Category Archives: Blog

The Evolution of Content Strategy

The Evolution of Content Strategy

Written by Rebecca Steurer, Content Academy® Co-Founder & Content Strategist

I originally wrote this blog post in 2013. Today is May 18, 2017. In four short years, we continue to see content and content strategy evolve into a key player in the digital world. Since writing The Evolution of Content Strategy in 2013/14, we’ve seen organizations rethink how they optimize their online presence with content thanks to the advancement of technology, and of course, because of Google algorithms. This continued growth is causing the content strategists role to be valued more than ever. Here is the original blog post with updated information about how content strategy continues to evolve. Let me know how content is affecting your world.

Original post starts here . . .

2013 – According to Forbes, the top marketing job of 2014 is Director of Content. How did that happen? Let’s look back in time to see how content strategy and content marketing became the “it” job.

IN THE BEGINNING

The year, roughly 1996

Companies started using the Internet, aka the information super highway or World Wide Web, to post annual reports as PDFs. Non-technical individuals started posting “HELLO” in blinking letters (yes, that was me). Why? Because it was fun. As technology advancements made it easy for just about anyone to create a website, more and more people did.

Soon, hundreds. . . . thousands . . . hundreds of thousands of websites with downloadable brochures popped up. With this rapid increase, the information got overwhelming and not easy to read.

The fun was fading.

AND SO, UX WAS BORN

The year, roughly 2000

Some very smart people got together and decided that websites needed to be easy to navigate. New terms were introduced – “information architecture,” “user experience,” “interaction,” “wireframes.” Now websites started becoming easier to use. We didn’t get lost in a sea of brochures. We could find our way “home.” It was time to celebrate!

But wait, thanks to content management systems, more people were able to post information faster. But faster meant posting without thinking about the content that was being added to the site. The actual information users needed wasn’t there. “Why, oh why are companies telling me about their history?” asked users. “I just want to know their hours of operation!” Not to mention every page was written in a different voice (we’ll save that topic for another blog post).

There had to be a way to develop a plan that made it easier to post information that is relevant, fresh and on message.

AND SO, CONTENT STRATEGY WAS BORN

The year, roughly 2003

The roles and responsibilities of content strategists are many. But who are they? Journalists? Copywriters? Marketers? What knowledge and skills do they need to wrangle the thousands of pages of content into well-organized groupings? Lets answer those questions once and for all. Content strategists are:

  • Archaeologists who like to inventory and assess content
  • Organizers who like to group content into relevant categories so the information is easy to scan
  • Audience advocates who strive to post the information their audiences want and need
  • Leaders who assign content owners to write, post and delete
  • Unifiers whose ultimate goal is to tear down the walls between marketing, public relations, communications and business units

As content strategists started to organize the information to be useful, meaningful and trusted, The CEOs and CMOs of the world asked, “Now, how do we let people know our website exists?”

AND SO, CONTENT MARKETING WAS BORN

The year, roughly 2010

Thanks to technology, sharing the message became “easy.” Hello social media tools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram. Strategies were created to determine where, what, when, why and how to post messages. Suddenly, content strategy started to shine.

DIRECTOR OF CONTENT: TOP MARKETING JOB OF 2014

The year, 2014

With Forbes reporting that the top marketing job of 2014 is Director of Content, there is proof that companies see the value of well-organized, well-maintained and well-shared content. They are looking to content strategist and content marketers to develop and share the message of how their companies’ are unique and stand out in the crowd.

SEO BEGINS TO FOCUS ON QUALITY CONTENT

The year, 2015

Google announces a Panda algorithm that focuses on quality content on mobile optimization. This is an audience-first advancement to help searchers find the information they’re looking for on a first Google search pass. This change bridged the gap between SEO and content strategy. Now, content strategists need to provide recommendations on how to provide quality content. That means, more content development, less keyword stuffing. Ug, who is going to do this work? Hint: Content Strategists!

CORPORATE BLOGGING GAINS MOMENTUM

The year, 2016

On Rainmaker.FM, Unemployable PodcastBlogging is Back,” host, Brian Clark and ProBlogger founder, Darren Rowse, discuss how corporate blogging is stronger than ever. Content Strategists need to understand how corporate blogging can support the online experience and ensure the content is consistent and in-line with the user needs and business goals. This tactic is causing traditional marketers to start thinking like content strategists and content marketers.

RECRUITING FOR CONTENT STRATEGY INCREASES

The year, 2017

As more marketing budgets are allocated to digital marketing, corporations are finding they need content strategists to help them wrangle the content ecosystem. We’re starting to see more job listings looking for experienced professionals who can produce content, who understand SEO, who can manage the editorial calendar and who know how to post content online. We’re at a time where the demand out ways the supply, but not for long . . .

LEARN HOW TO BE A CONTENT STRATEGIST

The time is now!

Content is not going away. More content job opportunities are appearing. Now is the time to get the training you need to stay ahead of the competition. Learn how Content Academy®’s Applied Content Strategy 10-Week Career Training Course can help you on your career path to becoming a content strategist.

Is UX Content Strategist a Real Job Title?

Is UX Content Strategist a Real Job Title?

Within one week, two recruiters reached out to me to ask if UX Content Strategist is a real job title. After a brief pause, I said “of course.” The reason for my hesitation was three-fold:

  • One – I felt relief that the content strategy profession is finally getting recognized as part of the digital design team
  • Two – I realized that people still do not understand what a content strategist does (or should do)
  • Three – UX is a focus for everyone on a digital design team so you don’t really need UX in a Content Strategist’s title, it’s implied

As the digital design process continues to evolve, it has become clear that the digital design team is one entity who work together to design an exceptional experience for the reader (or user). Because the architect of the site is known as the User Experience Architect, there is a preconceived notion that he/she is the only one thinking about UX. Not true.

The Entire Digital Team Focuses on UX

Bottom line, everyone involved in designing a digital experience focuses on UX. The technical developer needs to design code that is clean and functional. The visual designer needs to use imagery and colors that is pleasing to the reader and keeps the brand voice alive. The UX Architect (UXA) needs to layout the content so it is intuitive and easy to use on every device. The content strategist needs to ensure the right information is available to the right audience. That means he/she needs to understand how content can be displayed in a digital experience.

Here are a few examples that demonstrate how content strategists focus on UX:

Plans How to Develop the Right Information for the Right Audience

  1. Defines the Content Vision
    Defining the content vision relies on understanding the audience needs and the business goals. If a business doesn’t provide information that their customers want, then they’ll fail. The content strategist’s role is to define the vision for how the content will satisfy and delight the audience while helping to achieve business goals.
  2. Develops the Governance Plan & Content Development Workflows
    An important step in making sure the right information is presented, there needs to be a plan for who is responsible for developing, approving and posting content. A Content Strategist develops that plan for how the information will be written, who is responsible to develop and how to keep the information updated so readers will receive accurate information.
  3. Ensures the Brand Voice is Maintained
    In many cases, several people are responsible for posting information on corporate and organization websites. This causes a challenge to maintain a constant voice for a seamless experience. A Content Strategist develops content guidelines and trains content developers how to write for the digital experience.

Ensures the Content is Presented in the Right Way

  1. Works Closely with UXAs
    Content strategists need UXA to make sure the content is structured and functions properly on the site. Without a UXA, content would not be useful to the reader.
  2. Works Closely with Visual Designers
    Brand voice is expressed via words, imagery and color. A Content Strategist works closely with visual designers to ensure the brand voice shines through visual experience.
  3. Works Closely with Technical Developers
    Technical developers are content strategists best friends. Without them, we wouldn’t have control over posting/removing content somewhat independent of the technical team. A Content Strategist works closely with the technical developer to make sure the content management system is easy-to-use for a content authors, and it displays the content in the right place at the right time.

The Difference Between Content Strategist & UXA

Here’s the simple explanation:

A content strategist defines what information needs to be presented. The UXA determines how the information needs to be presented. The UXA is only focused on the layout of the content. The content strategist also focuses on the operations of how the site will be populated with content. We’ll talk more about that in another blog post.

How does a Content Strategist & UXA Work Together

In my experience, the most successful and enjoyable website redesign projects was when I worked closely with the UXA. We respected each other, we listened to each other’s ideas and we saw our process as a team approach, including:

Sharing Information

The content strategists provides UXAs with a content brief that outlines:

  • Current content
  • Opportunities to improve
  • Content elements to include
  • Limitations from the organization’s perspective

The UXA shares ideas for how to display content

Brainstorm Ideas

Sitting in a room, coming up with ideas on how to design the right experience, new opportunities are more likely to come alive. Because the two professionals are looking at the experience with two different lenses, the overall experience design ends up being well rounded and usable – SUCCESS!

The Similarity Between Content Strategy & UX

Both the content strategist and the UXA want to make sure the audience will find the information they need quickly and with little frustration. Both the content strategists and UXA make sure:

  • All information is easy to find on the site, either through navigation or search
  • The right information is presented
  • The information is easy to understand
  • The information is presented at the right moment so the reader will be delighted that the information was where they expected it would be when they needed it

Why Content Strategists Need to Know UX

A Content Strategist needs to understand basic UX terminology and processes to know how to communicate and work together to design an exceptional and delightful experience. The conversation between the content strategist and UXA is a critical point to ensure the information will be presented the right way. A content strategist needs to understand the possibilities content can be displayed online. That means he/she needs to know:

  • Wireframe terminology
  • What a UXA needs to know to structure the content properly
  • Online behavior of the targeted audience

Why UX Architects Need to Know Content Strategy

The UXA needs to understand how much, how little, the level of importance and how the information is going to solve the reader’s problem so they structure the site properly. It’s important that a UXA understands:

  • Content hierarchy
  • Expectations of the organization’s content owners
  • Limitations to potential content to display
  • How much content is available so space can be accounted for

Ultimately, the digital team support each other, whether they’re going through a website redesign, developing a new app or managing the ongoing operations. Each team member needs to understand what their teammates do so they can improve communication and be more efficient and effective. Plus, it’s more enjoyable to be part of a cohesive team.

Applied Content Strategy Course Teaches More Than Content Strategy

In my content strategy career training course, Applied Content Strategy, I provide students with the foundations they need to be a content strategist as well as how to fit within a digital design team. We walk through want their role is to support the UXA, visual designer and technical developer and vice versa.

Want to learn more about the content strategist role? Contact Rebecca Steurer, Content Academy® Co-Founder, Instructor & Content Coach at rebecca@contentacademy.com.

Real Life Experience Podcast: Ellie O’Brien Shares How She Started Her Fast-Growing Blog, Hungry By Nature

Real Life Experience Podcast: Ellie O’Brien Shares How She Started Her Fast-Growing Blog, Hungry By Nature

What’s holding you back?” That’s the question food blogger, Ellie O’Brien, recommends everyone who is thinking about starting a blog should ask themselves. It’s the question Ellie asked herself as she was thinking about starting her blog, Hungry By Nature. Two years later, Ellie posts consistently twice a week and has over 2000 Instagram and 848 Pinterest followers who receive healthy, easy-to-make recipes.

In this podcast, Ellie, a design engineer by day and blogger by night and weekends, shares her story about how she started her blog, manages while working full-time and evolving her voice to satisfy her passion to help others live a healthy life. She also tells her secrets for using online tools, such as Tailwind, to promote her posts on Instagram and Pinterest and how she makes money blogging.

We believe anyone who wants to blog or is blogging will enjoy hearing Ellie’s experience.

Check out Hungry by Nature
Website – hungrybynature.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/imhungrybynature/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/imhungrybynature/
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/hungrybynature/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/hungrybynatur

What comes first, a blog or social media

What comes first, a blog or social media

Most people use social media and read blogs as they have become fantastic ways to communicate with your immediate colleagues, friends and family.

What if you want to start leveraging blogging or social media to grow your visibility online and reach connections outside of your existing network. Maybe you’re itching to break out from being just a content consumer and into a content creator but you’re not quite sure if you should start blogging immediately or focus on growing a social media following first. It’s a relevant question to have, but it’s good to consider how blogging and social media fits into your overall plan.

Reading up on the web is a good start, that’s probably why you’re here! But don’t let too many how-to pundits drive you in the wrong direction. One explainer post might offer advice to just start writing blog posts. Others might instruct to setup a Facebook Business Page and spend dollars on promoting your pages. Maybe your internet savvy niece told you to post photos in some ultra high trafficked hashtags. Or your colleague at work is going Live on Periscope in 15 minutes. Yikes!

Where do you really start!

At some point during your internet marketing endeavor, you will need to explore all of the above blogging and social media opportunities and maybe even ones that are not yet invented. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to build visibility online, especially without a large advertising budget. What doesn’t need to happen is you losing sight of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Spend a calculated amount of time exploring each platform and begin to identify ones that you are most comfortable with and that seem logical to your endeavors. Everyone has to crawl before we learn to walk. By experimenting you will expose why you even want to embark on this journey and which platforms will help you get there.

Start with why.

Marketer and author Simon Sinek exposes in his bestselling book “Start with Why” how companies build culture. Consumers often become loyal to a company because of why they do what they do and the persona their brand represents rather than simply because of what the company offers or the product features.

The process for starting a blog or social media following is similar.

If you’re looking to start a blog or really ramp up your social media presence, then you must first dig deep into your soul and decide how you want to portray yourself online. If someone is going to consume your content then what should they take away from it? Think about what type of content (mediums) will best fit your persona and what will you be most inspired to create? It may be easier for you to create video rather than writing, etc. Go with what works best for you.

Why are you trying to build a following in the first place? Click To Tweet

Ask yourself what type of content – either in blog posts or social posts – will best reach your audience and what will they find the most value in from you. Who will be the most receptive to your content and how can you best relate yourself to them? It’s always about how you can help the reader, so find a balance between what is creatively you and what will appease your audience. The answer can only be found by trial and error, so don’t give up after a few posts!

Building content is your true starting off point.

Blogging and organic social media are almost always powered by content. Whether in video, photos or written from, content is the ingredient that will make someone want to consume your material. Having a repository for your content, such as a blog or website, is essential in the digital marketing process.

Anyone just doing social media is really missing the opportunity to build website conversions. Or the act of taking a website visitor and turning them into a subscriber. Just doing social may accrue followers but the content creator has little to no control over the syndication process to followers on what they will see.

Most social profiles are also relatively limited in terms of how you can portray your brand image upon visitors – people looking at your profile. On social media, you must follow the profile mold of everyone else. On your website or blog, you can control the complete experience – from design to delivery.

Blog vs. Social Media

Your blog is where you have the most control over the process and the opportunity to turn site visitors into email subscribers. You can also tell a complete story, in your terms, not limited by characters or algorithms.

Without a social following, your blog will not have much of an audience to promote your new content too. You can write the most fantastic post content, but without a following you might as well just write it on a piece of notebook paper.

Social media and blogging really work in tandem. Your blog is where your content lives and where users will best engage with your brand. Your social profiles are the digital embassies of your brand, as they provide a digital oasis for your brand where users can drop in while they cruise the social networks.

You can’t focus on just one.

Just blogging or just social media is like going to the gym and the only lifting weights with your right arm. After a while, you will see some results and your right arm will get stronger but it will be lopsided. By working both a blog and a social media following, you can then take advantage of a digital marketing strategy to help you build your visibility online.

You have an idea for a blog… now what?

You have an idea for a blog… now what?

I meet with new bloggers that seem to have this magical perception that with little effort or investment they can start writing a few blog posts and the world will appear at their virtual doorstep.

If you think blogging will be a cinch and you’re about to start a blog to promote yourself. Stop.

It’s not your fault, people selling blogging courses use rather misleading headlines such as “blogging is easy” or “5 dead simple steps to an influential blog”. I’m not pointing fingers but in reality building and maintaining blog strategy is not easy and often underappreciated.

Thanks to a handful of open source tools such as WordPress, starting a blog can be a low-cost investment, but it will require a significant time commitment. Because there’s no magic button, some give up before the fun even begins.

Most people won’t see the actual power of blogging because they won’t make the initial effort to even try. Just coming up with a name and what to blog about is challenging enough to disqualify most, not to mention learning any new skills.

If they’re able to surpass the initial hurdles, some will write a few posts but fail because they don’t follow through or have a solid plan for keeping it up. Not prioritizing your blog writing efforts is a sure bet for failure. Sadly, I’ve experienced this on some of my own endeavors.

What pains me the most is when people give up on blogging because of unnecessary hurdles caused by not knowing the correct way to set themselves up for success. Or worse, they don’t understand how blogging fits into an overall digital marketing strategy.

Anyone can write a blog post and publish it to the web, but the ability to acquire readers and build authority online requires marketing strategy. Blogging and content creation is one part of a larger marketing strategy and only when the entire ecosystem is deployed, then blogging becomes a marketing tool. Without promoting your content, blogging is simply just a personal journal on the web.

Attend: Content Academy Blogging Workshops

A select few will go on to reap the rewards of blogging because they make it a priority and find opportunities to sustain their efforts through monetization.

It’s highly recommended to identify an income source that will come from your blogging efforts. Revenue could come in the form of advertising or by using the publicity to sell other services or products. Regardless of the model, the ability to make money from your blog is essential. Without it, your blog is just a hobby and not a sustainable business model.

The need for a blog monetization plan comes from personal experience. I loved blogging about country music – and it could easily be just a hobby – but I couldn’t sustain my blog because it became cost prohibitive to maintain while not providing income. If I had identified a steady income stream from the beginning, then I would have been more motivated to continue to produce high-quality content and not had to pay out of pocket for maintenance.

Take the time to plan for your blogging success story and make it your job to adhere to that plan. Acquire the right tools and knowledge before you embark on your journey and remember that it takes commitment to endure.

All success is born out of action. - Barbara Corcoran Click To Tweet

You too can join a rather small pool of successful bloggers as long as you dig deep and decide this is something you need to do for yourself.

Reimagine your future digital skills

Reimagine your future digital skills

 

It has maybe been awhile since you heard from me but I’m very happy to announce the launch of Content Academy.

We’re building a one-of-a-kind learning center because we believe in learning by doing with help from experienced instructors.

Over the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time reimagining how we teach our WordPress workshops because I realized how important these skills have become to the modern marketer and entrepreneur. Your future depends on the ability to publish your work and ideas to the web with WordPress.

Since I began using WordPress in 2007, the demand for content creators and website managers has grown exponentially. This demand changed the needs of our typical student, therefore, we updated our offerings to best reflect your needs.

New WordPress Workshops

Today, I’m happy to announce to you the relaunch of our WordPress workshops, which are now part of a larger series aimed at helping you gain digital marketing competence.

Learn more about our new Blogging, Digital Marketing and Applied Content Strategy Class, taught by experienced instructors.

Beta Testing Community Sharing

We’re also in the midst of launching a user community for sharing ideas and collaborating. If you’re interested in beta testing with us, please signup on our join page.

There is nothing more attractive to a future employer, client or team than confidence about your skills and knowledge of current trends. I hope you can join us at an upcoming event.

Class sizes are limited so please consider signing up now to reserve your seat.

Connect with me if you have any questions.

Scott Winterroth
Co-Founder & Instructor
PS: Get $50 off your first workshop

Use code at checkout: neverstoplearning

Class size is limited to give you personal attention. Register now otherwise you may have to wait until the next session.

Another critical reason for web image optimization

Another critical reason for web image optimization

Optimize your images for social mediaYou can’t just upload images you take on your camera to your blog or website.

Cameras and camera phones try to cram as many pixels into each image as they possibly can. For a good reason. When you take a photo, you want it to look sharp and great for that 8″ x 10″ photo hanging on the wall.

The problem is, the web is exactly the opposite.  As a blogger, we want our images to look great but we need to make sure the file size of each image we upload is as small as possible. This will reduce our users’ load time of a given web page and it’s a best practice for good citizenry of the interweb. You don’t want to slurp up all of your reader’s mobile data!  Nor do you want to lose them because of something that is rather simple to do.

Image optimization is often associated with website speed and bandwidth, but recent interactions with a popular social media sharing tool gave me yet another reason to not be lazy and spend the time reducing my blog’s images.

Bloated images can have implications on social networks.

buffer-failed-image
Epic fail! Keep your images under 3mb in total size.

An important reason to upload optimized images is for social sharing of your content. I’ve noticed several times over the last couple of months that tweets in my Buffer queue failed because the image attached to the post was too big.

Keeping your images right-sized

Keep your images looking great and on a pixel diet by using a program such as Adobe Photoshop to save the image in the correct size and file type.  Open the image and select the “Export -> Save For Web” function to optimize your images.   Work this feature until the image looks good but is as small of a file size as possible.

Full-size images in high-resolution will take up a large portion of space on your hosting server. The more space you use, the more bandwidth your site will consume which will equal the more likely your host will charge overage fees.

Optimize your images so they appear on social networks properly! Click To Tweet

I recommend optimizing your images before you even upload them to your site but there’s also a great image optimization service with a WordPress integration called imagify.io. They crunch all of your images as you upload them and will even go back and bulk optimize! If Photoshop isn’t in the cards at the moment.

Reasons your blog strategy didn’t take off

Reasons your blog strategy didn’t take off

Blogging Strategy Tips imageBlogging is a great way to get noticed on the internet and to grow your authority on a particular subject matter. The problem is, blogging can be very time-consuming and often under appreciated.

There’s nothing worse than spending several hours crafting a post for no one to read it.

For most, the minimum blogging tasks of collecting post ideas, writing a few hundred words, editing, and then publishing can equate to nearly a full-days work. Sad thing is, even with that level of dedication it is often not enough in today’s crowded content marketing space. Successful bloggers rise to the top by putting in the extra mile into every piece of content they publish. They have to in order to make it worth their time investment.

If you are reading this because you’re having troubles gaining reader traction, then I recommend auditing your basic content creation mechanics. I’ve outlined seven key blog post creation fundamentals to review before writing your next post.

Post Intent

Before typing a word, always ask yourself for whom am I writing this post and what will provide the most value to them? It is very critical to identify your ideal reader by first guessing what types content they will either need or be most receptive to. For example, how-to posts and personal stories can lend advice when in need and interviews can spark ideas and encouragement while driving attention from known names.

In order to potentially identify what “they” want, we must first identify their needs.

How to identify a target reader:

Target audience identification is often based off of assumptions. We assume someone who would read this post will care about or might be in the process of something. Assumptions are often based off of the following high-level examples:

  • Lifestyles
  • Gender
  • Age/Demographics
  • Values
  • Attitudes
  • Recent product purchases

Audience identification is nothing new, the media has utilized identification tactics to measure and sell across all types of mass mediums. Extensive studies were performed on many different types of demographics from everything from the “2000’s Soccer Mom” to the “Boomer” and “Millennial Market”. If you are seeking to target one of these traditional demographics then review existing research within your space for ideas and direction.

Use your existing data

Great audience data is probably right under your nose. Review your existing website tracking data such as Google Analytics or Jetpack Stats. This data represents metrics such as time on site, what type of device is most used on your blog and what locations from around the world are most popular. Use this data as a general rule and guide to then learn about how you can best feed your audience’s needs and customs.

Quantcast is a powerful resource for audience identification and advertising. Their reports dial into website traffic by gender, age, income, education level, and ethnicity. These are great metrics for audience identification and useful not only for content strategy but for building blog media kits. If your blog is not yet listed in Quantcast’s network, then review blogs within your space that might have similar audience profiles.

Take a guess; you will probably find someone like yourself.

I think it is safe to say, we often write for ourselves. Think about recent experiences, things you are into, and what you would find value in. If you would read it, others will likely feel the same.

Originality

On the web, there is a lot of what I call follow-the-leader and idea swapping. Someone creates a blog post, then someone else takes the topic and makes it their own by re-posting it with a slightly different headline

Readers do not need the same information from a different source. They seek new information. Period. It’s ok to write on what is trending, but work towards injecting your own value proposition or perspective into the topic. Especially if you’re looking to acquire readers from search engines.

“What is really the future isn’t more Charlie Roses [Interviewers], because we don’t, what we need are more people who actually have a point and are worth following for themselves … The win is to become your own distinct voice.” Episode 15 – Distinct and Direct, Seth Godin’s Startup School Podcast

Leverage your ideas, personal strategies and experiences to create uniquely new content. Mix in other content as it makes sense but always strive for something original to you.

Frequency

Here’s the thing with posting frequency, I can’t say I’m an expert on this topic. In fact, I often write blog posts simply when I’m creatively able. I wish I had a solid content creation schedule because there are proven benefits to consistent blogging. Frequency builds traction and valuable learning experiences.

On the other hand, if you’re writing to simply meet deadlines then you might not be putting out the best content possible.

I spent one month blogging every day on my personal blog to test this strategy. I concluded that for now, that daily blogging was not for me. While I managed to create what I considered rather inspirational content, it was mostly in the form of “thin” content or stuff that was not search engine ready. I learned, the content I shared maybe made sense to me but didn’t build much traction. Therefore, it wasn’t providing my readers enough value and I didn’t have the time to promote it to new ones. I eventually burned out – especially with a lack of solid results.

I recommend putting yourself on a goal path for posting something of major substance at least a few times a month. Go the extra mile to make that one post awesome, not just a bunch of random thoughts. When planning your schedule, make sure to account for time to promote your content after posting it.

Distribution/Promoting

Successful bloggers are also community builders. They focus not only on creating content but on strategies for building a following surrounding their brand. Obtaining measurable results from social media and email marketing requires a commitment to learn how they work and the time investment to build your reach.

It’s a bit of a chicken vs. egg scenario because most social networking and email marketing strategies require content to build a following but on the flipside, your blogging will require a following to make it worth its time investment.

What drives me crazy are bloggers who come to me and say they stopped blogging because they would post content and no one would read. Most often, they didn’t have a distribution strategy. I would ask them about their email marketing strategy and I would get some sort of response equalling they didn’t have one.

Independent blogging is not news writing in the sense that you can simply post and article and walk away. Writers and journalists can do this because their employer likely has generations of brand credibility and reach. When you’re going it alone, every piece of new content needs to come paired with a promotion strategy.

Publish your content then post to social, send in a newsletter, and ask others to share your work if they like it.

Content Optimization for Search

I’m hesitant to bring this up because the world of search engine optimization is rapidly changing. I want to say, make sure your content is saturated in keyword rich terms but I’m afraid this is sort of a passing fancy. I’m going to stick with what I’ve always recommended, focus on creating great content with a purpose and with value.

My approach to search engine strategy is broad. I don’t think of it as one post or one page at a time. I try to imagine an entire web property surrounding a core topic. For me, this is the only way I have been able to obtain high-quality search ranking and maintain that placement. It’s a much more of a robust strategy with a lot of moving parts but it seems to work for now.

You have to think about how your users will search for content within the search engines, then create content surrounding those search queries. Make sure that whatever you post to your blog Google and the other search engines can crawl it. Always provide them with additional information such as Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions,  these will only help Google make a better decision on where your content should be categorized.

Readability and Flow

The web is a fragmented place where inconsistency is the norm. Why, because nothing on the web is uniform – by design. Every website and blog abides to its own design and style, equalling a virtually unlimited amount of possible font and color combinations. This is one reason why video content became so popular.

In the days of newsprint, if the reader couldn’t read the paper because of the vision difficulty, they would put on eyeglasses or use a magnifying glass. Today, if they can’t read your website, they will find what they are looking for elsewhere.

The website architecture term User Experience (Ux) refers to the overall quality design and user-centric experience when loading and viewing a site. Which, by the way, isn’t really an easy to benchmark and set a standard. While overall site design, mobile friendliness and site load time – or in lay terms putting yourself in your customer’s shoes – are paramount. The actual readability, clarity, and message of the content is often overlooked.

There so much talk about how important website content can be to an online marketing strategy yet when it comes to building a website I feel the following is almost always true:

  • Designers care about design.
  • Programmers care about code.
  • Marketers care about analytics.
  • Writers care about … getting paid.

No one is really focused on the writing, which in reality is the most important public-facing aspect of any website or blog. It’s often “good enough” because writing is one of the hardest skill sets of them all.

“The idea that anyone can do anything is true. But you have to make sure you really want to do it and then dedicate yourself to accomplishing what you want to do. Have to and want to are two different kinds of activity,” wrote Joan Margau, a professional copywriter, in her post Are you a Writer.

The web and blogging have really opened doors for anyone to create content. Which is amazing but that does not mean high-quality writing is not important. I encourage everyone to try their hand at it.  If they feel writing is their destiny, then like any trade, they should work towards continuously improving their skills. I try to practice what I preach.

Posting just anything was possible during the early stages of content marketing but it proves much harder today. Profound ideas and quality writing will always prevail.

Value

I can’t say it enough. Content that gets shared is content that provides a value to its reader. Of course, value has different meanings across different audiences but as a blogger one must work to provide content that will meet a need. If you think it is something that you would share, then others will hopefully feel the same.

The simple value test:

Ask yourself, would someone pay me for this information? If no, then don’t expect someone to share it with their following.

Blogging is a long-term strategy

If you are reading this, and you are only a few posts into your blogging strategy then keep it up! Blogging is not a quick fix to a marketing problem. It’s a long-term solution that will live well beyond any one post. Be prepared to stick it out for a few months or years, depending on how often you post.

Most importantly, every post is a learning experience. The more you post, the more you will learn. Take it one step at a time and start honing your blogging by testing ideas and strategies. You will be surprised, sometimes best-practices don’t work; silly mistakes become proven winners.

In the end, you will become a pro.

WordPress Page Builder Plugins on a $100 Budget

WordPress Page Builder Plugins on a $100 Budget

wordpress-page-builder-plugins-review

The fundamental concept behind WordPress is to enable users to publish web content without knowing code.  Which, in my opinion, it does just that in exceptionally well.

The core WordPress interface provides a simple way to login and add a new page or post to a website. Simply select Add New then add a title, images and write a long chunk of content within the post content editor.  Hit publish and post added to website.

By default WordPress standards, you can layout your post content however you want so long as it fits within the post content rectangle.  

Sort of reminds me of the famous quote from Henry Ford. “They can have it in any color, so long as it’s black.”

henry-ford-quote

Breaking out of the mold.

WordPress launched as a blogging platform but it has evolved into what we call content management system or CMS for short. Therefore, most WordPress themes follow the blog format and come with only one default page and post layout.

The default layout typically includes a header, footer a content block area and a sidebar with widgets.  This is often referred to the two-column layout.  Pretty nifty for blogging (Circa 2009) and simple about page.

sample-2-column-wordpress
An example of a two-column layout.

As more non-coders begin using the project, the demand for easy to manipulate templates is also on the rise.  What if you want to create a service page or something that showcases a lot of fascinating information and you don’t want to hack into your theme’s code files?   Welcome to page builders.  

What are page builders for WordPress?

Since about 2011, page builders have gained momentum as a codeless way to style up your page and post content visually.  Either from the backend or even with special tools that appear on the front end when logged in.  

Page builders do exactly that, they allow to manipulate the page or post content area within WordPress. Not the entire theme.  Although they’re becoming more flexible and powerful, you might not use a page builder to design an entire website but rather work in conjunction with a WordPress theme.   

The active theme provides the heavy lifting in terms of logo placement in the header, the footer, and the overall style.  The page builder is used to layout content within a post or pages in a drag-and-drop fashion.  Meaning, literally, you can select and drag blocks of content from one column and row to another.

Page Builders allow for laying out all types of pages and posts, providing more flexibility for the content creator to visualize how a reader should consume their content.  

Comment elements of page builders plugins that I reviewed:

column-rowsColumns

The default WordPress format for posts is 2-columns.  Meaning, your post content is one column and your widget area is the other.  With page builders, you can throw away the two-column format for practically any number of columns you need.  

For example, you might want 3 columns because you’re looking to list a pricing table for your services.  Or, you might want to nest columns within a larger column to create a grid of photos or text boxes.  

Rows

With page builders, you can create rows for your content, making layers within the page or post.  This allows for fancy ways to display content with sidebars and content alternating to the left and right to make it visually engaging.  

 

MotoPress provides some default page templates which then can be manipulated.

 

visualcomposer
Visual Composer provides lots of elements that can be dragged and dropped into rows and columns.

Related:  A thing or two about WordPress Widgets 

Downside of Page Builders:

Destroys WordPress’ default editor

The default WYSIWYG Editor within WordPress is a beautiful thing. Over the years, I’ve become more and more comfortable writing within the editor and using it as my main ways to write content. Most page builders remove or destroy the standard editor by replacing it with their layout interface.   

If they don’t remove the editor, they typically fill it up with plenty of shortcodes which make it hard to navigate without using the page builder’s editor.  

divi-screen
The Divi Editor replaces the default WordPress WYSIWYG content editor

Function vs. Performance:  

Adding page builders and their add-ons provides non-code-savvy users with fantastic ways to manipulate content within the WordPress editor.  Like any plugin, the more plugins you add to your WordPress, site the greater chance of it loading slower.   While I didn’t specifically test for speed degradation within any of the plugins, there were sometimes noticeably longer loading times as most of these plugins add many lines of code to the browser load.   I recommend using a page builder with a caching plugin such as WP Super Cache or WP Rocket.  

Forward thinking

Page builders are sometimes a great shot term solution to laying out pages and posts but there is one long term problem that most users don’t consider.  Let’s say a few years from now you decide to use a new theme on your website. For whatever reason, that theme is not compatible or you no longer want to use a page builder.   You would then have to go back and reassemble all of your content back to either the default WordPress editor or into a new page builder or theme. 

Incompatible with Yoast SEO

Many WordPress bloggers use plugins to help optimize content.  Yoast SEO, for example, will not be able to provide an appropriate score with a page builder since the content is placed outside of the standard post content area.

Final thought on Page Builders

Page Builders provide flexible solutions for the non-coder but they have their complexities of their own. I recommend not diving into a page builder until you have a solid understanding of how WordPress and your active theme works. It’s likely you will need to spend some time understanding all of the new features to make a decision on how you will use it.

Page Builder Reviews:  

In the spring of 2016, I found myself looking to purchase a page builder for a couple of projects I was working on.  I didn’t want to spend more than $100 on any given plugin and I wanted to something that was relatively stable and would not take a ton of hours to learn.

Here are the results of my research, I hope it will assist you with deciding on which page builder is best for you.

Some of the following links may contain affiliate links where we get a small commission in exchange for your purchase. We only recommend products we would use and your purchase will help the community grow!

Review: Visual Composer for WordPress
8.5 Reviewer
0 Users (0 votes)
Pros
Low entrance cost
for core plugin
One of the first
mature code
BuddyPress Addon
Gravity Forms support
Cons
Too many addons and
fragmented
some free some not
WooCommerce Addon $17!
Easily blow by $100 budget
Summary
Visual Composer by WP Bakery comes packaged with many themes on ThemeForest, a WorPress theme marketplace, and is widely one of the most popular visual page builders within the WordPress community. It is also one of the oldest since it's been around since 2011. Visual Composer is sold on CodeCanyon.net, which is part of the Envato marketplace, therefore, a community of developers have build "add-ons" and have made their plugins compatible offering a very robust offering of features to fit almost any need.
Useability
Active Development
Cost

Repond and read full review here:  Visual Composer for WordPress

Review: Beaver Builder Page Builder for WordPress
7 Reviewer
0 Users (0 votes)
Pros
Helpful for columns,
images, widgets
and sidebars within
content blocks
One of the simplest
Cons
Lacks fancy styling
such as block quotes; testimonials
Lacking features
Costly compared to competitors
but total price is clear
Summary
Beaver Builder came to me highly recommended but I just don't see the value in it compared to the other page builders. It's more expensive yet lacking some of the core features that make other page builders great. Will keep my eye on this plugin to see how to progresses but I'm not quite sold at this point.
Useability
Active Development
Cost

Respond and read the full review here:  Beaver Builder for WordPress

Review: MotoPress Page Builder for WordPress
8.3 Reviewer
0 Users (0 votes)
Pros
Easy, layer like, interface
Members content area,
only logged in users
Tables
WooCommerce support
Cons
Shortcode Mania
Limited BuddyPress features
Slider extra plugin $8
No clone, duplicate or export.
Summary
Starting at just $29 for a single site license, MotoPress is our recommended Page Builder plugin for getting started. It's relatively easy to understand and it comes with may core features that are useful.
Useability
Active Development
Cost

Respond and read the full review here:  MotoPress Page Builder for WordPress

Review: Divi Builder for WordPress
7.7 Reviewer
0 Users (0 votes)
Pros
Nice user interface
Relatively easy to understand
Well documented
Global styles
Cons
Limited functions, no addons
Completely blows up the visual editor
Felt like some features are missing
like a testimonial slider
No access to basic WP editor
Summary
Divi is a powerful page builder by Elegant Themes. Probably works best with their themes but overall I had a pleasant experience using it on a client's website. I'm not a huge fan but would consider Divi for future projects. My main dislike is the fact it completely deletes the core visual editor within WorddPress.
Useability
Active Development
Cost

Respond and read the full review here: Divi Builder for WordPress

Review: SiteOrigin Page Builder and Widgets
9.2 Reviewer
0 Users (0 votes)
Pros
Prebuilt layouts
cool button editor with font icons
pretty awesome for being free
Column resizing eazy
Spent none of my budget! Lean.
Easy to implement, no loss
if I change my mind.
Cons
Layers of plugins
Feels limited compared
to others
Summary
SiteOrigin Page Builder is pretty nifty, especially since it's free! Might want to give this one a try first as it provides a great introduction to how page builders work. Also, make sure to install their widget bundle for more features. If you're just looking to make one or two page-layouts here and there, this is a good one to check out.
Useability
Active Development
Cost

Respond and read the full review here: SiteOrigin Page Builder and Widgets

Did I miss anything?

Is there a Page Builder I should try? Let me know in the comments below.

How Guest Posting Benefits Your Blog

How Guest Posting Benefits Your Blog

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”1554″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]New bloggers are often preoccupied with creating content for their own blog. This is a good strategy to focus on initially, but I’m going to suggest something that’s going to seem counterintuitive – just hear me out.

Once you’re on a roll with posts for your own blog, you need to start creating content for someone else’s blog. In the blogging world, this is known as guest posting and is a necessary long-term strategy for promoting yourself and your blog.

Ideally, you’re creating a blog post each week. The purpose of this is to always have fresh content to share with readers through your newsletter and social channels. Constantly updating content is also a positive signal to Google that your website is active and high-quality.

Your challenge moving forward is to, at minimum, create three posts for your blog each month and use the fourth post to guest blog for someone else’s audience.

Let’s talk specifically about how guest posting benefits your blog.

[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”Create powerful partnerships with other bloggers”][vc_column_text]If you’ve successfully negotiated a guest blogging opportunity (more on how to do that in a future article), you’ve created an ally in your journey to better blogging. Assuming that person has connections to your niche or related interests, they may have connections to other relevant bloggers and brands they can connect you with. Just make sure that you put as much effort or more into the guest post you create for them so they want to help you network!

[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”Create links back to your own blog”][vc_column_text]There are two benefits of creating links back to your own blog that occur when guest posting for another blog.

The first is that interested readers are a great audience for your own content. Guest posting is an effective way to build your audience in a quality way.

The second is that links back to your own website and content creates positive SEO benefits for your website. The power of backlinks are largely related to the pagerank and domain authority of the website you’re posting on. Try to keep this in mind when pitching different blogs you’d like to guest post for.

Unfortunately, some author bios (where most put their own blog’s link) contain a “no follow” link attribute, which basically means that search engines won’t count it as an authority-building backlink. Ask if this is the case before committing to a guest posting opportunity. Even if it is, you may be able to still create an authority-building backlink by linking to a specific blog post or resource on your website within the body of the blog article.

[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”Create expertise in a topic”][vc_column_text]When people start to see published articles with your author bio on high-authority blogs across the world wide web, they start to create an association between the topic and you. Whether or not it’s true, you start becoming perceived as an expert. This is useful in building credibility with your own blog audience, as well as potential clients if you’re trying to monetize by using your expertise to coach or consult with clients (to give one example).

Also, If you’re trying to monetize in the freelance writing space, guest posting benefits your blog by creating published samples you can share to show writing competence and social proof for the work you do.

There are so many ways in which guest posting benefits your blog. We certainly haven’t covered them all here, and would love to hear your own opinions on the topic in the comments below!

And if you need help figuring out the WordPress blogging software, make sure to check out our courses on related topics![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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