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The Brave New Blogger : Me

The Brave New Blogger : Me

 

Blogging is a great way to grow your audience and attract people to your website. No matter if you are marketing a product or blogging for personal interest, you don’t want to have a “Halloween site” that people see once and never again.  The question is how to attract people to your site? If you are waiting for Google to tell them, you are very optimistic. Blogging is one of the ways to tell the search engines that you have new content on a static site.

Most of us are not natural born bloggers. It is something that starts out with trepidation and evolves over time. Writing an effective post requires not only motivation and creativity, but also strategy. Documenting your strategy will help you become an effective blogger and save your valuable time.

Recently I was reading an article on Content Marketing. Content Marketing strategies often overlap with blogging. This is what it said:

Most of the time, the content creation process it pretty simple. It looks like this:

  1. Pour a cup of coffee.
  2. Sit down at your computer.
  3. Think about a topic to write about.
  4. Write.
  5. Click publish.
  6. Go back to what you were doing before creating content.
  7. Repeat next week.

What happens when the coffee is finished and the page is empty?

It’s easy to read about the steps.

Finding a topic is often a challenge.

A blog is meant to educate and excite your audience. The question is what do they want to know?

There are a few ways of finding out.

In this post, we will explore options to come up with good topics for our blog, discuss effective strategies and the structure of a blog post.

Finding a topic

I often feel a sense of despair when looking for a topic. Here are some ideas to inspire you.

1. Talk to people

In the course of your conversation listen to see what questions people have and what information they are looking for. What answers did you provide in your conversation? What should people ask you, but don’t ask?

2. Share your learning journey

Think about topics you want to learn about or wanted to learn about in your journey. Never assume that your audience are experts. They may know less that you do.

3. Controversial topics

Write down controversial opinions that excite you.

4. Use Social Media

Some bloggers look at Quora for questions that people ask. I like Reddit. The question is where are your audience spending time on social media? What questions are they asking there? Look at the threads with lots of comments.

Nannette Minley, a marketing strategist recommends using a tool called Answer the Public

Take notes. Keep a journal of ideas that inspire you.

A great source of topics is questions that my clients ask me.

In fact that is what led to this post.

 

Writing your blog post

Let us assume that you have found a topic.

The next challenge is how to begin writing your blog post?

I like to do a brain dump of ideas on my topic, then go and see what others have said or check Wikipedia in order to make sure that I haven’t left out important details that would help them.

A blog is a way of developing a relationship with your audience. Do you use academic style writing language when you talk to people? Write the way that you speak! In fact, once you know what you want to write about, create a Google Doc (free with a Google Account), press the microphone icon and just talk into the Google Doc. Your voice will be transcribed into text.

 

What happens if you did all of that, and your page is still empty?

 

You can read something that someone else wrote and write your own take on the topic. If you find something valuable, first make a note of the link so that you can refer back to it. If there is a question that you can expand upon, write about it in your own voice.

99.9% of bloggers are not awesome on day 1.
Their awesomeness is the accumulation of the value they create over time.

– Darren Rowse

Practice

There is one way of become a great blogger. Write. A LOT. Writing may be compared to other creative processes: the more you do it, the better you become. Inspiration and finding your own style are only part of the equation. The other part is technique.

Abandon the critics

Starting a blog or writing process can be a little nerve wracking. We are each our own worst critic. Then, there are the external critics that comment on our posts… the ones that are not selling performance enhancing drugs…Hey, but guess what? You can approve and disapprove your comments. There is a delete button on your comments. If you don’t like them, delete. Just don’t stop what you set out to do! Don’t hide under the table! Carry on writing…

Your unique voice

The only way that your blog post can differ from a million other posts on the web on the same topic is if you find your own inner voice where you are not afraid to express your opinion. People will connect with you on a personal level and might even feel like they know you because they read your posts.

But wait! We are not ready to hit the publish button yet! We are writing in order for people to read our stuff. In order for them to find it easy to follow, we need to take care of some technical housekeeping first….

 

Planning Content – reader’s journey

  • Who are your audience?
  • What do they want to know?
  • What options do they have?
  • How can they evaluate their options?
  • Recommend a solution.

This may be called the reader’s journey.

 

Who are your audience?

This is a topic that many bloggers skip and can be critical to your writing style. We don’t talk to grandma in the same way that we talk to our colleagues. In the same way that we differentiate in our daily conversation, it is important to apply the same strategy in our blog. It is important to be very specific in defining your audience persona in order to reach the right people.

What do they want to know?

 Understand the Problem and Gather Information

Think about something significant that you want to purchase. Like a bike. How do you go about that? First you do some research on bikes to check what’s on the market. Then you decide what features you want for your bike. Then you look at prices and try to match the features with the budget that you have. Read up about the quality of the product that you are interested in. Learn how to judge if it is good for you. Finally you make a choice and buy the bike.

When you structure your content, think about your audience’s journey so that they can easily follow the information that you are sharing with them. Where is your audience in this journey?

Write down some headlines, sub headings and topics that you want to address in order to provide a logical solution to your audience. If you are offering a product, attempt to explain what your approach is and how it is beneficial.

 

Keep to a structure in your writing

Write a captivating introduction.

You have only a few seconds to grab the reader’s attention. You can tell a joke, be empathetic or surprise them with an interesting fact of statistic.

You then explain how the post will address the problem and inform the reader. Give your audience a reason to stop scrolling and read on.

Write engaging headlines

Most people skim an article before they read it. Many people only ever read headlines, lists and look at images. They never read the text of a post.

Use a tool like aminstitute to check the emotional appeal of your headline.

CoSchedule also has a tool to optimize headlines:

Use document formatting to break up the content.

Headings, subheadings (h2, h3 tags), lists, images/personal photos, bold, italicize, short paragraphs, and other formatting can help with the overall reading experience.

 

Conclusion/Question

End with key take aways or some kind of summary.

Some people skip to the end and read that first.

 

CTA – Call to Action

What do you want your audience to do after they have read your post? Like? Share on Social Media? Comment?

Remember to ask them to do that. You are more likely to get a response.

 

Add Categories and Tags

Remember that if you publish a post without a category, it will show up as uncategorized.

I think of categories like chapters in a book, and tags may be compared to the index at the back of the book. If someone was searching your website, how would they search for your post? Help them out!

Read over your post again.

Publish!

via GIPHY

 

Review Comments

If you are posting on your website, remember to review and approve the comments that you like, and delete the unsuitable comments. Remember to close the comments on the site after a specific amount of time.

Whether you are posting on your personal blog/website or social media, please remember to respond when people post. If it is on Facebook, respond or “like” comments. On your blog, thank people for responding. It will encourage them to interact with you in the future.

 

Additional Content Types

Blogging is not the only way to connect with your audience. There may be additional techniques that work for as well or better for you, such as:

  • How to/ Tutorials
  • Interviews
  • Vlogs – video blog
  • Research
  • Product reviews
  • Opinion pieces
  • Comparisons
  • Stories
  • Webinars or Podcasts

 

Common Best Practices

 

# Be Helpful First

If you motivate and educate the reader, they will want to connect and come back for more.

# Be Authentic

Write to a specific audience in your own voice.

# Create Easily Consumed Content

People are busy. If you can make it easier to understand with a video, diagram or audio file you will make it easier for them to follow you.

Don’t write a blog post with thousands of words because it will rank better if you can write the same thing in a hundred words. People will respect you for your brevity and clarity.

# Make Your Post Easy to Consume

Use Document Structure and formatting. Add images, diagrams, videos and other forms of media to keep it interesting and simple.

 

Wrap Up

The purpose of this post was to offer you tips on how to start writing your blog posts, some strategies that will help you shorten the blogging process and reach a wider audience.  Strategy is key to differentiating yourself from a brain-dump writer.

 

What techniques do you use that are effective?

 

 

Enable and Disable Comments in WordPress

Enable and Disable Comments in WordPress

One of the topics that have come up for me frequently in the past few days has been the spam on comments in WordPress. People sometimes try to use other people’s blogs to create back links to their sites that are not related. There are ways around this like using a plugin such as Disqus and making people register to comment.

spammy comments

Sometimes we simply don’t have time to deal with the comments and sift through the genuine comments as opposed to the spam or we want to have some comments.

There are 4 options:

  1. Disable all comments on your WordPress site
  2. Automatically close comments after a certain number of days
  3. Disable comments on a page by page or post by post basis.
  4. Bulk Edit from the List of Pages or Posts

1. Disable All Comments on New Pages or Posts

 

Disable comments in WordPress

  • Log into the WordPress Dashboard
  • Under Settings, select Discussion
  • Uncheck “Allow People to post comments on new articles” in the Default Settings section
  • Save Changes

Disable Comments on New Posts

 

 

2. Automatically close comments after a certain number of days

 

 Close Comments After 10 Days

  • Log into the WordPress Dashboard
  • Under Settings, select Discussion
  • Check “Allow People to post comments on new articles”
  • Under “Other comment settings”, Check “Automatically close comments on articles older than”
  • Enter the number of days
  • Save Changes at the bottom of the screen

3.  Disable comments on a page by page or post by post basis.

There are 2 options:

A. Within the Page or Post

  • Navigate to the Page or Post where you want to disable the comments.
  • At the top right hand corner click on the “Screen Options” drop down button.

Screen Options in WordPress

  • Check the Discussion box

 

  • Scroll down underneath the text section of the page
  • Uncheck “Allow comments”

  • On the right hand sidebar of the page, remember to Update.

B. From the Page or Post List:

 

Disable Comments from list

 

  • From the WordPress Dashboard, navigate to the list of Pages or Posts.
  • Hover over the name of the page or post that you want to edit.
  • A menu will appear underneath. Choose Quick Edit.
  • Uncheck “Allow Comments”.
  • Update.

4. Bulk Edit from the List of Pages or Posts

From the WordPress Dashboard, Select Pages / All Pages

Check the Pages or Posts that you want to Edit.

At the top of the list change the drop down menu from Bulk Actions to Edit

Bulk Edit

  • Click “Apply”

Do Not Allow Comments

  • You can change several settings here. Change the comments to “Do not allow”.
  • Update

 

Choosing a WordPress Theme

Choosing a WordPress Theme

What is a WordPress Theme?

“A WordPress Theme is a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog. These files are called template files. A Theme modifies the way the site is displayed, without modifying the underlying software.
A WordPress theme provides all of the front end styling of your WordPress site.”

The WordPress Codex

I like to think of it as the skin and makeup of a site.

Most WordPress themes provide:

  • the design or style of your site
  • font styling options
  • colors
  • widget locations such as sidebar and footer
  • page design layouts (sometimes referred to as templates)
  • blog posts and blog archives styles
  • additional features

What is the best way to choose a theme?

Ask experienced people.

I asked some of the staff from Automattic and their unofficial answer was

“Look for well-established and supported themes that are well known in the industry such as Genesis, Beaver Builder, Avada, Astra. Don’t go to the theme vendors.” ?

I looked on their website that lists many options.

The list of options is so vast that it is difficult to know what to choose.

Do’s

– Make a list of Essential features or functions that you need.

Theme features

This may include columns, layouts, sidebars, footers, and navigation bars.

– Consider purchasing a Premium Theme

There are many free themes available for people that are on a budget. Automattic (the makers of WordPress) offer several options. If you pay for the theme, then you can get support from the developers and there is more of a chance of it being properly updated. In some cases the developer will abandon the theme completely. Sometimes free themes contain malicious code when downloaded outside of the WordPress repository.

If I consider purchasing a premium theme vs hiring someone to build something for me, the cost is minuscule. Great Value!

Theme Frameworks

Some themes like Genesis provide a very basic layout and in order to gain the effect that you want, you will need to purchase an additional Child Theme also known as a framework ( for example Genesis by Studiopress).

– Avoid Bloated Themes

A theme that is cluttered with features that you don’t use will slow down your website.

– Pick a Responsive Theme

In search engine optimization (SEO) we build for mobile first since many people will never view your site on a desktop. As we know, Google rolled out a mobile-first update that prioritizes sites that are mobile friendly. Check that your theme looks good on mobile devices. Google even offers a free mobile-friendly testing tool to check whether the theme  is mobile-friendly.

– Pick a Theme with Clear Legible Fonts

Some themes come with very small light fonts. Is that something that you can change or will people have to squint to read your site?

– Easy Customization

Is the theme user friendly? The customization options vary from theme to theme and by changing a few features, you should be able to create diverse layouts without any knowledge of coding.

– Pick a Theme that loads quickly

Website speed today is one of the most significant factors affecting conversion rate. Most people abandon a site that takes more than a few seconds to load.

Here’s what I look for:

  1. How long has the company/developer that built the theme been established?
  2. Does the theme have reviews? How many reviews?
  3. How many people have installed the theme?
  4. What does it look like on mobile?
  5. Does it work on all browsers?
  6. View the support forum. Are there responses for the tickets/questions?
  7. Do a preview of the theme if it is available. If not try to figure out which websites are using it.(The support forum might help.)
    • Check if the theme has a preloader – that is something in lieu of the hour glass that you  see on the screen while the rest of the page’s content is still loading. If the theme has one, the site will be slow.
    • Do a speed test on the theme demo and if possible on websites that use it. If the Home page is extremely long, it may not be the best page to pick.
    • If you have a copy of the theme, you can download a plugin that will help you test it – called Theme Check
  8. If you need the theme for a specific purpose like a realtor site, either pick a theme that specifically targets your needs or a basic theme that can be adapted to many purposes. (I like Beaver Builder and Divi.) If you have a multipurpose theme also known as a bloated theme, it will take time to load all the elements available on your website that are not being used. For example, if you are not doing ecommerce, do not load Woocommerce.

Translation & Multilingual Ready

NOTE! The basic WordPress installation is free of charge and comes in multiple languages. You can select the language you want to use for your installation.

All the WordPress default themes include all the languages and are free. These themes are Twentyseventeen, Twentysixteen, etc.

If you need a theme in a language that is not English, look for the language that you need. If you need a language that is read and written from right to left look for RTL in the theme documentation. Make sure that you look at an example of a site with the theme in an RTL language. You can check 

 .mo files for translation: That means the theme is translated and you have control over the terminology used – you can change it.

WPML: That means that you can do the translation.

Some themes don’t have the language in the description, however when you check the support forum, you may find that someone has used it successfully.

Page Builders

A page builder is a plugin or a built in feature of a theme that enables you to quickly and easily set up the page elements or modules without knowing how to code.

Except for Beaver Builder, most page builders leave short codes in the front end of your website if you delete the page builder plugin. There are ways to strip the short codes, and it may be easier to rebuild the pages from scratch depending on the size of the website.

If you own the license to the page builder, you can use the same page builder for multiple themes.

Some themes from companies like Theme Forest come with a group license for their page builder. Everything seems great until the page builder runs an update that is not rolled out by the makers of the theme. I had a site that I could not update for a month because of that. The option is to purchase the page builder plugin separately and install it yourself. It is helpful to budget for that option before you begin and not overly expensive.

Conclusion: Use a page builder!

Theme Customization

The theme should have user friendly customization features, particularly with regards to colors, fonts and page layouts.

Sometimes we are looking for customization that is not included, such as emphasizing the Donate navigation tab on a non-profit site.

If the level of customization needed is more than CSS markup, it is necessary to install a Child Theme.

We never make changes to the core WordPress or Theme files on a site. If it is necessary to change PHP coding language for example, we would only do that with a child theme. The reason is because if the files are updated, all the changes will be lost. The child theme is only ever updated by you or your WordPress developer.

Themes that include frameworks cannot support child themes since the framework is the child theme. An option is to not install a framework or use a plugin that will support the changes needed.

I hope this article helped you select the perfect theme for your WordPress site. If you liked this article, then please subscribe.

 


Jennifer Moore – The Sage Assistant

Jennifer Moore – The Sage Assistant

Jennifer Moore offers professional Virtual Assisting Services both remotely and on site in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. As a creative person, Jennifer can easily handle assignments such as:

  • Writing,
  • Editing,
  • Writing and posting blog entries,
  • Web copy,
  • Web data entry,
  • Business profiles,
  • Short form articles,
  • Copy editing,
  • Proof reading,
  • Ecommerce support,
  • Line editing, and
  • Traditional administrative tasks.

The aim is to free up her client’s time for more important tasks. She is always willing to expand her skill set and take on new challenges.
(more…)

Lisa Shaughnessy – inkerB Consulting LLC

Lisa Shaughnessy – inkerB Consulting LLC

Lisa Shaughnessy’s passion is helping small businesses streamline their business processes. InkerB offers consulting services to help small businesses:

  • Create and organize their processes,
  • To easily delegate tasks,
  • Open room for more clients, and
  • Prevent costly mistakes.

(more…)

The Value of Animation

The Value of Animation

Do you use visuals on your social media? What about video or animation?

The gif pronounced jif, is a short loop of images. It has been around for some time and only gained traction recently with other forms of visual animation such as slide shows. The user may be scanning hundreds of items of content in her feed and a moving image or video is more likely to attract her attention.

What are the best tools to create visuals and how can we find existing gifs?

Here is a great resource from Social Examiner   that explains what resources are available and the optimal  gif frequency in our Social media posts.

 

 

 

 

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