Using .jpg images where possible. They’re compressed, so they aren’t as high quality as other file types. But for images in regular blog posts, they’ll probably look fine. Note that if you have transparent (or partially transparent) images, though, you can’t save them in .jpg format.
  • Resizing your image before uploading it to WordPress. If you’ve taken a photo on your camera and it’s 4000px wide, don’t upload it unedited to your blog. Yes, you can scale it down in your post (see #5), but the image will still take a long time to load. Instead, use image editing software to resize the photo before you upload it into your media library.
  • Using the WordPress plugin Smush to resize and optimise images you’ve already uploaded in the past. This could make your site significantly faster.
  • Using the TinyPNG service and/or Compress JPEG and PNG images plugin to reduce the size of your .png images. (If you have partially transparent images, they’re probably .png files. You should also use .png for any files with graphics in them.)

#10: How to Optimise Images for Retina Screens

The newest Apple products have Retina displays, which have a higher pixel-per-inch density than regular screens.

As SitePoint explains:

Retina has four times more pixels than standard screens. If you have a 400 x 300 image (120,000 pixels), you’d need to use an 800 x 600 alternative (480,000 pixels) to render it well on a high-density display.

This means that if you want a 500px by 330px image for your post, it would be best to upload it as a 1000px by 660px image. That way, it can be displayed crisply on the retina screen.

Your theme might automatically size and display the image correctly for each user (based on their device) if you simply insert it into the post at the larger size. If it doesn’t, you can use the WP Retina 2x plugin (which is explained in detail by Barn2 Media) to create and show the retina images as appropriate.

I know there’s been a lot to take in with this post. Don’t worry: you don’t have to master everything at once.

If you’re new to blogging, you might simply want to get confident with the basics of downloading and uploading images to your blog, then inserting them into your post at the appropriate point.

But if you’ve been blogging for quite a while, you’ve hopefully picked up a new tip or trick today as well. How will you put it into practice this week?

The post Everything You Need to Know About Inserting and Editing Images in WordPress appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

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.

      

How to Find Images for Your Blog That Won’t Get You Sued

The post How to Find Images for Your Blog That Won’t Get You Sued appeared first on ProBlogger.

At some point (probably soon after you launch your blog) you’ll want to start using images.

You probably already have some of your own images you can use: a photo of yourself for your About page, or a photo of your workspace, home, garden, or whatever’s relevant for your blog.

But when it comes to your regular blog posts, your first instinct might be to head to Google and search for whatever you need: “happy people”, “woman writing”, “fresh salad”, etc.

But looking for images through Google can be a huge and very expensive mistake.

Images, just like blog posts, are automatically copyrighted to the person who created them. You wouldn’t want someone to take your blog post and use it on their site, would you? Well,  photographers and artists feel the same way about their work.

While it’s unlikely you’d get sued for inadvertently using someone else’s art without permission, you could upset someone and look unprofessional.

But bloggers have been threatened with legal action (and pressured into paying huge fines) for using copyrighted images.

In The $7,500 Blogging Mistake That Every Blogger Needs to Avoid!, Chrystie from Living for Naptime details her experience with being asked for $7,500 in ‘damages’ by a scammy photographer for using a single green bell pepper photograph.

Big companies can also pursue bloggers for minor, unintentional infractions. Getty Images has gathered a bit of a reputation for this. And a lot of blog posts out there explain how to respond to Getty Images if they contact you demanding money. (Settlement Demand Letter from Getty Images and Tips for Responding to a Getty Images Extortion Letter are good places to start if you’ve run up against Getty Images yourself.)

You might think that if you’ve seen an image being used on someone else’s blog then you’re safe. But that’s not necessarily the case. They might be using it illegally without realising.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to safely use other people’s images on your blog that are completely legal.

Copyright and Creative Commons (Briefly) Explained

Before we take a look at specific image sources, I want to briefly talk you through a couple of important terms: ‘copyright’ and ‘creative commons’. Note that I am not a lawyer, and this is a quick rather than exhaustive explanation.

‘Copyright’ indicates that a person holds the rights to control where an image, blog post, etc. is published. They can give you permission to use their photo (e.g. if you email them to ask), but you can’t (legally) use it without their permission.

‘Creative Commons’ is a special type of licensing system for images, blog posts and other creative works. If an image is licensed under Creative Commons, you may be able to use it safely on your blog. However, there are several different types of Creative Commons licenses, so make sure you follow the terms of the specific license for your chosen image.

For instance, an image might be licensed under Creative Commons for “non-commercial use”. This means you shouldn’t use it on a blog that runs ads, sells products, or otherwise brings in money. And you definitely shouldn’t use it as, say, the cover image for an ebook.

Images can also be licensed under Creative Commons to require attribution. This means you must name and link to the photographer or artist from your blog post. If you prefer not to do this, you’ll need to source images that don’t require attribution.

Note: licensing an image under Creative Commons doesn’t mean the photographer/artist has given up their copyright. For instance, you can’t take their image and claim that you made it yourself.

You can find out all about Creative Commons on the Creative Commons website.

This might all sound very daunting, and I hope I haven’t put you off ever using images on your blog again The good news is there are plenty of ways to find images that you can safely use. And I’m going to share some of the best ones with you now.

Option #1: Use Stock Photographs You Pay For

There are plenty of stock photo sites out there that sell images, normally for a fairly small fee. If you want high-quality images for your site this is a good option, although it may be unrealistic to pay for an image every time you write a blog post.

Stock photos can be a good option for products/services you offer. Even if you don’t want to use them regularly, you might want to dip into stock libraries occasionally. Just check the terms and conditions carefully to make sure you’re allowed to use them in this way.

Some large, reputable stock photo sites include:

As well as letting you buy individual images, most stock photo sites let you buy a subscription plan. If you want a lot of stock photos (e.g. you want to use one in every post you write), this may be better value.

Stock images are normally available in a variety of sizes, with the smallest size being the cheapest. If you want a 500px wide image for a blog post, the smallest size will often be all you need.

Option #2: Use Free Images that are Creative Commons Licensed for Commercial Use

While you could use non-commercial licensed Creative Commons images if you’re blogging as a hobby, it’s safest to use only images that have been licensed for commercial use. This way, if you monetise your blog in the future you won’t have to worry about whether it’s still okay to use all of your images.

Free images vary in quality, and you may find your search doesn’t bring up many options. And some of the better free images may have already appeared on a lot of other blogs in your niche. So you might need to dig around a bit to find ones you’re happy to use for your posts.

But since you’re not paying anything, you can always switch an image for a new one if you find something better in the future.

We’ve covered lots of great places to find free images for your blog here on ProBlogger before, so I’ll share just three good options here:

Pexels – All images on the site are licensed for commercial use and don’t need attribution.

Flickr – Some images are copyrighted, while others are licensed under various Creative Commons licenses. You can use the Advanced search to find commercial-use images.

Unsplash – As with Pexels, all images are licensed for commercial use and don’t need attribution.

Option #3: Creating Your Own Images

Finally, you could create your own images for your blog. That might mean taking photos, sketching cartoons, creating digital art, or whatever you enjoy.

Using your own images can make your blog feel especially real and authentic to readers. In some types of blogging – e.g. if you’re a craft blogger – it’s expected that you’ll use your own images of your projects.

Taking Photos for Your Blog

You don’t need to be super professional, but try to make it the best you can. If you have a DSLR camera, learn how to use it properly. Who knows? You might discover an entirely new  hobby to blogging!

ProBlogger’s sister site, Digital Photography School, has plenty of resources to help you. A good place to begin is on the Start Here page.

Using Screenshots on Your Blog

Another type of image you can create is a screenshot. These can be very helpful when giving a tutorial about how to do something online. If you’re using screenshots of web pages that are publicly available, the copyright holder (i.e. the website owner) probably wouldn’t object. But it never hurts to check with them.

If you want to use screenshots in a paid-for product (such as an ebook) or something people have to sign up for (such as a free email course), always check with the copyright holder first.

I know there’s a lot to take in here, especially if you’ve been using Google to find images in the past.

If you’re worried the images you’ve already used might be infringing someone’s copyright, it would be worth going through your posts and searching for each one in Google Images. (Click the camera icon next to the search bar to upload the image.)

Once you’ve found the image, track down the original source (e.g. a stock photography site or the photographer’s own website) and check whether the image is licensed under Creative Commons. If it isn’t, or you can’t be sure of the original source, take it down immediately and replace it with an image you can legally use.

How do you source great images for your blog? Or do you prefer to create your own? Share your tips with us in the comments.

The post How to Find Images for Your Blog That Won’t Get You Sued appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

How to Find Images for Your Blog That Won’t Get You Sued

The post How to Find Images for Your Blog That Won’t Get You Sued appeared first on ProBlogger.

At some point (probably soon after you launch your blog) you’ll want to start using images.

You probably already have some of your own images you can use: a photo of yourself for your About page, or a photo of your workspace, home, garden, or whatever’s relevant for your blog.

But when it comes to your regular blog posts, your first instinct might be to head to Google and search for whatever you need: “happy people”, “woman writing”, “fresh salad”, etc.

But looking for images through Google can be a huge and very expensive mistake.

Images, just like blog posts, are automatically copyrighted to the person who created them. You wouldn’t want someone to take your blog post and use it on their site, would you? Well,  photographers and artists feel the same way about their work.

While it’s unlikely you’d get sued for inadvertently using someone else’s art without permission, you could upset someone and look unprofessional.

But bloggers have been threatened with legal action (and pressured into paying huge fines) for using copyrighted images.

In The $7,500 Blogging Mistake That Every Blogger Needs to Avoid!, Chrystie from Living for Naptime details her experience with being asked for $7,500 in ‘damages’ by a scammy photographer for using a single green bell pepper photograph.

Big companies can also pursue bloggers for minor, unintentional infractions. Getty Images has gathered a bit of a reputation for this. And a lot of blog posts out there explain how to respond to Getty Images if they contact you demanding money. (Settlement Demand Letter from Getty Images and Tips for Responding to a Getty Images Extortion Letter are good places to start if you’ve run up against Getty Images yourself.)

You might think that if you’ve seen an image being used on someone else’s blog then you’re safe. But that’s not necessarily the case. They might be using it illegally without realising.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to safely use other people’s images on your blog that are completely legal.

Copyright and Creative Commons (Briefly) Explained

Before we take a look at specific image sources, I want to briefly talk you through a couple of important terms: ‘copyright’ and ‘creative commons’. Note that I am not a lawyer, and this is a quick rather than exhaustive explanation.

‘Copyright’ indicates that a person holds the rights to control where an image, blog post, etc. is published. They can give you permission to use their photo (e.g. if you email them to ask), but you can’t (legally) use it without their permission.

‘Creative Commons’ is a special type of licensing system for images, blog posts and other creative works. If an image is licensed under Creative Commons, you may be able to use it safely on your blog. However, there are several different types of Creative Commons licenses, so make sure you follow the terms of the specific license for your chosen image.

For instance, an image might be licensed under Creative Commons for “non-commercial use”. This means you shouldn’t use it on a blog that runs ads, sells products, or otherwise brings in money. And you definitely shouldn’t use it as, say, the cover image for an ebook.

Images can also be licensed under Creative Commons to require attribution. This means you must name and link to the photographer or artist from your blog post. If you prefer not to do this, you’ll need to source images that don’t require attribution.

Note: licensing an image under Creative Commons doesn’t mean the photographer/artist has given up their copyright. For instance, you can’t take their image and claim that you made it yourself.

You can find out all about Creative Commons on the Creative Commons website.

This might all sound very daunting, and I hope I haven’t put you off ever using images on your blog again The good news is there are plenty of ways to find images that you can safely use. And I’m going to share some of the best ones with you now.

Option #1: Use Stock Photographs You Pay For

There are plenty of stock photo sites out there that sell images, normally for a fairly small fee. If you want high-quality images for your site this is a good option, although it may be unrealistic to pay for an image every time you write a blog post.

Stock photos can be a good option for products/services you offer. Even if you don’t want to use them regularly, you might want to dip into stock libraries occasionally. Just check the terms and conditions carefully to make sure you’re allowed to use them in this way.

Some large, reputable stock photo sites include:

As well as letting you buy individual images, most stock photo sites let you buy a subscription plan. If you want a lot of stock photos (e.g. you want to use one in every post you write), this may be better value.

Stock images are normally available in a variety of sizes, with the smallest size being the cheapest. If you want a 500px wide image for a blog post, the smallest size will often be all you need.

Option #2: Use Free Images that are Creative Commons Licensed for Commercial Use

While you could use non-commercial licensed Creative Commons images if you’re blogging as a hobby, it’s safest to use only images that have been licensed for commercial use. This way, if you monetise your blog in the future you won’t have to worry about whether it’s still okay to use all of your images.

Free images vary in quality, and you may find your search doesn’t bring up many options. And some of the better free images may have already appeared on a lot of other blogs in your niche. So you might need to dig around a bit to find ones you’re happy to use for your posts.

But since you’re not paying anything, you can always switch an image for a new one if you find something better in the future.

We’ve covered lots of great places to find free images for your blog here on ProBlogger before, so I’ll share just three good options here:

Pexels – All images on the site are licensed for commercial use and don’t need attribution.

Flickr – Some images are copyrighted, while others are licensed under various Creative Commons licenses. You can use the Advanced search to find commercial-use images.

Unsplash – As with Pexels, all images are licensed for commercial use and don’t need attribution.

Option #3: Creating Your Own Images

Finally, you could create your own images for your blog. That might mean taking photos, sketching cartoons, creating digital art, or whatever you enjoy.

Using your own images can make your blog feel especially real and authentic to readers. In some types of blogging – e.g. if you’re a craft blogger – it’s expected that you’ll use your own images of your projects.

Taking Photos for Your Blog

You don’t need to be super professional, but try to make it the best you can. If you have a DSLR camera, learn how to use it properly. Who knows? You might discover an entirely new  hobby to blogging!

ProBlogger’s sister site, Digital Photography School, has plenty of resources to help you. A good place to begin is on the Start Here page.

Using Screenshots on Your Blog

Another type of image you can create is a screenshot. These can be very helpful when giving a tutorial about how to do something online. If you’re using screenshots of web pages that are publicly available, the copyright holder (i.e. the website owner) probably wouldn’t object. But it never hurts to check with them.

If you want to use screenshots in a paid-for product (such as an ebook) or something people have to sign up for (such as a free email course), always check with the copyright holder first.

I know there’s a lot to take in here, especially if you’ve been using Google to find images in the past.

If you’re worried the images you’ve already used might be infringing someone’s copyright, it would be worth going through your posts and searching for each one in Google Images. (Click the camera icon next to the search bar to upload the image.)

Once you’ve found the image, track down the original source (e.g. a stock photography site or the photographer’s own website) and check whether the image is licensed under Creative Commons. If it isn’t, or you can’t be sure of the original source, take it down immediately and replace it with an image you can legally use.

How do you source great images for your blog? Or do you prefer to create your own? Share your tips with us in the comments.

The post How to Find Images for Your Blog That Won’t Get You Sued 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.