What To Do When Your Sales Funnel Fails

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/crazyegg/~3/72r_xi9ngow/

These days it’s hard going even a single day without hearing something about sales funnels. For the past year or so they’ve been a huge buzzword in the online marketing space, and for good reason! They work. Except… when they don’t. Many people understand the value of funnels and why they should work, but still struggle putting together a funnel that actually maximizes their conversions. Today we’re going to fix that. Over the past several years I’ve generated about $50 million in revenue from sales funnels in more industries you could imagine, in companies ranging from startups to multiple 8-figure…

The post What To Do When Your Sales Funnel Fails appeared first on The Daily Egg.

Find Your Readers: 6 Marketing Channels (and which ones to pick)

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Quicksprout/~3/VkB30Q8ANSs/

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Creating great content is pointless…

…unless you’re getting it in front of your target audience.

You do this by using any one of a number of promotional tactics to reach your target audience on a variety of platforms.

Most of these platforms can be grouped together, and that’s where we get marketing channels. A promotional tactic can then be applied to most of the platforms in the channel.

For example, social media is a marketing channel, consisting of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Depending on whom you ask, you’ll get different answers to the question of how many marketing channels there really are.

The number gets even more complicated if you consider that there are many offline marketing channels as well.

However, for most of us, the number of channels doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that there is a handful of core channels that are by far the most effective digital marketing channels.

Download a cheat sheet of 4 tools you can use to find the exact readers of your website.

That’s what this post is all about.

We’ll go over the six main digital marketing channels you should at least be familiar with. On top of that, I’m going to show you how to evaluate each channel to determine whether it’s worth your time.

The real power of studying channels: If you want to learn this stuff because you love marketing, that’s great. But there’s also a great practical reason for you to want to learn it.

Once you learn how to identify the best marketing channels for your business, you can study them and create content for those specific channels (and sites in them).

By targeting content towards a specific audience, you’re much more likely to create something they’ll love and want to read. 

Channel #1: Search engines (SEO) is the best place to start

There are very few websites that wouldn’t benefit from search engine traffic.

No matter what industry you’re in, some of your target customers are using search engines to search for something.

That doesn’t mean you should necessarily spend all your time on SEO. It’s not always the best channel, but it’s one that you must research.

What you should be looking to do at this point is just some basic keyword research. Afterwards, you can do some more advanced keyword research with these resources:

Here, we just want to see the general number of searches your target audience does every month.

For that, the Google Keyword Planner will work just fine.

Start by entering some broad niche keywords. For example, “content marketing” or “social media marketing” if you were starting a blog like Quick Sprout.

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Look through the list that comes up, and see how many keywords have a significant search volume (at least a few hundred per month).

While you’re missing out on a lot of keywords using this simplistic method, you want to see at least 50 keywords worth targeting.

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to searching for keywords, find a close competitor in your niche.

Then, enter their URL in the website field of the keyword planner instead of typing in keywords.

If they have a WordPress blog, you can typically add “/feed” to the end of their blog URL to get a more complete set of keywords.

For example, instead of entering:

https://www.quicksprout.com/blog/

enter:

https://www.quicksprout.com/blog/feed

That will give you a set of really broad keywords, and you can enter any of those into the tool to get a list to analyze.

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Channel #2: If you want readers fast, PPC (pay-per-click advertising) is the way

When you identify a marketing channel, you first want to make sure you can actually reach your readers through it.

After, you need to decide if it’s ideal for your business. All channels have their strengths and weaknesses.

SEO, for example, can provide you with steady, high-quality free traffic. The downside is that it is hard to earn that traffic, can take a long time to get, and requires an upfront investment.

PPC, on the other hand, allows you to drive the same type of traffic (if you’re using AdWords) from day one of publishing content. There are also many more platforms you can use other than search such as Facebook advertising, LinkedIn advertising, or even a small network like 7search.

The downside is that it’s expensive, and if you don’t have a solid conversion funnel in place, you’ll end up wasting that traffic and losing money.

When can you use paid advertising? Another benefit of PPC is that you can use it for virtually any niche.

If there’s search traffic, you can advertise on Google or Bing.

If it’s most popular on social media, you can advertise there.

If you have a significant content promotion budget (on an ongoing basis), PPC is an option at your disposal.

However, if you don’t already have a solid sales funnel, be prepared to lose money.

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Your time should mostly be spent optimizing ads and conversion rates of your content (readers into email subscribers). From there, you’ll need to determine the best way to sell to those subscribers.

Channel #3: You don’t always have to compete with other blogs

If you’re starting a blog, I sure hope there are at least a few other, remotely similar to yours, popular blogs that already exist.

If not, there probably aren’t many potential customers reading blogs in that niche, and you’re wasting your time. The one exception is if you’re writing about a very new topic that has just started growing.

These blogs are usually seen as competition, but they don’t have to be.

A reader is not an all-or-nothing asset. A reader can follow multiple blogs.

If you give blog owners an incentive, you may be able to get them to allow you to get your message in front of their readers.

How?

The main ways are:

  • Guest-posting – I guest-post on a regular basis and have written multiple guides to using it effectively. Here, the incentive is free content for the site owner. Of course, you need to make sure that your content is good enough to be worth it. Not all blogs allow guest posts, but many do.
  • Joint content – For all my advanced guides (in the sidebar), I’ve gotten help from respected bloggers in each niche. They get publicity, and I get help with my content.

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  • Sponsored posts – You can contact a blogger and offer to sponsor a post. These typically involve a few mentions naturally throughout a post.
  • Joint ventures – You can even get involved with a product a blogger sells and help improve it. Their customers will see you in a very good light, and many will follow you because of it.

For now, you want to find as many of those blogs as you can.

It’s pretty easy these days. Start by Googling a phrase like “top (niche) blogs.”

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You’ll probably find at least a few results, featuring long lists of blogs in your niche.

Write these down somewhere.

You can also head to Alltop, find your niche in the menu bar, and then write down the blogs that come up:

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Traffic is king: There’s no point in doing a guest post on a site with very little traffic. Even if your post is great, you’ll only get a few readers from it.

Your next step is to estimate the traffic levels of each site you wrote down.

Visit each site, and look for:

  • Average number of comments on each post
  • Average number of social shares
  • How well designed the site is
  • Whether the number of subscribers is listed anywhere

It’s hard to know if a site has a lot of traffic, but if it’s getting 5+ comments or 100+ social shares on each post, it has enough to consider partnering with.

Filter out all the low traffic sites. If you still have 20+ sites left to potentially work with, then these blogs are another channel you can target.

Channel #4: Can you be social?

Social media sites are usually hit or miss.

Some niches, like fitness, food, fashion, and even marketing to a degree, are highly shareable.

In order to use social media effectively, you need those extra followers and readers you get from “likes” and “shares.”

That’s why you don’t see a lot of asphalt companies or paper companies killing it on social media. It’s really hard to create shareable content in those niches.

To see whether it’s viable for your niche, you can use Buzzsumo, a tool I’ve mentioned many times before. Not only will it show you if your niche is popular on social media, but it will also tell you which social media sites to focus on.

Type your niche into the top content tool. If the results seem irrelevant, add quotation marks around your keyword:

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In addition to the core keywords, I recommend typing in a few related keywords for more data.

You’re looking for two things here:

  1. Is content in my niche shareable? – If there are several pieces of content with over 1,000 shares, it’s safe to say that your niche is viable on social media.
  2. Which network(s) is most popular? – You’ll likely see that one or two networks make up 90% of the shares. In the case above, Twitter is the dominant source, followed way behind by Facebook and LinkedIn in most cases.

While there may be a few fluctuations, you’ll see that there is a pattern when it comes to the most popular social networks. You’ll want to focus on the most popular ones if you choose to use social media.

Channel #5: Forums are the backbone of the Internet

Forums have been around since the start of the Internet and continue to play a big part in most users’ online lives.

While getting readers from forums doesn’t scale very well, it can be very effective when your blog is new and you need that initial audience to write for.

On top of that, it’s free—other than your time investment.

Here, you need to find out whether there are any popular forums. To do so, Google for “(niche) + forum.”

You need a minimum of one highly active forum. You want to see 100+ users a day making new posts.

Check out the first few results, and see if any meet that criterion.

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You can usually scroll to the bottom of a forum to see how big it is.

Turns out, there actually aren’t any good content marketing forums – bummer.

If you run into a case like this, you do have the option of expanding your scope (“marketing forums”), but it’s usually better just to move on.

Channel #6: Q&A sites

Some might group question and answer (Q&A) sites with social media sites, but I think they’re distinctive enough to warrant their own section.

The biggest Q&A sites are Quora and Yahoo Answers.

Just like forums, these don’t scale well, but they can drive a good amount of traffic to your blog (if you include links in answers).

One bonus is that your answers will rank well in Google for long tail search terms (which are usually questions), which will send you consistent traffic in the future as well.

Head to Quora, and start typing your niche into the search bar. You’re looking for a topic that is exactly the same as yours or close to it (click it):

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Quora provides follower statistics on each topic page on the right. If a topic has a good number of followers (say 20,000+), it’s active enough that you could focus on it as a marketing channel:

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As a side note, here’s my post on using Quora for marketing.

Conclusion

Now that you have a good grasp of the ways to determine whether you could use a channel for marketing, it’s decision time.

Take a look at each channel, and first decide if your audience uses it (as I’ve shown you).

Then, consider the relative popularity of each channel, your budget, and your goals, and determine the top 1-3 channels.

You don’t want to try to target too many channels at once. Instead, focus on one or two, and put all your resources into using them effectively.

If you need help doing this, I’m happy to try to point you in the right direction. Leave me a comment below with as much detail as possible, and I’ll try to help out.

7 Types of Emails to Send Customers to Keep Them Coming Back

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Quicksprout/~3/q5Z5HBaSyuc/

As everyone says…

You need to build an email list.

Email marketing provides the highest ROI for most businesses at $40 for every $1 spent (on average).

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I’m sure you see a ton of content on a regular basis that shows you different ways to build that email list. Great.

But how much do you see that tells you how to interact with that list effectively?

I think it’s safe to guess not much.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you had questions such as:

  • What do I send my subscribers?
  • How do I keep open rates high?
  • How do I make my emails exciting?

While I can’t show you all of that in a single post, I’m going to show you 7 different types of emails that most businesses can send.

You can use any of these 5 tools to run your email marketing campaign.

These types of emails are emails that your subscribers and customers will enjoy getting, will interact with, and will help you build strong relationships. 

1. Exclusive offers make subscribers feel special (but which kinds are best?)

It’s nice when someone, whether a close friend or a relative stranger, goes out of their way to do something nice for you.

As a website owner with an email list, you’re hopefully somewhere in the middle of that friend-stranger spectrum in the eyes of your subscribers.

If you can do something for your subscribers that they really appreciate, it will do many important things:

  • Make them think more highly of you
  • Make them more loyal (to stay a subscriber and to buy in the future)
  • Make them more willing to reciprocate (if you ask for a share, referral, or something else).

The question then is: what can you give them?

For most businesses, an exclusive offer is the best thing they can give.

Let’s go through a few real examples and then some more general situations.

First, you can offer a live event that only your subscribers are invited to. Not only will the event be valuable because it’s live, but it will also be well attended because it’s exclusive.

Bryan Harris often does this, so it must work well for him. For example, here is an email with an offer to attend a private mastermind:

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He sends a few emails leading up to the event and one or two at the last minute. They aren’t complicated—just a brief description of what to expect in the event.

What else can you offer subscribers? Another thing of value that doesn’t cost you much, if anything, is early access.

Matthew Barby created a WordPress plugin and sent this email to his subscribers, giving them free access to it:

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That’s a pretty sweet offer. In reality, Matthew is also gaining his first group of users, which is another win for him.

If you’re launching any big guides or tools, consider getting early feedback from your subscribers.

What else can you offer?

  • Discounts
  • Secret products (like limited one-on-one consulting)
  • Webinars
  • A sneak peak at original research
  • Free samples

Be creative. If you can think of any other ideas, tell me about them in a comment at the end of the article.

2. Give subscribers the gift of convenience

Take care of your subscribers because your list is one of the most valuable assets you own.

You can give value in many ways. Some may be big gestures (email type #1), but even small things go a long way.

If someone is on your list, that means they’ve already told you that they like your content (if they signed up from a blog post, for example).

However, just because they want to hear your thoughts and advice doesn’t mean all your subscribers want it in the same way.

Typically, you’ll email all your subscribers about any new content you create. When you do this, consider giving them alternative ways to consume the content. Make it as convenient as you can.

For example, Tim Urban created a long post about SpaceX. He then sent out this email to subscribers:

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On top of the regular link that he had already sent his subscribers, he sent this email with two other options: a PDF version and an audio version.

It takes a fraction of the time to re-create the original content in a different form, but it adds a lot of extra value.

Nathan Barry offers another way to make your content more convenient.

After he hosts a webinar, he uploads it to YouTube and sends an email with a link to all his subscribers.

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It’s something that I know most subscribers really appreciate, and it also exposes his webinar to those subscribers who forgot to sign up for the event.

Convenience typically comes in the form of different mediums of content.

If you wrote a blog post, particularly a long one, consider emailing it to your subscribers with more than one version:

  • PDF
  • a cheat sheet
  • audio version
  • video summary

Or if you created a video, reformat that into:

  • an e-book
  • an MP3 download
  • a video download
  •  a cheat sheet/summary

You don’t need to create all the formats. Just think about which ones your subscribers would like most and which make sense for the content you made.

3. Short value emails can be a nice change of pace

Think about your subscribers’ email boxes.

Day after day, they get several emails from friends, families, and businesses they like.

What do most of the business emails consist of?

  • “Read our content”
  • “Buy our stuff”

About 90% of business emails fall into these two categories.

And it’s not that those types of emails aren’t valuable to your subscribers—because they are, but some subscribers will get fatigued by them.

If you’re looking to maximize your subscriber happiness as much as possible, consider sending emails that focus on nothing but teaching something interesting to your subscribers.

No links to your content or anyone’s website.

No asking for replies—just a clear show of value.

Bernadette Jiwa is known for her story-telling talent.

She sends out this exact type of email I’m talking about on a regular basis. Sometimes her emails have links underneath, and sometimes they don’t.

Here’s an example of such an email (yes, that’s the whole thing):

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It’s short but gives her subscribers an interesting thing to ponder, which helps them tell better stories (their goal).

It’s a nice break from overwhelming amounts of content (which I may be guilty of myself).

4. Highlights need to be interesting

Email newsletters are nothing new.

Any email sent out on a regular basis that summarizes what’s been happening on a site can be considered an email newsletter.

They’re supposed to consist of highlights.

But like the name implies, they need to consist of the very best of your site.

Whether you have user-generated content or content produced by your writing team, highlight emails are an option.

However, make sure you’re not including everything. But don’t select content randomly either.

You should be giving previews of the most popular content on your site for that particular time period.

For example, Quora (the question and answer site), regularly sends users the most upvoted questions from their feeds.

Here’s what it looks like:

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I would guess that these are automatically generated by the most upvoted questions during the week.

5. One way to show that you really respect subscribers

One goal that every email marketer should have is to form deeper relationships with subscribers.

Admittedly, this is difficult. It’s tough to break down that barrier over email only. You’ve probably never met your subscribers, and by default, they think of you as just another business.

Even if they like your business, most subscribers will still be skeptical about your claim that you care about them and not just their money.

One thing I encourage businesses to do is find employees through their email list.

I’ve done it before, as have many others. Here’s an example of Ramit Sethi sending an email to his list while looking to hire for more than 10 positions:

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When you do this, you make it clear that you think of them as people whom you respect and who you believe have valuable skills.

And it’s good business too. Your subscribers likely have an in-depth understanding of your business and obviously think in similar to you ways (since they like you).

Even if someone doesn’t apply or doesn’t get hired, it’s clear to them that you’re looking to develop partnerships and relationships with people on your list.

It’s one way to break down that barrier a bit and become more than “just another business.”

6. Don’t fall victim to the “curse of knowledge” (deliver your best stuff)

Many bloggers suffer from the “curse of knowledge.”

The curse of knowledge is a fairly old concept. It basically states that it’s hard to understand what lesser-informed people are thinking.

If you’re an expert in math, it would be hard for you to even fathom that someone doesn’t understand something like basic calculus.

It’s the reason why some people are geniuses but absolutely awful teachers. Conversely, someone who just learned something can often teach it best because they understand the perspective of someone who doesn’t know it.

Let’s apply this to your subscribers and content.

Over the years, you might write hundreds of pieces of content. At that point (possibly present day), you’re naturally going to assume that your average new subscriber is more informed than they used to be.

For me, as an example, it’s easy to assume that every new subscriber understands on-page and off-page SEO as well as concepts such as white-hat and black-hat link building.

From that perspective, it’s hard for me to send them my advanced guide to SEO because I’m assuming they already know everything in it.

Chances are, though, your average new subscriber won’t change much over time.

And it’s very likely that my average new subscriber could benefit from more general SEO knowledge before I get to the specific tactics I currently write about.

The autoresponder “crash course”: If you think that this is a problem, one way to fix it is with an autoresponder sequence.

Think of what an average subscriber knew even a year or two ago, and make a list of what they need to learn to get up to speed with the rest of your content.

Then, put together an autoresponder sequence that you send to all new subscribers, where you showcase your old content that teaches these basic concepts.

For example, if you sign up for Wordstream’s list, a PPC optimization business, you’ll get a few emails like this:

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The guides are all older content, and the field may have advanced since it was written, but the fundamentals hold true, and new subscribers will greatly appreciate learning them.

The takeaway from the “curse of knowledge” is that you’re probably giving subscribers a bit too much credit. Don’t assume they’ve read every single post you’ve ever written—because they haven’t.

Don’t be afraid to send emails featuring the best of your older content.

7. Preview big events that subscribers will be interested in (be your own hype man)

You need to give subscribers incentives to open that next email.

There are many ways to do this, but one way is to build hype in advance.

Think about any popular TV show. They show previews for the next episode in commercials and at the end of episodes.

These get you excited, and you make sure you watch the next episode.

Brian Dean does a similar thing really well, but for content.

For example, he sent this email to subscribers:

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In that email, he shared his story about struggling and then finally succeeding with SEO.

It’s an interesting story that draws you in and makes you curious about the specifics of his success (building hype).

At the bottom of the email, he teases subscribers with bullet points that outline what he’s going to show them over the next few emails:

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Right at the end, after building that hype, he tells them to watch out for his next email in which he’ll send the first post about how to succeed with SEO like he did.

You’d better believe that he had a fantastic open rate on that email.

You can do the same. When you’re planning to publish a big piece of content or a new tool, first send an email that focuses on the benefits of it.

If possible, tie it into an entertaining story to suck in your subscriber even more. That will only add to the anticipation.

Conclusion

It’s not enough just to build an email list—you have to use it effectively.

Emails are a great personal way to communicate with subscribers and customers.

Use as many of these 7 types of emails (where they make sense) to start building more meaningful relationships.

If you’re having trouble deciding exactly what to send to your subscribers, just fill me in on your situation in a comment below, and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Marketer’s Guide to Helpful Content Optimization Tools

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ducttapemarketing/nRUD/~3/Aa6XvN4gt4Q/

Marketer’s Guide to Helpful Content Optimization Tools written by Guest Post read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketer's Guide to Helpful Content Optimization Tools – Duct Tape Marketing

photo credit: Unsplash

Today, with over 152 billion blogs inhabiting the content landscape, it’s almost impossible for a small business to stand out of the crowd.

The best method for leading new audiences to a website that doesn’t require a huge marketing budget is attracting organic traffic. High rankings on Google SERPs (search engine results pages) do not happen overnight and require hard work of improving the search engine optimization of every single piece of content.

The surefire way to win the competition for high SERP rankings is to use the right content optimization tools. These (mostly free) tools help to find the right keywords and take a blog article from the graveyard of forgotten content to the first page of Google search results, leading more traffic to your company’s website.

Google Keyword Planner

After finding a suitable topic for a blog article and before starting to write it, successful content marketers conduct a quick research to find relevant keywords. Google Keyword Planner helps to find subject-related keywords and gives an overview of their monthly search rate and keyword difficulty (how competitive a keyword is).

For blogs that do not yet have a broad readership, the best practice is to find keywords with under 1000 monthly searches and low to medium competition.

If you want to cover a widely popular topic with highly competitive keywords, use long-term keywords that are more specific, but less difficult to rank high for. After finding 1-3 keywords that could potentially lead people to your article, move on to making your article worthy to appear in top ten SERPs.

Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo is a freemium tool that helps publishers find the most-shared content on specific topics. It is also highly beneficial when gathering ideas to write a detailed piece on a certain subject.

By typing pre-defined keywords to Buzzsumo, content creators can discover other popular articles on related subjects. By reading the articles, you can learn what angles of a topic interest your potential audience the most. Moreover, these articles serve as a useful resource for new ideas and subjects to include to your own content.

Make sure to read at least three popular articles on the topic you’re about to write about. You’ll get invaluable insight about what triggers the audience to share an article, and learn from the best resources to be in the know when compiling your own piece of content.

Google Search

To rank high in search engine results, your content needs to be helpful and profound, meaning that it has to be the very best resource for learning about a certain topic.

Many content marketers use the skyscraper technique to create high-ranking content. The skyscraper method means gathering information from all the existing articles covering a topic you’re about to write about. The end goal is to make your guide or article even more detailed and helpful than the current top-rankers.

Google Search is the best resource for gathering high-quality information and implementing skyscraper technique, as all your competitor’s high-ranking content is laid out in the open.

Moz On-Page Grader

This content optimization tool enters the game after a new piece of content has been written and published. Moz On-Page Grader evaluates how well a web page is optimized for a specific keyword.

It’s a super easy-to-use tool – all you have to do is to enter a keyword and a link to the webpage, and you’ll get a grade for your page optimization alongside suggestions for improving the SEO.

Don’t accept an on-page ranking of under 95 points (out of 100). Keep fixing the SEO problems and don’t forget to use an SEO plugin for WordPress, add the metadata and insert your primary keyword to article’s headline and image alt tags.

Alright… Now you should be all set and can have a huge cup of coffee while Google does all the ranking for you. Sorry, just kidding.

This was just the beginning. After publishing a well-optimized piece of content, the hard work to get the keywords ranking high on SERPs only begins.

Google Documents

You can significantly increase your search engine rankings by adding link to your new piece of content inside previously published blog posts and vice versa.

By interlinking articles on related topics, you show Google that you have a lot of valuable information on a specific subject that will benefit the readers. For this purpose, the best tool for content optimization is the Google Sheets where you can store information about all your published content, categorized by topics and keywords.

Take an extra step and create a Google Sheet with the names of all your published articles, complemented with the keyword data. This spreadsheet will help you avoid using the exact same keyword phrase in the headlines of multiple articles. You’ll attract a wider audience by targeting slightly modified keywords in every article covering a similar topic.

Moz Keyword Rankings

After publishing the content and checking its optimization score with Moz On-Page Grader, marketers need a tool to keep their eye on the SERP rankings of their web pages. By adding targeted keywords to Moz, you can get weekly reports on the rankings of all your targeted keywords.

Take notice that usually, pages may take up to two weeks to appear in Google’s search results. If a certain keyword starts to appear high on SERPs, you might want to boost its ranking by adding more links to the page inside other content on your website, and improving the article by adding even more relevant and helpful information.

Moz recently released a new Related Topics feature for page optimization that helps to find related keywords and topics that publishers might want to include in their content (or in upcoming articles). By checking the related topics, content marketers can gather new ideas to create complementary content, leading to higher SERP rankings.

By now, you should have a clear overview of the basic content optimization tools that help to identify the right keywords, create optimized content, and boost its rankings even after the publication.

Remember that Google doesn’t praise web pages only for clever SEO. To rank high, you need to create content that’s detailed, relevant, and answers the queries of the people searching for the particular keywords used in your blog articles.

Here’s the Golden Rule: create content that’s both meaningful and SEO-optimized, and you’ll soon see your web pages appear in the top ten of Google’s search results.

Karola KarlsonKarola Karlson is the Content Marketing Manager in Scoro, the business management platform for agile companies. Her passion for superior writing combined with strategic thinking make her focus all her energy on becoming a successful digital marketer and creative writer. For more on Karola, find her on Medium and connect to her on Twitter @KarolaKarlson

 

How Videos Can Make a Powerful Impact On Your Online Conversions

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/crazyegg/~3/9QNUQAT6-Ao/

What internet retailer wouldn’t want to increase their average order value? A survey of online retailers (Best Buy, Newegg, and Under Armour – to name a few), found an increase in average order value (AOV) when they implemented product videos. Retailers that had videos on all of their product pages had close to 9% conversion rates. 9% might not sound like a high number at first – but think about it for a moment: For every 100 visitors to that page, 9 of them made a purchase. That’s not too shabby. It’s also reported that customers who watched more videos…

The post How Videos Can Make a Powerful Impact On Your Online Conversions appeared first on The Daily Egg.

6 Unconventional Tips to Create Content Faster

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Quicksprout/~3/6YclkCvQJjU/

How much content have you written in the past month?

Are you happy with that amount?

Most marketers answer no to that question. In fact, 44% of marketers say that producing consistent content is one of their biggest challenges:

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Believe me, I get it. Creating a high amount of high quality content on a regular basis is hard.

But the traffic, subscribers, and eventual sales you get from it make creating content a necessity for most businesses.

There are a few ways to make it easier to produce whatever level of content you’re trying to:

  • Raise your budget (hire writers)
  • Devote more time to it
  • Write faster

The first two are often out of your control or not possible at this time. The third one, however, is almost always possible.

If you haven’t tried to optimize your writing habits, consider doing it now. It’s possible to double your productivity after some tweaks. Imagine being able to produce an article in half the time it currently takes you?

Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll have picked up a few tips that you can apply right away to significantly decrease the amount of time you spend creating content.

I’m going to share with you six tips, many of which are a bit unconventional but can work wonders. 

1. Narrate, then write

Everyone is different, but most people can talk significantly faster than they can type. I’m talking 3-4 times as fast.

On top of that speed difference, consider how often you pause in the middle of writing because you lost your train of thought.

Then you have to take 10 seconds to figure out where you were headed and repeat that process every so often.

With speaking, there are no delays other than the speed of your thought.

What I’m advocating here is to speak general thoughts about your topic. If you can go through it in a general order, that’s even better.

Record the audio on any free recorder app on your phone, or use an online app.

Then, when you’ve said all of your thoughts on your topic, type up your recordings.

They don’t have to make perfect sense yet. Just write them down, and organize them into appropriate sections.

Once you’re done, you can do a thorough edit and fill in any gaps that are left.

I suggest trying this out a few times, and if you like it, keep using it.

An added bonus – writing becomes much “easier”: When you simply write your content, you’re always thinking about the length, overall quality, vocabulary, and so on.

On top of that, you’re thinking about what to write next.

It’s exhausting.

When you narrate beforehand, you can solely focus on ideas and concepts. Then, you can focus on everything else as you’re editing. It makes writing much less intense and more enjoyable.

You can make this faster with tools: If you adopt this process, it should bring down your writing time by a bit and make it more fun.

However, if you’re really looking to minimize your writing time, a few tools can greatly speed up your writing time further.

First, consider hiring a virtual assistant (transcriptionist) to type up your narrations. Once you train them, it will save you a considerable amount of time for a small cost.

Next, you could also use more advanced narration tools to record your thoughts directly in a Word document.

Recently, Google Docs added a new feature for voice typing. Go to “Tools > Voice typing…” to enable it.

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Next, click on the microphone icon that pops up. Once you do, it should turn orange to indicate that it’s listening.

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From there, you can just speak, and the tool does a pretty amazing job at capturing your words. It’s not perfect, of course, but the technology has come a long way.

Don’t worry about correcting mistakes—you can do that later.

There are a few voice commands you’ll need; here’s a list of them.

2. Limit your time

According to Parkinson’s law,

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Even if you haven’t heard of it, I bet you’ve noticed it before.

When you have a week to write a post, it usually takes a week. You take extra time doing each part, not hurrying to finish early.

When you need to have a post finished tomorrow, you get right on it in the morning and focus like a laser. You have no choice but to work as hard as you can.

Now that you understand the law, you should apply it to your writing process.

Most marketers like to give plenty of extra time in case they can’t finish a post in time.

What I advise you to do, and what I do myself, is to limit your time to the lowest amount you think is realistic (without rushing the post).

For example, if I think a post can be done in a day, that’s how long I allot for it.

The other side of this is that it’s a good idea to plan in advance and have a few extra posts ready to go.

If you do underestimate the time a post will take, which does happen, you want to have those backups ready to go.

3. Start at the end, and work backwards

Writer’s block affects everyone, even us non-fiction content marketers.

You stare at a blank or mostly blank page, trying to think of something to write.

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This is clearly a huge waste of time.

Consider that the average typing speed is about 40 words per minute. You might even be able to beat that.

If you could simply type for an hour straight, at 80% of that speed, you’d crank out 1,920 words per hour.

Be honest, do you even come close to that when you’re actually creating content?

If you do, you probably don’t need this post.

This dead time is the main reason for this drastic difference in theory versus reality.

The main cause of writer’s block: There are many reasons that could cause you to pause while writing, but the most common is trying to think ahead.

You try to consider what you should write next and whether that will make sense when you’ll get to the later parts of your post.

Sometimes, you just stare at a blank screen because there are too many possibilities, which overwhelms you.

You can eliminate this by taking the opposite approach.

Instead of wondering what you should write at the moment, you should ask yourself, “What is the point of this post?”

Once you know that, work backwards, and create a very basic outline that supports your central points.

This takes 5-10 minutes upfront but can save you a ton of time, especially with long posts.

4. Make typing automatic

I told you above that the average typing speed is 40 words per minute.

Honestly, it’s not too difficult to push that to above 60 words per minute. Doing that alone will decrease your writing time by up to 50% (probably more like 20% due to other distractions).

That’s a huge amount.

If you’re already a really good typist, just move on to the next section. But I know that a lot of my readers know multiple languages, and some might not have grown up with computers, which makes it difficult.

Remember, typing is a skill. Like all skills, it can be improved with a bit of practice.

And if you currently have to think about where keys are on the keyboard, taking the time to make typing an unconscious habit will pay off greatly.

Step 1 is to test your typing speed. There are many free tests out there, and Key Hero is one of them. The test will only take a minute or two.

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If your typing speed is under 60 words per minute, you’ll benefit a lot from improving it. Alternatively, use the narration tools I mentioned in tip #1.

How do you actually improve your typing speed? To start with, you need to make sure your typing technique is correct.

The proper hand placement consists of your 4 fingers on each hand hovering over the home row (middle) keys and thumbs over the space bar.

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Next, get in the habit of not looking at the keyboard. If you do, it’ll be next to impossible to get to a solid typing speed.

Once that feels normal, if you haven’t been doing it already, it’s time to practice. Key Hero has a practice round that should work really well—you just type random letters and words that come up:

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Commit to just 20 minutes a day, and in a few weeks, you’ll see big improvements.

Do a little work now to save hundreds of hours in the future.

5. Take breaks (yes, seriously!)

It’s extremely counter-intuitive, but taking breaks usually makes us more productive.

Studies have shown that even short breaks of a few minutes can improve productivity by over 10%.

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It makes sense when you think about it. After working for a while, you lose focus, get bored, and can’t concentrate well.

Breaks don’t need to be long, but a few minutes every 30-60 minutes is a good idea. You should know how much time it takes before your concentration starts to wane.

If you’re not sure where to start, I highly recommend the Pomodoro Technique.

It’s very simple:

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes
  • Work until the timer finishes
  • Take a 5 minute break
  • All of that is one Pomodoro
  • Repeat steps 1-3 four times. After the fourth 30-minute period, take a long break (anywhere from 15-50 minutes, up to you)

Here’s an online tomato timer, or you can use a timer on your phone.

This procedure is supposed to keep you focused and fresh while working.

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6. Write first, edit after

I kind of touched upon it earlier, but I want to make it clear here.

There are all sorts of distractions while you write. Random thoughts you have, trying to decide whether you’re using the right words, figuring out what to write next, and so on.

Whether it’s obvious or not, you’re multitasking.

Multitasking is horribly inefficient because every time you switch to thinking about the next thing, there’s a “switch cost.”

The switch cost is often just a second or less, but consider that you can have thousands of thoughts an hour, and it adds up to minutes of wasted time on a regular basis.

Research has shown that constantly shifting focus can decrease productivity by up to 40%.

This is the main reason you don’t want to write a sentence and then think about whether you should edit it. It takes way too much time, and then you waste more time switching back to your writing mode.

The first draft of anything is garbage.

That’s a quote by Ernest Hemingway, one of the most famous writers there is.

Even if you’re editing your content line by line, it’s still going to suck compared to what it has the potential to be. You can’t really know whether a sentence fits until you have the whole post written.

As you can see, this type of multitasking doesn’t work, and you should edit your post after you’ve written everything you wanted to say.

So, instead of multitasking, write the first thing that comes into your head.

That’s what most professional writers do.

They don’t revise until they finish the first draft—they just let the thoughts flow from their head onto the page. That’s something that can also be accomplished through narration.

Then, you do a thorough edit and refine your content into gold.

It may seem like doing two things instead of one will take more time, but try it, and you’ll likely find that you will not only have a better final product but also save time.

Conclusion

Content is a necessary part of modern marketing for most businesses.

And yet, it’s always difficult to find the time to produce content on a regular basis.

That’s where learning how to create content faster comes in.

I’ve shown you six different ways to create content faster. Just try one or two for now, and come back for the rest later. Measure your content creation times before and after, and you should see a big difference.

If you have any other unconventional tips that you’d like to share, I’d be really interested to hear them. Just leave me a comment below.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Using Authenticity and Transparency to Improve Trust

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Quicksprout/~3/KRNLBtNCt04/

trust

Authenticity and transparency are two of the latest marketing buzzwords thrown around.

Just because a word is catchy doesn’t mean it’s meaningless, but it also doesn’t necessarily mean it’s meaningful.

There are plenty of buzzwords that lost their meaning.

But these two are different, I believe, because they represent two aspects of modern marketing that can have a great effect on your results, especially when it comes to content marketing.

Entire blogs have been launched with these two principles as guides for every aspect of those blogs.

Take, for example, Groove’s blog, which I often mention. The transparency and authenticity in their content marketing have helped the company grow their revenue to well past their initial goal of $100k per month.

That being said, most marketers have no clue how to use these concepts effectively in their content.

It’s about time we fix that. I wrote this post in order to teach you about authenticity and transparency as well as to show you when and how to use them. 

But before we get started, there’s one more thing you need to understand…

Transparency and authenticity are not the same: Both of these are independent aspects of content even though they are often confused with each another.

Transparency refers to how much you’re willing to share. For example, when talking about revenue numbers, you could use:

  • Low transparency – We had a good month of February.
  • Medium transparency – We had a profitable month of February, with a profit margin of 20%.
  • High transparency – We made $10,000 during February, with a net profit of $2,000. 

Hopefully that makes the concept crystal clear. The more detail you share, the more transparent you are. If it seems like you’re hiding important details, you’re not being transparent.

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Authenticity, on the other hand, has nothing to do with how much you share. It is about what you share.

Being authentic means being true to who you are as a person, writer, or company.

It means writing what you believe even if it might be unpopular or controversial. For example, you don’t see me writing posts on black or grey hat SEO techniques like building private blog networks (PBNs).

I believe that for almost all business owners and marketers, a white hat approach is better. So, although I could get extra traffic by covering those shadier tactics, I choose to write on my honest viewpoints.

If that all makes sense, we can dive in. If it’s not totally clear, it will become clearer in the coming sections.

Step 1: Understand why readers respond to transparency

There are two key elements of effective content that transparency can affect:

  • Value
  • Trust

People value content for many reasons but mainly for its usefulness.

Transparency can help make content more useful. By providing personal examples and experiences in detail (high transparency), you help the reader see your advice in action.

Not only that, by writing about personal experiences, you can provide context for the reasons—the why—behind your decisions.

It can go far beyond just sharing personal numbers, even though that’s a great start.

For example, Buffer not only shares revenue numbers but also explains what those numbers mean as well as what the team does to improve them.

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If I were launching a similar business, I could learn from those insights.

And then there’s trust.

While it varies, many online readers are rightfully skeptical.

People will claim anything if they think it will help them make sales. When someone is reading a product review or case study, their skepticism radar is at full alert.

Earning a reader’s trust isn’t easy, but transparency goes a long way.

Think of it this way…

Whom do you trust more: a complete stranger or someone whom you know pretty well?

In 99% of cases, you trust the person who is more open with you. You feel that if you know someone better, you can more easily predict their intentions and behaviors.

But that also brings up a good point. If you’re a terrible person, transparency will not be good for you. Hopefully, you and your company are not terrible.

Is transparency always good? The unfortunate part of transparency getting so popular is that people who don’t understand it try to use it.

Technically, telling your readers what you ate for breakfast is highly transparent, but unless you have a food blog, it won’t add any value to your content.

Step 2: Understand why readers respond to authenticity

One of the main reasons why I believe authenticity is often confused with transparency is that they both affect the same element of content:

Trust.

Inauthentic content marketers are a lot like politicians who flip-flop on their opinions, depending on whom they’re speaking to.

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If you pander to a specific audience, you could be departing from what you really believe in order to please them.

When such a politician tries to convince you that they care about an issue close to your heart, do you believe them?

Of course not.

But when you feel that someone truly believes in what they’re saying (being authentic), of course, you will trust them.

That air of authenticity is developed over time by not only speaking about your actual beliefs but also following up with action.

I said earlier that I believe white hat SEO is the best approach to SEO in most situations.

But what if my readers saw that I wrote a guest post “X reasons why black hat SEO is the best”?

How could they trust anything that I write, including the content about white hat SEO?

Being inauthentic often happens by accident when you’re trying to appeal to different audiences. However, the result is often that you lose the trust of your most loyal readers or have a low conversion rate when you try to sell something.

If you find yourself writing for a different audience but don’t feel that you can voice your honest opinions, don’t write at all. You will not only attract the wrong audience but also damage the trust you have with your existing audience.

Does that mean you can never change your mind? No, it does not. And this is also where transparency starts to intertwine with authenticity.

The best way I can explain this is by giving you another example.

Back in 2014, Google absolutely slaughtered PBNs. With the exception of the highest quality networks, many black hat SEOs lost all their rankings overnight.

Wouldn’t that suck if you were a vocal supporter of PBNs?

Spencer Hawes, who runs Niche Pursuits, was that very type of blogger. He supported PBNs because he was able to get great results with them, and so were his readers.

And then he got hit—hard.

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Remember that authenticity is about honesty. If you honestly change your mind about something, it’s okay to change your viewpoint.

Spencer wrote this post that went viral in the SEO world, saying he’ll never use PBNs ever again.

He did a 180 overnight.

The reason why Niche Pursuits is still going strong is because of the transparency Spencer showed.

He could have hid the consequences he suffered as a result of those Google actions, but instead, he showed them to his audience.

He then explained in as much detail as he could what was going on inside his head and why it made sense to focus on white hat SEO techniques from that point on.

If he, all of a sudden, just flipped on the subject without an explanation, most of his readers would’ve felt wronged.

But because he had always been authentic and explained his change of heart so well, readers didn’t feel tricked. Instead, they understood that his opinion genuinely changed and that he was pivoting to reflect that.

You shouldn’t be changing your opinions frequently on a whim, but as long as you’re honest, readers won’t feel deceived. You may still lose some readers, but that’s the price you pay for long-term loyalty and success.

Step 3: Decide on a level of transparency

At this point, you should have a good grasp of the concepts of transparency and authenticity.

Now, you need to put that knowledge into practice.

You need to establish what you are and are not comfortable sharing.

Common things to consider are:

  • Personal information – your name, address, etc.
  • Business information – revenue, profit, behind the scenes problems
  • Personal business information – your business’ processes and suppliers that your competitors could potentially steal

Transparency can be a great thing, but I realize that not all people are comfortable giving out their real names as I am.

Decide on what you are and aren’t comfortable revealing, and then stick to that when you’re creating content in the future.

Step 4: Authenticity is binary

The question “Do you think he/she is authentic?” is a yes or no question. There’s never an answer: “He’s kind of authentic.”

Unless you are, or want to be, a terrible person whom no one likes, I recommend being authentic.

This is actually the last part of this post involving authenticity. You’ll never need to force yourself to consider it once you decide that you care about authenticity.

Assuming you’re trying to be authentic, all you need to do is pay attention to how you feel while writing content. Do you feel like you’re lying? If so, you’re not being authentic.

Step 5: Inject transparency into content (when it makes sense)

The tough part about transparency is knowing when to use it.

The key is to recognize the most important parts of your content where you can add value through additional transparency.

It takes experience to recognize them, so I’ll show you a few great examples.

Example #1 – The Groove blog: Groove is always the first example I think of when it comes to transparency.

At the time of their launch, very few blogs for entrepreneurs revealed intimate details about revenue and profit.

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Groove proceeded to share everything, including their business processes, reasons behind certain decisions, and even the results of hiring a business coach.

Since then, many others have followed suit, using this type of transparency.

My public $100k challenge is an example of it.

Example #2 – Domino’s Pizza: If you live in the US, you’re familiar with Domino’s, which is a popular pizza chain.

However, they weren’t exactly known for their high quality pizza.

What they did was create a video where they went behind the scenes and publicly read out their worst customer complaints.

In that video, they show what work went on behind the scenes to improve their pizza.

After seeing that display of transparency, most previous customers would give them another chance.

It can be a good thing to put your weaknesses right in the open and confront them head on as long as you actually try to fix them.

Example #3 – Patagonia: Patagonia is a large business that sells clothing.

You may or may not know that there is a lot of concern over clothing being produced in sweatshop conditions, even by major businesses.

Patagonia responded by creating a footprint map, where they show exactly where they source all their materials from.

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They revealed the working conditions of their employees and contractors in order to show that they have good business practices. This is again the part where you have to be a good person or company to use transparency effectively.

If there is a common worry within your industry, consider being fully transparent while showing that you don’t participate in bad practices. 

Conclusion

Authenticity and transparency may be popular buzzwords, but they’re also concepts of real value.

I hope this post helped you understand the difference between the two concepts. As you can see now, although they often interact, they are two completely independent principles.

At this point, go back and answer the questions in steps 3-5 if you haven’t already. Once you’ve done that, keep those answers in mind as you create content in the future.

Finally, if you’ve used either transparency or authenticity (or seen them) successfully, I’d like to hear about it in a comment below.

5 WordPress Plugins you Don’t Use that Boost user Engagement and Monetization

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ducttapemarketing/nRUD/~3/jXe-tg9eIdU/

5 WordPress Plugins you Don’t Use that Boost user Engagement and Monetization written by Guest Post read more at Duct Tape Marketing

5 WordPress plugins you don't use that boost user engagement - and Monetization - Duct Tape Marketing

Photo Credit: StockSnap

Running a blog or online publication is no easy feat. Especially when you are looking to monetize and boost engagement at the same time. Users engage in pages that are built to suit their needs. Therefore, it’s no surprise that they steer away from the ads that appear overly promotional and fail to blend into the context of the rest of the site.

Thankfully however, intrusive ads are not the most common way to boost monetization. In fact, WordPress offers plenty of monetization plugins that enhance the user experience and help to achieve engagement at the same time. Read on to discover some of my favorites:

1. TrenDemon

As we mentioned before, your users come to your site in order to achieve something. Whether its knowledge, a sense of belonging, or entertainment–your site can help provide much of it through insightful content. But remember, content that appeals to one person, does not necessarily appeal to someone else.

That’s why there’s TrenDemon. TrendDemon delivers personalized content recommendations– ensuring your users discover the most valuable material every time they visit your site. Their advanced algorithm detects the most beneficial user journey for each user segment.  As a result, the tool boosts conversions by around 380%. Of course, not only is this plugin great for conversions, but because it guides the user along his or her most ideal path, it’s likely to increase both your engagement and monetization as well.

As an added bonus, you can also choose to monetize on their unique Media Exchange Network, specifically geared for online publishers.

2. Comments Reloaded

Every decent blogger knows the importance of responding to your user’s comments. It goes without saying that if a user takes the time out of his or her day to share insights and cultivate conversation surrounding your content, that it’s both respectful and beneficial for your community to respond. By doing so, you keep the conversation flowing and help to better educate your users. Just as important, you acknowledge your user’s efforts and encourage them to continue to engage in your content.

But what happens when your overworked content/community manager misses a comment? What if they respond too late? The results of this small faux pas can be detrimental to building a robust community full of flourishing conversation. That’s where Comments Reloaded comes in. Comments Reloaded automatically notifies you via email everytime someone comments on your post. This way, you can respond to each and every comment in a timely manner for a better real-time conversation.

3. TinyPass

TinyPass is a simple, yet powerful tool specifically created for content monetization. Whether you choose to charge for particular articles, a section of content, or even an ebook–TinyPass sets up an easy to use pay wall that is simple and unobtrusive. In addition, you are able to take control, setting the price as low as just two cents, making it easier than ever to monetize.

4. Viglink

The goal of all content should be to provide useful and meaningful advice. Often times, in order to do that, we link to products, services, and other articles that help the reader accomplish a specific task. Since these links naturally serve the purpose of the article, they enrich the content and make it more valuable to the end user.

However, as we know, someone else is gaining something from these links other than just the reader. When you link a product, often times, that product is getting a free advertisement or at the very least, an SEO benefit by being mentioned in your article.

Viglink helps you benefit from those mentions. The plugin recognizes specific words in your content and helps suggest various links that would work for specific keywords. The links you add are then easily monetized as the brands that are mentioned within the content bid to be featured. As a result, you instantly benefit by being able to link to the most useful products and services while also monetizing in one easy step.

5. Easy Tweet Embed

Just as it sounds, Easy Tweet Embed helps your users easily tweet a quote from anywhere within your content. Since often times the most valuable part of your content isn’t necessarily the title, Easy Tweet Embed makes tweeting meaningful content instantaneous. Your user simply clicks on a relevant sentence and the quote will automatically be featured in their Twitter feed.

Of course, part of engaging in content is discussing and sharing. It goes without saying that Twitter provides a great open platform for sharing and discussing ideas. That’s why Easy Tweet Embed is so useful for promoting deeper audience engagement. By using it, your users will be able to have a deeper interaction and connection to your content and promote it to their friends.

Producing great engagement and monetization strategies is a necessary part of building a successful blog or online publication. Though it’s important to consider an advanced methodology to do most of the work, having tools to help you get in the right direction is not only smart, but extremely worthwhile. Do you have any more plugins to add? Comment below and let us know.

Nadav ShovalNadav Shoval is the CEO & Co-Founder of Spot.IM, an on-site community that brings the power back to the publisher. Prior to Spot.IM, Nadav has developed and founded 4 technology startups. Spot.IM is his fifth venture. Nadav is a technology erudite and a sports addict.

Is Your Content Good Enough? 6 Questions to Find the Answer

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Quicksprout/~3/sCd2158uJmE/

questions

What do you think of the content that your competitors publish?

My guess? It’s not great.

It’s easy to judge others but tough to evaluate ourselves.

I guarantee that all your competitors think the same thing—that most content in your niche is junk.

And yet…they believe that theirs is the exception.

No doubt you think your content is pretty good too. Otherwise, why would you publish it?

I’m not saying you’re wrong; I’m just pointing out that we all have biases. Of course we’re going to think our own content is good.

The ideal solution would be to hire a professional marketer or editor to evaluate your content and compare it with that of competitors.

However, that’s rarely possible.

The next best solution is to have a checklist of all the essentials of good content.

While you can make your own, I thought I’d start you off.

I’m going to tell you 6 questions that you should ask yourself before publishing any piece of content.

This is a list of essentials, so feel free to add to it. 

1. Does it have a real purpose for the right people?

You can write in two ways.

You can write for yourself, creating something that you think is superb.

Or you can write for your readers, creating something that is specifically crafted to help them.

Can you guess which one I prefer? It’s option number 2. Always write for your readers.

One mistake that many content creators make, especially newer ones, is writing something that they think is good.

They’ll write a rant, or some other post, just to make themselves sound smart. But this doesn’t accomplish anything other than making them feel smart.

Here’s an example of such a post on Medium:

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As you can see, the author wrote a public post that was essentially a rant directed towards her CEO.

You can read it if you want, but essentially it’s a whole lot of complaining. All about “me, me, me.”

As an interesting note, an edit on the post explains that she was let go shortly after publishing the post (not necessarily related).

The point is that even if this content gets read by a lot of people, it’s not going to impact their lives.

From a content marketing perspective, all good content needs to leave a favorable impression of your brand in the minds of readers.

It should do one of the following:

  • Solve a problem – For example, a detailed step-by-step guide to patching up a wall.
  • Inspire action – When content is focused on the reader, it can inspire them to take action to improve their lives. At the end of most of my posts, I ask readers to take action on what I wrote because they’ll remember me when they do.

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  • Teach – Everyone loves to learn about the things they truly care about. Good content can focus on teaching an important concept, e.g., a post written for beginner SEOs about how Google’s basic algorithm works.

Go back to the question, and answer it now.

Is your content written for your audience, and does it provide value to them?

If the topic is good but you were more focused on writing what you think should be in a good article, go through it and edit it. Constantly ask yourself, “how can I make this clearer for my reader?”

You should be able to articulate the exact value that your content provides to your readers. If you can’t, it probably doesn’t have any (or much).

2. Are your claims backed up with credible sources?

The days are over when you could write whatever you wanted and be believed.

Many readers these days are skeptical. After reading so many lies and hearing false promises, they need to be convinced to take you at your word and take action.

And if you can’t get them to take action, you’ll never claim that place in their email boxes or memory.

This is why I recommend backing up all your claims with data when possible.

What’s more convincing? Saying:

They both sound possible, but they also both sound like they could be speculations. The difference is that the second one links to a study in a respected journal.

As a reader, I am convinced by the second one; the first one leaves me with questions.

What’s a credible source? A key word in the question here is “credible.” If a reader clicks through to your source and doesn’t trust it, you’re back where you started.

Here’s what I would say a good rule of thumb for credible sources is:

  • Studies (journal articles) are the best
  • Data analysis posts
  • Government sites
  • Highly respected sites (like webMD)
  • Posts written by extremely well-known authors (or interviews with them)

3. Do the images add more than just breaking up text?

I’m a big fan of visual content, which you know if you read my stuff regularly.

One benefit of including a lot of pictures is that they break up text, making it easier to read.

But if that’s the only thing the images in your content do, that’s a problem.

Images give you a unique opportunity to:

  • Clarify tough concepts
  • Provide additional insights
  • Present data that you can’t in text

…all in a way that most readers enjoy.

But too many bloggers, even good ones, squander this opportunity on a regular basis.

Here’s an example from a very popular blog that shall remain nameless:

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I really don’t know what a molten chess piece has to do with becoming a brand publisher.

This factor isn’t the end of the world, but using the right pictures can take your post from mediocre to good or from good to great.

Take this post on the Ahrefs blog as an example. After going over a concept that is tough to explain, they presented a tiny infographic to illustrate it:

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Even without reading the article, I bet you already have a good idea of the point it’s making.

That’s an image that adds value to the surrounding text.

Just as every sentence should add something to the content, so should every image.

4. Do you have competition? (and is yours the best?)

Think of your content as a product (even if it’s a free one).

Just about every product has competition. Go to a grocery store, and you’ll find ketchup made by five different companies.

Look up a guide to SEO, and you’ll find not just five, but thousands, of competing pieces of content.

Before you publish, and even before you write, you need to know what you’re up against.

Usually, this means going to Google and putting in a few keyword phrases that describe your content.

For example, I would search for “is your content good enough” or “how to judge content quality” for this article that you’re reading.

Next, go through at least the first page of results. More is always better.

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Look through them, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses. Then, compare those strengths to your own.

If your content is worse in some areas, it needs to be improved before you publish it. No one switches to the new product if it’s worse than the old one.

There is one exception: There is no competition in a monopoly. A monopoly exists when a company can create a product that no one else can, either because of legal reasons or the inability to create it.

It’s great to own a monopoly in real life if you ever get the chance from a business perspective.

If possible, you should try to create a content monopoly on the topic you’re writing about.

If you can approach a topic from an angle that no one else can replicate, you’re guaranteed to stand out.

For example, a few years ago, I spent $252,000 on conversion rate optimization and published a post about it:

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Anyone can write a post along the lines of “x lessons of conversion rate optimization.”

Very few can say they spent a few hundred thousand hiring the best in the industry and then share what they learned.

5. Are your title AND opening gripping?

Your title can affect your conversion rate by 40%, and it plays a huge role in overall traffic.

It’s the part most people read before deciding whether they are interested in reading the actual article.

You should write down at least 20 different possible titles for each piece of content you create.

I know it’s a pain and takes a lot of time for just 10-15 words, but it is by far the most important part of your content.

Recognizing a great title takes practice, but essentially what you want to do is put yourself in your readers’ shoes and ask yourself:

Do I really need to read this right now?

It’s important to nudge people to read your article right now because most people who say they’ll read it later will not.

And if you can’t honestly answer that question with a “yes,” you need a better title. Do not rush this—it’s crucial.

Once you have the title down, move on to your opening: your first 100-200 words. This is the second most important part of your content.

Past the title, many will read the opening and then decide if they want to read the rest of the content.

Again, ask yourself the same question. To compel them to read on, you need to address a question they would want to get an answer to or a story they would want to know the end of.

This is hard.

If you’d like to see some examples, check out some posts on Smart Blogger. Their editor makes sure that every post has a strong opening.

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6. Is your content optimized for the average reader?

Content marketers are not average readers. What we think is good isn’t usually good for the average content reader.

Research shows the readers read only an average of 20-28% of a post.

Most readers are skimmers.

They skim the content, looking for anything that stands out. It’s important that you include elements that do stand out and invite readers to pay closer attention.

There are a few main aspects to consider.

Aspect #1 – Subheadlines matter more than you think: Open a new blog post, and skim it quickly. What stands out the most?

Usually, it will be the subheadlines since they are larger and usually darker than the rest of the text.

Readers judge your entire post by its title and each section by its subheadline.

Notice that I rarely use boring subheadlines in my posts. I always try to make some sort of interesting point that makes a skimmer curious. For example:

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You don’t need to spend quite as much time on these as on the post’s title, but don’t just put the first subheadline that comes to mind either.

Aspect #2 – Readability: It’s important that you keep the basics of readability in mind. No one is going to read a post if it’s all one giant block of text.

Instead, keep the following in mind:

  • Write in short paragraphs – I use up to 3 sentences maximum.
  • Have a short blog width – Each line should have no more than 100 characters in it. Many say that 66 characters per line is ideal. Short lines keep the reader feeling like they’re making progress.
  • Use simple words – I rarely include complex words in my posts. You don’t want readers to have to look up the meaning of words, which takes them away from your post.

Aspect #3 – Images: Images do break up text as we mentioned earlier, which makes content easier to read.

More importantly, they attract attention.

Imagine you were skimming a post and saw that custom iceberg graphic from earlier. Wouldn’t you want to read that section to learn more about it? Many readers will.

Images will always grab attention, and if they are interesting (i.e., not a basic stock photo), they can suck in a skimmer.

Conclusion

Being your own toughest critic will help you create great content that will win over your readers.

But it’s hard to criticize yourself sometimes, and it’s easy to give yourself the benefit of the doubt.

I recommend going through this list of questions for all the content you’re about to publish. It ensures that you don’t skip over a glaring weakness that needs to be improved.

Keep in mind that this is a list of the essentials. You may have other things you want to ask yourself before you publish something in order to ensure a high standard of content.

If you thought of those extra questions that would be good to ask yourself before publishing a piece of content, I’d love it if you shared them in a comment below with me and everyone else.

5 Tools That Will Make You A Better Writer

Original Post: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ducttapemarketing/nRUD/~3/ebX40LXv134/

5 Tools That Will Make You A Better Writer written by Alex Boyer read more at Duct Tape Marketing

 

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I love writing. To me, there is nothing more cathartic or soothing than turning off the rest of the world and putting my thoughts to paper. This passion has made it easy for me to create content for Duct Tape Marketing. I don’t see it as a chore; I see it as an opportunity to relax. And once the blog post is written, I can look back upon it and smile with a sense of accomplishment.

But I do understand that many business owners don’t feel the same way about writing, or marketing in general. For some of you, writing content is a bore at best, an extreme source of anxiety at worst. I get it, the first few times I wrote something, I was nervous to share it with the world. Putting your content out on the Internet can make you feel vulnerable, particularly when the stereotype of Internet commenters is that they are demeaning and combative.

The truth is, the community on the Internet isn’t nearly what you think it is. In my experience, you all have been supportive and even empowering. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to put your best foot forward when producing content.

That’s why I’ve collected these 5 handy tools that will help you become a better writer of great content. Of course, nothing replaces practice, but these tools will make it easier to recognize your writing style, polish your finished product, and even help you focus.

Grammarly

The English language is one of the most complex languages in the world. There are thousands of rules to remember, most of which people ignore on a daily basis in conversation. It’s easy enough to forget obscure grammar rules from back in high school, let alone specific writing conventions you may just be learning. Grammarly will make your writing better by helping you catch all of the errors you don’t even know you’re making.

Grammarly is extremely effective at catching small errors like correctly spelled, but misused words that spell check doesn’t, and even identifies advanced grammar errors. Grammarly also analyzes your writing patterns and helps you improve by identifying things like use of passive voice and overused words.

You can download Grammarly for your browser and even download it for your word processing program. Of course, you can also upgrade to the paid version and get even more advanced insights to your writing style.

Scrivener

If you’re just creating one or two pieces of content a month, Scrivener may not be for you, but it is without a doubt my favorite word processing program. Scrivener allows you to collect research, notes and your writing all in one file.

Do you like to use physical notes to collect your thoughts before writing? Scrivener allows you to outline your project with notecards and outlines. For instance, I used it to create digital notecards for each tool I was considering in this post and arranged them to turn them into a full outline. By the time I sit down to write, the words flow quickly from my keyboard.

Again, this isn’t for everyone, but if you’re serious about writing you may want to give it a try. 

Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was well known for his short, easy to read sentences. It made his works surprisingly easy to read despite the thematic complexity. The appropriately named Hemingway tool analyzes your writing and helps identify ways to shorten your sentences and make it easier to read.

It is important to make your web content as easy to read as possible. Breaking up your text into sections with sub headlines is a great way to make your content skimmable, but the body of your text will keep them. If your readers lose your train of thought because your sentences are too complex, they won’t stick around for you to make your point.

Grammarly will help you polish your writing and make it better. Hemingway will make it easier to read.

WordRake

WordRake is a PC tool that connects with your Word and Outlook that will improve the clarity of your writing. WordRake “rakes” through your content, showing you numerous ways to improve and allows you to accept or decline the suggested changes quickly. With WordRake, editing takes less time, and drafts polishing your drafts and emails is much easier.

Unfortunately, WordRake isn’t available for Mac users, but for PC users, it is a must.

Focus 

I don’t know about you, but when I’m writing, I like to tune out the rest of the world. When you can just focus on the task at hand, it makes it much easier to complete it. That’s why I use Focus while I write.

Focus allows you to temporarily block time-wasting websites while you work. We all get writer’s block or are forced to take a moment to think about what we’re going to say next. At least for me, it’s pretty easy to take a break, go to Facebook, then suddenly lose some time looking at pictures of my friends’ pets. With Focus, you can prevent this, so the time you spend thinking about your content is actually spent thinking about your content.

If writing the draft takes less time to complete, you’ll have more time to edit and redraft. You spend less time making the content and more time making the content better.

This goes beyond writing content too. You can use it to block websites as you reach an important deadline or as you approach a new project. Focus is a great all-around tool for the easily distracted entrepreneur, as many of us tend to be.

What tools do you use to write? Do you have any secret weapons that help you create better content? Let me know in the comments below.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443.jpgAlex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC