Do You Know How to Please Your Web Junkies?

Every individual blogger competes with millions and millions of other bloggers for attention, or at least one other blogger in their niche. What are YOU doing to make sure your blog followers come back? Do you know how to please them so that you don’t lose them?

Shared web browsing experience hits Second Life

More and more Internet users need more and more great content to feel satisfied. (Photo credit: John Swords)

Let’s face it. We’re a junkie society. I am not talking about the extreme kind that needs medical attention; we like a lot of things so much, we seem to be dependent on them—be it junk food, sports, porn or Twitter.

It’s natural to seek out pleasurable experiences. The more we get of something, the more it makes us “feel good”, the more we want it. I believe that only blogs that can satisfy their junkies can prosper in the long run.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of online porn industry. So much has been written and said in the past few years about porn (web) addicts. What the best, most popular porn sites offer is a seemingly endless variety and quantity of “relevant” content. Their customers keep coming back for more stimuli and each time they expect to find something new and more stimulating than the last time. The most successful porn sites are the ones with a massive amount of content.

Whether this goes to the extreme, i.e. an addiction that needs to be addressed, is another story. I’m not a psychologist. However, porn or not, we, especially in the Western societies, are all presented by an increasing variety and availability of pleasurable options. And we tend to be drawn to those that can satisfy us “all night long”.

Blogs are not exempt. Think of your niche junkies; he/she is someone who spends a lot of their time on the Internet seeking and consuming information and knowledge. They prefer websites that offer a seemingly endless variety and quantity of regularly updated relevant content.

So, how can you please your blog followers and not lose them forever?

  • You have to provide a consistent stream of content if you want to build a following for your blog. That means regular posts of consistent quality.
  • Update your blog as regularly (and necessary) as possible.
  • Your landing page should give an impression that your blog has an endless amount of relevant and great content.
  • Don’t attempt to satisfy ALL. Niche is good; it doesn’t mean you exclude people, it rather means that you help the right people to find your blog.
  • Link like crazy. People love links. Link to your other content on the blog, link to other blogs you admire.

How do you please your most loyal and “pleasure”-seeking readers? Please do share.

Audience Building: The Right Way to Ask for Favors Online

When you ask for favors, what kind of message do you send? While you may up your numbers, do you also ruin your brand? To help answer these questions, let’s take a look at the best ways to ask for favors on social media.

ASK INDIRECTLY

Perhaps the most powerful way to ask for new followers or new shares is not to ask at all—at least not directly. Instead of shouting, “Hey, follow me,” focus on finding ways to be worthy of following. People like to engage with publishers who produce high-quality content, so by holding yourself to high standards, you indirectly build your audience. Here are some tips:

Offer Something of Value: If you want users to follow you, give them reasons to do so. Ask yourself what’s in it for them. If you don’t have a clear answer, you aren’t making the most of your social presence. A popular lifestyle brand may offer peeks at behind-the-scenes happenings, the way Anthropologie often does. A mega grocery store can post tested recipes, the way Whole Foods does on its website. Look at who you are and what your selling point is for clients, and find a way to translate that into online content. Other ideas include coupons, promotions, interviews, photography, and surveys/research.

Don’t Settle: Anybody can post online. That means the Internet is filled with amateur content. It also means it’s easy to settle for ho-hum updates and photographs in a misguided effort to post often. Don’t make this mistake! With so much subpar content on the Web, rising above the average and standing out are more important than ever. Find ways to raise the bar for content in your industry, and deliver superior content over and over again—like Sprouted Kitchen does among food blogs, Zemanta does among content marketing blogs, The Wall Street Journal does among business newspapers, and so on.

Be Consistent: On social media, consistency builds trust. So rather than changing your voice and offerings on a regular basis, determine a solid sense of your brand and stick with it.

GIVE BEFORE YOU GET

The last thing you want to do on social media is establish yourself as an ingrate. If all you do is “ask, ask, ask,” you communicate you’re all about “me, me, me.” This turns followers off and makes them less likely to help you. Instead, give before you ask—be the brand with killer customer service that goes above and beyond. Reward existing followers by being polite, thanking them for shares, etc.

When individuals identify you as a brand that’s generous, they’re much more likely to hear what you have to say. Make it your mission to give to your followers more than you take—and get ready to see your brand expand.

ASK POLITELY AND WITHOUT PRESSURE

Some brands and bloggers may be self-promotional and pushy online, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Sure, you can post links and share news on social networks, but do so politely—and this applies to getting followers as much as it applies to keeping them. Instead of blasting your newsletter subscribers with an advertisement to “Follow Us on Instagram!” try posting something like, “We’re thrilled to be posting on Instagram now! If you’re on the network, we’d love to connect! Follow us [@instagramname]!” Likewise, when people ask you questions on social networks, respond to them. When people promote your brand, thank them. Manners matter.

THINK ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE

If you ask everybody for favors the same way, you’re doing it wrong. Every person is different, so your requests should be, too. When you want to ask a favor, first consider the person you’re addressing. Think about interests, desires, motivators, etc. Use that knowledge to craft your request to the individual. The way you approach a fellow business blogger is likely different from the way you approach your broad blog readership. Take the time to think about your audience and craft your request accordingly.

Penguin 2.0: What it Means for Publishers

Chris Hooley drinkbaiting Matt Cutts

Chris Hooley drinkbaiting Matt Cutts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The new set of updates is aptly named Penguin 2.0 – meaning that it continues to improve on the work that the original Penguin algorithm update had started. Google has always maintained that it wants to improve the overall quality of content on the Internet and that it wants to provide people with the best and most relevant search results.

Penguin 2.0 was developed and released to help Google slowly clean up online content. This algorithm update, as the name suggests, is the next version of the Penguin algorithm update and it is better than the original Penguin update at detecting suspicious link building activities. With this update, Google is hoping to improve the ranking of original, well-written and interesting content and weeding out the websites using bad link building techniques to improve rankings.

Purpose of Penguin 2.0

Online content creators, publishers and web masters often include links in content that are not spammy but are completely irrelevant to the topic and the content. This is done to gather as many inbound links as possible but the links make no sense in the content. Google wants to put an end to this link building technique. According to Matt Cutts, bloggers and online writers should follow the example of researchers and academic papers. A link in online content should be like a citation in academic papers – completely relevant and useful to the content. Basically a publisher should link to other articles only if they have actually used those articles as sources or inspiration.

Publishers cannot simply link to other blog posts to get some traction for old content. The links need to be completely relevant to the content of the blog post if a publisher wishes to remain unharmed from Penguin 2.0. This latest algorithm update was released a month ago and quite a few websites have been hit hard because of it.

Publishers beware!

The Penguin 2.0 update is specifically targeted towards guest-blogging. Many businesses and bloggers use guest-blogging as a means to get more inbound links to their websites. Most often, the guest posts are riddled with links to the author’s website and product pages that are not relevant to the content of the guest post at all. As a publisher, stop linking to your site and other articles from your content. Don’t guest blog just for the sake of building links. Instead, use guest blogging to build your reputation.

Moreover, when you are posting on your blog, do not link to archived posts just to drive traffic to old content. Instead, link to sources that have actually helped you write your blog post. Make sure you link to quality web pages and refrain from linking to one web page several times. It actually helps if you link to many authority sources of information. Most importantly, this update goes to show that you do not have to link to other web pages when you publish content. So if you have written an original and interesting blog post without referring to or lifting material from other websites, then don’t put any links in the post at all. Google wants quality content – not a bunch of links!

Keep AuthorRank in mind

Matt Cutts has also said that Google will be focusing more on AuthorRank with this new algorithm update. This means that Google is on the lookout for authors or sources of information that regularly publish excellent content and content from these authors or sources will automatically rank higher. The history of content from an author is crucial. Make sure your blog has only high-quality and relevant posts. Remove the ones you think are too spammy or poorly written.

Make it a point to publish good quality content from now on that people will love to share. You do not have to worry about publishing content in the same place. Google will find your high-quality content irrespective of where it has been published as long as you have published it under the same author name.

Improve infographics

Infographics are all the rage nowadays as they are interesting, visually appealing and informative. However, many websites are misusing infographics and publishing poor-quality ones just to get more shares and engagement. Penguin 2.0 is the first algorithm update that is also targeted at finding and penalizing poor-quality infographics. Such infographics have no relation whatsoever with the content of the website or have been copied from other blogs and websites. Either create your own high-quality infographics or use only ones that are relevant to your content.

Most importantly, as a publisher your focus should be on creating content that is extremely share-worthy instead of on link building. Use social media channels to promote your blog posts but refrain from suspicious link building activities.

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Distribution Strategy: Deliver Your Story in an Unexpected Way

During my last years in primary school, I went through a crazy phase when every day after school I ran home as fast as I could to catch a new episode of the 1980s Knight Rider on the Hungarian public TV station. I am not a Hungarian and I don’t speak Hungarian; nonetheless I was entertained.

I played with words I thought I heard. I liked to stand in front of TV, bring my arm closer to my mouth, as if I had had a watch on my wrist that could call my little car friend Kitt. So I kept acting like the main character of the show Michael, played by David Hasselhoff, and repeat, “Kitt gyere ide.”

What about today? Is there a story that engages you as much as I was engaged with TV friends Michael and Kitt, his high-performance sports car fitted with artificial intelligence?

Once upon a time, stories were delivered in a very simple manner: one form, one medium. TV shows were broadcast on TV.

Today, more and more TV content is being delivered through other channels like the Internet, on public spaces in order to reach broader audience and engage them in different ways. Content is also delivered on earned media, such as YouTube, Vimeo, integrated in Facebook communication or on their own web platform or it offers a cross-media consumption from online to public space and vice versa.

The basic guideline to consider while designing distribution strategies is to answer the following question:

 How will we shift the users’ habits?

By shifting the users’ habits, we take them somewhere else, to an unexpected territory; this is how we hook them.

Let me give you an example of what I have in mind.

Let’s imagine we are working on a strategy how to distribute a music documentary.

Our first concern should be how we will create awareness of the project. How will we spread the news about the documentary?

The second concern would be how we will distribute the film. Once they were distributed at film festivals, maybe on TV, if they were highly successful. And that was all.

Today, however, we can shift viewing habits. Since our case is a music documentary, the best way to reach the target audience would be to deliver it at music festivals. Sound and silence can be our main strategic guides. We have to be aware that we are getting into a crowded and noisy space; if we can overcome this challenge, we can gain visibility.

A great idea would be to project the film on a big wall, but that it’s so quiet that a viewer has to get closer. With a little help from technology, a user will get a podcast on their mobile phone and the documentary will get its sound back. When the user leaves the space, he/she can still stay connected to the film by listening to the podcast wherever he/she is.

In the end, let me stress you should always first define the target markets.

What are the markets you wish to act in?

You can never ever say, “We’ll go global.” Who is global? What is global? I strongly believe that the biggest nonsense of our time is to think globally, you should rather consider local markets by conducting a thorough market and consumer research.

Let’s get back to our music documentary. Imagine the documentary includes the musicians from 7 different countries who interpret lyrics of a well-known poet. The primary focus of delivery must be at the festivals of the musicians’ home countries. They are already known there, and have built a group of fans.

They say content is king; I say that without appropriate media integration your king is an emperor with no clothes.

You, a publisher, should think of gaining additional visibility by delivering your content in unexpected ways. Maybe you could make a deal with a local magazine or newspaper to get your posts published weekly in their medium. Just an idea. The goal is to hook (new) readers/users in the most unxpected environment.

A New Doctrine in Business: Storytelling

Stories are our destiny.

They express us.

They connect us.

They sustain us.

They engage us.

They reach into the depths of our souls and link us to other people in a unique and unparalleled way.

Stories are communal.

Today, our stories can reach the farthest corners of the world because of technology. The relationship between storytelling and technology has made every single one of us publishers. Our potential reach is global and instantaneous.

As the landscape of what is possible is morphing incessantly, the new reality of the individual as a storyteller and self-publisher with global reach is utterly transformational.

Leveraging the unparalleled, far-reaching power of storytelling is now the new doctrine in business.

It’s not an approach for anyone less than tenacious because it requires grit, determination, courage and perseverance to craft stories, tell stories, write stories and share stories.

Business bloggers, authors and storytellers live this tenacity day-in and day-out. David Meerman Scott recognizes that “all marketers should be publishers.” It is important to know then, does business storytelling work?

Psychologists have studied how stories work within the human psyche. According to Jonathan Gottschall, studies by Melanie Green and Tim Brock reveal that stories work in an unseen way to transform the way we absorb and process information. When reading dry, factual presentations, we as readers are on high alert for errors. We simply do not trust a text filled with facts, figures and bullet points; as we read, we are looking for the error, formulating our argument against the evidence as we are reading.

It is ironic that in the decade where we have access to more data than is humanly comprehensible, the vehicle that garners the most trust, confidence and belief is not a data point, but a story.

On the other hand, stories are almost ironclad insurance that readers will not notice, expect or even care about inaccuracies. The emotional draw of a story seems to render us as readers into a state of helpless apathy regarding the accuracy of the story. This is how stories slink into our psyches and move us, inspire us, engage us and change us.

Further, choosing a “channel” for business storytelling does not change the impact of a story on the reader. Blogging, eBooks, print media, videos, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, podcasts are all storytelling mediums.

Although the Internet has created an explosion of storytelling and content-sharing channels (social media alone makes us all self-publishers), the first priority is not about the channel, it’s about the story. Channels enable, amplify, magnify; they are important, but not most important. Stories connect; transform; engage; they are most important…

Perhaps it is the complexity and cacophony of our world today that contributes to the story’s triumph over the fact-filled presentation. The art of simplifying, using pictures, engaging our emotions, can transport us from the daily grind into a non-defensive, receptive state of mind. We readily embrace that transport.

We are all publishers and we are all storytellers. Business storytelling is a powerful enabler to cut through the clutter and engage your audience. Try it and see. A story can change business results because it is — and always has been — the story that connects, inspires and transforms humankind.

New York Stock Exchange Launched a “News Site”, So Should You

Recently, the news broke that New York Exchange Office joined the content marketing push. NYSE has launched a standalone web site The Big Stage. According to Marisa Ricciardi, CMO of the exchange, this is their “first entree into brand journalism.”

“It helps us engage in conversations with our audience and not just market to them. I think marketing is best served when it doesn’t feel like marketing.” Marisa Ricciardi

The NYSE is not the first one to think of themselves as a new publisher. Even if they’re careful in claiming they don’t want to replace the “real” newsrooms, that’s's exactly how they should think and act – tell brand stories as classic news media would or actually do. Check out also Coca Cola‘s site Coca-Cola Journey.

“We are a junkie society. Hence, we prefer websites that offer a seemingly endless variety and quantity of regularly updated relevant content,” I argued half a year ago. I also asked you to think why you regularly check news sites, such as TechCrunch, The New York Times, The Guardian online, Huffington Post and many more. Some of them even started as a blog and developed into something more, they’ve become publishers.

I find this (new) development exciting. Yes, I was a journalist first, maybe that’s why I love all this. Nonetheless, I think this is also a smart move by brands; why should you continue paying someone else to publish your content, to get your message/story to a not-really-well-defined group of people? Especially today, when you can do it yourself and have a much better insight into who and how they consume your content and what actions they take afterwards.

I think the easiest way (though not complete) to understand content marketing is to think of a news site or media house you know and follow. That’s what you should do too.

And this is what great corporate blogs/websites actually do:

I’m really excited. We’re getting more and more media as companies and individuals have to put a lot of effort in publishing relevant, original and high quality content (if they want to achieve their sales/marketing goals) to be noticed and get their content shared.

So, who is your editor? What is your news site? What stories can you share and make them shared round the Web? What are you waiting for?

7 Essential Tools for Publishers

1. Start with your Platform

To build a successful blog you need to start off with a good foundation. WordPress is one of the best blogging platforms that is available and is a great base to start with.

At this stage you need to have your blog supported on mobile devices. You can either have a responsive theme or a mobile version of your website.

A responsive theme means that your website will automatically adjust in size to suit the dimensions of the device. It is the same website with some changes for a mobile device and it’s the same content.

A mobile website is a new site that is developed specifically for a mobile site. It may be a lot simpler to navigate and may or may not have less content. A great plugin to use that will automatically create your mobile site is  wptouch.

2. Keep an Editorial Calendar

Editorial calendar software provides a place to plan out and schedule your content and flesh out your ideas. By using this type of software you can become more consistent with your blogging and also it generally leads to a better variety of content.

Betaout is software for an editorial calendar and it’s free for up to 3 users.

It has functionality which is suited to a large organization but it can also be used as an individual or small team.

 

Betaout allows to you plan out and schedule your content and even write the content and automatically publish it to WordPress. I have not used the auto publish to wordpress feature as I prefer to write directly in WordPress, but the other features available within the platform are very useful.

There is a lot of very useful functionality including a workflow to manage the content going from writer to editor and back again and also detailed analytics.

3. Optimize Your Content

Google is still a very important part to driving traffic to your website. When we talk about optimizing your content for Google we are only talking about helping Google find your content. It’s not about tricking Google, it’s just helping.

If you use WordPress one of the best plugins to use is WordPress SEO. It provides you with all the essentials for optimizing a post. It even gives you a checklist of items you need to complete to optimize the post correctly before you post.

 

 4. Attract the attention of your website visitors

Your content attracts people to your website but when they are there you may want to attract their attention to get them to subscribe to an e-mail list or view details of a product or service you have for sale.

Lead-Converter is a tool which helps attract this attention. There are a variety of ways of attracting attention using this tool:

  • Popup that appears after a certain interval on a specified page or set of pages
  • Banner image that appears across the top of the screen
  • Question box that appears in the bottom right hand corner of the screen
  • Survey with questions
  • Embedded newsletter subscription box

5.  Review Your Competitors Content

It is very useful to step back and take a look at the content your competitors produce to see how it is performing.

Social Crawlytics does an analysis of your competitors content and displays overall results. It will show you where your competitors content is shared and how often it is shared. You’ll see which social media platform the posts are shared to and which content is performing the best.

 

By doing this analysis you’ll get ideas regarding content that you could produce and content that maybe you shouldn’t produce.

You’ll also see what social media platforms work for your competitors.

6.  Read and Share Content

To be a successful publisher you need to build relationships with influencers relevant to your industry. One way of doing this is reading, sharing and interacting with their content.

Feedly is an application which allows you to read content from a variety of blogs in one location.  You can view the content on a desktop or a mobile device. It also has great sharing options including integration with BufferApp which is a great tool for content sharing.

7.  Analyze your results

Google Analytics is completely free and extremely useful. It allows you to track what traffic you get, where it comes from and what it does.

One area of Google Analytics that is really important is Goals. Through goals you can measure activity related to action. So, for example, you can analyze social media traffic and see what platform traffic comes from and what conversion you get from that traffic.

To sum up…

Without a clear strategy the tools above will not help, but if you have a clear direction for your content the tools can make all the difference.

Content Marketing Is a Team Sport

A serious content marketing effort takes a lot of … well, effort. You are not going to build a large, engaged audience without bring a lot of expertise and personality to the table. You need both. Eric Enge

Brainstorming, searching for new content ideas, thinking about how to do it, making plans, filling up the editorial calendar, not forgetting about the distribution of your content, communicating with your readers… Yes, you can try and do it all by yourself. Heck, you can do it…for awhile, until you get exhausted, until you feel you’re running out of ideas, that your creativity suffers. Especially, if you’re a perfectionist and someone who likes to please others.

Yes, you know that I am describing myself, as I usually do in my posts. But talking to many of you, I know I am not just writing about myself. Many of you are in this position I used to be. You’re either a self proprietor/self-publisher or someone in the company who’s been asked to do this job. And they don’t want to be bothered or you just want to prove yourself by doing it alone.

Well, some of us also like to do things alone until we can’t no more. And then it can be too late.

Let me give you an example. When I was working on my dissertation proposal, I was doing it and doing it and doing it, without consulting my mentor. I thought I could approach her only when I had something substantial, something really awesome to show her. Months passed by, my colleagues were discussing their ideas with their mentors and improving as a result, while I was more or less stuck and was still thinking I could approach my mentor without shame only when I get a big, perfect idea/proposal.

Well, you can imagine the ending.

No matter what they tell you, publishing/content marketing is a team sport. Get over yourself and just talk to everyone involved in the company. If you’re a sole proprietor or an individual blogger/publisher, you have friends, readers you can talk to. Yes, this is a reminder to myself too. You know, nobody’s perfect. Moreover, nobody’s an expert in everything (though some may think they are).

Here are 3 easy ways how you can improve your publishing/content marketing efforts by including more people in the process.

1. Ask for feedback

When you have an idea or write/tape new content, ask somebody in the company for feedback. My experience is that others always help me improve my blog posts. Many times I am not sure, but when I ask someone who I trust and respect (it can be a friend, someone in the company you’re working at/for, a colleague from far far away), they always give me additional ideas how to make a post better. The same applies for strategies, plans…

You and I should do this regularly. I promise I will and you should too!

2. Collect questions

Marcus Sheridan thought me the most important rule in content marketing/publishing: “If they ask, you answer.” Hence, I asked a client to make their employees write down any questions they get when dealing with their clients. Marcus is right, it’s amazing how many content ideas you can get this way. There’s no such thing as a stupid question. Believe me, your buyers have many questions.

So why don’t you make your job easier by simply collecting questions and answering them in a form of valuable/relevant content?

3. Talk to the team – regularly

It’s not a secret, I am an introvert. Talking to people I don’t know well is exhausting. Even worse, I am afraid of appearing stupid and worthless in the eyes of people I admire and respect. So it’s much easier for me to hide in my office and try to do the best job I can; I may be fortunate that I’m doing just fine. But it is tiresome and way too stressful.

But talking to friends or coleagues at work (clients) makes everything much easier and better. And it’s worthwhile. So, you and I should just get over ourselves and get out there and communicate. The more you talk to others, the more ideas you’ll get for your future content.

It’s that simple, right?

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Back to Basics: How to Spread Your Content Wider

That’s 90% of the job done, but it’s the final 10% that will make the difference between your blog getting found and shared on the web, and languishing unloved on your site.

In the bad old days optimizing your content meant stuffing your blog post with keywords. Thankfully it’s creating genuinely helpful content that is rewarded by Google now, so write with a real reader in mind and you won’t go far wrong. Give your content a headline that will grab the attention of your audience, don’t obsess about using only keywords to make it visible to search engines. But do your basic housekeeping behind the scenes, and make sure your metadata is clear and focused on the terms your reader will be using.

The way you promote your valuable content at your outposts (social media, networks, forums) makes a difference to how well it is received, and how willing other people are to share it.  If you want search engines to find your content, this is as important a job as creating valuable stuff in the first place.

How often should you promote new content? How much is too much? There are no hard and fast rules here. Chris Brogan at Human Business Works reckons on 4 times a day for new posts across social media – that’s once every six hours across time zones. That feels about right to us.  Don’t just post and run, make sure you can be around to respond to people who RT you, and to anyone who asks a question. Use your valuable content to engage at your outposts, and you’ll build trust and really start to reap the rewards of valuable content creation.

And where should you share your content? Wherever your people are is where you need to be. For us at Valuable Content the basic outpost mix is Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Google+ with a sprinkling of Pinterest.

  1. Twitter, because that’s where we have most followers.
  2. Facebook because that’s where our closest followers engage with us.
  3. Linkedin because we know potential clients check us out there.
  4.  And Google+ for its search engine power.

Maybe you don’t need all four, (or maybe your community hangs out in different places) but wherever you share, don’t neglect Google+ – it’s got the search engine oomph your content really wants!

Something that’s made a difference to us at Valuable Content is our email alert sign up for new content. We added this recently, for people who wanted to be told when we were posting something new. It means we know our closest community is staying up to date with the new content we’re creating, and it means these important people can read new stuff in their own time. The people on this email alert list are our biggest sharers and commenters – just the kind of readers we really love – and we really recommend this as a way of optimizing your content.

So, to sum up. To make the most of your valuable content you need to the following.

  1. Write for real people, and label it properly behind the scenes.
  2. Promote it consistently in the right places.
  3. Engage while you’re promoting – remember ‘talk, don’t yell.’
  4. Don’t neglect email – send new content direct to your biggest fans, and use the channel to keep up the conversation.