Stuff for Writers: Which Websites Do You Depend On for Inspired Work?

The other day my WiFi went down and I panicked. I needed my writing tools.

Some writers prefer to switch off from the web while they work, because it’s a distraction.

Not me. There are 8 websites that I use almost daily for inspiration, spelling, word generation, title creation and free graphics.

Here they are.

1. Thesaurus.com

Thesaurus.com is part of Dictionary.com. As the name suggests, it’s an online thesaurus, and more*. Even though there is a real thesaurus sitting on my bookshelf, online is easier. I use Thesaurus.com to power up dull sentences on days when everything sounds samey. It’s also handy for for finding material for word clouds (more about those below).
My only criticism? This is an American English dictionary, so when I type in ‘specialise’ or ‘neighbour’, the site will tell me those words don’t exist. It does prompt you with the alternative US spelling, though. I can live with that.

*There’s also a page for Quotes, a Reference Dictionary, plus the highly addictive Word Dynamo (procrastinators beware: the latter is a timeless vocabulary vortex that will suck you in for hours).

2. Pinterest.com

Pinterest is great for visualising ideas, in particular for advertising copy. When I need to write about a product or a service and give my text some soul, an attractive collection of images always helps me think up words that convey powerful emotions. Here’s a board I created for a product, another one for a fiction piece and finally, one for a baking blog.

3. Linguee.com

If you write in different languages, or translate, Linguee.com is better than a dictionary, in my opinion. Why? Because for every word or phrase you search, Linguee gives you various existing translation examples, in context, so that you can decide exactly which meaning or word nuance fits your own.

Linguee is not an automatic online translator. It uses thousands of bilingual texts to offer you examples of existing, official translations, which you can then pick from. Many of the texts used are from multilingual EU documents or patent specifications, so you can get translations for a wide variety of legal and technical vocab too.

4. Piktochart.com

If you need to jazz up an article, and like fiddling with easy DYI graphic design, consider infographics, made easy by Piktochart. Out of all the free infographic sites out there, I found this one the easiest to use, to have the best selection of icons and fonts, and the coolest layouts and colour palettes. Horses for courses, of course, but here’s one I made earlier (scroll down when the blog post opens).

6. Wordle.net or WordItOut.com

Need a custom made image for your article? Not good at photography or infographics? Maybe your tour topic is too abstract, or you just cannot find the perfect image to match your text? Word clouds work really well, when you’re stuck for pics.

There are various sites that generate word clouds, but Wordle.net and WordItOut.com are easy to use and the results look pretty good. You can save and download the pics easily or have them sent to your email. Plus they’re totally free.

WordItOut-word-cloud-402725

7. Wordstream.com Long Tail Keyword Generator

OK, there’s much debate about this, but I personally favour long tail keywords in my content. LTK’s may mean fewer, more specific searches that lead to your article – and therefore less traffic. But by the same logic, you’re generating more finely targeted interest.

Check out the Wordstream.com Long Tail Keyword Generator – I find it great for dreaming up effective titles and article descriptions for content marketing pieces.

8. BBC.co.uk/news

love the Beeb News website. Apart from the wealth of information available, it’s one of the clearest and best laid out sites for readers.

It’s also great for finding inspired ideas for short story plots. I go directly to the “Most read” and “Most shared” tags or forrage around the “Also in the news” page to get ideas… because the funny thing about the BBC site is that even though it’s mostly serious mainstream news reporting (and supposedly brings current affairs to the more discerning reader), you’ll still get the occasional weird or scandalous headline coming up.

Unless you’re a very incurious person, “Angry Pundits Wreck TV Studio on Air” and “Stars Boycott Beverly Hills Hotel” are highly clickable headlines – and therefore provide excellent material for intriguing short stories, or starting points for longer fiction plots.

So, that’s me.

Which online writers’ tools can you not live without?

Found this useful? Follow me on LinkedIn.

 

Featured image credit: By Janaka Dharmasena at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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CODE BLUE: When Your Creativity Needs CPR

I was arrogant and thought it would never happen to me.

Then one day I found myself making cups of tea, zapping through TV channels, surfing the web aimlessly, cleaning the cupboards… anything but the computer keyboard. Writing filled me with FEAR.

How could I have been in love with my job, and then not want to do it at all?

After some soul searching, I was frightened to find that I’d come this close to murdering my creativity. I’d focused too much on making money, pleasing readers and worrying about things way out of my field of expertise. I was exhausted.

I chatted to a few trusted friends to find a solution. At first I only looked at the financial impact. Because I depend on writing for income, the fear of writing was threatening my material well-being. But its a vicious cycle: the mental angst of blocked creativity is terrible and if not treated, it can be debilitating, leaving your bank account even worse off.

Defibrillating the Muse

After reading various articles about writer’s block, I realised that the reasons behind why you’re not writing are very personal. There’s no magic cure-all formula.

My problems were extreme boredom with some of my projects and just being bone-tired. So these were the emergency treatments that worked for me:

1. Time out

My husband told me that I needed to take time off. He was right. (And he’ll be happy to read that sentence.) If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing.

The most worrying thing was that even considering taking time out was very hard. If I don’t blog for two weeks, they’ll think I’ve GONE AWAY.

Too tired to argue, I did take time off. I left the iMac untouched, the smartphone and the notepad behind, and headed to the park with my son, watched daytime telly and forgot about blogging, SEO, comments, guest posting, social signals and all the other things I’d been worrying about compulsively. Creativity needs room to breath and writers need to observe the world in order to write about it. Exhaustion is bad news and the only remedy is rest.

2. Meditation clears the brain

Making myself close my eyes for 15 sacred minutes every morning before starting work allows my brain to return to baseline status. That in turn helps me think more creatively. Meditation before work is also a great discipline. As someone who works home alone, I need heaps of self-motivation. Sitting still for a set time, and not reaching for the computer keyboard straightaway, mostly makes me eager to work.

3. Reading is good

Writing about the things you love is fine, but even experts can go deeper and into more detail. Just because I like writing about my job, doesn’t make me an expert on writer’s block. Reading up about fascinating stuff that pertains to my subject helps me to write in a way that is more useful to my reader.

In a Psychology Today article, May 29, 2012, psychologist Barry Michels says that writer’s block provides two main obstacles for authors: the first is getting into the chair, the second is staying in it. To move “through” writer’s block, Michels says, you have to work out what the pain you are trying to avoid is. It could be fear of creating something, or simply reluctance, which Michels compares to the aversion people feel towards going to the dentist. To overcome the pain you have to accept it and want it. I recommend reading Barry Michel’s article, The Tools, about breaking through our personal pain barriers.

4. Writing rubbish

I’ve finally come to realise that I can’t produce classic blog posts every day. The brilliant stuff only comes out every once in a while. This was difficult for me to accept. Generally speaking I think that authors who write alone and edit their own work, yet depend on others’ opinions in the form of comments, shares, likes or tweets, tend to get overly worried about what others think – myself included.

If I am writing for a client, I have to worry about what they think. But if I’m just writing to express myself, then I believe that only my own feelings about my writing are valid. It’s nice if someone likes my stuff, but equally it’s not important if they don’t. It’s imperative for me to have my own personal criteria and stick by them, as well as accept my own work as it is – good, mediocre or crap.

5. Letting go of the results

I’m currently editing some chapters for a book I’m writing. Suddenly I was stressing about securing a publishing deal, wondering whether I should get an agent or if I should just go the Amazon self-publishing route, and how do you go about that anyway…? That was pointless time spent worrying. What I need to do is write the book first.

6. Being honest with clients

Deadlines and content requirements allowing, telling regular clients you are taking a few days off can be an excellent move. Whilst it’s recommendable to ask clients if its a good time and give them notice, this will stop the material your are producing for them from going “stale”, and shows that you care about the standard of work you are offering.

The dangerous part

This has been my personal experience with writer’s block. In the end, I didn’t analyse it much further, but I did discover that there are some projects I just find extremely boring. So for me, as long as I write for a living for other people, that is the pain I need to embrace and move through.

Having said that, the danger of constantly doing something that doesn’t engage or stimulate you can be deeply wounding. Whilst new writers cannot always be too picky, for me it’s been important to hone my field of expertise and focus on more projects that are personally satisfying, as well as the bread-and-butter stuff. The likelihood of producing quality articles increases when I write about something I consider to be of value.

What about you?

Have you experienced writer’s block? How did you react? Are you still stuck? How do you “move through the pain”? Let me know!

Found this useful? Follow me on LinkedIn.

 

Cool sites to inspire your writing: Make your own Marvel comic strip

Fancy making your own comic strip?

When a designer friend told me about Marvel’s create-your-own-comic page, I dropped everything and headed straight over.

At the Marvel.com site you can effectively build your own story board, ranging from 1 or 2-square mini strips to a full 22-page book.

When you’re done, just save it, download it, embed it…

MyMarvelComicStrip

…or print it. It’s all yours, for free, as long as you register.

The Marvel comic builder allows you a choice of characters, backgrounds, speech bubbles and cool sound effects (Fwoosh! Whump! Klang!) that are easy to drag, drop and size up.

Why am I blogging this?

Well, it’s no coincidence that many advertising creatives and film directors work with story boards to create early visual realities for their narratives. Comics also allow you to give a beginning/middle/end structure to your piece, plan dynamic action sequences, as well as help you to develop three-dimensional characters.

The downside? If you’re a comic loving work-procrastinator like me, this site could be potential hell.

Found this useful? Follow me on LinkedIn.

School grammar: why web content writers are allowed to bend the rules

School grammar: why web content writers are allowed to bend the rules

It’s a subject that divides people. I’ve seen full on arguments flare up in writers’ forums about the correct use of capital letters, punctuation and paragraph structure.

But the fact is, writing a webpage, a Facebook post, or a blog article is not the same as writing a book or a school essay. 

While we need to stick to correct spelling and punctuation so we don’t confuse the hell out of our readers, or make our clients look unprofessional, there are some instances where grammar rules can (and should) be bent when writing online.

writing online – the art of Knowing the rules so that you can break them

Whether you’re writing a book, a report, or content for a website, it’s necessary to write clearly and correctly, so that you can express yourself in coherent sentences and sound credible.

But sometimes, it’s just as important to know how to ignore grammar rules, to make your writing sound more exciting and unique.

Think of Picasso. He drew and painted with almost photographic precision in his youth, until he completely dominated the style of classic painters.

Then, he got bored and broke all the rules.

Image credit ssoosay on Flickr.com

WHO BREAKS GRAMMAR RULES ONLINE… and why? 

Copywriters and web content writers must often smash grammar rules, because it makes for far more interesting reading.

Creating a unique brand voice is a great example of this. Take a look at these websites below. Read them aloud to ‘hear’ their brand voice. Could they have achieved such great copy by sticking to every school grammar rule in the book?

>> SAFFRON BRAND CONSULTANTS – CLICK TO SEE WEBSITE

>> OLD SPICE – CLICK TO SEE WEBSITE

SO HOW DO I ACHIEVE THIS?

Here are some top tips for you…

*DON’T HAVE A STICK UP YOUR BUTT

Academic language is best reserved for college essays – getting too hung up on semicolons and ‘furthermores’ makes web content sound old-fashioned, boring and dry.

*Do sound like you (OR YOUR CLIENT)

Professional bloggers and businesses with an online presence need to sound like they know what they are talking about, but in a conversational tone.

Some of the best web pages communicate with their readers in a personal, chatty and easy-to-read way.

Successful brand copy conjures up the sound of someone speaking in a specific tone of voice, sometimes with an accent, or even creating a mood.

Best way to achive this? Talk out loud. Write that down.

 

*Start unlearning (some of) the grammar you learned at school

Here are a 5 common grammar rules that most of us learned at school. Let’s look at how to break them, and let your voice come through.

BREAKING RULE #1: “Always write in third person”

Writing university essays and meeting minutes should be done in the third person (as in ‘she said’, ‘they are’). The context requires it.

*WHY BREAK IT ONLINE?* 

  • Blogging and web content writing is different, because you’re trying to speak to people and catch their attention.
  • ‘You’ is much better at making readers feel special. Wouldn’t you agree?
  • Addressing people directly in the second person (‘you are’, ‘do you read?’), as if you were having a conversation with them, works best for grabbing attention.
  • People read your blog or visit your website expecting to discover who you are, and the unique knowledge you’re offering them. Quirky expressions, tone, syntax and vocabulary make you more personable.

 

BREAKING RULE #2: “Don’t write IN italics, CAPS OR bold”

This rule springs from novels and script writing. It’s considered bad form for authors to tell readers how to interpret dialogue, or actors how to act, by adding italics, capital letters, and bold text.

*WHY BREAK IT ONLINE?*

  • On the web, the user is reading on a screen, which is really difficult for the eyes. Anything that helps break down chunks of text, or categorise ideas, is good.
  • Variances in text style make it easier for online readers to pick out wordsskim headings, and FIND EMPHASIS in your sentences.

BREAKING RULE #3: “BEWARE THE Comma Splice”

Bear with me, while I get a tiny bit technical.

A comma splice is a mistake that happens when you join two strong clauses with only a comma.

  • A strong clause is a group of words that can stand on its own, as in, Susan has a cat”.
  • weak clause is group of words that cannot stand on its own, as in, but still not over”.

Strong clauses should be separated by a conjunction (and, but, or), or a semicolon (;) a dash (–) or a full stop (.).

For example, here are two strong clauses joined together:

Correct joining:
“My husband is constantly running late and we are always in a rush.”
“My husband is constantly running late. We are always in a rush.”

Incorrect joining (comma splice):
“My husband is constantly running late, we are always in a rush.”

*WHY BREAK IT ONLINE?* 

  • The reality is that people often talk in a grammatically incorrect way. Many of us would simply say, “My husband is constantly running late, we’re always in a rush.” (Grammatically incorrect, but sounds natural).
  • Ask yourself when you’re writing online: how much does it really matter, in this context, whether I’m sticking to grammar rules or not? A good digital writer or copywriter knows how and where to balance those two factors.
  • If in doubt about whether to break a rule, read your copy out loud. Ask yourself, does this sentence sound natural?

BREAKING RULE #4: “NEVER START A SENTENCE WITH ‘AND’ OR ‘BUT’”

Your English teacher probably used to tell you that you should never start a sentence with ‘And’ or ‘But’.

According to strict grammar rules, you’d need to substitute ‘And’ at the beginning of a sentence with ‘Moreover’, ‘Additionally’ or ‘Furthermore’.

‘But’ would need to be replaced with ‘However’, ‘Nevertheless’ or ‘Moreover’.

*WHY BREAK IT ONLINE?* 

  • It goes back to sounding real and conversational. Most people wouldn’t use words like ‘nevertheless’ in a sentence when talking to each other.
  • Overly long sentences are a no-no online. So sometimes you just need to cut the sentence before a ‘but’ or an ‘and’.

BREAKING RULE #5: KEEP ONE IDEA TO A PARAGRAPH

In formal writing, you’re not supposed to break into a new paragraph until you’ve said everything you need to say about one particular concept or idea.

*WHY BREAK IT?*

  • It’s SO hard to read big blocks of text on a computer or mobile screen. Because of screen glare, our eyes just cannot travel from one line to the next, if they’re met with one gigantic block of text.
  • Online, text needs to be broken into one- or two-sentence paragraphs for easy reading.
  • It’s all about the user. We need to put ourselves into their shoes and make sure they’re having an easy, effortless online experience.

Having said all that…

Even though it’s OK to break certain rules, you still need to adhere to basic spelling, punctuation and syntax rules. Otherwise your writing becomes confusing.

Here’s a classic example:

“Lisa finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.” (WTF?)

“Lisa finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog.” (Phew, much better!)

To break the rules, you need to know the rules. If you’re not sure, there’s no excuse. Just Google it. Or ask your nearest grammar police / friendly nerd for advice.

FINALLY…

In conclusion, I think it’s important to sound credible and professional, while not being too uppity or speaking down to your reader. Balancing correct grammar with a few deliberate errors that sound chatty and create a personal feel works really well.

*****

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ZOMBIE POST: Top 10 Tools to Prevent Blog Plagiarism

My designer friend’s website was recently plagiarised.

After lawyers got involved and a bit of a battle ensued, the copycats were finally beaten and the site was taken down.

So I thought it would be a good time to resurrect this old blog post. How often do you check the web to see if your written content is being copied?

Check the below Top 10 List. It compiles ten of my favourite tools you can use to protect your blog or website from intellectual property thieves… now complete with a snazzy new infographic you can print and pin on your office board.

—-

POSTED ORIGINALLY 28.9.2013

They’re out there, the thieves and the plagiarists.

If you live in fear having your content stolen and pasted somewhere else on the web, then here’s what to do.

1. Establish Google Authorship

For this, you’ll need a Google+ Account. If you don’t have one already, set one up here. Next, follow these instructions to claim authorship of any of your articles, pages or websites.

2. Use Copyscape.com

Copyscape is a site where you can type in your URL, or paste your text content, to check if anybody has published the same (or very similar) content to yours. They have a free service, which allows you a limited number of checks to see if anyone has lifted your writing onto their own site. Check out their intro video for more information:

3. Set up Google Alerts when you publish content

You can also use Google Alerts to keep an eye on your published content. If you don’t already have an account with Google, set one up here and then log into your account. (Then follow the GA instructions to create an alert.)

Ideally your alert should be the title of your article in quotation marks, for example “Top 10 Tips for Easier Travel Blogging”. But you should also set up a few other alerts that are variations on your title or combinations of your main keywords. Many copycats only rearrange your title names instead of thinking of a completely different title to yours. Entering a few different word combinations that mimic your original title will give you a wider net to catch any thieves.

4. Look for copied content on Google

You can also check for copies of your work manually on Google, by cutting and pasting a section of your content into a Google search box. If matching stuff comes up on other sites, then you’ll know it’s been stolen.

5. Photo attribution

If you post original photographs or graphics, then be sure to name yourself as the source. When you upload an image onto a site, many blog templates and website photo upload windows offer fields where you can enter the photo’s caption or title, description, location and sometimes, a licensing box. It is in the latter, where you should add your name or your company name as the image source. Alternatively, you can also mention your ownership in the photo caption, or in the blog post, article, web page where your photo is published. You can also use a photo watermark.

It goes without saying that if you are using someone else’s photograph or image, you also give them credit, even if the photo is from a free stock photo site. (When using royalty free stock photos, always read the Terms & Conditions carefully to understand the extent of the license – many ‘free’ stock photographs only allow non-commercial use).

6. Traffic analysis

Check your blog’s or website’s traffic analysis. If you see a sharp increase in traffic from one particular site, visit them. They might have been visiting you just to copy your content and paste it onto their own pages.

7. Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin

If you’re using a WordPress.org site, then you can install this plugin. Apart from many other invaluable features, WordPress SEO lets you add code to your RSS feed, resulting in a link being inserted in any of your content that is published elsewhere online. This link will then point back to your website. We all know the value of link backs to our sites. These links, however, are not of high value. But hey, at least they’re there.

8. Creative Commons

If you do want to let people share and republish your work, as long as they give you credit as the author and don’t profit from your intellectual property, free Creative Commons licenses are a good option. Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation. CC licenses and badges let you protect your authorship, yet share it at the same time. Check out their introductory page and video here to find out about their licenses and how they work.

9. Sign up with DMCA

DMCA is “the global leader in DMCA Copyright Infringement Takedowns”. Takedown meaning literally that: if someone has copied your stuff, they’ll take it down.

If you register with DMCA, you get their free service that includes a free DMCA badge to put on your web pages.

 

You can also add a badge to other content, like media. You’ll also get 1 free takedown per year, monitoring of your DMCA badges through their portal, plus a few other bits and bobs including a discount on their professional service.

If you need more than one takedown, you can do it using DMCA’s DIY method at about $10/month or pay them to do it professionally, starting at $199.

10. Help protect other writers

Keep an eye out for plagiarized content that looks or reads the same as a fellow creative’s work. Advise them, if you think their work has been plagiarized.

What to do if your content has been stolen?

Check out this excellent article on SEOSandwitch.com to find out how to deal with a content thief.

Have you ever had your writing copied? Tell me your story! Make sure you leave your comment below, telling me how you dealt with the thief.

10WaysPreventBlogPlagiarism

 

View Johanna’s complete writer’s portfolio or ‘Like’ her Facebook Writer’s Page

Featured image credit: youthvoices.net

 

Stop, Thief! Top 10 Tools to Fend Off Blog Plagiarists

They’re out there, the thieves and the plagiarists.

If you live in fear having your content stolen and pasted somewhere else on the web, then here’s what to do.

1. Establish Google Authorship

For this, you’ll need a Google+ Account. If you don’t have one already, set one up here. Next, follow these instructions to claim authorship of any of your articles, pages or websites.

2. Use Copyscape.com

Copyscape is a site where you can type in your URL, or paste your text content, to check if anybody has published the same (or very similar) content to yours. They have a free service, which allows you a limited number of checks to see if anyone has lifted your writing onto their own site. Check out their intro video for more information:

3. Set up Google Alerts when you publish content

You can also use Google Alerts to keep an eye on your published content. If you don’t already have an account with Google, set one up here and then log into your account. (Then follow the GA instructions to create an alert.)

Ideally your alert should be the title of your article in quotation marks, for example “Top 10 Tips for Easier Travel Blogging”. But you should also set up a few other alerts that are variations on your title or combinations of your main keywords. Many copycats only rearrange your title names instead of thinking of a completely different title to yours. Entering a few different word combinations that mimic your original title will give you a wider net to catch any thieves.

4. Look for copied content on Google

You can also check for copies of your work manually on Google, by cutting and pasting a section of your content into a Google search box. If matching stuff comes up on other sites, then you’ll know it’s been stolen.

5. Photo attribution

If you post original photographs or graphics, then be sure to name yourself as the source. When you upload an image onto a site, many blog templates and website photo upload windows offer fields where you can enter the photo’s caption or title, description, location and sometimes, a licensing box. It is in the latter, where you should add your name or your company name as the image source. Alternatively, you can also mention your ownership in the photo caption, or in the blog post, article, web page where your photo is published. You can also use a photo watermark.

It goes without saying that if you are using someone else’s photograph or image, you also give them credit, even if the photo is from a free stock photo site. (When using royalty free stock photos, always read the Terms & Conditions carefully to understand the extent of the license – many ‘free’ stock photographs only allow non-commercial use).

6. Traffic analysis

Check your blog’s or website’s traffic analysis. If you see a sharp increase in traffic from one particular site, visit them. They might have been visiting you just to copy your content and paste it onto their own pages.

7. Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin

If you’re using a WordPress.org site, then you can install this plugin. Apart from many other invaluable features, WordPress SEO lets you add code to your RSS feed, resulting in a link being inserted in any of your content that is published elsewhere online. This link will then point back to your website. We all know the value of link backs to our sites. These links, however, are not of high value. But hey, at least they’re there.

8. Creative Commons

If you do want to let people share and republish your work, as long as they give you credit as the author and don’t profit from your intellectual property, free Creative Commons licenses are a good option. Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation. CC licenses and badges let you protect your authorship, yet share it at the same time. Check out their introductory page and video here to find out about their licenses and how they work.

9. Sign up with DMCA

DMCA is “the global leader in DMCA Copyright Infringement Takedowns”. Takedown meaning literally that: if someone has copied your stuff, they’ll take it down.

If you register with DMCA, you get their free service that includes a free DMCA badge to put on your web pages.

You can also add a badge to other content, like media. You’ll also get 1 free takedown per year, monitoring of your DMCA badges through their portal, plus a few other bits and bobs including a discount on their professional service.

If you need more than one takedown, you can do it using DMCA’s DIY method at about $10/month or pay them to do it professionally, starting at $199.

10. Help protect other writers

Keep an eye out for plagiarized content that looks or reads the same as a fellow creative’s work. Advise them, if you think their work has been plagiarized.

What to do if your content has been stolen?

Check out this excellent article on SEOSandwitch.com to find out how to deal with a content thief.

Have you ever had your writing copied? Tell me your story! Make sure you leave your comment below, telling me how you dealt with the thief.

 

View Johanna’s complete writer’s portfolio or ‘Like’ her Facebook Writer’s Page.

Featured image credit: library.alamancecc.edu

VIDEO: Why Start a Business Blog?

Courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So everybody tells you that you should have a corporate blog.

And you wonder why?

The simple reason is, it’ll both SAVE and MAKE you money.

Here are 4 very compelling facts you should know about business blogs…

FACT 1:

70% of your clients would prefer to get information about your business through blog articles, than through advertising.

Source: Contentplus.co.uk

FACT 2:

Business-to-Business companies with blogs get an average of 67% more leads every month than B2B businesses that don’t blog.

Source: SocialMediaB2B.com 

Fact 3:

In 2012, creating web content proved to be the single most effective way to get websites to rank high in Search Engines like Google – 53% better than any other tactic.

SOURCE: MarketingSherpa.com

FACT 4:

Marketing your business through relevant, interesting web content, for example blogs, costs 62% less than traditional marketing.

SOURCE: Demandmetric.com

 

But what does this mean TO YOU?

Well, if you provide your clients with interesting, exciting, relevant and useful blog articles on your website…

  1. You will establish yourself as an industry authority…
  2. Your clients will value what you are offering and stay longer on your website…
  3. They will keep RETURNING to your website…
  4. They will recommend your website to others…
  5. Your website will get more and more traffic…
  6. …AND APPEAR HIGHER IN GOOGLE SEARCHES…
  7. You will get more and more potential clients…
  8. You will make more and more money…
  9. With half the marketing costs.

Good, huh?

So just write about what you’re passionate about – and reap the benefits!

Need help? Subscribe to Johanna’s blog to receive helpful new writer tips.

View Johanna’s complete writer’s portfolio or ’Like’ her Facebook Writer’s Page.

Image credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

New Bloggers: Finding Your Way Through the Virtual Haze

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Image courtesy of ‘debspoons’, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

RSS feeds, calls to action, blogrolls, commenting, guest posting, social bookmarking, linking (in and out), advertising and affiliate programs, Technorati blog claims, Twitter marketing, Facebook stats, Pinterest for business…

I never even knew this stuff existed, until I started blogging.

Oh yeah. And you’re supposed to do it ALL, otherwise your blog will never be a success!

What’s what

We all want lots of follows, likes and shares.

But when I began blogging, I got so bogged down with Gravatars and trying to figure out how to cut and paste my Google Analytics html, that I wasn’t actually doing what I came here to go: writing.

So to help new bloggers, I’ve made a list of five basic essentials that will help you maximize your readership. There are many others, but these will help you lay a good foundation, on which you can build later.

1. Use WordPress.org

If you want to have a professional site, you really need WordPress.org. Not Blogger, not WordPress.com. You’ll need to get web hosting and pay for it. This works out around 90€ or $100 per year, give or take, but it’s totally worth it.

To understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, read Don Campbell’s excellent blog post, WordPress.org vs WordPress.com – Which One Should I Use?

To build your WordPress.org site, I heartily recommend you download Kent Mauresmo and Anastasiya Petrova’s How to Build a Website with WordPress… Fast! at Amazon.

NOTE: If you are only starting out and not sure whether you want to write professionally or pay for hosting, start with WordPress.com. You can easily move to WordPress.org later if you want to.

2. Email Subscriptions

Place a clearly visible e-mail subscriptions field, preferably in the top right hand corner or sidebar of your blog, where the readers can easily see it. Do this from Day 1 to start getting followers. Unless people can hook up with you straight away, it’s unlikely they’ll return. And getting someone’s email address allows you to mail them updates, offers, new posts or anything you need to grow your business.

3. Social Media

You do not have to belong to every possible social media site to promote your blog. I personally have accounts with six, but I mainly use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ to promote my blog posts, depending on which type of writing I want people to read.

  • For some of my more serious or thought-provoking articles, I post on LinkedIn.
  • For my personal blog, my ‘Mommy Blog’, I mostly use Facebook, where the bulk of my 30’s to 45’s readers are: see PitiKukkua.com
  • I use Twitter and Google+ for everything, because Twitter is quick, general and popular and Google+ helps to position me in Google’s search rankings.

WordPress.org (as well as WordPress.com) have ‘widgets’ that allow you to automate the publishing of blog posts in your social media, so you don’t have to post links one by one every time you publish a post.

You can also place a subscription link or icon in your sidebar, header or footer, for most popular Social Media sites, that allow people to follow you.

You should also ensure that each blog post has its own social media links or buttons at the bottom of the post, so people can share the article easily.

3. RSS

Oh no, the dreaded RSS! It took me forever to wrap my head around it and I’m not sure if I still have. VERY basically, it’s a quick way for a reader to view all your blog posts together alongside other blogs they subscribe to – without having tons of blog posts emailed to their inbox every day.

No worries though, as WordPress (both versions) has a widget for RSS feeds, so you don’t have to do anything complicated or technical. Just go into widgets, select RSS feeds (‘posts’ definitely, ‘comments’ if you want to) and pop it into your side bar.

4. Contact Page

Don’t forget to include a very clear page that says something obvious like ‘Contact’ – and then list all you contact details on there – email, Skype, telephone number, etc. If you have a shop, don’t forget to add a map.

5. Other blogs you follow

You can also display a list of other blogs or sites you follow, in your sidebar. Sometimes when you do this, other websites reciprocate, and you can get a new stream of readers through them. You can just use the WordPress widget for this.

6. BONUS TIP: List Your Blog in Directories

Apart from coming up on normal search sites like Google or Yahoo, blogs have their own directories or search engines. Make sure your blog is registered on some of them, because this will up your chances of getting reader traffic to your site.

Check out Technorati, Google Blog Search and Bloglines to understand how these work, then find out more by reading this excellent blog post at Words in a Row to understand the process fully.

In conclusion

The list does not end here. There are zillions of other things you could be doing to promote your blog. But if you start with the six above, you can’t go far wrong. They’ll get you started and you’ll have plenty of time to do more later.

Good luck! Let me what your favourite trick is for spreading the word about your blog.

 

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Johanna Bergstrom is a creative non-fiction writer who works for both online and paper media.

View Johanna’s complete writer’s portfolio or ’Like’ her Facebook Writer’s Page.

 

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And the winners are…

As promised, here’s a little info about the two lucky peeps who won my June competition.

Both get 500 words of web content (or indeed any other text) totally FREE.

One of the winners is Rachid from the UK. He is a graphic designer, who also creates front end graphics for apps and websites. In his spare time he’s a multi-talented man who brews beer and tends to a very large vegetable plot at the bottom of his garden. The day I contacted him, he had apparently been busy propping up his perilously sagging raspberries…! Rachid is also fit as a fiddle and just ran his first mountain marathon last week in North Wales. Nice! You can find out more about Rachid’s fab work at The Upright One’s Facebook Fan Page.

Our other joint winner, Stephen, is a bit of a petrol head. Well, in my books anyway, because he rides motorbikes, plus he’s dead talented at fixing anything on wheels with a motor. Stephen hails from Gibraltar and was watching a Star Wars film when I contacted him to say that he’d won the competition. I hope you got to watch the end of the film, Stephen? Although he is not really quite sure what on earth he is going to do with these 500 words yet, I hope he’ll find a good purpose for them. Maybe he’ll let me create a wee website for him?

So there we are. Congratulations to both, and I’ll post more details about the projects each winner gives me at a later date.

Have a great summer week you all.