5 Easy-To-Use Blog Post Formats

If you’re starting a new blog for your business, you probably have done a lot of research on how to write blog posts. You’ve probably come across all different kinds of posts, everything from other businesses like yours to Buzzfeed’s top 10 cat gifs of the week. It can be a bit overwhelming. Every blog post is different, and you may not know which styles and formats to emulate.

The truth is, there are countless ways to write blog posts, and many different formats you can use. In my last post, I even suggested you use multiple different formats every week or month to help you write more efficiently. Here are several different, easy to use blog post formats and how to use them.

Countdown / List

Countdown or list posts are some of the most highly shared posts on the Internet, and they are easy to read and create. Made popular by sites like Buzzfeed, the countdown post is a list of headers, broken apart by small bits of content under each header. You see this all the time: “5 tips to make you a better blogger,” “The top 10 teams in Major League Baseball,” even posts like this would fall under that format.

These sorts of posts are frequently shared because the headers make it easier for speed readers to comprehend the content of the post. They also make it and for those who may not want to read the entire post to pick and choose the content they want to read. It is easy to write because the list format allows you to gather and organize your thoughts without having to worry about those pesky and sometimes difficult-to-write transitions.

To write a countdown or list post, begin with a topic. Next think of a handful of examples. Aim for a nice round number like 5 or 10, but don’t sweat it if you can only think of 4 or 7. Next, write a little bit about each example and why it pertains to the topic. Finally, write a short intro and conclusion about the subject and why it matters to your audience. It’s as simple as that!

How-To

How-to blog posts are exactly what they sound like, a post with a step-by-step outline of how to complete a task. Here on the Duct Tape Marketing blog, Sara writes great how-to posts. These are often easy to write because you’re outlining something you already know how to do, and really helpful to your audience.

To write a how-to blog post, begin with a task and list out the steps one by one. Next, spend a bit of time explaining each step, maybe even including photos or examples of each step. Make sure these steps and explanations are broken down so your blog’s audience can understand, and avoid any industry-specific jargon. Finally, write an introduction explaining to your audience why they should learn this new skill, and maybe a conclusion encouraging your audience to practice and use the new skill.

News

News posts are editorial posts that analyze a newsworthy event and apply it to your industry. News posts get shared because there is a good chance your audience is already talking about the news story.

To write a news blog post, start by creating a listening post to keep an eye (or ear) out for news that applies to your business. This can be done by following journalists and news outlets on social media, or just checking your favorite news outlets daily. Next, find a news story that may have an impact on your industry or business in the future. Begin by writing a little bit of background on the news story, and then spend time talking about how it impacts you, your industry or your customers.

Sharing

Sharing posts are some of the easiest to write, and are a valuable tool to leverage for growing your strategic partner base. These are posts where you can share other posts or products to your audience. For example, every weekend John shares his “Weekend Favs,” three new tools that can help make running a business easier.

To write a sharing post, collect blog posts or products to share throughout the week leading to the post. Be sure to keep your strategic partners in mind, and work their products and posts in often. List each item and hyperlink each one. Next, write a little about each post or product you are sharing, specifically why your audience should click the link. That’s it!

Mailbag

Finally, the mailbag post is a great way to get your audience to write your posts for you. The only catch is that you have to build up an active audience for this to work. These posts simply consist of you answering questions directly from your audience.

To write a mailbag post, call for questions from your audience either in a post on your blog or social media. Then copy/paste the questions and write your answers. If you don’t have much of an active audience, you can always think of commonly asked questions to answer, but this can be difficult.

Blog posts shouldn’t be difficult to write. These five easy blog post formats should help you get your blog rolling with great, consistent content.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

How Not to Get Lost in the Content Creation Wasteland

Planning an entire year in advance – who DOES that??

You should – if you want to stay focused and on track to meet your marketing goals. To be more specific – if your marketing strategy includes blogging, sending e-newsletters, or any other form of content that you share digitally, a content calendar is a powerful tool to make your online marketing more effective. And without one, you could be just another boring fish in the online marketing sea.

As someone who does nearly all of my business online and connects with thousands of people every week using online tools, a content calendar is a no-brainer. Knowing what I want to share with my audience ahead of time makes my writing more efficient and my work less stressful. It keeps me organized. It keeps me focused on the bigger goal of constantly finding new ways to serve my best customers better.

Think of it like this: let’s say you live in Oklahoma City, and you plan to drive to Los Angeles, somewhere you’ve never been. Even though you have the fantastic invention of GPS, plus a paper map and a good friend who knows the city well to help you get to your destination efficiently and safely, you simply get in your car and start driving west.

You don’t even consider what asphalt cooking in 115-degree heat could do to your tires. You ignore the signs that read “next gas station 158 miles”. You just drive aimlessly, surviving on cold fried chicken you bought at the Albertson’s in Needles because there was literally nothing else open. You’re not sure how or when you’ll get to LA.

content planYou’ll probably still get there… but it could be a much longer and more frustrating trip than it needed to be, all because you didn’t take a few minutes to plan.

Content creation is like that. Without a clear path to your destination, it becomes a vicious cycle that alternates between writer’s block and hopelessness.

Thankfully, a bit of planning will keep you from getting lost in the Mojave Desert of content development.

If you’re reading this with a sceptical eye, then you’re probably someone who struggles with the question “But how do I know what to write about?” The answer is simple: ask your audience.

If your audience is engaged with you and asks you questions, you can build your content calendar to address their needs. Your audience is probably the most powerful planning tool you have at your disposal. The more engaged you are with them, the more they’ll tell you what they want, and the easier it is to plan your content strategy well in advance.

Wondering how to create a content strategy that has your business’s longer-term objectives in mind? Here are a few tips:

  1. Focus on monthly themes. You don’t have to have every blog title, and every YouTube video script written out. But by choosing a general theme for each month, you have a framework around which to develop each piece of content. As you come up with new ideas, slot them into the most relevant themes to start building out the calendar.
  2. Plan content around your launches. Are you planning to launch a new product or program this year? Up to a month before your launch, start promoting content that relates to whatever you’re going to be selling; it brings more people into the fold who are likely to buy from you.
  3. Solve your audience’s problems. Survey your email list or Twitter followers; find out what they want to know and use that information to create your themes and your content.
  4. Be flexible. Just like a business plan, it’s impossible to stick to your content plan like glue. Be responsive to your audience’s new questions, and pay attention to current events to see if you can leverage those to make more people aware of your brand.

Ready for a smooth ride on the content creation highway? Take ten minutes today and create your monthly content themes for the rest of 2015. Your audience will thank you.

jessica omanWhen Jessica Oman (the Renegade Planner) isn’t busy helping her clients start and grow businesses that earn them a 6-figure income, she’s road-tripping in the USA with her hubby and pooch, or developing her appreciation for a good West Coast IPA. She’s written the Ultimate Guide to Leaving Your Job and Planning a Business you Can Bank on, which you can download free by clicking here.

How To Succeed At Content Marketing On A Small Budget

Here’s great news for your small business: You can succeed at content marketing without spending a fortune. In fact, you may be able to out-content market much larger competitors with much larger budgets. In this article, we’ll review a simple, focused approach to creating a content marketing campaign that is affordable and effective.

shutterstock_95024107Why You Will Succeed: Quality Trumps Quantity

Large companies sometimes turn content marketing into link building campaigns for SEO — putting the emphasis on the number of links, and hence the number of articles published. But whether for Google or people, high-quality content achieves the best results.

Small-business owners understand their business inside-out and know how to talk to customers and prospects. Thus, they are in a position to write highly authoritative and useful content — content that high-profile, influential websites and blogs in their niche are eager to publish. Such content holds several important benefits for small businesses:

  1. Improving brand image
  2. Establishing credibility
  3. Expanding brand awareness
  4. Generating sales leads and referrals
  5. Creating natural links that greatly improve the firm’s SEO visibility

shutterstock_164492432How to Succeed: A Hands-on Approach

The secret weapon to small-business content marketing is you. You know what to write about. You know how to write about it in ways that influence customer perception and action. You know the top publishing sites and may already have a dialog with some of them. Set realistic goals of publishing two articles per month and proceed as follows:

  • Set aside one to two hours per month to brainstorm topics with your team. Create a simple editorial detailing topics, key points and a target-publishing site for each article.
  • Set aside two to four hours per month to write two articles. Find an editor, either on staff or freelance, to edit as needed. The level of editing you need depends a lot on your writing skills; don’t be deterred if you are not a master writer. For more insight on editing, click here.
  • Set aside one to three hours per month to pitch your articles to publishing sites. You may be able to delegate this assignment to your top marketing person.
  • Task a staffer to monitor published articles. Keep track of the number of comments and social shares each article produces, as well as how many visits to your website were referred from publishing sites. Have this person alert you to any comments that need your response. Spend one hour per month reviewing performance data.
  • Continuously improve your efforts by looking for new publishing sites, and monitoring customer/prospect feedback and questions from whatever sources for new topic ideas.

This content marketing to-do list requires a little over one day a month from the writer (you) — and not much at all in the way of hard costs.

How to Succeed: Stay Focused on Off-site Articles

It’s tempting to expand into other types of content marketing once you’ve gotten your off-site article publishing off the ground. But take care: spreading yourself too thin could lead to mediocre execution on all fronts. Here are reasons not to venture out too quickly in certain content marketing avenues:

  • Social Media. You can labor for years to build a sizeable, engaged and relevant following on your own social media sites. Far easier is to piggyback on the established social media communities of your publishing sites.
  • Company Blog. An on-site blog is certainly a good thing, but doing it properly will consume a lot of internal resources. Effective blogs require the steady production of high-quality content and energetic marketing to develop an audience. Additionally, a blog should have an underlying SEO strategy that adds another layer of complexity and cost.
  • Visual Content. Infographics, video, slide presentations and photography have a huge “cool” factor and attract attention from valuable publishers. Nevertheless, visual content is expensive to produce and hard to do effectively, even with a substantial budget.

If you see your initial content strategy gain traction, based on lead generation, social shares, anecdotal evidence and other relevant factors, you can always expand. It’s a great problem to have — much better than trying to do too much and getting nowhere.

sn-brad-shorr-2Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of Straight North, an Internet marketing firm serving business of all sizes with their content marketing needs. You can read Brad’s work on Moz, Smashing Magazine, and About.com.

How to Repurpose Content in a Clearly Useful Way

You have read 100 times by now how important content is.  You have spent some time doing a bit of research on keywords and have a list of different content formats you know you need to create (blog, newsletter, podcast, email campaigns, advertising, the list goes on….) but the problem is:

This is a full-time job and you do not have the resources or time to sit at your computer and produce content all day, every day.

Sound familiar?  This is a dilemma that many small businesses go through.  They understand the need to be producing content, but are stuck on how to get it all done.

How can you get people to know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat and refer you using content in the most efficient way possible?

Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.  This is one of my favorite words when it comes to content production.

To repurpose content is to give it a new life, gain exposure to new audiences and to save you time (which we all know is money).

Below are some examples on how to Repurpose Content:

Foundational Topic

  • Write a blog post on your core topic.  For example, 7 Steps to Small Business Marketing Success
  • Create an image for each of the 7 Steps and share one tip per day on social channels
  • Expand the blog post into 7 separate blog posts – one on each topic
  • Combine the posts and add an introduction.  Send off to a designer and have it turned into an eBook
  • Take the eBook and translate it to slides.  You know have your hour presentation.
  • Go even deeper and turn the hour presentation into a 1/2 workshop by adding action steps and worksheets to support your presentation.

You now have 8 blog posts, 7 social media posts, an eBook, an hour presentation and a 1/2 day workshop – from one core piece of content.

Podcast

  • Conduct a regular podcast with as many industry leaders as possible following monthly themes
  • Write a blog post on each interview
  • Send out the best tips on social media channels
  • Share the best interviews via a monthly newsletter
  • Combine the interviews and blog posts into a valuable online course or package them together to give out as a bonus for a different product purchase

You now have podcasts, blog posts, social media updates, newsletter content and an online course or package.

Client Questions

  • Have your support team monitor their inboxes for questions that come through
  • Compile the questions for an FAQ page
  • Pull out the best questions and turn them into individual blog posts
  • Expand the blog posts into an eBook – Best Questions from our Favorite Clients

You now have an FAQ page, blog posts, and an eBook – but most importantly somewhere for your support team to point customers towards when they need help answering those common questions.

Client Competition

  • Have your clients submit photos or videos using your product or implementing your services (in exchange for an incentive they would actually care about of course)
  • Retweet, repost, share the content they submit on all of your social channels
  • Request permission and use the content on your website – all the fun/exciting ways people are using what you offer
  • Develop sales material for your team to use that includes these testimonials/action shots

You now have momentum on social media, online referrals from your customers, content to share on your channels, content for your website, and sales materials.   Not to mention a fun way to get your clients involved in the promotional efforts.

The main thing to keep in mind here is every single time you create a piece of content, come up with a game plan on how you could get the most value possible.  To repurpose is to give you time back in your day – time to focus on the things you love such as running your business or hanging with your kids on the weekend.

Sara HeadshotSara Jantsch is the Director of Community at Duct Tape Marketing.  It is Sara’s job to see to all the little things that make our community members feel appreciated, informed, special and looked after.  She is also a Marketing Consultant and has a strong passion for working with small business owners.

 

 

How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It

StandOut
Marketing Podcast with Dorie Clark

I think there’s plenty of information out there about personal  branding and self-promotion. The thing that’s often lacking or not said is that in order to really stand out you’ve got to have an idea or point of view that people want to be a part or at least spread.

So much emphasis is put on getting a big following that people seem to forget you must start with being follow worthy.

I wrote a book an entire book on the idea of referrals and the first half emphasized that the secret to getting more referrals was to be more referable.

It’s not just about creating a platform, it’s about creating something valuable and building a platform around that.

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Dorie Clark, marketing strategy consultant, frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and Entrepreneur and author of the new book Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It

In Stand Out, Clark does an excellent job of spelling out the fact that the formula for success lies primarily in discovering your breakthrough idea.

A breakthrough idea can be a simple, unique point of view applied to a mature industry or it can be a totally new, innovative product that helps people do something that can’t do now, either way it’s the basis for building a long-term road to success by standing out.

Questions I ask Dorie:

  • Who needs to stand out?
  • Is there a financial value to being identified as a thought leader?
  • What personal branding strategies apply universally?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How to find your breakthrough idea
  • How to build a following, and get people to buy into your idea
  • Why you must communicate in a way that is true to who you are

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Hostgator, where you’ll get 24 hour live support via chat, phone or email, 1-click WordPress installs, easy-to-use website builder, design services, marketing services like SEO and PPC, and for my listeners: a 30% Discount. Go to www.Hostgator.com/promo/ducttape

The Most Excellent Qualities of Shareable Content

Today’s post is by Duct Tape Marketing’s Kala Linck – Enjoy!

You posted a picture of your new shoes on Facebook, and now the whole world is debating whether they are pink and green or red and yellow. 50 thousand shares, and umpteen million interactions. People are going to your Facebook page; most are even liking the page for updates on the real color of your new shoes… The alarm clock buzzes. Time to face reality.

Does this sound like a social media dream you’ve had? Ok, maybe not shoes, but having a piece of your content go viral? For this to happen, you’ve got to create shareable content. Your followers are looking for certain qualities in the content they share. If you’re not ensuring that your tweets, updates, blogs, etc. have those qualities, you’re ensuring that no one beyond your followers will ever see that information. Here are three qualities to consider including if you want to make that viral dream a reality:

Relatable

You’ve seen the tweets that say something along the lines of “I’m at Applebees,” or “I take good pictures.” While this sort of content might get some shares because of it’s comic undertones, many people cannot relate to this content, and some might even wonder why you’re sharing these updates.

With your content, instead provide something that people will relate to or use to help their daily routines, their business grow, etc. For example, “5 Ways to Make Your Instagram Photos Stand Out,” makes me want to share this information that I find valuable and think other might as well.

Refutable

If you haven’t noticed, people love to argue on social media. The most famous thing this year is a black and blue dress or was it gold and white? If you can get people passionate about something, and keep them talking – they will enlist the help of their followers, and the process will repeat.

Now, this might not be the kind of shareable content that you want. There is an art to having a debate happen and it being beneficial for the poster.

For example, you need your content to be less like this, “Why I Think Wisconsin Will Win the National Championship,” and more like, “We are thinking of offering training on-line in addition to our in-person training, what are your thoughts?” The comments that you get are likely to support a business decision, and this also gets people talking about your organization.

Relevant

This word comes up quite a bit when we’re creating content, and can seem like a buzzword at times. What does “stay relevant” really mean? By definition, it means “closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.” A good starting point.

Photo courtesy of delightfuldisney.tumblr.com

Photo courtesy of delightfuldisney.tumblr.com

What is important here is to figure out what exactly is the “matter at hand,” and then provide information pertaining to, or providing value for it. For example, on LinkedIn, a post that says, “2015 PowerPoint Presentations are now available on the website from those presenters who granted us permission to post their slides,” might be relevant if your following went on LinkedIn to find your PowerPoint presentation, but is that what they are looking for?

It would be my thinking that the first thing people would do when looking for said PowerPoint presentation would be to check on your website, or send an email to your organization.

A more relevant post for LinkedIn would look something like this: “Meet the VP that could be hiring YOU.” People get on LinkedIn to look up connections and jobs, and to find encouraging workplace content. Think about your audience and what they are really seeking on each social media platform, and that will help you create more relevant content.

There are lots of reasons that things go viral. Maybe they contain a cute baby or a puppy, or maybe they make you laugh or bring you to tears. More often than not, viral content pulls an emotion out of the reader or viewer. Making sure your content is relevant, refutable and/or relatable is a good way to start inviting those emotions that will make people want to share your content. And who knows, maybe your dreams of viral shoes will come true. What aspects of content make you want to share it?

Kala LinckKala Linck is the Community and Content Manager at Duct Tape Marketing. You can find her blogging her travels, praying for summer or tweeting about coffee and cats @tadasunshine.

Cracking the Content Code

content codeMarketing Podcast with Mark W. Schaefer

Content as a category of marketing has continued to evolve.

At first we created articles to get found by those using search engines.

Then we realized we needed to use content to build our audience and start capturing email leads.

Then social media came along and overnight everyone was a publisher of content and the hunger for useful content became a foundational element of marketing.

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Mark W. Schaefer, speaker, marketing consultant and author of the new book The Content Code: Six Essential Strategies for Igniting Your Content, Your Marketing and Your Business

In The Content Code, Schaefer explains how we have now evolved to the point where distribution of content is perhaps the most important element in the crowded “content shocked” world we live in today.

Questions I ask Mark:

  • What is Content Shock? How do you avoid it?
  • What role can marketers play in making your content stand out?
  • Why do people share content? What do they share?

What You’ll Learn if You Give a Listen:

  • How content marketing has changed over the years
  • Why engagement is so important in content marketing
  • How new technology will change how we engage with content in the future

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Hostgator, where you’ll get 24 hour live support via chat, phone or email, 1-click WordPress installs, easy-to-use website builder, design services, marketing services like SEO and PPC, and for my listeners: a 30% Discount. Go to www.Hostgator.com/promo/ducttape

21 Blogs I Turn To When I Need to Learn How To Do Stuff

No shock in this statement – I’m a big fan of blogs and blogging as a core marketing, content and SEO practice.

Blogs

photo credit: via photopin (license)

I subscribe to many blogs, read blogs daily and generally find that when I search for things blog posts offer the most useful solutions.

I read many different types of blogs – some for inspiration, some for thought leadership and still some for personal growth.

Today I want to present a list of blogs that I turn to on a regular basis when I want to learn something practical and useful.

This list of 21 blogs isn’t top list or ranking or any other of the link bait kinds of lists you see out there. The blogs on this list are tools for me as I market and grow my business and attempt to expand my knowledge in an ever changing world.

I frequently get asked about resources I turn to and, for today, here they are. I placed them into a handful of categories, but many of them could cross over into multiple categories and often do in the range of topics they weigh in on. Most of these won’t be new to regular readers as I reference them often, but it can be helpful to see them all in one place. Subscribe to this list and you’ll always have ready access to tips, tools and techniques you can take action on today.

Feel free to share blogs you find utterly useful when you need to learn how to do stuff.

Video
Reel SEO – http://www.reelseo.com/
Video Brewery – http://www.videobrewery.com/blog/

Podcast
Podcast Answer Man – http://podcastanswerman.com/
Entrepreneur on Fire – http://www.entrepreneuronfire.com

SEO
MOZ – http://moz.com/
Search Engine Watch – http://searchenginewatch.com/

Social Media
Social Media Examiner – http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/
Buffer – https://blog.bufferapp.com/
Razor Social – http://www.razorsocial.com/blog/

Facebook
Jon Loomer – http://www.jonloomer.com

PPC
PPC Hero – http://www.ppchero.com/
WordStream – http://www.wordstream.com/blog

Conversion
Kiss Metrics – https://blog.kissmetrics.com/
Unbounce – http://unbounce.com/blog/
QuickSprout – http://www.quicksprout.com/university/

Analytics
Occam’s Razor – http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/
Crazy Egg – http://blog.crazyegg.com/

Content
Content Marketing Institute – http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/blog/
Copyblogger – http://www.copyblogger.com/blog/

WordPress
WP Beginner – http://www.wpbeginner.com/category/wp-tutorials/
Yoast – https://yoast.com/