Have you found gorgeous styled stock photography to use in your blog? Need some inspiration to create branded blogging pictures? You’re in luck! I’ve got an amazing Picmonkey tutorial that shows you how to edit free stock photography to fit your brand so you really stand out on social media. It even includes a free downloadable set of ULTRA beautiful, creative photography you can start using today. stock photo resources / stock photography ideas / feminine stock photosBy Aminta Demadura

Have you ever come across styled stock photos you absolutely love, and then wondered how you could make them fit with your brand?

I wondered the exact same thing.

And as it turns out, adding your own branding to modern stock photos is really easy!

Branding and customizing stock photos is a super important step in creating a unique business that your readers and customers absolutely love. This type of branding helps your followers relate to you, form a connection with you, and in the end, purchase from you.

So it’s important that your visuals represent who you are and what you do.

In this post, I’m going to show you how to create social media graphics that stand out above the rest using styled stock photos (and my favorite tips to customize them and make them your own).

Before we get started, let me show you the original styled stock photo we’ll be working with below:

super high resolution stock photos

If you’re curious, styled stock photos are created with entrepreneurs, bloggers, and business owners in mind. I like to think of them as “startup stock photos.” They’re incredibly handy when you’re starting out and don’t have the time, expertise, or space to take your own photos.

Styled stock photography makes use of props (office supplies, household items, plants, stationery, flowers, mugs, and so on), and can range from flat lays, to mock-ups, close-ups, and still lifes. And with the rise of free feminine styled stock photos, there are new sources popping up every day.

Let’s have some fun and see how you can make this image fit your brand.

1) Use Fun Filters to Brand Your Photos

My favorite free image editor is Picmonkey. If you’re a Canva fan, that’s fine too (I won’t hold it against you!), but I find Picmonkey to be more intuitive, easier to work with, and I love that it comes with SO MANY features.

In the images below, I added a simple filter to each of the photos. Specifically, the Yester-year filter and the HDR filter.

how to create social media graphics free

As you can see, a filter can really change the mood and vibe of a photo, which is perfect if you’re trying to add your own style to a stock photo. Picmonkey has many, many filter and effect options, so spend a little time going through them and find out what works best for your style and the photos you have to work with.

(If Photoshop is more your style, you’re gonna love this tutorial.)

2) Use Effects to Make a Photo Instantly Unique

Have you checked out Picmonkey’s effects yet? If not, you’re seriously missing out. Effects are the fastest way to make bold changes to a photo that really makes it your own. In this image, I used the sunglow effect to add a radiant center with a vintage tint to the original image.

startup stock photos

I love using these types of effects for social media, especially Instagram. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than finding a ton of other accounts using the same feminine stock photos as you in their feeds (hint: It’s not good for branding!)

And if you want to get really wild? Try layering two or three effects and see what you get. Many combinations look really cool together.

Effects are the fastest way to make bold changes to a photo and really make it your own.Click To Tweet

3) Gradient Overlays Are In

Here’s a fun one. If you want a super fast way to add your brand colors to an image in a unique way, try adding a gradient overlay, like this:

free open source stock photos

 

I always hear bloggers complain about how hard it is to find styled stock images that fit their brand colors. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be!

With a little creativity you can take almost any image you love and customize it to suit your brand style. Make the gradient as light or dark as you want to get the right look, and know that if using a lighter photo, it may work best if you’re not going for that Lisa Frank look.

4) Take Horizontal and Vertical Crops of the Image

Depending on how detailed the original image is, you can easily squeeze another 10-20 images from it by cropping it in different parts of the photo:

feminine stock photos

Vertical crops are great for Pinterest and square crops are best for Instagram. You can also take horizontal crops like the one shown above to use in your blog posts and tweets.

On top of that, you can also create header images for Facebook, Twitter, and your blog by taking super wide but short crops of your image. How cool is that?

And if you want even more options beyond just cropping, try flipping, rotating, or changing the angle of your cropped versions.

5) Create Pinterest Pins that Stand Out from the Crowd

If we’re being honest, we all know it takes some amazing looking pins to really “make it” on Pinterest. They need to be bold, beautiful, and easy to read. They need to entice people to click through to your blog.

This is where making some savvy edits to free styled stock images can really help you make attention-grabbing pins.

how to create a pin in Pinterest

In the pin above, you can see that I added a filter to the cropped image to make it a little more artistic. Then I added a transparent white box, my brand fonts, and my logo to complete the pin.

BAM. You’re done.

6) Make Inspirational Graphics to Connect With Your Audience

Inspiring your audience and encouraging them to return to your blog over and over is a big part of any blogger’s job. You need to motivate and inspire your readers to really form that connection, and inspirational graphics can be a great way to do just that.

Thankfully, making inspirational graphics is easy and quick.

In the photo below, I simply added a darkening filter to the vertically cropped image that I extracted from the original. Then, I added a large white script font over the top of the darker areas to create a unique and attractive, inspiring image.

how to use PicMonkey for free

If you aren’t already, I highly recommend you try out this tactic on Pinterest and Instagram. Both platforms are super visual and people loooove inspirational images on them. Give it a shot – I promise you’ll see a little boost in traffic and engagement.

7) Feed the ‘Gram with Some Branded Squares

Does the thought of having to come up with yet another amazing photo for Insta ever give you a little anxiety? Yeah, me too. It takes so many photos to really grow a large Instagram following, and most of us just don’t have the time to plan, shoot, and edit that many photos.

If that’s your predicament, this tip will help. I recommend taking a bunch of square crops from different parts of your original styled stock photo (step #4, above).

Then, make them even more unique by flipping or rotating them in new directions, and adding filters and effects to really amp up the style. There are seriously hundreds of different possibilities you could make here, so spend about 30 minutes tinkering in a free image editor. You’ll be creating your own Instagram styled stock photos in no time!

8) Create Promotional Graphics that Make People Click

Once you have a product for sale, you’ll need to start spreading the word. Promotional graphics (used sparingly) on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts will let your followers discover your new products and will help give you some social cred.

amateur stock photos

 

You can see from the image above that not only did I crop it, I also rotated it to a completely new angle. After that I added a pretty script font on top of an overlay to help promote the sale.

9) Make Twitter Images that Stop the Scroll

If you’ve been on Twitter more than once or twice, you know that tweets with pictures are waaay more noticeable than text-only tweets.

Standing out is an important part of gaining Twitter followers and encouraging your current followers to actually click through and read your blog posts. Images play a huge part in catching the eye and enticing the reader to click through. Not only that, but they also help to establish your brand and your professional image.

Lucky for us, making Twitter images is a cinch. I use Picmonkey’s Hub to save templates for each of my graphic types.

instagram styled stock photos

Once the template is there, all I have to do for each new image is go in and change the text and background image. Three minutes, tops.

Where Will You Go from Here?

Is your brain overflowing with ideas on how to doll up your own free styled stock photos? Once you’ve gone through the editing process a few times, you’ll quickly find that it’s really easy and makes a huge difference to the visual appeal of your business.

I highly recommend creating branded templates for Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter using an editor like Canva or Picmonkey. Templates will save you so much time, and they’ll also help keep your branding on track. Good luck!

Before you go…

Don’t forget to grab your free styled stock photos pack right here! This pack is perfect for blog posts, Pinterest pins, Instagram posts, tweet images, and more. And of course, you can customize the photos as much as you’d like using my digital photo editing tutorial above.

Click the image below for your free high-resolution stock photos download:

free high resolution stock photos download

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How to Write a Blog Post that SellsDo you want more customers?

Want to know how to format your blog posts for more subscribers and sales?

Blogging is a powerful way to build your business when you have a strategy in place that goes beyond putting words on a page and getting people to read them.

Today, I’m sharing how to excel at blogging as a way to grow your audience, increase sales, and convert readers into customers.

BONUS: Before we dig in, I created this high-converting blog post cheat sheet to help you put what you learn into action.

Grab the high-converting blog post cheat sheet!

Step #1: Research blog topics that perform well

The first step to converting more customers through blogging is to write about topics that your audience wants to read.

If you’re struggling with this step, use these tools to discover topics with a high number of social media shares and Google searches.

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a powerful content research tool that will help you gather information on what has performed well on social media in any industry. Both paid and free versions are available, and you can use it to discover viral content with a high number of retweets, likes, repins, and shares.

Enter a keyword into the search bar and you’ll see which content has the highest number of shares on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

how to become a blogger with an incredible online community using BuzzSumo.

Keyword Planner

The Google Keyword Planner is my first stop when I’m out of blog ideas. It’s a free tool that will show you the important terms people are searching for on Google.

To get started with the keyword planner, enter your keyword. Then, enter your targeting and use the keywords filters to refine your search. I recommend filtering your results for low competition.

You’ll see search results for your original keyword plus a list of related keywords.

blog writing tips using the Google Keyword Planner

When you have all the keywords you want, click Review Plan. On the next screen, click the Keyword tab, choose a date range, and enter a high bid to make sure you see all the results.

Now, you can see the actual monthly search volume in the Impressions column, which will give you an accurate view of how many people are searching for your blog topic. I aim for at least 1,500 searches.

Want to know how to create a blog that people want to read? Use Keyword Planner to find out what people are searching for around your blog topic first.

Facebook Groups

I’m in a number of Facebook Groups related to blogging and entrepreneurship and have discovered interesting blog ideas from questions members ask. When I see a question that has been asked many times, it goes on my worksheet as a potential blog topic.

To get started with Facebook Groups, select Groups on the left-hand side of your dashboard. Then select Discover from the top menu to see a list of suggested groups based on the pages, posts, and groups that you’ve already liked, shared, or joined. You can also use the top search bar to find groups relevant to any keyword or niche.

If you manage your own Facebook group, why not ask your group members what they’re struggling with related to your niche? Then use their answers as inspiration for future blog posts.

Psst…I would love for you join my Facebook group! You’ll have multiple opportunities to promote your business and be part of an inclusive network of encouraging, supportive people.

Quora

Quora is the hub of questions and answers and an excellent way to find out what people are asking around your niche.

To get started with Quora, log in with your Gmail.

Enter terms or keywords related to your niche and you’ll see discussions and questions appear in your feed. Note the questions where you can provide value, look at what others have answered and make notes on how you can improve upon their answers.

#2: Pick the Winning Blog Ideas

It’s time to document your research and decide which blog topics will make it on to your editorial calendar.

I use a simple Google doc spreadsheet to track the topics and questions that seem to be popular:

  • Original blog idea
  • Target keyword
  • Number of monthly shares
  • Number of repins and FB shares
  • Some notes about the problem the topic solves for my audience
  • Some notes about a product the topic idea could lead to: Does it lead to a sales funnel opt-in? Will it help me make more sales?

Use the blog ideas worksheet to create a powerful blog writing format.

The goal at this stage is to narrow down your ideas to those that are both popular with your audience and align with your business goals. There’s no shame in sharing something supervaluable that helps your readers and grows your business. In fact, that’s why you’re blogging in the first place!

Once I’ve picked topics that I think are winners, I’ll make additional notes about content pieces that I think are particularly interesting so that I can start to frame an angle for my own content. For each piece I’ll note the following:

  • Title/headline
  • Blog post URL
  • Some notes about the piece itself: why it’s helpful and what I like about it
  • Any gaps in the content: where I can improve upon it

Step #3: Format your post for easy reading

When I first started blogging, I’d jump right in and start writing. Before I knew it, I’d go rambling on and on and forget the original points I wanted to make.

The solution to this problem is to create an outline to help you stay on track and to give your post an easy-to-follow structure. When people read your blog post, you want them to be able to spot sections that interest them right away.

Follow these steps to format your blog posts:

Make your post highly valuable. Look through your notes and pinpoint where you can provide more value for your readers. Can you make your article more visually descriptive? More detailed? Longer? How will you fill in the gaps in other people’s content? Be sure to aim for more than 1,000 words for each blog post.

Divide your post into smaller chunks. Long paragraphs and blocks of text can make your post seem like hard work and scare people away. Instead, divide your blog content into smaller sections to make it easy for people to spot what they want to read. Use headings, bullets, short paragraphs, and even short words (“hard” vs. “difficult”).

Show people how to do something. Instead of telling people what to do, show them how they can do it. Dive deep and give people easy-to-follow and actionable steps. Include screenshots and other images to help your audience understand what you’re saying.

Step #4: Add a content upgrade with a clear call to action

Now that you’ve set the foundation for your post, it’s time to build your audience and get more subscribers.

Remember that having someone simply read your blog post is not your end goal with blogging. You want your blog content to be the first step in his or her journey to becoming a customer.

That’s where content upgrades come in.

What is a content upgrade?

A content upgrade is bonus content that your readers can receive in exchange for their email address.

Content upgrades are similar to lead magnets in that you encourage people to opt in. What makes them so powerful is their contextual relevance both to your article and to the intent of your readers.

Here’s an example:

In my social media strategy blog post, I include a button that readers can click to download a blueprint so that they can put what they learn into action.

A box will then appear that asks them to opt in to receive the blueprint:

How to write a blog and make money

By using unique content upgrades for every blog post, I’ve been able to build my email list to more than 11,000 subscribers and sell my digital products. In fact, content upgrades are the main focus of my list building right now.

Think of it like this:

Visitors land on your blog post because they have a problem, your post educates them about the solution and your content upgrade helps them take the next step.

Can you see how content upgrades can convert at amazingly high rates?

The way I see it is that the more content upgrades we can create the faster we’ll increase conversions and grow our email list.

Here’s how to create your content upgrade.

You can create any type of content upgrade with Canva. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you’re offering a free Ebook.

First, create an account with Canva. Next, use the Blog Graphic as a template and resize it to US letter size, which you can do here:

Use Canva to learn how to blog using visual content.

This first page will be your Ebook cover. We’ll create the interior pages later.

To customize your cover design, select a background color from the left-hand menu or choose a free photo through Elements –> Photos.

The free version will give you access to everything you need to create and download your Ebook. If you want access to premium images and vector elements at a discount, the paid subscription starts at $12.95 a month.

To find free images specific to your industry or blog topic, enter a keyword into the search bar. Be prepared to scroll through dozens of premium images that you can purchase for $10 (free accounts) or $1 (paid accounts). Purchasing the image will also remove the Canva watermark.

Blogging for beginners using Canva to increase traffic.

You can also upload stock photos or images from your own library using the Uploads tab.

Once you’ve selected your background image, drag the corner edges, and resize it to fill the canvas. I like to add an overlay to my background to help my title text stand out.

To do this, select Elements –> Shapes and click on the top left square to place the shape onto your canvas. This will automatically position the graphic on top of your background image. You can rearrange the order if you need to by clicking on Arrange in the top menu.

It's easy to arrange your graphic elements and create powerful blog posts examples.

Next, select the text tool, add your title, and choose the styles you want to use. With a paid account, you have the option of saving brand elements, colors, and fonts to streamline your image creation process.

The last thing to add is your logo, which you can do by selecting Uploads –> Logo and uploading a png or jpg version.

Once you’re happy with the cover, it’s time to populate your pages with copy.

Add a new blank page, paste your copy into a text box and customize the design of your interior page.

Create a simple ebook using Canva.

When you’re finished, save your Ebook design and download it twice:

  • as a PDF
  • as a PNG

You’re done!

Now it’s time to add the content upgrade to your post.

We’re back in Canva to create a graphic button that grabs people’s attention and inspires them to click.

Create a new design using any template. Then resize it as a Twitter Post, and upload the PNG of your Ebook cover.

Next, change the background color so that your graphic button stands out in your post. Add lead-in copy and a square shape to use as the background for your call to action copy (“Yes, Please Send!”).

Your new graphic button will look something like this:

how to create a blog

We’re almost there! The last step is to download the button as a PNG and upload it to your WordPress Media Library.

Finally, add the opt-in form.

The opt-in form is what people will see when they click on your button.

Follow these steps to create a leadbox with LeadPages (you can also use Sumo or Thrive Leads for the opt-in form).

Log in to LeadPages, select Leadbox, and give your new leadbox a name. Next, replace the template image with the image of your Ebook cover. Add a heading, and customize the design of your text and button.

Content upgrades are a powerful way to learn how to write a blog and make money.

The standard template includes a phone field, which you can easily remove by selecting the integration button in the left sidebar. While you’re there, make sure you integrate the form with your email marketing service and test that it’s working correctly.

When you’re ready, publish your leadbox, and copy the image link code.

Publish you landing page on your website to increase conversions.

Next, in your blog post, switch to the text editor, and paste the code where you want your graphic button to appear. The last step is to replace the image source in the code (src=”=s0″) with your button image. To do this, copy the URL from the image in your Media Library, and paste it in between the quotation marks.

Call to action example

That’s it! Now when people click on your button, they will see your pop-up and can opt in.

Where should you place your content upgrade?

Ideally, you want to give readers several reminders to download your content upgrade. I recommend placing it directly after your introduction, in the middle of your post, and again at the end of your post.

Remember that the more you scale this process, the more email subscribers you can get. You can even include different content upgrades to give people many different options, assuming that each free offer is relevant to your post.

Once you have ten or more content upgrades, you can combine them into a resource library or welcome pack to give people an even bigger bonus. The benefit to subscribers is that they will have all your free content in one place rather than having to download each free resource individually.

Resource libraries are easier to create than you may think. You can use the WordPress Portfolio Plugin or a similar portfolio plugin. Make sure you password-protect your resource page so that only your most engaged readers have access to it.

Password protect the resources page so that only people who opt in can access.

The free resource library is one of my highest converting opt-ins. I add a CTA button at the top of my homepage and blog pages as well as at the end of every post.

Step #5: Create the Right Type of Offer

While there’s no right or wrong content upgrade, not all content upgrades are equal.

The trick lies in knowing which ones to create. When you offer your readers something that’s a perfect fit for why they visited your website, they’re much more likely to opt in.

The best content upgrades are:

  • Targeted—Speak to one specific audience, addressing their most pressing pain point.
  • Relevant to your post—You’ll see the highest conversion rates when your content upgrades fulfill the intent your readers had when they came to your blog post.
  • Time-saving—Give people the option to save long-form articles for later if they’re too busy to read them right now.
  • Actionable—Provide your readers with easy-to-follow next steps that they can implement to see results right away.
  • Open-ended—Create a path to future products by inspiring curiosity without giving away the farm.
  • High value—It goes without saying that your content upgrade should provide real value. It’s important to reward the people who have opted in to your email list with something that casual readers don’t get. If your content upgrade is something that people would actually consider paying for, you’re on the right track.

What type of content upgrade should you use?

The first step in choosing the right type of offer is to identify a resource that will extend the value of your blog content.

Here’s a list of content upgrades and the types of content they work well with.

Checklists. Checklists are usually one-pagers that are perfect for how-to and long-form articles. You can outline specific steps people need to take to achieve something. For instance, I know that search engine optimization has a lot of moving parts and that my readers, like me, will have a hard time keeping track of them all. So I offer an SEO checklist upgrade that they can keep on hand for every blog post.

Templates. Examples of templates include social media templates, business plan templates…even productivity templates. In many of my posts related to productivity, I offer readers a time-blocking template they can use to schedule their week effectively.

Download my Time Blocking Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

Cheat sheets and blueprints. Cheat sheets are like a shortcut to the finish line. They work well for detailed articles and give your readers a high-level view of the milestones involved in getting from point A to point Z.

Ebooks. If your blog posts are part of a series or related to a theme that takes readers on a journey, an Ebook is an easy way to create a content upgrade. For instance, I have a three-part Grow Your Audience series where I show readers how to accelerate their online business growth. Because the blog post are related, each one can serve as a separate chapter in an Ebook and lead seamlessly to the next.

Spreadsheets. Spreadsheets provide a level of organization that makes it easy for people to research, brainstorm, plan, or manage systems and processes. I create Google Doc spreadsheets for many of my blog posts related to planning and workflows so that my readers have something to refer back to and share with their team.

Workbooks. Workbooks help your audience go beyond learning a concept and start putting what they learn into action.

The Blog Post as PDF. A straight PDF of your article may be the easiest route to take. With that said, offering long-form blog posts as a PDF (3,000 words and up) can provide great value for readers who are pressed for time and want to read your content later.

That’s a wrap!

If you’re thinking that content upgrades seem like a lot of work, I get it! Creating high-converting content upgrades takes time and effort, but that time is well spent. Content upgrades can have exponential effects on building your email list and should be seen as an investment in acquiring future customers.

From here, it’s all about engaging with your new subscribers, providing value, value, value, and creating sales funnels that lead people to your products and services.

If you’ve taken the steps above and created your free content around topics popular with your audience and the products and services that you offer, leading people to a sale will be a natural, organic process because you’ll know that your audience truly wants your products.

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Want to increase blog traffic? I've got 5 easy-peasy blog traffic tips to do it! Click through to see all the website traffic tips. #bloggingtipsYou know what blogging is like?

Running a marathon.

Every blogger starts at the beginning. And even if we can’t see our exact finish line, one thing’s for sure:

We want to get somewhere beyond our first 100 followers, pageviews and shares. We want to increase blog traffic, quick like.

Pouring your heart and soul into your blog and seeing the same pageviews month after month, or even year after year, can wear on your spirit. And seeing fewer pageviews than the month before can make you feel like throwing in the towel altogether. I’ve experienced this firsthand, and it’s a terrible feeling.

Especially when you’re doing everything right and so want to reach your finish line:

  • You’ve got an awesome blog design
  • You’re blogging on the regular
  • Opt-in forms in all the right places
  • You’re researching keywords like crazy
  • Sharing your posts on social media

Today, I want to help clear things up. I’m sharing five quick wins for getting more traffic to your blog so that you can reach your finish line and fulfill your dreams of building a business that you love.

Psst…Need help building your blog audience and traffic? I answer your most pressing questions about traffic, list building, affiliate marketing, social media and more in my Facebook Group. Join over 600 Superheroes.

1) First, change your blog title.

Ain’t no easy way to say this, guys. Blog titles can make or break your traffic.

Your posts are competing with tons of other brands who, like you, want to get more readers to their blog. In order to grab their attention, your blog titles have to scream Yoohoo, over here! I’m the one you want! Read me!

The easiest way to do that is to turn them into mini value propositions that answer these three questions:

  • What is this post about?
  • Who is it for?
  • How will it help them?

If you can frame your titles around the formula below, you’ll be on the right track:

This post will discuss [what] and will help [who] achieve, feel, or think [how you help].

Here’s an example of a title that answers the first prompt: “5 Travel Apps”

This is a great start but we can’t leave it there. Without knowing the who and the how, there’s not enough juice to make people take action.

Here’s a better example: “5 Amazing Apps That Make Traveling Abroad So Much Easier”

Beautiful. Now we know that the post is targeted at people planning an overseas trip. We also know that after reading the post, travel itineraries will be a breeze.

Click to the click.

2) Check social media profiles on your phone.

Ever wonder how much traffic you get from iPhones and Androids?

Head over to Google Analytics >> Audience and you’ll see: Over 50% of traffic these days comes from mobile.

Whoa.

To be fair, I’m a straight-up desktop girl and often forget to check my social media accounts on my iPhone. But with stats like these, we need to cover all bases. If our blog post images don’t pop, people will keep on scrollin’.

Lucky for us, this one’s an easy solve! Pop open your Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook apps and scroll through your posts. Do they stand out or is the text too small and obscure? If the latter, you’ve got work to do!

3) Design an infographic.

I created my first infographic-style pin months ago, and holy purple cow, the shares on that pin were CRAZY. Waaay more than other pins I’d shared.

It’s still a huge source of traffic and email subscribers. And a big eye-opener for me.

Now I create one for just about every post. Nothing elaborate either – sometimes I’ll use plain text to highlight the steps in a “how to” post. If I have more time, I’ll add fancy icons and graphics.

Sound daunting? I thought so too at first, but you can create infographics pretty quickly using pre-made templates from Canva.

Create infographics with Canva to get more traffic to your blog!

Note: I’ve created both complicated, elaborate graphics and simple, bold graphics. Hands down – simple drives more blog traffic. Make sure people can understand your graphic quickly without having to give it a second read.

The beauty of repurposing content this way is that your infographic can be used over and over again:

  • Submit it to infographic sites
  • Reach out to bloggers and invite them to share it with their audience
  • Embed the code of your infographic in your blog post. When people share on their website, it will link back to your site.

4) Review your keywords.

After you hit publish on a new post, there are still pleeenty of ways you can optimize it for search.

For starters, make sure you review keywords once a month, especially for posts that you really want to perform well.

I don’t know how many times I’ve checked the box on SEO, then later realized that my original keyword was too broad or competitive. Or, I was getting too hung up on an exact target keyword instead of looking at the context of my post.

Think beyond your target keyword.

Nowadays, Google is looking for semantic relevance, which is a fancy pants way of saying “other words in your post to help determine the intent of a search query.”

Whew! Even that’s a mouthful. Let’s bottom-line it:

Semantic relevance is a by-product of writing insanely thorough blog posts. In the process, you will likely include terms that Google will rank you for other than your target keyword.

For instance, I’m targeting the keyword “increase blog traffic” for this post. I imagine that in the future I will rank for long-tail keywords such as “get more readers for my blog” and “increase your blog readers” because I’m including them in a lengthy, well-cited article.

#MORALOFTHESTORY Make your post a comprehensive resource, and there’s a good change you’ll rank for more than one keyword.

Go for quick wins

Some of my posts are on page 8 of Google, sluggishly inching their way up to page 7. And I’m working my buns off to rank them.

Then there are other posts.

Ones I’m NOT paying attention to and not trying to rank. Those posts are on page 2. If I shift my attention to those posts with less competitive keywords, I bet I can get them to page 1 with ease. Here’s an example:

How to get more website traffic with keywords

 

#TAKEAWAY If you review keywords regularly, you can shift gears to posts that are gaining traction and revisit harder-to-rank keywords later on.

5) Link to a high-quality post

You know the saying Who you spend time with the most is who you will become?

In the blogosphere, who you link to is how your posts will rank.

When you include links to high-quality sites in your posts, Google will see your website as being high quality by association and will likely increase your ranking presence.

How do you find high-quality websites?

I’m so glad you asked! Grab a sheet of paper and write down ten popular blogs and websites in your niche. Then head over to Open Site Explorer and enter the URLs for each.

Open Site Explorer is a tool that displays the domain authority of websites, which is a search engine ranking score that predicts how well a website will rank. The scores range from 0-100, with higher numbers indicating higher quality.

Here’s an example:

How to get more website traffic by adding external links to high quality blogs.

 

With a DA score of 87, Social Media Examiner is a craaazy high-quality website. If I link to it in my Social Media Strategy post, there’s a good chance my post will get a boost in rankings.

That’s a wrap, friends. I hope this post was helpful for you. I’ll be turning it into part 1 of my Traffic Series, so stay tuned for more traffic-busting tips!

What’s your best strategy for driving blog traffic? Let’s add it to the list!

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What Should I Include in My About Me Page | This post is for entrepreneurs and bloggers to help get people hooked on your blog and your business, why you do what you do, and how you can help them. Click through to get started!

What Should I Include in My About Me Page? If you’re asking that question, this post will help! It includes all the points entrepreneurs and bloggers need to cover to get people hooked on your blog, your why, and how you can help them. Click through to see all the tips!

You’re just about to launch your blog or business and have a rock-solid brand identity that includes social media profiles, your website, logo, messaging, and more.  Now you’re ready to share your brand with the world. You want your readers to be able to learn more about you and your business, why they should stick around and what’s in it for them.

Could it be time to create an epic About Page?

Definitely! Today, I’m going to walk you through how to write an About Me Page so that you cover all of the important points to make this page one of the most useful and popular pages on your blog.

Here’s what your About Page should do

Preferably in this order:

  1. Communicate that you know who you’re speaking to
  2. Let them know that you get what they want / need
  3. Tell your story and how you can help
  4. Ask them to do something

That’s all there is to it. When you get this right, you’ll have all of the ingredients to grab people’s attention, make them fall in love with you, and turn first-time visitors into raving fans and subscribers!

In a nutshell, your About Me Page is the story of you.

Correction.

Your About Page is the story of you AND them.

Your job is to weave these two legendary stories into an experience, or a movement even, that hooks people on your blog and your business. And also on YOU, your world view, how they connect with you, and why you’re the perfect person to help with their problem.

So how do we weave these two beautiful stories together? Let’s start by drilling down on each of the points above.

1) Who are you speaking to?

This one’s a biggie. Even though your About Page is about you, it’s mostly about your readers. You want to connect with them and let them know right away that you know who they are and what they’re struggling with right now.

Picture one specific person when you’re writing. What are their core desires? Being very specific with things like their name, age, where they work and what’s holding them back will help you visualize your one person.

Related: How to Attract Your Ideal Customers

2) What do they most want?

Next up, you need to show your audience that you know them and you get it. Let them know how you identify with them and their challenges and struggles. What is it that they want to do, but aren’t able to do right now?

I find it helps to describe their current situation, like this:

  • What do they have right now? (chaotic mornings, marketing that doesn’t work, not enough time, boring exercise routine, flat hair, tasteless meals loaded with carbs, you get the gist)
  • What do they want right now? (calm quiet mornings, effective marketing, time to do the things they love, exhilarating workouts, vibrant hair, delicious healthy meals, and so on)

What this helps you do is to understand the pain points your audience has in their before state, and what changes for them in the after state. Make sense? Then all you have to do is connect the dots and get them from Point A to Point Z.

Let your audience know how you identify with them and what their biggest challenge is right now.Click To Tweet

If we put steps #1 and #2 together, we can start to see a story unfold. For example, my audience is entrepreneurs and bloggers, so I lead with:

We’re a lot alike. We both want to make a successful career and life as entrepreneurs. Which means that neither of us can fall behind with the latest marketing trends. What we really need are operations and systems to put our brands out there strategically.

Can you see how this About Me Page example is a perfect set-up for my story and how I help? But first it’s all about my crew, what they need, and how I relate to their problem.

When you’re writing your story, try to paint an uplifting picture that makes people feel excited about where they’re at right now. Infuse your story with inspiration, hope, and a sense of “we’re in this together”. Whenever possible, stay away from words like don’t, can’t, and no.

If you need help here, the Build My Brand Toolkit includes an entire section on crafting your About Me Page. Plus, sooo much more. You’ll have everything you need to build an epic brand that stands out online – done for you logos, social media images, web copy, brand elements, spreadsheets, templates, and more. It may be just what you’re looking for! Learn more about the Build My Brand Toolkit.

3) Explain what you do and how it relates to them

Next, tell the story behind your blog or business, sharing why you love to do what you do and how you got here.

This is where you share the story that only you have…your personal history, the obstacles you’ve overcome, how you view the world, what made you come to do what you do…you want all of you in there.

Make sure people understand how you’re uniquely qualified to help them and how you help.

What do you offer to help them bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be? How will you take them from Point A to Point Z? What does it look like to work with you?

Paint as vivid a picture as you can, and as your story unfolds, let go of any idea of what your About Me Page is supposed to sound like. Just have fun with it and let the words flow. Pages are never perfect right out of the gate. That’s why we edit, edit, edit later!

All you need to do now is to connect with your readers and speak to them as you would a friend, so they can get to know the real you. Knowing you is the first step to trusting you, and you’ve got to earn their trust.

So just be real. Be bold. And leave your heart on the page.

4) What do you want them to do next?

Want to really know how to write an awesome About Me Page? Don’t make people guess what you want them to do.

Tell them!

Do you want them to check out how to work with you? Great! Make that easy for them and put a link at the bottom of the page.

Maybe you want them to read some of your latest blog posts. Again, let them know where to go next.

Maybe (just maybe!) you’re super sassy and want to encourage them to subscribe. Maybe you want an opt-in form to pop up when they reach the end of the page. If that is the case, let people know what they’ll get when they sign up. Tutorials and guides? Lazy Sunday craft ideas? Value-packed tips? Make it clear.

Point is, whatever action you want people to take next, make sure you are very explicit with it.

Whatever action you want people to take next on your About Page, make sure you are very explicit with it.Click To Tweet

Putting the stories together

So you know who you’re speaking to, what you do and how you help. But how do you create a story around that? How do you write a whole page that’s compelling and interesting and portrays both your audience AND you?

First, take a deep breath and think about that one person you’re speaking to. Is it your favorite client, or maybe someone you’d love to have as your client? Pretend you’re sitting in a room with this person or simply writing them a letter.

Answer these questions as though you are talking right to them and addressing them personally. Picture that YOU are your one person, and ask yourself:

  • How am I feeling right now?
  • What am I trying to do but can’t?
  • What’s stopping me?
  • How can you help me?
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • How do you know what it’s like to feel the way that I feel?
  • What will change for me after YOU?
  • How will I feel when I’ve overcome this problem?

That’s a wrap! I plan on creating an About Me Page template to help you write your story. Let me know if this is something you’d like and I’ll set it up!

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If you’re ready to get serious about your blog, but aren’t sure about the best ways take to market it, this post is for you! It includes 14 tips for bloggers and entrepreneurs to help your posts get found and shared by more people everywhere – through social media, emails, search engines…everywhere. Click through to check out all the tips.
If you’re ready to get serious about your blog, but aren’t sure about the best ways take to market it, this post is for you! It includes 14 tips for bloggers and entrepreneurs to help your posts get found and shared by more people – through social media, emails, search engines…everywhere. Click through to check out all the tips.

Blog Post Checklist: 14 to Do Before You Hit Pubilsh | If you’re ready to get serious about your blog, but aren’t sure about the best ways take to market it, this post is for you! It includes 14 tips for bloggers and entrepreneurs to help your posts get found and shared by more people everywhere.. Click through to check out all the tips!So you’ve got your blog up and running and you’re posting on the regular. High five!! Today I have a blog post checklist to help you step up your game even more to get traffic to it (and leads from it!)

In this blog post, I share 14 things you should do before you publish each post.

Well, maybe not before every post. If you’ve got a flow going with your writing, you can always go back through the list after you publish and update it. I like to work in batches of five, where I publish five posts and then tweak them using the checklist.

It may seem like a lot to do, but once you get into a workflow it gets a lot easier and quicker. And when you put so much heart and soul into writing your post, it makes sense to give it the best shot you can to rank higher on Google, get more shares, and build your list.

Step#1: Write a catchy title

You’ve probably heard this a hundred times, and it’s true. A catchy title is key to getting people to read your post. It’s your ticket to more traffic and more subscribers.

A persuasive and descriptive title will grab people’s attention better than one that’s “fuzzy”. People are busy and will only commit to a click if they know what’s in it for them. The descriptive keywords are also great for search engines. You’ll get a boost in rankings just by including keywords in your title and in other places throughout your post, which I’ll get into later.

I know the posts I’ve written with “meh” titles don’t get nearly as many opens as catchier ones.

Here’s an example of a so-so title: “How to Double Your Blog Conversion Rates”

This title is just hard to digest. First, you have to think about what “conversion rate” means. Then you have to figure out what it has to do with blogging. All of that thinking just hurts.

Here’s a better title: “How Songwriting Helped Me Grow My Blog (Plus 10 Tips for New Bloggers)”

The second is better because:

  • It’s highly targeted and direct. The title speaks directly to my audience.
  • It creates a curiosity gap. I want to know what songwriting has to do with blogging. It just sounds interesting.
  • It’s keyword-rich. It includes important terms that people might type into Google to find your post (grow your blog, new bloggers).

Step #2: Make sure it’s easy to read

Every time I read a post that’s like a chapter in a book, I think “time suck”.

Here’s the thing:

People on the web are looking for something and they’re going to scan your post to see if you’ve got it. Then they’re going to read the text. So you have to break your text up into sections that are easy to read.

Here’s how you can do that:

Use bullet points and subheads: If you use WordPress, style your subheads with an H2 tag so that the heading jumps off the page.

Use short sentences and words: Short sentences, short paragraphs, short words, that’s what you want to go for. People are much more likely to keep reading when there’s some white space on the page. Plus, short words are easier to digest than longer words. For instance, use “hard” instead of “difficult” or “challenging”.

Write a great intro: The first few sentences of your post really have to hook people in. Your intro should be long enough to tell a story and create interest and at the same time lead up to the main points of your post. Bonus if you can squeeze in your keyword in the first paragraph, but I wouldn’t go crazy here. If it works, great. If not add it wherever it fits naturally in your post.

Try to limit your intro to 3 or 4 short paragraphs. I’ve written intros that were so long I’m sure they put people to sleep by the time they got to the main points. Once I read them again it was obvious that I was rambling, kind of hunting for what I was trying to say.

Here’s an example of an intro that’s interesting but quickly gets to the point (funny that it talks about rambling – I must have that on my brain!)

Stick to the structure.

That’s what my instructors would hammer into my head over and over again when I was learning how to write songs. And every time I went off-script and let my creative juices just flow, my lyrics would ramble on and on. They had no real beginning, no section breaks, and no end.

This got me thinking about the challenges copywriters face with blogging. Is there a way we can limit our rambling so that we don’t lose readers? Can we apply a song-structure approach to blogging to help us create great experiences that are inviting and easy for people to digest?

If it seems like people aren’t paying attention to your posts, try these ways to keep them engaged and reading…

Here’s why this intro works:

It starts with a relateable story and then leads people quickly to the main point of the post. The third paragraph ties things together and the fourth paragraph leads right into bullet points. Quick and to the point without being boring – that’s what you should aim for with your intro.

(Download the printable PDF so you have it on hand for your next blog post.)

14 Things You Should Do to Every Blog Post Before You Hit Publish | If you’re ready to grow your blog audience, but aren’t sure about the best ways take to market it, this post is for you! It includes 14 tips for bloggers and entrepreneurs to help your posts get found and shared by more people everywhere – through social media, emails, search engines…everywhere.

Step #3: SEO your post

What would a blog post checklist be without mentioning SEO?

When you blog, you’ve got to think about two things: blogging for real people and blogging for SEO. So even though keywords can be a real pain, you still have to think about them. This is definitely one of the very last things I address because it messes me up to think about it when I’m writing. It’s kind of like switching off one brain and turning the other on.

Basically, you want to include the keyword in six places on your post:

  • the title
  • the URL (for WordPress, this is your permalink)
  • the meta description or post snippet
  • your subheadings (H2 tags)
  • throughout your content
  • in your image names (change the default name to one with a keyword)

I suggest installing the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. It’s super easy to add your focus keyword in your title and meta description, like this:

Blogger checklist tip: SEO your blog post

Plus, you’ll see everything you need to optimize, like adding the keyword to your content, H2 tags, and so on.

Step #4: Proofread it

I have to admit, this is one of my downfalls. I tend to be sloppy on the keyboard and keep my fingers crossed that Word will auto-correct anything I miss.

And of course, you know you have to proofread. That’s a no-brainer, right? Still, I find that I can proofread my posts a million times and still find typos that are off the charts a week later. Not cool!!

Here’s the deal, though.

As bloggers and business owners, we’re really publishers. We can’t afford to show up sloppy or poorly dressed if we want people to take us seriously.

So what can you do?

Have someone else proof it for you, or save it as a draft and come back to it a few days later with fresh eyes. Both Word and the WordPress edit window will flag most of the obvious typos and grammar issues.

You still need to manually comb through your post for things that Word may have missed. For instance, I’ve written “and or” when what I meant to write was “and”. Errors like these are harder for programs to spot and need human eyes. One thing I’ve found that works well is to read it backwards, kind of like “a slug” in traditional proofreading terms.

Step #5: Add SEO-ready images

Add blog post images where you can…they add a level of detail to your post and help break up the text for easy reading. When people can visually see what you’re saying, it’s easier to understand. If your post explains how to do something, grab some screenshots with call-outs and comments that help clarify and explain it.

Make sure the images you create are on-brand and fit with your colors, fonts, and tone.  I suggest creating templates for your blog post images. A little prep work upfront will save you boat loads of time with your post, plus you’ll have a consistent look for each post.

SEO-ready just means changing the name to something like “blog-post-checklist.jpg” with your keyword.

Step #6: Minify your images

Page speed is important, both for SEO and for people. If your post loads too slowly, people are going to get squirmish. Some may become impatient and hit the back button if they have to wait more than two or three seconds. I recommend doing everything you can to make sure your post loads as quickly as possible.

One of the things that can really bog down page speed is large images. The good news is that there are plugins like TinyPNG you can install that will automatically compress or “optimize” your images.

You can also upload your images directly to their website before you add them to your post. One reason you may want to do it yourself is if your web host doesn’t support these types of plugins (I know some don’t, such as Flywheel).

Step #7: Add alt text to your images

You want to add alt text with keywords and a call to action to your images. This is good for search engines, plus the alt text will automatically be added to the “description” when someone pins an image from your site.

Include your title in the alt text plus one or two descriptive sentences and end with a call to action like, “Click through to check out the tips.”

If you’re wondering where to enter the alt text in WordPress, it’s here:

New website launch checklist tip: Add your keyword to your image alt text

 

Step #8: End with a question and call to action

A simple and effective way to encourage your readers to interact and engage with your post is to ask a question at the end of it. It can be as simple as “What tips do you find helpful?”

The point is to encourage people to become part of the conversation. Then when people comment, you can deepen and extend the comments or pose another question. This makes for loyal readers because people will know you’re paying attention and that their opinion is important to you.

You can even install a poll plugin and add a poll at the end of your post, then highlight that conversation on social media and re-share the post. This type of extended sharing amplifies the community and interaction and shows that you value conversation.

Or why not add an activity at the end of the posts that people can do? This gives you another legitimate way to share your blog post again and get even more engagement.

(Download the printable PDF so you have it on hand for your next blog post.)

14 Things You Should Do to Every Blog Post Before You Hit Publish | If you’re ready to grow your blog audience, but aren’t sure about the best ways take to market it, this post is for you! It includes 14 tips for bloggers and entrepreneurs to help your posts get found and shared by more people everywhere – through social media, emails, search engines…everywhere.

Step #9: Add links to other posts

This is called internal linking, where you link your post to other posts or pages on your site that are relevant to your post. Internal links are a form of “link building”, which is a large part of what Google uses to find the best pages about a topic and rank it high in search results.

Link building is a big deal because it’s a way for people to vote on your content. Search engines use that data as an indication of your site’s popularity.

So with internal link building (versus external link building, where someone else votes for your post by linking to it), you basically vote for yourself and show Google the importance of your post. The more links you have, the better your chances of search engines finding you and in turn, getting more traffic to your site.

There are two ways to add links:

You can either weave links into your text naturally, or you can add related topics to the end of your post like this:

This second method is great if you’re blogging around themes, which I highly recommend you do. Taking people on a journey with your posts where you elaborate on each one is a great way to build momentum and continuity, almost like offering a mini course. It’s also a smart way to “brand” your blog, so to speak.

Step #10: Use a Featured Image

Featured images are important for a couple of reasons:

First, there’s a good chance your featured image will be shared on social media. For this reason, you want to add the title of your post directly onto your image for sites like Pinterest and Instagram that are largely visual. This way when people scroll it will quickly stand out and people will know what your post is about right away.

If you’re wondering what a featured image is, in WordPress it’s right here:

Quick tip for how to optimize blog posts: Include a featured image

 

Canva is great for creating featured images. They’ve got horizontal and vertical templates (their Blog Title and Blog Graphic templates) where you can choose your dimensions, colors, fonts, and background. They’ve got an extensive library of images and some pretty cool effects you can play with. And though many of the images are available with a premium account, I’ve been able to find plenty of free images that work.

I like to use a horizontal image as my featured image and share that on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Inside the post I add a second version of the featured image, which is vertical. That’s the one I pin on Pinterest because vertical images tend to get more attention on sites like on Pinterest and Bloglovin’ (if you use that). You’ll get a boost in traffic because your posts will be more visible when people are scrolling.

One last thing on featured images:

Having your brand colors, fonts, and overall design inside a template will help you create a workflow f0r posts and save a ton of time. I recommend that you brand the template with your logo and website so people visually recognize your posts.

Step #11: Make it downloadable

One of the fastest ways I’ve seen to build your mailing list is to offer a “content upgrade”, where you turn your post into a checklist, workbook, or template that people can download. It’s basically a printable version of your post.

This works on so many levels:

First, it’s a really valuable resource for your readers, especially if you’ve got great tips in your post (which I’m sure you do!). Most likely people won’t be able to act on everything you mention right away and the PDF gives them something to reference later.  I don’t know how many times I’ve bookmarked or saved a post to Evernote and then can’t find it when I need it. Having a PDF on hand is much more convenient.

Second, it’s a powerful asset for your business. Just add a pop-up where people enter their contact info and poof! – just like that you’ve got new subscribers. Plus, you know what interests them so you can send them related tips in your emails.

Here are some ways to do a content upgrade:

  • Copy your post verbatim and save it as a PDF
  • Expand on your post a bit with a worksheet, blueprint, or action plan.

It really depends on how much time you have to create your freebie.

Step #12: Make it Shareaholic

I recommend installing the Shareaholic or SumoMe (for WordPress) plugin to your site. Both of these will let you easily add social share buttons to your post and encourage people to share it with their followers and fans. They also show “social proof” – the more shares people see on your post, the more they’ll want to share it too.

Here are two great ways to use them:

  • Add share buttons to the beginning, end, or left side of your post.
  • Add them directly to your blog post images so people can share those too. Tip: change the settings so the buttons only appear on blog post images, not your other pages. See how when you hover over the image, the social buttons appear? Pretty cool!!

Daily blogging checklist | Step #12: Make your images shareable

Step #13: Credit your sources

If your post is a round-up, or if you’ve mentioned a quote or reference from another blogger, make sure you give them credit with a link back to their site.

This is a powerful way to add credibility to your post and build relationships with influencers around your niche. Once you publish your post you can reach out to them and let them know you mentioned them in your post, just in case they want to share it too. This should give you a boost in traffic.

Step #14: Publish it!

Hah! Sounds crazy, I know. You’d be surprised how many times I thought my post was live and found out days later that I forgot to actually publish it. Give it one last preview before you do. Test the internal links to make sure they work, make sure your content upgrade link is working, check for typos one last time, and make sure your featured image and blog post images are on-brand and reflect your aesthetic.

Then:

Hit Publish, grab a glass of wine, and pat yourself on the back. You’re done – woo!

Next up –> Blog Checklist: 7 Things to Do After Your Post Goes Live

 

14 Things You Should Do to Every Blog Post Before You Hit Publish | If you’re ready to grow your blog audience, but aren’t sure about the best ways take to market it, this post includes 14 tips for bloggers and entrepreneurs to help your content get found and shared by more people everywhere.
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How to Create a Business Plan for Your Blog | Ready to build a platform for your blog to be profitable? This blog plan includes a template for bloggers and entrepreneurs to help you turn your blog into a full-time business FAST. Click through to see the sections!

How to Create a Blogging Business Plan | Plus, why you need one and how to rock your blog business by getting all your ideas down on paper and in one place. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate, just a simple road map for where your blog business is going so you know what to do and WHEN to get there faster. Click through to see all the sections.

This is part 1 of a 2-part series called the Blog Profit Plan that is designed to help you propel your business forward. I’m hoping it will be a jumping off point to get from zero to profit as quickly as possible so you can start making a living with your blog.

The way I see it, there are two parts to building a successful business (hence the 2-part series):

Part 1: creating a business plan
Part 2: executing on the plan

In today’s post, I’m going to cover how to create a blog business plan.

This is the perfect starting point, because having a plan for your blog business will give you a platform to make it profitable. Without it, you may find yourself stumbling around with what topics to cover, the value you provide, what your peeps really need, and many other things. Or you may spend too much time in one phase of your biz and forget to set a foundation for the next phase…simply because you’re not aware that said phase exists.

A blog business plan only gets us halfway to the finish line, though, which is why I’m making this a 2-part series.

You don’t really act upon them, which means they’re likely to sit in your laptop, inside Evernote, and that’s it. It’s easy to forget that you even have a business plan in the day to day of running your biz.

What we really need is a blog action plan to help us execute on our business plans.

Suh-weet, now we’re talkin’. B-plan + A-plan = Jackpot!

An action plan is where the money is anyway, no? That’s what’s going to whip our butts into shape and keep us accountable for turning our big dreams into a reality. An action plan is about getting under the hood and getting it done – really, a blueprint for executing on our business plans.

If we pair these two bad boys together, I think we’ll have a winning formula for success.

More on blog action plans in my next post… Today, let’s jump in to creating a blogging business plan.

To help you with this part of the series, I created the Blog Business Plan Workbook so you can get the most benefit from the steps we’re covering today.  Each section is full of prompts that will help you create a road map for your blog biz, identify goals you want to achieve, how you will market your business, and how much money you want to make. Click the image below to grab it.
blog workbook

HOW TO CREATE AN EPIC BLOG BUSINESS PLAN

SECTION 1: BUSINESS SUMMARY

This section is a snapshot of your business, kind of like your business “at-a-glance”. You may want to complete the other sections first, and come back to this after you have everything else together. Here’s what you’ll want to cover in your business summary:

1. Mission Statement

This is your  “Why”. Briefly explain why you created your business, what it is about, and the purpose it serves.

2. Business Goals

Based on where you’re at now, where do you plan to take your business in the future? Don’t be afraid to dream big here! If you can see it, you can do it! Think about the next year and even further down the road, say five years from now. You can mention things like money you’d like to earn from your blog, to new products you’re thinking of, to how often you will blog and the size of your mailing list.

3. Products and Services

What products and services do you have, or will you have? Briefly describe here how you are or will be monetizing your blog.

4. Your Current + Future Growth

This part is inspiring! You may already have a blog or you may be brand new to blogging. Mention any growth you’ve already experienced…anything from number of page views, to social media followers, list size, money you’ve earned, and so on. From here, how will you take your business to the next level?  List specific steps you can take to reach your goals.

Related: 100+ Ways to Market Your Business on a Small Budget

5. Your Financial Goals

Being crystal clear about how much money you want your blog to make will force you to you hold yourself accountable to it. Plus it will help you prioritize what to do each day so you can nail it! List how much money you want to make in the short-term and longer-term.

6.  Your Expenses

Your blog is your business, so even if you’re just starting out, you have expenses. Some of them, like web hosting, will be fixed and recur every month, and others are more flexible, like hiring a VA. Describe the expenses you have today and will have tomorrow.

7. What tasks can (or do) you outsource?

Every business has 3 primary phases: startup, momentum + growth. The way to build your blog through each phase is to spend your time on the things that only you can do and build a team to help you with everything else. Upwork is a great place to start to build your team. List the tasks that you outsource right now and those that you don’t outsource, but should.

8. Business Structure

If you are currently running a blog and accepting money as a blogger, then you obviously need to file taxes on that income. If you are the only employee of your business and choose to keep things simple, you can file as a “sole proprietor”. As you work with more clients and continue to grow you may want to create an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) or incorporate your biz to protect your income and your business from things like lawsuits.

SECTION 2: BRAND SUMMARY

This section is about setting a tone that inspires and attracts readers to your blog and positions you as the go-to authority. You are building a blog, and at the same time, you’re building a brand. It makes sense to look at how you see yourself so that you can teach people how to see you too, and ultimately build consistency and clarity around your blog, because after all, you are your brand, right?

1. What makes you unique?

What sets you apart from others? Remember, your skills are only half of the picture here. We’re really talking about everything that makes you YOU. Include your personal history and experiences, plus any professional skills and knowledge that would make people want to read your blog over others.

2. What’s your one thing?

I know there are so many things that you’re great at, but you don’t want to try to be all things to all people. It’s going to be much easier to build your blog if you occupy one space in people’s minds. So let’s get very specific! What’s the one word you want your brand to stand for? What’s the “one thing” you want readers to seek you out as the go-to authority on?

3. Who’s your person?

We’re going to just keep narrowing things down. Here’s where you look at the target audience for your blog. You may have more than “one person” you want to reach, but let’s make things simple for now and just include your primary customer or reader. Get as specific as you can about things like their age, income, personal and professional situation, and overall goals. If you need help with this, check out the Niche Research section.

4. What’s your brand promise?

This part is about creating your big promise. Most people call this your core message or value proposition. How do you help your one person solve their biggest problem and what does that look like? (P.S. This is what you want front and center on your homepage. Let people see it right away so they know they’re in the right place.)

5. Brand tone and mood

Developing a true personality for your blog will help you stay consistent and harmonious with all of your brand elements. It’s okay to try on different hats at first, but when you find your sweet spot you want to stick with it. The most successful blogs have a unique and distinctive personality.

SECTION 3: BRAND IDENTITY

A huge part of building a business is branding, that’s why we dig into this so much. Your brand summary is not only about your brand identity, it’s how you attract your readers to your blog and deliver your brand promise. This will help you clarify your true purpose and stay on track with your brand mission. You may switch your brand positioning over time, but your overall brand summary should stay the same.  For more on creating your brand identity, check out this post.

1. Fonts and colors

Which fonts and colors describe your blog’s personality? List 1-2 fonts and 2-4 colors you will use for your brand. It’s okay to use the same font family in different weights for headings and body text, and then use a stylized font as a contrast for featured or emphasized text.

Need some font inspiration? Check out these font pairings.

If you want, you can download this printable Color Scheme Kit to help choose your brand colors. Click on the image below to download.

Download the free color scheme kit to help you choose and apply colors to your brand!

 

2. Types of images

What images and textures will you use for your blog? Dark and edgy? Vibrant and bright? Open and airy?

3. Logo

Your current logo may be perfect already, and then again, it may need work. How well does it communicate your blog’s personality? How can you improve the font to make it better? Will you use other words in your logo, like a tagline? What about an icon?

SECTION 4: COMPETITOR ANALYSIS

As you launch your blog business, it’s important to take a look at what other blogs and brands in your space are doing. This will help you get ideas for how you want to grow and position your business.

1. Who are your competitors?

List 3 competitors you like and 3 competitors you don’t like. Who is in your niche, doing something similar to what you are or will be doing?

2. Analyze their strategy

For the 3 competitors you like, find the common themes or strategies that you can use to frame your own strategy. Do your competitors have products they sell? If so, what types of products and at what prices?  Where do they have a following on social media? How frequently do they post and what types of things do they share?

3. What sets them apart from others?

Take a look at what really makes your favorite brands stand out. What do they excel at? How do they structure their blog, business, and offers? What can you learn from them and integrate into your own strategy?

SECTION 5: NICHE RESEARCH

The more targeted you are with your blog’s niche, the more you’ll be able to attract and connect with your ideal readers. The trick here is to define a niche that’s small enough to be very specific and large enough to make money over the long term. What we’re looking for is that sweet spot – where the combination of your skills and knowledge intersects with what your audience needs, in a way that is unique enough for you to stand out.

Related: How to Choose the Perfect Niche for Your Blog

SECTION 6: SERVICES + PRODUCTS

You should have a good idea from your niche research about products that will help your target audience. Think about different price points you can offer so that people can experience working with you at the level they’re comfortable with. Think about low-cost, high-cost, and even VIP packages. What about discovery or strategy calls, will you offer them?

1. How are your products different from your competitors?

Go back to your competitors and take another look at what they’re promoting. How is your offering different? What can you add to make it extremely valuable for your peeps?

2. How do they help your audience?

Go back to your niche research and think about how your monetization method will impact the lives of your peeps. What will they be able to achieve/do/have/save/grow/build through your products and services?

SECTION 7: BUILDING YOUR AUDIENCE

A huge part of building a blog business is building a community with your readers. Otherwise, you will be developing your products in a vacuum and not get the same results. You can use social media to get your work found by people. From there, your website and mailing list will help you build relationships with your peeps.

1. Your website and mailing list

Your website is the Swiss army knife of your business. If you set it up it right, you can actually have a system that converts complete strangers into subscribers and customers!  Look at areas you can and should improve on your website so you can do that. If you don’t have a site just yet, make a note of the things you will need.

2. Social media

One of the best ways to build your audience is by leveraging the power of social media. Social media is an amazing way to get traffic to your blog, especially when you’re new to all the ins and outs of search engine optimization. As you’re building your following, you’re basically building your own traffic source. Pinterest is a phenomenal way to get traffic, but don’t stop there. There’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter too. And even others like StumbleUpon and Reddit will help you get traffic. If you want a peak at how I drive traffic to my blog, this post is for you!

Related: 14 Ways to Get Massive Traffic from Pinterest

SECTION 8: YOUR CONTENT STRATEGY

You’re doing so good! You have a strong brand foundation and you’re building your audience. The next step is to dig into the strategy for your blog’s content. You want all of your content to be part of a cohesive system. We’re drilling down on more than just blog posts. Everything you create – articles, cheat sheets, challenges, videos, webinars, courses, and more – should form a system that turns complete strangers into loyal readers and ultimately, excited customers.

1. Specify your high-level goals

Goals can look really impressive on paper, but if you’re too ambitious they can actually work against you! The flip side is that you need to have a specific end game in mind if you really want to skyrocket your blog’s growth (which of course, you do!). Given the time you have each week to work on your blog, what specific milestones do you want to achieve?

2. What strategies will you use to achieve them?

List three things you will do right now to change the future growth of your blog and to achieve your goals.

3. How frequently will you create content?

Specify the frequency (for instance, 2x per month) that you will create these types of content. Only fill in the ones you’ll create in the next 6 months and leave the others blank.

4. Time and resources

Turning your blog into a business takes time, especially when you’re juggling a full-time job or clients on the side. it’s important that you devote enough time to your blog. How many hours each week will you spend writing? It could be blog posts, freebies, workbooks, etc.

5. How will you create content that converts and sells?

Time to take a look at your content as part of a system. Looking at your content from a high-level will help you stay focused when you sit down to write and create products. I suggest working from the end first, meaning that you have (or will have) an Ecourse or service offering. What posts, freebies, free courses, and challenges can you create to build a content funnel for it?

SECTION 9: MARKETING + GROWTH

You made it this far! Who knew planning a business could be so much work? But really, you are putting in the effort right now and I am so excited for you. Finally (finally!) we’re going to talk about your marketing system, because once you create your products you need a system to promote them. The same way that you need to build your audience, you need a way to connect with them and deepen your relationship. A solid marketing system will let you do both, and most of it on autopilot. Let’s dive in.

1. How will you market your business?

Write down the methods you will use to market your products, services, and blog. Think about things like Facebook ads, committing to a full-core Pinterest strategy, and leveraging Facebook (or LinkedIn) groups.

If you’re looking for new ways to market your blog, check out this blog post where I share over 100 ways to market your business on a small budget.

2. What marketing tools will you use?

There are things you need to do after you publish a new blog post so that your work gets found by more people. It can take sooo much time to do these things manually, but alas, you still have to do them! That’s where marketing tools like these come in. They let you automate most of those things you find yourself doing over and over again. Decide which tools you feel comfortable using (or learning).

3. What tasks can (or do) you outsource?

We all have to delegate if we want to grow. There are certain tasks that other people can help you with and then there are things that only you can do (like creating courses!). What tasks that you do over and over again can you outsource to a virtual assistant, blogger, or designer? Think about the things you do every day that if you were freed up, would allow you to focus your time better.

4. How will you promote your blog posts?

Decide which marketing and promotion strategies you feel comfortable with. Will you SEO your posts? What about email sequences and freebies, will you create them? Where and how will you post your updates on social media?

5. How will you grow your blog?

What techniques will you use to continue to grow your brand? Once you’ve been at it for a while (and maybe that’s now!) what marketing and promotion strategies will you use to scale your blog even more? Think about things like monthly webinars, daily posting in Facebook groups, guest posts, creating new products every quarter. What can you add to your offerings to keep your business flourishing?

That’s about everything! Make sure you document your blog business plan somewhere handy, so you can reach for it and reference it as you need. Keep in mind that as your blog starts to take shape, you will need to revise, edit, tweak and modify your plan. I recommend revisiting it every 6 months to make sure you’re on track. The business plan for your blog should always reflect your vision, which is likely to evolve as your blog biz grows and you want to document each shift.

If you want help putting all of these steps into action so you can turn your blog into a biz even faster, the Blog Business Plan Workbook is for you! Each section is full of prompts to help you get clear on specific goals, like how much money you want to make with your blog, PLUS action steps so you know exactly what to focus on right now to turn your dream into a profitable business. Click the image below to learn more.

blog plan template

That’s about it for part 1 of the Blog Profit Plan series. Now you have a blog business plan and a rockin’ success path. Next up, let’s turn this into a heavyweight action plan:

Part 2: The 12-Month Profit Plan to Make Money With Your Blog

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checklist for a blogHi friends! I don’t know about you, but for the past few weeks all I can think about is how to get more traffic to my blog. I mean, I want it so bad I can’t even see straight!

Does that happen to you too?

You wake up dreaming about traffic, go to sleep thinking about it, and are literally consumed by it during the day? Maybe it’s my OCD, but there’s something about the thought of traffic pouring into my site that makes me feel all warm and snuggly inside.

Today, I want to talk about more ways to get the traffic we’ve been dreaming about. In this post, I’m sharing a short blog checklist of things you should do as soon as your posts go live so that your amazing content is found by as many people as possible.

Before we dive in, I’ve already covered some things to do before you publish (14 to be exact!), so be sure to read that post too.

Now let’s get into some things you should do after you publish.

You may notice that one of the steps (#4 below) is included in both the Before and After Checklist. If you’re curious, it’s because this step is something you want to do both before and after you publish. And if that sounds confusing, don’t worry, it’ll all be crystal clear in a few minutes!

I’m forcing myself to keep this list short, partly because my brain’s a bit woozy today, but mostly because I really want you to have a checklist for a blog that includes simple, actionable steps to take right after your post goes live. I figure if you can count the steps on your fingers, they’ll be easy to remember. Plus, I’m committed to writing a blog post a week (how about you?), so looks like we have to jump in and do this. 🙂

And if you really want a deep dive on this topic, be sure to read this post where I show you over 32 ways to get free traffic to your blog.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Blog Checklist: 7 Things to Do Right After You Publish Your Post

Step 1: Create a second pin

You might be thinking Do I really need to do this?  It took me forever to publish my post with just one pin… Isn’t that enough? There’s no way I have time to create another one!

I’m with you. This is one of those things that is a biggie though, which is why it’s step #1 on our blog to-do list. Trust me, having two pins will make a huge difference in your traffic. I know this for sure because I tested two different pins and one of them was a complete dud, while the other one is my top performing pin of all time! If you’re curious, you can read my case study for that test here.

#MORALOFTHESTORY  Don’t get left with a dud pin! Make sure you have a second pin so you can compare. Once you get into the habit of creating two pins for every post, it’ll go much faster and you won’t even think about it. Promise.

How different should your pins be? Great question! I recommend creating one short one and one longer one that highlights points from your post. My longer-form pins almost always get more traffic (and sign-ups) than the shorter ones. But you still need the shorter one for your blog post, so that readers don’t have to scroll too far to read your epic post.

Easier if I just show you, right? Here are two pins I created for my last post:

social media strategy for a blog

Wanna know how I hide that second longer pin so it doesn’t appear on my post? I picked up a ninja coding tip from Sarah at xosarah.com. Here’s how to hide images on your posts:

  • In WordPress, use the text editor and locate your pin image
  • Once you find it, put this code around it: <div style=”display:none;”><img src=”your image here” /></div>
  • Make sure the first <div> is before <img and the last </div> is right after the />

Now both pins will show up when you save your pin to Pinterest, but the longer one will be hidden on your actual post. Cool stuff, no?

Step 2: Socialize it!

After you create your second pin, it’s time to get social with it. Don’t be shy here! Make sure you share your work everywhere so people can find it.

As soon as the post goes live, I share it a few times the first week like this:

  • The first day
  • A few hours later (for Twitter)
  • The next day
  • A week later
  • Then into SmarterQueue, where it cycles through every month or so.

I’ve already covered how often to share your posts here, so if you’re still feeling your way around a social media strategy, you definitely want give it a read.

I created this Blog Promotion Plan + Checklist to help you plan what types of content to share on social media and when. If you want, click the image below to download it.

blog promotion plan checkllist

One thing that I haven’t covered clearly, I think, is how to create a time-saving blog promo system, so that every time you publish a post you know exactly what to do with it (almost like a daily blog checklist for social media).

Let me take a quick stab at it now and break it down into 2 parts:

  • Part 1: Scheduling Tools
  • Part 2: Manual Sharing

First up, Part 1 (Scheduling Tools)

Your bangin’ system starts with going into your scheduling tools and setting up your posting schedule. Whether you use Buffer, Hootsuite, Edgar, Tailwind, or other is really up to you. You just want to make sure you do that first. This way whenever you add a new post to your queue, you know when and where it’s being shared.

Next, Part 2 (Manual Sharing)

You need a way to track where and when you manually shared each post. All that really means is When did you add it to Hootsuite? When did you share it to Pinterest? What about Tailwind? You get the gist here. You want a system where you can say done, done and done, so you know your post is out there in the socialsphere. This part actually took me a while to figure out! I would lose track of where I shared my posts, and then a week would go by and I’d think Wait a minute, did I schedule to Buffer?

After some trial and error, I came up with this simple tracking spreadsheet:

social media post planningSee those notes there? That’s where I add my post text, so all I have to do is paste it into my tweet/comment/description, etc. Now for Twitter, I create 15-20 tweets to go out the first week. They all have to be slightly different, so I write them out ahead of time in a simple doc, like this:
Tweets to schedule in Buffer and SmarterQueue

Now you may be thinking I know I need scheduling tools, but I’m on a tight budget and really don’t want to pay monthly. I’ve got you covered! You will love this free way to automate and loop your posts using IFTTT and Google Calendar. I’ve tested it and still use it in my other business for Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to watch the video tutorial where I walk you through how to set it up.

Step 3: Share with groups and communities

Almost halfway through our blog checklist. In step #2, we shared to our social media profiles, pages, and scheduling tools. Now it’s time to share your post to groups and communities!

Here’s the thing: you need to take a more personal approach when it comes to sharing posts in groups. Don’t just spam your groups and disappear (especially with Facebook). Get in there and talk to people! Make sure you participate in the weekly promo threads too. It only takes about 15 minutes a day to go through your groups, share your post, like and share posts from other members, and you’re done.

How do you track of all your groups? I’m glad you asked! Here’s a separate spreadsheet I use for Facebook groups:

 schedule for Facebook groupsEach group name on here is a direct link to the group’s page, so it’s super fast and easy!

Step 4: Make it SEO-mazing!

Remember the step that gets repeated in both the before and after checklists? Here it is!

We’ve already used Yoast SEO to target a keyword and write an SEO-friendly blog post before we published, so we should be all good.

Hmmm, or are we?

I highly recommend giving your post another look-see. The reason is that I’ve searched Google for my keyword months after publishing a post, and believe me when I say it was out there in the blogosphere. I’m talking waaa-yy out, like nowhere to be found. My keyword has zero competition and I’m on page 14? Nope, that’s not going to work.

What’s happening here? Why was my post so far down in rankings?

Well, first off, I thought I was using a long-tail keyword but it turns out it was too broad and so, highly competitive. I needed to go back into Yoast and narrow down my keyword so I could give my post a chance to get up there on page #1.

See where I’m going with this? This same thing may happen to you. You might think you’re all set with your keyword, but in reality it needs tweaking (maybe there’s even an easier keyword to target). 

This is perfectly ok. Nobody becomes an SEO wizard overnight. It will take some time to get it right and you’ll be learning as you go, k? That’s why I want you to check your keyword twice, once before and once after you publish. Heck, maybe even twice after.

How to #SEO your blog posts: Make sure your keyword is in the title, post, images, and headings.Click To Tweet

You might be thinking, no way…I can’t even get my head around SEO. Now you want me to do it 2 times?

I get it! This is one of those things that once you get it right, it will pay you back double in your investment. Google is going to be an employee for your blog, working hard to bring you leads and customers. I call that worth it!

So right after you hit publish, go back and give your post another once over. Take a look at your keyword, go back to Keyword Planner if you need, check your title, double- and triple-check keywords in your post, your image tags, headings, and so on.

If you want, you can grab the Blog Post SEO Checklist I created to help you boost your posts up to page #1. Click the image below to download.

blog post seo checklist

Related: The Ultimate Guide to SEO for Bloggers and Entrepreneurs

Step 5: Repurpose it!

Repurposing your post is a fancy pants way of saying that you turn it into another type of content, like a podcast or video. I like to think of it as repacking one piece of content and making it unique for a new platform and audience.

The reason repurposing is on the blog checklist is that it gives you a chance to reach a broader audience. Anytime you can expose your content to more people, that’s the way to go! It also takes some pressure off when you feel like you just can’t come up with another blog post idea.

This looks like: You write a post and pin to Pinterest, then you record a quick tip video and post it on Facebook and YouTube the next day. 10 people repin your post, 4 people share your video on Facebook, and 7 people share it on YouTube.

See how your reach is snowballing? Are you getting a sense of the greater impact you can have on your audience this way? From one post, you now have 2 different types of content to share on at least 3 different platforms. You can actually share that same video to Instagram and Pinterest too. Woo! That’s what I call smart content…

But wait, there’s more. Your new content will also help you rank higher on Google because you’ll have different content linking back to it.

Have I convinced you yet? Let’s look at some types of content you can create:

  • A video
  • A podcast
  • Infographic – if you followed step #1 you already have this
  • Slideshow
  • Quick tip graphic
  • Webinar or hangout
  • Create a challenge
  • A twitter chat – build off of your post idea
  • Turn it into an email series (this is great for popular posts)
  • Create a free offer (help build your email list)
  • Publish it on Medium or LinkedIn (more like reblogging, but still good)

Bonus: Grab the Social Media Cheat Sheet and Content Calendar so you know what to share and when, plus the best tools to use for each platform.

 social media cheat sheet for bloggers

Don’t overdo it

Okay, so now you know this is something you should be doing, but hold up a sec. Not every post is a good candidate for repurposing. You can overdo it here, especially if you’re reaching the same audience with the same thing over and over again. We don’t want to burn people out. Let’s throw some randomness into the mix so our content doesn’t become formulaic and blah.

So for every content piece, ask yourself How can I present this in a different way so that people don’t see the same thing in the same way? What can I do to extend on this idea?

And remember, it’s okay to be choosy with what you repurpose. You want to be sure that whatever you create, you create it well. You don’t want to hurt your brand.

You probably have some more questions about repurposing, so let me give you some guidance here:

Which posts should be repurposed?

Great question! Popular posts are a good place to start. You know that people love them so it makes sense to reach a broader audience. Another thing to do is go back and look at older posts that you can turn into something else today, kind of bring it back to life in a new way.

When should I share my new content?

You don’t have to share your new content all at once. In fact, why not spread it out? Let people breathe and explore other ideas until they’re ready to come back to it. Maybe you share a slide deck next week, then a video at the end of the month, then an infographic the next month. The more different types of content you have for each post, the more creative you can get with what and where you share. Make sense?

Oh, and I highly recommend investing in some tools to create amazing visual content. This makes such a huge difference, and when you think about it, we’re all becoming publishers these days, so the better your images are, the more traffic you’re gonna get. Pinky swear. It makes a huge difference.

Should I include a link back to my post?

Absolutely! Now you’re thinkin’. You can actually link between all your repurposed content, and this works like SEO fairy dust. The more links you have back to your post, the better your post will rank on Google. How’s that for making our traffic dreams come true! Gotta love it!

What linking looks like: In YouTube you link back to our post, in your podcast you link back to it, and even in your slideshow you link back to it.

By now you can see how creating multiple pieces of content for your ideas starts to give you a library of things to share, which is something I cover (and tons more!) in this social media strategy post.

Related: How to Promote Your Blog Posts Effectively on Social Media

Step 6: Reply to comments

It’s important to engage with people who read your blog posts. Watch how people respond to a post and make sure you reply to their comments. Let them know that you’re paying attention to them and that you value them.

When people feel like you really want to know their opinion (which of course you do!) it makes them feel like they are important, and of course, they are. Comments mean that people liked your post enough to invest their time in leaving a comment. That takes effort, friends! Try to deepen and expand on what they’re saying, maybe ask them for a question or for an example. Who knows? Maybe they’ll leave you a second comment.

The other thing you can do is to provide more info in your replies. Or, you can add a poll to your post, which will give you a perfect excuse to re-share it on social media. I’m thinking something like I’ve added a poll and would love your opinion!  You can even highlight conversations and share them. So if you love Mary’s comment, for example, share it! This way you highlight the community and show that you value these types of conversations.

Step 7: Extend it with future posts

Great blogs take their readers on a journey, which is a fun way to build momentum with your blog post
. Once your post goes live, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do with what you’ve just written to extend or follow up with on the idea.

Even if you’re going off-topic a bit, as long as you have a relevant blog post, you can write about it. Your reader comments may contain questions (step #6 above). Can you turn those into a post? Psst… This is a quick and easy way to come up with new blog ideas when you get writer’s block!

Sometimes, one post naturally triggers another post. Maybe your post triggers a question that you don’t know the answer to. You can write a new post to answer it. Or, you can follow up with a new juicy nugget you’ve learned since writing the blog post.

Here again, check your analytics to see which of your posts are most popular. Similar to repurposing in step #5, brainstorm how you can extend on a popular post. There’s something in it that resonated with people, so you have a golden opportunity to extend on it, deepen it, and even mimic the style of that post.

Step 8: Fooled ya, one last step!

Now I know you may be thinking How do I remember to do all this? It’s all I can do to stay on schedule with writing and publishing my posts!

Once you put a system in place it will be a natural part of your blogging process. You’re not even going to have to think about it. Promise.

All you need to do is set up a blog post checklist (in Google Docs, Excel, or Word) with prompts to help you do these 7 things. And don’t worry. You may not get to all of these steps the minute your post goes live. That’s perfectly okay and nothing to stress about. The best way to approach this is to master one step at a time.

So at first, you might get into the habit of creating a second pin and socializing your posts. That’s a lot right there, no? Soon you’ll see how just focusing on steps #1 and #2 will help you get monster traffic and exposure for your blog. Anything that brings you more traffic is time well spent, in my book! So right there, you’re already increasing your reach and your traffic with those two steps.

Once you’re comfortable, move on to step #3, and so on.

The other thing to do is to keep your blog checklist handy, so that every time you publish a new post, you can just reach for it. I find that when I have those questions right in front of me, even if I don’t get to it right away it’s making me think about it while I’m doing other things. Keeping your list front and center will naturally trigger some of these steps, so you’ll be doing them without even realizing it!

If you missed the first part of this series, the things to do BEFORE you publish your post, you can download that checklist below so you have it on hand for your next post.

blog checklist pdf
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12 Popular WordPress Plugins For Bloggers | Here’s a list of plugins I use on my blog and what I use them for. I'm hoping that a few of them will be useful for you too! Click through to see all the plugins!

blogger-plugins

I confess! I had no idea what the best WordPress plugins were when I created my first site. I only knew I needed them.

WordPress plugins are software “snippets” that add additional functionality and features to your website. You need them too! They will make your blogging life so much easier and help you build an audience quickly.

Here are some of the features you can add with plugins:

  • Contact forms
  • Search optimization
  • Social media share links
  • List-building pop-ups
  • and tons more…

There are literally tons and tons of blogger plugins from which to choose. So, how do you know which ones you need?

Today I’m sharing some of the plugins I use on my blog. Some I use for SEO, some for social media, some are more administrative, and others are for email list building. These are grouped in order of priority (what to install first, what to install next). I’m hoping that a few of these will be useful for your blog too.

INSTALL THESE TOP WORDPRESS PLUGINS FIRST:

WP-SpamShack

USE TO: BLOCK COMMENT SPAM

You get so excited when you see 25 comments on your dashboard, but then find that 95% of those are spam. Bleh, who has time for that? You don’t! Time to shut-down spam comments before they happen.

Spam is such a huge issue for WordPress sites that each install comes with a spam filter plugin called Akismet. I’ve never used it because the set-up seems like too much work. Plus, I’ve heard the filtering can be aggressive. It can block valid comments as spam and you won’t have a chance to see real, true reader comments.

WP-SpamShack is very effective and easy to use. Just activate it and you’re good to go. What can be easier than that?

Update: It looks like WP-SpamShack is no longer being updated. I am switching my recommendation to a plugin I’ve recently installed, Akismet (yep, I’m going against what I just said). The set-up is not the huge mountain I once feared. Since installing it, I’ve received zero spam comments. My inbox, and I, are in a much happier place. 🙂

This brings up an important point about plugins:

As I mention at the end of this post, outdated plugins can break your site. They also create an easy target for hackers. Before installing any plugin, make sure it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. While you’re at it, take a look at the number of active updates (the more, the better). The best WordPress plugins are updated at least once a month. Many of the ones below are updated weekly, which is why they top my list of must-have WordPress plugins.

Psst…You should always be using the latest version of WordPress. Just sayin’.

 

Yoast SEO

USE TO: HELP SEARCH ENGINES FIND YOUR CONTENT

WordPress is by default a search-engine-friendly platform. But, you’ll need the help of Yoast SEO to optimize your site even more for search engines. I use it on each of my posts. If you want to make it easy for people to find your work on Google, you need to use it too!  Yoast is hands-down one of the best SEO plugins for WordPress.

Yoast SEO will analyze your posts and give you a list of prompts for headings, content, post title, descriptions, images, and even URLs to make sure everything on your page is optimized for your target keyword. It does a whole bunch of other things too, like Facebook OpenGraph data and XML sitemap generator.

I recommend installing the Yoast plugin and playing around with it a bit. There’s a lot of functionality in there.

#WORDOFCAUTION Following Yoast’s prompts does not guarantee that your post will rank according to Google’s algorithms. For instance, simply entering “blog post checklist” as the Yoast target keyword doesn’t mean Google will see it the same way. I know this is true. It’s happened to me.

There’s a lot that goes in to SEO. Most of it starts with thorough keyword research. From there, it’s a matter of how you integrate your target keyword (and related keywords) into the post. What Yoast will do is give you an SEO checklist you can use before, and even after, you hit publish.

Related: 7 Things Every Blogger Should Do After Your Post Goes Live

Related: SEO for Bloggers and Entrepreneurs: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Gravity Forms

USE TO: CREATE CONTACT FORMS

Do you even need contact forms anymore? Not many people use them, but I like knowing my audience can easily reach me. Anything that gives readers a channel to get in touch with you is a good thing, so why not include one?

I prefer Contact Form 7 to Gravity Forms because it’s prettier on the back-end and easier to use, but alas, CF7 doesn’t integrate with my email marketing platform. I had to switch to Gravity Forms simply because it has integrations with more email marketing platforms. Contact Form 7 does integrate with most of the email marketing tools out there, but not Infusionsoft (which is what I use). If you use MailChimp, Aweber, MadMimi or Constant Contact, CF7 is a good choice.

Google Analytics

USE TO: TRACK YOUR BLOG’S PERFORMANCE

This one is one of those great “optional” WordPress plugins, and I’ll explain why.

You know you need Google Analytics to monitor your site’s traffic and performance. But, sometimes Google Analytics can be tricky to install. Now, most WordPress themes include a dedicated section for GA tracking codes. With others, it’s not as straightforward. For instance, I put my tracking code for ConversionMinded.com in the wrong section. I only realized this when I popped into Analytics to find a blank screen–nothing to report. This happened to me on other sites too.

If you feel a bit flustered about how to add the code to your theme, I highly recommend installing the Google Analytics plugin. Just enter your tracking code ID and let the plugin take care of the rest. What could be easier?

 

INSTALL THESE ESSENTIAL WORDPRESS PLUGINS NEXT:

Click to Tweet

USE TO: ENCOURAGE SOCIAL MEDIA SHARING

I keep telling myself to use this more because it’s such a killer plugin.

Click to Tweet gives you a pretty box with a tweet quote that readers can share with their followers. It’s very easy to use and a great way to encourage sharing.

Here’s an example:

Check out this post on 12 Blogger Plugins that will skyrocket your blogClick To Tweet

What you should know: When you create a Click-to-Tweet, keep the “username” box checked once you enter your tweet text.

Shareaholic

USE TO: ENCOURAGE SOCIAL MEDIA SHARING

See the share buttons at the bottom of this post? That’s Shareaholic in action. Shareaholic is a social media plugin that makes it easy for readers to share your amazing posts. They’re also a form of social proof.  The more shares you have on your post, the more new readers will want to share it too.

Here’s what it will look like at the bottom of your posts:

Shareaholic Is The #3 Essential WordPress Plugin For Your BlogJust install it and you’re done. It will sync with the API of your social media platforms to track the share counts. You can also use the Shareaholic (or SumoMe) plugin to add share buttons to your post images, which is yet another way to encourage sharing. See this post for how to create share buttons.

What you should know: Before you install this plugin, head over to Google Webmaster Tools. Create an account, verify your website, and then choose your preferred domain. This is just a techy way of saying Tell Google if you want your site to appear in browser windows as the “www” version or the “non-www” version.

Mine was originally “www” and I recently changed it to the “non-www”. No big deal, except Pinterest and Google+ recognize them as completely different sites. With this change, I lost my share counts and had to start again from zero. I don’t want this to happen to you, so be sure you set your preferred domain beforehand!

Update: Time to add Social Warfare to our Best WordPress Plugins list! It’s become my new fav for adding social share buttons…no worries about lost share counts due to a change in your permalink.

Thrive Leads

USE TO: BUILD AN EMAIL LIST

I’ve written extensively about Thrive Leads in this post and in this post, partly because I love it so much, and mostly because it does so much. For me, this plugin blows away SumoMe and other list-building plugins. It’s not free, but it’s also not expensive (about $65 for a license) vs SumoMe’s ListBuilder Pro, which costs $20 a month.

Here’s what it can do:

  • Standard pop-ups, slide-ins, top or bottom forms
  • Full-page opt-ins: Fill the entire screen with your form when someone lands on your site
  • In-content pop-ups: Triggered from a link, button, or image in your post
  • Menu-triggered pop-ups: Great for creating a Resource Library tab on your site
  • Different pop-up states:Readers who have already subscribed will see another opt-in or nothing at all.

What you should know: The features in this plugin are fierce, but it’s not the easiest to use. If you’re a new blogger, you may prefer to start with a form plugin like Popup Ally. As your blog builds up a bit and you need more functionality, I highly recommend checking out Thrive Leads. No doubt, it will become your go-to WordPress blog plugin for list-building.

Contextual-Related Posts

USE TO: ENCOURAGE READERS TO STAY ON YOUR SITE

Related posts are a great way to keep readers on your site longer which is always a good thing. Plus, as I covered in this post, internal linking is like a popularity vote for your site which will help you rank higher in Google.

With a plugin like Contextual-Related Posts, a list of related posts will appear at the bottom of your article, which you can either show with thumbnails or links.

What you should know: If your site is hosted on a managed WordPress hosting company like WPEngine or Flywheel, Contextual-Related Posts will be blocked. The reason is that plugins like this can potentially slow down your site. In that case, try Jetpack, Related Posts for WordPress, or even Shareaholic. If you decide to go with Jetpack, make sure you disable their other features, as this plugin can seriously slow down your site’s speed.

Duplicate Post

USE TO: CLONE A PAGE DESIGN

Definitely one the best WordPress plugins around. I used to pull my hair out designing pages manually, one by one, until I discovered Duplicate Post.

Duplicate Post does just what it says, only I use it for pages instead of posts. And I use it aallll the time…

Here’s why it’s so great: Say you’ve spent hours tweaking the design of your About page and want to use it as a template for your Services page. With Duplicate Post, you don’t have to start from scratch or spend hours copying CSS styles. Simply clone the page and you’ve got a custom design template ready to go.

What you should know: You want to duplicate the design of the page and not the actual content. Make sure you change the title, content, keywords, images, buttons and anything else on the page so that Google will see it as an entirely new page, rather than duplicate content, which will hurt your SEO.

Redirection

USE TO: REDUCE “PAGE NOT FOUND” ERRORS

Another essential WordPress plugin for SEO…

Let’s say you’re playing around in the Google Keyword Planner and stumble upon the perfect keyword for one of your published posts. It looks like you have a great chance to rank for it and you want to replace your old keyword with this new one. No biggie, right? Just change the keyword and follow the Yoast SEO checklist to update it on your page.

But, hold on, friend! You already published the post with the old URL, which means that Google is looking for the old one, and not the new one you just created. By updating the keyword in your URL (which you will have to do), you’ve created a new path for your post and confused Google.

That’s where the Redirection plugin comes in. Anytime you update the actual URL of a page or post on your site, use this plugin to redirect Google from the old URL to the new one. This way you won’t wind up with 404 errors on your site.

 

Pretty Link Lite

USE TO: CREATE BRANDED LINKS

Pretty Link Lite is a plugin for creating shortened links, similar to Bitly, but better. They’re like “vanity” links that include your domain and help to solidify your brand so that people recognize it.

Pretty Link Lite is great for affiliate links, which are generally long and not so “pretty”. People are more inclined to click on simple, short links than they are long ones that are hard to read.

This plugin will also track and analyze how your links are performing, much like Bitly.

WordPress Editorial Calendar

USE TO: PLAN + ORGANIZE YOUR POSTS

I haven’t used this yet, but I have it installed, and it’s next on my list!

This plugin is designed to help you organize and plan your posts in advance, which you can mark as Drafts or Scheduled. Sounds like a much better system than what I’m currently using (an outdated Google spreadsheet). From the little I’ve experimented with the Editorial Calendar plugin, it looks like you can specify your calendar view (1 week, 2 weeks, etc.). Then, enter post titles on the days you plan to publish. You can then use the calendar to write/edit your post directly from the plugin.

I’ve heard this is one of the best WordPress plugins for planning the content you want to share.  I can’t wait to give it a try, and I think you should too!

Before you install any plugins:

  • Don’t install more plugins than you will use. Plugins tend to bloat your site and can seriously affect your page’s load-speed.
  • Start out with plugins 1-4, and then gradually add the others as needed.
  • Take a look at the number of active installs (anything over 50K is good) and make sure it’s compatible with your version of WordPress.
  • If you find what seems to be an awesome plugin, but the last update was 1-2 years back, this means the developer hasn’t continued updating the plugin and there’s a good chance it’ll cause conflicts with WordPress. You’re better off looking for another similar plugin that is compatible.
  • Check your site after you install a plugin to make sure everything looks/functions okay (good page load-speed, no white screen, everything intact, an so on).

What plugins do you rely on to grow your blog? I’d love to add them to the list!

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9 Website Optimization Tips to Convert Customers | Ever feel like your website should be working harder for you? This post is for you! It includes 9 elements every blogger and entrepreneur must have on their website to generate leads and sales 24/7, even while you sleep. Click through to see all the high-converting elements!

9 Steps to Optimize Your Website For More Traffic + Customers | Ever feel like your website should be working harder for you? This post is for you! It includes 9 elements every blogger and entrepreneur must have on their website to generate leads and sales 24/7, even while you sleep. Click through to see all the steps!

Ever wonder how to optimize your website so that it does more of the heavy lifting in your business? Say, get out there and bring you some fresh leads + customers already? Or, maybe give the universe a shout-out to your superheroness?

I’m so with you on this one! Our websites should work harder. In fact, we want our websites to be the swiss army knives of the machine we’ve been working so hard to build.

The machine that’s going to drive traffic, build our audience, and make us profitable.

Today, I’m sharing 9 website optimization tips to help keep that machine running at peak performance. These tips will be especially helpful if your blog biz isn’t quite where you want it to be, or if you feel like you’re doing everything right but something is still a bit off.

You probably have questions about your website, or maybe you’re thinking…

  • I don’t have time
  • I’m done working on my site
  • How can this bring me customers?
  • Is spending time on my site even worth it?

I get it. Another thing to add to the list, right? And YES, optimizing your website for more leads and customers will take time.

Here’s the thing though:

Most people who visit your website are doing a quick fly-by, looking for something specific. Once they find it, they’ll likely peace out unless you give them such a bangin’ experience that they want to stay longer.

The beauty here is that once you optimize your website, you can pretty much set it and forget it. This is because all the heavy lifting will start happening on autopilot. You’ll have a system that builds relationships with complete strangers and a website that delivers leads + customers while you sleep.

Sound good? Here are my website optimization tips:

PART 1 – THE ART OF THINGS + LAYING THE FOUNDATION

1) A Value Proposition

WHERE TO PUT: ON YOUR HOME PAGE

A value whaaa? This is a fancy way of saying let people know that you solve one problem for one specific person. A value prop should be the first statement people see on your homepage and it looks something like this:

I help (who) do (what) so that they can (benefit).

Confused by this? I’ve got tons of value prop variations, plus a template for you in this post. Your goal here is to let your audience know exactly what those 2 “ones” are above and to clearly communicate the value you provide. What do you do? How do you help? Who do you help? 

If you need help with your one person, you can download the customer avatar template I created to help you attract the right customers to your business. Click the image below to download it.

Download the Customer Avatar Worksheet to learn how to optimize a home page with a targeted message that attracts your ideal customer.

I recommend placing your value prop front and center on your homepage, ideally above the fold (which is another jargony way of saying don’t make people scroll for it).

Now, I know coming up with this kind of statement can be tricky, especially if you have a million topics you blog about, and that’s perfectly ok. Just know that if you have a hard time building an audience for your brand, your value prop is likely at fault.

Here’s why:

You need a wrapper for all your interests…some kind of angle that your topics point to so that people know which box to place you in. Plus, having a strong value prop is the best way to check the box on homepage optimization.

Note: When it comes to website optimization tips, people often skip the value prop step and head straight for SEO (step #9 below). This is a huge mistake, in my book. The reason is that after all your hard work driving traffic to your website, if you don’t grab people right away you’ll likely lose them forever. Please, friend, don’t skip this step!

Related: How to Find Your Blog’s Niche and Focus

2) Your Story

WHERE TO PUT: YOUR ABOUT PAGE

Your About Page is where you hook people on YOU, your world view, and why you do what you do.

Don’t hold back! Your personal history has framed who you are and that’s the story your audience needs to hear. I call it The Story of You Plus Them because you’re connecting the dots between where your readers are in their journey and where you can take them.

Your About Page should communicate that you get how your audience feels. What have you experienced that may be similar to what they’re going through right now? How have you overcome your challenges? How do you personally know how they feel? What will change for them AFTER you?

Once you weave your story in a way that answers these questions, you’ll tap into how your audience secretly feels. Building an audience will become effortless because people will perceive you as having a solution and will naturally seek you out and want to work with you.

Related: What Should I include on My About Page?

3) Great Design

WHERE TO PUT: EVERYWHERE!

Wondering how to optimize a home page? It starts with knowing how you want people to feel when they visit your website. Energized and excited? Deep and mysterious? Powerful and independent?

This is true for more than just your home page. Details like colors, fonts, and graphics have a lot to do with the mood of your entire website, and more importantly, how long people hang around. Your goal is to help readers get lost in your copy, with me? You want them to experience your website with no distracting elements to take their attention away from what you want them to do.

When you think about it, the function of design is to interpret copy. Ask yourself questions like How can I turn that huge block of boring text into an eye-guzzling graphic? What design elements can I add that will make it easy for people to digest my copy?

What you’re aiming for is to create a hierarchy of importance so that people know what to read first, second, and so on. We’re talking about deets like:

  • Easy navigation
  • Clear calls to action (step #6 below)
  • Harmonious colors, fonts, and graphics
  • Use of white space
  • Strategic positioning and scale of elements

When you’re first starting out, please don’t spend too much time on this step. The reason is that it’s easy to fall into a rabbit-hole with design. In the early stage of your business, your goal should be to get out there as quickly as possible so that you can learn more about your audience.

I recommend using a theme like Divi as a jumping off point. Add your content and change the colors, fonts, and graphics. Then you’re good to go. Easy peasy.

#BOTTOMLINE Yes, design is important, but don’t spend so much time here that you put off other important things like LAUNCHING.

Related: How to Choose Colors That Will Make Your Brand Stand Out

PART II: REVVIN’ UP THE MACHINE

4) Opt-in forms + freebies

WHERE TO PUT: YOUR HEADER, FOOTER, SIDEBAR, BLOG POSTS

When we talk about how to optimize your website, this one’s a biggie. Opt-in forms and freebies are where you start turbocharging the machine and building an email list while you sleep. What’s not to love about that, right?

I include them on my home page and in as many posts as I can, without interrupting readers of course. If a freebie naturally fits and would help extend a post with even more value, I’ll include it.

I actually recommend including a freebie for as many posts as you can, which sounds like a lot more work than it is. You can start with a few that are related to your blog themes and use the same freebie on numerous posts. The double-whammy here is that the more freebies you create, the more you’ll understand what your audience secretly wants. You can use that intel to frame future products around.

Remember, freebies are a huge part of our content funnel, which I cover in this post. A high-converting freebie is:

  • Targeted – speaks to one specific person and addresses their most pressing pain point.
  • Actionable – is easy for people to digest and implement. Checklists, cheat sheets, templates and short workbooks (less than 10 pages) work well.
  • Simple – covers one simple topic rather than multiple topics. Your goal is to offer the easiest steps for people to get from A to Z.
  • Delivers results – gives people steps they can actually move forward with and see results.
  • Builds trust – establishes your authority and primes people to buy from you in the future.
  • Sparks curiosity – offers enough value to get people excited about future products, without giving away the farm.
  • Provides real value – is something that people would actually consider paying for.

For opt-in forms, I’m in love with Thrive Leads! They have so many options. You can tweak these forms all you want and then save them as templates.

Any type of form you want, Thrive can make it happen. Take a look:

  • Welcome mats – Full page opt-ins similar to Jeff Bullas’ home page. These are supposedly the highest converting. I can’t wait to test.
  • Standard pop-ups – I use these as “exit pop-ups”, where visitors are prompted to opt-in right before they leave.
  • In-content – Clicking on an image or a link triggers a pop-up. I use these for all of my content upgrades.
  • Ribbon forms – Appear as a bar across the top of your website, like the one on Twelveskip’s site.
  • Sidebars – Display on the right side of pages and posts.
  • Footers – Sit at the bottom of your site and prompt people after they read your content.

Can you see how powerful freebies are? I highly recommend purchasing the Thrive Leads’ plugin ($67 one-time fee) and experimenting with each opt-in form.

5) Landing Pages

WHERE TO PUT: THESE ARE CUSTOM PAGES

If we’re really going to make our opt-in forms stand out, we need to give them a dedicated landing page. Here’s why:

All the forms mentioned in step #7 are designed to appear on an existing page or post on your website. They’ll pop up, slide in, slide down, or hang out at the top/bottom of a page. If we really want to shake things up, we’ll put our opt-in form on an entirely separate page, so people can’t help but notice it.

How is a landing page is different from other pages on your website?

Great question! I scratched my head on this one too at first. What makes landing pages different is that they include only 3 things:

  1. Details about your freebie
  2. A call to action (step #6 below)
  3. Your opt-in form

That’s it! The best converting landing pages are all about freebies and nothing else. We’re talking no blog posts, pages, sidebars, or even top navigation. Basically, no ANYTHING that might distract people from signing up for your freebie.

So there you have it! That’s my skinny on landing page best practices. Yours can be short and sweet (an image plus a few bullet points) or long and detailed (more copy, more images, more wow).

Wondering how to make a landing page? I’ve got 2 options for you:

  • LeadPages has a huge library of high-converting templates that you can easily tweak to suit both your freebie and brand. While I like their templates, I find that customizing them takes more work than I want. Plus, the $25 monthly fee is too steep, in my book.
  • Thrive Content Builder is a relatively new plugin that’s been giving LeadPages a run lately. These guys boast a huge template library too (162 and counting) and charge only $67, with a full year of support. That’s a one-time fee and a no-brainer, right?

6) Call-to-Actions

WHERE TO PUT: EVERYWHERE

As people read your content, you want to encourage them to take another step. The way to do that is to use a combination of buttons, links, and copy that calls them to action (hence the term “call-to-actions” or “CTAs”).

CTAs have the smallest amount of copy you’re likely to write, but don’t let that fool you! This is one of those cases where big things definitely come in small packages. Here are a few CTA examples:

  • I’m In!
  • Heck Yes!
  • Hook Me Up!
  • Get Started Here

You’re probably thinking Why are CTAs such a big deal? Can’t I just say “Download” or Buy Now” and that’s it?

It depends. Sometimes that will work and other times not so much. I recommend brainstorming your CTA a bit more. If you hang in there, you’re likely to come up with text for your CTA button and heading that will get people fired up to sign up.

Take a look at Melyssa Griffin‘s website. See how she prompts people to Take Action: Click An Option Below…? It doesn’t get any clearer than that! Follow this example with your call-to-actions and you’ll be buildin’ your machine, quick like.

You want these babies ev’rywhere:

  • On your home page
  • About page
  • Contact page
  • Blog posts
  • Opt-in forms
  • Landing pages
  • Thank you pages
  • Sales pages

Remember, CTAs are a huge part of creating an effective content funnel. People need to be drawn to both the copy and design of your call-to-action. This is the way you’ll be able to capture their attention long enough to guide them through your sign-up process.

Related: How to Build Your Blog Audience (Like You Mean Business)

7) Thank You Page

WHERE TO PUT: THIS IS A CUSTOM PAGE

When people opt-in, you need a way to assure them that their freebie is on its way. That’s where a thank you page comes in. You literally say something like Thanks for signing up! Your freebie is on its way! And leave it at that.

Nope, sorry. In reality, we can’t leave it at that. 🙁

We need to dig into the real potential of thank you pages and help people take the next step. After all, they’ve already raised their hands and said yes, so they’re likely ready to build a relationship, or maybe even purchase a low-cost product. Now we’re talkin’.

This page has some serious lifting to do! First, think about what you want people to do. Then make sure your thank you page includes:

  • A confirmation message
  • Specific instructions on what to do next
  • A clear call-to-action (step #6 above)

Speaking of CTAs again, here are some great call to actions for this page:

  • Ask people to whitelist your email address
  • Share on social media
  • Register for a webinar or event
  • Purchase a low-dollar offer
  • Purchase a related or affiliate product

Whatever you do, please make this page a priority! This is a huge website optimization step. Don’t back-burner it or treat it as an afterthought. Your thank you page doesn’t need to be long and it doesn’t need to be pretty. It just needs to prompt people to take a very specific action.

8) A sales process

What I mean by this is that you need a system to deliver your freebie, prime people for future products, and nurture the relationship you’ve started to build with your subscribers. That’s where automated email marketing comes in.

What you want to do is to create a 2-email sequence (one to deliver the freebie and one to introduce an offer). Now I get that delivering a freebie doesn’t sound like a sales process, but let’s take a closer look, k?

First off, you send an email that delivers your freebie. No brainer, right? You’ll want to tag subscribers with this particular freebie and then you can:

  • Send them weekly updates and blog posts
  • Tell them about a product you’re creating that is related to the freebie and offers tons more value
  • Tell them about a service you provide, again related to the freebie
  • Share an affiliate product that will help them implement an action step in your freebie

Can you see how this is shaping up into a bangin’ sales process?

Now that you know your audience and what they’re trying to achieve, your job is to build a relationship with them and get them excited about buying.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you bombard subscribers with salesy emails, but you get my gist. Setting up an email sequence to deliver your freebie is the first step in building your sales process, and it’s all going to happen on the same platform.

Looking for an email service provider? I recently switched from Infusionsoft to ConvertKit and am loving it. MailChimp is a good option here too.

9) Plugins

WHERE TO PUT: SEE BELOW

Let’s take a look at some plugins that will help turn your website into a sales machine. I’ve already shared Thrive Leads and Thrive Content Builder, which you can purchase at Thrive Themes. Here’s how to use other plugins that will turbocharge your website:

Shareaholic

Put at the bottom of your posts

See the social media buttons at the bottom of this post? Those are share buttons from Shareaholic, which is a free plugin. Woop Woop! Share buttons encourage people to share your posts and send a strong social signal that your content is popular.

You can also place share buttons at the top of your posts or on the left side. I’m excited to try Social Warfare, but right now I’m shying away from their $25 monthly fees.

Contextual Related Posts

Put below your share buttons

A lot of what we’re doing with plugins is encouraging people to click through to other sections of our website. That’s exactly what Contextual Related Posts does best. Once you install this plugin, you can display 3-4 related posts based on the content of your current post. It’s easy to tweak the design too.

Google Analytics

Add to the <head> tag of your website

If you hired a sales person, you wouldn’t cross your fingers and hope for the best. You would track and measure their performance. The same is true with your website. You have to know which pages are most popular so you can optimize them for even more conversions.

Many themes have a clear section for adding Google Analytics, so you may not need this. But in case things get wonky and it’s not as easy as it seems, install this plugin, add your code, and you’re all set.

I recommend logging in to Google Analytics to check your site’s performance at least once a month.

Yoast SEO

Nothing to “put” here. Simply follow the SEO prompts at the bottom of the WordPress edit window.

Popping up in search engines doesn’t happen overnight, but anything worth having is worth waiting for, right? That’s how SEO works. You lay the groundwork, plant your seeds, and then wait for spring.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on SEO lately, and let me just say that it’s a big deal.

Get more traffic? Check.
Get clear on your ideal customers? Check.
Create better content? Check.

If you’re wondering how to make a blog post SEO-friendly and haven’t already installed this plugin yet, I say get on it. What Yoast SEO will do is prompt you with a checklist of things that will help you optimize your blog posts. Once you see a green light (right up there near the Publish button), you’re all set.

While this handy tool doesn’t replace SEO keywords or even Google’s ranking algorithms, it will help you optimize your posts with SEO-friendly content, title, headings, tags, descriptions, images, and more.

Need more SEO tips? I cover the basics of it here. If you want, you can also download the SEO checklist I created so you know how to get your posts ranked on Google. Click the image below to download.

SEO Checklist For Creating An SEO-Friendly Website

Related: 12 Blogger Plugins to Skyrocket Your Blog

Related: 7 Things Every Blogger Should Do After You Hit Publish

There you go! Those are my 9 website optimization tips to help you put your blog on autopilot and generate leads and sales while you sleep. Nite nite.

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How Songwriting Helped Me Grow My Blog, Plus 7 Tips for New Bloggers | Are you a new blogger? These songwriting-inspired tips will help you write posts that your readers will love and quickly grow your blog audience. Click through to see all the tips!Stick to the structure.

That’s what my instructor would hammer into my head over and over again when I was learning how to write songs.

And every time I ignored him, I wrote lyrics that rambled on and on without a beginning or an end, or even a break in between.

In fact, one of the songs I wrote was actually three songs jumbled up into one. Back then I couldn’t understand why people weren’t in love with it! Now I can laugh about it because I get it. That song suffered from a major identity crisis. I kid you not, it’s the most confusing song I’ve ever heard.

And it’s all because I didn’t stick to a structure.

This got me thinking about the challenges of entrepreneurs and bloggers. Is there a way we can limit our rambling so we don’t confuse people? What if we used a song-structure approach to create great content that’s easy for people to digest?

Here are seven songwriting-inspired tips that helped me write better posts and grow my blog:

1. What do you want people to do?

Every great song has an unforgettable chorus or “hook”. Those are the lyrics you write first and then your intro, verses and pre-chorus lyrics all lead back to your hook. It’s the part of the song that everything leads back to.

If you apply this to blogging, you have to think about what you want people to do once they read your blog? It’s highly unlikely that they’re going to go to your Contact page and fill it in. They’re still in the get-to-know-you stage and need to build up more trust first.

The best way to lead people through your sales funnel at this stage is to include a button at the end of every blog that brings people to a premium piece of content (a content upgrade). This is probably the single biggest thing that has helped me grow my blog.

Use these tips to maximize the value of your content upgrade:

  • Turn it into a checklist. Checklists are very actionable, and although they may take a long time to apply, people can easily digest them in a couple of minutes.
  • Keep it tightly related to your blog post. Resource lists are a great option here. Let’s say you write a blog on fitness. You can create a resource list of the best online workouts, as well as sources for fitness gear, healthy recipes, the squat techniques, and more.
  • Focus on one thing. Your ebook should solve one big thing for your target audience. If you try to cover too many topics, you’ll wind up sounding vague and readers will have a hard time figuring out immediate action steps to take.

2. Add a second link

The same way that some people don’t listen to an entire song, some people won’t read your post all the way through. So they won’t see your content upgrade at the end of it.

Knowing this, place a second link to it within the first few paragraphs of your post. Your offer can be as simple as a one-page guide or template. You definitely don’t have to re-invent the wheel here, just make sure it’s related to your post and flows naturally with your writing.

By doing this, you’ll grab the attention of people who are pressed for time and double your chances of converting those who do read your post from top to bottom.

3. Link to a follow-up post

Most songs have a pre-chorus section that connects the verses to the chorus. Songwriters use it as a bridge to build up excitement leading into the chorus.

You can create a similar anticipation in your blog by giving readers a follow up post or “next step”. A link like this makes readers feel like they’re not done yet, and that there’s more for them to know.

As the next step you can take them to what appears to be another blog post, but is actually a content landing page with a CTA and a lead capture form. If you design your content on this page to be free of clutter and focused on the action you want people to take, you’ll have a good chance of getting them to click.

4. Write a killer title

Writing great blog titles is just as important as writing a great song title, and it’s definitely something that has helped me grow my blog. There’s a big difference between “meh” titles and titles that people just have to click.

Your blog title is the first interaction people will have with your post, and it may be your one and only chance to grab their attention. Make sure you let your readers know immediately what they can expect once they accept your click. But here’s the trick – you want to make them curious enough that they wonder what they are missing out on if they don’t click.

In order to capture people’s attention the right way, you have to really know who your audience is, what their goals are and what challenges they face. Then you can write titles that address their problems and grab their interest.

More than anything else, make sure your blog title focuses on customer value. You want to set realistic expectations with your title so that readers don’t feel betrayed and tricked, thinking you’ll do anything to get them to read your post (which definitely won’t help you build trust!).

A good way to provide solutions and spark curiosity at the same time is to use numbered lists, like this post. Take these titles for example:

  • 20 Ways to Find Targeted Twitter Followers
  • Top 7 WordPress Plugins That Will Turn Your Blog Into a List-Building Machine

Blog titles like these work because they ensure that your blog post will deliver on the value you promise and make people curious enough to click through.

5. Write a great intro

The minute I hear the opening guitar riffs of Heart’s Barracuda, I’m ready to start singing from the top of my lungs. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the song.

When people read your posts, they’re going to quickly scan your first paragraph to decide if they want to keep reading. That’s where having a great intro comes in. You have to capture people’s imagination and create momentum the same way that the most memorable songs do.

Here are a few ways to get creative with your intro:

  • Ask a question to spark their curiosity
  • Share a quick story or anecdote that leads in to main point of your post
  • Use analogies in your story to help people can visualize their own story in yours

Just be sure you stay on track and don’t lose focus with the opening. You want to tell enough of a story to make people curious without going off topic and sending them down the wrong road.

If you keep the opening paragraphs short and make your point as quickly as possible, people will know immediately why they should keep reading.

6. Avoid using buzzwords

One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to avoid using buzzwords like “secret” “simple”, and “tips”. Words like these can date your content, and they can date your brand.

The thing about them is that one day they’re popular, and the next day they’re so overused that they sound spammy. After being bombarded with buzzwords over and over again, people become desensitized to them and they no longer have impact.

With this in mind, stay away form these words from Hubspot that have been shown to decrease click through rates (instead of increase them):

  • Credit
  • Cure
  • Magic
  • Free
  • You
  • You’re
  • Yours
  • Best
  • Always
  • Simple
  • Trick
  • Amazing
  • Secret
  • Need
  • Now

Put these words aside and focus on the value you’re providing audiences. Speak to them conversationally, the way you would in person, and use words and a tone of voice that are genuine and consistent with your overall brand.

7. Use short paragraphs

Songwriters usually use a framework of eight measure verses to tell their story. And trust me, it takes quite a bit of practice to write lyrics in that short time.

The same is true with your blog. People are in a hurry and have short attention spans. Even though your post can fabulously helpful and informative (which I’m sure it is!), people will have a hard time getting past your first few sentences without some visual cues.

One of the simplest things to do is to break up long paragraphs into bite-size chunks and use subheadings and bullet points. Try using fewer words to express your idea and keep your paragraphs to one topic.

Subheadings are great because they give readers anchor points to lock on to. Try to write them so they tell the complete story so people can easily see what interests them.

Pro tip: If you’re struggling with what to write or start going off topic, speak what you want to say out loud first. Then write down what you just said. When you speak you usually find the most direct way to say things, and your readers will love you for it.

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