Happy New Year! Okay, I know it’s a bit late, but I missed last week due to illness and I didn’t want to miss spreading the cheer. Did you make resolutions? Have you broken them yet?
I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions. I prefer to consider establishing new habits. That way I’m looking at ways I can improve by adding things to my life rather than focusing on negatives that I want to remove. Sort of a “glass is half full” way of improving myself.
Anyway, last July I quit smoking so I figure my big resolution was already taken care of for 2008. That gives me the chance to incorporate a whole bunch of “baby steps” in my schedule for the new year. Which brings me to this big old list I have been putting together to help myself improve as a blogger. What better way to kick off the new year than that? I have discussed some of these tactics in the past, but they are timeless methods that bear repeating. Here are 27 ways to be a smarter writer in 2008.
- Try New Things. Sometimes breaking out of your routine is all it takes to get original ideas flowing. Spend a weekend with friends or family, go skiing, read a book about something about which you know nothing. Just pick anything you wouldn’t usually do and do it.
- Get Moving. If you are feeling restless and unable to concentrate, then stop trying. You will do more good spending 15 minutes puttering around the house and 45 minutes writing than you will spending 60 minutes staring at a blank document and stressing out. Sometimes you just need to get the blood flowing and your ideas will follow suit.
- Switch Mediums. If the paper and pen (or monitor and keyboard) aren’t doing it for you, try another creative activity like painting or playing a musical instrument. Believe me, I am no Van Gogh, but I love to sit down with my pastels or watercolors for an afternoon and work out the visually creative parts of my brain. This isn’t about the product, it is just about the process.
- Shut Down Your PC. The act of putting pen to paper can actually help get your creative juices flowing. So if that empty document seems to be giving you the stink-eye, turn off your monitor and pull out a pen or pencil. I’m a sucker for a cool writing utensil. My friends and family know this and I am often given unique (or more of my favorite) pens and pencils as gifts – they are always appreciated.
- Phone a Friend. It may be that your brain needs something before it will give up the goods. Social interaction is integral to emotional and mental health. If you work at home (and especially if you live alone), then you run the risk of ignoring your brain’s need to socialize. Chat with a friend on the phone or make a coffee date for idle chitchat.
- Shift Gears. You are sitting there, staring into space, telling yourself: “Write, write, write…” But, for some reason, you aren’t writing. While focus and follow-through are important, this might be a good time to move to another project for awhile. And I know that as a blogger you have more than one (or ten!) things to work on.
- Practice Every Day. As a writer, there really is no substitute for just jumping in and doing it. Make the committment to spend at least an hour each day writing. Nearly all types of writing will help you hone your craft, so you need not specify what you will be writing during this time.
- Go On Location. If you do all of your writing in one place, you could find yourself in a bit of a rut. Take your writing tools of choice, bag them up and go somewhere else. Coffee shops, parks (weather-permitting, of course) and beaches are all wonderful places to spark inspiration and find a new groove.
- Read, Read, Read. Besides writing, the best way to become a better writer is by reading. If you love writing, chances are you were one of those kids (like me) who read voraciously through anything you could get your hands on. Perhaps as an adult you’ve lost that curiosity and thirst for knowledge. Try to put yourself back in your smaller shoes and rekindle that joy you found when you learned something – anything – new.
- Start a Group. Maybe you don’t have any friends who want to listen to you talk about your newest post for your knitting blog. But that doesn’t mean there is no one out there who does. There are groups (online and offline) for everything imaginable and writing is no exception. One of the greatest type of groups (and highly underrated these days) is a book club. Use a service like Meet Up to find people in your area interested in reading or writing together.
- Don’t Be Lazy. Use your tools. Get a good thesaurus and dictionary, pick up a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and if you aren’t sure if something is correct, look it up. It only takes a few minutes and, not only will you learn from it, you won’t get caught making avoidable mistakes.
- Designate Space. Virginia Woolf famously wrote about having a room of one’s own. Most writers find it very useful to have a space of their own in which to work their craft. Don’t underestimate the power of a designated writing space. Even if it is just a particular corner in the living room, make it official that when you need to write that will be where you go. You don’t always have to write there, but it will always be available if you need it.
- Practice Headlines. Bloggers must be great headline writers. If you can’t write a killer headline, it will be very difficult to pull readers in. Brian Clark has a great article about why you should always write your headline first. If you can’t seem to come up with content, try a list of headlines to get the ball rolling.
- Write Out Loud. Never hit the publish button until you read your article out loud. Even if it’s just to your cats, reading out loud can help you learn and establish your rhythm, clean up awkward phrasing and get a feel for how smooth (or rough) an article sounds. And if you find yourself zoning out while you are reading your article aloud, then you know it’s most likely time for a serious rewrite.
- Get your Writer and Editor a Divorce. If you can keep your writer side and your editor side separate during the writing process, your writing can improve exponentially. The reason for this is twofold.
First, the writer in you is creative and the editor is logical. If you allow them to fight over every sentence, your creative flow is broken and at least some of the magic that comes when you allow your brain to wander is lost.
Secondly, if you bring your editor in after your writer has done the work, then it can often be like bringing in a second pair of eyes. It isn’t exactly the same, but the distance can really give you fresh look at your work. If you do not work with an outside editor this is the best way to ensure that you catch any weird sentences or errors.
- Exercise. Writing exercises can be a huge help in honing your craft. Even if you are used to writing non-fiction articles for your blog, fictional writing exercises provide a way to take a break and improve your skills at the same time. There are many sites with free exercises available including Snapfiction, Wake up Writing and Meredith Sue Willis’ site.
- Take it with You. You have heard this a million times, but in 2008 you will start doing it: carry a notebook with you. When something strikes you as useful or interesting, write it down. I’m serious, you guys! Just try it. I rarely carry a purse so I know it can be a pain to carry a notebook in your pocket, but if you can turn it into a habit it’s really no big deal.
For years I tried to do this and it never quite stuck until about six months ago when I found a lovely little notepad from Wellspring’s Flip Notes line. It is small, light and sticks with me. There is something about the design that appeals to me. Almost every writer I have ever met is attracted to paper and pens, so you’ll be much more likely to actually use the notebook if it is aesthetically pleasing. At least I was.
- Keep a Journal. I hate this one. There is nothing more annoying to me than finding some lame journal I wrote in the 10th grade about some stupid fight I had with Amanda and Stephanie who are now married and I haven’t spoken to in years. But journals don’t have to be some useless outpouring of emotional vomit (no offense intended if that’s the kind of journal you write!). If you are stuck on the stereotype of a teenager girl burying her deepest secrets in the pages of a notebook, you need to get over it.
Journaling is a useful tool for all writers. Set a timer each day for 10-15 minutes and just write. Describe something you saw during the day or transcribe a conversation with your mom. You can literally write about anything. You never know what sort of ideas will come from just letting your brain (and your hand) go.
- Change your Subscriptions. Visit a store that carries magazines on many different subjects. Pick a few based on subjects about which you normally wouldn’t read. Try to find some with style and content that appeal to you and purchase them. Read them all carefully from cover to cover. Even if you could find the same information online, your relationship with the physical magazine can influence ideas and thoughts you have regarding the material. Never underestimate the power of a glossy magazine photo.
- Track Your Progress. Are you so busy churning out articles and networking that you don’t have time to review your accomplishments? Seeing the progress that you make is very important to productivity. Are you more motivated by a daily to-do list or a broad range of long-term goals. If you aren’t sure what works for you, try a few different methods until you find a way to benchmark that fits in with your working style. Having concrete tasks to check off a list can really help you stay on track, especially on those days when it seems you can’t accomplish anything.
- Don’t Get too Attached. That sentence reads like pure gold. It is the most beautiful grouping of words you have ever ever written. I am so happy to hear that. But what does it do for your article? If it doesn’t add necessary information or elements, then it has to be removed. As painful as this can be, it must be done. Most people reading blogs do not have time for pointless sentences, no matter how pretty they (the sentences, not the people) are. Chop off the fat. I promise the bleeding will stop shortly.
- Stop Being Passive. The passive voice is dull and boring. It often uses uneccesary words and nearly always digs potholes in your articles. My choices are:
The gift was delivered by my best friend.
My best friend delivered the gift.
I’m certainly choosing the second one. Why? It’s active. The second sentence describes a person doing something. The first one is nearly lifeless. It barely has a live subject at all, merely mentioning my best friend at the end. While it is good to vary your sentences, try to avoid passive voice whenever possible.
- Save the Best for Last. You are tired. You spent four hours on research, two hours writing and another hour with edits. Now all you need to do is write a quick conclusion and you can publish. Hold up. Make sure you leave energy to write a killer conclusion. The last few sentences you write will be the sentences your readers take with them. If you can skillfully summarize your article and give your readers something to think about, then your article is much more likely to become “sticky.”
- Don’t Lose the Plot. You might be writing an article about branding and come up with some brilliant points about search engine marketing. That’s great. But, if they are not directly related, please don’t add them to your current article. I know they are genius and they sort of relate, but I promise you they will not be appreciated in the confines of your current article. The moment you go tangental is the moment your readers go elsewhere. Make some notes about your brilliant idea and save it for tomorrow.
- Do the Legwork. Nothing will kill your credibility faster than talking out of your a$$. Seriously. If you aren’t sure about a fact or figure, look it up. For some blogs, this means you will spend a great deal of time researching. If you don’t like researching, then choose a niche that you know a lot about or write an opinion-based blog. If you guess or make up information someone will call you out eventually and then you are done.
- Remember Your Audience. If you have a loyal following of readers, do not suddenly change your style. If you are trying to establish a following, read popular blogs in the niche you have chosen and try to figure out why they succeed. When planning articles for your particular audience, you should consider not only the content itself, but also tone, word usage (should you avoid profanity?) and the length of the article. The more you write for that particular blog, the better you will be at stepping into the readers’ shoes.
- Use an Outline. I know, I mention this one a lot. But that is because I consider it one of the most important and useful tools at a writer’s disposal. Many bloggers find outlines boring or confining, but it is a proven way to keep your article on topic. It can also help you write faster because you have distilled all the points you’d like to make. Whether you use a basic list of topics you want to cover or a detailed breakdown (I, A, a, ii, etc.), you will be much less likely to lose your reader if you write using a map.
Though there is something to be said for talent, I firmly believe that anyone who is willing to put in the time can become a good writer. Not all tactics work for everyone, but the ones I’ve described above are almost universally helpful. What methods do you use to improve your skills? Do you think bloggers need to be good writers or just deliver interesting topics? What are you writing goals for 2008?
3 Best Practices for Effective Copywriting and Blogging in 2019
Copywriting and blogging are both essential in any business, but when it comes to their purpose, each one differs. Copywriting advertises a service or product as it directly encourages the audience to make a purchase, while blogging, on the other hand, entertains and informs the audience about the product through a related article. It is not as advertorial as copywriting.
Both, however, help generate leads and advertise products. Whether you’re blogging or copywriting or doing both, you should consider these important practices:
- Know Your Audience
Knowing and understanding who and what makes up your audience is a must, whether you’re copywriting or blogging. No matter how much traffic you get, your content is useless if no leads are generated. Just like any conversation, knowing a person’s interests, preferences, and the like is one way to create a meaningful conversation. If you want to know more about your target audience, consider working with companies like Make Your Mark Digital so that they can help you analyze the characteristics of your target audience so you can engage with them successfully.
When you’re blogging, you need to create content that relates to your audience. In copywriting, what you write should depend on whether your audience desperately needs your product or if they are simply interested in it.
Create content that can increase your leads by understanding your audience. You can do this by considering the following strategies:
- Create an Audience Persona – First, gather data about your audience by using Facebook Audience insights, interviewing customers, reviewing analytics, and creating surveys. After compiling the data, create a fictitious profile of your ideal customer. You can then use this persona to think of your audience’s needs, wants, and thoughts upon which you could base your content.
- Use Analytics Tools – Tools like Google Analytics will help you figure out whether the person is convertible into a buying customer or not. It can also help in finding keywords that your target audience is using when typing in their queries. Use these keywords when writing content for a specific audience.
- Be Empathetic – After creating your content, use your audience’s point of view to evaluate it. Consider varying perspectives, such as someone who is using the product, someone who wants to use it, or someone who is disappointed from using it. Thus, these perspectives will help you write to cater to their needs.
- Write Valuable Content
People who need useful information search the internet. Thus, the content of your writing must be valuable, as well as optimized if you want to have high-ranking copywriting articles and blogs.
In copywriting, the first information that must be displayed should be the most important. After which, you can add details to support it. Following the inverted pyramid—wherein the order of information must begin with the most important to the least—you must capture your audience’s attention with the most vital piece of information. Then, the statements that follow must engage the audience.
For blogging, on the other hand, your content should be engaging, useful, and original. Applying all these can increase your ranking, thus inviting more traffic, leads, or even a blog email list. Just like copywriting, you must present the most vital part of your content through a strong headline. Then, add thought-provoking and engaging content while also providing answers to your audience’s most common questions. Lastly, your final output must be easy to read but accurate.
To create valuable content, whether for blogging or copywriting, you must practice the following:
- Use Power Words – Instead of using dull words, use vibrant words, but don’t overdo it. These are trigger words that make your audience respond positively or negatively. For instance, you can use “breathtaking” instead of “beautiful” for more impact.
- Proofread Your Content – Mistakes are inevitable, even if you think you’ve been very careful with your writing. The best way to proofread is to sleep or leave your output for some time before rereading it so that your brain would be fresh when you review your piece.
- Rebut Their Objections – Make a list of possible arguments from your readers and make counter-arguments so you can address them.
Search engine ranking is vital as it affects your traffic and leads. Making your website rank high on search engines through an unpaid and organic process is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). When your content is optimized, you can increase your potential readers or customers. Thus, copywriting and blogging must be SEO-friendly.
There are a lot of SEO tips on the internet, and here are some of the most important ones to remember:
- Use Keywords Correctly – Include keywords in the title, first sentence, and other parts of your page, but don’t overdo it. Instead, use alternative keywords or synonyms.
- Use Headlines – Easy-to-read copies and blog posts engage more readers. Headlines can spell the difference between an interested reader or not.
- Write More Content – Writing one blog a day does not help your page if it’s only a hundred words or so. Google acknowledges content with more than a thousand words that are useful and of high-quality.
Just because you’re selling or promoting a product or service doesn’t mean you can’t produce a well-written blog or copy. Applying the best practices mentioned above will help you achieve your goal. Just remember that when you write, you have to make it SEO-friendly without sacrificing the quality of your content.
Do Your Homework: How to Do Online Research Before Writing a Blog Post
Unlike academic research, which we all learn in school and often get bogged down in, online content research is pretty simple. Unfortunately it is that simplicity that can often lead to mistakes, or just bare facts that don’t hold as much detail as our readers could use.
Your pre-content online research consists of two stages. The first is the research you do before, and the second is the research you do during the article writing process.
Before you write is the pre-research, as in pre-writing. This is where you are going to find your general facts that will support your post. This is also where you are going to draw your primary sources, which will be linked through the body of your content.
I always prefer to follow the 3x rule. You want to find three times as many sources as you will use, and pair them against one another. You keep finding sources in batches of three until you are able to verify each against one another.
This is a simple way to ensure you are finding non-biased, verifiable facts, and not baseless opinions. With misinformation running rampant thanks to lazy bloggers and social media, this is a very important process.
You don’t want to become one of those bloggers posting factual inaccuracies like they are gospel truth. Not only does this add to a serious problem in online content creation, but it impacts your authority. We all know how important that authority is to the growth of a brand.
Your article is going to be broken into sections and subheadings. These will steer your research in many ways giving you more ideas which angles and problems to cover.
Text Optimizer helps you research related questions. TextOptimizer is the semantic research tool that extracts related concepts and questions right from Google search results:
All of these questions may become subheadings of your future article (or inspire follow-up articles). You can export them in Excel and sort them into “existing content”, “currently working on” and “future articles”.
Next, you have the research you do while you are creating your post. These are supporting details related to the above citations you have found. It is also where you will narrow down the links you intend to embed, if you don’t choose all three supporting posts.
This part is much simpler, and it more about giving readers additional information to follow. Sometimes I just provide a small masterlist of links for more data if the reader chooses, so I can focus more the quality of the content.
6 Tools To Make Research a Breeze
1. Google Drive Research Box
I use Google Drive for pretty much everything, including writing and backing up posts. I find it much more manageable than other cloud services. One of the features I love best is the research box. You highlight a keyword or phrase, and right click. It will have an option to research the highlighted section.
This brings up a side box with related sources, which you can view right in your screen. Because it uses Google results you have to be just as selective as you would be from a straight search, but it is much more convenient. Google Drive includes lots of useful information visualization and organization tools including Google Slides, Google Drawings, and more.
2. Mind Meister
This is a great tool if you are dealing with a large post that is going to have a lot of involved research. Breaking the task down into simpler, smaller parts is a tried and true tactic.
MindMeister is a mindmapper tool that lets you do that. You can plan out the entire post, including linking sources so everything you need ends up in one place. All using a template that lets you easily move, edit and reformat before you ever get to the writing process.
You may be wondering what an SEO tool is doing here. After all, this is about researching for articles, not for marketing. I would argue that they are technically in the same vein, but that isn’t why I included it.
I have used this tool to create lists of related key phrases I may not have thought of. This helps me to broaden my research based on what people have published or searched for online. So I may end up with sources I never would have found, because I wasn’t using the right combination of keywords.
If you have Yoast plugin installed, you have keyword optimization basically covered. Plus there a few more plugins that will help you keep content research and optimization under control.
4. Digital Research Tool (DiRT)
This is a fantastic masterlist of tools aimed at scholars, especially those in the social science and humanities. However, I think it is a great place for bloggers to find research tools they need for any number of purposes. They are broken down into categories, which you can select on the front page.
You are then taken to the tool that is best for the job at hand. It is the best collection of research redirects I have ever found, and much more efficient than trying to keep track of everything on your own.
Normally I would avoid social media like the plague when it comes to research. There is just too much garbage floating around, and opinion outweighs facts and logic at almost all times. But I will make an exception for Quora. In spite the fact that it is a platform that is very easy to abuse, it is full of genuine experts with backed up information.
It requires you to offer well thought out answers, and to provide a source or reason for your knowledge. I go there all the time to find great links to scholarly articles, studies, website tools, or to get first hand soundbites from major players in the industry that know about topics first hand.
Speaking of experts, MyBlogU is another great place to find them. I usually go here for expert quotes as part of the secondary research process (finding backup information and supporting details). It is an easy way to add further gravity to something you have already officially cited, straight from the mouths of the people who know best.
Do you have a research tool to put on the list? Let us know in the comments!
4 Blogging Tips for Freelance Writers
Freelance writers, do you blog?
You better be blogging.
Running a well-stocked, self-hosted, WordPress blog showing off your writing skills is the most direct way to earn a lucrative living through freelance writing. Why? People with ample means get to see what you can offer through your blog, then, pay up. Both parties win. You have fun rendering a useful service. Clients get helpful, business-building content.
Blogging is a skill freelance writers need learn, and practice, to grow their business through blogging.
Follow these 4 tips to make money freelance writing through your blog.
1: Show Off Your Writing Skills by Publishing Content
Most aspiring freelance writers expect to make money freelancing without showing off their writing skills for free. Why in the heck would anybody hire you if they have no idea what you do, how you do it and why you do it?
Show off your writing skills by publishing content to your blog. Be generous. Publish one post weekly, at a minimum. Running a freelance writing blog seems smart to me. Along with teaching people how to be a skilled freelance writer, you build your friend network and show prospective clients your writing stuff.
Note; do not hold back. Many freelance writing blogger newbies publish one post and expect the floodgates of traffic, profits and clients to open up. Nope. Be generous, patient and persistent to gain client trust and to build your business over the long haul.
2: Network with Fellow Freelancers to Grow Your Reach
Get out of a competitive, poverty conscious vibe.
Enter into an abundant, generous, vibe.
Comment genuinely on fellow freelance blogs. Promote freelancers on your blog. Promote freelance writers on social media.
Here’s how money works, guys; if you do not fear losing money or clients to other freelance writers, you make tons of money through freelance writing over the long haul because all freelance buddies you make through your generosity promote you, endorse you and heck, some may even hire you.
Be generous. Help people. Make friends. Amplify your reach. Grow your business.
3: Build a Clear Freelance Writing Services Page
If you claim to be a freelance writer you better publish a clear, easy to understand, freelance writer page.
List specific services offered. Be clear to attract ideal clients who love what you offer.
Consider adding your writing rates to avoid tire kickers and other folks who want to bargain, barter and do other silly stuff. You are a business person. Bartering is for people in a Middle Eastern Souq. Set fixed prices. If people cannot afford your prices they can move on to another freelancer. Have posture.
Feel free to show off client testimonials if you have these endorsements but I have found this; if you get clear on your writing skills, show off your work through free content and clearly state what you offer, clients will find you and hire you. I did not even have a freelance business page when I landed my highest paying client. This shows you the power of clarity and mental alignment.
4: Build Blogging and Freelance Writing Posture
Please guys, do not barter, bargain or debate your writing rates. Do not charge $5 for a 600 word post. Do not work for peanuts just to say you landed a client. Do not work for demanding, overbearing clients. Never work for someone unless the person aligns with you, your values and your work.
Work for nice people who appreciate what you have to offer. This is the path toward great success online.
You choose clients. You pick clients. Have posture. Think and act abundantly.
Most freelancers struggle terribly because they have little or no posture. Believe in yourself. Believe in your abilities. Have faith. Trust in yourself.
The more you practice writing the more you gain confidence and clarity in your offering.
Enjoy your freelance writing success!
Search Blogging Tips
Blogging3 years ago
6 Steps for How I Nabbed 6500 Comments on My Blog
Blogging1 year ago
113 Bloggers share their Favorite Email Marketing Tools
Reviews3 years ago
LeadNetwork Pays Big Bucks for Payday Loans
Blogging13 years ago
CoComment – The new way to track blog comments
Blogging3 years ago
6 Tools For Boosting Content Marketing Results Over The Holidays
Search Engine Optimisation3 years ago
7 SEO Analysis Tools Every Blogger Needs to Know
Blogging2 years ago
How to Start a Fashion Blog in 8 Simple Steps
Blogging10 years ago
In Search Of A Storytlr Replacement