Wednesday, May 31, 2017

10 Google Ranking Factors Every Website Must Focus On In 2017

10 Google Ranking Factors Every Website Should Focus On In 2017

Q: What do Entrepreneur.com, Forbes.com, Backlinko.com and Jeffbullas.com have in common?

A: All four of these sites rank high on Google SERPs and enjoy untapped authority.

Now, here’s the big question.

How do these sites consistently rank high on Google SERPs?

Well, these sites do two things very well.

Firstly, they focus on the Google ranking factors that have the biggest impact.

Secondly, they put all of their resources into scaling these ranking factors.

By now you’re probably thinking: Google uses more than 200 ranking signals to rank websites. So how do I find out which factors I should focus on to get a higher Google ranking?

Well, you’re in luck because I’m going to tell you the top 10 most significant Google ranking factors that websites should focus on in 2017.

1. Page authority

Page authority is one of the most critical Google ranking factors that every website owner who is hoping to rank highly on Google SERPs needs to be mindful of in 2017.

Page authority refers to the authority/credibility of your page in the eyes of the Google spiders/crawlers. The ‘Big G’ determines the credibility of your webpage by looking at your website’s link profile.

Basically, the higher the quantity and quality of inbound links pointing to your webpage, the more authority it will enjoy on Google SERPs.

Image Source: Backlinko

In fact, if your page isn’t authoritative, Google won’t rank it at all.

I’m sure you’re wondering how to increase your website’s authority now?

The answer is simpler than you might think: practice white hat link-building strategies. Reach out to similar bloggers, website owners or businesses who enjoy untapped authority on the web, and pitch for guest posts, infographics, etc.

For each and every page of your website, try to embed as many high-quality inbound links as possible. But don’t take the easy route of buying links! Trust me, this is not going to do you any good.

Instead, try a deep linking strategy to build better page authority.

Image Source: theoffbeatstory

2. Link relevancy

As discussed above, Google determines how authoritative your website is based on the quality and quantity of links connecting back to your website/web page.

But there’s a catch: it’s not just about getting many high-quality inbound links, it’s also about getting relevant inbound links.

Yeah, you heard me right!

Google pays more and more attention to the relevancy of the inbound links that point back to your website.

In fact, as Andre Weyher, the former head of Google’s web spam team, revealed in an interview, the relevance of links is the new PR as far as Google rankings are concerned.

Aim at getting as many high-quality inbound links as you can, but make sure all of these links are relevant. Focus on link building only from authoritative and relevant sites. This will help ensure that links pointing back to your site are from sites or blogs that are from the same industry and niche as yours.

For instance, if you’re a digital marketing agency and publish content on technical SEO, social media marketing and content marketing, you should aim at getting inbound links from sites with a higher page authority that publish content on the same topics as yours.

3. Content length

It may surprise you to learn that content is one of the most important ranking factors. In fact, content is the second most important signal that Google uses to rank websites on its SERPs.

But it should be no surprise.

For over a decade, content has been the essential fuel that drives modern-day marketing machines. More and more businesses now rely on content marketing to increase traffic, generate leads and optimize lead conversion rates.

The only problem is that now 93% of B2B marketers use content marketing, there’s a lot of white noise on Google. So how do you make sure your content is able to cut through all of the white noise, drive traffic to your website and rank higher on Google SERPs?

Here’s how: don’t keep on creating and publishing short-form (aka useless) content, day in and day out, as it is not going to help you rank higher.

Instead, create long-form content that is ideally more than 2000 words in length.

Longer doesn’t necessarily have to mean boring. Carefully craft your content to cut through all the fluff and only include information that your target audience is looking for.

As this study by SERPIQ (one of Google’s top 10 results) shows, long-form content consistently ranks better on Google SERPs.

Image Source: theoffbeatstory.com

4. Content ‘thinness’ 

Now that I’ve spilled the beans on the impact of content length on Google rankings, it’s time to impart that sites with ‘thin’ content which offers little or no value to people are dropped like a stone by Google.

Let’s talk about what ‘thin’ content is.

‘Thin’ content is any content that adds no or little value to a related search query. Remember Google’s Panda and Penguin updates? They sought to identify content farms (sites with low-value content stuffed with keywords to rank higher) and scraper sites (sites that featured duplicate content) and penalize them. These days, Google’s updates are focused primarily on sites with ‘thin’ or near-duplicate content.

Though Google doesn’t formally penalize sites for having ‘thin’ content, it may potentially misguide Google spiders when they are trying to find unique page content amongst the ‘thin’ content. This may result in low SERP rankings.

So what should you do?

Google crawlers prefer assigning better rankings to sites that provide original, robust content. So remove or no-index pages with thin or duplicate content. Include archived and category pages in this list. Delete or ‘no-index’ such pages.

After all, these pages often add no value to Google searchers anyway. So, if you are holding on to these pages, you’re actually pushing down your Google ranking.

5. Average time spent on page

Here’s a shocker for you: most blogs have an average bounce rate of around 70 to 98%.

This means that when someone lands on your blog page, they don’t spend more than a few seconds there before abandoning it.

So how does this impact your Google ranking?

Google pays close attention to how much time people spend on your web page when it comes to ranking your site on its SERPs. If people tend to spend more time there, Google assumes your page is informative and ranks you well.

Image Source: Backlinko.com 

If you’re thinking your bounce rate doesn’t really impact your ranking, please be advised that they are a very important ranking signal for Google.

Now it’s time for the big question: how do I reduce my bounce rate?

Here’s your answer: be clever when creating content. Add a lot of ‘Bucket Brigades’ and compelling headings into your posts. Structure your blog posts well, too, by including data points and quote boxes.

Here’s what Bucket Brigades look like:

Image Source: theoffbeatstory.com

Make sure your web pages are visually compelling and clutter-free. Ensure that your links and calls to action are properly positioned, and leave a lot of cell padding around your CTA buttons and links.

Remember, the better, more informative and more interesting your website looks, the higher the average amount of time spent on your page and the better your Google SERP rankings will be.

6. Domain authority

You might not know that the domain authority of your website or web page plays a significant role as far as Google SERP ranking is concerned, but it does.

Domain authority is actually a metric that includes 40 different ranking signals and rates websites on a scale of 1 to 100, where 1 is rated as the worst and 100 is rated as the best.

Obviously, the better your domain authority; the higher your ranking.

Image Source: Backlinko.com

While a large number of experts believe that you can’t really do much to increase your domain authority because it takes time, it doesn’t solely depend on domain age.

Here are a few things you can do to quickly increase your domain authority: first, extend the expiry date of your domain name to send a signal to Google that your site is trustworthy. Try to get as many high-quality and relevant inbound links as possible pointing to your website, then smartly sprinkle your target keyword throughout your long-form content.

7. Keywords in title tags

Keywords are so important that you can’t really think of ranking your blog or website without it having keywords in it.

But did you know that Google carefully considers keywords used in your title tags when ranking websites on its SERPs? It actually gives more weight to pages that use keywords in the beginning of their title tags.

Image Source: Backlinko.com

This is because Google spiders are able to instantly figure out what the page is all about if target keywords are placed in the beginning of title tags.

For example, let’s say your target keyword is ‘Google Adwords Tips’ and you have two title tags.

Title Tag #1: Google Adwords Tips: 5 Tips to Get More With Google AdWords

Title Tag #2: How to Get More with These 5 Google AdWords Tips

Now, can you guess which title tag will rank better on Google SERPs?

No prizes for guessing which! It’s Title Tag #1. That is because this title tag uses the keyword right at the start of it, making it easy for Google spiders to understand what the page is all about.

8. Keyword positioning and relevance

Now that we’re talking about keywords, let me also reveal that Google pays close attention to how you position your target keyword on your webpage.

This means that Google crawlers carefully check for keywords in your page URL, in your posts, and in your H1, H2 and H3 tags. Placing keywords in these areas makes it clear to Google spiders that your page is focused on the target keyword.

But here’s a shocker: if your page content doesn’t really match with your keywords, your site may be penalized by Google. Yeah! That’s true!

The days when Google only paid attention to the keyword density are long gone. Today, it looks for keyword relevance too.

So what should you do?

Smartly structure your page using relevant keywords. Place keywords in the first 100 words of your posts, in your page URL, and in your H1/H2/H3 tags. Don’t forget to include keywords in the beginning of your meta descriptions. That’s important, too.

9. Page load time

Slower page load time dramatically affects your pages’ performance. In fact, a one-second delay in page loading time means 11% fewer page views.

It gets worse: 25% of visitors will abandon your site if your page doesn’t load within 4 seconds.

Remember, Google is the world’s largest search engine and it takes its’ user experience seriously. So naturally, it penalizes sites with a slower load time by drastically dropping their rankings.

Image Source: Backlinko.com

Now, it’s not rocket science to understand why page load time remains one of the most significant Google ranking factors that you should be mindful of in 2017 and beyond.

The question is how you can improve the load time of your slower web page.

First, analyze your pages’ loading speed using Google’s flagship product, PageSpeed Insights tool. Then, based on the analysis of your page speed, upgrade your server. Don’t forget to minimize your HTML, CSS and JavaScript files as well as all redirects.

Optimizing images may also help you reduce your page’s load time.

10. Responsive design

Mobile devices make for 51.3% of internet usage globally. Considering how many people now use mobile devices for Google searches, it’s easy to understand why Google takes responsive design so seriously when it comes to ranking websites.

A study conducted by Google revealed that over 67% of users prefer buying from responsive sites and 61% of users abandon non-responsive sites.

Image Source: theoffbeatstory.com

Google penalizes sites that aren’t responsive by dropping their rankings.

Image Source: theoffbeatstory.com

Remember, if you’re looking to rank higher on Google SERPs in 2017, you’ll need to adopt responsive design.

Bonus tip: Steer clear of website pop-ups!

As you may already know, if not used correctly, pop-ups can annoy your visitors to such an extent that they will abandon your site and never return. Statistics show that 70% of Americans get annoyed by irrelevant pop-up ads.

Since irrelevant pop-ups can ruin your user experience, Google recently announced that it will start penalizing mobile sites that feature irrelevant pop-ups. Google may soon implement this update for desktop sites, too.

So it makes good business sense not to use irrelevant pop-ups on your site. Better yet, avoid using pop-ups at all.

Wrapping up

So, there you have it – 10 of the most significant Google ranking factors to consider when looking to boost your website’s ranking!

Go ahead and put this learning into practice, and get set to rank higher on Google SERPs in 2017 and beyond.

I’d love to hear what you think of these top 10 Google ranking factors – let me know by leaving a comment down below.

Guest Author: Saumya Raghav is the founder of The Offbeat Story, a blog that aspires to help small businesses and startups minimize the marketing costs of generating traffic and improving conversions. A blogger and conversion scientist by day, he is an avid Jeff Bullas and Brian Dean reader at night. He loves to write on topics related to digital marketing, technical and international SEO, web analytics, startup and small business strategies, growth hack strategies and conversion optimization strategies. You can find him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

The post 10 Google Ranking Factors Every Website Must Focus On In 2017 appeared first on Jeffbullas's Blog.



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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

7 Simple Low-Cost SEO Tips to Boost Your Business Blog

7 Simple Low-Cost SEO Tips to Boost Your Business Blogs

It is a truth universally acknowledged that blogging can be extremely advantageous for your business. In fact, there are few reasons not to keep a business blog.

A blog can drive traffic to your website by incorporating SEO-friendly keywords and skyrocket your search engine rankings. It also opens up a valuable channel of communication between you and your clients, builds trust, and generates new leads that translate into tangible business gains.

Even better, a blog can help you establish yourself as an expert within your field, and share your knowledge and experience in an engaging manner.

While creating content for a business blog undeniably requires considerable time and effort, there are a number of free or low-cost ways to optimize your site for search engines. Here are 10 effective and economical ways to become an SEO superhero.

1. Outsource the work

Producing a blog isn’t a part time job – if you really want to optimize your website for search engines, then you’re going to need to post regularly and in depth. As these blogs also need to brilliantly reflect you as a business person, they should be original, high-quality and editorially flawless. And that’s hard work.

Aside from being a huge time commitment, it just may not sit well with your existing talents. For this reason, many businesses choose to delegate their blog writing or content creation to external third parties.

You can easily find a content writer or editor by posting an ad on a site like Upwork or Freelancer. Other websites don’t even require an ad from you – you can simply select the service you’re looking for, and it will be assigned to an expert. Check out UK Writings or Big Assignments for this sort of thing. You can also find a low-cost automated service for writing and proofreading on People Per Hour.

2. Use tools to improve content

Without consistently high-quality content, your SEO rankings will flounder because you will simply lose the interest of readers. To make sure every blog is top-notch before you post it, without the help of an external editor or proofreader, you can use the handy guides available at Australian Help or Academized to ensure your language, tone, and structure are perfect.

It’s also essential to remember that blog posts of around 2000 words are best for SEO. You can keep an eye on this with Easy Word Count.

Furthermore, never forget to reference authoritative outside sources, as Google pays attention to what you link to in an article. Similarly, every article on your site should be accompanied by social share icons to fully optimize the opportunity to earn more inbound links and gain further authority for your site.

3. Don’t forget about keywords

When writing a business blog post, you cannot forget to repeatedly and strategically use keywords. These words should be the cornerstones of your blogs – the glue that holds the writing together.

Make sure the keywords you choose fit seamlessly into your writing, though, and are always used within context. SEO does not improve when you overstuff your content with multiple keywords – concentrate on one or two per blog that are close to your niche and have few competitors.

Google Trends and Google’s Keyword Tool in AdWords are free tools that will give you all the data you need to master keywords.

4. Remember that keyword placement matters

On that note, while keywords are useful on their own, they are at their most effective when properly situated within the text.

There are three main places where your keywords should appear. The first is the title, where you should aim to write something catchy that also incorporates a keyword for SEO purposes. The second is within different sub-headers and the central body text.

The third (and most important) is within the URL itself. Your URLs should have a breadcrumbs trail and feature readable indicators of the content within the blog. Avoid using numbers or random strings of text in your URLs.

5. Make sure your content is mobile-friendly

Increasingly, people access the internet and consume blogs and news while commuting, watching TV or lying in bed. This means they’re generally using their mobile phones. And if your blog isn’t mobile-optimized, that is bad news for your SEO.

The majority of Google search now occurs on mobile devices and Google will not display your website prominently in mobile search results if it isn’t mobile-optimized.

Putting that aside, the internet is the home of short attention spans, and the chances of someone returning to your site on a laptop or computer after being unable to access it properly on their mobile phone are slim.

Use the Mobile-Friendly Test tool to check how Google search sees your pages or read this free guide on building mobile-friendly sites to get started.

6. Don’t write boring essays

While your blog content will ideally be around 2000 words, be wary of making it too long, technical or tedious. Break up your text with images, infographics or videos and format the content in a way that’s proven to be pleasing to online consumers. This means including sub-headers, writing in short paragraphs, bolding certain points and incorporating bullet points/lists.

If your reader can scan through your post quickly to find the information they’re looking for, then they’ll be more likely to revisit it as a resource in the future.

Another advantage of including images, videos, infographics or even graphs and tables that relate to SEO is that you can create alt-text for each inset, which improves your ranking overall if people are searching for picture or video content.

7. Make sure you can be contacted

Your contact details need to be included on every page of your blog – this means a phone number, email address, or contact form at a minimum. After all, this isn’t a personal blog – it’s a business blog, which means you need to be available to potential clients and customers.

Similarly, be specific about who you are and what your blog stands for. Have your business name on every landing page of your website and put it into blog posts in the same way that you would include a keyword.

In summary

It’s very simple to use some simple tricks and online tools to improve your SEO for little to no cost. Time and effort need to be dedicated to running a successful blog; however, the above tips will definitely help you achieve better and faster results.

SEO is simpler to understand and master than many people think – and over time it can be your biggest source of traffic.

Guest Author: Sharon Conwell has been a content manager and ghost writer at over 20 online projects, now she is a part-time educator and freelance writer. She’s specializing in content creation and optimization. She loves coffee, tulips and her Shih Tzu named Bobby. You can find her on LinkedIn.

The post 7 Simple Low-Cost SEO Tips to Boost Your Business Blog appeared first on Jeffbullas's Blog.



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Monday, May 29, 2017

Why Instagress Shut Down But You Can Still Grow A Massive Instagram Following

Why Instagress Shut Down But You Can Still Grow A Massive Instagram Following

By now you’re probably well aware that Instagress, an easy-to-use and affordable website that allowed would-be Instagram influencers to use bots to rack up followers, has folded.

Instagress didn’t make fake accounts, but it created bots that automatically commented on and liked other people’s Instagram photos, artificially increasing engagement and making accounts appear more popular.

In a tweet, Instagress said the ‘sad’ decision to shut down its web service was due to a ‘request’ from Instagram.

It’s no secret that Instagram dislikes the use of automation and bots, but regulating botting on platforms has always been difficult, due to the bot-like behavior of most people. Think about it: we like, comment and click on the same things in a very predictable fashion. Plus, most people want a high volume of Instagram followers, and to get that to be less of a priority, you’d have to change Instagram into a platform that isn’t based on popularity and likes. And nobody’s doing that.

This is what the Instagress dashboard looked like:

So why did Instagress shut down?

It’s the one question that has been trending across social media platforms for a month. Some say it was because the name had the word ‘insta’ in it; others linked it to the fact that the company breached Instagram’s terms of service.

The truth is, we may never know the exact reason. But the key takeaway from the collapse of Instagress is that paid follower growth isn’t going anywhere. Yes, that may sound contrary. But let me tell you why.

Marketing will always be marketing. And what all marketers want to do at the end of the day is reach as many members of their target audience as possible while spending the minimum amount possible.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but organic reach on social media is dead. Most content goes nowhere and gets zero shares on its own. Think about it. There are 500 million users on Instagram alone. That makes it bigger than the entire population of the USA!

It means standing out on social media is not easy. Changes to Google’s search results pages have further obscured organic content, especially on competitive commercial searches, and the typical internet marketing conversion rate is less than 1%.

Content doesn’t go viral on Instagram just because there are a lot of people on it. It goes viral because all of those 500 million people are connected to each other through one platform and they share whatever catches their attention. It’s a domino effect, and I would argue that it’s only really possible through paid acquisition and automation.

But why do I need bots?

If you’re still thinking, I can just engage with as many people as possible, as frequently as possible, across the necessary platforms, then you’re still not thinking big enough.

In the instance that your Instagram account experiences a high level of activity – I’m talking literally thousands upon thousands of comments and shares – it would take you all day and all night to respond, and then some. Sure, you might have a social media specialist in-house to take care of:

  • Sharing comments
  • Sharing likes
  • Following people
  • Responding to direct messages
  • Exchanging shout-outs for shout-outs

But a web service like Instagress can take care of a lot of this for you. Imagine the money you will save per year if you outsource your account activity and process of engagement, and have your social media specialist focus more on creating killer content – the kind that commands attention and keeps it.

Here are a couple of Instagram accounts that do a great job of branding themselves with content. And check out their follower counts! They may be organic… But I have an inkling they’re not.

Without a doubt, automation is the way forward for all marketers. It is a form of marketing that, when used correctly, can increase efficiency by a significant margin, and make all the difference between floating and floundering for your business.

So what was great about Instagress?

When I first came across Instagress roughly two years ago, I fell in love with it as it helped me solve my time-management and marketing woes. However, I hated the fact that I had to constantly check the dashboard, adjust the settings and make sure it was working properly. So I decided to revamp the platform in a customized way so that it would work just like I wished it would.

That was when SociallyRich was born.

With Instagress, the user process involved conducting research for hashtags you wished to target. Once done, you would manually type them into the dashboard and the software would begin to ‘like’ pictures using those hashtags at whichever speed you had set the software to do so.

The issue was that the dashboard created a lot of confusion for people who were not well-versed in using Instagram.

We built SociallyRich keeping three issues we identified with Instagress in mind:

  1. Not everyone is an Instagram expert; in fact, many people looking for paid follower growth are small businesses without a designated team to handle their social media accounts
  2. There was no dedicated assistive tool for performing hashtag research, and doing so was time-consuming
  3. There was no customer service team to troubleshoot problems when you started using it.

In building SociallyRich, we removed the dashboard to take the guesswork out of researching hashtags by doing it ourselves in the back end. We aimed to kill two birds with one stone: make using our bot service easier, and make sure every account is 100% optimized. And we succeeded.

At SociallyRich, we look at each account manually to decide how much activity can be generated for optimal performance, and benchmark it to some metrics we look at and calculate periodically. We have a service called ‘Done For You‘ where our marketing team performs in-depth research of your target market so that the following you get is as targeted as possible.

We also offer the best customer service we possibly can for those un-tech-savvy moments. We turned the ‘disadvantage’ of being a small start-up into an advantage and kept it, even when we grew big. To have a connection and be treated as a human through a computer should be standard practice.

Over time, we grew a client list belonging to a diverse range of industries. Clients of SociallyRich include:

  • Restauranteurs
  • Social media influencers
  • Bloggers
  • Marketing agencies
  • Photographers
  • Artists
  • Real estate companies
  • Small start-ups
  • Retail stores
  • Design accounts
  • Ecommerce companies

And many more.

What other tips can you give me?

First and foremost, understand that Instagram is for everyone: there’s not a single industry that it doesn’t suit and can’t serve in terms of marketing.

Anyone who says otherwise has tried it and given up too quickly as it didn’t work for them. A platform with over 500 million users definitely is worthy of your attention!

Which brings me to another point. You may have noticed that in the list of SociallyRich client industries I included above, social media influencers were mentioned. You don’t need to own a business to give yourself permission to expand your following and extend your influence on Instagram. You can monetize your account simply by establishing your own good self as a brand.

One of my favorite ways to monetize your account in a nifty way is by playing to your different niches: for example, I own the Instagram accounts @designselfies, @higherlifestyle and @mens.daily.style.

When you grow or buy an audience for a particular niche using SociallyRich or another web tool, you can then sell them something they would potentially be interested in. The system works flawlessly. Once you have built an audience and have the potential to attract a lot of traffic, you just have to promote the product through your own account – you don’t even have to pay for traffic or influencer marketing anymore.

Sometimes people say to me, “If I launch my business on ‘x’ date, when should I begin my social media marketing?” As my friend Nick Mares, founder of Kettle & Fire Bone Broth once said to me, “It’s never too early to start marketing.”

I apply that mentality to anything marketing-related.

Even if you don’t have plans to launch a business any time soon, start growing your Instagram audience now so that one day if you do decide to launch your own business, you will already have an audience. You will save yourself a lot of time and money as a result.

I understand that it’s hard to appreciate the impact something can have without having experienced it first. And that’s why I want to offer you a completely free 3-day trial of our service so that you can get a first-hand experience of the type of following you can build for yourself, your company, or your clients with the help of SociallyRich.

This 3-day trial is a no commitment, cancel anytime, 100% free trial. If you are still thinking that you’ll continue to do all your social media marketing manually, be sure to bookmark this page because I guarantee you’ll get tired of it fairly fast!

In conclusion

Social media is a touchstone of modern communication and it’s here to stay. In today’s world, the more people we can connect with, the better. Instagram keeps growing on a daily basis and it is now about to hit, if it has not already hit, the 600 million mark!

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – what you ultimately want to do is increase your popularity. If you build a large enough Instagram following in your industry or niche, you will effectively establish yourself as an authority and increase your sales prospects.

People will trust you and feel they don’t have to continue searching for another company, as it will validate you in their eyes. Buying follower growth with bots is a statistically proven way to start the process of biasing people towards you.

Think of tools like SociallyRich as the extra firepower and investment for your business that will help you use Instagram and other social media platforms to your advantage. A shift in digital marketing trends is taking place right in front of our very eyes. It’s an exciting time to be alive. My two cents is: Instagram is here to stay, maybe even forever!

Now is the time to get ahead of the curve, see through corners, innovate and stay on top as a digital marketer. Try my free trial offer, and be sure to remember the most important skill of them all: the ability to adapt, and take action today instead of tomorrow.

Guest Author: Ramon Berrios is a multi-national serial entrepreneur based in Puerto Rico, and the co-founder of SociallyRich.co – an Instagram Growth service that helps businesses from any industry grow a targeted following. 

The post Why Instagress Shut Down But You Can Still Grow A Massive Instagram Following appeared first on Jeffbullas's Blog.



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Sunday, May 28, 2017

7 Ways Facebook Keeps You Addicted (and how to apply the lessons to your products)

How Facebook Keeps You Addicted

In 1972 the first app went live.

It wasn’t designed for mobile and it was meant only for geeks and programmers.

That invention was designed and built by Ray Tomlinson. Today that messaging app is used by 4.3 billion people and 269 billion messages are sent every 24 hours.

You may have already guessed what that app is.

Email was the first addictive digital technology that had us checking in to our computers and then decades later our mobile phones.

One of the key reasons for why it is so addictive is “operant conditioning”. It is based upon the scientific principle of variable rewards, discovered by B. F. Skinner (an early exponent of the school of behaviourism) in the 1930’s when performing experiments with rats.

The secret?

Not rewarding all actions but only randomly.

Most of our emails are boring business emails and occasionally we find an enticing email that keeps us coming back for more. That’s variable reward.

That’s one way Facebook creates addiction.

Addiction is now designed “in”

Social media is no different but it has gone to another level.

In fact addiction and keeping you hooked is now designed “into” many platforms and apps. Because the apps that win are not the best products but the most addictive.

In a recent interview on Brain Hacking, Tristan Harris (an ex-Googler) describes how Facebook, Google and others are designing apps for addiction. They want you back to their product at least once a day.

But the reality is that users are spending an average of 50 minutes a day just on Facebook. This is up from 40 minutes a day just a year ago.

A tiny habit

Habits are powerful.

They are also behind behaviour change and one of the top in this field is the behaviour scientist B.J. Fogg who has been lecturing on this since 1997. He shares his time between Stanford University and industry work.

Fogg told Ian Leslie in a recent interview in 1843 magazine that he read the classics in the course of a master’s degree in the humanities. He says that when he read Aristotle’s “Rhetoric”, a treatise on the art of persuasion, “It just struck me….this stuff is going to be rolled out in tech one day!”

The reality now is that we are seeing soft and pervasive persuasion used on the social web.

His simple model provides an insight into how to create powerful apps and design .

Image source: Foggmethod.com 

His recommendation?

Design for the behaviour and not the outcome. That specific behaviour could be a tiny habit. The outcome of becoming healthy is made up of many tiny simple habits. This could include, eating a healthy breakfast, walking every day and getting a good nights sleep.

A creating a tiny habit could be as simple as:

Trigger: After I walk in the front door

Behaviour: I will hang my keys on the hook

His suggestion is then to celebrate that small habit success. That could be as simple as saying “I am awesome” or a happy dance.

The goal is to use daily routines to create tiny habits. Here is his format for creating a tiny habit.

 

Using an app is simple. Checking into Facebook to see how many likes you have on your latest post.

One of his students at Stanford University was Mike Kreiger, who went on to co-found Instagram, where over 700 million users now share sunrises, sunsets and selfies. The concept was simple, upload a photo and add a filter.

For many using Instagram is now a habit.

Better than cocaine

Some recent research by Sang Pil Han at Arizona State University discovered that mobile social apps foster more dependency than cocaine or alcohol. This was discovered when they looked at the data behind the use of Facebook and the popular Korean game, Anipang

The slot machine is a perfect example of creating a machine that is designed to hook and addict the user. Natasha Dow Schull, an anthropologist and the author of the book “Addiction by Design”  has spent 15 years of field research in Las Vegas studying solitary gambling at electronic machines.

Her findings reveal how the mechanical rhythm of electronic gambling pulls players into a trancelike state they call the “machine zone”,  in which daily worries, social demands, and even bodily awareness fade away.

Losing time

Even Skinner likened his Skinner box for the rats with its variable reward to the one armed bandits called slot machines. Beyond the reward the other elements to the art of seducing the gambler to slowly empty his pockets over hours and days includes the music, the mini games and even the actual appearance  of spinning wheels.

Money is one thing but time is another and it is something you can never buy. So losing time is a worse addiction than losing money.

You can earn more more money but you can never get back time.

This is how Facebook creates addiction

Building and developing a product that entices you to use it many times a day is at the heart of the Facebook marketing philosophy. It is core to their product development.

So here are some insights into human behaviour that keep us switching on and logging in.

1. Validation

As human creators and sharers we all feel the need to have our creations validated.

Not many of us are immune to the numeric quantification of attention that appears at the bottom of every post on Facebook.

Just a few “likes” and we feel like no-one cares. But get 100 and you feel like an awesome creative champion.

Recent developments on the platform are seeing the streaming love hearts and likes that were were initially built into Periscope are now appearing on Facebook. This burst of visual likes is programmed in to keep you hooked. It is “not” an accident.

Facebook has the resources to copy almost any feature of competitors that they feel improves their addiction tactics.

2. Variable reward

The discovery by Skinner that showed that rats were more likely to become addicted when there were random rewards.

Diving into your Facebook feed reveals various pieces of content and revelations that keep us hooked. Some boring others enticing.

The ever changing feedback that is the numeric quantification of content success is like a drug.

3. Fear of missing out

We all want to be part of the show and fear of missing out is real. This is sometimes abbreviated as “FOMO”. Curiosity is a human condition that keeps us looking, listening and clicking on the the little app icon.

There is a bit of a voyeur in all of us and the platforms feed and reward that human behaviour.

4. Sounds

Getting that sound from your phone notifications is one thing that makes most of us “check in”.

But the Facebook messenger sound that happens when you are exchanging private messages builds even more anticipation. It is intoxicating and addictive.

That design is not by accident.

This is now even appearing as a visual on your SMS and text messages. Now those little moving dots reveal that someone is typing at the other end and that one little tactic keeps us glued to our screens.

5. Vibration

Phones also provide us with alerts when on silent mode. It is that vibration in your pocket or purse.

In most cases when downloading an apt is hard “not” to activate it or it is almost hardwired in.

It is opt-out not opt-in as the default.

That tempting vibration when someone likes, comments or leaves a message on your social media networks is an ever-present temptation.

6. Connection

At a recent social media marketing conference I bumped into a new attendee that revealed that she had now found her “tribe”. Being connected to a world wide community is part of the attraction of social media. It allows us to connect online first and then meet in person later.

Wanting to be connected is a very powerful motivation to use the social web.

The ability to find other passionate humans around the world and to join your global “passion tribe” is compelling ….and addictive.

7. Investment

One of the reasons I use Facebook is to record my trips. It is where  post my mobile photos that distils the highlights of the day in words and images. The time line then becomes a travelogue that is in essence my adventure diary.

It is an investment.

The more I create and the longer I spend in posting and publishing the bigger the emotional investment. Facebook becomes your life mapping app.

Taking control back

A digital detox is one tactic that seems to be gaining traction and attention but for me there is a simpler solution.

Turn off all alerts and notifications.

Gaining back control of your attention is necessary to get work done. Deep work and creating content of consequence is not achieved when there is constant distraction.

I am writing this with sounds, vibrations and all social media turned off. Even the email is off duty.

How to apply the lessons to your products

In his book “Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products“, Nir Eval reveals the model for building products that people love. And products that win are the ones that get us hooked.

Here is an example of how Pinterest keeps you “hooked”

how Facebook keeps you addicted

Source: Slideshare

Here is the distillation of his model in 4 steps to keep your prospects and customers engaged.

  1. Create internal and external triggers that bring people to your product
  2. Get them to log-in or sign up to your resources or product
  3. Provide a variable reward that connects to the tribe, provides resources and enables personal mastery
  4. Allow them to build an investment that provides more triggers to keep them coming back.

Over at his website he has a worksheet that is worth checking out.

Over to you

Creating simple and tiny habits over time leads to big outcomes.

Using this principle alone to design and build digital products that bring value to people’s lives and keeps them coming back sits behind some of the fastest growing companies that the world has ever seen.

How could you apply these principles to your products?

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Friday, May 26, 2017

Why You Should Own Your Marketing, Not Rent It

Why You Should Own Your Marketing, Not Rent It

Generally speaking, digital marketers are pretty skilled ball-jugglers. We constantly balance competing deadlines, extract value out of less-than-ideal budgets, and generate instant search engine visibility under pressure.

We have a few tricks up our sleeve for doing that, including online ad networks such as Google AdWords, Facebook Advertising and LinkedIn Ads.

AdWords has been at the top of its game for the past 15 years for good reason – it offers a chance to be on Page 1 of Google in 15 minutes or less, and you only pay for actual eyeballs. Great deal, right?

In fact, using display ads, paid search or paid social as a way to generate instant results for brands or organizations is increasingly popular.

Don’t believe me? Wrap your head around these figures:

  • In its Q4 2016 fiscal year results, Google’s parent company Alphabet reported a whopping 17% increase in advertising revenue compared with the same period the year before.
  • When Facebook published its fourth quarter and end of year results, it also reported an increase in revenue from advertising, up 12% year on year.
  • Statista estimates we’ll all be spending more this year – with paid advertising expenditure soaring to $92.4 billion worldwide in 2017.
  • Marketers are now branching out to new ad formats, with the IAB calculating that mobile advertising grew massively in the first six months of 2016, with a total spend increase of 89% or $15.5 billion.

Big numbers, for sure, but are we missing a trick here?

While there may be plenty of plus points to paid advertising and paid social – and it most definitely plays a role in a well-executed marketing strategy – it might be time to take back ownership of your marketing.

I think so, anyway. In this blog, I’ll explain why you should own your marketing instead of renting it.

Ad space is rented, but content is owned

Getting the balance right between paid, earned and owned media is tricky, but in the long run, content is the clear winner.

That’s because whatever type of advertising you invest in – whether it’s sponsored posts on Facebook, Instagram adverts or a paid search campaign with Google – the space your advertising occupies is only rented.

This means that when your budget runs out, your advertising disappears.

Can you afford to have that happen?

Paid advertising is undeniably great for short-term visibility or when you need a last-minute fix to support other marketing efforts, but it creates the risk of leaving no digital footprint at all.

Investing your money in content, on the other hand, means that you’ll always have marketing assets that belong purely to you.

Sure, you may have to pay a copywriter or freelance blogger to draft up the relevant copy, but it will always be yours.

In other words, there’s no prospect of the gas meter running out or the lights suddenly switching off. This advantage is known as compound returns: it’s permanent rather than temporary.

Content can deliver better returns

According to Entrepreneur, content marketing has a better rate of return than many other forms of marketing. This makes sense when you consider the fact that once you have that piece of content in hand, there are no limits to how often you can re-use it, how widely you can share it, or how much you can repurpose it.

If you were to write an ebook for example, it’s easy to magnify that initial investment in content ownership to create multiple other assets. Off the top of my head, that might be:

  1. A blog post
  2. A podcast
  3. A slideshare
  4. A series of social media posts
  5. An infographic
  6. A landing page
  7. A lead generator
  8. A YouTube video

That’s eight different ways that owning your marketing can mean getting more from it. In contrast, if you put budget towards a paid ad campaign, the only way you can extend its reach and see your ad on other sites or in other formats is to spend more. It’s never really your own, whereas that ebook (and its eight possible uses) are.

You control your own spend

Paid advertising is just like property rental in that you have to pay the market rate. Whether that’s the cost per click in AdWords or the fixed fee to have your display ads run on a site of your choice, you are told how much you need to spend. There is no guarantee that your return will outstrip your spend, but you’re powerless to determine the going rate.

When you opt to own your marketing with content, you’re in the driver’s seat. You get to determine exactly how much time and how much money you spend. This gives you more flexibility and means your marketing can work for you, rather than placing a strain on your budget.

Custom content is useful

The CRM system Salesforce – which as you might expect knows a thing or two about making sales – reckons that 90% of consumers find custom content useful. How often can you say that about an ad space you’ve rented?

The perceived usefulness of custom content opens up lots of business opportunities: benefits that you can only unlock if you’ve poured your resources into creating content assets rather than temporarily occupying an ad space.

We’re talking about creating meaningful relationships with clients, understanding their needs better, seeing more shares and likes, and having greater control of the sales funnel plus the chance to increase order values through personalization.

Content dominates the online experience

There are lots of pretty compelling statistics which show that consumers spend most of their time online looking at content. Think about it – how long have you spent immersed in a blog post? Now think about how long you’ve spent looking at a PPC ad or sponsored post. If the answer is more than 10 seconds, I’ll be surprised.

These figures are from the Content Marketing Institute.

  • 64% of people say the customer experience is more important than price in their choice of a brand. (Gartner, 2014)
  • That customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020. (Gartner, 2014)
  • 70% of consumers say content marketing makes them feel ‘closer’ to the sponsoring company. (Roper Public Affairs, 2012)

As Airbnb found, content is also essential for building trust, which itself is the lifeblood of any successful business. Whether it’s a city guide, review or photograph, your written and visual content can tell the story of your brand in a way that ads simply can’t. Done consistently, it can provide customers with reasons to believe in you, to turn to you and to communicate with you.

So while there’s nothing wrong with paying for that temporary hit of visibility with ads, you should consider owning your marketing assets instead of renting them, to generate much greater opportunities in the longer term.

Guest Author: Sian Lenegan is a marketer and the managing director of Sixth Story, a branding and digital agency. Her focus is on helping businesses ignite growth through the power of branding.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Outsourcing: The Not-So-Secret Weapon Of Successful Entrepreneurs

Outsourcing: The Not-So-Secret Weapon Of Successful Entrepreneurs

Outsourcing is the not-so-secret weapon many successful entrepreneurs and companies use to decrease their costs, by allotting a portion of their work to a third party.

When done properly, outsourcing can lower your bottom line as well as raise your productivity.

Outsourcing can be done domestically or by contracting an offshore solution provider (often known as offshoring).

If you’ve always wanted to know more about outsourcing but haven’t really got a handle on how it can help you, read on to learn how you can exploit this growth hack.

Why should I outsource?

Outsourcing provides many different advantages, and can be especially beneficial for small businesses. Apart from saving costs, outsourcing gives you more options and time.

What should I outsource?

Before implementing outsourcing into your business plan, you should first examine your core activities and key focus.

Think about the essential functions of your business – the ones that don’t affect core activities, but do contribute to key focuses. Outsourcing these functions is a smart way to get better and quicker results as well as add the value of knowledge.

The official term for outsourcing essential functions that don’t influence a businesses core activities is Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

It includes:

  • Part-time jobs like book-keeping and accounting
  • Data entry and data verification
  • Customer service and IT Support
  • Marketing and telemarketing services
  • Shipping and administrative tasks
  • Content writing, research and editing
  • Social media coordination and promotion
  • IT tech services and network support
  • Data security and website integrity.

How do I outsource?

When it comes to outsourcing, a well-designed plan and thoughtful selection process will make or break the project.

While a tailor-made resource like Back Office Pro can help you take the outsourcing itself from start to finish, first you need to develop a well-defined objective and know why you are outsourcing tasks in the first place.

Consult with the key stakeholders in your business and undertake a complete risk analysis regarding outsourcing. Market analysis must be performed, and you should narrow down your criteria regarding quality, expertise and cost.

Ask yourself these questions: What do you want outsourcing to achieve or accelerate for your business? Do you want to outsource to an agency or a freelancer?

There are advantages and disadvantages to either. Agencies offer near-constant availability and legal protection, however, freelancers can be better quality and more cost-effective. If you are outsourcing to an agency offshore, unexpected issues may arise such as taxes, delays and operational red tape – but then again, freelancers can be flaky.

Think carefully about what will best suit your business and what your specific priorities are in your current circumstances. Outsourcing offshore is not really recommended for small entrepreneurs, as it is much harder to scale the business.   

How do I select an outsourcing partner?

When you search for a suitable outsourcing partner, it’s important to bear in mind that building a strong partnership requires a long-term investment in shared goals. A key element to mutual respect is open communication about shared objectives.

In the process of choosing a company or a freelancer appropriate for the job, these are the main critical elements to consider:

To prevent any misunderstandings, communicate clearly about your expectations and priorities. Your contract must outline the specific functions of the outsourced role, termination terms or a date for contact renewal, and the agreed steps of payment.

When should I start outsourcing?

It is always the right time to start outsourcing. Although it’s particularly handy for small businesses who need to make profits faster, large businesses also reap dividends in the long run.

In the current business climate, it no longer makes sense to complete all non-core tasks internally. Outsourcing provides a great and profitable way to cuts costs and increase productivity.

Budgets don’t have to be a limiting factor either, as there is a vast sea of experienced professionals available online who all charge different rates.

Think about it this way: expanding your business the traditional way without additional help can be a long and costly process. Hiring personnel to assist in this process can facilitate and speed up action as well as helping create more accountability for you.

Are there downsides to outsourcing?

The majority of the downsides to outsourcing are contributor-related, which means the vision you are sharing is not in sync. This is why, as outlined above, it’s imperative to make your expectations and needs as clear as possible from the outset.

Once you sign a contract, you are opening the door to potential hidden costs, low quality, malfunctions, bad publicity, and even security and confidentiality threats. That is why a good plan and skilled advisors will help draw up a great contract to maintain the growth of your business.

All in all though, the disadvantages of outsourcing are far outweighed by its convenience and cost-efficiency. The most common issues can be prevented via the use of accessible research, analysis and careful consideration of the risk factors.

Guest Author: Catherine is a content developer who works at BackOfficePro. A talented writer by day and a good reader by night, she expresses her feeling and thoughts through writing. She is loathe to discuss herself in the third person, but can be persuaded to do so for the right blog. 

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

7 Actionable Writing Tips From Seasoned Forbes Contributors

7 Actionable Writing Tips From Seasoned Forbes Contributors

If you’re reading this, you probably already know the importance of publishing relevant, relatable and timely content. You know it helps draw visitors to your website, you know it helps convert random visitors into potential clients, and you know that it engages people in a way that facts and figures can’t.

But then you probably also know that it’s hard to hit a bullseye every time when it comes to producing quality content.

Think of the expectations you might have when going on a promising first date.

Your date certainly looks the part, with impeccable style and an enticing smile. But then they open their mouth and start talking absolute nonsense, and you feel a deep sense of disappointment settle in your stomach. Valiantly, you try to find at least a few crumbs of common sense in their words. But it’s just incoherent gibberish, and the night is ruined for you.

Poor-quality content can replicate this experience, and you don’t even get an alcoholic drink out of it.

A lot of content that you find online looks flawless, bright and stylish – you can tell the designers outdid themselves – but when it comes down to it, it says and does absolutely nothing of interest.

So how do you create that elusive content that attracts and engages readers every time?

Well, you could start by taking advice from experts who are known for producing content that personally connects with the reader and stakes a place in their heart.

Forbes is one of the most popular publications on the internet, with around 48 million unique visitors every month.

Here are seven writing tips from their seasoned contributors that will help you improve your writing style and drive massive traffic to your website.

1. Write catchy headlines

The journalists at Forbes have mastered this technique. They know how to create intrigue and spark interest in their content without giving away too much.

Look at these ‘spark-the-interest’ headlines, for example.

In Business, Always Eat Your Vegetables First

– Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees: Financial Basics For Your Kids

– Six Things Never, Ever To Do On Company Time

There is intrigue within each one of these headlines and the suggestion that the reader may learn something if they only click through.

So this is the golden rule of good writing: make readers want to read your content with catchy headlines.

The website CoSchedule can help you determine how good your headline is. A catchy headline should consist of common, uncommon, emotional, and power words: with CoSchedule, you can check out your word balance and improve it.

2. Make navigation easy

Forbes, as a website, is easy to navigate. Whatever a user wants to find is right there.

Articles are carefully categorized, so readers don’t have to waste time looking for sub-topics or tags. Categories include Leadership, Under 30, and Technology.

If you don’t already have tags or categories, add them. When your website is easy to navigate, visitors will be more inclined to come back again.

They will also be more likely to engage with the comments section, or share a link to your content on social media, if there’s a clear call-to-action to do so.

Simply by ensuring that your sharing icons are visible and making the home page easy to go back to, you will optimize your content.

3. Add visual aids

Forbes aims to engage with people who dislike long reads and demand visual aids.

Everything on their website reflects a core understanding that people learn differently. Articles contain pictures, videos and diagrams to help illustrate the authors’ point.

This is why they end up having people who don’t like reading arriving on their website and deciding to stay.

And you should adopt a similar approach.

Whatever you’re writing about, add pictures. Be inclusive. However, only add images that help or add value.

No one learns less by having visual aids.

4. Use ‘number’ headlines

Engaging content is the sort of content that readers remember long after they have read it. And you know what helps them remember key messages? Numbers.

Studies have shown that numbers talk. People are more likely to open an article that has numbers in its title than one without numbers.

This explains why articles like ‘15 Simple Steps to Declutter Your Room‘ gain so much traction. Readers know how much information to expect and have a sense that they will be able to get real answers.

Aside from that, numbers stand out in a column of text, and this is another way to drive your message home.

To take this tip to the next level, use data to subtly promote your business by making content shares and web metrics visible, as in the image below.

 5. Embed more links

If you open any random article on Forbes, you will see that there are at least five or six links in the text. They lead to external content which is related to what you are looking at.

They also lead to other articles on Forbes. This is vital, as without these links, readers wouldn’t even know that there was other content on Forbes that related to the topic. Or perhaps they could guess that there was, but they’d still have to actively search for it instead of simply clicking on an embedded link.

Never underestimate the power of adding more links and always make sure you select the option for the link to open in a new tab. This reminds readers where they came from and saves them the irritation of being redirected away from an article before they have finished reading it.

However, if you want a more subtle way to do this, you can also introduce the links in a suggestive, natural way as below.

6. Don’t sound cheap

Please, don’t add clickbait-style phrases like ‘you won’t believe what happens next!’ or ‘this will shock you!’ just to draw attention.

It sounds cheap. It’s a tactic you would never see on Forbes. And while it might increase traffic in the short term, you won’t be able to build up your reader base if you only have ‘shock hunters’ gathering on your page every day.

While the power of a catchy headline cannot be underestimated, there’s a difference between inviting readers in and delivering on your promise, and exciting readers’ interest via attention-grabbing ploys only to let them down.

You want to sound serious and credible, and you won’t do so using multiple exclamation points (!).

7. Focus on quality

Think about how much damage you could do to your company and personal reputation if you hastily published a blog that contained inaccurate information or unverified claims.

It’s important that every statistic you cite is accurate and every sentence you write is considered.

The more you can back up and substantiate what you are writing about, the more high-quality your content will become.

What draws devoted readers is the quality of the content. Don’t think they don’t notice its topicality, clarity, correctness, and general usefulness. They do.

Focus on delivering high-quality content instead of trying to ‘sell’ cheap but inefficient content. This comes right down to simple things like proofreading. You’ll never find a typo on Forbes because they don’t exist.

The best content is actionable: that means it provides information, and gives readers a sense of how to apply the information. Ultimately, it leaves the reader with a question or a sense of curiosity, and creates trust between you and them.

Wrapping up

Writing great content is hard, but it’s worthwhile. It takes commitment and the tips above are all from Forbes’ contributors who have thoroughly committed to creating content that is timely, relevant and inviting.

Make your content work for you, and you will increase the general traffic to your website. Google wants to reward high quality sites that contain original content so there’s a huge amount of incentive there as well!

Try the above tips next time you’re sitting down to produce a killer piece of content and see if it streamlines the process for you.

Whatever your reason for having a content site, it’s important to do it right.

Guest Author: Lori Wade is a freelance content writer for Thriving Writer. She is interested in a wide range of fields, from education and online marketing to personal entrepreneurship. She is used to handling many writing orders at the same time and understands the importance of writing clearly and concisely. Follow Lori on Twitter or Google+ to keep up-to-date with her latest insights and wisdom!

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

7 Blogging Ideas For When You’re Stuck, Tired And Can’t Write A Thing

7 Blogging Ideas For When You’re Stuck, Tired And Can’t Write A Thing

Every year, I greet January with new resolutions. Often, I never end up fulfilling them. But that doesn’t stop me from making new ones every year.

One of the resolutions I made at the start of 2017 – one I thought would be easy to keep – was to write a blog post every week on WordPress.

Easy, right?

But it’s May already and I am way behind schedule.

Not that there isn’t a heap to write about – there’s U.S. politics, the immigration debate, racial justice and healthcare rights. There’s easily enough to have me raring to go every morning. But like I said, I am failing miserably.

What’s the big deal about slacking off from time to time, you ask?

Well, I recently came across a WordPress statistic that says its users produce almost 80.7 million new posts every month. I will admit that made me feel pretty slack!

So a bit of introspection, research and discussion with like-minded bloggers inspired me to come up with this list of ways to motivate yourself to blog when you really don’t feel like it.

Without further ado, here are seven quick ways to generate blogging ideas when you’re seriously stuck, tired or unmotivated.

1. Choose to write on a topic that you know

If you think writing on a trending topic will help you gain followers and industry respect, think again. You won’t provide sound advice or commentary unless you know what you’re talking about, and you may get stuck at the research end of the process to boot.

Try to blog on what naturally interests and engages you – not what you think will get clicks and shares.

For instance, artificial intelligence and cloud software are concepts most marketers and technology buffs are keen to prove they’re super up to date on. But unless they’re industry leaders, they’ll probably have trouble finding anything new, informative or even original to say.

That’s not to say writing on pertinent and current issues isn’t important – but blog on topics that appeal to you as an individual.

If you are a tennis enthusiast then sharing your views on Steffi Graf and Serena Williams’ record would be an ace idea (pardon the pun!).

I am an ardent and passionate reader so both fiction and nonfiction writing appeals to me. This means writing a book review for my blog is much less intimidating than writing about artificial intelligence (and I know which one I’ll do a better job on!).

Unless you are passionate about a topic and know it in great detail, it is unlikely that you’ll have anything ‘extra’ to add to the noise on the internet. You’ll be wasting your time, other people’s time, and the creative energy that could be put to better use elsewhere!

2. Get inspiration from social media

In this article on Social Media Today, it was revealed that the average person has five social media accounts and spends almost 1 hour and 40 minutes a day browsing through their different feeds.

Turning to social media for ideas is like digging in a gold mine. People are constantly sharing, discussing and debating their views as well as enthusing about their interests and passions.

Join a few groups on Facebook that are based on your interests. You’ll not only meet like-minded people, you’ll generate ideas and views through discussion.

If you join a group aimed at writers or bloggers, you’ll also gain a channel for creative inspiration and be able to improve your online presence by actively participating in posts shared by fellow group members

It may surprise you what pops up to dislodge an idea in your brain. I’m a member of ‘Mad Over Marketing (M.O.M)’ on Facebook. They shared an image of a Nike ad a few months ago – and it actually inspired me. Take a look.

The quirky intelligence of this ad aside, it generated the gem of an idea for a blog post called ’11 Ads That Will Make You Smile’ that could easily lead into a second blog post titled ‘How Brands Inspire People To Get Fit Via Marketing’.

See? A single ad shared in a Facebook group generated two different ideas in my head for two different blogs. Impressive, but so easy!

3. Use web tools to brainstorm

Web tools exist to help people out – especially when we are stuck.

Let’s pretend you already have a pretty good idea of what you want to write. Say it’s a piece on email marketing or social media marketing. You can start by looking at sites like BuzzSumo, Alltop and SocialAnimal to see what’s trending and what’s being shared by users.

Once you have an idea of what people are clicking on, use a tool like HubSpot’s Blog Topic Generator to help you take your idea to the next level and generate some potential titles.

Personally, I don’t just use one particular site. I look up 3-4 sites until I come up with a topic or title that resonates with me.

Have a look at this topic Portent’s Content Idea Generator suggested for email marketing.

What a perfect topic! It’s catchy, it talks about something my audience wants to know about (email marketing), it contains my keyword, it cues familiarity because it mentions a celebrity and it gives me ample creative scope!

There’s absolutely no shame in using web tools to brainstorm and generate ideas for blog posts. In fact, they could provide you with just the prompt you need in dire, uninspired times.

4. Format blog posts as lists

The whole reason I’m writing this blog arose from my 2017 New Years’ Resolutions, so it’s fair to say I’m a big fan of lists.

But in this instance I’m not talking about aspirational lists, but listicles.

Listicles are articles or blog posts structured in the form of a list: for example, ‘7 Best Productivity Apps For Android Phones’.

Not only do people love reading listicles, their thematic structure makes the writing process a whole lot easier.

Next time you are stuck over what to write, contemplate whether your content could form a series of items presented as a list.

The internet is filled with listicles so just try not to make them too clickbait-y.

Also, be as specific and positive as possible. Instead of writing ’13 SEO Trends To Watch Out For In 2017′, try ’13 Things Your Business Should Be Doing For SEO In 2017′.

5. Follow people who influence your industry

Duh, right?

But following influencers, industry and thought leaders, as well as daily news sites is a great way to come up with new blog ideas and writing inspiration.

For instance, I follow Virgin Group on LinkedIn and they made the two posts below on their page.

It inspired me to explore the link between mindfulness and productivity. I knew I could either either use each idea separately or combine them into one, for example, ‘Why The Happy Employee Next To You Is 12% More Productive’ or ’11 Ways To Improve Mindfulness and Productivity At The Same Time’.

And seeing it on Virgin Group’s feed meant I knew there would be research and studies to back it up.

6. Ask questions on message boards

How else will you learn?

Take advantage of the pool of users on sites like Quora and Reddit to explore topics that interest you in depth, and no doubt pick up a few interesting and inspirational facts along the way.

Start by choosing a basic search term or keyword and looking through the conversation threads on it to see what you find.

Your natural interest in particular ideas will help you identify an appropriate topic to write on.

Then ask questions if you have them.

For instance, say you want to write about a trip to Hawaii. You can log into Quora and post a question to get an alternative point of view to your own.

Based on the response you get, you can come up with your new blog topics, such as:

  1. Do’s + Don’ts While In Hawaii
  2. What To Pack For Hawaii
  3. 5 Things You Will Learn In Hawaii

7. Look inside yourself

This is the part where you get to be you. You don’t have to look outside but think about your own personal insights and experiences, and how best to share them.

You can share personal insights and experiences in many forms: learning lessons, success stories, failure admissions and more.

Wrapping up

Blogging is not as easy as it is made to sound. It’s easy when you consider that it’s just words – but daunting when you think about what you want those words to mean and the ideas behind them.

My initial problem with writing is always starting.

Fortunately now, using the above steps, I usually find a way.

And I am certain that if you try them too, you will be able to wrestle yourself out of your rut.

Guest Author: Cynthia Dora. At the age of seven, I wanted to be a teacher. At 14, I wanted to be a contestant on America’s Next Top Model. Finally, at 25, I ended up being a writer! During the day, I am the Lead Content Marketer at Span Global Services, an organization specializing in building B2B email lists. The rest of the time, I am the mother of a five-year-old who shares my passion for teaching, writing and imagining.

The post 7 Blogging Ideas For When You’re Stuck, Tired And Can’t Write A Thing appeared first on Jeffbullas's Blog.



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Monday, May 22, 2017

How I Built a 7-Figure Online Business as a Busy Stay-at-Home Mom

How I Built a 7-Figure Online Business as a Busy Stay-at-Home Mom

If you had said to me three years ago that I would have started and scaled a 7-figure online business, sold one piece of my business for over 7-figures USD, moved my family to an idyllic town in New Zealand, stopped my day job and be working less hours and spending more time with my family

I’d have laughed out loud.

But as it turns out e-commerce is not too hard after all!

When I started my business, I had no experience selling products and I certainly had no experience selling online. My goal was to get a viable business set up and scale fast to avoid going back to work at the end of my maternity leave. This meant generating 5-figures in revenue a month, but the problem was – how was I going to do that?

Selling private labelled products on Amazon

A friend was selling on Amazon and doing well, so I learned how to private label (also known as white labelling) my own product and sell it online, using Amazon’s warehousing and fulfilment services (Amazon Fulfilled by Amazon or FBA).

I live in New Zealand and have young children so started by looking for products where I could relate to my target customers; eco-conscious and willing to pay a premium for a high-quality product.

I wasn’t interested in importing low grade, cheap plastic products from China like all the popular Amazon training courses were (and still are) advising. In fact, I took the opposite approach, choosing to sell quality, ethical products because it was important that my business reflected my personal beliefs and outlook on life.

My first product was hand made using New Zealand merino wool. I can’t divulge exact details as I actually sold that business when it was 18 months old (for seven figures USD) and have a confidentiality agreement.

I am convinced that if you use the correct product screening criteria, when choosing your product, that there are many opportunities for selling quality products, to make enormous profits using private labelled products on Amazon.

This approach has served me very well and I’ve launched over 400 products, all bootstrapped using profits from existing sales rather than taking on loans or investors.

I’ve been deliberate in building strong brands that can be an umbrella to multiple unique products and I have a great time sourcing products. I currently buy my products from countries like Indonesia, Tibet, India and many more. I sell in the USA, UK, Europe and soon will be selling in India, all through Amazon’s automated warehousing and fulfilment. All I need to do is keep choosing profitable products, stay in stock and manage my virtual team.

How to scale without working more

Initially, when I started my business I had a baby on one hip, a tornado of a two year old, and used my phone for almost everything; messaging suppliers, checking sales, answering customer queries…

However, as the business grew too big for one person, I had to find a way to scale, otherwise I was going to end up working more hours and getting less family time than I did when I had my day job!

The mainstream Amazon courses all recommended getting the cheapest help, but I found a fantastic lady in Canada (through a website called Fiver.com). Jazmine is detail oriented, reliable and can finish all the things I started! She still works for me full time today and has proven to be a real asset that has helped me expand the business to what it has become today.

As I’ve added more products the size of the team has settled at two permanent staff (one New Zealander travelling the world and Jazmine in Canada) plus a couple of floating design contractors and outsourced bookkeeping. My business is lean and I can work from anywhere in the world.

Right now, I work from home in a converted part of the garage!

Reaping the rewards

I now have a solid foundation in place and can spend my time choosing more products to launch. Amazon pays me every two weeks, and they take around 30% of the sale price in their fees. My products cost another third of the sale price leaving a nice 30% margin and very low overheads.

The biggest and most rewarding change, once we realized this business was going to fly, was being able to give up my day job, which involved a lot of long hours and travel, to spend quality time with my family.

We were able to take a family three-month sabbatical to Bali from July-October 2016, and have since then moved from the capital city Wellington leaving our two nice city jobs to a small resort town, of just 7,850 people, called Wanaka in the Southern Alps.

Wanaka is the dream place we’ve always wanted to live. It was our summer holiday destination every year (along with the rest of New Zealand who want to live here too!) and now we call it… Home.

There are world class ski fields, it’s a National Park conservation area and staggeringly beautiful. Our five-year-old son goes skiing with his school on Thursdays. I have a horse again and am preparing for the first season of competing in several years. My husband is running a related Amazon consulting business helping exporters sell their products on Amazon and we are both part time.

Life is pretty good and if I can do it with no tech background, no time and no spare funds then you can too!

So how can you do this too?

You may be wondering whether it is still possible to do well selling on Amazon, or what you’d need to do to get started?

Here’s my advice on what works well when it comes to selling products online:

  • Enjoy the process and look for products you like and appreciate.
  • Commit to learning and developing your critical thinking skills. There are so many shiny new objects in the form of courses, tools, events but there’s nothing like knuckling down and testing it yourself.
  • Choose products with enough margin. I see too many people working hard with great products but no money left over and can’t even afford to pay themselves.
  • Consumable products that need to be replaced are great and suit the subscription box model. This is a personal favorite of mine!
  • Move really fast. You’ll never have perfect information or find the perfect product (trust me, I’ve looked!). Success loves speed. I see lots of people grind to a halt, but people who set a cracking pace seem to do the best.

Keep an eye on your emails later this week as I’ve got a special offer if you’d like to learn more about starting an online products business.

Guest Author: Sophie Howard

The post How I Built a 7-Figure Online Business as a Busy Stay-at-Home Mom appeared first on Jeffbullas's Blog.



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