How to Find Blog Post Ideas That Your Readers Will Love

This post on how to find blog post ideas features an excerpt from my free to download How-to-Find-Amazing-Blog-Topics.pdf worksheet (click the link to download this worksheet right now!). The guide gives you some great tips on finding topics that suit your niche. In this post, I will be sharing some tips on how to craft blog posts that are perfectly suited to what your readers want.

How to Find Blog Post Ideas That Your Readers Will Love

Whether you blog for fun or profit, one thing remains the same – finding blog post ideas is not always as easy as it seems. Many people struggle with topics. If your niche is fairly broad, it is obviously easier to find ideas. But what happens when you simply run out of things to write about? And, more importantly, how can you be sure that you are writing about topics that will engage your ideal reader?

Crafting Blog Post Ideas for Your Target Audience

Your readers crave content that is interesting, informative and inspiring. With the huge volume of content on the web today, reaching your readers has become more important than ever. It takes just seconds for a reader to decide whether your blog posts are worth reading. The best way to ensure that your posts get maximum engagement is to craft content that is genuinely appealing to your target audience. Some ideas on how to give your readers the kind of blog post ideas that they will truly enjoy include the following:

  1. Audience demographics. This can be tricky if your blog is very new, or has minimal traffic. The best way to learn more about your audience is to use tools such as Google Analytics, which give insight into your blog visitors. From their locations to gender, language and even interests, this sort of info can help you create blog posts that are relevant to the people who visit your blog.
  1. Reader feedback. A great way to get insight into what your readers would like to read is to use any and all feedback you receive via blog comments, surveys, polls and questions. Likewise, social media comments can also give ideas on what people want to know/learn/read. Survey Monkey is one of the best tools for making simple yet powerful surveys.
  1. Industry insights and trends. You can also discover topics that are important within your overall industry, through the use of tools such as Google Trends and Google Insights (you can find these under the ‘tools’ section on Think With Google). Setting up news alerts via Google on a broader topic can also be useful in giving you some ideas on industry insights that apply to your blog’s niche.
  1. Social media. Facebook groups, Pinterest boards and Twitter trends can also be useful for getting a better idea of what content people want to see. For best results, try not to focus entirely on ‘hot’ topics if it means sacrificing originality or authenticity however. For example, if ‘celebrity meltdowns’ is currently a hot topic, but do not really fit into your creative branding blog’s niche, then that topic is better left to the gossip blogs. ‘Celebrity websites’ on the other hand, may be a better fit.
  1. Get input from family and friends. It’s easy to forget that people in real life can also add value to your blog post creation process. Chat to friends, family, co-workers and other people in your real life circles to see what sort of content they would like to see from your niche. Who knows – you may end up finding all sorts of ideas that you hadn’t yet considered!

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For more tips on how to come up with blog post ideas, download my How to Find Amazing Blog Topics worksheet. This handy guide offers invaluable advice taken from over a decade of blogging experience. To get the blog post ideas guide, simply click the link below.

How-to-Find-Amazing-Blog-Topics.pdf

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How to Become a Freelance Writer

If you have ever wondered how to become a freelance writer, you may have a lot of questions on what experience may be needed, what skills are required, what qualifications you may need and how (and where) you can get started on your journey.

How to Become a Freelance Copywriter

If you are looking for advice on how you can learn and grow as a writer, this post is for you. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for tips on how to instantly “make it” and make oodles of money overnight, give this post a miss. As someone who has been on this journey, I do not believe in quick fixes or instant success. Instead, I believe that hard work, experience and patience will help you get where you want to go. Those are the things that have helped me throughout my 10 year journey as a freelance copywriter.

I can’t promise that you will succeed. And, I certainly don’t have all the answers. But if you want to learn what worked for me, keep on reading to see how I became a freelance writer.

How to Become a Copywriter

First things first, you will need to decide what sort of copywriter you want to be. Will you focus on web content? Digital or online copywriting is what you should consider. Will you go for ads and radio copy? Above the line copywriting will be your thing. Will go veer into print copy and brochures? Below the line copywriting is where you want to go. Will you do all of the above? You want to look at through the line copywriting. Each of these specialises in a specific area of copy, whether that is broadcast, print, digital or a combination of the above.

7 Tips for Becoming a Freelance Writer

Let’s take a closer look at what each of these tips entails…

1. Qualifications

My own background is in Public Relations Management, but there are many other fields that offer a good entry into writing. English, Communications, Journalism and even copywriting diplomas, courses and workshops are just some examples. It’s also important to note that while qualifications are always useful, they are not an absolute requisite for freelance writing.

Talent, however, is most certainly required. Even if you don’t have a formal qualification, having writing skills is downright essential.

2. Experience

This is an absolute must-have, but don’t stress if you have not been published/have not had work experience. Everyone has to start somewhere. As a new writer, you cannot expect high paying projects if your experience is limited. You will likely have to take on very low budget jobs to build experience, but ALL of that experience will help you grow.

Write as often as you can – on your blog, for local papers, for free, for peanuts. Create a newsletter for your church group or school or kid’s soccer team. Volunteer to write for local charities or businesses. Ask friends and families if you can help them with brochures, invites, flyers or newsletters. Build up as much experience as you possibly can.

3. Portfolio

Along with this experience, you will begin to start building a portfolio of your written work. My early portfolios were a mess and were in ‘hard copy’ format (stuck in a folder that I would haul around with me to interviews). Every project that I completed that I felt reflected my writing skills, I collected and added to my portfolio. Today, this is one of my biggest tool in finding the right clients. After all, what good is all that experience if you don’t have anything to show for it?

My advice: keep it small and focused on your best work. Online portfolios work best – add one to your WordPress site with a plugin such as Huge-IT Portfolio Gallery or create a free website to display your work.

4. Realistic Expectations

This is a big one. I knew in the second year of online copywriting for an agency that I wanted to go solo, and succeeded in landing my first freelance client that same year. But what I didn’t reckon on was having to work very long, late hours moonlighting. I did not realise that I would lose many weekends, miss out on many important things, give up a lot of freedom and take on a lot of stress. I won’t lie – it was tough.

I went freelance full-time for the first time a year or two later, only to have to go back to full-time work a year later after battling to bring in enough work to survive. But then, not too long after that, I went freelance full-time again and never looked back. That was over five years ago. It is still sometimes hard. No matter how easy social media and bloggers make it sound, it is often frustrating, stressful and tough. Clients often pay late. Or work that you have relied on suddenly stops. Sometimes, client are difficult to work with; other times, clients are lovely but the work itself is difficult. Bottom line: self-employment is both amazing and stressful.

5. Finding Work

There are quite a few ways to find work. A great deal of my work comes from referrals, from former clients I have worked with over the years. A fair amount comes from my website. There are job sites that can be a good source – I personally have not used any, but I know people who have. Amanda Pelletier has a great list of websites that pay writers – have a look at this list over here. She links to some other resources as well. Searching local classifieds for freelance writing gigs is another way to find work. Website design and marketing agencies especially often need good writers to assist with their projects, who are outsourced to help with various content requirements. This is a bit like a full-time job, but depending on whether regular work is offered or not, you may only be needed when there are big projects planned.

Promote your services, build experience, offer a high standard of work, impress clients and you will find that you will begin to grow your own client base. If you are good at what you do and people like working with you, they will think of you for future projects and recommend you to others they know who may need a writer.

6. Marketing Yourself

And, on the topic of promoting your services, you will need to do a lot of that, too. I know how hard it is to do the shameless self-promotion thing, and do not enjoy hard selling at all. But like it or not, some level of marketing is required if you want to expand your reach. In my early days, I listed myself on a number of directories, put in a lot of effort on social media, networked like it was nobody’s business and generally put myself out there. It helped a lot. The, once I started getting in work on a regular basis, I got lazy. Referrals from clients and my website brought in more than enough work, and I was always fully booked.

More recently, as I begin to change focus a little in my offerings and recover from a website hack that killed my rankings, I have had to relearn just how important it is to put in the effort on social media. In order to grow and continue growing, you need to work ON your business as well as IN the business. One of the best sources of advice recently has been Regina, who has MANY amazing things to say.

7. Learning and Growing

YoIu will never stop learning, or growing. Even after 10 years of doing what I do, I still learn on a daily basis. I make mistakes from time to time. I realise that I can do things in a better way. I accept my weaker areas and try to be a better writer every single day. It is this learning thing that keeps me humble and focused. After all, if I knew everything, how could I ever hope to improve?

Ultimately, my absolute biggest, best bit of advice is this: never stop learning. Read more, write more, learn from your mistakes, successes and everyday hustle. Don’t get sidetracked by what everyone else is doing – get tuned in to what YOU are doing. If you continue to learn, you will continue to become a better writer.

And that, is the true secret to how you become a freelance writer… you work at it all the time. Even when you are a freelance writer.

Got any questions on how to become a freelance copywriter? I’d be happy to answer any questions you have in the comments, or you can contact me if you’d like to find out more about the copywriting consulting services I offer.

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Best Blogging Tips I Have Learned Over the Last 10 Years

When I started writing for the web in January 2006, a blog post about blogging tips looked very, very different. Back then, I was a brand new blogger with just a year of experience in dabbling with Blogspot, html and comments. Social media was new enough to ignore (at least for another year or so), my first personal blog was a few months shy of getting its own dedicated domain and the only people I know who blogged were people I connected with online. Needless to say, much has changed in that time.

Best Blogging Tips I Have Learned in 10 Years

Over the last decade, it is safe to say that I have learned a lot about blogging. Technical things, mistakes to avoid, the wonders of community… even (painful) lessons on how easy it is to kill a blog. This learning curve is exactly what makes the process so amazing though. It’s also what makes it possible for me to share blogging advice that may be helpful to those who want to prevent making the mistakes that I made.

Blogging Tips: Tools, Mistakes & Other Lessons

Here are some of the most important things that I have learned about blogging over the years:

1. Blogging is a constantly evolving, changing medium. No matter how much you think you know, you will ALWAYS have a lot to learn. I have been working with WordPress blogs since getting my first domain in the middle of 2006, and have always customised and managed my sites. But as new technology, plugins, tools and processes emerge, I am still learning as I go.

2. Security is without a doubt the most important thing ever. My 9 year old work blog and website (this one you’re on right now) got hacked in 2015 – so badly that I had to completely kill it and start over again. My old posts were saved, but my rankings took a serious beating. Now, I use a few different security plugins, including Succuri and BulletProofSecurity.

3. Community, comments and followings require dedication. When I first started blogging, I spent a lot of time building a loyal following. It was awesome; allowing me to make friends, engage and connect. Sadly, after work and a lack of time caused me to retire my personal blogs, that little community died off, too. Now I am slowly building a new community from scratch with Roxb, which will take a long time. It is totally worth the dedication and time, of course. But like anything else in life, the best things take time and effort.

4. You will soon learn which metrics matter the most to your goals. For some, page views are the business. For others, it is users. There are those who count email subscribers and those who count social media followers. Over the years, I have considered all of these metrics. For Roxb, the ones that matter most have included messages sent through my website contact form, direct emails and organic searches via Google. Those are the ones that have almost always converted into valuable leads. The rest are icing on the cake.

5. If you build it, they will (eventually) come. I learned this the first time around, and again after rebuilding this site. As I continue to work on my site, provide new content, make tweaks to improve user experience and work towards rebuilding my community, traffic is slowly starting to pick up again. No, it does not happen overnight. Yes, it is worth continuing to invest in your blog to start seeing results. When you do achieve your growth spurt, it will be through your own hard work and effort… not a short cut or cheat.

 >> Related: Freelance Writing vs Blogging – What is the Difference? <<

6. Learn from other bloggers, but don’t try and emulate too much. What works for one may totally bomb for another. In fact, what makes someone successful may be exactly what makes them unique – trying to copy that ‘it’ factor might just be the worst thing ever for your blog. There’s a big leap from being inspired to being unoriginal. Being yourself, as cheesy as it sounds, is always the best bet… in life, blogging, business, love and everything else.

7. Don’t get caught up in FOMO, drama and nastiness. Sadly, there is a lot of that around. FOMO (aka Fear Of Missing Out) can make your own blog pale in comparison to that amazing blog you saw on Pinterest. It can also make you doubt your own efforts and lose your originality and spark. Likewise, drama, nastiness, comment bullying and other comparisons should be avoided like the plague as well. Stay kind, stay polite and stay out of catty Twars, social slanders and blog comment bully attacks.

8. Educate yourself about keywords, SEO plugins and other things that help you grow. I’m lucky to have an advantage, being a professional online copywriter by trade, but even if you blog about pink poodles, you too can benefit from a bit of SEO understanding.

9. Blog graphics and/or branding are more important than ever. As WordPress and other platforms continue to evolve, making your blog look pretty has never been easier. With tools such as Pinterest continuing to grow as well, visual marketing is essential. I recently revamped my branding, including blog graphics and design elements, to a look that tied in to who I am and what I love. Before I integrated the lovely vintage botanical elements that I have on the site now, I had generic, dull stock images that I did not love even a little bit. My love for nature and art is now expressed through my site, and now, making blog graphics is a lot simpler as I have a bank of beautiful public domain images that I simply need to update when creating a new post.

10. When all else fails, just keep swimming. Of all the lessons I have learned, the biggest one is that trends will come and go, blogging tips will keep changing and whatever you know now will be redundant in a few years. There is no secret formula to blogging success. You may be able to increase rankings, get more comments, get more followers and thrive online, but you may find that you don’t get any of that… but you still get leads from your blog in ways you had not expected. Or, you may fail. It happens. Whatever the case, the number one thing to do is just keep swimming. Try new things, experiment, and most of all, keep learning as you go!

So, there you have it. These are my own blogging lessons that I have learned over the course of the years. I’m sure I will have even more to add to the list by the time the year is over.

What are YOUR biggest lessons learned from blogging?

 

 

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15 Huge Content Marketing Strategy Blunders [Plus a FREE Worksheet]

In this post, I will cover some of the biggest content marketing strategy blunders. I will also be giving you a free worksheet that will help you Plan, Prepare and Perfect your content so that your strategy kicks major butt, so don’t forget to download this handy resource at the end of the post. 

Content Strategy Blunders

Working as a freelance copywriter and content strategist, I see content plan fails happen on the regular. In fact, very often, I am called in to help fix mistakes that someone else has made. While many clients know what they want to say, they do not always know how to devise a clear, workable strategy that allows their message to come across in the best way possible.

There is also a fair amount of confusion between an editorial plan and a content strategy. Both deal with content, but they are still quite different. A planner typically outlines post ideas for a blog over any given time frame. A strategy on the other hand looks at the bigger picture, taking blog, website and social content into account along with factors such as audience, SEO, goals and content type.

So, with that in mind, it’s not surprising that sometimes, mistakes happen. What exactly are some of the mistakes made most often? More importantly, how can you save yourself time (and effort) by avoiding them? Let’s have a look.

Top Content Strategy Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

In no particular order, here are some of the biggest content marketing strategy no-nos…

[1] No strategy. Seriously, this has got to be the biggest blunder of them all. Without a strategy, you will end up tirelessly slugging away without ever getting anywhere. You ALWAYS need a plan. Always.

[2] Forgetting the bigger picture. Over and beyond having a strategy, you need to be aware of your bigger picture. What are your goals? Where is your content going? What is the point to it all?

[3] Forgetting search engine optimisation. I could write a book on SEO copywriting, but until that happens, let me just say that content and SEO go hand in hand like a married couple. The happy kind though, not the fighty kind.

[4] Not thinking of your audience. If you are not thinking about the people who will be reading your content, how are you going to speak to them in a way that will make them want to buy your products/services?

[5] Not being realistic about timelines. It’s all very well to create a plan for daily content updates, social posts and rewritten category pages every Friday morning at 09h00 sharp. But it’s probably more realistic to start small with a plan that you know that you will stick to religiously.

[6] Trying to DIY everything. You may be good at what you do, but unless that is online copywriting and/or content planning, you may not have the best luck writing content for your entire website.

[7] Being inconsistent. Whether in tone, style or even format and design, you need to have a clear flow that is consistent with your brand. Otherwise, your website, social channels and blog will look messy and unprofessional.

[8] Resorting to dodgy practices. Spam, click bait, bought links and other nasty techniques have no place in your content plans, and will not get you anything besides penalised in the search engines.

[9] Focusing on ‘newsy’ content only. Sure, newsy content is popular. We all love reading about the latest thing/event/whatever. The problem with this content is that it has a shelf life. Once it is out there and the news is old, the content is dead.

[10] Being too stuck on evergreen content. On the flipside, being so rigid about your strategy that you miss out on potential hot topics that will get shares and engage readers is also not ideal. Ideally, you need a mixture of evergreen (content that is always relevant) and seasonal (content aligned to holidays and seasonal events), with the odd newsy bit thrown in now and then.

[11] Failing to adapt and refine. A major part of any strategy is adapting and growing as you go. It is impossible to predict how well certain posts will do, certain keywords will rank and certain content is consumed. Adapt, refine and continue to improve all the time.

[12] Not planning ahead. It takes more preparation than you may think to develop a winning strategy. There are a few steps you need to take before you get going – missing them may affect your strategy’s success.

[13] Focusing only on blog content. Your blog may be an important part of your business, but it is not the only part. You also have on site content and social content to think of and include in your strategy.

[14] Skipping over blog content. On the other hand, ignoring your blog altogether as you focus on building those category pages and/or that Facebook page is also unwise. It’s all about balance, after all.

[15] Making it all up as you go along. It has to be said – some peeps think that making up ideas and hoping for the best is the same as a comprehensive, well thought out strategy. You may end up having some luck, but chances are better that you will flounder instead.

P.S. Battling to get that content strategy going? Try using this super easy and useful Content Strategy Preparation Worksheet to help you Plan, Prepare and Perfect a winning content marketing strategy!

Content Strategy Preparation

Get Your Free Content Marketing Strategy Preparation Worksheet!

 

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How to Improve Your Writing Skills

Keen to take your writing skills up a notch? Trying to take your prose from okay to extraordinary? Even experienced freelance copywriters can strive for continuous improvement. In fact, sometimes those who have been writing a while are more at risk of picking up bad habits, getting complacent or getting into a rut. New writers meanwhile may have plenty of enthusiasm,  but lack experience and a certain finesse.

Ultimately, while anyone can blog, writing itself can be a bit more challenging. Writing for yourself is very different to writing according to a brief, for one thing. For another, in order to throw words around haphazardly, you first need to understand them intimately. Grammar is your friend, basically. Punctuation is, too. Developing a voice, perfecting your writing style and bringing together a nice flow are all important as well.

Improve Your Writing Skills

So, How Can You Nurture Your Writing Skills?

Some of the ways that you can learn how to write more effectively for your blog or budding freelance writing career include the following:

1. Be authentic. This sounds a bit lame, but is the absolute best advice that I can share after a decade of writing professionally. When I first started out, I tried way too hard, and it showed. Even when you are given a brief to write in a specific style or tone (approachable, light-hearted, business-like, serious or whatever), you need to write honestly. Be funny. Be precise. Be serious. Be trendy. But above all else, be yourself.

2. Read your writing out loud (in your head). Feel free to read out loud out loud, too – whatever works. By speaking your writing, you will be able to a) develop a conversational tone, and b) master the first point of being authentic. A conversational tone is basically writing that sounds like it is being spoken aloud. Once you start getting into the habit of saying your words in your head as/before/after you write them, it becomes automatic.

3. Do not rely on spell check tools. They are no substitute for human eyes, and may lead you astray. MS Word can be good for getting most of the most obvious typos out of your text, but it can be a bit useless at times. Ditto WordPress spell check and similar tools on other content management systems. By reading your words, you should be able to pick up those small, tricky errors that are often missed by spell checkers. Reading, rereading, going to make a cup of tea and rereading again is your best way to avoid overlooking mistakes. Even then, sometimes, a sneaky typo can slip through. It happens.

4. Write for fun. Write for the sheer enjoyment of using words. Write for yourself. Write to turn a dull topic into something interesting. By taking great relish in the writing process, you will consistently push yourself to new heights. It will become something that you truly enjoy, rather than a chore. And, when there is true enjoyment involved, writing becomes a lot easier.

5. Use tools when and as needed. Now and then, you may need a bit of help. There are many tools out there for growing your writing skills. Some are a bit redundant, while others take the focus away from the actual hard part, like writing. Avoid any tool that attempts to automate writing – article spinners, essay generators and those other nasty programmes are evil, terrible things. They will never help you become a writer. Instead, they will help you cheat. Tools that are useful on the other hand include synonym tools, thesaurus and dictionary tools, writing prompts, encyclopedias,  search engines, books of all kinds and anything else that inspires, teaches and informs.

6. Use your imagination. This is what helps you become a creative, inspired writer. Whether you are writing copy for websites, packaging, business communication or your own personal blog, imagination is what will help you find the right words. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes, create a problem and solve it, set scenes, inject some imagery through words. Have fun with it.

7. Learn the basic rules of the written word. Grammar and punctuation are not just there for the hell of it. They serve vital purposes in writing, and that includes getting the point across correctly. It sucks seeing a bit of writing that is otherwise authentic and fluid, only to come across blatant typos, words used in the wrong context, commas in the wrong places and lazy grammatical errors. Ditto on content overflowing with slang and content that looks like it has been written by a teenager in text speak. Even William Faulkner got flack about his deliberate word abuse, and he did it very carefully, on purpose, extremely brilliantly.

8. Build experience wherever and however possible. New to writing? The only way to build up experience is to, well, write. Keep a journal, try some writing challenges, start a blog, submit articles to online directories, guest blog, write essays for the hell of it… just keep writing. This one applies to experienced writers as well, I might add. Especially those who writing for a living, and sometimes need to remember how to write for themselves, too.

9. Find inspiration. It is everywhere, really. Read more books (non-fiction and otherwise), read poetry, listen to music, take a walk, get outside, watch birds, keep visual inspiration in the form of Pinterest boards and magazines and mood boards, learn new words, think deep thoughts, meditate, get enough sleep, talk to people, listen. The world is full of ideas waiting to be discovered.

10. Learn, learn and learn some more. Take a course, teach yourself a new writing style, brush up your general knowledge, research your topics carefully (and extensively), read case studies and statistics, interview sources, feed your brain with knowledge until it is fit to burst. As a writer, you will NEVER stop learning. On the upside, you will be brilliant at pub quiz nights as well as being an annoying smarty pants know it all.

Whether you are planning on making the move from blogger to freelance copywriter, or you simply want to up your abilities, working on boosting your writing skills is an integral part of being a writer. Just like any other type of skill, nurturing is required on the regular to allow your writing mojo to blossom and bloom.

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