Do you want to know how to write a blog post that rocks?
Wish you could create the kind of content that Google loves?
Want your audience to just go on about how awesome your content is? By the end of this post, you will have a framework for creating awesome blog posts.
Listen to episode
Along with each post, there's a detailed podcast episode. You should listen to it. Why? Because I think it's cool, and I think you should think so too. Oh wow. Look at that play button.
If you prefer to read, or want the show notes, here ya go . . .
Why good writing is important
You’re a blogger and you create content. Maybe you’re the kind of blogger that focuses on video content. Or maybe you focus on your podcast with the show notes being the only written content.
Written content is still at the core of what blogging entails, especially for educational blogs. Here’s why:
But here’s the thing, if your written content is not good, it won’t satisfy the searcher. And Google will use that data to determine how to rank you.
Step 1: Understand the searcher’s intent
When someone goes to Google and searches for something, there’s a specific intent. If I go to Google and search for “How to start a blog”, it should be obvious that I want to start a blog.
If I search for “Chia seed pudding recipe”, you know I’m about to hit that kitchen up to make something awesome.
Always think about the person doing the searching. What exactly are they trying to accomplish? And how can you create the perfect content to help them do that?
Once again, Google pays attention to what people do after landing on your blog post. If they engage with it because it gives them what they want, Google rewards that.
But if they come to your site and leave to continue searching, that’s a signal that you’re not delivering.
Also, if you answer their question or solve their problem, they will be more likely to check out your other stuff.
Step 2: Analyze what’s already out there
If you want to deliver value to the person that’s visiting your post, it’s a good idea to see what’s already out there.
Do a Google search for the phrase someone would type into Google to find your post. What comes up? Check out the top posts related to that search phrase.
What are they covering in their posts, and more importantly – what’s missing? Think about it from the perspective of the searcher.
If there’s anything you can add to the conversation that adds unique value, make sure to include it.
Step 3: Gather your research
While it can be good to write something off the top of your head, it’s good to have actual data to support your content.
When you quote research or other experts in your field, it increases your credibility. You aren’t just a random person with random thoughts. You’ve done your research and are adding value by shedding light on that research.
Also, doing research will give you new ideas for what can be included in your post.
Step 4: Start with an outline
I used to love just writing and seeing what comes out on paper. Unfortunately, sometimes the result of doing that isn’t as coherent as I’d like it to be.
That’s why I like to start with an outline. By doing, I’m able to think through the direction I want my post to go beforehand.
And if I need to make changes to the flow of the post, I can do that before writing the content. It saves a lot of time and helps your content to flow better.
Step 5: Flesh out the article
Now that your outline is done, it’s time to flesh it out – add the meat to the bones. Get to writing, and create that work of art.
The goal here is simple – deliver on the value you promised in the title. When your visitor finishes reading that post, they should feel like you answered the questions they had.
And in a perfect world, they don’t need to go anywhere else to get more insight into that particular problem.
Step 6: Revisit/Write the Introduction
Your introduction is such an important part of your blog post that I find it better to work on it last. Now that the article is written and you know the full context, focus on the introduction.
Create a compelling introduction that gets the visitor to think – man, I have to keep reading. Here are some things you can try:
Step 7: Use Grammarly and Hemingway App for Editing
The last thing you want is for your awesome content to have grammatical errors or to be not well structured.
Yes, I know – Microsoft Word has spelling and grammar checking abilities. But they suck in comparison to these two tools.
Grammarly is great for checking your grammar, but it also does other things. It has features like vocabulary enhancement, writing mistakes correction, contextual speech checker and more.
And the Hemingway App does a great job at helping you simplify your writing. One thing I’ve found is the better we get at something, the easier it is to overcomplicate it.
So get to writing
There you have it. Those are my seven recommended steps to help you write a great blog post. If you follow these steps and create something awesome, let me know by linking to it below.
Writing a bio is hard.
You have to knock ’em dead with two or three dazzling sentences that show you’re a likable, credible, and accomplished expert.
When readers read your bio, they must believe you’re the answer to their prayers — a superhero who will swoop in and solve the big problem keeping them awake at night.
No pressure, right?
Here’s the good news:
Learning how to write a bio that dazzles readers doesn’t require feats of strength or the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
No, all you have to do is keep reading. Because in this post, I’m going to show you a simple three-step process for writing a bio readers will adore. But first, we’ll look at a few short bio examples that make readers run for the exits.
Let’s dive in.
The 6 Common Bio Blunders That Make You Look Like an Amateur (And What to Do Instead)
#1: Making It All About You
Thanks for sharing, Jill. But do I really care? Nah.
It’s confusing, I know. “Bio” is short for biography, which suggests it should be all about you. But the main purpose of your author bio is to show your audience how you can help them solve their problem with the skills you bring to the table.
So, it’s not about you, Jill. It’s about them.
What to Do Instead:
In this post on sensory words, using almost the same number of words as Jill, Kevin gives us just enough information about himself to tell us what he does and how he helps his audience.
It’s clear, precise, and focused on the outcome, not on Kevin. He uses phrases like “hone their writing skills,” and “stand out from the crowd,” which directly target the deep-rooted desires of aspiring writers. He speaks their language.
Here’s another tip: It’s usually best to write in the third person, as Kevin does in the above bio example. It’s more professional.
#2: Writing a Condensed Resume, or a Laundry List of Accomplishments
Your bio is not a dumping ground for your career path and qualifications. It’s a tiny elevator pitch that’s selling you as a credible solver of your reader’s problems.
So don’t list every degree you have or talk about your first job out of school. Readers don’t really care. They only care whether or not you have the solutions they are looking for.
What to Do Instead:
Your bio should only include details about yourself that directly relate to your audience’s problem.
Think about your career, education, and skills, and then carefully select the most pertinent facts that are going to impress the audience you are writing for. Like this:
Jessi tells us the most important thing about herself (that she is a book editor), and what she can do for her audience (get their books into print), while establishing her credibility (“best-selling,” “editor-in-chief”).
Everything she mentions is designed to appeal to the audience she’s trying to reach.
#3: Sharing Irrelevant Details or Stuff You Think Your Audience Should Care About
This sample bio is from someone whose expertise is content and affiliate marketing, although he hides it well.
Much like your degrees and career path, your audience doesn’t care about your hobbies, passions, and personal philosophies either, unless they directly impact the problem they’re trying to solve.
What to Do Instead:
As mentioned earlier, only share the details that your audience will find relevant.
If you’re mad keen on knitting and you’re writing for an arts and crafts blog, then go ahead and mention your passion. It’s relevant. But don’t tell them about your cat, unless Fluffy can knit too.
#4: Trying to Cram Too Much In
Okay, so you’ve managed to include only relevant details about yourself, so you’re safe. Right?
Not if you included too many of them.
Like this one from Jo. She’s had an impressive career, but her bio feels endless:
This is way too much information.
Writing your own bio can be hard. Sometimes you’re too close to the subject matter to realize what’s important and what can be left out. But your bio isn’t the place to share your entire life story. You need to be picky.
What to Do Instead:
With some careful pruning, the real gems hidden away in Jo’s bio can be given center stage:
Go through your bio word by word and ask yourself, “Does this bit of information make any difference to my audience?”
If the answer is no, take it out, and limit your bio to two or three sentences.
#5: Being Overly Formal (a.k.a. Boring)
If you’re anything like me, you had to read this bio more than once to get a sense of what Joe does. It’s way too formal. Most people will just glaze over this.
What to Do Instead:
Instead of using stilted words and phrases like “maximize their online real estate” and “engender business growth” Joe missed a great opportunity to make himself stand out from the crowd by creating a point of interest.
Perhaps he could have started with something like:
Do you see how that might grab a few more eyeballs, cut through the noise, and make an impact with his target audience of doctors?
#6. Being Vague (or Overly Woo-Woo)
Hands up, whoever doesn’t have a clue what this person is talking about. What does she do? How does she help solve my problem? Why should I be interested in her?
You need to avoid ambiguous phrases like “inspiration for growth” and “find their way through the dark.” These phrases might have a nice ring to them, but they mean very little to your reader. They’re too open to interpretation.
What to Do Instead:
You don’t have time to beat around the bush in your bio. Get straight to the point. Like this:
In two sentences, Cecile tells me everything I need to know about what she does and how she can help me. No fluff, no messing about, and a juicy opt-in bribe to seal the deal.
The 3-Step Process to Writing a Click-Worthy Author Bio
So now you can see where you might’ve gone wrong with your bio after you started your blog, and you’re dying to write a new version of it. But how do you ensure your next bio won’t commit the same blunders?
Easy. Just follow this simple three-step process to write a bio that your ideal readers can’t resist clicking.
Step #1: Introduce Yourself with a Bang
This is where you tell the audience who you are and what makes you different (while avoiding the common blunders we’ve just discussed). You need to spark their interest and curiosity and get them to say, “Tell me more.”
Let’s start with this example from a blogger in the personal development niche.
This tells me what Sue does, but it’s rather dull and same-y in a sea full of personal development blogs. There’s nothing here to set her apart or pique our interest.
Let’s give it a twist:
That sounds a bit more interesting. Sue manages to appeal to her audience on different levels by sounding educated, professional, and personable at the same time. Describing herself as an “agony aunt” downplays the more clinical “social scientist.”
I’m curious to know more, and it certainly makes her distinctive.
But there’s another angle Sue could take:
Now, this one is more similar to the first example, but the difference is that it adds more credibility — “certified psychologist” sounds much more credible than “has a degree in,” which suggests she’s fresh out of college — but it also sets her apart more.
She has a specialty, which gives her ideas on the topic more weight than others. If you suffer from social anxiety, you’d want to listen to the expert on it, right?
This version goes even further in establishing Sue’s credibility. Not only has she published multiple books on the topic of social anxiety, but she’s even been featured on some well-known media channels, adding social proof to her expertise.
We’ve talked before about not delivering a laundry list of accomplishments, but if you have specific accomplishments that make you stand out, those are worth including.
Here’s an excellent bio example that both offers a point of interest and adds credibility:
Jessica doesn’t just say she’ll help you write a business plan, she mentions she has an “outside-the-box approach,” which immediately makes you curious what that approach is. Then she steps it up even more by mentioning her approach has collectively raised $50 million in financing. That’s nothing to sneeze at and creates instant credibility.
It’s an excellent bio that will absolutely pique her audience’s interest.
Step #2: Call Out Your Audience and Say How You Help Them
Remember, this isn’t about you, it’s about what you can do for your audience. So you need to define who they are and what problem of theirs (their key fear or desire) you can solve.
You should aim for both a logical and emotional connection. It’s tough, but do-able.
Let’s take Kim, a blogger in the parenting niche:
By using language most parents will relate to and zeroing in on their fears, Kim makes a strong emotional connection. At the same time, there’s no mistaking the practical (logical) solution Kim offers.
Note: Of course, Kim’s bio would be even further improved if she linked to an incentive rather than her homepage. More on that in the next step!
Here’s another example:
Jessica clarifies immediately who she helps (busy people) and how she helps them (by re-energizing them through food, yoga, and wellness strategies).
You must be absolutely clear about this. If readers can’t identify themselves in your bio and see you have the solution they’re looking for, they will move on.
Step 3: Offer an Irresistible Reason to Click
You’ve told your audience who you are, what you do, and how you can help them. You’ve impressed them with your credentials and sparked their curiosity.
They’re ready to move to second base, but they need that last push. An irresistible reason to click through to your site and sign up. You need to offer an incentive.
Take a look at this bio:
Boom! In 46 carefully curated words, Henneke tells us who she is, what she does, how she can help, and then gives us a gold-plated reason for parting with our email address.
Her free report is 16 parts, but it’s “snackable,” which makes it sound very easy to digest. And it’s for “busy people,” which shows Henneke understands her audience. She promises results and cleverly relates this back to her own blog, Enchanting Marketing.
Unfortunately, we can’t all steal Henneke’s bio, but we can use it as a fine example of how to write our own.
Ready to Write Your Best Bio Ever?
Writing a bio like a superhero is simple, but it’s not easy, so give your bio the time it requires. You should brainstorm several options for each of the steps.
Bios are hard to craft, but they are also one of the most effective pieces of marketing you can create when you get it right.
You now know how to write a bio your audience will love. They’ll want to know more and they won’t be able to resist your free offer.
They’ll see you as a credible, personable problem-solver. Their problem-solver.
And they’ll click through to your site, ready and willing to hand over their email address to their new blogging superhero.
Note: For a handy visual reminder of the six bio blunders you can download or share on your own website, check out the image below:
Embed This Infographic On Your Site:
The post How to Write a Bio Like a Superhero (Easy 3-Part Process) appeared first on Smart Blogger.
Google is the king of search. And fortunately, they give us some pretty advanced SEO tools to help us drive traffic to our blogs.
But most people struggle to understand how it all works together. By the end of this post, you will understand how Google Analytics and Google Search Console can help you grow your traffic.
I’ll also dig deep into some simple strategies for using this data to grow your business.
Listen to the episode
As usual, each of my posts has a podcast episode that goes along with it. It covers everything in this post and goes into a few extra details. Go ahead and click play below to listen. Also, consider subscribing in iTunes.
Why this is Important
With all the changes happening in Social Media, more and more bloggers are focusing on SEO. Traffic from Google is coveted because if you do a good job, it can result in lots of traffic.
Unfortunately, most bloggers add Google Analytics to their site and MAYBE submit their sites to Google search console, and that’s it.
They never look at the data, and if they DO look at the data, they don’t do it in a way that makes it actionable.
But Google wants to serve up the best results to the people who are searching for things. It makes them more money when they do this well.
And they’ve given us FREE tools to help us know exactly what we should be doing. If you use these tools well, the result can be a lot of organic, targeted traffic for your blog.
With more traffic, it’s easier to grow your business.
Let’s go into the differences between these tools.
What is Google Analytics
Google analytics is a free service offered by Google that allows you to analyze your traffic. It tells you all of the following (and much more):
The way it works is fairly simple (while being quite complex under the hood).
When you add your site to Google Analytics, they give you some code. Once you add the code to your site, they are then able to track EVERYTHING.
At the most basic level, it will track the general activity on your site, including a lot of the things already mentioned.
As you get more advanced, you’re able to specify what exactly you want Google to report on.
For example, you can set up goals in Google Analytics. This is your way to tell Google to register certain actions (i.e. bought your ebook) as a goal to track.
Once you do that, you are starting to unleash the power of Google Analytics.
What is Google Search Console
Google search console is also a very powerful and free service offered by Google. It allows you to “monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google search results”.
While fewer bloggers use Search Console than Analytics, it is such an important tool if you want to increase search traffic.
The power in Google Search Console is that it tells you exactly what you’re ranking for. It also tells you exactly where you’re ranking in the search engine results.
There are many tools out there for doing keyword research. In many cases, you’re trying to find new keywords to target.
The idea is to see what people are searching for and create content to answer their questions. In the ideal scenario, you find something with lots of searches and little competition.
But there’s another way that’s often overlooked. Instead of looking for what are potentially great keywords to target, focus on what’s already working.
Both Google Analytics and Google Search Console have ways of giving you this data. Let’s look at how you can use them for growing your business.
How to Use Google Analytics for Business Growth
I love me some Google Analytics because of the wealth of data that’s in there. Every so often, something shows up in there that surprises me.
For example, the most popular post on my blog is a post on how to vlog with your smartphone. For some reason, that post really took off on social media and then started getting lots of organic traffic.
When I first noticed this, I checked out the blog post. While the post was well-written, it didn’t lead anywhere that had an impact on my business.
So I decided to make some tweaks. I didn’t have a lead magnet that would make sense for the post, so I decided to add in some Amazon affiliate links.
Since then, I’ve been earning money from that post on a monthly basis. By making a few tweaks, that added to my bottom line. Here’s what I recommend for you.
In Google Analytics, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
Look at what your top-visited pages are and optimize those pages to align with your business goals.
Here are some possible things you can do:
Doing one or more of these things will help you grow your business.
How to Use Google Search Console for Business Growth
As a blogger, you probably have a specific niche you’re blogging about (hopefully). As you create your content, you will be covering different topics within that niche.
That’s great, and what you should be doing. Eventually, you’ll start ranking for different keyword phrases.
And as your site authority increases over time, you will start unintentionally ranking for things you didn’t necessarily target.
In many cases, you will rank for topics you don’t care to rank for. However, in some cases, you will rank for things you want to rank for but without even trying.
Here’s an example.
According to Google Search Console, I rank for a bunch of keywords related to Terms and Conditions for bloggers.
The only reason I rank for those phrases is that I have Terms and Conditions on my site and the word Blogger is in my site name.
I never tried ranking for those phrases. However, people that are searching for those phrases are great prospects for my business.
Google is telling me that it’s easy for my blog to rank for those phrases because I’m already ranking without trying.
It would make sense for me to create a detailed blog post that shares resources for creating Terms and Conditions for your blog.
I remember seeing the same thing when I had my biology blog. With all the content I had on my site, I saw that I was getting a lot of traffic for searches about the kidney and urinary system.
This was the result of just mentioning it in one post. But the blog had a lot of authority in that space and started ranking for that (and many other phrases).
If I were still working on that blog, I would create an entire series on the urinary system and I know it would get a lot of traffic.
So here’s what you should do:
Let’s wrap this up
What I covered in this post isn’t anything revolutionary. But it can be powerful for the growth of your blog if you do it consistently.
I’m going through this process right now and am looking forward to sharing the results with you in a future post.
Take home lesson: Focus on what’s already working. Focus on your strengths. The more you do that, the stronger your blog will become. And the more you align those activities with your business objectives, the stronger your business will become.
Let’s do this!
The post How to use Google Search Console and Analytics for Business Growth appeared first on Become A Blogger by Leslie Samuel.
It’s harder than ever to be a successful blogger. That’s a fact.
So the question then becomes – are we seeing the beginning of the end for blogging as a profession?
In this post, I take a hard look at the industry and share my thoughts. Keep reading.
Listen to the episode
Perhaps you’d rather listen on the go. If so, you’re in the right place. Just hit play below or subscribe on iTunes.
Change is Inevitable
A few weeks ago, I did a post about Social Media and Blogging in 2019. The premise of that post was that Social Media is changing and bloggers need to adapt accordingly.
Facebook has made huge changes resulting in less organic exposure for publishers. And other social networks have followed suit. The word algorithm has been the thing that so many bloggers fear.
It’s easy to point the finger at social media and blame them for the decline in traffic many bloggers have seen.
But it’s unfair to do so. As someone whose livelihood has been teaching people to blog, it would be dishonest of me not to point out the other changes that continue to happen.
Change is inevitable. And the first part of adapting to change is fully acknowledging what those changes are.
My Responsibility to You
As someone who has been teaching people how to blog, my sense of responsibility has been awakened.
My online business is 100% responsible for the financial state of my family, and that’s something I take seriously. If blogging dies, that part of my business dies with it.
But more than that, I have a responsibility to you. You follow me for information about blogging. And while I have been focused primarily on educating you, it’s also my responsibility to keep you informed.
By keeping you informed, I’m also equipping you to be better at what you do. And I want to rise to the occasion to help you make better decisions.
So what has changed with blogging?
One word – Google!
Google is such a great resource when it comes to finding info online. Whenever I want to know how to do something I go to one of two places – both owned by Google.
The Google search engine and YouTube. With those two powers combined, I can take on the world.
But have you noticed anything different with Google over the years? Especially on mobile devices?
In the past, when you do a search in Google, you used to see a bunch of links to sites and a few ads. That was all.
Now, when you go to Google and search for something, a lot has changed. Let’s look at an example.
I generally rank second on the Search Engine Results Page for “how to vlog with a smartphone”.
But now number two means something different. Here’s what you see before you see the regular old sites.
A Video Featured Snippet
This is often the case when someone searches for “how to” content. If there’s a relevant video, Google often displays this front and center in the first position.
People also ask
Just in case you didn’t find what you’re looking for, Google often shows other questions that people are asking.
The idea is that if many people are asking these other questions, you may be interested in the answers.
In addition to showing one big video featured snippet at the top of the results, it also shows other recommended YouTube videos.
This shows a list of some of the top recommended products related to your search.
Good ‘ol fashioned search results
FINALLY, after showing all that, you see the regular links to websites, including a blog post from my blog.
But to get to my #2-ranked site, there’s a whole lot of scrolling that needs to be done.
Other Featured Snippets
The featured snippets referred to above are only some of the ones that show up. It varies depending on your search. You can also see lists, definitions, tables and others.
The Other Side of Google
To add to everything covered so far, there’s another side of Google search that’s growing. I see it every day because it happens in our home.
Even my 6-year-old son is using it, and it’s called – Google home.
A popular question my son loves to ask is – “Can we ask Google?”
And no – he doesn’t mean going to the browser and typing in a query. He literally means “ask Google”.
Ok Google, how far is Michigan from Florida? And our Google Home device responds with an answer from a website.
Now we have the answer and we never had to visit the site. Yay for us, boo for the site.
What is Google’s Goal?
The answer to this question should be obvious – to make money. How do they make money? The more useful they are, the more money they make from advertising.
And in the last few months and years, Google has been scraping content more to display directly in the Search Engine Results Page.
What this means is that in some cases, even though the content of your site shows up in search, people won’t click through.
They get the result and move on. Or they ask Google assistant and never even have to see the results.
So is Blogging Dead?
This is something I’ve been wrestling with recently, and my answer is no, but . . .
It is changing for sure. With every move a major corporation that determines our traffic makes, there are signals.
In the case with Google, there’s a lot that we can learn from looking at what they are doing. Google used to be just an index of mostly written content.
That’s no longer the case. Now the Google Search Results is way more dynamic. It includes video, images and other snippets.
And with the Google assistant growing in popularity, bloggers will live more and more in a world where people get their content without getting to their blogs.
Leslie, What Should We do?
With all that said, where do we go from here? What should we, as bloggers, do?
My answer – Let’s do what Google is doing!
They have redefined what it is to be a search engine. It’s time for us to redefine what it means to be a blogger.
In the past, a blogger was seen as a writer. Someone who creates written content for a blog.
But blogging is way more than that. A blogger is someone who creates content to help others.
A blogger writes. A blogger creates videos. A blogger is a podcaster. A blogger is an educator. A blogger builds a community. A blogger builds a business. A blogger builds a brand. A blogger builds a media company. A blogger is a thought-leader.
Will the real bloggers please stand up? Because if we don’t, we’re gonna fall by the wayside as Google continues its mood swings.
Will there be a day when bloggers no longer write? I don’t think so. But will writing be enough? I definitely don’t think so.
Should we be concerned about the changes Google continues to make? Absolutely! We need to pay attention and adapt accordingly.
I’m more excited today about what it means to Become a Blogger. Because for those of us who stick around, we get to be a part of what I believe will make for a better internet.
The post Is Blogging Dead? A Real Look at the State of the Industry appeared first on Become A Blogger by Leslie Samuel.
If you search Google for tips on how to become a better writer, you’ll find a lot of big promises.
Here’s the truth:
There’s no tip, trick, strategy, or hack capable of turning a bad writer into a good one.
But if you’re looking to improve your writing skills by 5%, if you want to go from average to good or even good to great, a valuable tip can help make it happen.
Here are fourteen such tips:
1. Find Your Unique Voice
If we all listen to the same experts and we all follow the same advice, how is it possible for anyone to stand out from the crowd?
The trap many of us fall into is we believe if we mimic a popular blogger or writer, we’ll be popular too.
Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s a no-win proposition. Even if you succeed, you’ll be indistinguishable from all the other parrots out there.
There’s only one you. You have unique DNA. Your hopes, thoughts, and dreams are unique. Even the face you make when you accidentally walk into a spider web is unique.
Want to stand out?
When you sit down to write, tap into what makes you… well, you.
2. Edit Like Crazy
Many first drafts are clumsy, sloppy, and difficult to read. This is true for most writers — even experienced, well-known ones.
So what separates our writing heroes from the masses?
The hard part isn’t over once your first draft is complete; on the contrary, it’s only beginning.
To take your work to the next level, you need to spend just as much time editing your words as you do creating them.
It’s ruthless work. It’s kind of boring. But it’s vital.
3. Supercharge Your Subheads
Most readers stick around for fewer than 15 seconds.
Heck, most will stick around for fewer than 5 seconds.
Why? Because readers are experts at scanning. They’ll click your headline, quickly scan your content, and — in only a few seconds — decide whether to stay or go.
Writing a great introduction is one way to convince readers to stick.
Write masterful subheads that create curiosity, hook your readers, and keep them on the page long enough to realize your content is worth reading.
4. Write Like Superman (Or That Guy You Know Who Types Really Fast)
Most of us are limited in the amount of time we have available to write.
So, if you want more time to write every day, you only have three options:
Your spouse and children won’t like the first option, and the second option requires plutonium.
But the third option? That’s doable.
5. Craft Irresistible Headlines
Smart Blogger’s CEO, Jon Morrow, recommends spending at least 20% of your time on the headline for your content.
That isn’t a typo.
If you spend 10 to 20 hours writing an article, 2 to 4 of those hours should be spent on the headline.
Why so many?
Because if your headline sucks, no one is going to give your content a chance.
Headlines are important. Get good at writing them.
6. Avoid Weak Words
Too many writers dilute their writing with weak, empty words that bring nothing to the table.
They silently erode your reader’s attention — one flabby word at a time.
Spot these words and eliminate them from your writing.
7. Write with Rhythm
You know short paragraphs and white space are your friends.
But that doesn’t mean every paragraph you write should be short.
Too many short paragraphs in a row and your writing will bore your readers. Too many long paragraphs in a row and you’ll overwhelm them.
So, mix things up.
Let the rhythm of your words dictate when each paragraph begins, and you’ll strike up the perfect balance between short paragraphs and long.
8. Kick Writer’s Block in the Buttocks
When you’ve been staring at a blank page for what feels like hours, writer’s block can seem insurmountable.
Savvy writers have a collection of tried-and-true techniques to bust out whenever writer’s block starts to rear its ugly head — techniques ranging from brisk walks to asking Alexa to play “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by The Proclaimers.
If you want to be a better writer, find a writer’s block technique or two that works for you.
9. Make Your Words Burst to Life in Readers’ Minds
If you aren’t using power words or sensory language in your writing, you’re missing out.
Smart writers and copywriters use power words to give their content extra punch, personality, and pizzazz. And great writers from Shakespeare to Stephen King use sensory words evoking sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell to paint strong scenes in the minds of their readers.
Both types of words are effective and super simple to use.
If you’re tired of lifeless words sitting on a page, try sprinkling power and sensory words throughout your content.
10. Be Funny
Some writers won’t like this, but…
Your content can’t simply teach — it needs to entertain too.
Or, to put it bluntly:
If you don’t entertain while you inform, your audience will find a writer who can.
Thankfully, there are numerous ways you can make your content more interesting and entertaining.
The easiest way (and my favorite)? Sprinkle in a little humor.
11. Write with Clarity
It doesn’t matter how amazing, profound, or revolutionary your ideas are, if you can’t express them in a clear, coherent way, you might as well have written them in an ancient language no one understands.
Ask yourself this question:
Could I explain my content to someone in one sentence?
If the answer is no, your work is probably too complex. It’s time to simplify.
12. Master Transitional Words and Phrases
Do you want to keep your readers glued to your content?
Want your posts to be so effortless to read people can’t help but absorb every word?
Experienced writers are meticulous about making each sentence flow seamlessly into the next, and they use transitional phrases to help make it happen.
If you want people to read your writing, from beginning to end, you need to do the same.
13. Learn SEO (Like a Boss)
Whether you write for yourself or as a hired hand, being able to create content that ranks on Google is a valuable skill.
(In fact, if you’re a freelance writer, companies and agencies will happily pay you extra for this skill.)
Consistently ranking on Google doesn’t happen by accident. It happens when you understand the basics of SEO — keyword research, user intent, UX signals, etc. — and purposefully create content with SEO in mind.
If you already know the basics of SEO, you have a leg up on the competition.
And if you don’t know the basics, you need to learn them.
The sooner, the better.
14. Sleep With Your Readers
Remember when I said subheads should create curiosity? This is a good example.
What keeps your audience awake at night? What has them tossing and turning at 2 o’clock in the morning?
Answer this question and then write about it.
Follow this one tip and you could (almost) ignore the rest.
You Now Know How to Become a Better Writer (but Knowing’s Just Half the Battle)
Most who read this post will smile, nod their head in agreement, and implement precisely zero of these tips.
But not you.
You know knowledge that’s not put into practice is wasted. That’s why you’ve already picked out a few favorites, and it’s why you can’t wait to start writing.
On their own, none of these writing tips will catapult you to superstardom. But each of them, little by little, will help you hone your craft.
So, are you ready to be a better writer? Are you ready to get 5%, 10%, or 15% better? Ready to go from a good writer to a great one?
Then it’s time to get to work.
Let’s do this thing.
The post How to Become a Better Writer: 14 Tips to Up Your Writing Game in 2019 appeared first on Smart Blogger.
Does this sound like you? You’ve been with getting things done.
You’ve listened to the productivity podcasts, read the productivity books and admired your productive friends.
But somehow, nothing seems to click. No matter how much you read or study, it doesn’t happen for you.
If that’s you, you’re reading the right post. Because in this post, I will share a tool that will help you go from trying to figure life out to a productivity machine.
I know, that’s a tall order. But hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll be convinced.
Listen to the Episode
This will be a long one. If you’d prefer to hear me talk about this while you’re on the go, click below to listen to the podcast episode.
Get the Spreadsheet
To fully take advantage of this post, make sure to download my FREE “Get it done” spreadsheet.
The Problem with “Getting Things Done”
I play the piano by ear. It’s something I’ve been doing since the age of 12. I love playing the piano.
And if someone’s singing while I’m playing (i.e. my wife), I’m on cloud 9. Because I’ve been playing for so long, I must say – I’m pretty good at it.
If you come up to me and sing a song, in most cases, I’ll be able to play it immediately. It’s just a part of who I am. God blessed me with musical talent.
But there’s a situation I often find myself in. A fellow pianist hears me play and comes up to me to ask me the name of the chord progression I played at a certain part of the song.
My answer always confounds him – I don’t know.
I can’t tell you the theory of what I’m playing. I don’t know the theory (in most cases). What I know is how to play.
This often leaves them confounded. They understood the theory. In fact, they are often experts. Put sheet music in front of them and they can play it immediately.
But remove the sheet music and they are useless. And their playing often amounts to that of someone with much less skill.
How did I learn to play the piano? By playing the piano. I spent countless hours on a near daily basis playing the piano for years.
And the more I did it, the more the music became a part of who I am.
Understanding theory is powerful because it forms the basis for what we do. Unfortunately, understanding the theory doesn’t always equate with being able to do something well.
The problem with “Getting Things Done” and all of the theory that’s out there is that it’s just theory. How do you get stuff done? It has something to do with how I learned to play the piano by ear.
What to do instead
Over the last few months, I’ve been inspired by the following quote:
When I read that, it hit me. THAT’S how I learned to play the piano. The piano was a tool and I used it over and over.
I spent years using the piano, making mistakes and realizing that some of my “mistakes” actually sounded good.
And it didn’t matter how it sounded because I was in the comfort of my own home. And my parents actually encouraged those mistakes.
They would sing out as we sat together during family worship as I stumbled through playing songs on the piano.
But the more I did, the better I got. That’s how it is with getting things done. Here’s what we can learn from my piano playing skills.
Choose a tool that teaches you to get things done, and use it over and over. The more you use it, the better you’ll get at it.
My Get it Done Spreadsheet
After buying into Buckminster Fuller’s concept, I decided to create a tool. One to teach you the principles of getting things done.
And while I’ll give you the theory here, that’s only the beginning. Using it on a daily basis will help you to solidify the theory and actually get stuff done.
The core of the spreadsheet comes down to the following seven steps.
Step 1: Take inventory of your work-life balance
One of the problems with how we normally set goals is that they are often project focused. This isn’t inherently a problem.
But what I now realize is that our project-focused goals take flight when they line up with our life goals. For that reason, you should take inventory of where you are in life.
Once you understand where you are in life, it’s easy to see what’s off balance. Once you know what’s off balance, you can more easily see where you need to set goals.
In the Get it Done Spreadsheet, you rate yourself in the following six areas: work/business, finances, spiritual, health and body, relationships with others and personal.
This is done by grading yourself on a scale of 1 to 10 as shown below:
After taking this inventory, you will get a picture that looks like this:
As you can see in my example, I’m relatively balanced in most areas, but there is room for improvement. But there’s one that stands out.
When it comes to things like long-term financial planning, following a budget, etc, I fall short. This tells me that I have some work to do, especially where my finances are concerned.
It also shows me that while the other areas are relatively balanced, there’s room for improvement.
Understanding this will help you with the next step.
Step 2: Write down your goals
Now that you know where you stand, it’s time to come up with your goals. They’ll fall into three categories: short-term (0 to 3 months), medium-term (3 months to 3 years), and long-term (over 3 years).
Here are my short-term goals from when I went through this activity:
Notice that you’re including all of the following:
These goals should be S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based).
Step 3: Break down those goals
Ok, so you have your goals. It’s time to break down these goals. For each goal, answer the following questions:
Dissecting each goal in this way will make you more confident in your ability to accomplish each goal. It will also give you the steps you need to take.
Step 4: Create your weekly and daily plan
This is where the “Get it done” spreadsheet really shine. It’s what you do on a daily (and weekly) basis that sets the stage for success.
Here’s what I recommend. At the beginning of the week, make your plan for the week. This includes a list of the 3 to 5 goals you’re working on that week.
It’s important to keep your goals front and center as you plan out the tasks you will be working on. It also includes the tasks you want to accomplish by the end of the week.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to plan out the tasks you want to accomplish each day as well as a tentative schedule to help you accomplish those tasks.
I’ve gone back and forth on this. When I first started using the spreadsheet, I would do my schedule daily. I figured that my daily tasks would depend heavily on what I did the day before.
But then I found that when I don’t start with a good view of what I want to accomplish for the week, I get less done.
So now I plan out the entire week on Sunday and adjust accordingly as things change.
Step 5: Take massive action daily
There’s not much to say here. You’ve done the planning and now it’s time to do what you planned. It’s what you do on a daily basis that will result in the success you’re trying to have.
And now that you’ve planned it all out wisely, make it happen.
It’s important to realize that every day won’t go as planned, and that’s ok. This is one of the reasons I love having my planner as a spreadsheet.
If I need to adjust, I can easily change things around. My paper planner ended up getting really messy as I adjusted.
As you get things done, check them off your to-do list and give yourself a pat on the back.
Step 6: Review each day and week in light of your goals
If all you’re doing is busy work, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. It’s important to review what you’re doing on a daily and weekly basis.
At the end of your workday, take a few notes on how the day went. Did you accomplish all your goals? Celebrate that. Did something derail you? Take note of that.
There are two spaces where you can do this. At the top of the spreadsheet, you can state exactly what you accomplished related to your goals. If you didn’t do anything related to one of your week’s goals, write the word NOTHING. I like to do it in all caps.
When you do that, the cell will automatically turn red to draw your attention to the fact that you didn’t do anything there.
This is not a bad thing. You won’t be working on every goal every day. However, when you see that red repeating itself over and over, it’s time to start paying attention.
The second place is at the bottom of the sheet. This is more of an open area for you to write down your general thoughts about the day.
And at the end of your week, take notes on how your week went. Doing this review is important for getting you to reflect on your activity in light of your goals.
It will also serve as a reminder when you need to go back and figure out where you stand.
Step 7: Recalibrate every quarter
Alright, you’re on your way to actually “getting things done” and it feels great. But it’ll be easy to just keep going without having a good understanding of how far you came.
That’s why I created a spreadsheet for every quarter. Every quarter, go back to the work-life inventory sheet and see where you stand. Is there more balance? Where did you improve? Where did you fall off a little?
Either way, it’s all good. You’re taking action and approaching your goals in a more strategic way. Not only that, you’re learning the principles of success without focusing on learning.
You’re learning by doing.
Get the Spreadsheet
If you haven’t done so already, go ahead and get my “Get it done” spreadsheet. It’s free, and you’ll love it.
Enter your name and email address below and start your “get it done” journey. And if you want to take your “get it done” mindset to the next level, get access to my Goal Setting course by joining the Blogger Coaching Club.
In it, I walk you through the concepts taught in this episode in more depth by showing you exactly how to go through this process.
Along with the course, you get access to all the other courses in the coaching club as well as direct access to me. Ask a question and get a video response.
Looking forward to working with you.
Writing is tricky.
The same piece of content that earns you an A+ on your midterm would be marked as spam or deleted from a blog editor’s inbox.
Why is that?
Well, one reason is what constitutes a good paragraph differs from medium to medium.
How to write a paragraph for your college professor is different than writing a paragraph for a popular blog.
The good news?
In this post, you’ll learn the differences. We’ll go over paragraph writing for the digital age, and we’ll touch on the basics you need to know for school, magazines, and such.
But first, let’s look at why the rules for paragraph structure have changed…
Why Paragraph Writing Changed in the Digital Age
The main reason for the paragraph’s evolution is the way we consume media.
When we’re online, an onslaught of ads, pop-up notifications, cat videos, and vapid celebrity gossip are all competing for our attention.
As a result, writers have had to adapt.
Shorter paragraphs. More transitional words and phrases. Variation in rhythm.
When we open a book or magazine, we’re usually at home or somewhere quiet. We’ll set aside some time and give it our full attention.
But online, we scan content and decide, within seconds, whether to stay or go.
To survive in digital media, writers have to account for shorter attention spans and increased competition.
So, now that we understand the why, let’s look at the how.
The Rules of the 2019 Paragraph
Rule #1. In Digital Media, Short Paragraphs are Mandatory
Online, one of the easiest ways to instantly turn off your audience is to present them with a big wall of text that has few breaks and little white space.
We have adapted to expect and prefer paragraphs that are short because they look and feel easier to read. Short paragraphs are easier to scan, and they allow readers to consume the article in bite-sized chunks, which helps maintain their focus.
Consider, for example, the ease with which you can read the introduction to this article by Mel Wicks:
Yes, Mel Wicks uses empathetic language and easy-to-read prose, which no doubt enhances her clarity. But you can’t ignore the sense you get just by glancing at her article that it will be an easy read.
This is the effect short paragraphs have on readers.
In the above article, Mel’s introduction has ten paragraphs. The longest paragraph is 42 words, and seven of them have only 12 words or less.
So, what’s the new standard? How long is a paragraph in 2019?
Well, in digital media your average paragraph should be between two and four lines. You can go over and under — some paragraphs are just one powerful word long — but stay close to that average and you should be fine.
Rule #2. Rhythm Dictates the Next Paragraph
Rhythm is the new arbiter of words. It determines where paragraphs end and where new ones begin.
Rhythm in writing is hard to teach. It’s not an exact science and doesn’t follow hard rules.
The more experienced you become as a writer, the more you’ll develop your rhythm. But in the meantime, you can follow these basic guidelines for when to start a new paragraph:
While you want to keep your paragraphs short in digital media, every paragraph doesn’t have to be (or need to be) short.
In fact, switching between short and long paragraphs will make your writing sing.
Here are a few noteworthy rules of thumb. You don’t have to follow these perfectly, but they’re worth remembering:
Too many same-sized paragraphs in a row will bore your reader. It doesn’t matter if it’s too many small paragraphs or too many long paragraphs.
Consider this excerpt from Jon Morrow’s post on earning passive income online:
See how he perfectly balances between short and long paragraphs?
Now imagine if the same excerpt was structured this way:
Even though all of these paragraphs are short, this text feels monotonous.
Too many short paragraphs make a reader feel like they’re on a rollercoaster ride with no destination — they’re moving fast but they quickly get confused about where they’re going.
Ultimately, you want to guide your reader. And the only way to do that effectively is to recognize when your reader needs a few short paragraphs, a long one, or a bit of both.
While topic was once the ultimate indicator of paragraph change, it is now one of many. Topic is still critical for clarity. If you change paragraphs at a topically awkward time, the split disturbs the reader.
Take, for example, this excerpt from Liz Longacre’s article:
Imagine these paragraphs were structured like this instead …
Notice the difference in how you read the original paragraph versus the variation.
In the original, the last paragraph tactfully emphasizes the difficulty of learning how to start a blog. But in the variation, you take a mental pause between “There are so many learning curves” and “Plugins you’ll need to install.”
And it feels off, doesn’t it?
The last three sentences are examples of learning curves, which means they are topically linked to the phrase introducing them (“There are so many learning curves”).
In digital media, readers still expect topics will — for the most part — stick with each other.
Short paragraphs naturally add emphasis.
They can be used to highlight ideas you want the reader to take note of, but they can also be used for dramatic effect.
For example, check out Jon’s introduction to How to Start a Blog in 2019: Research Reveals 20X Faster Method:
Jon’s introduction asks the reader a question with a long paragraph. And then, for emphasis, he adds: “But there’s not. It’s totally real.”
This paragraph conveys a dramatic turn of events. The shortness of the paragraph emphasizes this.
The longer paragraph preps the reader for the punch, and the short paragraph brings it home.
You don’t always have to go from a long paragraph to a short paragraph to create emphasis. You can also use a gradual decline in word count and finish with your main point. This builds the reader up to the punchline.
Here’s another example, taken from The Brutally Honest Guide To Being Brutally Honest.
The author, Josh Tucker, decreases wordcount over three relatively short paragraphs to bring attention to his final sentence: “How you end the discussion can make all the difference.”
Think of paragraph length in the same way you think about the rest of your writing. Your word choice, sentence length, and paragraph structure all have a massive impact on what your article communicates.
Writing a Paragraph Readers Will Love Isn’t Hard
Not anymore, anyway.
Despite the difficulty in grabbing the attention of today’s digital readers, you now know how to turn visitors into content absorbers by crafting easy-to-read paragraphs — paragraphs that are short, rhythmic, and varied.
And, you now know a few pointers for what it takes to craft content teachers, professors, and editors in print media will adore.
Know your audience, and know how paragraphs should be constructed for said audience.
Do that and you’re golden.
Readers will appreciate your courteous writing and — dare I say? — they’ll keep coming back for more.
The post How to Write a Paragraph in 2019 (Yes, the Rules Have Changed) appeared first on Smart Blogger.
Social Media and Blogging have gone hand in hand. But over the last few years, things have changed.
If you’re wondering what the future holds, and what, if any, changes bloggers need to make, then keep reading.
Listen to the episode
Click below to listen to me discuss this topic in more depth.
Social Media is Changing
A lot has happened in the social media landscape over the last 2 years. Of all the social networks, Facebook has been at the center of most of the controversy.
As a result of all of these issues, Facebook is now the most distrusted tech company. And there are legal implications to everything that has happened.
In fact, Facebook has reported that they are preparing for an up to $5 billion fine by the FTC.
It has come to a point where Facebook has to make some drastic changes if they want to survive.
If no changes are made, government regulation is on the horizon (as well as more fines). In fact,
These changes will have ripple effects that will change the way we interact with social media all across the board.
What the research shows
Those numbers look even worse among ages 12 – 34. The estimated amount of uses went from 79% in 2017 to 62% (82 million to 65 million).
And according to Social Media Examiner’s Industry report, there is a declining interest in Facebook (from 67% in the previous year’s report to 61%).
To make things worse, only 51% of marketers actually plan on increasing their organic Facebook activities (down from 62%).
Not to mention, this data was collected and reported on before the recent changes Facebook announced at F8.
If I were to guess, I’d say the numbers would be even lower today.
Facebook’s announcements at F8
At F8 (Facebook’s annual developer conference), Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage and announced some drastic changes.
Facebook is getting a complete redesign – the most significant redesign to date. In his words, they are building a “privacy-focused social platform.”
In this new design, Facebook groups, stories, and events are being emphasized, while News feed is being de-emphasized.
If you'd like to watch the entire Keynote, here you go…
What this means for bloggers
With these changes, organic reach will be virtually dead. Facebook will no longer be a platform for free public exposure and organic traffic generation.
If you’ve been dependent solely on social media for driving traffic to your blog, your traffic will decline significantly.
Many bloggers will fall by the wayside. But, I believe that this provides an excellent opportunity for bloggers who are willing to step up their game.
How bloggers should adapt
If you’re still with me, this means you still have some hope. You may be wondering what you can do in light of these changes. Is all hope gone?
Absolutely not. I’m going to share 10 tips with you that I believe will help you thrive in this rapidly changing world.
Tip 1: Stop building your platform on rented land
So they go all in on that platform and build their entire “empire” on there. Unfortunately, when you do this, you put yourself at the mercy of the platform.
And the bad news for you and I is that these platforms don't see building our businesses as their priority, nor should they.
They are in it to make their businesses successful, and that's exactly how you should be thinking.
When you build your own blog, you are building your platform. And while it may not seem as glamorous as having a million subscribers, you are setting yourself up for long-term success.
Tip 2: Have a strategic content creation strategy
I'm definitely NOT saying that you should monetize every post, slap ads all over your content or make everything promotional.
However, what I'm saying is that you should think through how each piece of content contributes to the goals you set for your business.
It may be that the purpose of a post is to be educational. Well, make sure that it's providing the right kind of education for your ideal customer. And make sure that it leads them on a journey to either consuming more of your content or going deeper in their relationship with you and your business.
Tip 3: Focus on your email strategy
Newsflash: Email is NOT dead. In fact, it's far from it. Having an email list is having a direct line of communication with your audience. And in my business, my email list is the #1 driver of my sales.
I've connected with a number of bloggers who have been around long enough to see significant declines in social media reach. The ones who are still around and thriving are the ones who prioritize email as a part of their blogging strategy.
Don't let Mark Zuckerburg (or any other social media execs) determine who gets to see your content. Take control of that process. Focus on your email strategy.
Tip 4: Go deep rather than wide
The world doesn't need more general health and fitness blogs. Been there, done that. However, the world of vegan women who do CrossFit would probably be excited to see a blog for them.
Instead of trying to expand to serve everyone (or to cater to all your own interests), focus even more on a specific niche and be the best source of information for them on the Internet.
Tip 5: Quality trumps quantity
Well, those days are gone. While there's some argument to be made for showing up often, it's becoming more important to make sure that you serve your audience in the best way possible. Instead of posting thin, fluffy content, focus on delivering value at every step of the way.
Along similar lines, it's not about the number of subscribers you have. It's about the quality of the community you've built. You don't need that many people to build a successful business.
If you have 834 people who are willing to spend $10/month or 167 people willing to spend $50/month in your business, you have a 6-figure business.
Tip 6: Learn about Search Engine Optimization
The better you are at SEO, the more likely you will be to show up in the search engines. The more likely you are to show up in the search engines, the more traffic you will have.
It's time to step up your game on the SEO front. And I don't mean hiring some random SEO team who emailed you promising to get you on the first page in 30 days.
I mean investing in SEO education for yourself or someone on your team, or bringing on someone who has a proven and verifiable track record.
Tip 7: Use video in a helpful way
We used to say that video is the future. We can no longer say that. Video is becoming an essential part of how the internet functions and how people consume content.
If you aren't using video as a part of your content strategy, you're missing out. Video provides a great opportunity for you to educate, inform or entertain your audience in a way that can contribute to your bottom line. It's a great way to get in front of a new audience as well as provide more value to your current audience.
YouTube is still the second most popular search engine in the world. And quite frankly, I find it a much easier to rank in YouTube than in Google.
Tip 8: Think as a community builder, not a content broadcaster
This is one lesson I'm actually taking from Mark Zuckerberg. If you want to build a thriving online business, you have to stop thinking like a broadcaster. It's not all about people listening to what you have to say.
While that does work to a certain extent, a more powerful way to build online is by facilitating conversation and connection. We are community builders. And fortunately, there are all kinds of tools to make this easier in 2019.
Tip 9: Show up consistently with multiple touch points
Make a decision about where you want to engage with your audience and create content on those platforms that complement the content on your blog. Stimulate conversations and be a part of the community.
The more they see you and get value from you, the more likely they will be to do business with you.
Tip 10: Track, test, tweak, improve
I decided to save the best for last. This is the ninja tip that makes the world a difference. Here's the fact – there isn't ANY strategy that will work for any two people in the same exact way.
What you need to determine is what works best for you. Fortunately, we have free tools that allow us to effectively determine this.
By using Google Analytics, setting up your goals correctly, using tracking URLs, and Google Search Console, you have everything you need.
Yes, I mentioned a bunch of technical stuff there. Yes, it takes work. No, it's not all easy. But is it worth it? Absolutely.
You may have noticed something as you read through all those tips. I'm not suggesting anything new. There was nothing revolutionary about what I proposed here.
In fact, all I'm basically saying is that we need to get back to the core of what it means to be a blogger and run a business.
Let's go back, to move forward. Create awesome content, do it consistently, build your community and have a solid business model.
If you make those things your priority, you are doing exactly what you need to do to thrive with your blogging efforts in 2019 and beyond.
If you’re starting your blog on a budget, a free WordPress theme is a great way to keep costs down.
There are literally thousands of free WordPress themes to sort through. And when you search for guidance on Google, you’re greeted with articles offering dozens (or hundreds) of free WordPress theme options.
Let’s be honest:
You don’t need a list of dozens (or hundreds) of free WordPress themes. There’s not enough time in the day to review them all, and most of them sound the same anyway.
No, what you need is a small list of themes that have been vouched for and vetted by people who know what they’re talking about.
And you need that list to be broken down in a way that makes it easy for you to choose the theme that best fits your needs.
In short, you need the post you’re reading right now.
We asked 11 influential WordPress experts and bloggers the following, open-ended question:
They were allowed to pick up to two themes.
Here are the results:
1. Astra by Brainstorm Force
A Look at Astra (in 50 Words or Less)
Astra is a popular multipurpose theme that offers a lightweight, optimized foundation that you can build into your own unique design via a set of simple, customization options. No coding is required.
The TL;DR for Astra
Of our 11 experts, 7 chose Astra in our survey.
300k Active Installs
There are more than 300,000 active installations of the Astra theme.
Users have given Astra an average rating of 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.
What Our Experts Say About Astra
The Astra theme is perfect for someone who’s getting started with blogging. Not only can you easily control the look and feel of the blog through the settings in the WordPress Customizer; but you can also import a complete starter site for free using the Astra Sites plugin. This can get you up and running in minutes.
Brad Morrison, Founder of GoWP
I’m a big fan of keeping things as simple and as fast as possible and the default “out of the box” Astra experience aligns with my own ethos perfectly. As a theme author I was pleasantly surprised at how many sensible defaults they had adopted meaning I think I spent less time setting this blog up than any other in recent memory!
Colm Troy, Co-founder of Create and Code
The free version comes with a lot of flexibility, it’s very well coded and the team behind it is great at support. It also works perfectly with WordPress’ new block editor as well as Beaver Builder and Elementor, so it’s a great option no matter how you build your content.
Nick Adams, COO at WP Buffs
Sure, [Astra] may not be the snazziest theme out there in it’s “out of the box” form, but it’s lightweight and gives you a great platform to build upon.
Want to get started right now? Install the theme, activate, make a few tweaks and get your blog out there. So, you can start writing today! Then, once you’re ready, you can grab the add-ons to the theme and customize it further.
Adam Connell, Founder of Blogging Wizard
Astra is one WordPress theme that has been on my radar for a while. We are actually moving ShoutMeLoud from Genesis to Astra for a few reasons:
Harsh Agrawal, Founder of ShoutMeLoud
In case you missed it, Harsh Agrawl is moving his website to Astra. That’s how big a fan he is of the theme.
Astra also received votes from Karol Krol and Daan Tol. We’ll have more from them later.
Key Features of Astra
Final Thoughts on Astra
If you want a free, lightweight theme that excels at customization and performance, Astra is a great choice.
2. Writee by Scissor Themes
A Look at Writee (in 50 Words or Less)
Writee is a clean theme that puts the focus on your writing, along with a spot for a bold, full-width featured image.
The TL;DR for Writee
Of our 11 experts, 3 chose Writee in our survey.
30k Active Installs
There are more than 30,000 active installations of the Writee theme.
Users have given Writee an average rating of 4.8 out of 5.0 stars.
What Our Experts Say About Writee
My recommended free WordPress theme for bloggers is Writee by Scissor Themes. This theme has a clean and modern design that is simple enough to work for all sorts of blogs. It’s very easy to set up, making it ideal for beginners. It comes with a range of widgets that bloggers will need, such as an ‘About Me’ widget and social widget.
Katie Keith, Co-founder of Barn2 Media
Writee is a free blogging theme found in the WordPress Repository, meaning it was built using the highest coding practices. It will work for all types of blogging sites, is easy to customize using the Live Customizer, and can easily be translated into the language of your choice if needed. Though there is room for more advanced customizations when it comes to the layout, sidebars, and navigation menus, Writee is perfect out-of-the-box and is suitable for even the most novice of bloggers.
Devesh Sharma, Founder of WPKube
There are a lot of excellent free blogging themes out there, but one standout is Writee by Scissor Themes. It has striking visuals, a lot of customization potential, and some other neat features.
Charlie Livingston, Founder of aThemes
Key Features of Writee
Final Thoughts on Writee
Writee is a great option if you want something that’s going to look great right out of the box. This contrasts with Astra and some of the other free WordPress themes on this list, where you’re expected to put in a little elbow grease to make them your own.
With Writee, you just activate it and start writing.
3. GeneratePress by Tom Usborne
A Look at GeneratePress (in 50 Words or Less)
GeneratePress is another popular option that shares the same philosophy as Astra. That is, it’s a lightweight chameleon that you can adapt to any niche or need.
In performance tests, GeneratePress usually ends up at the top of the pack, which is great if you want your blog to load fast. Beyond that, it also comes with over-the-top good support.
The TL;DR for GeneratePress
Of our 11 experts, 1 chose GeneratePress in our survey.
100k Active Installs
There are more than 100,000 active installations of the GeneratePress theme.
Users have given GeneratePress an average rating of 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.
What Our Experts Say About GeneratePress
Tom Usborne (the owner/creator of GeneratePress) is very helpful on [the support forum]. I could solve all my problems just by searching in the support forum. He also gives some great tips for using plugins that go very well with his theme (Code Snippets, Simple CSS). This way of working kept my theme vanilla so that I can always update without having to worry. For a non-coder like me – that’s the dream.
Daan Tol, Owner of WPLift
Key Features of GeneratePress
Final Thoughts on GeneratePress
Like Astra, GeneratePress will look pretty basic when you first install it. However, the magic of this theme is the many options in the WordPress Customizer that let you build it into the exact look you want.
If you’re willing to put in some time, you can create the theme of your dreams, and it will all be powered by a lightweight, performance-optimized foundation.
Finally, as Daan mentioned, the theme’s developer, Tom Usborne, offers amazing support if you ever need a helping hand.
4. Neve by Themeisle
A Look at Neve (in 50 Words or Less)
Neve is a lightweight theme that’s optimized to work with the new WordPress block editor (also known as the Gutenberg editor). It’s also on the list of the most popular free WordPress themes at WordPress.org, which means that, although it’s new, it’s getting a lot of traction.
While you certainly can customize Neve to suit your needs, it looks more “polished” out of the box, and it also comes with a variety of pre-built demo sites that you can import with just a few clicks.
The TL;DR for Neve
Of our 11 experts, 1 chose Neve in our survey.
30k Active Installs
There are more than 30,000 active installations of the Neve theme.
Users have given Neve an average rating of 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.
What Our Experts Say About Neve
If you’d rather get a theme that looks great out the box and simply works without necessarily needing to dive through various settings panels, use Neve. It gives you a modern, beautiful design that’s also built with performance in mind. Plus, it’s the top 10 most popular free theme in the official theme directory at WordPress.org. What more could you need?
Karol Krol, Heads Content at Themeisle
Key Features of Neve
Final Thoughts on Neve
As Karol highlighted, Neve makes a great option if you want something that’s going to look great as soon as you install it. If you like the default looks, you can just install it and start writing. Or, if you want to switch things up, but don’t want to redesign things yourself, you can also import one of the pre-built demo sites by clicking a few buttons.
5. Reykjavik by WebMan Design
A Look at Reykjavik (in 50 Words or Less)
Reykjavik brands itself as a free business WordPress theme, but it’s got a great look that can just as easily be adapted to blogging or other niches.
As the name suggests, you get a very “Nordic” feel to the styling.
(Basically, if you like Ikea, you’ll probably like this WordPress theme!)
The TL;DR for Reykjavik
Of our 11 experts, 1 chose Reykjavik in our survey.
2k Active Installs
There are more than 2,000 active installations of the Reykjavik theme.
Users have given Reykjavik an average rating of 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.
What Our Experts Say About Reykjavik
Reykjavik is a fresh, lightweight theme that features minimalist style. It is therefore a great fit for blogging and portfolio type websites.
Marko Segota, Co-founder of Anariel Design
Key Features of Reykjavik
Final Thoughts on Reykjavik
Reykjavik is another option that will give you a great-looking site from the second you install it. The clean styling also does a great job of highlighting your content, and will satisfy your love of Nordic style more than an ALLEMANSRÄTTEN meatball.
(Those are the meatballs at Ikea, if you’re not familiar.)
6. Cali by aThemes
A Look at Cali (in 50 Words or Less)
With its focus on visual imagery, Cali makes a great option for fashion, lifestyle, and travel blogs.
Beyond its looks, Cali also builds in some other helpful features for bloggers, like a newsletter integration (via the MailChimp for WordPress plugin), dedicated spots for social media follow buttons at both the top and bottom of your page, and space to bring in your Instagram feed (via the WP Instagram Widget plugin).
The TL;DR for Cali
Of our 11 experts, 1 chose Cali in our survey.
1k Active Installs
There are more than 1,000 active installations of the Cali theme.
Users have given Cali an average rating of 3.0 out of 5.0 stars.
What Our Experts Say About Cali
(I) also recommend our own Cali theme. It has plenty of cool options for bloggers – including a posts carousel, a wide selection of fonts to choose from, and social media integration.
Charlie Livingston, Founder of aThemes
Key Features of Cali
Final Thoughts on Cali
Cali’s looks are best suited for lifestyle, fashion, or travel blogs…or really just any niche with a heavy focus on imagery. Beyond that, it does a good job of integrating social media into its design, which, if you’re active on social media, is another big benefit to choosing this theme.
7. Didi Lite by Anariel Design
A Look at Didi Lite (in 50 Words or Less)
If you want something minimal that will put the focus on your strong words, Didi Lite is a great free option that has one of the simplest looks on this list. The theme offers plenty of white space and unique typography options that will help your site stand out.
As the “lite” in the name suggests, there’s also a premium version that you can purchase if you decide you’d like more layouts and customization options in the future.
The TL;DR for Didi Lite
Of our 11 experts, 1 chose Didi Lite in our survey.
700+ Active Installs
There are more than 700 active installations of the Didi Lite theme.
Users have given Didi Lite an average rating of 4.5 out of 5.0 stars.
What Our Experts Say About Didi Lite
Didi Lite is a modern blogging theme, built mobile first, that offers sleek layout and beautiful typography. With its minimalistic design it brings readers’ focus to what really matters: the content.
Marko Segota, Co-founder of Anariel Design
Key Features of Didi Lite
Final Thoughts on Didi Lite
With its minimal design, Didi Lite makes a great option for both text-heavy blogs, as well as fashion or lifestyle blogs (because you also get the option to display large featured images).
It’s also another good option if you want a theme that looks “polished” as soon as you install it.
8. OceanWP by OceanWP
A Look at OceanWP (in 50 Words or Less)
OceanWP is another free theme that follows the chameleon principles of Astra and GeneratePress. Once again, that means it’s a flexible foundation that you can build into your dream blog theme.
Like Astra and Neve, OceanWP also offers some free demo sites that you can import if you don’t want to customize your design from scratch.
The TL;DR for OceanWP
Of our 11 experts, 1 chose OceanWP in our survey.
300k Active Installs
There are more than 300,000 active installations of the OceanWP theme.
Users have given OceanWP an average rating of 5.0 out of 5.0 stars.
What Our Experts Say About OceanWP
I like the set of options OceanWP has for the headers. It has so many well-designed options out of the box. Plus the free extensions are awesome. [The free extensions] offer you a lot of (customizable) control on your website.
Daan Tol, Owner of WPLift
Key Features of OceanWP
Final Thoughts on OceanWP
OceanWP has a lot of similarities to GeneratePress and Astra, but it’s a little more focused on offering design and functionality flexibility, rather than just acting as a lightweight canvas. For example, you’ll find official free extensions for social sharing, sticky headers, and more that you won’t get with Astra or GeneratePress.
Free WordPress Themes: Frequently Asked Questions
Before we wrap up, let’s look at a few common questions we hear from readers regarding free WordPress themes. Questions like:
1. Free WordPress Themes vs Premium Themes: Is There a Difference?
When it comes to free WordPress themes vs premium WordPress themes, there are a lot of misconceptions out there.
Have you seen people write stuff like “premium themes are coded better than free themes”? Or “premium themes offer better designs”? How about “premium themes load faster than free themes”? Or even “premium themes are more secure than free themes”?
As someone who makes his living in the WordPress space, let me tell you that none of that is true. It’s just impossible to make those generalizations based solely on a theme’s price tag.
Free themes are code.
Premium themes are code.
You can have perfectly coded free themes and poorly coded premium themes. You can have well-maintained free themes, and premium themes that haven’t been updated in years. And, of course, the opposite can also be true.
What’s more, many themes are both free and premium. For example, the Astra theme that came so highly recommended comes in both a free and a premium version, and the “core” theme is exactly the same between each. The code doesn’t suddenly become “better” when you crack open your wallet, right?
Long story short:
There’s not a single inherent difference between free themes vs premium themes and there’s no reason you need to feel compelled to use a premium WordPress theme.
So if you absolutely love a free WordPress theme, it comes from a quality developer who maintains it, and it does everything you need it to already, just use it and be happy!
That doesn’t mean premium themes have no benefits
If you noticed above, you’ll see I used phrases like “inherent difference.” That’s because I wanted to hedge my bets a little bit. ?
There is, of course, a reason why premium themes exist, and it might turn out that a premium theme actually is a better option for your unique situation, especially as your blog starts growing.
Even if you start with a free WordPress theme, here are some reasons to consider going Pro in the future:
2. How Much are Premium WordPress Themes?
Because each developer sets their own prices, there’s a lot of variation in how much premium WordPress themes cost.
However, on average, you’ll usually spend about $60 for most premium WordPress themes. For example, the premium version of Astra sits right at $59, and many of the premium themes that you’ll find at ThemeForest also adopt this pricing.
Typically, that price also comes with one year of support and updates for your theme. After that first year, you can continue to use your theme on your site, but you will need to pay again if you wish to continue receiving support and updates.
3. What’s the Difference Between Free WordPress Themes and Free WordPress Templates?
Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they are very different. A WordPress theme controls the design of your entire website. A WordPress template controls the layout for a specific page (or specific pages) within your website — e.g. your contact page, your individual blog posts, etc.
In short, if someone tells you they’re looking for “free WordPress templates” or the like, they probably mean themes.
4. Can I Use a WordPress Theme if I’m not on WordPress?
No, WordPress themes are for websites that use WordPress as its CMS (content management system).
If you’re using Wix, Blogger, or a different blogging platform, you won’t be able to use WordPress themes for your website’s design.
5. How do I Find WordPress Themes?
If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect WordPress theme after our list, here are some tips for other spots where you can find WordPress themes.
For free WordPress themes, your best bet is to use the official WordPress.org theme directory.
Beyond just generally being a huge collection of free WordPress themes, another benefit is that every theme listed in the directory has to go through a basic code review process.
While this process is not foolproof for eliminating all issues, it does mean that any theme you find at WordPress.org is at least going to be free from any major errors or problems and coded to a minimum level of quality.
For premium WordPress themes, Smart Blogger typically recommends Elegant Themes (affiliate link) and Avada (affiliate link). However, you’ll have no shortage of options. Browse around, read reviews, and test as many demos as you can.
So, What’s the Best Free WordPress Theme?
That will depend on your particular needs and situation.
Based on the feedback from our experts, Astra leads the pack. But any of the free WordPress themes mentioned in this post are great options.
Take each one for a test drive.
See which one fits your website like a glove.
And be sure to let us know in the comments section which one you like best.
The post 8 Best Free WordPress Themes of 2019 (Chosen by Experts) appeared first on Smart Blogger.
Ever dreamed of lying on the beach while earning tons of passive income?
I wanted to build my own business that generated thousands of dollars while I slept, partied, and traveled around the world.
So, in 2015, my friends and I created a niche website to teach beginners how to breakdance.
Sadly, we never made enough money to quit our jobs and move to paradise.
But here’s the thing…
Though we weren’t successful, the experience taught me a lot about how to build a niche website, market it, and monetize it. And combined with the knowledge I’ve gained working at Ahrefs, I now know the keys to success.
In this post, I’m going to show you what I’ve learned:
What I did right, what I did wrong, and what I would do differently if I created a new niche site today.
We’ll start with a quick definition, followed by a few examples…
What is a Niche Website?
A niche website is a website that caters to a small segment of a large market by focusing on a common, specific interest.
My website, BreakDance Decoded, was a niche website. It specifically targeted breakdancers, which is a small part of the much larger “dance” market.
Other examples of niche sites are Mr. Money Mustache (focusing on saving and budgeting in the personal finance market) and Kopywriting Kourse (focusing on copywriting in the marketing/business market).
There’s a common misconception that a niche website is a small site. This isn’t true.
“Niche” refers to the segment of the market, not the size of the website.
A site can be niche and still have thousands of pages covering a variety of topics related to the niche.
Nerd Fitness is a niche website that writes about fitness for nerds. Even though it’s only targeting a specific type of persona, the site has hundreds of blog posts ranking for important keywords in Google.
In general, a niche website is an information website. It either produces or sells information that solve problems (e.g. courses, ebooks, etc.).
It may eventually pivot to other monetization models like e-commerce, but the core engine behind the site is information.
Now that you know what a niche site is, let’s take a look at how you create one:
1. Choose Your Niche
For many aspiring bloggers, niche selection is one of the most challenging dilemmas they face when starting a blog.
They either have too many ideas, or — worse — they have no idea what kind of site they should build.
It doesn’t help that there’s lots of contradictory advice out there: some people suggest you start with your passion, while others say you should choose a niche that’s profitable.
How I Chose My Niche
Personally, I started with my passion.
Not counting my job, breakdancing was the activity I spent the most time doing. So, setting up a niche site that would educate people about breakdancing was a no-brainer for me.
If you’re completely new to building a site and you just want to learn how things work, I would recommend you start with your passion.
Because growing a website is hard work.
But if you’re creating content on a topic you’re passionate about, you’ll be able to find the motivation to persist on those days you feel like quitting.
(And trust me, those days will be frequent.)
How I Would Choose My Niche Today
Today, I would choose a profitable niche.
It’s a niche with a large audience that buys things.
And that’s what you want:
A market where people are buying, buying, and buying.
While it was fun to write about breakdancing, it was a tough market to crack. When we started, there weren’t any other niche sites about breakdancing. Our competing sites were mostly e-commerce stores selling apparel for breakdancers.
In hindsight, that should have been a warning sign.
If there are no competitors in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), you should be concerned.
Competitors = Viable Market
Competition is healthy. It’s a sign the market is worth entering. It’s a sign there’s money to be made.
We should have listened.
To help you avoid the mistake we made, here are a couple tips to help you find profitable niches:
Tip #1: Brainstorm + Snooping Around
Sit down and brainstorm some niches you’re interested in pursuing. Then, do a quick Google search to see if there are any sites dedicated to them.
You can search for “best [niche] blogs” to get started (e.g. “best breakdancing blogs”).
And once you’ve found a few potential competitors in your niche, “snoop” around their site and see how they’re monetizing.
If they have a variety of products, it could be a good niche.
For example, let’s say I am interested in the paleo niche. A quick Google search for the “best paleo blogs” brings me to this site:
Looking around, I can see Diane monetizes her site in a variety of ways:
Seems like a good niche!
Tip #2: Browse Affiliate Marketplaces
Alternatively, you can also look into affiliate networks like ClickBank and Amazon Associates. These are middlemen networks that connect bloggers and niche site owners with companies offering affiliate marketing opportunities.
You have an audience, they have a product. Perfect match!
Affiliate networks are ideal because:
Just go through them until you find products you’re interested in.
Here’s an example:
Right now, I’m learning Russian. So, I might be interested in starting a niche site about the Russian language.
And lo and behold, ClickBank has a category for the Russian language. Cool!
Unfortunately, there is only one product for sale in this category.
That isn’t promising. If it was a profitable niche, there would probably be more options.
However, when I click on “Languages”, I see lots of courses. And if I follow tip #1, searching for “best language hacking blogs” brings back a strong list of competitors, such as Fluent in 3 Months.
So, “Russian” might be too niche.
But “language” learning could be a niche worth pursuing.
2. Setup Your Site
Done with niche selection?
Great. Now it’s time to setup your site.
There are four things you need when you first get started:
Now, don’t worry if you’re not tech-savvy. I wasn’t great when I started too. I’ll be running through what each of them are, so you can get started fast.
How I Setup My Site (and How I Would Do it Differently Today)
This is a domain. Think of your domain as the address to your house.
A lot of beginners get stuck on this phase. They procrastinate, hoping to find a perfect domain name.
The hard truth? There’s no such thing.
For us, we wanted a domain that was memorable but self-explanatory. We wanted people to understand what the site was about immediately.
That meant we needed the word “breakdance” in our domain. After brainstorming a few ideas, and consulting the thesaurus, we settled on breakdancedecoded.com.
Don’t spend all your time deciding on the domain. Just make sure it is:
If you’re stuck, you can use a tool like Domain Name Brain to give you some ideas:
Next: A Hosting Provider
To have a house, you need to have the architecture to hold it.
Your host is that architecture.
A hosting provider allows your website to be accessible on the Internet.
Since we weren’t technically-savvy, we followed a friend’s instruction and got our hosting from WPEngine.
In hindsight, that wasn’t a good decision. WPEngine is great, but it is pretty costly for a beginner site that won’t get that much traffic.
If you’re starting out, you probably won’t be getting very much traffic. So, it’s better to get a cheaper host.
There are plenty of hosting providers out there. Take a look around. Smart Blogger recommends SiteGround (affiliate link), so they’re one option to consider.
Content Management System (CMS)
A content management system is an online tool that enables you to create and manage your content (e.g. blog posts). WordPress is the most popular CMS, but there are other alternatives too.
Since we were using WPEngine, we turned to WordPress as our blogging platform.
As you’ll see later on, the biggest traffic channel for a niche site will likely be Google. As such, you should choose a CMS that is SEO-friendly.
Most search engine optimization (SEO) experts recommend WordPress, and it’s the CMS I recommend too.
Once you’re done with the installation, you’ll need a theme.
A theme is a template that defines the appearance of your site. (Think of it like the design of your house).
For our theme, we chose Genesis.
Genesis isn’t the best-looking theme around, but at the time we were looking for efficiency and ease of use. (Plus, we weren’t that great with design.) We also figured that we could upgrade to a better theme later on, if we got more successful.
With its simplicity, Genesis was a great theme for us. If you’re more design-savvy, feel free to pick another theme.
Once you’re done, install these two free plugins:
If you want more WordPress plugins to install, check out this list of time savers.
3. Do Topic Research
Your foundation is set.
It’s time to start getting traffic to your site.
How I Did My Topic Research
Now, at this point, most bloggers make the same mistake:
They write about whatever tickles their fancy.
I know because I did the same thing.
I brainstormed topics I thought would resonate with my audience, and then I wrote about them. The only reason I got away with it was because I was a breakdancer writing to other breakdancers.
I knew the topics that would interest my audience because I was a part of that audience.
But if you’re working in a niche that is unfamiliar to you, you can’t just write about anything you want.
Those topics won’t resonate and you won’t build an audience.
Your content won’t rank in Google, which means no traffic will come to your site.
How I Would Do My Topic Research Today
For most niche sites, the best way to get traffic is SEO.
SEO is an acquisition channel that will grow passively. As long as you are ranking well for the keywords you’re targeting, you will get passive traffic.
Compare that with other channels.
You could experiment with paid ads (for example, Facebook ads), but as soon as you stop the campaign or run out of money, your traffic dries up immediately.
The same goes for social media. You have to either build up a large audience (difficult) or bank on viral hits (also difficult). And as soon as you stop tweeting and sharing, whatever traffic you were getting will disappear.
Search engine traffic doesn’t stop. It keeps going. Even when you’re sleeping.
If you want search traffic, you need to write about topics that people are searching for. In other words:
You need to create content for topics with search traffic potential.
In SEO parlance, this is known as keyword research.
Here are a few ways you can do it:
Use a Keyword Research Tool
The easiest way to get started is to use a keyword research tool.
Enter any seed keywords related to your niche into a keyword research tool, and it will generate hundreds of different ideas you can target.
For example, here’s a free keyword tool called AnswerThePublic:
AnswerThePublic generates ideas for you based on different categories: questions, prepositions, comparisons, alphabeticals, etc.
There are plenty of other free tools out there, like:
Take your pick.
One of the most important metrics SEOs look at when doing keyword research is search volume. Essentially, search volume is the amount of searches per month for a keyword.
The problem with a free tool is that, while it’s free, it usually has either missing or incomplete data.
As such, you might want to consider using a professional keyword tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer (affiliate link).
You can access it using the Ahrefs’ $7 for 7-days trial.
Enter a seed keyword into Keywords Explorer, and it will generate thousands of keyword ideas, plus all sorts of relevant SEO metrics:
Here’s a quick explanation of everything you’re seeing in the above screenshot:
Lurk in Communities
There are communities for every imaginable topic out there.
You name it, they have it.
People gather in these communities to ask questions, discuss trending news, get recommendations, and so on.
Translation: these communities offer a wealth of topics for your niche site.
When we started, we hung out a lot on r/bboy, a subreddit for breakdancers. This was where we got our initial list of topics:
You can do the same too.
Do a search and find all the communities related to your niche. You can find them in places like:
And much more.
To find out if these topics have search traffic potential, you can install the Chrome/Firefox extension Keywords Everywhere on your browser.
You can also enter these topics into Keywords Explorer.
Ahrefs will show you all the SEO metrics, plus suggest a better topic for you to target (“Parent Topic”).
Figure Out What Your Competitors are Ranking for
Your competitors have done the hard work for you. They’ve been blogging and ranking in Google.
Your job? Borrow generously.
Find out what’s working for them, and then replicate those topic ideas.
Most sites feature their best-performing posts on their blogs, usually in a sidebar:
You can easily see which keywords they’re optimizing for.
For example, the post 595 Power Words That’ll Instantly Make You a Better Writer is obviously optimizing for the keyword “power words.”
If you’re unsure, you can click through to the post. If they’re SEO-savvy, they would have optimized their URLs for the target keyword.
Of course, the best way is to use a tool like Site Explorer.
Enter your competitor’s domain into the tool and go to the “Top Pages” report, where you’ll see all the pages sending them the most search traffic:
4. Create Your Content
Jon Morrow is right:
If you want to rank in Google, build an audience and compete with others, you have to create epic content.
You have to publish the best article ever written about those topics with search traffic potential.
The posts have to be detailed.
They have to be in-depth.
They have to answer every single question about that topic.
How I Created My Content
When we began our niche site, we were already huge fans of the detailed, long-form articles published by Smart Blogger and Backlinko.
So, we sought to emulate them.
We even published a 17,000-word article on how to get started with breakdancing.
It was our most successful article, but it took us almost a month to write.
You might be wondering:
Answer: you don’t.
What you should do is to focus on quality, not quantity.
If you have to publish less, so be it. Don’t sacrifice the depth of your article on some arbitrary content schedule.
(For us, it was impossible to stick to a schedule, as we had full-time jobs.)
You want to be known for the quality of your work — not how quickly you pump out new articles.
That being said, what does it mean to create great content?
When we started, all we knew was we needed to create something in-depth. We weren’t writers and had no blogging experience.
In short, we had no way to measure and define “great content.” We just went with our instincts.
Today, things are different. After reading and writing so many pieces of content, I can see which articles can be classified as great, and which can’t.
How I Would Create My Content Today
I no longer need to rely on my instincts. I know what “great content” is and what it must embody. It needs the following three characteristics:
Characteristic #1: Quality
Quality is subjective, of course.
How then do you know you’ve created something worth shouting about?
In my experience, quality consists of three factors:
If the content you produce meets these three factors, it’s great content.
Characteristic #2: Uniqueness
There are thousands, if not millions, of articles published on similar topics each and every day.
Why would someone choose your article over the others?
The best way I’ve found to create unique content is to write from personal experience.
Characteristic #3: Authority
Do you want to learn astrophysics from a Caltech physicist, or your next-door neighbor?
Of course, it’s the Caltech physicist. (Unless, you once lived next to Richard Feynman.)
Your readers are the same way.
No matter the topic, they want to learn from an authoritative source.
If you’re the expert, great! Carry on.
But what if you aren’t?
Get the experts to help you. Be the journalist. The scribe. There are plenty of experts with great knowledge, but insufficient ability to communicate that knowledge.
You can be the go-between.
Interview them. Curate their thoughts, research and expertise. You can even invite the expert to write an article for you.
Tim Ferriss. Tim doesn’t have expertise in every topic in the world, but he touches lots of topics. He does this by inviting experts to contribute to his books.
If you read our epic guide to breakdancing, you’d see it checked all three aspects we just covered:
5. Promote Your Content
Do you want to know the greatest lie in the content marketing world?
It’s this adage:
Nothing can be further from the truth.
Think about it.
According to the latest stats, there are 4 million blog posts published every single day. That’s a lot of noise.
That also means there is an extremely low chance that somebody will randomly stumble upon your site.
If you want traffic, you have to be proactive. You have to promote your content. You have to build links.
How I Promoted My Content
We focused on three promotion techniques:
Technique #1: The “Eager Sneezers” Technique
In a post published in 2015, Bryan Harris shared how he started an email list from scratch and got 205 subscribers in 48 hours.
The technique he used? “Eager Sneezers.”
Ignoring the fancy name, it’s essentially reaching out to your friends and inviting them to join your email list.
Bryan’s biggest takeaway was your friends want to help you (so let them).
We used a variation of this idea to get our early traction.
After publishing a post on breakdance music, we reached out to multiple friends to help share it.
Fortunately, as we were breakdancers ourselves, we had a number of breakdancer friends who were more than happy to help:
Technique #2: Community Content Promotion
Remember the communities you joined earlier (where you were “lurking” for ideas)?
They’re great for content promotion too.
Here’s one example of what we did:
Now, this is not an excuse for you to strut into someone else’s community and start spamming links to your content.
Online communities exist for people to have meaningful conversations about a particular topic. Link spam defeats that purpose.
Plus, you’ll likely get booted out of the group.
The only reason I was able to promote my content in a group like this was because I was already an active member. I was participating in discussions, asking questions, and commenting.
I knew what kind of content the community would appreciate, which was why I was able to share it.
So, before you start dropping links to your content in a group, make sure you are active and understand the group’s rules.
Technique #3: Outreach to People You’ve Mentioned in Your Content
If you’ve written an epic piece of content, you’ve likely linked out to sources or quoted experts.
Let them know!
In our post, we listed 157 songs a breakdancer must listen to. This meant 157 different people we could email.
So, we did. And it resulted in one of the featured artists sharing our post on Facebook:
How I Would Promote My Content Today
According to a survey of 1,117 bloggers, higher-income bloggers put more emphasis on promoting their content than lower-income bloggers.
Translation: if you want to succeed, you have to keep on promoting your content.
If I were to create a new niche website, I would add these content promotion strategies into my toolkit.
Strategy #1: Outreach to People Who Published Articles on the Same Topic
Since they’ve written on that topic before, there is a higher probability they’ll be interested in seeing your post.
To find these people, simply enter the topic of your article (remember to try variations!) into Google. Collect the list of articles that appear in the SERPs.
Then find their email address and reach out.
Alternatively, you can use a tool like Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, a search engine for web content.
Enter the topic into Content Explorer, do some filtering (like “English only”), and export the list.
You now have a huge list of sites to reach out to.
All that’s left is to write the email.
Here are a few tips to help you write a compelling email:
You can also read this in-depth guide about blogger outreach.
Strategy #2: Guest Blogging
Guest blogging is a tactic where you write a post for another website (instead of yours).
In exchange for your “free” article, the owner gives you:
Those are just the immediate benefits. Guest blogging also allows you to build relationships with influencers, or even grow your email list.
The biggest challenge with guest blogging is finding blogs willing to accept your guest posts.
To increase your chances of being accepted, look for sites that are already accepting guest posts.
You can find these sites via Google search operators. Here are a few examples:
These sites usually have a “write for us” page, so all you have to do is to follow their instructions.
You can also look for these opportunities in Content Explorer. The reasoning: if a blog has written about a topic before, there is an increased probability they would cover it again.
Enter any word/phrase from your niche into Content Explorer.
Check the “one article per domain” box to get a list of unique domains you can potentially write for:
Some of these sites may not have an obvious “write for us” page. But, most blogs will accept a guest post if your pitch is good enough.
6. Grow Your Email List
Study the best sites in any niche, and you’ll notice one thing:
They all build an email list.
An email list is powerful because you can do almost anything with it. You could:
The possibilities are virtually endless.
How I Built My Email List
Because we were observing these huge sites, we understood the power of the email list very early on. In fact, we obsessed over collecting as many emails as possible.
We tested all kinds of strategies on the site.
We even turned our homepage into an email collection machine:
How I Would Build My Email List Today
In hindsight, we were too aggressive with our email collection.
We were so concerned with the number of emails on our list, the quality of our list suffered.
We should have focused on user experience and only placed email sign-up forms where relevant.
Over the years, Jon and the rest of the Smart Blogger team have written tons of guides on email list building, so I won’t delve too deeply into this topic.
You can check out the different resources here:
7. Experiment with Monetization
What’s the purpose of a niche site?
To make money!
As you start gaining traction on your site, and gaining a few subscribers, you can start to look into monetization.
How I Monetized My Site
At BreakDance Decoded, we experimented with a few different strategies.
Strategy #1: Patreon
Patreon is a membership platform where fans can “fund” content creators. You can create separate tiers on Patreon to reward different levels of loyalty.
Back then, Patreon was a relatively new-ish platform. We saw that a few legitimate artists and creators were generating significant amounts of money on the platform, so we gave it a shot.
This was our Patreon page:
No matter how hard we marketed ourselves, the best we did was $50 per month on Patreon.
That’s not to say Patreon doesn’t work.
There are plenty of successful Patreon artists, like Kurzgesagt, who has over 12,000 patrons supporting his work:
Your results may vary.
Strategy #2: YouTube AdSense
In addition to our website, we were also running a YouTube channel. So, we decided to see if we could make enough money from YouTube.
Yes, we dreamed of being the next PewDiePie.
These were our results:
It was decent, but it wasn’t enough for a “passive income” source.
Plus, our niche was too “specific”, so we probably didn’t generate enough views to make financial sense.
Strategy #3: Coaching
One of Jon’s recommendations was to sell video or phone coaching as a quick way to monetize your site.
We took it seriously.
We sent an email to our list, telling them we were available for personal breakdance coaching. At the time, this was a relatively new concept to the niche, so we weren’t sure if it would work out.
Surprisingly, someone took us up on it.
Strategy #4: Online Courses
By 2025, the e-learning industry will grow to about $325 billion in size.
This probably explains why most popular blogs monetize via online courses.
However, our biggest concern (back then) with an online course was the time and effort it took to create a great one. Plus, we weren’t sure if there were any demand for an online breakdance course.
The notion of spending considerable time, effort, and money into creating a course no one wanted didn’t sound appealing.
But after testing all the different strategies listed earlier, creating an online course seemed to be the most viable option.
So, we decided to launch a MVP (Minimum Viable Product).
We sent a survey to our email list, asking them for their #1 challenge.
From there, we came up with a hook we thought would interest our audience:
While we waited for feedback, we created an outline for a potential 9-week course.
Using the email hook and the outline, we crafted a 5-day email sequence modeled after Ramit Sethi’s successful launches.
Not knowing what to charge, we decided on an arbitrary sales price of $37. For the test to be successful, we told ourselves that we needed at least 10 sales.
As we weren’t technically savvy, we had no idea how to collect orders online. We also didn’t have money to invest in a shopping cart software.
So, we kept it simple:
We created a PayPal link.
Then we activated the 5-day campaign by sending our subscribers a launch email.
To our surprise, we actually managed to sign up 12 students.
Our test was successful!
The only issue? We now had to actually create the course.
Once again, instead of investing in some complicated course software to launch it, we decided to do it the easy way:
Facebook had just launched its “Live” feature and was heavily promoting it.
We decided to use it.
We created a closed Facebook group, sent an email to our 12 students, and invited them to join the group:
Then we filmed each lesson by using Facebook’s Live feature.
Besides some technical issues (like audio), we received rave reviews for our course.
Don’t let perfectionism stop you from launching. People buy courses for the information, not the software you use or how perfect it looks.
What I Would Do Differently Today
I wouldn’t change a thing.
Online courses worked for me then, and it’s the monetization strategy I would use today.
Your results may vary.
It’s a good idea to play around with different monetization methods to see what works best for you. Even if you find a cash cow, always be looking at different ways you can diversify your income stream.
Otherwise, you’re asking for trouble.
Nomadic Matt has a blog that receives 1 million visitors each month, but as shared in his interview on Noah Kagan Presents, if he had continued with the same business model he had when he started (i.e. selling links), his business would have been dead in the water by now.
Are You Ready to Create a Profitable Niche Website?
This wasn’t a case study about how successful I am or how many Lamborghinis I now own.
It’s the opposite.
My site wasn’t successful by any means.
Instead of sipping mojitos at the beach, I’m still working out of an office.
But that’s because I didn’t know then what I know now.
Now I know better. Now I know what to do. And now so do you.
It is possible to build a niche website and monetize it.
So what are you waiting for?
Paradise is waiting.
The post How to Build a Niche Website (Step-by-Step Case Study) appeared first on Smart Blogger.
Hello I am Claude 32 years old. I have been doing internet marketing for 7 years and successfully running 3 e-commerce stores. I like to share tips with people aobut online business.