Tag Archives: Blogging

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Semantics – your key to better copy and better SEO

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"Lupa.na.encyklopedii" by Julo - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Lupa.na.encyklopedii” by JuloOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

We have entered the age of semantic search. In terms of SEO, it is an important step. It makes search more intelligent and more relevant to users.

Semantics is all about meaning. The fact that there are so many different ways of expressing a single thought or question is important. People aren’t always going to use identical search queries, and we don’t all write about topics according to one universal style guide, even if we all follow the same laws of English.

What is Semantic Search?

The advantage of this search development is that Google not only understands what you said, but what you meant. You can see this in action by picking a service and searching for the ‘benefits’ of it. Google will also return articles on the ‘advantages’ of that service, because it knows those two things mean the same thing in this context. This is useful for searchers – because imagine missing out on great pudding recipes because you looked for ‘desserts’.

Those are simplified examples. What semantics allows us to do is focus more on providing quality writing rather than ticking SEO boxes. We no longer have to pack blogs, articles, and web copy full of “meat” – we can talk about “chicken”, “pork”, “bacon”, “beef”, and so on. It makes for a more interesting, more readable piece of writing. We can still optimise our copy, yet in a more subtle way.

Semantics in copywriting

Semantics has always been useful in copywriting. It’s how we prevent our prose from becoming boring. It means we can say something is fantastic, handy, cool, awesome, wonderful, brilliant, great, and so on, instead of just ‘nice’ all the time.

People get bored of seeing the same word several times, and repetition can jar people out of the reading ‘zone’. Repetition is bad. Avoid repetition. Spoils the moment, doesn’t it?

Semantics also helps us to tailor our writing to get the best response from the target audience. Think about how moisturiser for women ‘rejuvenates’ (a soft, caring, feminine sort of word), whereas men’s face cream ‘re-energises’ (an action-packed, masculine sort of word). They both do the same thing – make you more moist than you were originally – it’s just the semantics are different, because men and women want to moisturize for different reasons.

How has semantic search changed your SEO policy?


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5 simple business blog post ideas when you’re stuck for content

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Filos_segundo_logo_(flipped)

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons User Gabriel VanHelsing

It’s your scheduled blog post day. But you can’t think of a single thing to write. It seems like you’ve used up all your creativity. Perhaps it’s the pressure, perhaps your mind is on other things. No matter how hard you try, no post is forthcoming.

What are you meant to do in that situation? The regular content needs to keep coming, and your following might be waiting patiently. Fear not. Here are five types of post that can be created quickly while still providing something of value to your readers.

Article Share

You probably already refer to other sources in your blog posts. An article share is where you simply point your readers in the direction of something they will find useful. Find an article that says something important about your industry and post the link on your blog along with an introductory paragraph. A five minute job that helps your readers find something new.

Share a laugh

Seen some funny tweets or cartoons that are relevant to your followers? Create a post sharing a few. Write a sentence or two about why you find each one particularly striking and why you shared it. Before you know it, you’ve got a whole blog post. Your followers will like it, because who doesn’t like a little humour about their industry (apart from undertakers)?

Start a debate

People love giving their opinions online. It’s why comment sections on blogs, articles, images and videos exist. Your followers have a lot to say if you give them the chance. Write a short post on a pertinent issue, and state that you want to get a debate going. Ask your readers to comment, or tweet you their thoughts. It can generate a lot of engagement. Not bad for a few minutes’ work.

Revisit an old post

A lot of the time things evolve and new information becomes available. This can make something written just six months ago seem out dated. Or even if it is still relevant, you might have thought of something more to say. In this case, you can use that post as the basis of a new one on the same topic. This is especially effective if you can pick a post that was very popular to begin with, as you can emulate its success.

Ask your followers

There’s nothing wrong with asking your followers what they want to hear about. In fact, there is a lot right with it. Asking them what your next blog should be about creates interest and engagement before it is even written. It gives them a stake in the content, and helps strengthen your relationship with your followers.

This isn’t a cheat sheet of ways to make it look like you’re trying. These are genuine ways of providing useful content that can be used to give value to your readers even when you don’t have the time or inspiration to write an extensive blog post.

You may find some of these are so well received that they become regular features on your blog.


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Is blogging networking or selling?

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HandshakeThere’s a lot of confusion surrounding the humble blog. What is it for? Where does it come from? Why haven’t I got a million followers?

The biggest confusion is often regarding the actual role of a blog. Getting this wrong can result in you developing, writing, and promoting a blog that won’t get you anywhere.

Some treat it like a sales engine, others like a social network. Which is it? The rather frustrating answer, for those looking for a quick fix, is ‘a subtle blend of both’.

Blogging to network

Posting interesting content about your industry, products, or the lifestyle of your customers will attract the kind of people you want to do business with. Advice on where to catch the best waves will draw in an audience of surfers – perfect for retailers of wetsuits.

Over time, more and more people will come to your blog. If you get your content right, you’ll build up a following of the kind of people you want to be doing business with. These people will spill over onto your Twitter and Facebook pages. So in this sense a blog is all about networking.

Blogging as a sales tool

Blogging is about generating leads and building your business. But to think of it as a sales tool is to approach it from the wrong angle. People who approach blogging (and Twitter, Facebook, etc) from the point of view of making sales are usually the ones doing it wrong.

Think about it this way – if lots of people are looking for information related to what you do, why shouldn’t they get it from you? If you have a big readership of surfers following your blog, some of them are bound to check out your products. Why would they think of going somewhere else?

Remember Sainsbury’s 4p curry sauce? How could they sell a product that lost them money? Answer: because for a curry you need meat, rice, and vegetables to go in that sauce. Before you know it, you’ve spent a lot more than 4p.

Blogging is that 4p curry sauce. You are investing time and effort in order to give something of value to your customers at little or no cost to them. In return, they will have a look around your store. After all, those surfers are going to have to get a wetsuit and board before they can ride the great waves you’ve told them about.

The take away message

Blogging makes your target market aware of who you are and what you do. Think of it as product placement. Tweet this.

Approach blogging like a networking event – aim to let people know about you rather than shouting about your products. Tweet this.

Blogging is no different from giving a presentation at a trade event: show people you know your stuff and they’ll buy from you. Tweet this.

 

Let’s do a bit of networking. Follow me on Twitter and we’ll have a chat.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Ltrig


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Is Clickbait Dead?

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Blogs and articles need snappy titles. That’s how you draw in readers. But there’s a difference between an interesting and attention-grabbing headline and a title that cheats you into clicking on a link under false pretences. The latter is called clickbait.

Don’t stare at this image for too long, it does something to your eyes. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Nevit.

Don’t stare at this image for too long, it does something to your eyes. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Nevit.

The idea is to present the most pedestrian of stories in a way that makes them sound far more shocking, controversial, or unbelievable than they really are. By the time people realise how uninteresting the story actually is it’s too late – they’ve already clicked. Examples could include:

You won’t believe what I found when I woke up on New Year’s Day (Article: It’s now 2015).

Or

This man proposed to his girlfriend. What happened a year later will leave you speechless. (Article: The couple got married).

It’s an annoying practice that irks readers and can lose you subscribers. In the great school of writing snappy titles, clickbait is akin to using the science labs to cook meth.

This article’s title is clickbait. Why? To illustrate a point. One of the most common formats for titles I see on LinkedIn and Twitter is ‘Is [insert popular successful marketing practice here] is dead‘.

It counts as clickbait because, just like with this article, the answer is never ‘Yes’. A title like that is more enticing than ‘New marketing practice is somewhat successful‘, that’s all.

What’s the take home message here? Have you ever heard the phrase ‘Don’t write a cheque your mouth can’t cash’? You have to deliver on your promises.

Don’t claim something will amaze people unless it’s genuinely incredible; don’t claim something is dying out just because it is a little bit less popular; don’t promise champagne and truffles if all you have is KitKats and a can of Sprite.

Great titles: take the most tantalising aspect of the story and present it in an intriguing way.

Clickbait: exaggerate the conclusion of the story to promise something the article can’t deliver.

For great clickbait article examples, follow Saved You A Click on Twitter. And while you’re at it, follow me.


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Blog now while it is still easy

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UnderwoodKeyboardWondering what to write about can stop a lot of would-be bloggers in their tracks. The harder you try to think of something, the more difficult it seems to be. This is especially true if you view blogging as merely something that really needs to be done. The other tasks queue up behind you, willing you to write something, and quick. It’s no wonder a lot of business owners don’t bother.

The good thing about a blog is that it can be patient when needed. It won’t dissolve if you leave it alone. It’s not going to disappear. You can come back to it when you like. You can come back to it when it is easy.

Now is one of those easy times

Tying into big events is one of the simplest ways of creating useful content that people want to read. It helps you think of ideas, too. And now, at the beginning of the year, everyone has something in common. So why not write a Happy New Year blog post? Wish your customers well, thank them for their support in 2014. Tell them about the exciting things you have planned for this year, and give them a sneak peek of the things they’ll get in return for following you.

Your New Year post doesn’t have to be based around resolutions, but it can be a good place to start. Give your readers a challenge, or set yourself one, and remind them to check back regularly to follow your progress.

The New Year is a time for hoping, for making promises, and generally feeling positive about the future. Surely your business has some plans, targets, or dreams for 2015? Translate those into a blog post, and beat that barren posting patch.


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About to publish your new blog post? Stop!

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DSCI0198A blog is supposed to make your company look fun, sexy, and interesting. A lot of company blogs do the opposite, however. Grammar errors, indecipherable sentence structure, and bland text are all common. They drive customers away.

It happens because people don’t take a few minutes after finishing their blog post to run through some simple checks to make sure that it actually works.

Bookmark this page, and the next time you go to post your latest blog, make sure you’ve done all the things below first. Trust me, you’ll get better results because it.

Read it aloud

You’ll be amazed at the difference between reading aloud and reading in your head. Not only will you pick up errors you didn’t previously notice, you’ll also get a better understanding of your writing style. If you find yourself struggling, then maybe your sentence structure needs a bit more work. Common errors include overly long sentences, punctuation in the wrong places, and starting a sentence intending to make one point, but ending by making another. The problem with this is that your customers and then the aeroplane will crash. That’s an example.

Does your title titillate?

The title will be the first thing that most people will see of your blog post. Whether they are subscribed to receive updates, or they follow you on social media, they will see your title and decide whether to read your post based upon it. So does it do a good job of representing the post? Does it raise an issue, ask a question, suggest a solution, promise knowledge or new skills? In short is anyone actually going to want to read the post?

Have you started as you mean to go on?

Your first paragraph has to draw people through the rest of the post. Think of it as building momentum. At the beginning your audience is likely mildly interested (thanks to that title) but is largely unresponsive. They are a large heavy boulder and it’s your job to give them a push to start them rolling. Some social media previews of your blog post will also include the first few lines, making it even more important that your first paragraph is as enticing as a sign outside a shop which reads ‘free chocolate bar with every half price cake purchased’.

Will your audience be able to finish it before they die?

A common error is overly long blog posts. Gargantuan essays that run to thousands of words that are not only physically difficult to read, they’re all so mind numbingly dull. If you have a lot to say on a single topic, create a series of blog posts in which you break the issue down into easily explainable or debatable chunks. Or create an eBook. You can give it away for free as an incentive to collect email signups. Click here and download my content strategy guide as an example. The better you are as a writer, the longer a post you can get away with, because you will be able to keep the audience hooked throughout. However, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. At least if the problem is that it’s too short your audience is left wanting more.

Have you included a call to action?

And just as importantly is it varied? Personally, I think one of the things that can often put readers off is ending your blog post with the same call to action each time. You need to tell your readers to do something though, otherwise they won’t. Tell them to share your post, invite them to comment, or get them to email you their feedback. A potential customer who gets all the way to the end of one of your blog posts is someone you want to hold onto. Excluding the use of nets, tranquilliser darts, and electronic tagging, don’t let them get away.

What’s your pre-posting blog routine? Do you even have one? Let me know your process in the comment section or tweet me @TheHyperteller.


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New Year Blogging Resolutions

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The beginning of the year is a perfect time to take a good look at your business. Are there areas for improvement? What about opportunities you can capitalise on?

For many businesses, getting more customers will be on the list. Your blog is a great way of doing that, as you can attract people who are interested in what you do, engage with them, and slowly convert them.

You may already have a blog, but it might not be performing as you hoped. Instead of abandoning it, here are 5 New Year blogging resolutions for you to follow. Stick to these, and you’ll see plenty of improvement.

1. Give something back

People don’t read business blogs because they are interested in what they can offer the business. They read blogs which promise them something – whether that is information, discounts, exclusive news, or the chance to have a say on important issues. Don’t use your blog as a platform for blowing your own trumpet or advertising yourself. Instead, think about how you can give something of value to your readers.

2. Read it aloud

You’ll find out just how easy your new post is to read if you hear it said aloud. You spot a lot more when you do this than running through it silently in your head. Having to actually say it makes you aware of sentence length, rhythm, and poor phrasing.

3. Share the link

Let people know about your new post. Share the link on your social profiles on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If you are giving people something of value (like tips), then they are going to want to know about it.

4. Invite comments

Think of your average internet user as though they are shy. Even the most outspoken, confident people might not naturally think to ‘Like’, comment, or Share your article. Tell, or ask, them to do so, and you’ll see an increase in the amount of engagement you get from your readers.

5. Remember who you’re talking to

Think about your ideal reader. What do they want to hear? How do they want to be spoken to? The best way to ensure you are attracting your target customers is to speak in a language, and talk about topics, that they identify with. Then you’ll know that the people who follow and comment on your blog are the ones you want to be doing business with.

There we have it. Five simple blogging tips to help you make the most of your blog this year. Bookmark this page so you can refer back to it at a later date, and don’t forget to share it with your friends and colleagues so they can benefit too.

What are your business resolutions for 2014? Leave a comment to let me know.

And for more great blogging advice, contact me today.


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How a personal bugbear can save you time and money

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Something has been annoying me recently, and it isn’t even the fact that I’m wearing five layers and am still cold. It’s the fact that you can find posts on many jobs sites for freelance writers where companies are asking us to blog for free, or as good as. They say things such as ‘This is great portfolio experience’, or ‘We don’t have the budget to pay’.

I’m going to let you in on a secret

If you don’t believe your blog is going to add enough value to your business to even cover the costs of paying a freelancer to write it for you, then you don’t need a blog.

I’m not saying that everyone needs to get a freelancer to write a blog for them. I’m simply saying that, when you look at the big picture, if blog that doesn’t add enough value to your business to cover the costs of running it, it’s probably not worth having.

What is your blog for?

Whether or not you have a successful blog, whether or not you pay a freelancer to write it for you, it’s always worth asking yourself, ‘Why am I blogging?‘ After all, it is a time-consuming endeavour. What would happen to your company if you stopped blogging?

Like any marketing you do, a blog should add value to your business. Whether that value is in money, reputation, exposure, or web traffic, a blog should be a vital part in your business machine. If it isn’t doing any of these things, you might as well invest that time throwing lemons at passers-by for all the benefits it will get you.

Just another form of marketing

Say you intend your blog to get new people to know about your products. In the print world, this job would probably have been taken by posters or leaflets. Imagine going to your local printers, or graphic designers, and saying “We need to be leaflet marketing, but we don’t really have a budget for it, so can you do it for free, because it will be great portfolio experience?

The idea is ridiculous, isn’t it? The only reason it works when it comes to freelance writers is because there is nothing of perceived value being exchanged. Freelance writers don’t have to buy their words in, and get them delivered on the back of a large truck. When we write a blog post for free is not as if we’re losing money on stock, only time.

If it’s not worth it, don’t bother

If you genuinely didn’t expect to get a return on your investment in those leaflets, you wouldn’t bother getting them made and distributed, would you?

Well the same logic applies to blogging. Blogging is like any business activity. If your business truly needs it, then it can afford to pay for it. If your business can’t afford to pay for it, even if you can do it yourself, then you are just wasting time and money.

Want more advice on business blogging? Send me an email today.


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Get blogging right by remembering this one simple fact

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A lot of businesses try blogging, only to give up because they believe it isn’t working. A lack of hits, comments, shares and follows might suggest that your blog is not performing, but this might not be the blog’s fault.

In the same way a match won’t ignite if you strike the wrong end, your blog won’t take off if you don’t use it correctly. A lot of people make some very basic mistakes when it comes to blogging. These mistakes cost them not only time and money, but also potential.

There’s one thing you really need to remember when it comes to blogging. A blog must provide your readers with value.

Why people read blogs

In order to write a good blog, you have to keep in mind why people read blogs. There are several reasons people might read your particular blog, which could include:

  • Your blog title promises to answer a question they have
  • They are looking for more information about a product or service
  • They want a better insight into your company
  • They want interesting and relevant content to share with their social media followers
  • You are the expert in your particular field
  • They want information on why they need your services, or how your services help them

There are many different reasons, but these give you an idea of the value people are looking for. Your blog should be giving something away for free. A lot of businesses baulk at that prospect. Think about how you operate in real life. If a customer came into your store with a question, would you want your staff to answer it helpfully, or tell them to go away because you don’t give out free information?

People want to get something from your blog posts – they won’t read them as a favour to you.

Why selling gets you nowhere

Your blog needs to be about giving. Selling is exactly the opposite. No one is going to want to read a post when all it is doing is asking them for money.

In order to be allowed to sell to your blog followers, you have to provide them with something in return. In fact, you should let the rest of your website do the selling for you. If appropriate, you may want to point people towards your contact page or another part of your website, but it is a good idea to get the notion of profit completely out of your head when you first start blogging.

Have you ever sent your customers a satisfaction survey? If you have ever offered the chance to win a prize for completing it, I bet you saw much higher completion rates. Even when your customers are buying something from you, they aren’t thinking about what they’re giving you, they are thinking about what they’re getting.

Keeping this in mind when you write your blog posts will help you to avoid perhaps the most common blogging mistake – writing posts as though you are a market stall fruit & veg seller, constantly shouting about your wares and prices.

How remembering to add value gets your posts off to a great start

Keep in mind the idea of giving value to your reader as you write each blog post. Whether you are educating, enlightening, helping or entertaining them, you will find you get a much better response from your audience if you switch things around. Be the one giving something away, and let them be the ones expecting something from the relationship.

Keep it up, and the value you give away will be vastly overshadowed by the value a functional, engaging blog brings to your business.

For more information on blogging, get in touch with me now.


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