How to Start a Blog

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I started blogging as an experiment. All the “cool kids” were doing it so I thought I should it. I thought it would help with my “personal brand” or maybe even turn into a way to make money.

Blogging turned out to be way more than that. 

Blogging has led me to meeting some amazing people, creating passive income streams for myself, self-publishing multiple books which have led to high priced speaking and consulting gigs, and it’s actually become one of my favorite hobbies as well as one of the best marketing channels for my startup.

Which is why I’m excited to announce the launch of my new course, How to Start a Blog, Promote Your Blog & Make Money Blogging!

I talk to people all the time who want to start blogging, don’t know what to blog about, want to grow their audience, or want to earn passive income…This course covers everything I’ve learned over 3 years of blogging along with the most common questions I get asked and the most common challenges beginning bloggers face.

How to Start a Blog covers what to blog about, tactics to increase traffic to your blog posts, basic SEO, blogging to build your brand and grow your professional network, how to make money blogging, and the best free products bloggers can use to accomplish all of the above.

The Internet has democratized communication and blogs are the medium by which anyone with a message can be heard. With unprecedented opportunities to reach hundreds of millions of people within clicks of a mouse there has never been a better time to blog!

Given how much you can gain in terms of customers, passive income, and inbound business opportunities from the lessons learned in this course, I feel like I should be charging a ton of money for this course. Take advantage of this opportunity to enroll in this course while you still can.

If you’re an entrepreneur or young professional looking to build your personal brand, market your business, or earn passive income, I think you’ll get a ton of value from this course. Check it out here.

 

How to Promote Your Blog

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If you’re blogging to market a product or service, you will of course need people to read it. If no one sees your blog, it has no value. Below are some blog promotion ideas that can help grow a blog following:

1. Produce for Different Platforms

Create content in different formats to tap into new networks. Each of the below networks are like miniature search engines. People go there to search for, browse, and consume content. By producing content for the below platforms you can reach their different audiences.

a. Youtube

YouTube is the second largest search engine, and the third most visited site globally. To get results with YouTube, produce content that’s valuable to your target audience. Use the right keywords so they can find it. To get traffic from YouTube to your blog, mention your blog’s URL in your video, and include a link to your blog in the video’s description.

b. SlideShare

On SlideShare, users can upload PowerPoint, Keynote, PDF or OpenDocument presentations. You can think of SlideShare as “YouTube for presentations.” To increase the chances of viewers navigating to your blog, make a link to your website accessible to viewers. Include a link in your profile, in your presentation’s description and within your presentation.

c. Udemy

Udemy is an online marketplace for video courses. Anyone can produce a course on any topic and publish it to Udemy. Over 2 million students use Udemy to search for and consume educational content. Create video courses on topics related your blog’s topic and relevant to your target audience. Mention your blog in all of your lectures and include links to relevant blog posts within the notes for each lecture. You can also make announcements and send promotional emails to your students with links to your blog posts.

d. Podcast

A podcast is like a radio show for the Internet. The Podcast marketplace is like it’s own search engine. Podcasts can be subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. Start a Podcast on your niche. Mention relevant blog posts through the show and include links in the show notes.

e. Quora

Quora is a question and answer site with a lot of active viewers. Answer questions that are relevant to and followed by your target audience. Provide strong, detailed answers that provide value to your target audience. Link to your blog in your Quora profile, in your bio line for the answer, and within the answer if appropriate.

f. Amazon

Amazon has a massive network of users that search Amazon for products. By self-publishing a book on Amazon you can tap into a proverbial fire house of traffic. The book can be as short as long as you’d like and you can set the price as you’d like. Self-publish a book on the topic of your blog. Link to blog posts and your primary blog domain within the book.

2. Social Media

a. Twitter

i. Share

My typical tweet structure when sharing a blog post is “[post title] [link] [relevant hashtags].” For example, “How to Use a Blog to Market Your Business http://qr.ae/thBLo #blogging #contentmarketing”. I will also quote key points from the blog post and include a link. I typically tweet each blog post about 3 times after publishing it and sporadically after that.

Do some searching on Twitter to determine which hashtags to use. Some hashtags have active conversation and many people following or engaging.

If you mentioned anybody in the blog, or if there is anybody in particular you think would benefit from reading the post, mention them in the Tweet by including their @handle. By mentioning them, they may be more likely to respond or retweet, giving you more exposure.

ii. Find People Expressing a Need

Use Twitter’s search functionality to find people using keywords relevant to your blog. Engage with people who fit your target demographic. When appropriate, reply to their tweets with blog posts that might be helpful. For example, if someone tweets that their building a landing page, reply with a blog post your wrote on landing page design. There are a few great apps you can use to search Twitter for relevant conversations quickly and easily. Check out this video course to learn more about them: 13 Twitter Apps: Automate and Optimize Your Twitter Marketing.

b. LinkedIn  

There are great two ways to get more views from LinkedIn: status updates and groups.

Status updates will be seen by your connections and the connections of anyone who “likes” your update.

Groups are great regardless of how many connections you have. Search for groups related to your industry, your target audience, or the topic of your blog post. Join them. Share your posts in those groups. Add some personalized commentary.

c. Google+

Share your posts as a status updates. People who have you in their circles will see them.

Post to communities. Start by finding relevant communities (similar to LinkedIn, above). You can post directly to communities from the share container on your home screen.

You can add hashtags to your status according to the topic of the blog to increase the chances of someone finding it when searching.

Also…and this is a big one…per Moz’s Search Ranking Factors, the number of Google +1’s a page has is the second most influential factor for how it will rank on search engines!

d. Facebook  

Share your posts on your personal profile or business page. Posts that have a picture will stand out a lot more.

Also check out Facebook groups that pertain to the interests of your audience. For example, if I were to distribute a blog post about promoting a blog post, I would think about who would want to get views on their blog posts. Who uses blog posts to promote their product/service? Many do, but I would focus on some the Facebook groups I’m most interested in and already a part of — i.e. authors/book marketers, Udemy instructors/course marketers, etc.

3. Niche Social Networks

Who is your target customer segment? Who are you trying to reach? Where do they hang out? Go where your customers go.

For example, photographers might be hanging out on Instagram. People who travel a lot might be on Airbnb.

Many industries and interest groups have online forums or discussion boards. Think about what social networks your target audience is likely to be active on, especially the networks that pertain to your product area.

4. Content Distribution Networks

Reddit is a “social news” site where registered users can submit links and users promote the articles they like. The most voted articles get promoted on the front page of Reddit, which can lead to massive exposure.

There are a few other article distribution/link sharing networks that I use that pertain to startups: Hacker News, Quibb, and Growth Hackers. There are probably others for different industries that you’ll want to search for.

5. Direct Outreach

While sending specific people blog posts one by one may not be a scalable traffic acquisition strategy, it can have big payoffs over time, and is often needed when first starting. Sending blog posts to people directly can ensure that your target audience sees it. Below are a few types of people who may benefit from your blog posts:

i. Audience

Email your blog posts directly to your target audience. If you blogging about marketing for small businesses, email your blog post directly to a small business owner. You’re not being annoying if the post is truly valuable.

ii. Influencers

Email your blog posts directly to influential people who could help share your blog. For example, I wrote a blog post about the higher education bubble and sent it to a popular economist who hosts a radio show/podcast and often speaks on CNBC. He then shared it on Twitter to all of his followers.

iii. Curators

Email your blog posts directly to people who curate content and share it with their audience, such as newsletter editors and bloggers with “resources pages.”

6. Guest Blog

Guest blogging is when you write a blog post and have it published by another blogger. Most blogs who accept guest posts will allow you to include a link to your blog in your profile line of the blog post, or to link to other relevant blog posts within the guest blog post. Guest blogging can help you in two ways: a) When your article is published on someone else’s blog, that blog’s audience sees it. b) Having your domain linked to by another domain (link building), improves search ranking on Google.

7. Search Engine Optimization

Many, many people go to Google to find stuff, blog posts included. Therefore, you want to make sure your posts appear when someone enters a search term that you have a blog post in. Check out SEO 101 via Slideshare to learn more about SEO.

8. Blog Commenting

Search for blogs and blog posts related to your blog and blog posts. Write value added comments on the blog posts you find. For example, if you wrote a post titled “How to Promote Your Blog” search for blog posts about blogging. Add tips or your opinion about the blog posts you find and then offer your blog post to help the author and the readers with what was recommended in the blog post.

9. Build an Email List

By allowing people to opt in to receiving your blog posts by email, you increase your potential to get traffic on your posts. Every time you publish a post you will have a list of people to email. Mailchimp or Aweber are some of the most popular email marketing products. I use Mailchimp.

To learn more about blogging, check out “The Ultimate Guide to Blogging.

Content Marketing 101: What, Why and How

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Traditional marketing and advertising is broken. Traditional advertising methods like billboards, tv and radio advertising, paper mail advertising, and cold calling, are expensive, hard to measure, and are inefficiently targeted. In addition, people usually find them really annoying, which is not good for branding. People don’t get sold anymore, they buy. Enter content marketing, a more efficient and effective way to attract, engage, and acquire customers.

What is Content Marketing?

I’m going to give you a rather “dense” definition of content marketing and then I’ll break down each component of it. Content marketing is a strategy for attracting, engaging and acquiring customers. It entails creating and/or curating relevant and valuable content.

2 Forms of Value

Per the above definition, content must be valuable to the target audience. What does it mean to be valuable? Value, as it pertains to content marketing, comes in two primary forms:

a. Entertainment value 

The audience finds the content funny, interesting, or otherwise entertaining. The best example of content marketing that has entertainment value is Dollar Shave Club’s video that now has over 13 million views. People watched it, even multiple times, and shared it, because they enjoyed watching it. The fact that it’s an advertisement is an afterthought. In addition, it improves Dollar Shave Club’s brand by making them look “cool.”

b. Educational value

The audience finds the content helpful. It answers their questions or gives them information that they can use to solve their problems or in some way improve themselves. The best example of content marketing that I can think of that has educational value is Moz’s beginner’s guide to SEO. It’s become like the bible on beginning SEO. It is the go to source for anyone that wants to learn SEO. The fact that Moz did it to attract it’s target audience, marketers, is not even recognized at first glance. In addition, it improves Moz’s brand by displaying their expertise, and building a perception of being helpful.

9 Benefits of Content Marketing

Content marketing can help companies with several aspects of the customer acquisition funnel. I’ve grouped them into three buckets:

attract – customers see you, find you and/or become aware that you exist

engage – customers get to know you and start to like you

acquire – customers pay for your product or service

Here are 9 ways content marketing can help companies attract people, engage with them, and convert them into customers.

1. Establish authority

Producing content that displays expertise instantly improves people’s perception of the author’s authority on the topic. A book is probably the form of content that improves authority the most, but several other forms, including a blog, can help. Improving your image of authority should improve conversion rates.

2. Increase engagement, rapport, and trust

When a customer sees your billboard, they see it for a few seconds and then probably forget about it. When someone reads your blog, they’re on your website, listening to what you’re saying, potentially for extended periods of time. This enables them to get to know you. I’ve met people who had been following my blog and as a result know a lot about me and feel like they know me. People like to do business with people they know, like, and trust.

The most extreme example of content that builds rapport that I can think of is James Altucher’s blog. He shares his deepest emotions and personal stories. You don’t have to go that far to build rapport with your audience though. Simply sharing your opinions on industry topics or adding some character to your writing can help. Don’t be afraid to take a controversial stance if appropriate or use less than perfect grammar if it adds character.

3. Reach a wider audience 

People don’t always search for a specific product or service, they often look for information or solutions to problems. For example, “productivity consultant” gets just 70 average monthly research, while “how to be more productive” gets 1,300. Keyword research is a proxy for people’s actual interests and buying behaviors.

Content marketing can enable you to reach an audience that might not have had you been relying on cold calling or advertising. They could also find you if one of their Facebook friends shares a piece of your content. People post about specific products far less than they share content that’s entertaining or educational. After building rapport, establishing yourself as an expert, and adding value, a customer may be more interested in your product or service.

4. Improve search engine ranking 

A company’s search ranking is driven by two primary categories: onsite and offsite. Content marketing helps with both. Content marketing helps with onsite in two ways. First, Google prefers sites with recently updated content. If you are actively creating new content, Google will better index you. Content marketing helps with offsite SEO by improving your chances of being linked to. Google interprets someone else linking to you as a sign that your site is of value. People are far more likely to link to a valuable blog post you wrote than simply your sales page. Better search ranking means more traffic.

5. Boost sales

At the end of the day sales are what everyone really wants right? After all, it’s a business not a charity. Content marketing can directly help with that. As discussed above, someone is more likely to want to click on something of value to them, than a sales page. However, viewing the content that is of value to them increases their chances of viewing your “sales page.”

This could play itself on in many different ways, but let me give you two quick examples. First example: viewer searches for a topic you’ve been blogging about…finds your blog post…signs up for your email newsletter…reads your emails each week, gets value from them, and thinks you’re awesome…two months later when you send out an email about your new product launch they buy because they’ve “known” you for two months and know that you’re “legit.” Second example: someone searches itunes for a podcast related to their interest…finds you and listens to one…you mention one of your products and tell listeners where they can find it…listener finds it and becomes a customer.

6. Social shares

When people share your content, you get more exposure. Exposure leads to traffic. This is the “attract” bucket per above. It also improves your brand in that if people see their friends talking about you they may think more highly of you. This is the “engage” bucket per above. How do you get most of your restaurant, movie, product, etc. recommendations? A lot of people rely on their friends.

People are more likely to share content they find valuable than your sales page.

7. It’s free or cheap 

Blogging, for example, costs basically nothing. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection, which you probably already have. It does however take time. If you get into more advanced content production, such as research reports, or even podcasts, you may need some special equipment that costs money.

However, many forms of content marketing have almost no up-front costs, which make it great for startups, self-published authors, or anyone on a budget.

8. More targeted 

With content marketing, you can be more sure you’re reaching your target audience then, for example, billboards or tv ads. Yes, you can get demographic data who drives on the road, who watches the show, etc. But with content you can be even more precise. For example, you can use Google’s keyword planner to get data on the number of times a given search term is being made and who is actually making the searches. You can write blog posts to to match those terms. Or you can write a post like “marketing for startups” to be sure your audience knows it’s for them.

9. Build an audience

People are very attentive to their inboxes. As a marketer, you want to be where their attention is. You don’t need to pay for a list if you’re doing content marketing. Offer something of value in exchange for signing up for your email newsletter, to increase your email signups. It could be as simple as receiving your blog posts by email. Offering an ebook or white paper is even better.

10 Types of Content to Produce

Content can come in many shapes and sizes. Most people think of blogs when they think of content marketing. Blogging is a good one, however there are many, many formats in which you can produce content marketing. Below are several formats/platforms to produce content on. Each of these platforms has slightly different users bases, enabling you to reach wider audiences.

  • Video courses on Udemy
  • Answers on Quora
  • Blog posts
  • Curated content as an email newsletter
  • Podcasts
  • Presentations on SlideShare 
  • Videos on YouTube
  • Self-published books on Amazon
  • Microcontent on social networks – tweets, status updated, instagram photos, etc.
  • Public speaking, webinars, workshops, etc.

Our Growth Hacking with Content Marketing course details how to use each of these networks effectively, which are best for different kinds of businesses, pros and cons of each, and more.

My #1 Piece of Content Marketing Advice 

Create content that’s valuable to your audience! If you do that, people will find you, share you, engage with you, return to you, etc.