New E-books for Subscribers to Whistle Stops Weekly

Covers of Whistle Stops Weekly EbooksEach month, an e-book is sent out to our Whistle Stops Weekly subscribers.

In addition to the newest e-book, subscribers receive links to previous editions they may have missed.

Previous titles include:

  • Having a Bias Towards Action
  • 25 Areas of Focus for 2014
  • Building a Presence with Community
  • How SmallBizTracks Works

This week, we are sending out and making available our newest title:  Collaborative Business Alliances – Adding a Fourth “C” For Better Balance.

Whistle Stops Weekly also offers top links and resources found while reading feeds, doing research, or catching up with interesting tips, trends, and tools. There are also some other opportunities and insights coming later this year for subscribers only, the first of which should be available by summer.

Subscribing to Whistle Stops Weekly is free, and we appreciate you riding along.

Creativity Flows and Where to Find Yours (Saturday Clips)

Creativity is everywhere you are – if you let it.  If you let it breathe and live and don’t suppress it.  Here are some stories and thoughts about creativity and muse…

Finding Your Creative Flow State with Shots of Awe

Ricky Gervais on Writing

IDEO Founders on Unleashing Your Creativity (and those around you)

Ira Glass on Creativity (using Kinetic Typeography)

George Carlin on Capturing Impressions of Life

As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy of cartoons in the morning and movie matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, we’ll be sharing Saturday videos from TED, subscriptions from YouTube, and other videos shared via feeds.

How to Schedule Your Social Media (Video Clips)

The foundation of building a better blog presence and the final item on our Blog Posting Mantra is No. 8 –  Share Your Posts. There is a difference between automating and scheduling your blog posts.

When it comes to sharing posts and status updates, we either use or recommend one of these three tools: BufferApp, HootSuite, or CoSchedule. Each has it’s unique benefits and I’ll explain more in the final section of the Blog Posting Mantra series soon.

In the spirit of our Saturday videos, I present you with these clips that will give some insight on how to use these tools. They cover how to schedule your posts but also other valuable links you find on the web and social media.

How to Schedule Social Media Updates with Brian Sly-Haley [Web | Twitter]

How to Start Using HootSuite with ENNclick [Web | Twitter]

How to Schedule with HootSuite with Chris Brogan [Web | Twitter]

How to Use CoSchedule by CoSchedule [Web | Twitter]

As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy of cartoons in the morning and movie matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, we’ll be sharing Saturday videos from TED, subscriptions from YouTube, and other videos shared via feeds.

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Blog Posting Mantra No. 7 – Check SEO

SEO Blocks

Checking SEO for each of your posts is a newer addition to the original Blog Posting Mantra (2006 version), mostly because it’s become relatively simple with the use of plugins.

You’re probably using WordPress as your content management system, ideally on a self-hosted basis.  If you have access and ability to add plugins, then you’re on the right track.

The three plugins I recommend most for SEO purposes are:

  1. Yoast WordPress SEO
  2. All-in-One SEO
  3. Infinite SEO by WPMUDev

With each post, you can set a unique title (sometimes to shorten the title as it appears in search results), description(s), focus keyword, and other tech/search data.

More importantly, each of these tools allow you to set defaults for each so if you don’t modify specific to a post, the default settings remain active. It’s always a good idea to invest a few minutes to make sure you have the right number of characters set for title and description, and a focus keyword or two set.

As with all SEO guidelines I suggest and employ, the best practice is to write and create value for your intended audience – your customers and prospects. If you write content and create descriptions to please a search engine – you are missing the boat and sinking your efforts.

Keep your SEO practices simple, concise, and to-the-point. Always keep the “Law of the Harvest” in mind.

Here’s our Blog Posting Mantra so far:

Blog Posting Mantra #1 – Write the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #2 – Title the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #3 – Image Above the Fold
Blog Posting Mantra #4 – At Least One Link Out
Blog Posting Mantra #5 – Add Eye Rests
Blog Posting Mantra #6 – Choose Categories and Tags
Blog Posting Mantra #7 – Check SEO

Here’s the full lineup.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Office for iPad, Rumours, and Wise Bread – Friday Flutterings

Fleetwood Mac Rumours CoverMicrosoft has launched a few Office apps for the iPad, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. PowerPoint will probably receive the most play because a deck seems to display properly. I’ve heard it might not be great for creating a slideshow, but minor edits and display it seems to work fine.  We’ll see.

… Fleetwood Mac is coming back this fall – including Christine McVie (tour news). I’m sure they will play old songs in new ways (Repurposing Content) and will film and record for new releases (Pre-Purposing Content).

… Wise Bread is a good read for the positive and productive person. Living Large on a Small Budget is the tagline.

… I see content curation and content sharing as very different, more now than ever since I’ve joined the team at Internet Billboards. Simply posting a link on Twitter with a few additional characters (if you have room), is content sharing, isn’t it?  What gets posted on the various topics on Internet Billboards is really content curation.

… The SmallBizDaily weekly reading list always has a few gems to end your week strong. Check it out and subscribe.

… Busy weekend with a new Ebook, a redesign, and a podcast re-launch within the next few days. Plus, Opening Day!

Previous Friday Flutterings:

 

Blog Posting Mantra No. 6 – Choose Categories and Tags

Using Postits as Category StoryboardWe are familiar with two types of ways to structure the organization of a non-fiction book. A Table of Contents and an Index.

A Table of Contents, almost always at the front of the book, presents the structure outlined in chapters, headings, and sub-headings. An Index, appearing in the back of the book, offers key words and phrases so the reader can search the text in a more detailed manner.

On your site, you should consider your Category headings like a Table of Contents, while your “tags” are more like entries into the index.

On a cooking site, “Breakfast” might be a category, while ‘Waffles’, ‘Cereal’, and ‘Scrambled Eggs’ might be tags.

The key to choosing a Category is making sure you’ll be able to consistently publish posts to it.  An empty Category will essentially deliver a message that you don’t know much about that subject. That’s why we suggest doing a Category Litmus Test exercise:

  1. Pick 5-8 top level categories. Think of these as your blog’s table of contents
  2. Quickly write 3-4 blog titles or thoughts for each category
  3. Ask if this is sustainable. Can we do the 3-4 blog titles/thoughts every month?
  4. If not, remove that category post-it from the wall/storyboard
  5. This exercise also provides the foundation of inventory thoughts for the next few weeks:-)

When it comes to tagging something in a post, you don’t want to tag everything. I used the phrase ‘litmus test’ once – well, now twice – in this post. I’m not going to ‘tag’ it, because it’s more of a passing thought or description rather than a foundation of thought in this post.

So in the particular post, I will probably use ‘Blogging’ or ‘Blog Coach’ as my category, and Categories or Tagging as my tags.

Here’s our Blog Posting Mantra so far:

Blog Posting Mantra #1 – Write the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #2 – Title the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #3 – Image Above the Fold
Blog Posting Mantra #4 – At Least One Link Out
Blog Posting Mantra #5 – Add Eye Rests
Blog Posting Mantra #6 – Choose Categories and Tags

Here’s the full lineup.

 

Blog Posting Mantra No. 5 – Add Eye Rests

Rest Area SignOn most freeways and highways, a rest stop is good for drivers and passengers to stretch their legs, grab a refreshment, and other things necessary to get through a long stretch of road.

Similarly, a long stretch of text without an eye rest makes for weary readers.

Writing for the web is different from writing for print. Probably much different than what you learned in school.

One reason for the difference is how readers read now, mostly due to the dynamic nature of web pages with hyperlinks, moving parts, back buttons, and now mobile devices.

If we are to write with the reader in mind (and who and how they might share what you’ve written), we must be aware of their reading habits.

A post I always require my clients to read is Blog Posting – Give Them Eye Rests.

Slow Down Their Scroll

Readers on the web are scanners and surfers. They scroll and move on to the next site like they are living in the fast lane. Even if your writing is great, they still may not slow down if it’s all text and no toys.

Help them navigate safely by providing rest stops along the super-information highway. These “speed bumps” might include:

  • Bold text your take-away phrases (a 5-10 word phrase is better than a single keyword)
  • An image that helps tell the story (preferably positioned on the right of the text)
  • A list, either bullets or numbered (you don’t have to love these, but know that readers do)
  • Hyperlink text (instead of spelling out the 5 W’s & H, link to them — contextually)

By giving these “gifts” to the reader, they are more likely to remember what you’ve written (at least the bold take-away), and they are more likely to share it with others (it’s good AND easy-to-read)

Readers will stick with you if you are considerate of their habits. Think about how you read on the web. Do you scroll and scan or read every line?

Read more on being generous to your readers at DIY Marketers.

Here’s our Blog Posting Mantra so far:

Blog Posting Mantra #1 – Write the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #2 – Title the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #3 – Image Above the Fold
Blog Posting Mantra #4 – At Least One Link Out
Blog Posting Mantra #5 – Add Eye Rests

Here’s the full lineup.

Photo from pixabay.com

Blog Posting Mantra No. 4 – At Least One Link Out

Dead End on the Railroad TracksIn the original Blog Posting Mantra version (circa 2006), At Least One Link Out was the 4th item on the list. It remains there for consistency sake – and because it’s still an important piece (though ignored too often).

In 2006, I wrote:

The challenge many business people and busy bloggers have is, well, time. Who has time to look for links? I hear (and feel) your pain. Still, linking out is important and there’s a quick-n-easy way to go about it.

The reason to link out is simple. Don’t let your site be the end of the line. By linking out, you become a resource for your reader.

To find relevant links, the tool I use and have been recommending of late is BuzzSumo. Simply type in the phrase or subject you’re wanting to allow your reader to follow-up with, make sure it’s a reputable site (see number of shares, look to see if there is an author not named “admin”, etc.) and share the link. You can also do this with a simple Google Search.

Another great tool to add relevant outbound links, is using the browser add-on (or plugin) from Zemanta.

Don’t invest too much time, maybe 5-10 minutes. I’ve seen some folks take rabbit trails that last way too long. Be disciplined, but Be the Resource.

Here’s our Blog Posting Mantra so far:

Blog Posting Mantra #1 – Write the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #2 – Title the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #3 – Image Above the Fold
Blog Posting Mantra #4 – At Least One Link Out

Here’s the full lineup.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

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Blog Posting Mantra No. 3 – Image Above the Fold

Woman Taking Picture from Car MirrorIn the original 2006 version of our Blog Posting Mantra, Image Above the Fold was the 5th item on the list. It’s moved up two spaces.

Images have become a more important part of publishing, sharing, and even search. As you think about marketing your blog posts, remember that “Images Sell”.

A terrific image gets a click far more than no image or a bland image. An image that tells part of the story gets shared far more than no image or a bland image. An image that can fill a small screen gets noticed and saved far more than no image or a bland image.

There are plenty of place to Find Images for your posts, many of them free. Make sure you use proper attribution.

Why “above the fold” (aka “before having to scroll”)? If a picture tells a thousand words, allow it to help you sell the rest of your post. If you hide an image too far down the page, the reader might never see it because they are already on the next site. Let the images you choose motivate a scroll or click within your site – not away from your site.

If it takes more than 10-15 minutes to find, modify, and insert the image into your post, you might be bordering on perfectionism. Don’t take too long, beware of Too Much Touch.

Here’s our Blog Posting Mantra so far:

Blog Posting Mantra #1 – Write the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #2 – Title the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #3 – Image Above the Fold

Here’s the full lineup.

Photo on morguefile by sjs5769

Blog Posting Mantra No. 2 – Title the Post

Lots and lots of post-it notesMillions of dollars are invested in the research and testing of the headlines and article titles you see on the covers of magazines.

A favorite teaching point has been The Bookstore Lesson just so we could peruse the magazine headlines.

You would do well to consider the format of some of the headlines and emulate the ideas you get from the magazines and top-notch sites like Copyblogger or HubSpot.

Using Post-it notes is a great way to collect ideas for potential titles. You might think of a parody or play off a famous quote or song title. You can also start a numbered list and have your title when the list post is complete (see 64 Kinds of Blog Posts)

We still maintain writing the post first, then creating your title. Here’s why:

  • You get to write freely without worrying if you’re taking a rabbit trail from the title
  • You will probably find a great title while writing your post
  • Most small business owners (who aren’t professional writers) get stuck at the beginning – either the title or opening line. Begin in the middle
  • You’ll discover that writing a piece isn’t the most important part of blogging – writing a title is.

If you want a fantastic jump-start for creating great titles for your blog, check out these 100+ Blog Post Title Templates.

Blog Posting Mantra #1 – Write the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #2 – Title the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #3 – Can you picture what it is?  Here’s the full lineup.

photo credit: 3oheme via photopin cc

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