Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A Comprehensive List of 20 Post Ideas for Your Blog

Bloggers and online publishers often publish tens of hundreds of articles in a week, churning out write-ups and posts from dusk till dawn every single day of the week. However there comes a time when coming up with ideas for a new post becomes a bit of an issue, and inspiration is hard to come by. You find yourself not knowing what to write on, or what to write about and totally bereft of ideas. And writing a blog post goes from being an effortless to a daunting process.

Fret not! Here is a list of post ideas (listed here in no particular order) that might just give you that extra bit of inspiration you so desperately need in times like these:

1. Beginners Guides: Guides, ‘how-to’ posts and instructional posts have to be some of the most easiest things one can possible write on. Even if you’re new in the field, you can always do a ‘beginner’s/newbie’s guide to…’ type posts.

2. Reviews: Pick any product or service – just about anything that you see or you use – and do a review on it. Doing reviews are easy, and if you’ve read even a few reviews, you’d know how they’re structured: start off with an introduction of the product, its history, its purpose, what it does, its functions, performance (benchmarks, if applicable) and of course a list of pros and cons. Choose something relevant to your niche and relevant to the subject matter of your blog.

3. List-type Posts: Posts such as ’10 ways of…’ or ‘5 Amazing Tricks to…” are usually very popular, and super-easy to write as well. Make a rough list of things you might want to include in the post, add to your list along the way, and write your list-based post which takes your audience through the process of doing something in a step-by-step manner.

4. Comprehensive Guides: If you’re an authority on a certain topic, and know it well enough, it might be a good idea to do a comprehensive and thorough guide in it for your readers. Something like an ‘A to Z post on making money online with your blog’. It is a fact that these posts are immensely popular, as they provide easy access to complete information on a particular topic, all from a single place.

5. Update an Old Post: Take an old post – any old post from your blog – that you published a while back. Check to see if it can be updated; chances are, it will probably in need for an update. In all probability, a lot of new developments and changes are likely to have taken place since this particular post went online. You could call it an update post or a 2.0 post, and provide your readers with updated information on a topic that you’ve already covered in the past.

6. Interviews: Interviews are a fantastic way to generate some valuable content for your blog, effortlessly! Get in touch with experts, thought-leaders or authority figures from your niche, come up with a set of questions, meet these people in person or conduct an interview over phone, Skype of email in order to get their feedback and put it up! If it’s a video-based interview, you might also want to attach its transcription along with it.

7. Pros and Cons: Take any product or service out there, and discuss its ‘pros and cons’ in a balanced, unbiased manner. Make a list of all its advantages and disadvantages, or a list of the good and bad things and make a post out of it. If you’ve used this particular product or service extensively, this will probably be one of the easiest posts you ever do.

8. List of Best Posts: Think of this like doing a ‘round-up’ on the week/month/year’s best posts. Pick up the best posts from your blog, from the internet (for instance from other blogs that you follow that fall in your niche), and compile a list with links to each post (no-follow links!). This can be a great way of providing your readers with the best of the internet, all in one place.

9. Industry News and Trends: Share your thoughts on industry trends, the happenings in your niche, your thoughts on some of the biggest headlines and stories that rose to prominence by getting a lot of air time. Compile a list of such news items, and share your thoughts on each one of them. Speak of what impact each might have on the industry, and where it’s headed.

10. Advice or Guidance: Use your blog to share advice and provide people guidance, assistance and/or counsel. Ask your blog audience and blog subscribers, as well as Facebook and Twitter followers if they have any concerns or questions re: anything in your niche, take the best questions and provide your visitors with the information and guidance that they might need.

11. Market Your Products and Services: If you’re going through a bit of a dry spell as far as putting up new posts is concerned, now might be a great time to maybe do a post on your own products of service by reminding people about them. Market them through a post on your own blog, a guest post on another blog, a sponsorship, a social-media campaign, or even a blog contest.

12. Address Problems: Problems in your niche – concerns such as environmental issues usually make for some interesting topics. Is there something that concerns you, and probably needs to be addressed? Use your blog to do just that.

13. Share Something Personal: Behind-the-scenes pictures, you hanging out with your friends, with your family, on a vacation, watching a game, etc. Sharing something about your life can be a great way to really connect with your audience.

14. Case-Studies: Did you recently provide services to a client, which yielded surprising results? Share your observations and the results in a post.

15. Customer Inquiries: This is similar to point no. 12 above. Has a customer (or someone else, for that matter) sent you an inquiry, or posed an interesting question? Do you feel that it would be worth sharing it with your visitors as well? Perhaps doing so will help quell any misconceptions, or simply prove to be useful for your readers.

16. Setbacks: Have you ever had a setback, or made a mistake in your career, or during the time that you’ve worked in the industry? What were the outcomes, and what did you learn from the experience?

17. Build Upon a Guest Post: Do you regularly have guest posters post on your blog? Take a recent guest-post, and write about it by building upon it. Take the conversation ahead. Add your own input to it, and share your own thoughts about it.

18. Picture Post: Post a series of photos and nothing else. Let the images do the talking. This will probably be an extremely niche post, only applicable to a select blog types, however if you think it applies to the content matter of your blog and that you can find images to do such a post (or create your own), go right ahead!

19. Polls: Websites such as PollDaddy and SurveyMonkey (and even Google Docs, for that matter) allow you to easily create polls (within seconds) and very easily put them up on your blog (as simple as copy pasting some code). Do a poll related to a hot topic in your niche, or something related to one of your recent posts.
20. Live Blogging: Live-blogging an event can be a great way to mark your authority on a certain topic, while at the same time provide your readers with updates to an event, occasion or occurrence in real-time. Cover the said event by providing your readers with live text-based updates, as and when things unroll and something happens, such as a live blog covering football games, or an Apple keynote/product launch.

Monday, 3 September 2012

How to Optimize Your Landing Page for Conversions

Landing Pages Explained

Your website or blog’s landing page is probably the single most important page on it. As Hubspot puts it, ‘a landing page is a page on your website that allows you to capture a visitor’s information through a form’. Landing pages are usually targeted to a particular stream of traffic (for instance from an email marketing campaign, getting visitors from a guest post, etc), and usually provide visitors with an offer which would potentially be interesting to them.

Landing pages are important because they provide a specific page on your blog where your visitors land, and are prompted to complete an action. This could be anything – from signing up for your email list, to subscribing to your RSS, to filling out a form, to buying one of your products. Essentially, what you want is for as many people as possible to respond to your call-to-action (CTA) and actually convert.

Once you’ve determined what action you want your visitors to take, you create a page that makes it easier for them to take that action. Instead of sending them to your homepage or a random page on your website, you redirect that traffic to a page that lets your visitors take the action you want them to, making it a simple and straightforward process.

And that is what the purpose of a landing page really is – maximizing your ROI, by creating landing pages that actually convert a high percentage of visitors into actual leads. Which is why landing page optimization is extremely important from an internet marketing perspective.

Important Aspects of a Landing Page and How to Optimize Your Pages

1. Make a clear offer: Let your visitor know what exactly it is that you’re offering, and how will he or she be able to benefit from it (more on that below). It should be clear, and your landing page should have an informative layout to support your offer.

2. Offer something valuable: Remember that the purpose of a landing page is to capture contact information from your visitors. In exchange, you need to give them something that’s valuable to them - something that would make their lives easier, a compelling offer. Or as Don Corleone once famously said, making someone an offer he can’t refuse! Make sure your landing page does a good job of actually backing that up.

3. Keep it simple and short: When it comes to landing pages, less is more! Some of the best landing pages out there (with some of the highest conversion rates) are simple, elegant-looking pages that make use of less text, keep a balance between text and graphics, and above all use, a simple and short form to capture information – just the essentials. Doing so will greatly increases conversion rates.

4. Use statistics and graphics: Make use of stats, images and/or infographics on your landing page to reinforce your point. Images and stats do a better job of getting your point across than plain text. Images and graphics should however be optimized for speed and page load times.

5. Less navigation: Once again, the ‘less is more’ concept applies. If you’ve been able to successfully bring traffic on your landing page, you would want them to take the action that you intend for them to take – distraction free. In order to do so, remove any navigation (potential exits) from your landing page. The visitors should be solely focused on filling the form.

6. Make the form prominent: Light it up like a Christmas tree! Make sure that your form is the most prominent aspect of your landing page. Increase its size, use a theme (colors, fonts, etc.), place it in the middle and/or the top of the landing page (above the fold, ideally), and use a color combination that is different from the rest of the page. The idea here is to create an eye-catching form that immediately grabs the attention of anyone who lands on your landing page.

7. Allow social sharing: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, email, etc. – add social sharing buttons to your landing page. Allow people to like, share, tweet, and +1 your posts, and encourage your visitors to share your page on their social media profiles. It’s free publicity!

8. Testing, refining and improving: Test and experiment with your pages and forms in order to determine what works the best. For instance according to a well-known stat, you lose one-third of your visitors for each additional field in your registration form; it would therefore be logical for your form to be as minimalistic as possible. Just get your visitor’s email address initially, and maybe ask for more information later on.  

Ending Words

Depending on the CMS/platform that you use, you might want to try looking up some landing-page themes, such as the ones here for Wordpress. Here is a great list of 32 free and premium landing page themes for Wordpress.

In addition, this is a great list of 35 spectacular-looking landing pages on the internet.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

List of 6 Most Essential Wordpress Plugins

Wordpress remains one of the best, and hence the most widely used blogging platform and Content Management System (CMS) out there. And it’s hardly a surprise why. It has a powerful front and back end, a functional and powerful dashboard, offers tons of customizability in terms of looks, interface and management, is a very quick CMS and is extremely easy to use and user-friendly, and of course, offers a slew of plugins that considerably improve its functionality.

It is hence no surprise when one discovers that Wordpress is currently being used by roughly 75 million different websites on the internet from all over the world, including around 25% of all new websites that went online till the end of 2011 – making it by far and wide, the most popular CMS out there.

All this essentially means that anyone with even the most basic computer or internet skills at all, or zero website hosting and management knowledge can easily manage a Wordpress blog. Organizations which cannot afford to hire IT personnel don’t need to any more, all thanks to Wordpress.

Let’s talk plugins. As of August 2012, there are 21,100 free plugins on the Wordpress plugins directory, amounting to a total of 341 million downloads in total! Wordpress plugins significantly enhance its functionality, and can also totally transform the way your blog looks (or how you’d want it to look).

Here is a list of 10 of the best, most essential (free!!) Wordpress plugins that every blog on the Wordpress platform – old or new – needs to use:

1. Wordpress SEO

As a blog owner, your aim is to get as much traffic and visitors as possible. That is where SEO or Search Engine Optimization comes in. If you’ve been struggling with getting traffic for a while, or are looking to improve your blog’s traffic levels, you will need to do a bit of optimization, and luckily, Wordpress SEO plugin makes it extremely simple to do just this. The plugin is easy to use, even for newbies, and will allow your blog to rank high on the search engine SERPs. It will also help you to vastly improve many of your blog’s on-page SEO elements, such as meta information, tags, generate and submitting a XML sitemap, setting up breadcrumbs, etc.

2. Broken Link Checker

Broken links is probably one of the biggest reasons why your traffic remains low and why you don’t get a lot of return visitors – even if you’re doing everything else right. No one likes broken links, simply put. Broken links also pose a problem when search engine crawlers index your blog. As the name implies, the Broken Link Checker plugin allows you to find and correct or delete any broken links on your blog. Checking for broken links manually can be a tedious and time-consuming process; an unrealistic proposition – particularly if you have even a few hundred posts on your  blog, which could potentially have hundreds or thousands of links.

3. WPTouch

If your blog is not optimized for touchscreen-based devices, you’re losing out big time, it’s as simple as that. Touch-based cellphone and tablets have taken off, and thanks to high-speed internet connections and high-speed wireless interner access in the form of Wifi and 3G, a large proportion of internet users and browsers are browsing the internet on the likes of the iPhone, iPad, Android-based phones and tablets, and Windows-based phones, to name a few. WPTouch seamlessly integrates with your blog and optimizes your blog for smaller-screen devices such as phones and tablets. Whenever someone access your blog from any one of these devices, he is shown the optimized, phone/tablet-friendly, easier-to-navigate version of the blog, rather than the full-blown web-based version. The plugin does this on its own, without affecting the interface of your website at all!

4. WP Smush.it

Pictures and images make an essential, important part of your posts. Adding images to your posts adds a bit of variety to them, helps/assists your explaining or getting your point across in a better way, and of course, prevents your posts from looking like a boring wall of text. However images considerably add the size, and hence the load times, of your posts. Which is where WP Smush.it comes in. Smush.it automatically reduces files size of any and all images in your posts, improving blog performance and load-times significantly. You won’t be required to do anything, apart from adding images the way you usually do; the plugin will work on its own behind-the-scenes.

5. WP Super Cache

Another plugin, that should considerably improve the performance, speed and load times of your blog is WP Super Cache. Essentially, what this plugin does is it generates a static HTML file from your Wordpress blog, which will then be served to anyone trying to access your blog, instead of the comparatively heavier PHP file. In simple terms (read: English), what this means that you can significantly lower your blog’s access and load times by simply installing this Wordpress plugin. It will also greatly reduce the load on your server. Once done, it runs in the background and does its job automatically. So your website will be able to serve pages more quickly, and cope well with large spikes in traffic as well.

6. Wordpress Backup to Dropbox

As the famous saying goes, “you never know what you have until you lose it, and once you do, you can never get it back” … or something to that effect. And it is then that one truly realizes the importance of backups! Don’t risk your Wordpress blog that your probably spent hours and countless sleepless nights setting up and tweaking to perfection – back it up now using the Wordpress Backup to Dropbox plugin. The plugin helps keep your entire Wordpress-based website (including the media and the database) safe by automatically backing everything up to your Dropbox account. It takes anywhere from a couple of minutes to hours depending on the size of your blog. This plugin is simple and easy to use, and is very functional as well; you can choose how many times you want the backup to run, and when (what time) it should run on those days. You’ll need to configure it first in order to integrate it with your Dropbox account, which is an extremely simple, 3-step process. Backup your blog right now, before something happens and you regret not doing this!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Proven Ways and Tips of Promoting Your Blog

The objective of every blog is growth, and the maximization of traffic. You might be producing some of the best, well-researched, compelling and well-written content out there, but what’s the use when no one’s coming on your blog to read it?

It is therefore important to take time to promote your blog. Traffic is one of the most important things to a blog, and getting as much traffic as possible is essential. In order to do so, it is extremely important to take time out to promote your blog.

Here are 5 proven ‘Google-safe’ ways of promoting your blog, maximizing exposure, and building valuable backlinks while driving in massive amounts of referral and search engine traffic.

1. Social Media

Social media websites are an outstanding opportunity to promote your blog as well as its content and its posts. The likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn and Pinterest not only receive millions of visitors on a daily basis, they are also responsible for generating a massive amount of referral traffic as well.

For instance Facebook now has close to a billion registered, active users (955 million to be precise)! That is a massive number, and if you think about it, provides you with a fantastic opportunity to market your blog and your posts as well. What could be better than potentially having close to a billion people (or one-seventh of the world’s population) read your content!

Newer social media networks like Pinterest aren’t doing half bad either. In fact the likes of Pinterest are now generating more referral traffic than Google, Twitter, StumbleUpon and Bing! Pinterest’s traffic is continually on the rise, providing SEOs, bloggers and marketers with a great opportunity to promote their blog.

Make sure that you have a presence on all major social media networks – this is usually as simple as creating a profile. Use automation tools like HootSuite to send out updates on all your networks at once, however refrain from using these only for blog promotion; sharing your links will only make you look like a spammer, and will discourage people from following your updates.

2. Commenting on Blogs

We spoke about using blog commenting for SEO, and as a method to promote your blog and generate traffic in extensive detail in my last post.

Essentially, what you want to do is choose a high-PR, authority blog to comment on, that is relevant to your niche. So for instance if you blog on internet marketing, choose a list of IM blogs to comment on. If your blog is on technology, sports or anything else, choose a blog that is relevant or similar to its content.

Make sure that you fill out all fields (especially the URL field) before posting your comment.

Blog commenting can have a profound effect on your SEO – it provides you with a high-PR backlink to your blog (which might be do-follow, which means it will be indexed by search engine bots), and can provide your blog with a massive amount of exposure and traffic. If the blog you posted your comment on gets a decent amount of visitor, chances are that your post is likely to be seen and clicked on by a large number of people.

Comments should always be constructive, relevant, interesting, and related to the subject matter of the post and the blog in general.

3. Guest Blogging

I like to think of guest blogging as win-win for everyone involved: it’s win for you because you stand the chance to come across as an authority on a matter, and earn a couple of backlinks back to your blog off a high-PR source. Its win for the blog owner because he gets fresh content for his website.

Guest blogging involves more work on your part, since you have to create a well-written, interesting, unique, factually-and-grammatically-correct post for another blog. You have to take time out to write a great post, however it might seem like wastage of time, since you could be spending the same time creating content for your own blog instead. However it is important to know that guest blogging can (a) give you a nice boost in page visits, (b) help improve your blog’s PR significantly, (c) exposure to your brand and any of its products or services to a large number of people, (d) network with, and build relationship with other bloggers and authority figures in your niche, (e) be seen as an authority in your niche, and (f) allow you to build a dedicated, loyal base of readers and subscribers.

Make sure that you speak with the blog owner to know if he has any specifics you need to adhere to when writing your post. Write a precise, to-the-point, interesting and an engaging post (quality > quantity). Once the post is up, respond to any all comments and queries.

4. Linking to Other Blogs

Blogs often use a trackback or pingback feature. Essentially, what this does is give you a backlink to your blog whenever you link to one of their post on their blog. Say, for instance, you put up a blog post and link to another blog post from another blog, a part of your post along with the link to your post will also appear in the comments section of the post you linked to.

So linking to other blogs and earning a trackback/linkback can turn out to be a great way of driving more traffic to your blog (maybe even from a high-PR source but that depends on the blog you link to), get exposure, and perhaps most importantly in this case, get the attention of an authority blogger in your niche.

If you link to someone consistently, chances are that they might even return the favour at some point by linking back to you. Which of course means exposure for, and a freebacklink to your blog!

5. Contests

Doing contests is a tremendous way of getting the word out about your blog, and can be a pretty effective promotional tool.

Start off with determining the goal, aim or purpose of this contest is – get more Facebook likes, build an email list, get RSS subscribers or sell a plugin. The content goals will ultimately determine the prize and the rules of the contest.

Choose the reward/prize carefully. It needs to be something that is relevant and something that people would actually want to win, depending on your niche. For instance you could give a free signed copy of your uber-famout eBook, or a Wordpress plugin pack worth $300. If you have a budget, you might need to purchase the prize that you’ll be giving away, however if your blog gets a lot of visitors, it might be easier (and better) for you to get someone to sponsor the prize. Look around for sponsors and try getting in touch with them, most of them would probably be very interested in the publicity that they’ll be able to get using your blog.

And finally, make it easy for people to participate in your contest, and spread the word! A contest is useless if people don’t know about it.

For instance, one of the ways to enter the contest could be to ‘like’ and ‘share’ a post/update/blog URL on Facebook. This way, not only will you be getting a large number of people to like you and hear about you by spreading the word (promoting your blog in the process), you will also be making it super easy for them to participate.