Great entrepreneurs hate wasting time. Look no further than Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. During the early days of Amazon, he used to work 84+ hours a week. Many times he stayed up until 3:00 am to ship books to customers. Even after Amazon became a giant global corporation, he still directly emailed his customer service teams and had personal meetings with them.
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Of course, fantastic entrepreneurs don’t only work hard. They also work smart. They know how to maximize their efforts. This is especially true in the world of content marketing — blogging can be a huge time suck if you don’t do it correctly.
Here’s the scene. Your ghostwriter sent you amazing blog copy. That’s a great first step, but it’s only that — a first step. You’ll need more if you want content that looks like the big shots: Kissmetrics, Hubspot, Moz, Unbounce, Buffer, Marketo, Social Media Examiner, etc. Here’s a checklist of what you’ll need to compete with the big shots and professional blog writers.
Titles and Meta Descriptions
You’ll need two titles — one for social media and one for search. An amazing social meta description has direct conflicts with an amazing search meta description.
For example, using clickbait-style titles can work on social media but clarity is typically the optimal choice for search. Additionally, using an SEO keyword is still an effective strategy for search but it’s just hindering you on social media — a place where you want to make the most compelling title possible.
Blogging writing tools like SEO Ultimate or Yoast will prompt you to put in a meta description. They’re good helpmates. They also allow you edit your social media metadata which allows you to have different titles and descriptions for social media sharing then SEO.
Of course, writing two good meta descriptions may be putting the cart before the horse. Cheap content writers (and many good ones) don’t know how to write one compelling meta description.
One of the keys to writing a good meta description is to use action-oriented language. Consider starting your meta description with flashy verbs like discover, grab, or learn. It’s also a good idea to use the active voice.
Another key to writing a good meta description is to keep it under 200 characters. Even if you can write like Shakespeare himself, it won’t matter if the search engines cut off your words.
It’s also vital to accurately let your readers know what they will get. If they feel deceived, they will quickly bounce off your site, and that has negative effects on your SEO.
The last point to remember is about keyword stuffing. In short, it’s a bad idea. Adding one word or phrase to your meta description is acceptable, but adding multiple phrases is a no-no. You don’t want to sacrifice clarity and readability for your customers.
People skim web posts. In 2008, a study concluded that people only read 20% of the words on an average webpage. Chartbeat says the average page only gets 15 seconds of attention. One way to boost attention on your page is via stylization of your post.
Constraining the column width on your page is a good place to start. Ron’s Website has a fantastic analogy that shows the importance of this
“No one sits in the front of a movie theater because of limited vision. If you [sit] in the front, you need to constantly rotate your head left and right.”
Although the size of your computer monitor and the size of a movie theater screen couldn’t be more different, the same concept applies. Readers feel most comfortable with a constrained column, usually about 450 to 550 pixels in length. Websites like Kissmetrics and Hubspot use constrained columns.
Additionally, headers and subheaders are essential. As mentioned before, the average person likes to scan. If they find a header/subheader that interests them, there’s a good chance these skimmers will read more of your content. Another strategy that makes consumption easier for the general reader is the use of lists. As Copyblogger says,
“Any headline that lists a number of reasons, secrets, types, or ways will work because once again, it makes a very specific promise of what’s in store for the reader.”
If you’re having trouble deciding what kind of post to write, then a list post is always a safe bet. Another important step is to check your blog posts for proper grammar and formatting. When it comes to grammar, Grammarly is King Arthur and Richard the Lionhearted rolled into one. If you have Google Chrome, you can even download a free Grammarly plugin that makes editing even easier.
Additionally, you should supplement this with the Hemingway App. This is an amazing app that displays four key problems writers have: overly-long sentences, use of the passive voice, needlessly complex words, short paragraphs, and overuse of adverbs/use of weak verbs.
Employing a combo of these two apps will eliminate many problems, propelling you to the top tier of writers. If you’re really into word choice, you can also use the Word Counter. Or you could find a ghostwriter to change the prose for you. Every writer tends to overuse certain words. This app will highlight those words, giving you the opportunity to replace them with synonyms.
It’s also crucial to look at the font. Georgia, Arial, and Times New Roman are some of the most renowned fonts out there; they’re safe bets. You can find 12 more web-safe fonts at Website Setup. Another useful formatting tip is to use bold imaging when you want to highlight the importance of a word or phrase. The website Successful Blogging prefers bolding over italicizing, mentioning that’s it’s easier to read.
A shortcode is a handy piece of WordPress code that lets you do cool (often visual) things with minimal effort. Shortcodes often come bundled with a WordPress template but there are also standalone plugins that you can add to any WordPress theme.
Usually, there is some type of editor attached to the post or page editor that allows you add shortcodes. For example, in the theme for this blog, here’s what the shortcode builder looks like:
You choose the timer option and it will generate a piece of code like this:
Which in turn generates this:
There are shortcodes for adding contact forms, embedding Google Maps, showcasing a Twitter timeline, displaying a multiple choice quiz, and doing much more besides that. Essentially, shortcodes are tools that allow you separate your blog from the competition.
Looking for some shortcodes for your website? The best thing to do is to look at this master list. Some of the most popular choices on the list are Supreme Shortcodes, Intense Shortcode Plugin, and Vision. They all have their perks. For instance, Supreme Shortcodes allows you to create static boxes, lines, dividers, and much more. If you’re more of a visual learner, then check out this comprehensive YouTube tutorial.
As the old cliché goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. However many words an image is actually worth, it’s quite valuable. As Jeff Bullas notes,
“Articles with images get 94% more views.”
Bullas also opines…
“In an e-commerce site, 67% of consumers say that quality of a product image is very important in selecting a purchasing a product.”
Consumers like images outside of blog settings too.
Using images on the web can be a little tricky. If you use the wrong ones, you may have to pay a small fortune. The Content Factory picked up an $8,000 penalty for using images without permission. After hiring a lawyer, they were able to get the fee reduced to $3,000, but that’s still a large chunk of change.
Excuses don’t hold up. You still are responsible even when the photo is resized, or if you credit the photographer and link back to their website. Additionally, you’re on the hook even if your site isn’t commercial, and even if you have a disclaimer on your site.
All “free” photos are not created equally. Some photos require attribution, and some photos are CC0, meaning they don’t require attribution. Websites like Pixabay (1.3 million images available) and Unsplash are CC0 websites, meaning you don’t have to give attribution for photos you find on these websites. Of course, these websites don’t have everything, and sometimes you need a niche photo. One powerful choice is a website called Death to the Stock Photo. They offer a premium membership that costs $180 a year, or you can use their free stuff. Of course, there are other paid options too: PicJumbo, Stokpic, Freerange, Libreshot, FancyCrave, and much more besides that. What’s the best site for paid images? Shutterstock and iStock both have millions of images, and there’s a lot of value in one-stop-shopping.
Editing Images: Canva and More
Canva is an amazing site: a photo editing website that gets positive reviews all over the web. You can get so much out of it without ever paying a penny. PC World calls it, “A design service you’re going to want to use.” The best feature of Canva is how it’s designed for the clueless, for marketers with minimal graphic design experience.
However, it’s feature-rich too. Canva has a course called the Design Essentials tutorials course that assists with branding, layout, advanced Canva tips, and much more. You can also try the Beginner’s Challenge, which is another helpful tutorial for neophytes. There are alternatives to Canva, too:
- Design Bold
- many others
Of course, you can always use Adobe Photoshop, which is the top choice for photo editors.
These tips will make you the Reginald Jeeves of putting finishing touches on blogs. However, this article can’t end without addressing screenshots. Wired calls the screenshot the most important thing on the internet (they apparently really love screenshots). They share an anecdote about how a tweet without a screenshot pulled down 109 retweets and how one with a screenshot got over 4,200. That’s quite the difference.
You don’t have to pay for screenshot software. Share X is free, lightweight, open source software that has no advertisements. Free and powerful is to be expected in the cottage screenshot industry. There are other great alternatives such as:
- Awesome Screenshot
- Nimbus Screenshot
- and many more
If you decide to go with ShareX, there’s an awesome YouTube tutorial that will help get you started.
Maximize Your Blogging Efforts
Blog writing doesn’t work for your business if you don’t have a strategy. You can buy blog posts or write shrewd ones from scratch. Content marketing isn’t just about creating beautiful prose. It’s about making that material as consumable as possible for your target audience.