Tag Archives: Writing Content

What Do Your Blog Post Titles Say About Your Brand?

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What do your blog post titles say about your brand?This is a post by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

If you’ve been reading ProBlogger for a while, you probably know the basics about writing blog post titles such as:

  • Be clear and specific
  • Use numbers where appropriate
  • Use powerful words and phrases such as “how to”, “easy”, “quick”, “great”, “little-known”, and so on.

Using these guidelines, you’ll end up with titles that do an excellent job of “selling” your post to your audience. Take a look at some recent posts on ProBlogger for good examples:

However, one thing that might be missing from your title is a sense of your brand. This can be an issue when you see a title you love on someone else’s blog and try to use a variation of it on your own site. What if it doesn’t really fit your own voice and style?

Here are six titles from very different publications:

  1. 22 Unbelievable Facts About The Human Body. #8 Will Astonish You! (EMGN.com)
  2. The Moment You Noped Out Of A Movie You Thought You’d Like (Cracked)
  3. If You’ve Experienced 21/31 Of These Problems, You’re Definitely a Baker (Buzzfeed)
  4. Police ‘could let violent suspects go’ (BBC News)
  5. The arts have a leading role to play in tackling climate change (The Guardian)
  6. Functions of the Apostrophe (Daily Writing Tips)

These are all good titles – if used in the right context.

Each of them hooks the reader in some way and gives a clear indication of the content of the piece.

Just looking at the list, you can draw conclusions about not only the type of article you’re about to read but also the brand publishing it.

For instance, The Guardian is a serious UK newspaper. I’ve never seen them publish a headline like the EMGN one. If they did, their readers would probably think it was a prank or a successful hacking attempt.

Let’s take a closer look at how they work.

#1: 22 Unbelievable Facts About The Human Body. #8 Will Astonish You! (EMGN.com)

You’ve probably seen quite a few of these titles. (They were everywhere a couple of years ago.) They all follow a specific format: a total number of items, followed by “(item number) will [astonish/amaze/surprise/etc] you”.

The formula works: it’s cleverly designed to pique the reader’s curiosity. But it also brands the site in a particular way. It can seem like a cheap trick, and be associated with low-quality writing.

If you want to try this on your own blog, I suggest using it with caution (and perhaps toning it down just a notch by using something like “amazing” instead of “unbelievable”).

#2: The Moment You Noped Out Of A Movie You Thought You’d Like (Cracked)

While most Cracked titles have a fairly standard format, I picked this one because of the word “noped”. If a title uses something slangy (especially slang associated with a particular age group), it’s a strong clue to readers about the intended brand and audience.

Even if you’ve never used the word “noped” it’s fairly clear what it means from the context, and suggests a post that will be cheerfully irreverent.

By all means use slang (or even swear words) if they’re a good fit for your audience and, most importantly, your own voice. Don’t use them just to look cool.

#3: If You’ve Experienced 21/31 Of These Problems, You’re Definitely a Baker (Buzzfeed)

This is a typical Buzzfeed post title. (Other examples include If You Own 23/33 Of these Products Then You Should Be A Beauty Guru and If You Get 9/13 On This Nursery Rhyme Quiz Then You’re Probably Four Years Old.)

It does a couple of clever things:

  • It targets a very specific audience (bakers) with a post that promises to “get” what they’re like.
  • It frames what’s essentially a list post in an interactive way by making it more like a quiz or a challenge.

As well as encouraging the reader to click, it also encourages them to share the post (and their score) with their friends on social media.

#4: Police ‘could let violent suspects go’ (BBC News)

BBC News headlines tend to be short – between five and eight words – so they fit easily in their sidebar. They also frequently use quotes from someone within the article. Five of the six words in this headline are within quotation marks, which isn’t uncommon.

Whether or not you like the technique (some writers aren’t keen), it does allow them to create short, powerful headlines without risking being accused of bias. (They’re required to be impartial in their reporting.)

Whatever your brand, you could experiment with using short quotes in your post titles and see if it increases the attention they get.

#5: The arts have a leading role to play in tackling climate change (The Guardian)

This title comes from the Guardian’s “opinion” section, which functions a bit like a multi-author blog. In fact, most of the headlines there sum up the argument or key point of the article.

This stands in clear contrasts to the headlines on Buzzfeed and EMGN, where the whole point is to “tease” the article. But it positions the Guardian as a place for serious journalism and quality, thoughtful writing.

You might also notice the Guardian uses sentence case rather than title case for the title, as does the BBC. This is a stylistic decision and perhaps lends itself to titles that can also work as sentences. (Sentence case for titles/headlines is also more common in the UK than in the US.)

#6: Functions of the Apostrophe (Daily Writing Tips)

This is a simple, straightforward title. But it works well in the context of Daily Writing Tips, which uses a lot of similar titles (especially in the “grammar” category). A short, clear title such as this promises a post that’s authoritative and complete.

On some blogs it would make sense to jazz up the title (e.g. “The Ultimate Guide to All the Functions of the Apostrophe”). But that wouldn’t suit Daily Writing Tips’ calm and slightly academic voice and style.

If you use a title such as this on your own blog, make sure you can deliver on the promise you make in the title. The post will need to be well-informed and comprehensive if you don’t want to risk losing your readers’ trust.

We’ve taken a look at six very different titles from six very different publications. Can you imagine any that would fit on your own blog, or that definitely wouldn’t work for your voice and your audience? Or do you have a different way of styling and branding your titles?

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Image credit: Pineapple Supply Co.

The post What Do Your Blog Post Titles Say About Your Brand? appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

What to Do When Someone Steals Your Blog Content

The post What to Do When Someone Steals Your Blog Content appeared first on ProBlogger.

What to do when someone steals your blog content

This post is based on Episode 108 of the ProBlogger podcast.

One day, you come across someone else’s blog online that has surprisingly familiar content.

Very familiar content. Yours, in fact!

In most cases, they’ll have taken entire posts for your blog – images, links and all – by “scraping” your blog’s RSS feed.

Occasionally, it might be a little different. Perhaps someone has copied your whole post onto their brand-new blog because they really don’t know any better. They may even think they’re doing you a favour.

Whatever the exact situation, though, it’s never pleasant to realise that someone has effectively stolen your hard work. It’s even worse if they’re passing it off as their own.

So, you’re probably wanting to know what to do when someone steals your blog content.

In this post, I’ll be outlining the steps you can take to get that content taken down from their website – but first, it’s worth considering whether you want to take any action at all.

Should You Bother Fighting Content Thieves at All?

Let’s be clear: I know you’ll probably feel angry to find that someone is ripping off your content. But if their site doesn’t rank at all highly in Google and is covered in ads … chances are, no-one’s reading it anyway.

Years ago, I all but gave up chasing down sites that steal my content. There are so many that I could spend a couple of hours every single day just dealing with it. I decided, instead, I’d rather spend my time creating more content that serves my readers.

Before that, I’d tried to tackle the problem because, back then, bloggers felt that Google would penalise sites with duplicate content. So if someone else copied my post onto their site, I worried that I would be the one penalised.

Since then, Google has become increasingly smart about working out who’s the original source of the content.

If you find that a piece of your content has been used without your permission:

  1. Google a sentence or two (in quotation marks) from your post.
  2. See which site ranks more highly: yours, or theirs.

If your site is ranking more highly … it’s not worth your time doing anything at all. If their site ranks more highly than yours, though, it’s probably worth taking action.

How to Reduce the Impact of Content Scraping

“Scraping” is when someone steals your blog content directly from your RSS feed. They’re probably using some sort of tool to automate their theft, so in almost every case, they’ll simply publish your post exactly as it appeared on your blog … including all the links in it.

That means that it’s a great idea to:

  • Include at least one link in each post to another post on your blog. Hopefully you’re already doing this, as it’s a great way to encourage readers to stick around for longer! If readers come across the stolen content, they may well follow these links back to your blog.
  • Use a tool like the Yoast SEO plugin to include a link to your blog, and to the original blog post, in the footer of your RSS feed. If someone is scraping your RSS feed, they’ll probably publish that footer too. You can put in any text you want – e.g. “This article was originally published at….” or “The original source of this article is…” which can help clue Google in about which version of the content to prioritise in searches! (And if you’re not already using Yoast, I strongly recommend it for its many other SEO benefits too.)

When You Probably Will Want to Take Action … and How to Do So

While most content theft is the automated type I’ve described above, some is different.

I will take action if people use my content without acknowledging the source. They might strip out any links to my sites, and they might even publish it under their own name.

This only happens rarely, in my experience – but every year or so, I find someone doing this. Sometimes it’s just with one post, but often, it’s with a whole bunch of posts.

I’ve come across a number of bloggers who’ve taken over a hundred posts from ProBlogger or Digital Photography School, put their own names and images into those posts, maybe rewritten the first couple of paragraphs, and published it as their own.

This does make me angry! I put a lot of time into the content, or if it’s been created by a paid writer for dPS, they’ve put a lot of time in (and I’ve paid for it)!

I have a process I follow to take action – rather than just calling them out on Twitter straight away, which is always a bit of a temptation.

Step #1: Contact the Site That’s Taken Your Content

The first port of call should always be to contact the blogger in question. This can be tricky, as there may not be any contact details on their site. If you can get in touch with them, though, tell them clearly that they’re violating your copyright.

At this stage, you’ll probably want to be polite (if not exactly warm and friendly). It’s worth giving people the benefit of the doubt. More often than not, they’ll know exactly what they’re doing and why it’s wrong, but sometimes they may be genuinely clueless, or they’ve been duped themselves.

In one case, for instance, a blogger had hired someone to write content – and that person had ripped them off by stealing a whole heap of content from my site, and also from other bloggers’ sites.

I normally ask people to remove the content within 24 hours. If they’ve done something really bad (e.g. they’ve stolen a lot of content to pass off as their own), I’d also ask them to issue a public apology.

Step #2: Contact the Host of the Site That’s Taken Your Content

If you can’t get a response from the blogger, the next step is to contact their webhost. You can normally track down the site’s host through whois.net: type in the URL of the site and you’ll see a list of details. Look at the “name server” to see where the site is hosted.

(This can also be a way to get contact details for the blogger, if you can’t find those on their site.)

Hosting companies can get into serious legal trouble if they host a site that is violating copyright laws, so it’s in their interests to quickly take down any stolen content.

Many hosts have a process you can follow to issue them with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice against the site in question.

The DMCA notice is a legal document that you’ll need to sign (so do make sure the blog really has stolen your content before issuing it – don’t take someone else’s word for it, but check into the facts yourself).

You can issue the DMCA notice to the blogger or directly to their webhost. Most hosts will take down copyrighted content very quickly after receiving a DMCA notice.

If the blog is on Blogger, Tumblr, Medium, or any other large blogging platform, look in the Terms and Conditions or the Frequently Asked Questions to find out how to issue the DMCA notice.

So that the host can investigate, you’ll need to provide:

  • A link to where your content was originally published online.
  • Information about when you published it.

I’ve only had to go as far as issuing a DMCA notice five or six times in ten years, so hopefully you won’t need to get to this stage.

If you’re in contact with the blogger, simply telling them “my next step is to issue a DMCA takedown notice” will often be enough to prompt them to take swift action.

Step #3: Bring More Pressure Onto the Blogger

If you can’t issue the DMCA notice, or if the process ends up delayed, you might decide you want to go further.

A couple of ways to do this are to:

Contact the Blogger’s Advertisers

If the site has ads all over it (and most of the sites that steal content do!), then contact their advertisers and explain that their ads are on a site that’s stolen your work. The advertisers may will withdraw, or threaten to withdraw, their ads – and you may well find that a blogger who had no ethical qualms about stealing your content will suddenly take it down when their money is on the line.

Publicly Shame the Blogger

I’ve  done this a few times – sometimes, perhaps, a bit earlier than I should have! I’m lucky enough to have a fairly large social profile, so my readers’ outrage probably helped a little. Even if you don’t have a large Twitter following or Facebook page, though, calling out a blogger on social media can prompt them to take swift action.

Hopefully, by this point, you’ve succeeded in getting your content taken down. If not, you have a couple of more drastic options:

  • Filing to get the site banned from Google and other search engines, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
  • Taking legal action. This can be a very expensive route to go down, so it’s definitely best viewed as a last resort.

In most cases, though, I’ve found that I don’t need to go beyond step one – sending the blogger an email. They’ll probably make some kind of excuse (I’ve never had anyone actually admit to knowingly stealing my content) – but they most likely will take that content down.

With any case of contact theft, it’s worth asking yourself: do I want to spend my time fighting this, or can I use my time in a more constructive way?

Only you can answer that – you’ll want to consider things like whether the site is outranking yours, and whether they at least link back to you as the source.

If you do decide to take action, I hope the steps above help you. Feel free to share your own experience, tips and suggestions in the comments.

 

Image credit: Markus Spiske

The post What to Do When Someone Steals Your Blog Content appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

3 Ways to Give Your Readers a Fresh Take on a Well-Worn Idea

The post 3 Ways to Give Your Readers a Fresh Take on a Well-Worn Idea appeared first on ProBlogger.

Give your readers a fresh take on a well-worn idea

Today’s post is by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

Whatever topic you write about, you’ve probably seen a lot of ideas that have already been done to death.

If you’re in the weight loss niche, you might have seen a dozen posts on “How to beat the weight loss plateau”. If you’re in the freelancing niche, you’ve probably come across quite a lot of advice on “Should you charge per project or per hour?”. And if you blog about pregnancy and babies, you’ve probably read post after post about “Why breastmilk is better than formula”.

The problem is, you may also want to cover these well-worn ideas. Perhaps your readers have asked for a post on that particular topic, or maybe you want to make sure your beginner-friendly blog covers all the basics.

Of course, this is where I reassure you that your post will be different because you’ll be bringing your unique voice and perspective to it. (After all, that’s the advice I read time and time again when I started blogging.)

But while that’s true to a degree, I’ve read a lot of posts over the years across various niches that all seemed a bit too derivative.

Without a strategy in mind, it’s all too easy to write a post that just summarises other posts you’ve read on the topic. It ends up bland and boring, or skates over a topic without really giving any new insights.

So how can you offer something more for your readers? Well, I’m going to cover three options in this post, although I’m sure there are plenty more. You could:

  1. Use an analogy to make your post more engaging
  2. Acknowledge the other posts out there and subvert them
  3. Go much deeper into a particular topic than most people do

(If you’ve got other ideas for adding value to a well-worn idea, please share them with us in the comments.)

Method #1: Use an Analogy to Make Your Post More Engaging

If your topic is quite basic, or even slightly boring, an analogy can make it far more engaging. It will be not only more fun to read, but also thought-provoking for your reader. It can also be a lot of fun to write.

To create an analogy, pick something from outside your niche that you could compare with your topic. For instance, you might write about “How writing my PhD thesis taught me how to break my weight loss plateau” or “What McDonald’s can teach you about pricing per hour vs per project”.

Analogies can come from almost anywhere: other areas of your life and experience, or movies / TV shows / books you love.

Examples:

7 Unconventional Birth and Business Lessons from a New Mom – Nathalie Lussier, NathalieLussier.com. This great post from the founder of AccessAlly shares some key business lessons as they relate them to giving birth.

What Classic Monsters Can Teach Writers About Monster Clients – Amanda Stein, Craft Your Content. While there are plenty of posts out there about dealing with difficult clients, this post (published just before Hallowe’en in 2017) offers insights in a fun way.

Method #2: Acknowledge the Other Posts Out There and Subvert Them

Sometimes it’s best to openly acknowledge there are lots of posts on your particular topic out there. You can then explain how your post will be different. Maybe you’ll be going against prevailing wisdom in your niche, or offering a very different take on something.

If your readers are fed up with bland, one-size-fits-all advice this can be a great tactic. Just make sure you can stand by your opinions. Don’t write a controversial post you don’t really agree with.

Examples:

13 Effortless Productivity Tips To Keep You Sane (And Profitable) – Naomi Dunford, IttyBiz. From the first line of this post, Naomi makes it very clear she won’t be giving the type of advice readers have often seen elsewhere: “Productivity tips are generally things that make me want to poke my eye out with a spoon”.

When Life Happens: A Totally Doable Morning Routine for Writers – Hailey Hudson, Craft Your Content. In this post, Hailey (who has a chronic fatigue illness) goes beyond the standard advice on how to adjust your morning routine “when life happens”.

Method #3: Go Much Deeper Into a Particular Topic Than Most People Do

Sometimes, tackling a familiar topic means digging into it much deeper than most people do. Instead of just explaining the basics, you could give an in-depth guide with the hows and whys, or drill deep into one aspect of the topic.

This can be a great tactic if you think a lot of the content in your niche is a bit surface-level. Your readers may know all the basics, but they may be having trouble implementing them, or want to know more than most bloggers are offering.

Examples:

100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections – Mark Nichol, Daily Writing Tips. While plenty of writing-related sites explain what interjections are and give examples, this is an impressively long and detailed list.

Your Ultimate First Chapter Checklist, Pt. 1: Hooking Readers – K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors. There are plenty of posts out there on “How to write a first chapter”. But K.M. takes it a big step further, creating a series of three posts that each tackle the process from a different angle.

If you’ve always wanted to write about an idea but haven’t yet because it’s been done to death by other writers, I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how you could give your readers a fresh take on it.

And if you’ve got your own tips on how to tackle a well-worn idea without boring your readers, share them with us in the comments.

Image credit: Cody Davis

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How to Write a Series for Your Blog (and Why You’ll Want To)

How to write a series for your blog

Have you ever written a series of posts for your blog – a set of posts that are deliberately linked together?

If you haven’t, I hope I can convince you to give it a try.

Some bloggers feel writing a series of posts is more daunting than writing individual posts. But it’s often easier to come up with ideas for a ten-post series than for ten standalone posts.

Here at ProBlogger we’ve run a number of series over the years, including 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, which I’ll be coming back to later in this post.

So why should you write a series of posts instead of just individual posts?

How a Series of Posts Could Boost Your Blog

Writing a series of posts, even a short one, can be useful. In particular, it gives you the opportunity to:

  • Dig deep into a particular topic, showcasing your expertise.
  • Encourage readers to keep coming back for more.
  • Create plenty of internal links between your posts (good for both SEO and encouraging readers to dig deeper into your site).
  • Build a comprehensive piece of content readers can bookmark, share, and keep coming back to (especially if you have an introduction post or an index of posts).

Even if your blog is new, you can still run a series. In fact, it can be a great way to get some solid cornerstone content up there early on.

Two Different Approaches to Running Your Series: Which is Right for You?

When you look at a series of posts on the blogs you read, you’ll probably find they fall into one of two categories:

Type #1: Time-Limited Series of Posts

This type of series runs for a set period of time, and every post published on the blog during that time is (usually) part of the series.

For instance, a three-part series of linked posts may appear on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And on the following week, the blogger goes back to standalone posts.

We’ve done this on ProBlogger with ‘Theme Weeks’ such as Creating Products Week — a series of five blog posts on how to create products for your audience.

This approach works well if you want to create cornerstone content, or build up a piece of series content you might use later for an ebook or even the basis of a course. (More on that later.)

Type #2: Ongoing, Regular Series of Posts

This type of series can run indefinitely, with posts appearing on a specific day of the week or month, or even at a particular point in the year. And standalone posts appear as normal between installments of the series.

The series might look like:

  • A roundup of news/posts in your niche each Friday. (We used to do this in our “Reading Roundups”.)
  • An ongoing monthly series on the first Tuesday of each month. For example, if you blog about healthy eating, you might publish a new recipe at the start of each month.
  • An annual review of your progress in your niche each December or January.

If you want to build a sense of consistency and community on your blog, this can be a good type of series to use. It can also help you beat blogger’s block, as it gives you specific things to blog about. (Well, at least some of the time.)

Coming Up With a Great Idea for a Blog Post Series

It can be tough enough coming up with an idea for one blog post. So how do you come up with a great idea for a series?

For a fixed series with a limited number of posts, you might look for:

  • A topic that you’ve already covered, but not in much depth. A series could give you the chance to really dig into the topic and examine different aspects of it. We did this on ProBlogger last year with a series on guest posting.
  • Beginner-friendly topics that would make a good introduction to your blog or niche. The posts themselves could all be on different topics, but you can link them together by having them aimed very much at beginners.

For a regular, ongoing series, you might look for:

  • Something you could blog about pretty much indefinitely. It could be the week’s news in your niche, your monthly results from affiliate marketing, or common mistakes you see beginners making in your field.
  • A particular style of posts. You could have a weekly “Q&A” like Trent Hamm’s “Reader Mailbag” on his blog The Simple Dollar, or a “monthly motivation” post where you collect together inspiring quotes.

If you’ve got several ideas and aren’t which would work best, why not ask some other bloggers for input? (If you don’t know many other bloggers yet, the ProBlogger Facebook group is a great place to meet some.)

Structuring a Series of Blog Posts

Hopefully, you already feel confident about structuring individual blog posts. If not (or you need a quick refresher), check out these posts from our subject matter expert Ali Luke:

But when you’re structuring a series, you also have to make structural decisions about:

  • The series as a whole. It will need a beginning and, if it isn’t an ongoing series, an end. These might be short sections of a post, or posts in their own right (for a long series). For instance, you might write a post to introduce the series and explain what’s coming. You can then update this post with links to the different parts of the series.
  • The individual posts within the series. How can you structure these so they ‘match’ as parts of a coherent whole? You could:
    • use a specific type of image, or brand your images in a particular way
    • title the posts consistently
    • have a particular format for each post, such as a quick recap at the start and a task or assignment at the end.

Interlinking the Posts in Your Series

It’s crucial to link the parts of your series together so readers can easily navigate between them. Remember, not everyone will read your series as you publish it.

Some readers will be busy, and will want to catch up with the whole series later. But many more (hopefully) will come to your series in future weeks and months through search engines or social media.

You can interlink posts in any number of ways. Here are some you can try. (You may even want to use two or three in each post.)

  • Create a tag or category for the series, which is what we did with our guest posting series. Readers can then get all the parts of the series by clicking that tag/category name. If you’re running an ongoing series of weekly/monthly posts, this is probably the best way to organise it.
  • Put a link at the top of each post leading to the previous part(s), so readers can easily go back to any posts they missed.
  • Create a page or post with links to every post in the series. You can do this before you run the series and update it as you publish each part, or do it retrospectively.
  • Put links at the bottom of each post leading to the next part, so readers can easily go through the series. (Obviously, you’ll need to go back and add these in once you’ve published the later parts.)
  • Add links to the body of the post whenever you mention a topic you’ve already written about in the series. (You can also go back to earlier posts and link them to later posts in the series.) This saves you having to repeat yourself a lot, and makes it easy for readers to find the information they need at any given point.

Series links example

An example of links to all the posts in the series at the bottom of the post

However you choose to link your posts together, make sure you’re consistent. And remember to check back after finishing the series to see if there are opportunities to work in some extra links.

Taking Your Blog Post Series Further

Once you’ve completed a series, or have been writing an ongoing series for a while, it’s worth considering whether you can repurpose your series into something else.

That might mean:

  • Bringing your posts together as a free ebook, perhaps with some bonus content. For instance, if you’ve published ten monthly recipes on your blog, you could put those recipes into an ebook and add five extra recipes you haven’t published.
  • Publishing your posts as a product, such as a paid-for ebook or even an ecourse. (31 Days to Build a Better Blog went from a series of posts to an ebook, and this year we’ve turned it into a course.)

You might also use a short series as the inspiration for a longer one, or an ongoing series as an opportunity to get readers involved on your blog.

I’d love to hear how you’re using a post series, or what ideas you have for using them in the future. Leave a comment below to share your thoughts with us.

 

Photo Credit: JESHOOTS.COM

The post How to Write a Series for Your Blog (and Why You’ll Want To) appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

How to Republish Old Blog Posts – and Why You’ll Want to

How to republish old blog posts

If you’ve been blogging for a year or more, you might feel like you’re running out of ideas. There are plenty of great posts in your archive, but you’ve covered so many good topics already.

Where can you go from here?

Well, one place to go is… backwards.

Instead of struggling to come up with brand new ideas, look at the ones you’ve already had.

Are there posts buried in your archives that new readers would find helpful? Have some of your best posts become a little dated?

This is a great opportunity to update and republish your posts to get them in front of a fresh audience (or remind long-term readers they still exist).

I’m going to take you through the hows and whys of republishing old posts. We’ll also take a look at some other ways to recycle old content (such as turning posts into a podcast, an ebook, or even an online course).

But before we get too far, let’s deal with a couple of worries you might have.

“Will readers complain if I republish an old post?”

No. In fact, they may well thank you. New readers probably haven’t dug into your archives and found some of your best posts. And old readers may have forgotten them.

Even readers who keep returning a favourite post over and over again will be thrilled you’ve updated it.

“Will Google penalise me for republishing content?”

No. You’ll keep all your backlinks and page ranking for that post if you republish it the right way. (I’ll explain how to do that in a moment.)

How to Decide Which Posts to Update and Republish

If you’ve been blogging for a while, you might have dozens – even hundreds – of posts in your archives.

How do you figure out which ones are worth updating and republishing?

There’s no right answer to this question. But a good place to start is with posts that bring in most of your search engine traffic, especially if they’re more than a couple of years old. They could probably do with updating (so first-time readers get the best possible impression). And chances are they’re about popular topics, so republishing them will help your existing readers.

For more on how I select posts, and the process I go through when updating them, check out How to Update Old Posts On Your Blog (and When You Should Consider Doing it).

How Much Should You Change When Republishing a Post?

When you’re preparing a post for republication, you should:

  • Read it carefully. Did you miss any typos the first time round? Are there any factual errors? Do you need to tweak any clumsy or confusing sentences?
  • Update the post to fit with what’s happening today (particularly if you write about software, social media, or any other area that changes rapidly). For instance, if you posted about setting up a blog on WordPress.com, you might need to take new screenshots and make sure your step-by-step instructions are still accurate.
  • Consider adding more detail. Are any areas of your original post a bit sparse? Flesh them out.
  • Check all links. Even if a link is working, you may need to point it to a more recent resource.
  • Link to some of your (recent) posts. If you wrote your post two years ago, you’ve almost certainly written something since that relates to it. Add a link at an appropriate point.
  • Spend the time to make it more attractive. One of the great things about republishing is you save a lot of writing time, which means you can put extra effort into sourcing images, laying out your post, and so on.

There’s no hard and fast SEO rule about how much you should change or keep the same. For a post that’s already ranking well, try not to change any of the title tags, especially if Google is already using them as a list to answer a search query in a ‘featured snippet’.  Ultimately, what matters is that you (re)publish the best post you can.

How to Republish Your Content in WordPress (the Right Way)

Don’t create a new post and copy the old one into it. You’ll lose all the links and other benefits of republishing.

Instead, edit the existing post. Change the date and time to schedule it for the future. If you’ve made the changes and want to republish immediately, changing the time to a few minutes ahead works fine.

Make sure you keep the URL the same. If you’re using a URL structure that includes the post’s date, it will change because the post’s date has changed. In that case you’ll need to use a 301 redirect to point the old URL to the new one so you don’t lose all that link juice.

As well as making your edits, you may want to put a note at the top of your post:

This post was originally published on (date) and updated on (date).

That way, if people come across a link to the post predating the (new) publication date they won’t be confused.

You can delete the post’s old comments (to avoid people replying to very old comments), or leave them as social proof that your post is popular.

Of course, republishing blog posts isn’t the only way to reuse your blog content. There are plenty of other options, several of which I’ve used over the years with 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

Case Study: 31 Days to Build a Better Blog

I first created 31 Days to Build a Better Blog as a series of posts back in 2007.

It was so popular that in 2009, I turned it into the first ProBlogger ebook: 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. This used the original blog posts, plus extra material.

In 2012, I published an updated edition of that ebook.

When I launched the ProBlogger podcast in 2015, I turned 31 Days to Build a Better Blog into a series of 31 podcasts.

And now I’ve re-designed 31 Days to Build a Better Blog as a course that includes video presentations and worksheets along with fully updated information for the current blogging world. (It’s currently running in BETA, but if you’re interested in doing the course then sign up and we’ll contact you about getting in.)

All that from one month of posts.

Even if you don’t have a similar series to use, you might want to think about how you could recycle old posts into new formats. For instance:

  • You could record yourself reading a blog post and use it as a podcast episode.
  • You could take excerpts from a long blog post and use them in your newsletter.
  • You could collate dozens of your best blog posts, add some extra supporting material, and turn them into an ebook or even an ecourse.

This week, look in your archives for an old post that deserves a bit of extra attention. Make a plan for how you’re going to update it (a quick edit, or extensive changes?) and use it as your next blog post.

Don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to share how you got on – and how your readers reacted.

Photo Credit: Aziz Acharki

The post How to Republish Old Blog Posts – and Why You’ll Want to appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

11 Ways to Create More Compelling Content for Your Blog

create more compelling blog content

Today I wanted to share some tips on how you can make your content more compelling, whether it’s written, video or audio content. I’m mixing things up and testing out my new camera to create some video content for the blog.

For those of you interested in the production aspects of this video . . .

I’m happy with the visual aspects of the video considering it was shot with only the light of a window beside me (and the light changed over the 10 minutes of the video). I need to pick up a microphone as this audio is straight from the camera and will in future consider some extra lighting. The camera is a Sony A7iii and the lens I’m using is a 35mm f/1.4 (camera details at https://kit.com/darrenrowse/sony-gear) The camera is producing some great results. I’ve been posting some of them over on my Instagram account at https://www.instagram.com/darrenrowse/

What is some compelling content you’ve created lately? Share in the comments below!

The post 11 Ways to Create More Compelling Content for Your Blog 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.

      

How to Use Numbers Effectively in Your Blog Posts

You’re a blogger, so hopefully you feel confident working with words.

But words alone aren’t enough.

Even if you haven’t been blogging for long (or are yet to start), you’ve probably noticed numbers coming up a lot in other people’s posts.

You often find numbers in post titles such as:

Even if they don’t appear in the post’s title of the post, numbers can be used to order a sequence of steps, when listing a series of tips, or when quoting statistics.

Why Do Numbers Matter So Much?

By using numbers in your post, you’ll come across as a more authoritative source of information.

Numbers also intrigue readers. If you mention “Ten ways”, they’ll want to know what they are. If you tell them you made $2,671 from your first product launch, they’ll want to know how.

Here are four ways you can use numbers in your blog posts.

  1. When sharing your results (or someone else’s), whether it’s traffic, fans, income or anything else you might track.
  2. When providing a statistic. It could be a well-known one, or something quite obscure.
  3. When listing a number of steps to follow. Those steps could be your entire post, or just a part of it.
  4. When sharing several tips or ideas, usually in the form of a list post.

Here’s how they might work for you.

#1: Sharing Your Results (or Someone Else’s)

Blog posts that share real-life results are often popular because they show that someone else has succeeded, and give the reader hope that they can too. In the post titles I shared earlier, numbers such as “3,241 Facebook Fans” and “$453k” can help the reader trust your information. It sounds like it must be helpful because it’s so specific.

Tip: Sometimes it’s appropriate to round off numbers (e.g. “My newsletter has more than 20,000 subscribers”). But if you’re sharing your results in a post, specific numbers make it clear the results are accurate.

#2: Providing a Statistic

It’s easy to give advice on your blog without necessarily backing it up. You may know your niche very well, and therefore know that your advice is accurate. But readers won’t necessarily believe you without evidence. Here’s an example from Copyblogger’s classic post Writing Headlines That Get Results:

On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of the headline, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.

The statistics make it clear this information is authoritative and grounded in fact, rather than just someone’s opinion about whether or not headlines are important.

Tip: Of course, your statistics need to be accurate and true. Try to find the original source, or an authoritative source such as a government or university website. It’s often a good idea to link to the source as well.

#3: Listing a Number of Steps to Follow

If your post teaches the reader how to do something, or has steps they need to follow in order, it makes sense to number those steps. The reader may well be going back and forth between your post and the task they’re trying to complete, so you should make it easy for them to remember which step they’re up to.

In this type of post, including the number in the title often works well. For instance, instead of “How to Register a Domain Name” you might have “How to Register a Domain Name in Six Easy Steps”.

Tip: Try not to have too many steps. Having 20 or 30 steps may overwhelm the reader, even if each step can be completed relatively quickly. Instead, try to group each action into five to ten separate steps.

#4: Sharing Several Tips or Ideas

This is different to the step-by-step approach in that each tip or idea in your post will probably stand on its own. The reader can tackle them in any order, and may only try one or two of them.

It’s still a good idea to number each one. Not only will it help orient the reader within your post, it will also prove you’ve delivered what you promised (if you used numbers in your title).

Tip: Big numbers can work well in these types of posts. While “100 Steps to Build the Perfect Website” sounds very daunting, “100 Different Ways to Make Your Website Stand Out” sounds like a comprehensive source readers can dip into.

Using numbers in your post (and particularly in your title) may take a few minutes of extra work. But it could result in a much more popular and effective post.

Do you already use numbers in your posts? Or is it something you want to focus on a little more? If you’ve got any good tips for using numbers, share them with us in the comments.

Image Credit: Nick Hillier

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How to Use Lists Effectively in Your Blog Posts

How to use lists effectively in your blog postsI expect you’re already familiar with the ‘list post’.

Even if you’ve never written one, you’ll have read plenty – such as Nicole Avery’s recent post on 5 Tips to Help You Consume Content More Productively. Some sites, including List 25, publish nothing but list posts.

But lists can be useful in any post. Even if they form only a small part of the post, they can still be a crucial tool in making your post more readable and conveying information more effectively.

Why Use Lists at All?

If you’ve written essays at school or university, you may have been taught to avoid using bulleted lists. But when you’re writing for a general audience, lists make it easier to take information in. They can also create a more informal and friendly feel.

For instance, compare these two paragraphs:

Version 1:

Some useful tools for new bloggers are Google Docs, which lets you work collaboratively on blog posts; Dropbox, which stores your files in ‘the cloud’ so you can access them from any computer; Audacity, which podcasters often use to edit audio files; and WordPress (of course), which is the most popular blogging platform in the world.

Version 2:

Some useful tools for new bloggers are:

  • Google Docs, which lets you work collaboratively on blog posts
  • Dropbox, which stores your files in ‘the cloud’ so you can access them from any computer
  • Audacity, which podcasters often use to edit audio files
  • WordPress (of course), which is the most popular blogging platform in the world

The text is practically identical in both versions. But the second version is much easier to read – especially if the reader is skimming, as they can easily pick out the four tools at the start of the four bullet points.

As you can see, lists also create extra blank space (known as ‘white space’) at the start and end of each line.

Here’s a great example of using a list in a blog post. In How to Create an Efficient Contact Page That Boosts Your Productivity, Paul Cunningham lists separate problems using bullet points:

This makes it easier to distinguish the different problems Paul was facing. And while some of the bullet points are quite long, they’re much easier to read than if they’d been squashed up into a single paragraph.

Unordered vs Ordered Lists

An unordered list uses bullet points rather than numbers, as Paul used in his post. It looks like this:

  • Bread
  • Milk
  • Eggs

I’m calling it an ‘unordered list’ because that’s the term used in HTML code. To create this type of list in HTML you use <ul> for the opening tag, and </ul> for the closing tag. (In WordPress, and almost every other blogging system, you can create the list by simply clicking a button in the visual editor to.)

An ordered list uses numbers. It looks like this:

  1. Bread
  2. Milk
  3. Eggs

Again, ‘ordered list’ is the term used in HTML – <ol> for the opening tag, and </ul> for the closing tag. Of course, as with unordered lists, you can easily create them with the visual editor.

Whenever you’re including a list in one of your posts, think about which type makes most sense: ordered or unordered.

Paul’s blog post also has a list of suggested steps near the end, which he’s formatted by using an ordered list:

Using numbers makes sense here, as Paul is recommending the reader carry out the steps in this order. But if he offered several distinct ideas the reader could pick and choose from, bullet points would work best.

Formatting Your Lists Correctly and Consistently

While writing a list isn’t hard, some bloggers make mistakes with grammar and punctuation. Here are some simple rules of thumb to follow:

  • Each item on your list should start with a capital letter.
  • The introduction to your list (e.g. “The biggest problems I noticed at the time were:”) needs to fit with each item on the list. Try reading the introduction and each list item together as a complete sentence to make sure they all work grammatically.
  • If your list items are longer than a single sentence, they should always end with a full stop (period).
  • If your list items are single words or short phrases, they don’t need to end with a full stop. But make sure you’re consistent, and that all items in the list end in the same way.

Where Could You Use Lists in Your Posts?

Blog posts can often benefit from a list (or two). Here’s where you should consider using them:

  • At the end of the introduction, to explain what your post will cover.
  • In the middle of the post, to break up a long section.
  • When giving suggestions or ideas.
  • When linking to several different resources.
  • At the end of a post, to help readers decide what to do next.

Of course, these won’t all be appropriate for every post. And you certainly don’t want too many lists in your post, or it could look a bit choppy.

Do you consciously use lists in your blog posts? If not, look at the last few posts you’ve written. Would any of them benefit from having a list?

The post How to Use Lists Effectively in Your Blog Posts appeared first on ProBlogger.

      

How to Edit Your Blog Posts Like a Pro

It’s every blogger’s worst nightmare.

Your latest post gets shared by a big-name blogger, and you start getting lots of traffic. Hurrah!

But then someone sends you an email (or worse, leaves a comment) pointing out a glaring mistake in the first paragraph.

Mistakes can knock your reader’s confidence in you. A study in the UK a few years ago suggested that spelling mistakes might be costing businesses millions of dollars.

Of course, editing isn’t just about fixing typos and spelling mistakes. It’s also about shaping your post so it’s easy for readers to engage with. Even if your post is free of grammatical and spelling mistakes, you’ll still lose readers if it takes forever to get to the point, or switches between topics too much .

Perhaps you’ve struggled to edit your posts effectively in the past. You may have spent hours tweaking them, only to feel the result wasn’t much better than what you started with. Or maybe you think it simply takes too long.

In this post, I’ll explain how to create a simple checklist to help you edit – just like we do here at Problogger.

Our Editing Process at ProBlogger

Every post we publish goes through the same streamlined editing process.

Several members of the ProBlogger team write content (mainly Darren and me), and we also publish posts from our subject matter experts. This means we need a clear, step-by-step editing process that makes it easy for everyone to collaborate. and ensures all posts follow our style guide.

Part of our process is this checklist template, which we apply to every post in CoSchedule.

Even if you’re the only person who ever writes for your blog, it still helps to have a clear editing process.

Also think about where you edit. If you’re working with outside parties (e.g. guest posters or companies/agencies providing sponsored content), you may want to use Google Docs like we do. You can collaborate with the author as you edit, and hand the post on to someone else who may be handling formatting and uploading.

If it’s just you, it’s still important to have a self-editing process. It could mean clearly separating your roles as “writer” and “editor” so you’re not trying to edit as you write.

I also recommend coming up with a checklist you can use again and again so you never  have to worry about missing a crucial step when editing a post. Here’s how.

Creating Your Own Editing Checklist

You probably already have a process you work through when editing, whether you realise it or not. Open a blank document and type out the typical steps you go through. For instance, maybe you always add the formatting (subheadings, bold text, lists, etc.) when you edit, rather than while you’re drafting.

Now, see if anything is missing from your checklist. Here are some important things to include:

#1: Introduction

Make sure your introduction has a hook, ideally in the very first line. What will the reader gain from this post? Give them a clear reason to keep reading.

Avoid overly long introductions. You’ll lose readers when they’ve barely started on your post. One trick to try is to remove the first paragraph or two of your post entirely. Does it work just as well (or even better) without them?

Further reading: 10 Tips for Opening Your Next Blog Post, Darren Rowse

#2: Subheadings

Unless your post is very short, add subheadings to break it into sections. This helps all your readers. Those who skim for information can quickly find the relevant parts of your post, while those who read every word won’t feel lost in a sea of text.

You should format subheadings by using a heading tag. Make sure the hierarchy is correct (i.e don’t skip from H1 to H3). This is something we always check for here at ProBlogger.

Further reading: How to Use Subheadings to Add Structure to Your Blog Posts , Darren Rowse with Ali Luke

#3: Visual Breaks

Create white space in your post wherever possible. If you can put something into a bulleted list, do it. We also use the blockquote format to highlight key parts of a post. It gives the content more space, and makes it look more attractive.

Images can also create useful breaks in your post. They’re particularly useful if you’re giving instructions on how to do something, because you can show readers how it should look at each step.

Don’t be afraid to use one-sentence (or even one-word) paragraphs. They can be tremendously powerful. Smart Blogger and Copyblogger both make great use of them in their posts.

Further reading: How to Write a Great Paragraph, James Chartrand

#4: Extraneous Material

Delete anything that isn’t relevant to your post, no matter how witty, clever, or well-written it is. If you can’t bear to lose it completely, copy it into a ‘snippet’ file. You might be able to use it in a future post. (A great tip from Bill Harper who edits our posts.)

If your post includes a lot of detail to get beginners up to speed (or to give experienced readers extra food for thought), consider linking to that information in other posts (yours or someone else’s) instead. That way, you can give those who need more help (or want to go deeper) the information they need without everyone else getting bogged down in your post.

This doesn’t mean you can’t write long posts. Some topics require more space to cover all the details. Just make sure every paragraph is necessary.

Further reading: ProBlogger FAQ: How Long Should Posts Be?, Darren Rowse

#5: Conclusion

Make sure your post has a conclusion. Some bloggers have a tendency to end their posts abruptly – especially if they’ve written a list post. Remember, the last few lines of your post are an opportunity to leave your readers with a good impression. You can also give them a call to action, such as leaving a comment, sharing your post, or even buying your product.

Like introductions, conclusions don’t need to be long to be effective. But they do need to be there.

Further reading: 7 Powerful Ways to End Your Next Blog Post, Ali Luke

#6: Complex Sentences, Phrases and Words

Read your post out loud. Another great tip from Bill (that I don’t have the patience to do myself). Are any of your sentences too long? (You shouldn’t need to take a breath mid-way.) Are some a bit of a tongue-twister? Listen to how your writing sounds, and split up or rewrite any sentences you struggle with.

Look for words and phrases you can replace with simpler ones. For instance, don’t say “obtain” when “get” works just as well.

Further reading: Shorter, simpler words: Guide to concise writing, KingCounty.gov

#7: Links to Other Posts

Linking to other posts on your blog is always a good idea. And not just for the potential search engine benefits. It also helps new readers dig more deeply into your body of work, and increases the chances they’ll stick around.

As you edit, look for opportunities to include a link to a post in your archives. Consider linking to other blogs too. It shows readers that you read and research in your niche, and can be a great way to build a strong relationship with fellow bloggers.

Further reading: Why Interlinking Your Blog Posts is a Must (and Not Just For SEO), Daniel Vassiliou

#8: Before Publication

You may want to include this step as part of your editing checklist, or create a separate checklist for ‘uploading’ or ‘publishing’ blog posts. (It’s particularly useful if you work with a virtual assistant.)

Depending on your theme, and how you like to format your posts, it might include things like:

  • Ensuring the post is assigned a category and, if you use them, tags
  • Including a featured image for your post
  • Adding a “read more” link (so only the first part of your post appears on the front page of your blog)
  • Scheduling your post to appear at a future date

Further reading: Categories vs Tags – SEO Best Practices for Sorting your Content

While content isn’t the only thing you need for a successful blog, it’s crucial that your posts are as good as you can make them. That means careful editing. And if you use a consistent process like we do here at ProBlogger, you’ll always be able to edit quickly and effectively.

Did we miss any items that you have in your checklist? Share them with us in the comments below.

Image credit: Joanna Kosinska

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