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guest blogging

#HowToWrite Guest Blogging Content: 10 Keys

Here’s the scoop on guest blogging: Google doesn’t appreciate paid links or content published just so you can “win” a link. However, if your guest post is informative, genuine, and helpful, including a relevant link back to your website is a great way to improve your exposure and relevance.

Is guest blogging a worthy investment?

It no longer results in the skyrocketing SEO as it did before Google started evaluating placed links more thoroughly.

However, guest blogging still affords some pretty sweet rewards:

  • Exposure to the blog and brand’s audience (hopefully including promotion on their social media and email list).
  • Increased authority and reputation.
  • Opportunity to expand or blog just outside your niche.
  • Possibility of capturing secondary or tertiary audiences where they live.

guest-blogging-tips

10 Keys to Writing Great Guest Blogs

If you’ve determined the blog presents a good opportunity for you, it’s time to create your guest blog. Let’s cover the basics of how to get it done.

Guest Blog Writing Key #1: Read the Guidelines

Quite simply, your guest post has the best chance of being accepted if it conforms to all the guidelines set forth by the editor(s). Ideally, you should read the guidelines before you even pitch. Guidelines usually include rules about:

  • Images (including acceptable sources).
  • Author biography and headshot.
  • How many links you are permitted to include in the post.
  • Word count.
  • Tone, style, and level of formality.

The editor should also be able to provide you with stellar examples of content published on the blog.

Surprisingly, guidelines are often vague – even when editors are picky. In this case, don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Guest Blog Writing Key #2: Let Your Expertise Shine

Expertise isn’t just about what you know – it’s about what you do with it. Through successes (and failures) in webinar presentations, I’ve learned that audiences respond most sincerely to application and innovation. Anyone can look up how to do something, but knowing how to apply it to a particular problem is especially important. The best content connects the dots and enlightens processes for readers.

You don’t have to give away every detail behind your process or way of thinking, but provide a window into your world.

I speak often about merging the personal and professional brand – something you can do carefully and successfully if you decide it’s the right fit for your business and your life. When I decided to merge my personal and professional Twitter accounts in a “Twitter wedding,” I documented the process and received positive feedback about the transparency of the post.

Depending on your audience, you’ll need to display expertise through a combination of:

  • Story (how you did it).
  • Data (proof that you did it).
  • Example (the final product).

Each guest posting opportunity presents a challenge to find the right balance of story, data, and example, so make sure to communicate with your editor or point of contact to ensure clear expectations.

Guest Blog Writing Key #3: Let It Flow

When it comes to keeping the reader engaged, flow is what makes your post stick. Your entire post should read as though it was written by one person in one sitting (even if took you days to put it together). Each tip or idea should connect to the next, and if it’s a how-to post (like this one), the order of steps should make sense.

Learn the 10 key steps to writing an awesome guest blog post over on @ExpWriters!Click To Tweet

Guest Blog Writing Key #4: Apply Search Engine Friendly Structure

Google prefers a certain structure for blog posts. Best practices are as follows:

  • Do not use H1 header tags except for the post title – use H2, H3s, and so on to neatly organize your post.
  • Use short, clear paragraphs.
  • Bullet point for clarity when applicable.
  • Number your how-to instructions or recipe steps when appropriate.

This also saves your editor time. If they can copy and paste your formatting, it makes their job much easier.

Guest Blog Writing Key #5: Focus!

While many copywriters are accustomed to writing for “keyword density,” you’ll find a more natural inclusion of a desired keyword occurs if you strive to use a focus keyword. Use your focus keyword in your:

  • Post title.
  • First paragraph.
  • Body copy (a couple of times).
  • Meta description. (Note: As a guest blogger, you may not be required to submit a meta description, but it’s a kind gesture and only takes a few minutes.)

If you’re writing for a general keyword, consider using a more specific long-tail keyword as well. For example, this post focuses on “guest blogging” (a very general, high-competition keyword) and “how to write a guest blog” (a specific question or search phrase).

Guest Blog Writing Key #6: Add Appropriate Backlinks

While you want to put a link back to your own site in the piece, don’t forget to link to other authoritative sites, especially those with a high domain authority or Alexa ranking. Chances are you know some reliable resources on your choice topic, and including credited statistics and other citations with links back to those sites will help.

It’s also best practice (and kind) to include an internal link – that is, a link to another blog post or page on the website for which you’re creating the post.

Guest Blog Writing Key #7: Include Images

Editors are used to receiving walls of text. Even properly formatted copy can start to blur together when it’s the tenth piece an editor has seen in a day. When guest bloggers provide visuals, however, it helps their copy stand out and shows they put some extra time into the presentation.

Furthermore, it creates less work for the editor (as long as the images work in their approved format or layout, and come with all necessary permissions).

Ideally, you should have some sort of visual break every 300 words or less. That can mean a custom image, a stock photo, a click-to-tweet, or an embedded audio or video.

Check out these examples from Express Writers CEO Julia McCoy’s piece on creating an unforgettable presence.

formatting example

Julia employs clear headers, short paragraphs, and a bulleted list to clearly explain her point.

She also breaks up the text by placing facts in a storytelling image and including a “click to tweet,” which also encourages readers to share her advice.

content presence quote 1

Remember to only include images you have permission to use. Provide a permissions line, credit, and a link to the source if requested or required.

Guest Blog Writing Key #8: Proofread Your Work

Editors will look over your copy before it goes live, but you can prevent embarrassing mistakes and increase your chances of acceptance by proofreading your work or asking someone else to do it for you before you submit. Aside from checking for spelling and grammar, a good edit analyzes flow and also checks all the links.

If you’ve relied on other sources to create your piece, make sure you run it through Copyscape to ensure uniqueness. You don’t want to get rejected for plagiarism because you didn’t reword your cited sources enough.

Guest Blog Writing Key #9: Write with Authority

You are guest blogging on a topic because you’re the resident expert! Avoid phrases like “I think,” or anything that will make the reader doubt your expertise on a given topic. Note how I say in this piece what editors will and will not do – not what they may think about doing. Having been a website editor for so long, I have the authority to offer these tips in a decisive way.

Guest Blog Writing Key #10: Include a Call to Action (CTA)

At the end of your post, tell your reader what they should do. Are there more on-site resources for them? A place where they can learn more about your services?

Your CTA will largely depend upon the tone of the piece and the editorial guidelines. It’s always safe to ask your readers to comment with their thoughts (if the blog has a comment section), as that will drive engagement and please the editor. If you do this, make sure to follow up and respond to the comments on the blog.

What’s Your Niche? It’s Time to Own It

If you need help writing authoritative pieces or if you would like the expert opinion of our practiced editorial team before you submit that guest blog post, get in touch.

At Express Writers, we’re here to help you say it with authority.

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how to create blog images

The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Best Blog Images: Sizes, Optimization & More

We’ve all heard the saying: a picture is worth a thousand words.

But how does this impact blogging?

Today, it’s virtually impossible to create a great blog without also creating strong visual content. In other words, your words matter less when they stand on their own. Modern readers want to be engaged on all fronts, and they look to visual materials to facilitate this.

It’s proven: blogs with high-quality, original images rank better, get more attention, and earn more shares than those without. And with 2 million blogs going out daily, you can’t afford not to stand out!

Here’s a crazy eye-tracking statistic by Springer International Publishing about the importance of good visuals in online content: people following a set of directions (which is common to long-form blogs) do 323% better with illustrations included along the way!

This leaves one big question, though…

How, exactly, do you go about creating “high-quality, original images?”

What does that even mean?

Here’s your complete guide.

guide on how to create blog images

The Ultimate Guide on How to Create Your Best Blog Images Ever: First, The Importance of Visuals in Your Blogs

Today, a massive 37% of marketers report that visual marketing is the single most important form of content for their business, second only to blogging.

With this in mind, consider what happens when you combine the two!

While the combination of visuals and blogs has gained steam in recent years, it’s not a new thing. In fact, visuals have always been a critical form of marketing. In addition to the fact that people are more likely to remember what they see than they are what they read or hear, content with images has a long history of performing better in search results, social media platforms, and private channels than its image-less counterparts.

In fact, BuzzSumo once reported that blog posts with images every 75-100 words earned twice as many shares on social media as posts with few or no images!

With all of this in mind, it’s clear that adding images to your blogs is more important today than ever before.

Be aware, though, that it’s not enough to simply slap a stock photo into your WordPress post. Instead, you’ve got to go the extra mile and create high-quality, custom images that provide relevance for your users, and context for your content. That’s what we’re here to talk about.

How to Create Your Best Blog Images (7 Keys)

Like learning to blog or use Twitter effectively, learning how to create blog images that are highly effective is a process. Luckily, these simple tips will help you get off to a great start:

1. Don’t Shy Away From Themed Images

Here at Express Writers, we believe deeply in creating themed images. We create custom themed images in our posts on The Write Blog and have seen great examples of themed images on sites like twelveskip.com.

Check out some of our examples from the blog roll:

blog roll

 

While most people imagine some hokey holiday thing when they think of “themed images,” the reality is much different.

Themed images are actually a series of images that fall into a specific design structure. Of course, this design structure varies from company to company, but it’s always predictable, reliable, and recognizable.

This serves a critical purpose. By making your blog content more recognizable to your consumers, themed images help promote brand recognition and develop a consistent branding presence.

If you’re going to create themed images, keep things like your company’s color scheme, typeface, and voice in mind as you work through the process.

2. Hire a Designer

While platforms like Canva have made it easy to create your own graphic content, it remains a difficult and time-consuming task for people who don’t do it frequently. If you, like so many marketers, have your hands full with other responsibilities, consider hiring a professional designer to create your images for you.

Not only will you get a large batch of high-quality images all at once, but you’ll save the time you would have otherwise spent struggling to create them. This time can then be applied to more productive business pursuits that help grow your company and your social presence.

Not sure where to find a designer? You can go through a content agency (Express Writers offers custom image design for social media and blogs!) or work on finding a freelancer on your own.

3. Develop a Format

Regardless of whether you choose to design the images on your own or hire a professional to do it for you, one big time-saving tip is to create a standard image format that you can work off of and customize down the road. Our agency calls this an “image set.” Put simply, it’s your best featured image size with minimal text, then a formula for an inset image that can be shared on Instagram or other social platforms like Pinterest.

While each of the images you create should be unique, saving these presets in your system will streamline the creation process and ensure you wind up with high-quality images every time. To give you a head start, here’s the best image sizes for all major social platforms, according to Louisem.com:

  • Instagram: Instagram posts look best when they’re 1080PX x 1080PX.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn images should be 1200 x 628PX.
  • Facebook: The ideal image size for Facebook is 170PX x 170PX, although experts recommend uploading images of at least twice that size to ensure quality.
  • Pinterest: Pinterest Pins should be about 736PX x 1104PX, while board covers are 736PX x 736PX.
Want to create blog images that stand out? @ExpWriters is sharing how to size and optimize every online image!Click To Tweet

4. Pay Attention to Alt Text

While frequently overlooked, alt text on featured images matters hugely to SEO. Alt text is the string of text input “behind” an image, which makes it readable for search engines and people with visual disabilities.

According to Yoast, they look like this:

< img src=“image.jpg” alt=“image description” title=“image tooltip”>

But, you probably won’t have to deal with the “code” if you’re in WordPress.

Here’s what alt text looks like on the featured image upload section in your WordPress (arrow on the right):

featured image alt text in wordpress

If you have a target keyword for the blog post you’re writing, it should always be in your alt text.

This helps search engines make sense of your image and rank your content accordingly.

Unlike meta descriptions or tags, alt text doesn’t have a hard-and-fast maximum length. The better rule to consider is to always include your focus keyword here. It is important, however, that you add alt text to every image in your blog (especially the featured image) and that you’re including relevant information, like full product names and product IDs, as well as head or long-tail keywords.

So…

To end tip #4:

  • ALWAYS include your keyword in your ALT text on images uploaded to your blog.
  • This is extremely important to focus on in the Featured Image section, where Google usually indexes key images from to show with your blog in knowledge graph search results.

5. Upload the Right File Format

While most people don’t realize it, the type of files you upload for your images has an impact on their quality! While many people upload JPEGs to the web, there may be another option. First, here’s a quick breakdown of the three main file types for visual content, and their strong suits:

  • JPEG. JPEG files are common in photographs and images where places, things, and people are featured.
  • PNG. PNG files are the best for logos, text-heavy designs, and graphics. They’re also ideal for screenshots and images that have a transparent background, such as a logo designed for website use.
  • GIFs. GIFs are animated files and typically feature in memes.

When it comes to creating visuals for your blogs, you basically have to remember two rules: JPEGs for standard photos, and PNGs for any custom graphics you create.

In addition to the file format you choose, you’ll want to pay attention to your image dimensions, as well. Huge files take forever to download, and can affect the final quality of your image.

While many web publishing platforms (like WordPress) have functionalities built-in that automatically re-size images, it’s still wise to use an editor like Lightroom or Photoshop to resize your images (according to the above guidelines) before you upload them to the web.

6. Be Cautious With Stock Photos

While stock photos can be a valuable tool in blog image creation, they’re best used carefully. Too many stock photos in your visual strategy will make your blog look, well, boring. While it’s best to use original photos whenever possible (take a look at how LMS platform Wisetail does this on their site), this isn’t an option for companies that don’t have the photography power or the personnel to do it.

In these cases, using stock photos is fine. If you’re going to use stock photos, just be sure to follow these tips:

  • Look For High-Quality Options. Stock photos come from professional platforms, yes, but that doesn’t always mean they’re nicely done. As you search for images to use in your visual strategy, look for ones that are clear, crisp, and on-brand. Make sure the people in the photo (if there are any) reflect your target audience and that the topic of the photo is relevant to your post.
  • Focus on White Space. For a stock photo to perform well in your visual strategy, it needs to have enough white or empty space to take to text. While you can enhance the visibility of text overlay with filters, layers, and font colors and sizes, it’s always difficult to get text to show up well on top of a complex and colorful stock image.
  • Understand Attribution. Most stock photos don’t require any attribution when you use them. The operative word there, though, is most. By understanding the topics of attribution and copyright, you can avoid legal issues arising from your stock photo use, and keep your blog images thoroughly between the lines.

7. Focus on 10x Content

While they’re intensely important, most people regard blog images as an afterthought in the larger scheme of their blogging strategy. Unfortunately, this is exactly the wrong approach. Instead, you need to apply the principals of 10x content to your blog images. Coined by Rand Fishkin at Moz, “10x content” refers to content that breaks the mold and does something truly astounding.

It’s essential for good blogs and social media posts, and no less important for blog images.

Instead of just scraping by with your blog images, you’ll want to invest the time and energy required to grow a true visual strategy, and to ensure that every image you publish is the best one yet. While it’s true that this takes extra effort, it’s well worth it.

Think of it this way: your blog image features right next to your headline when you post new content.

While the headline has long been considered one of the most essential pieces of any blog, it’s arguable now that the featured image is up there, too.

When your featured image is high-quality, unique, attractive, and interesting, it draws people in. When paired with a great headline and a strong hook and body content, it makes for irresistible written material that is far too powerful to underestimate.

With this in mind, never stop striving for better blog images. When your visuals move up the content quality scale, the rest of your material will, as well. For more research on this, learn about the Skyscraper Technique and figure out unique ways to apply it to your blog strategy.

For example, can you evaluate your old blog images and come up with ways to make them better? Maybe you can partner with other companies or professionals to create images that the web has never seen before!

How about a hand-drawn image to accompany a fun blog post? We did this for a typically “boring” SEO blog post on a numbered list of SEO tips, by adding “to rule your content castle” at the end of the topic, then giving the title to our creative designer! Here’s the result:

seo dragon castle

The possibilities are endless, and it’s up to you to get creative.

Learn How to Create Blog Images that Win & Become a Better Visual Blogger

Today, there’s no room on the web for low-quality content – not even in your visuals. Of all the digital resources your company has, your blog is one of the most essential.

After all, 70% of customers prefer to get to know a company through content rather than ads, and 61% of consumers make purchases based on information from blogs!

With this in mind, it’s clear that you can’t afford to overlook your blog, or the images that accompany your text.

By getting proactive about your image creation strategy and actively looking for ways to improve your visual content, it’s easy to develop a high-quality approach to images that will benefit your blog for years to come.

 

Don’t waste any more time on sub-par blog images. Check out our custom image design services today!

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how to create headlines

The Ultimate Guide: How to Create Headlines that Will Go Viral

We’ve all heard it: while 80% of people read headlines, only 20% read body copy.

What does that mean in practice, though?

In other words, how do you create headlines that entice that elusive 20% to keep reading? Or to share, comment, and convert?

The truth is that viral headlines are rare, and they take time, effort, and skill to master.

Fortunately, the content marketers who develop solid headline skills have a better chance of standing out from the crowd. Modern customers are attracted to quality and effort, and a great headline reflects both.

The good news is that headlines like these aren’t out of reach. Here’s your complete guide to creating them.

guide to creating headlines

What Makes a Headline Viral?

If you want to create viral headlines, you must first understand what, exactly, makes them go viral. What are the components they include, and what’s their foundational structure look like?

Here are a few critical elements of every good headline, as laid out by Steve Rayson in a BuzzSumo article:

  • Viral headlines have an emotional element
  • Viral headlines use content elements to their advantage
  • Viral content covers trending topics
  • Viral headlines follow a format
  • Viral headlines promise the reader something

Here’s Rayson’s table, to illustrate:

steve rayson table

According to him, most viral headlines employ not one, not two, but three or four of these elements. This combination allows them to perform in a unique way, and to grab your readers’ attention.

Which Headlines Get Shared?

The good things about learning to write viral headlines is that there’s a lot of information about which headlines get shared and which don’t, and this can help guide your efforts.

For example, in 2014, OkDork published a post that showcased the results of a survey that analyzed more than 1 million headlines. Here’s what they found:

The Most Popular Phrases in Viral Headlines

The OkDork survey found that the most popular words and phrases in headlines were:

creating headlines quote 1

As you can see, list posts top the charts time and time again. And this makes sense – they’re easy to skim, valuable for readers, and ideal for virtually all industries.

Beyond that, the survey also made it clear that people love personalization, and that content that addresses the reader personally (by using the words “you” and “your”) sat at the top of the list, as well.

Readers also loved any post that promised a better situation or hinted it would teach them to do something. As you can see, using the right words in your headline is essential, and can make all the difference in your readership.

Emotional Headlines

As the web has become more personalized and targeted, there’s been a push toward emotional headlines. These headlines take all forms. They can be shocking, infuriating, laugh-inducing, or curiosity-inspiring. Readers just want to feel something when they read your headline.

This requires the use of power words. Some power words, like freeeasy, and DIY are already included in the list above. There are many others besides these, though. Terms like approved, competitive, unsurpassed, and confidential all inspire strong emotional reactions in readers, and help drive shares for your content.

There’s science to back this up, too.

According to CoSchedule, posts with a higher emotional value earn more shares than posts with little emotional value.

CoSchedule Table

Headlines That Utilize Trigrams

A trigram is a three-word phrase used in a headline.

While the number 3 has significance throughout nature and mythology, it’s also a powerhouse in the world of writing and, specifically, headlines. The rule of three states that things that come in packs of three are funnier, more impactful, and more satisfying than things that don’t and this holds true for a viral title. BuzzSumo reports that certain trigrams within headlines earn more shares and likes than others.

Here are a few to get you started:

  • X Pictures That
  • X Signs You’re
  • How Well Do
  • Can We Guess
  • You Should Never
  • X Things Only
  • The Science Of
  • History Of The
  • The Art Of
  • The Future Of

As you can see, these trigrams are just a skeletal structure that you can apply to any headline in any industry.

Superlative-Rich Headlines

If you’re like most writers, you’ve been taught not to use superlatives in your writing. It’s time to turn that on its head, though. According to BuzzSumo, superlatives can increase the share volume of your headline when used correctly. Because they boost the emotional value of a headline and make it easier for readers to get excited about them, superlatives are ideal for creating viral posts that spread widely across the web.

Here are a few superlatives to get started with:

  • Amazing
  • Inspiring
  • Surprising
  • Successful

Particularly useful for content designed to be shared on social, superlatives can make your headlines more impactful, promising, and exiting for your readers.

Content Formats

There are a few content formats that get shared more often than others, and using them is a great way to make your content more viral. These include lists of ten things, how-to guides, and quizzes. Quizzes are especially exciting since they represent a form of interactive content many marketers aren’t creating. In addition to going viral, interactive content like this also allows you to expand your reach and help you stand out as a leader in your industry.

How to Write Viral Headlines: 5 Tips

Now that you know which types of headlines go viral let’s talk about how to write them for yourself.

1. Evaluate The Headline’s Emotional Impact

Remember: headlines with a high emotional impact get shared more frequently than minimally emotional headlines.

With this in mind, use a tool like the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer from AMI. Designed to evaluate the way your headline’s word groups come together to elicit emotional responses from readers, this tool is free and easy to use.

Here’s an example of what it looks like in action:

headline analyzer

2. Follow a Formula

If you’re just getting started with headlines, and you want to ensure yours perform well, look for ways to include tried-and-true methods in your headline approach. Trigrams like those mentioned by BuzzSumo are always a fantastic jumping-off point.

In addition to making your headlines more impactful, using these trigrams as a structure is an excellent way to get out of a rut and ensure your headlines are performing the way you want them to.

Here are a few examples of what you could do with the trigram structure:

creating headlines quote 2

As you can see, it’s easy to take these headlines and run with them, tweaking them to your preference to ensure they fit your industry and cater to your audience.

3. Choose a Trending Topic

It bears mentioning here that creating viral content is a different animal than creating evergreen content. When you create evergreen content, you want to choose a historically useful topic that will appeal to your readers for years to come. Since evergreen content is meant to attract traffic to a post or page long after its publish date, it wouldn’t make any sense to use a fleeting, trending topic as the foundation.

When it comes to viral headlines, though, the approach is different. Because viral headlines are meant to drive a significant amount of traffic to a site or post in a short period, they thrive on trending topics.

This means anything in global, national, or industry news is fair game.

For example, check out this screenshot of some “trending” topics from Facebook:

Facebook screenshot

You can also use Google Trends to discover trending topics, and build a headline from those. Since it’s Google, the data capabilities behind the trends you can search here are massive!

google seo trends

Be sure you keep the headline ideas from trends relevant to your industry, or else you stand the chance of missing out on the audience-specific traffic your headline could be generating.

4. Make a Promise

If you’ll remember from above, some of the top-performing headlines included words like “how to” and “DIY.” The reason for this is simple: these headlines make a promise. By telling the audience they’ll teach them something, these headlines get a jump start on providing value and relevance to readers.

To make your headlines more viral, include an element of promise within them. This promise can revolve around revealing a story, telling a secret, or offering insider tips.

No matter what you do, the more exciting you manage to make your headlines, the more likely your readers are to bite.

5. Make it Emotional

Today’s best headlines are highly emotional. In addition to inspiring readers to share, highly emotional headlines also stick with people and promote recall long past the point a customer would typically remember a headline. This allows these headlines to stand out as monsters in their industries, and to be shared widely across the web.

To make your headlines as emotional as possible, include power words that make people want to click. The more of these you can include, the more impactful your headline will be.

Keep in mind that, while a good headline is emotional, it should also be natural. Readers don’t want to feel like a used car salesman is writing their blog headlines.

What Not to Do With Your Headlines

While there are a lot of dos when it comes to writing viral headlines, there are also dozens of don’ts. It’s true that headlines follow a formula and that good ones often have several things in common. You do need to be careful, though, that you’re not getting too formulaic or standardized with your headlines, or else you’ll risk coming off as spammy and untrustworthy.

Here are a few simple don’ts to keep in mind as you work toward the perfect headline.

Don’t Cram Your Headline With Exact Match Keywords

Exact match keywords are, by and large, a thing of the past. While they can be useful to guide your content, they shouldn’t act as its backbone. In addition to the fact that they look spammy, they’re not often very organic, and can cripple an otherwise great headline. Instead of relying on exact match keywords as you work your headline out, look for semantic matches, synonyms, or other phrases that get at your user’s intent but don’t feel artificial or plastic. This will make your headlines more emotional while also ensuring you’re doing a good job of matching the questions, topics, and interests your readers want.

Don’t Make A Promise And Not Deliver

As we mentioned earlier, great headlines make promises to their readers. Whether that promise is to teach a reader to do something or expose an industry secret, promises are compelling and exciting. As such, one of the worst things you can do in your headlines is make a promise and not deliver on it. In addition to being disrespectful to the reader, this also doesn’t do much for your reputation as a trustworthy source, and can harm your readership in the short and long-term. That said, make sure any promise leveraged in your headline is also supported by your body copy.

Don’t Get Too Short With Your Lists

While list posts rule, some are stronger than others. Most research suggests that 25 is the magic number when it comes to list posts and that longer lists may perform better than shorter lists.

With this in mind, don’t sell your readers short with your list posts. Instead of skimming the surface with a list of three or four things, go longer and stretch the list out to include 15 or 20 points.

Don’t Stop With Clickbait

Viral headlines are more durable than pure clickbait. They inform readers while they excite them, and they deliver on their promises. While creating run-of-the-mill clickbait headlines can be enticing, you’ll find these fall short with your readers. Instead of just flashing something shiny before their eyes, go deeper and write headlines that are as informative as they are exciting. What, exactly, will your reader learn from your content? Which questions will you answer? These elements prove your headline has substance and work to make it stand out from the crowd.

Don’t Get Overly Complex

A good headline is simple, precise, and to-the-point. If you get too complex with jargon or lingo, you risk losing readers and making your material harder to relate to or interact with. What’s more, the best headlines are the ones that can spread the furthest, and this is unlikely if you’re only writing for a specific audience. With that in mind, make your headlines appealing to as many people as possible. Not only will your readership balloon, but your headlines will more likely go viral as a result.

Viral Headlines Made Simple

If you’ve been in pursuit of viral headlines, you’re not alone. Luckily, they’re not as challenging to create as you may think. While it’s true that learning to write viral headlines is a process, it’s also entirely attainable and isn’t outside the reach of any moderately talented copywriter. That said, these simple tips are all you’ll need to learn to write viral headlines that resonate with your audience and earn your content the reach it deserves.

When you take the step toward viral headlines, your entire content strategy benefits. Not only do you rise above the sea of so-so, boring content, but you also enter a place that few content marketers know how to access. By mastering the art of the viral headline, you stand to improve your content’s value, drive more traffic to your site, and become a better content marketer, starting right now.

Hire expert copywriters to help you write viral headlines in our Content Shop!

engagement cta

why content marketing

Why Content Marketing? 10 Proven Statistics & 5 Ways to Win (Infographic)

As we start the New Year, here’s a great question to ask yourself (and your clients, too):

Why should you commit to investing in content marketing as an integral part of your marketing strategy?

This powerful form of marketing fuels 99% of our own lead and revenue generation, so we know well what content marketing can do for a brand.

This week, we put together an infographic with a few of our favorite reasons to invest in content marketing, featuring (killer) statistics with undoubtable proof that this form of modern marketing is worth every penny you put into it.

Plus, we’ve included 5 principles to help you do your best content marketing this year! Read on for the full story. Infographic written and designed by the team at Express Writers.

Infographic Why Content Marketing Works

Why Content Marketing? 10 Proven Statistics & 5 Ways to Win (Infographic)

6 Stats: You’ll Get More Site Traffic

  1. Companies that blog receive 97% more backlinks
  2. 55% more visitors to your page
  3. 67% more leads for your company
  4. Companies that blog more than 16 times each month earn 5x as many leads as companies that only blog 4 times!
  5. 60% of customers say they feel better about a business after reading their original blog posts
  6. Since 23% of social media message contain content, creating more of it means more shares around the web

4 Stats: You’ll Give Your SEO a Boost

  1. 72% of marketers worldwide report that content creation is the biggest factor in successful SEO
  2. The majority of web links go to the top 10% of content on the web
  3. 50% of marketers say that content has increased the strength of their company’s SEO
  4. Content with a strong headline can boost page views by 500%. This enhances SEO and helps you rank better.

Bonus: You’ll Stand Out as a Thought Leader

Content helps you become a thought leader in the following ways:

  • It showcases your expertise
  • Helps you build your voice
  • Allows you to dominate your niche
  • Give you a platform for sharing and promotion

5 Fast Tips to Dominate Content Marketing in 2017

1. Create long-form content

Readers love long-form content and it generates more shares and links. For best results, publish posts with more than 1,500 words.

2. Produce visual content

Content with images earns 70% more views than content without images. Boost your engagement by adding visuals to your blog posts and producing infographics, memes, videos, and other visual marketing material.

3. Do your research

Relevant, fact-dense, original content performs best. Instead of just scratching the surface, dig deeper to give your readers something they can’t find anywhere else.

4. Share your content on social

In May of 2015, smartphone social media use jumped 51% in users between the ages of 25-34. Share your content on social to get the most possible traction from each piece.

5. Develop a content marketing program

79% of the most successful content marketers have a clear idea of what effective content marketing looks like and how to achieve it. Follow in their footsteps! 

Why Content Marketing? 10 Proven Statistics & 5 Ways to Win (Infographic) Sources

Dilate.com: http://bit.ly/2gONO6I

CrazyEgg: http://bit.ly/28RKbsa

Contently: http://bit.ly/29OBBa2

Curata: http://bit.ly/1GjxoWz

Content Marketing Institute: http://bit.ly/1FFxBYf

New Year CTA 3

readable content types

How-to’s, Listicles, and More: Which Are the Most Readable Content Types?

If you’ve spent any time on the internet lately, you’ve probably noticed that some pieces of content, are, well, hotter than others.

Two content types have really stood out as winners.

Specifically, the how-to and the list-style, also known as listicle:

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 11.10.32 AM

Websites like BuzzFeed and Elite Daily use them as the virtual bread and butter of their marketing strategy. Even high-level industry leaders have started publishing more and more list-focused posts.

While this may seem like mere coincidence, it’s a trend that’s been sweeping the content industry for the last several years.

The reason for this trend is that these list/how-to styled content pieces are intensely readable, which makes them perfect for an audience with a rapidly decreasing attention span, and an increasing focus on finding the material they want now.

Read on to learn more.

readable content types

Content That Cuts It: Lists, How-to’s, & Videos

While the consumers of 2000 were looking for simple information, today’s consumers want a more comprehensive experience.

Not only are they looking for information, but they’re also in the market for unique, high-quality content that entertains them and makes them feel special.

If this sounds like a tall order, you’re not wrong.

Creating content that works for consumers is more challenging now than ever before, and brands need to invest time and energy into learning to do it properly.

One great way to get started with this, however, is to learn what customers expect from content.

According to an AdWeek article, 25% of consumers report that finding entertaining content is more important to them than finding accurate content.

Despite their focus on entertainment, however, these customers also care about accuracy. These same customers also expect the content that brands create to be aimed directly at them: a Social Media Today survey shows that readers want personalized content designed to meet their unique needs and requirements.

With these things in mind, it’s easy to see why content has morphed the way it has.

Which 3 Content Types Are the Most Readable?

While the customers of yesteryear may have wanted simple, direct content, today’s customers expect brands to get to know them, figure out what their primary concerns are and then concoct content that addresses those things (“how not to mess up your lentils,” for example).

By keeping this in mind, you can craft highly readable content types that your readers will enjoy.

1. How-to Articles

Despite the fact that the how-to article has morphed in recent years, it’s still incredibly valuable.

People are as hungry for information today as they were 16 years ago, and the only difference is that today’s how-to’s need to be much more specific and targeted than they were way back when.

For example, consider these BuzzFeed headlines:

While these headlines don’t resemble the straight-up, verbatim “how-to” headlines of yesteryear, the message is still there.

If you dig a little deeper, it’s clear the first article is really, “How to get more use out of your wardrobe,” the second is “How to get rid of clutter,” and the third is “How to keep your kitchen clean.”

While the headlines may have been made more creative, the message is the same.

To make your how-to articles more exciting than they’ve ever been before, it’s important to think differently.

Because there is such a wealth of information available online right now, people are the most likely to interact with content that shows them how to do something differently. This is the key to making your how-to articles exciting, readable, and unique.

Each of the BuzzFeed articles mentioned above does this, and it’s part of what makes them so popular.

While how-to articles are already some of the most readable articles around, making them interesting, unique, and informative is a fantastic way to ensure that they provide as much value for your readers as possible.

Tool Tip: If you really want to be sure your “how-to” headline is unique, the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline Analyzer is one of my favorite tools.

advanced marketing institute headline

Every time I hit a 40-50% score result with my headlines, I see a ton of juice in shares, links and more come from my article.

My blog on 15 tactics for better blogging got over 160 shares, with a headline scoring over 40% on the AMI tool.

advanced marketing institute headline tool

Need some words to infuse might into your headlines? Check out our resource of 120 power words.

2. Lists

How-to’s and listicles can easily cross paths: simply because adding numbers to your headline gives it a higher psychological engagement factor.

Unlike the how-to, however, listicles are broader-reaching and not necessarily designed to teach people a skill. Because of this, listicles are a fantastic form of content for any brand that wants to build traffic and promote engagement.

Fun fact: numbers in a headline are like “brain candy.”

We’re simply attracted to read them more – and some say odd numbers do ever better.

For an example, consider “14 Mouthwatering Vegan Recipes Even Non-Vegans Will Love.”

Featured on the BuzzFeed website, this article is promoted by Sabra, a prominent hummus company).

buzzfeed lists

While this article could easily just say “14 Vegan Recipes,” it would never get as much traffic if that was how the headline was structured.

Because this article quantifies the recipes as delicious by using the word “mouthwatering” and expands its audience by stating that even non-vegans will love the content within, it succeeds at creating diverse value that appeals to many readers.

Lists are beneficial because they appear as simple, straightforward piece of content that says “hey, this is brief and to-the-point. Read it now.”

3. Videos

While videos aren’t literally “readable” content types, they are a powerful form of media content that can help you get views and create traffic.

As it stands now, 65% of marketing executives call visual assets, including video, infographics, and photos, the center point of their brand story strategy.

What’s more, 51.9% of marketers say videos have the best ROI of any marketing content and shoppers who watch a brand’s video content are 1.81x as likely to make a purchase than people who only read text.

With this in mind, it’s clear that creating video is one of the most important things marketing professionals can do to expand their reach and connect successfully with customers.

To make your marketing videos stand out, follow these tips:

  • Ensure good production value. A shoddy online video isn’t worth much, and if you’re going to create video content, you need to be sure it’s high-quality. While you don’t have to be a video expert to turn out a good product, refusing to cut corners on the production ensures you’ll wind up with a product you’re proud to show off.
  • Understand your audience. If you don’t know who you’re trying to reach with your video, take a step back and don’t do anything until you do. Video isn’t something you can just toss out at random, and you need to understand who you’re talking to before you drop in.
  • Implement storytelling. To make your videos as effective as possible, use storytelling to create a compelling story arc. This makes your videos unique and ensures that they will capture the attention of your customers.

Even if you’ve never experimented with video content before, introducing it into your marketing strategy can help make your content as accessible as possible for your readers.

The “How-to” Revolution: A Brief Backstory

To understand what has made lists and how-to’s the gold standard in informational content types, you need to look back at the evolution of content and, in fact, the internet, as a whole.

A mere 15 or 16 years ago, learning how to do something was a lot harder than it is now. YouTube wasn’t yet the go-to hub that it is today, and there were far fewer online articles that would tell you how to write a cover letter or how to cook lentils. Because of this, how-to articles soared in popularity.

Since then, however, information about virtually everything has become much easier to find. Not only can you find thousands of articles telling you how to write a cover letter, but you can also find tutorialsvideos, and even complete courses designed to help you master the skill. Because of this, the way people write content has changed.

While the how-to article and the list both remain popular, the way people write them has gotten much more specific.

For example, instead of a simple “how to cook lentils,” today’s articles are titled “5 Mistakes People Make When Cooking Lentils.” Instead of “how to write a cover letter,” you get “5 Ways Your Cover Letter Lost You the Job.”

While these articles may teach the same skills, they’re geared toward providing a more interesting, unique, and valuable experience for readers.

And knowing what it takes, down to the style and format of your article, to create interesting, informative content in today’s content-saturated and information-dense world will help you win online.

Readable Content = Effective Content

While content has morphed significantly in the last several years, the mission today is the same as it’s always been: to create valuable content that helps readers learn something.

Today, however, writers need to go deeper than they ever have before and work harder to create valuable, customized content that speaks directly to consumers. This ensures a great user experience and helps both the customer and the brand thrive.

To get help creating content you’re proud of, check out our expert Content Services today!

 

compelling power words

How To Add A Blog Feed To Successfully Boost Your Readership

In the days of olde, people who wanted to stay in touch with their favorite blogs had to bookmark the site’s URL and visit daily to check for new content or updates.

Imagine how much effort that took. Wouldn’t it have been easier if those people could have simply asked their favorite websites to send out a notification when they posted new content?

Well, that’s exactly what RSS feeds do.

A feed, also known as an RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary), is a great way for bloggers to boost readership, make their content more accessible and help readers stay in the loop. Currently, major sites like the New York Times, The Huffington Post and Point Blank SEO  offer RSS subscription options.

When new content is published, a blog feed provides a stream of comments and posts that allows readers to keep tabs on your blog via feed readers. Because RSS feeds allow readers to view new content on your blog without having to physically visit the site, they’re a convenient way to make your content more available and boost engagement with new posts.

Blog feed

Ready, set, go…

The 5 Biggest Benefits of Having A Blog Feed

Feeds have a multitude of advantages. In addition to being easy to set up and manage, feeds also provide lots of value to readers. Here are the top 5 advantages RSS feeds offer:

1) Blog Feeds Make Content Accessible

If a reader follows 20 blogs, he or she needs to visit each of those 20 blogs to view updated content. This means that your blog is likely to get lost in the shuffle or that it simply won’t get checked very frequently. If your blog offers a feed, however, a viewer’s feed reader of choice can check your blog regularly and provide that viewer with updated content. Because of this, feeds are a great way to get your content out to people who may be too busy or otherwise engaged to interact with it.

2) Feeds Cater to Slow Internet Connections

Although it would be wonderful if we lived in a world where everyone had hyper-speed internet connections, this simply isn’t true. If your blog readers have slow internet connections, a feed saves them from having to visit your blog and load each page individually.

3) Feeds Allow Constant Searches

Say you run a blog about health and wellness and you have a specific reader who is interested in tips on happiness. That reader can search “happiness” in your feed and instantly be granted with a results page filled with your happiness-related blog posts. Additionally, that reader can then load that feed into a feed reader and create a constant search for happiness tips. Although readers can always manually search blogs for keywords, a manual search doesn’t yield a constant search results page. Because of this, a feed is a great way to help readers find exactly what they’re looking for.

4) Feeds Allow for Retrieval of Content

How often have you read a piece and, several days later, had a discussion about it with a friend, during which you tried to locate the content online and couldn’t find it? When your blog offers a feed, people who read your content will never have this problem. When a viewer uses a feed reader with archiving capabilities that feed reader logs pieces for future retrieval, so the viewer has easy access to them days or weeks down the road.

5) Feeds Allow for Easy Sharing of Content

If you have a reader who loves your content and wants to share it on their site, an RSS feed allows that user to simply export your feed and post in on their site using Javascript code. This is a great way to reach new readers and promote sharing of your content. 

The Guide: How to Add a Feed to Your Blog

The method that you choose to add a feed to your blog will depend largely upon which blogging platform you use in the first place. Although most blogging platforms offer built-in feed readers, sites like Blogger and Blogspot as well as any static websites you may own will require some extra effort.

Blogger/Blogspot

If you’re a Blogger/Blogspot user, the easiest way to add a feed to your page is to use a feed widget. RSS Include is a popular option and only requires users to copy and paste some code into the right sidebar or into individual blog posts. Check out this tutorial for further instruction.

WordPress

Like most blogging platforms, WordPress automatically provides RSS feeds for comments and content. Each page published on WordPress has a meta tag embedded within it that points to the location of the site’s RSS feed. This means that, while WordPress users don’t have to do anything additional to add an RSS feed to their blog, they can promote their RSS feeds by incorporating an RSS icon into the blog’s sidebar. This increases the feed’s visibility and helps readers discover and subscribe to it. Additionally, WordPress users can boost the usefulness of their feeds by doing things like adding post thumbnails or separating the RSS feed into categories or post types.

Static Websites

Unless you love writing XML manually, it’s advisable to use feed software to add a feed to your static website. Although there are dozens of options, many bloggers love FeedForAll and FeedBurner. FeedForAll lets static site users create and publish RSS feeds as well as allowing options to create podcasts and videos as well as allowing export to HTML, text or CSV files.

FeedBurner, on the other hand, is Google’s feed management system. The platform was launched in 2004 and allows users to build, edit and display RSS feeds as well as including options for traffic analysis and advertising. FeedBurner is available as a plugin and as software for static sites.

An Alternative to RSS: Email Subscription

Even though this is an article about RSS feeds, it bears mentioning that there are alternatives. The main alternative is an email subscription list. Here at Express Writers, our subscription bar is hooked up to a weekly newsletter through popular email marketing platform MailChimp, so when readers subscribe, they get an email telling them about any new content or updates to our site. Although this serves essentially the same purpose as an RSS feed, it’s automated, hands-off and doesn’t require manual subscription or unsubscription of readers. Additionally, some readers believe email subscriptions are more personal. With that being said, RSS feeds do have a slight advantage due to the fact that they can avoid email spam filters. Because of this, some bloggers choose to use both RSS feeds and email subscriptions. Regardless of what you choose to utilize on your site, it’s wise to know the difference between the two.

The Case for RSS Blog Feeds: Why You Should Add one to Your Blog

At the end of the day, RSS feeds are a great way to make your content more visible and boost readership. And because they are easy to install and manage, they’re an ideal fit for every novice and professional bloggers alike.

If you so choose, you can combine your RSS feed with an email subscription list to ensure that you’re catering to the preferences of all of your readers.

No matter what you choose to do, one thing is certain: getting your content in front of readers without forcing them to manually scour your site for it is one of the most effective ways to boost engagement and gain popularity for your site.