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10 Steps to Creating Blog Posts Your Readers Will Love

February 25, 2013

Blogs require ongoing care and feeding

Introduction

Blogging is like getting a puppy. You’re so excited the day you “bring it home.” You ask friends to come over and see it, then you snap pictures to share with the extended family. The next morning, reality hits, as you realize its needs to be walked at 6AM and find some accidents that it left you on the living room carpet.

In blogging, one of the most exciting moments is clicking “Publish” on your very first post. Soon, though, you come to realize that maintaining your blog (i.e. consistently churning out compelling blog posts) is like the family dog: it requires walks, love, nurturing, baths, brushing and visits to the vet.

To keep my blogging efforts going, I’ve developed a ten-step routine that I use to create each and every post. Here goes.

1) Find a topic.

This is the biggest blogging challenge for me. The more posts you publish, the bigger the challenge to find new things to write about. I’m quite discriminating with topics. The decisions you make with topics are closely linked to the overall quality of your blog. Lately, some of my topics have been driven by things I observe (and perhaps how they could be done differently or better).

2) Decide on a title.

I like to decide on the post’s title up front, because that guides the rest of the process. In the past, I paid a lot of attention to SEO-friendly titles (i.e. deciding on keywords I wanted to place in the title and where to place those keywords within it). These days, it seems Google is more interested in quality content. So I think in terms of key thoughts over keywords.

3) Assemble your thoughts: pen on paper.

Sketch out your blog posts on pen and paper

Pictured: here’s how I sketched out the outline for this post.

I find it extremely useful to close the laptop and assemble my thoughts on an old-fashioned notepad. Being “offline” helps me hone in on the key things I want to convey. The main objective is to map out the main themes of the post, rather than getting too deep in the weeds on any particular theme.

4) Take a break. Let it marinate.

Once the foundation is in place, go for a run, take a shower (or both). As I go off and do other things, the post will re-enter my mind and I’ll consider new ideas or new angles. This works quite well when I exercise. Then, go back to your trusty notepad and add the new ideas to your list. For my best posts, I’ve usually iterated via the notepad over a couple of days.

5) Find or identify the post’s main image.

The New York Times can get away with picture-less articles. Your blog can’t. Images are critical because they provide a nice balance (against all that text) and because they engage and sustain the attention of your readers. I like to use the clip art available in Microsoft Office and also search the Creative Commons area of flickr.

6) Ready to write? Use a word processor.

I compose my blog posts in Microsoft Word

I used to write my blog postings directly in WordPress. Now, I write them in Microsoft Word and it makes a big difference. Similar to “going offline” by using a paper notepad, writing in Word takes some pressure off me. For some reason, composing directly in WordPress made me more anxious. Writing in Word relaxes me. And, it helps me stay focused, since other browser tabs aren’t beckoning.

7) Look for additional images.

I like to avoid long blocks of text. It’s better (and more engaging for readers) to intersperse images throughout your post. So now it’s time to look for additional images that complement some of the main sections of your post.

8) On to your blogging platform.

adding-a-new-post-in-wordpress

OK, now that your post is done in your word processor, it’s as easy as copy/pasting it into your blogging platform. I like to embed hyperlinks in the word processor, so that all I have to do is format the headings (e.g. <h2>, <h3> and the like) and upload the images.

9-Tag and categorize.

Select the “category” for your post, then add a number of tags. Your blogging platform generates pages related to your categories and tags. Making relevant tag and category selections helps build valuable content pages that search engines love. As an example, here’s my category page for social media and here’s my tag page for Twitter.

10-Schedule, then promote (when it goes live).

I write my posts on the weekends, but like to wait until Monday morning to publish. So I schedule the post and have WordPress set up to tweet the link when it goes live. I’m also a member of a few Triberr tribes, which allows tribe members to tweet my post to their followers. After all the work you’ve put in to write a great post, it’s important to let others know. Sometimes, they’re too busy to see that you’ve just published a new posting.

Conclusion

There you have it: a blog post your readers will love. I followed this precise series of steps to write this one, in fact (hope you love it). If there’s one thing you remember from reading this, make it the important step of “going offline” when developing the post. Close the computer, use pen and paper, then do your writing in a word processor. Happy blogging!

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33 Blogging Lessons from Publishing 333 Blog Posts

October 4, 2012

Introduction

I recently published my 333rd blog post here at “It’s All Virtual” (this one is my 334th!).

It’s been a fun ride: thanks for coming along. In December 2012, this blog will turn four years old. So going with the theme of 3’s, I thought I’d share 33 lessons learned over my 3 (almost 4) years on this blog.

33 Blogging Lessons

  1. Blogging is a whole lot of fun.
  2. Your blog will be most effective if you write about what you’re most passionate about.
  3. When you think up ideas, write a few posts at once (rather than one at a time in sequence).
  4. Add social sharing buttons to your blog, so your readers can promote it on your behalf.
  5. Author guest posts on related blogs. It helps drive awareness of your own.
  6. Set aside dedicated, “turn off your devices and email” time for writing your posts.
  7. Place your blog’s URL in your Twitter profile.
  8. Configure you blogging software to tweet the link upon publishing.
  9. Tweet your blog content. Repeat those tweets later on, in case followers missed it the first time.
  10. Always respond to comments, even if they’re negative.
  11. Only delete comments that are obviously spam.
  12. Turn your blog into a book! There are a number of services that will do that for you.
  13. Turn selected blog postings (topically related) into an eBook. Publish the eBook on your blog.
  14. Use your blog as the foundation of your social media activities.
  15. Write once, publish many: turn blog content into videos, podcasts and webinars.
  16. Embed your YouTube videos, SlideShare presentations (and more) into posts. It’s so easy.
  17. Share selected blog postings with family members. They’ll get to know you even better.
  18. Use blogging to discover what you think.
  19. Ask yourself questions on your blog, then answer them. Why? It’s good for SEO. The question you ask yourself is the same term (question) someone may enter into a search engine.
  20. Keep a regular heartbeat to your publishing schedule. A blog that hasn’t been updated in weeks can be taken for dead, even when it’s not.
  21. Another reason to publish regularly: apparently search engines like that, so your SEO will be the better for it.
  22. Join a tribe on Triberr to help promote your posts.
  23. Invite the community to contribute relevant guest posts.
  24. Monitor blog stats regularly to help inform your future posts.
  25. When making cultural references, try to keep in mind that your blog has a global readership.
  26. You blog, therefore you are.
  27. Create a pinboard on Pinterest to feature images contained within your posts. This helps drive traffic to your blog.
  28. Publish contact info on your blog, as you may receive inquiries related to business or job opportunities.
  29. Think about SEO when crafting titles for your posts.
  30. Spend as much care and attention on your title as you do writing the post.
  31. Write your posts outside of your blogging software (I use Microsoft Word), then copy/paste in the text when you’re done. I find that this approach helps me focus.
  32. It’s OK to take a brief vacation from blogging.
  33. But, never stop blogging, it’s great!

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


2010 In Review for It’s All Virtual

January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers
About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 33,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 87 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 202 posts. There were 220 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 8mb. That’s about 4 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was September 28th with 213 views. The most popular post that day was Trends In The Virtual Worlds Industry.

Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, linkedin.com, facebook.com, en.wikipedia.org, and hootsuite.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for virtual calendar, match.com, all virtual worlds, gregory house, and comdex.

Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Trends In The Virtual Worlds Industry September 2010
6 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

Virtual Events Calendar December 2008
14 comments

3

The Business Benefits Of Second Life March 2010
2 comments

4

About December 2008
16 comments

5

COMDEX Re-Launches As A Virtual Trade Show March 2010
1 comment


Popular Virtual Event Blog Postings

November 19, 2009

This blog's WordPress Dashboard statistics

One of the most enjoyable aspects of virtual events blogging (for me) is the ability to observe which postings “work” and which postings don’t work.  I’ve come to learn that my intuition is often off – postings that I think will generate a lot of traffic don’t, while postings that I thought were marginal become very popular.

For instance, I wrote a posting on the concept of applying Web 2.0 to webinars – it was one of my better pieces of work, but the blogosphere voted with their mouse clicks and (unless we had an issue with counting / undercounting of votes) it didn’t even scratch the Top 10 list of posts [over the past 3 months].

With social media sharing these days, I found that the biggest factor in which posts receive traffic (relative to others) is how and where a given posting is shared.  All it takes is a few retweets from prominent Twitter users (i.e. with 20,000 followers each) to drive a lot of page views to a particular blog posting.  Or, someone posts your blog entry to a sharing site, such as StumbleUpon or digg – you’ll see traffic spike when that occurs.

Another factor is search engine optimization (SEO) – with some of my blog postings, I referenced people, places, certain virtual worlds, etc. – and received search engine traffic from users searching on those terms.

Examples include: Gregory House, My Little Pony (they have a virtual world), Online Dating, Club Penguin.  Some of those blog postings were marginal at best – but they continue to draw traffic to this day – by virtue of having common search engine terms in their content.

Here’s a listing of the Top 5 blog postings (on this blog) over the past 3 months – as measured by the number of page views:

  1. How To Promote Your Virtual Event On Twitter – the key point in this posting – to be able to best leverage Twitter, you need to work hard to build the right “following” first.  This posting received top billing (of traffic) by virtue of tweets/retweets, along with some postings to digg.
  2. Virtual Tradeshow Best Practices: Top 10 Exhibitor Tactics – written back in May, this is always a popular one – it has a fair number of in-bound links and also gets a lot of search engine traffic.
  3. The Advantages Of Virtual Meetings – I provided commentary around a Forbes Insights piece that presented the case for face-to-face meetings.  This gets a lot of its traffic via inbound links.
  4. Virtual Worlds: Where We Were, Where We’re Going, What Does It Mean to YOU? – a guest post by Linda Holroyd, CEO of FountainBlue.  Linda may not have known it at the time, but her posting is an SEO hotbed – it contains lots of relevant terms related to virtual worlds – and, lists the names of many industry executives and entrepreneurs (and their companies).  So this blog posting receives traffic when users search for those individuals’ names or company names.
  5. Hey Kids! I’ve Got a Virtual World For You – it’s like a boomerang (it keeps coming back) – I wrote this back in January and the posting can still make this Top 5 list of the past 3 months.  The reason?  It’s rich in search-friendly terms (Club Penguin, Webkinz, My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch, Beanie Babies, etc.) – I suppose I’ve managed to extend the reach of this blog to parents, who are performing searches on children’s toys!

So there you have it.  I’d love to hear from you – what’s been your favorite blog posting?


What Virtual Events Can Learn From Twitter

October 13, 2009

Virtual Events - Twitter

Virtual Events - Twitter

In 2009, Twitter has taken the world by storm – in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Time magazine named Twitter their Person of the Year.  In my opinion, Twitter’s success hinges on its simplicity, celebrity (use by celebrities, that is) and portability (users stay connected to the service from nearly anywhere).

While virtual events have been around for a few years – they too took the world by storm in 2009 – mostly, the business-to-business world.  As we look forward into 2010, here’s what virtual events can learn from Twitter:

  1. 140 characters or less – I often find it a challenge to condense my thought into 140 characters – the usual trick is to lean on acronyms (or abridged versions of words) to get under the limit.  The better approach is to be more efficient, using less words to make the same point.  While I still get frustrated at times (having to distill my thought down to 140 characters) – other times, I find that my message comes across clearer and more elegant in the shorter form.  In virutal events, a lot of chatter (e.g. group chat in the Lounge) is long-winded.  It would be interesting to participate in a group chat in which each chat message was limited to 140 characters.  I get the feeling that the chat would be much more enjoyable and productive.
  2. Application Programming Interface (API) – Twitter was recently valued at $1B – it couldn’t have possibly reached that valuation without it’s excellent API and the rich ecosystem that’s been created by developers and start-ups.  The API has made possible desktop clients such as Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop, along with numerous third party services, such as Tweetbeep, Twimailer and many more.  Virtual event platform providers should look to “open up” their platform via API’s – allowing show hosts and exhibitors to tap into underlying registration data; customize the look and feel of their events; and develop functional mini-apps that ride on top of the platform.  As Twitter discovered, opening up the platform creates a “wealth” of opportunity.
  3. Mobile support – Twitter’s API allow for applications like TwitterBerry (for BlackBerry) and Tweetie (for iPhone).  Users are increasingly on the go these days – whereby less and less interaction with the web occurs from their desk and keyboard.  Virtual event platforms that can extend their reach to smartphones will stand to benefit greatly – adoption will increase, as will average session time and overall session counts.  Twitter also integrates with the Short Messaging Service (SMS) – making access nearly universal (e.g. from non-smartphone cell phones).  Perhaps there are capabilities in a virtual event that can also be triggered via “commands” transmitted via SMS.
  4. Connecting with others – Twitter’s growth in 2009 has resulted from (a) needing to connect with your friends, family and colleagues who are already on the service and (b) a desire to “follow” celebrities or sports figures.  In business-to-business virtual events, you won’t have this same sort of dynamic (wanting to follow others) – however, the platforms can do a better job of finding and recommending folks you should be following or connected to.  For instance, a CIO at a small-and-medium sized business (SMB) may want to know that a CIO from another SMB company is also in attendance.
  5. Self service / self starter – Many companies are now active on Twitter, to provide customer outreach, customer service, outbound marketing and even e-commerce sales.  Other than learning the basics of social media and Twitter etiquette, the process to get started with Twitter is very straightforward.  Virtual event platform providers ought to provide a means for curious/inquisitive users to set themselves up with a test event – some day, configuring your virtual event (a basic one, at least) should be analogous to creating a new blog in WordPress.

And there you have it – adopt these five principles and your virtual event platform may some day be worth $1B as well!


Reflections Of A Virtual Events Blogger

May 27, 2009

In the 6+ months that I’ve been blogging about virtual events, virtual tradeshows and virtual worlds, I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve learned from the research that I’ve done in this arena, I’ve learned from insightful comments left here by readers and I’ve learned a bit about blogging.  I decided to skim through the nifty historical charting provided by WordPress and thought I’d share some insights into what’s worked well here.  Let’s start with the most obvious one – the top 5 blog postings (by page views – listed by top post first):

  1. Review: Lenovo’s eLounge Virtual World – what I learned here is to create timely blog content that associates with major events.  Lenovo unveiled their eLounge virtual world (powered by Nortel’s web.alive) at CES 2009.  I decided to download it, try it out and review it.  Because my posting was a relative first (in terms of eLounge reviews), it got the lion’s share of search engine traffic.  I saw this both in referral data and by tracking relative rankings on the search engines themselves.  Additionally, a large amount of traffic was sourced from a popular blog about Nortel (allaboutnortel.com).
  2. Interview With Nic Sauriol, Venture Lead on Nortel’s web.alive Platform – if you strike a chord with an interesting posting, ride the momentum and generate follow-on postings that provide more information (or additional insight).  Nic Sauriol provided me with a virtual tour of eLounge (for my original blog posting), so I followed up later with an interview, asking Nic to provide new information on web.alive since the eLounge launch.
  3. Insights And Experiences From Virtual World Experts – here, I summarized a panel discussion for which I was an audience member.  It featured top notch virtual worlds experts – and as a result, this blog posting received a great deal of referral traffic from related blogs (e.g. Wagner James Au’s New World Notes).
  4. How To Use Social Media To Stay Current On Virtual Events And Virtual Worlds – this posting had the benefit of being posted on StumbleUpon, which generated a nice spike in traffic.  Hard to say whether the traffic surge resulted in new, regular readers – or whether they were one-time, curious Joe’s.  Regardless, I learned how powerful a single referrer (e.g. StumbleUpon, digg, etc.) can be.
  5. Hey Kids! I’ve Got a Virtual World For You – much of the traffic for this posting is due to SEO – it contains terms that are popular in search (e.g. My Little Pony, Webkinz, Club Penguin, etc.) – while I did not write this with the intent to generate search engine traffic, it does demonstrate the importance of writing content with SEO in mind (if your goal is to generate traffic from SEO).

Here’s a chart that demonstrates the power of referrals:

Source: WordPress Data for It's All Virtual

Source: WordPress Data for It's All Virtual

Here are this blog’s Top 5 Sources of Referral Traffic:

  1. allaboutnortel.com
  2. StumbleUpon
  3. Twitter – I promote new blog postings to my Twitter feed, which is kind of like RSS for all of my Twitter followers.  If they’re not subscribed via an RSS reader, the tweet helps nudge them to come back here 🙂
  4. WordPress Dashboardvery interesting – other WordPress bloggers are finding this blog by clicking on links promoted/suggested by WordPress in the blogger’s dashboard
  5. WordPress Tags – tells you the importance of properly tagging your blog content

Top 5 Search  Terms (that resulted in traffic to this blog)

  1. Miscellaneous terms related to Lenovo eLounge
  2. Virtual Calendar
  3. Virtual Events
  4. Virtual Worlds
  5. All virtual worlds (I guess it’s good to have your blog name closely match a search term)

And finally, the Top 5 clicked-upon links (within my blog content):

  1. Overview/download page for Lenovo eLounge
  2. My Twitter page – shows the importance of a permanent/prominent placement [top right of this blog]
  3. Facebook Group (Virtual Event Strategists) – shows the importance of a permanent/prominent placement [top right of this blog]
  4. Project Chainsaw web page (for Nortel’s web.alive)
  5. YouTube video on Project Chainsaw

What’s worked well for you and your blogs?  Leave a comment below to let us know.


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