Tips on writing a blog post faster and better

Write blog posts faster and better

It can be a grind to write a blog.

You have to come up with clever ideas.

Find the time…write a draft…edit…add images…

Here’s what helps (and helps with any business):

You need a system.

When I started blogging I assumed ideas would pour from the heavens and my fingers would fly effortlessly across the keyboard pouring out publish-ready prose flocks of salivating followers would fall on.

Nah, didn’t happen.

As the reality of researching, writing, editing, image selection and publishing became clear my motivation started to slide.

…and slide…

…and slide…

Pretty soon, I was missing publishing deadlines.

Then there weren’t any deadline.

Then my blog routine became a random game of chance.

Enter the system

It took some time to realize that without a system blog writing was going to be painful. Later I learned the value of a system for that day when you want to outsource parts of the publishing process.

It took some time to realize that without a system, blog writing was going to be painful. Click To Tweet

The system I’m going to share is simple – it has to be – it’s designed to be repeated for every blog.

And it starts with finding the ideas. With a steady supply of fresh ideas you are halfway there.

1. Finding the ideas

In my post “How to never run out of ideas ever again” I shared sources for blog ideas. I also explained our process for republishing older blog posts (like this one). This is a strategy we’re now using with most of our clients and having crazy-good results. Read that post here.)

I’ll add you should be looking for micro ideas – not big, scary, all encompassing ones.

For example, this post is just about a writing system.

I could have also talked about researching, choosing the perfect topic, or how to use the WordPress editor. But, that’s too much width for a quick-to-read blog post.

When you tackle a micro topic it’s easier to complete the post and, I think, easier for the reader to quickly get value they can turn into action (without getting overwhelmed with advice).

Now that you have the ideas, it’s time to…find time.

2. Finding the time

The best way to find time for writing a blog is to not have to “find it” in the first place.

I recommend having one block of time for writing. For me, it’s the first thing I do every morning. For you, it might be 8:30-10:00, 3 days a week – whatever it is, make it a routine.

The best way to find time for writing is to not have to “find it” in the first place. Click To Tweet

At first, you might want to post this time for a month on your calendar to help develop the routine. You might also need a reward for your efforts, like crossing the task off a list, or marking your calendar with minutes spent writing every day.

The less you have to work at finding the time, the more likely the work will get done.

Now that you’ve found the time, you need to get started.

3. Sitting down and writing a blog

writing a blog post without distractions

I need to have a clear desk, a full cup of tea and a quiet room to write. I can edit on a moving train full of goats (still haven’t tried that), but writing requires complete concentration and no distractions (or goats).

Commit to a block of time. If you are writing at 8:30 in the morning, you might want to work for 90 minutes with quick breaks every 30 minutes – but commit to the time. That means Facebook and email are closed, papers are cleared away and your phone is put away or on airplane mode.

Whatever works best for you, create that situation every time.

Next, you need a template

4. Use a template

I can hear it now “But, I’m an artist and artists never use paint-by-number formulas.”

Bullhooky. Even artists use a template of sorts to organize their thoughts – certainly authors do.

Every blog posts (with exceptions to recipe blogs or vacation journal blogs) needs to take the reader on a journey. Usually that journey is from problem to solution.

My template for writing a blog (hundreds of public speakers use this template) is very simple. I follow it for every post (like this one) and the reader never complains.

Here it is:

  • The Problem – what problem does your reader have?
  • Personal – what is your experience with this problem?
  • The Promise – what are you giving the reader?
  • The Solutions – your solutions to the problem
  • A Call to Action – what do they need to do first?
  • Final thoughts – motivation

Like most books that follow a template for every chapter, we’re too busy enjoying the content to care much about the structure.

Template ready? Time to get the first draft done.

5. First draft

Your first draft will not be great – expect it. Anne Lamott famously calls it your “Shitty first draft” and for good reason.

When I’m writing an 800-1,000 word blog post, I like to crank out a first draft in about one hour. After that I let it simmer while I go for a run, do some other work, or read – but I don’t think about it.

When I sit down to finish the post, it’s amazing how obvious all the problems are. The run on sentence or weak arguments jump off the page and are much easier to fix.

Plan on two sittings and it takes the pressure off and allows you to write more freely for that essential first draft.

6. Ship it

At some point you need to admit this is only a blog – not a novel – or, as Seth Godin says, ship it.

“Shipping is fraught with risk and danger. Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you’re exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power or making a fool of yourself. It’s no wonder we’re afraid to ship.”

More time fussing over semi-colons won’t get you more readers or more social shares, it just burns up more time.

Your goals should be to help the reader reach their goal faster and better than they could on their own.

Once you’ve done that, your job is done.

Now, get writing.

This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated for your entertainment, education and just because.

Liked this post? Got another 5 minutes? Here are 3 more of our most popular posts all about writing blogs:

How to start a blog post – 5 examples that really work!
5 brilliant ways to start your blog post with a bang
9 blog topic ideas your audience will love

 

5 brilliant ways to start your blog post with a bang 

start your blog post with a bang

Most blogs suck. 

You might have the most brilliant advice, but nobody reads it. 

The solution starts withthe start. 

A recent survey found that only 30% of readers make it to the end of a post. Just like a YouTube video – if you dont grab your readers attention in 3 seconds its sayonara.  

Theyre gone. 

In this post you will learn a 5 step approach to quickly retro fit old posts gathering digital dust, or tweak new posts to start working miracles.  

Lets jump in with some mind work.

1. Enter the conversation

To capture your readers’ attention you have to first enter the conversation going on in their mind (Robert Collier). In other words, grab their attention with something theyre already thinking about. 

– If youre a financial planner, tell me how to avoid costly mistakes.
– If youre a realtor, tell me how to make more money when I sell my home.
– If youre an IT consultant, tell me how to choose the best IT consultant. 

Not sure where to start? Start with a list of the most common questions your prospects ask you.

2. Get my attention

water splashing in woman's face

This is keymake me stop and want to read more. Your reader found your latest post via your email or social media. But, theyre not committed yetwith the click of their mouse theyre gone – never to return to that post. 

So, hook them with bait that makes them hungry for more. 

Start with your first sentence. Its job is to get me to read your second sentence. And so on.  

In your #blog, the job of your first sentence is to get me to read your second sentence. And so on. Click To Tweet 

Dont force me to wade through a muddy dissertation. Instead, start with a bold statement, a bit of controversy or a question. 

For example, I could have started this post with something like: 

The problem with all too many blogs is that they fail to get the attention of readers and, as a result, dont drive traffic to your products or services. 

Ugh. 

Instead, I started with: 

Most blogs suck.

3. Tell me the Problem

person holding question mark to face

Heres a blogging secret. If the reader doesnt care about your topic, they wont care to read about it 

So, make it obvious. 

In the first 2 sentences you need to TELL ME THE PROBLEM you will solve. 

Here’s a blogging secret. If the reader doesn’t care about your topic, they won’t care to read about it. Click To Tweet 

Even better: choose only one problem to solve. 

Here are 3 examples from our blog:

1. In this post we tackled time management:
Lets get one thing straight. I waste time, you waste timeeveryone wastes time.

2. This post is all about getting more traffic:
And its time to get serious about your business and your blog. You want more trafficthe right traffic.

3. This post is about restarting your blog writing:
You havent published for at least a month – not so great.

4. Make a promise

Every salesperson worth his/her salt knows this. To keep your prospects attention you need to make a promise of what you have to offer. 

It could be as simple as Let me show you how we can fix that, or I think I have the perfect solution for you. 

Its no different in your blogonce you get my attention, tell me what comes next.  

For example, this post is about blog performance:
In this post were looking at super simple tune-ups to make your blog work better and, maybe, even a bit sexier. Sound good?

5. Please get to the point!

time on site screenshow showing how to start your blog post with a bang
The average time we see on our client’s blog posts is 2-3 times more than other pages.

Finally, a great blog gets to the point. 

You got my attention, you entered the conversation going on in my mind, you even described a problem you know I have – great! Now, get to the point and deliver the goods.  

The average visitor time on our clients websites is about one minute. The average time we see on their blog posts is more like 3 to 7 minutes. Wow! 

Your blog has the ability to stop readers from clicking away. Your blog can also drive traffic to your revenue pages.  

If you do it right. 

A few small changes to the start of your post can improve time on site, list growth – even conversion to sales.  

It all starts withthe start. 

Enjoyed this post? Here are 3 more all about blog writing: 

5 easy steps to publishing your next blog post (even if you dont have time)
90 seconds to becoming a better writer
How to never run out of blog ideas ever again

A proven 3 step method to finally overcome procrastination and get it all done.

procrastination

You had the best of intentions.

Heck, you even coloured it with a highlighter, put a star beside it and blocked time on your calendar.

Then you procrastinated.

Or, at least you thought you did…

The reality is you didn’t procrastinate and – better still – with a 2 minute secret action you can overcome pretty well any resistance you have to any action.

Let me show you how.

You are NOT a Procrastinator

“Everybody procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator” – Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D

This might surprise you, but you are not a procrastinator. Nobody is (even though 20% of people think they are.)

Let me explain.

You respond differently to different situations. You don’t procrastinate about buying groceries or thanking a friend for listening to you or flossing your teeth (more on flossing below.) You’ve got those actions nailed.

If you were a “procrastinator” you would be completely unreliable – that’s not you.

You are a responsible person…you just put somethings off until later.

Get it?

This is an important point. If you think you are a procrastinator then please stop reading right now, because I can’t help you (of course I can help you, it just will take longer 🙂

STEP 1: Before you move to the reason behind your resistance, catch yourself thinking you’re a procrastinator and to stop and to remind yourself you are NOT a procrastinator – you are simply resisting this action.

Now, let’s look at what’s really happening.

Why you DON’T take Action

It’s all about value.

You do something because the value of that action is better than the alternative. You thank your friend for listening because you know that 5 minutes from now you’ll regret it if you didn’t.

You floss you teeth because the alternative is an expensive trip the dentist.

And everything you procrastinate about happens because, in the moment, it gives you more value than the alternative. This applies to refilling the chip bowl instead of stopping at one serving, allowing Netflix to load the next episode of Game of Thrones, instead of turning the TV off or checking email instead of calling the client you’ve been avoiding.

So, it comes down to what you value. Yes, you can build habits, but habits are built on values, so you have to start there.

STEP 2: Stop and think about the value you attach to the alternatives. That sounds more complicated than it is.

In other words, before you take action decide what will give you the biggest reward, long-term.

>> I know that if I go for my 15 minute morning walk I have more energy later in the morning (the walk gives me more reward than not walking.)

>> I know that if I work in blocks of no email, no social media I can plough through my work uninterrupted (focussed work gives me more reward than distractions.)

>> I know that if I take a few minutes before I finish my work day and plan my next day I am far more focussed and productive in the morning (making a list gives me more reward than just ending my work day with no list.)

Now, that you understand what action will give you the biggest long-term reward, let’s take action.

The 2 minute rule will help.

The 2 Minute RULE and how it Works

“Once we start a task, it is rarely as bad as we think. Our research shows us that getting started changes our perception of a task. It can also change our perception of ourselves in important ways.” – Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D

One of the simplest ways to overcome procrastination is also one of the fastest. It’s the 2 minute rule (Stanford Professor B.J. Fogg popularized this idea by demonstrating how to start the habit of daily flossing by starting with just one tooth.)

One of the simplest remedies to procrastination is also one of the fastest. It’s the 2 minute rule. @bjfogg Click To Tweet

Here’s how it works.

When you realize you are about to put something off, take a 2 minute action.

For example, you are trying to get traction on a big project, like redesigning you web site, or cold calling prospects, or doing your taxes.

Start with just 2 minutes of action.

But, that’s not all…

Yes, you will start up the mountain with 2 minutes of walking, but you must also finish by planning your next step – what will you do and when will you do it.

It works like this.

Let’s say you want to redesign your web site (we can show you how to save thousands$’s from bad advice) – that’s a humungous job! Of course, you’re going to put it off—you have all sorts of other priorities that can be finished faster.

But, it has to get done. You know this is overdue and, if you get it done, it will help your business long-term (more value than putting it off.)

Step 3: Enter the 2 minute rule: what can you get done in just 2 minutes that will be a step in the right direction up the mountain?

>> You could bookmark competitor’s web sites in your browser for future reference.

>> You could make a list of changes you want to make to the existing site.

>> You could email 3 designers you know and ask about their availability (no point getting quotes if they can’t start for 2 months).

You get the idea.

You can make progress, break the ice and get a tiny dopamine reward by working uninterrupted for just 2 minutes. And then plan your next step.

We can all make progress, break the ice and get a tiny dopamine reward by working uninterrupted for just 2 minutes. Click To Tweet

Block time in your calendar for the next step (read this article about blocking time), to list what you like about your competitor’s sites, or prioritize the changes you want to make, or reply to the designers and ask to see their latest work.

Time investment: 2 minutes.

Reward to you: feeling great about making progress!

What You Must DO the Next Time

“So let’s get started. I’m ready to be heard. Before the dear departed. Can have the final word.” Get Started, Paul McCartney

It’s normal to put things off until later. We all do it. We’ll always do it.

Sometimes it’s a smart strategic move, like waiting until the morning to make a tough phone call, or ignoring your email in order to finish a proposal uninterrupted.

And then there are the non-strategic, wimpy moments when you caved. We all do that as well.

Here’s the thing. Those moments of uncertainty or hesitation don’t define you—those were just human moments.

Let it go and go back to your 3 steps:

Step 1. Don’t define yourself as a procrastinator. You aren’t.

Step 2. Consider the long-term rewards: what is most important for you right now?

Step 3. Take 2 minutes, take some forward action and then plan your next step.

It may not look heroic working on a project for only 2 minutes. But, it could be the most heroic thing you did all day. And you might just impress yourself with the ice-breaking momentum you just started.

Enjoyed this article? Here are 3 more all about procrastination and getting more of what you want:

A simple lesson in Time Management (that will make you money)
How to Blog More Consistently (And Stop Missing Deadlines)
9 expert bloggers reveal their best strategies

3 Amazing WordPress Plugins to Power up your Blog

more blog traffic

This might be the most important article you read this year.

Okay, a bit of hyperbole, but if you’re trying to get bigger results from your blog, this will be damn good.

In this article we are looking at the 3 plugins we use the most often on this site.

Think of a plugin like an app on your phone. They can be a waste of time and actually slow down your site…or they can be amazing and make life oh-so-much-better. Add to that, most plugins are free, or at the very least have a free version.

Here they are:

1. Better Click to Tweet
2. Insert Post Ads
3. Editorial Calendar

I’m going to spell out the steps for each plug in below. You can also grab some popcorn and watch this 12 minute video.

Video roll:

01:00 Better Click to Tweet
4:38 Insert Post Ads
10:26 Editorial Calendar

1. Better Click to Tweet

This might be the simplest improvement you make to your blogs results—make it easy for readers to Tweet about your blog. In our goldfish-like attention world, nothing is better than saving your customers’ time.

[In our goldfish-like attention world, nothing is better than saving your customers’ time.]

Better Click to Tweet is a simple, free plugin that makes it super easy to let your readers, with just 2 clicks, share your post to all of their followers on Twitter. And that one tweet can put you in front of thousands of followers loyal to that reader.

There are similar tools, like Click to Tweet and plugins like sumome and social warfare offer a click to tweet option.

This video explains how to install the plugin.

Once you have the plugin installed adding a click to tweet is easy:

Copy a quote from your blog you want readers to share. Click on the location in your post you want to insert the click to tweet. Click on the blue bird in your menu bar, paste the quote and you’re done!

more blog traffic

2. Insert Post Ads

This plugin is amazing! I first came across it on Mike Stelzner’s Social Media Examiner’s blog (which has become like a Wiki for how-to social media). I noticed there were ads for his conference on every blog post. And I knew he had thousands of posts – clearly it wasn’t possible to have inserted the ad manually. That’s when I had a peak at his source code and viola!..Insert Post Ads (Thank You Mike.)

On any WordPress site, you can insert a banner for a webinar, live event (like Stelzner did for his conference), book sales, optin, content upgrade, a sale event or your daughter’s lemonade stand.

Within a few minutes your advertisement/offer/announcement is on every blog post on your site. And just as quickly you can remove it.

more blog traffic

Here’s how this clever little plugin works…

Once you have the plugin installed (did I mention it’s free?).

1. Drop the banner image you want displayed into a draft page on your WordPress site. You won’t be publishing this page – it’s just there so you can quickly get the html code from the image.

2. Click on the image, go to edit, and select “Link to Custom URL” and paste the link to the event or sales page you want to promote. Click “Update” to save the banner. Now that you have a linked banner, you need to load that into the Insert Post Ads plugin.

3. Click on “Text” to display the HTML code for that page (if you’re getting confused, watch the video on this page.) Copy the code for that banner into your clipboard. Click “Save Draft” to save your page in WordPress.

4. Go to your Insert Post Ads plugin “Post Adverts > Add New Posts.” Enter the name of the new insert where it says “Advert Title.” Paste the HTML code into “Advert code:” Choose “Display the advert After Paragraph Number” and choose a number. Click “Publish”

That’s it. It’s going to seem like Greek (no offense to all the Greeks who read my blog), but once you’ve done it, oh let’s say 114 times, it gets easier!

I encourage you to write out the steps so next month when you go to replace the banner it’s much quicker.

3. Editorial Calendar

I think I saved my favourite for last.

Imagine having all your blog posts – past and future – nicely organized and displayed on a calendar. Automatically! That’s what the Editorial Calendar plugin (yup, free as well) will do.

[Imagine having all your blog posts – past and future – nicely organized and displayed on a calendar. Automatically!]

All you have to do is install the plugin and presto! it populates with all your posted blogs and – this is my favourite part – it lists all your draft posts in a tidy list in a right-hand side bar.

But, wait, there’s more! (thank you Steve Jobs for that one.)

more blog traffic

You can do a quick edit of a draft right from the calendar. You can also move your draft posts on the calendar and it will automagically update the posting date on the draft.

If you aren’t using a more robust tool, like coschedule or post planner, Editorial Calendar is a slick, nibble alternative. And if you collaborate with an editor or assistant, this tool will save you tons of emails back and forth about dates.

You’re welcome.

Ready to learn more? Here are 3 of our most popular articles on this topic:

7 Types of Call To Action to Move your Blog Readers to Action
Your end of year blog tune up
51 ways to get more business from your blog in the New Year

7 Types of Call To Action to Move your Blog Readers to Action

get more blog traffic

It’s hard to imagine a sales person not asking for the sale or a Amazon not having an “Add to cart” button. So why do so many blogs not have a call-to-action?

Does yours?

Before I get to my 7 favourite call-to-action (CTA) options, let’s take a step back and talk about what your blog is for.

Your blog is there to help people. Even blogs that share travel stories or pontificate about the pro’s and con’s of nose piercing are there to help.

And if you want to help people, you need to offer more than your written advice. It could be coaching, an online course, live events, consulting, or your book. That’s where you CTA comes in – helping people.

Alrighty, with that out of the way, let’s look at my favourite CTA’s.

1. Internal link

By far the simplest and most essential CTA is to link to another blog on your site. The reader can go deeper with related content and you get them on your site longer. Longer on site means more time to visit your products and services pages.

Of course, you can also link directly from your blog to pages that lead your reader closer to a sale. When I’m writing my draft blog post I will underline a word if it relates to another post I’ve already published. That way I don’t interrupt my writing (like that) to go search for the actual link. I’ll go back and add the actual link before I publish.

One last point…a quick fix strategy is to go back to your top half-dozen posts and add internal links to other posts and to your products and services pages. Don’t over do it, but 4-6 links in a 400-1,000 word post is not going to seem overkill.

blog traffic

2. Bottom of post

Did you know that 30% of people buying a book on Amazon will buy a second book from the list “Customers who bought this item also bought”. Why not use the same strategy in your blog?

At the bottom of each post simply list 3 more posts they might enjoy. After all, if your reader gets to the bottom of the post they probably want more on that topic.

We started offering a list of 3 additional posts at the bottom of every new post on our blog. It such a simple task, you’d be crazy to not do it. Again, just like the suggestion above for retrofitting older popular posts with internal links, you can easily add suggested posts at the end of those same posts,

blog traffic

3. Social shares

One of the easiest ways to increase traffic to your blog is to have readers share it on social media. The math is impressive:

One of the easiest ways to increase traffic to your blog is to have readers share it on social media. Click To Tweet`

Imagine if only 20 people share your post. But those shares go to some 20,000 of their followers. It doesn’t take a big percent of responses to see how your traffic will increase.

There are a few tools, like sumome, addthis, sharethis and social warfare that make it super easy to share your blog on social media. All of these tools should work perfectly on mobile (your mobile traffic could be as high as 35-45% of all traffic) with share buttons that stay at the bottom of the phone’s screen as the reader scrolls.

blog traffic

4. Content upgrade

This CTA is a little more complicated to set up, but the results can be impressive. The idea of of ‘content upgrade’ is to deliver a report, or guide or check list that supplements the blog post the reader is on.

For example, if your post is about 5 ways to give feedback to employees, your content upgrade could be a check list that helps you choose the right feedback to use in your next coaching session.

Ideally, the gift can be consumed in one sitting and has high value for the prospect. After all, this is their first impression of you and your business.

To receive the download the reader has to optin to your mailing list.

The trick is to take the reader to what’s called a “landing page” where the offer is presented and there’s an invitation to join your list if they want to receive the gift but also receive future updates from you. The simplest way to do this is to create a hidden page on your site (like www.yoursite.com/offer) with the offer. You can also create custom landing pages in most CRM’s, like Convertkit, Ontraport, Active Campaign, etc.

blog traffic

5. Click to tweet

One of the easiest ways to encourage readers to share your post is to set up a click-to-tweet option. Your reader sees an interesting quote, identified with the Twitter bird icon, they click on that quote and your blog is shared onto their Twitter channel with a link back to your blog. This makes it super easy or your reader to share and you get exposed to their followers.

The set up for a click to tweet option is simple. At BlogWorks we use the plugin Better Click to Tweet. This video explains how to install the plugin. And there are others, like Click to Tweet and plugins like sumome and social warfare offer a click to tweet feature as an option.

Once you have the plugin installed add a click to tweet is easy. Copy a quote from your blog that you want readers to share. Click on the location in your post you want to insert the click to tweet. Click on the blue bird in your menu bar, paste the quote and you’re done!

blog traffic

6. Sidebar CTA

Most blogs have a menu of sidebar displayed options. It might be your most popular blog posts, advertising a product, like your book and it can be an invitation to join your mailing list.

Building your mailing list is an important strategy for marketing your business. Even with the explosive growth of Instagram, Facebook, Youtube and other social channels, you will always get stronger sales by directly emailing a list of loyal followers.

The sidebar CTA is an invitation to grow your list, usually in return for receiving a gift, or “lead magnet”.

Many of the mailing list tools, like Mail Chimp (called a signup form) or Convertkit (create form) make it super easy to design and load the “widget” box, complete with image of your gift, into your website. The full sequence of events, like Thank You page, optin confirmation email, etc are easy to set up.

More robust CRM (Customer Relations Management) software, like Active Campaign (create form to capture contacts) and Infusionsoft (create WordPress optin form) also allow you to create the form.

The beauty of these sequences is that once you jump through all the hoops (there are loads of videos on YouTube explaining how to do this), it will run 24/7 for years. Your job is to check the numbers and change to a new gift if you aren’t getting the results you want.

7. The Pop-up CTA

Finally, we come to the much maligned pop-up CTA. But, before you run away screaming “I hate pop-up’s!” You need to know something.

Pop-up’s work. The trick with pop-up’s is to not annoy your reader! All of these tools are designed to select who sees your popup and how they see it. For example, you can delay the popup until the reader has been on your post for 2 minutes or they are about to leave you page. You can also set the popup to not show to returning readers. 

Some of the most popular popup plugins are Optin Monster, ConvertPlus, or WP Subscribe Pro.

One more thing I’ve got to do!!

At this point you might be freaking out and thinking “One more thing I’ve got to do!!” Here’s the deal:

Just like investing in professional pictures of your products (or your profile picture), adding CTA’s to your blog are an investment. Every day you can be helping your readers with your blog or you can be helping them and you by getting them to respond to a call to action.

A small investment now (like 5 minutes to add internal links to a post) could pay big dividends day after day for years to come. So, stop screaming, pick one and get to work.

You’re welcome.

If you enjoyed this article (You new this was coming, right?), you’re going to want to check out these as well:

Why You Should be Re-Loving Your Old Blog Posts
How to Ensure Your Posts Look AMAZING On Social Media
Why You Need A Standard Operating Procedure For Your Blog

How to never run out of blog ideas ever again

Never run out of blog ideas ever again

This post was originally published in July, 2016 and has been updated and re-loved for you. Enjoy.

The biggest mistake bloggers make is, well, they don’t blog.

Those gaping holes between posts make everything on your site look a little suspect – like going into a grocery store and seeing food past its due date. How long before you question everything in the store?

The bottom line is you can’t attract new prospects and build loyalty if you don’t consistently work to attract them. That’s why content marketing (sharing valuable, problem-solving resources) is still the best way to grow your business. And this is true whether you’re a food blogger or a baker, a keynote speaker or you teach online – it’s all about sharing your best content AND proving you are the best choice.

To avoid running out of ideas for your blog you have to have lots of ideas for your blog.

In this post, I’ll walk you through 5 ways to keep great blog ideas rolling in. Let’s jump in with reading…

1. Read blogs

Nothing beats reading other people’s blogs to stimulate ideas for your own future posts. I use feedly to pull my favourite blogs into one location where I can read them while I’m eating lunch. I also make it a habit to write comments on blogs I’ve read (hint, hint) to show my appreciation.

But, reading blogs is only the start—you need to think about your market. What problems need solving? What questions are they asking you? What has worked in the past?

Feedly is a super easy tool to quickly organize all your favourite blogs into one place.

For example, I got the idea to write posts about Google Analytics because I was searching for answers for my clients. I found a lot of articles answering my questions, but they were either too long or too technical. So I wrote this one and this one.

Now that you’re reading great content, you need to organize the best blog ideas…

2. Build an Inventory

In the old days (like 10 years ago) you might have saved magazines or used sticky notes to mark ideas in a book you’re reading. Those systems can’t keep up with our online world where a great idea might be in a blog post you read, an online magazine, a Tweet – even an Instagram post.

You need one place to collect, organize and retrieve your best blog ideas.

Evernote is a brilliant (free) online tool that allows you to easily grab articles off the web, store images, record audio or even accept pictures of hand-scribbled notes from your phone. It syncs in seconds on all your devices and, with the paid account, you can even search off-line as you head to the grocery store to collect ingredients for your favourite Thai salad with peanut sauce recipe.

To fully unleash the power of Evernote, install the Webclipper (I remember it as the Elephant head) extension on your favourite browser. That will allow you to quickly grab the article you found, strip it of advertising, tag it and store it for future reference.

find blog ideas

And here’s my favourite trick with Evernote (h/t to Michael Hyatt):

Instead of creating lots of Notebooks in Evernote, which can get messy and confusing, I have all my notes in one Notebook and use tags to search for what I want. And I tag all future blog ideas (including articles I saved using the Evernote extension) with the tag “unused blog post”. The tag allows me to easily pull up all my unused ideas and choose the one I want to work on. As soon as I use that note I delete it.

evernote
I use the tag “unused blog topics” to easily organize all my future blog ideas into one search.

Okay, you’ve collected lots of blog ideas, now it’s time to organize them on a calendar…

3. Build your Editorial Calendar

A simple way to organized future blog ideas is using a spreadsheet, like Excel or Google Sheets. Or you could use planning tools like Asana or Trello. That’s great, but I’m a visual person and prefer seeing future projects in a calendar format.

If you have a WordPress site, you can organize all your blog ideas with a clever (and free) plugin called Editorial Calendar (watch our quick video to learn how this works).

Editorial calendar
The Editorial calendar plugin makes it easy to schedule posts and to see your draft posts in one place.

When you start putting dates to topics, think about seasons and buyer behaviour. What seasons do your customers respond to (like winter, summer, Christmas, etc.)? When are your customers more likely to buy? When does your customer have certain problems (like Spring cleaning, budgeting, staff hiring, etc.)?

Your Editorial Calendar doesn’t have to be perfect. The idea is to promote the writing and publishing by planning ahead and avoiding writer’s block.

Now you have lots of blog ideas collected in Evernote and you’ve started to plan future posts in your Editorial Calendar. Great! This next strategy is a way to boost traffic without writing a new post…

4. Repurpose old content

This strategy will save you time and could get you a big traffic boost. Here’s how it works…

Start by making a list of posts that are pulling in strong traffic but are over a year old. These are gems that could be working harder if they were “re-loved” and republished.

To get to your analytics, first, log in, then navigate to Behaviour > Overview.

best blog ideas
To get to your analytics, first, log in, then navigate to Behaviour > Overview

This part is a little technical, but hang in there – you only need to do this research a few times a year to get the full benefit.

There are at least 3 metrics you can use to choose the blog article to republish:

  1. old posts – if your post is older than one year there’s a good chance you need to update the images, and facts in the article and maybe add more detail to the content.
  2. low Bounce rate – “Bounce rate” is the per cent of people who left your site after one page (they didn’t explore the rest of your site). A lower bounce rate (like 60-70%) can be a good sign. Think of it this way: out of all your published blog posts, there are some that keep readers on your site longer. Those posts could be worth updating and republishing.
  3. high time on page – “Time on site” is the minutes a reader spent on that page. The higher the time, the more likely the reader is to share the article and spend more time on your site.

You can combine the metrics. In other words, look for blog posts older than a year, with low bounce rate and high time on site. Find 3-5 of those posts and start with them.

Here’s another example:

We republished our post “Facebook Page vs Profile: Everything You Need To Know” and within 10 days our traffic increased by 229%!

blog ideas
In just 10 days traffic to this post increased by over 200%!

The blog post you’re reading is another good example. It was originally published in July 2016 and I added more content and images and republished it in February 2019. It only took about an hour’s worth of chopping, adding, and changes to turn it into the post you’re reading – much easier than starting from scratch!

Whew! You’ve collected amazing ideas into Evernote, organized them with Editorial Calendar, planned a post you will refresh and republish. Now it’s time for a bit of psychology…

5. Give ‘em more of what they love

It might be tempting to pour a cup of coffee and just start writing your next blog post. But what about what your market wants?

Every day your readers are leaving bread crumbs – clues – about what they want. It could be a comment on a post, social shares or an email that asks a question about a recent post. You need to watch for these clues.

A simple first step is to check what posts are most popular (see #4 above). You can also think about the psychology of your reader. What keeps a person on your blog for more than a quick glance?

It’s about solving a problem.

Readers, don’t announce this – but they are looking for a solution to something. It could be a great travel destination or how to save for their retirement.

If you provide that solution that gets them from where they are now to where they want to be, faster or cheaper, they will come back for more. But, there’s more…

If you provide that solution that gets them from where they are now to where they want to be, faster or cheaper, they will come back for more. Click To Tweet

The trick is to always give’em more of what they love. Blogs that wander off down rabbit holes about unrelated topics might work if you are already a celebrity off-line, but don’t work if you are trying to build a business online.

Stick to what your readers want and you will build valuable traffic that will come back for more.

 

5 steps to writing an awesome blog post in less than 60 minutes.

It’s no secret that publishing blog posts on your blog consistently is important.

Whether it’s twice a month, once a week, or even more frequently, the more consistent you are with your blog posts the more your readers will return and bring their business with them.

But it’s hard to find the time to research, edit, publish and promote. Right?

At the same time there’s nothing worse than visiting a blog and seeing the last blog post is from a year ago. Your prospect might be thinking “If the blog is out of date, I wonder if the rest of the site is out of date?”

This post will help.

With a few shortcuts, a few tricks and a bit of focus you can write an awesome blog post in less than 60 minutes.

Let me show you:

  1. Really Quick Research
  2. Get your Shitty first Draft
  3. Super Fast Editing
  4. A Publishing Routine
  5. Follow a Promotion Plan

1. Really Quick Research

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Stephen King

When you read “research” do you want to run away screaming?

For most people, researching blog topics is about as much fun as doing your taxes. The good news is there are quick and dirty shortcuts that work.

When it comes to blogging and getting more traffic: if it’s working, keep doing it. In other words, if one of your blog posts went viral, use that topic again. If a Tweet got 130 impressions, retweet it.

When it comes to blogging and getting more traffic: if it’s working, keep doing it. Click To Tweet

Here’s how you do that with your blog post topics.

1) Start with your Google Analytics. Scroll down on the left menu to “Behaviour”, click“Overview” and look at your top three blog posts. For whatever reason, these got the lion’s share of traffic.

Choose one of those topics and write your next blog post on a related topic. For example: if one of your top posts is “The hidden cost of workplace conflict”, your next one could be “3 super easy ways to reduce workplace conflict.”

2) Next, go to BuzzSumo and type in that topic (“workplace conflict”). Find blog posts that have been shared the most and take inspiration from their headlines.

3) Finally, type your blog topic into your search bar. As you type, Google will suggest endings to your typing. These are based on query volume and can give you a clue for your next topic.

For example, you start typing “workplace conflict” and Google suggests “workplace conflict examples” Ah! You could start a blog post with a scenario of workplace conflict from your consulting work.

When you scroll to the bottom of the search results page in Google you’ll get more suggestions:

2. Get your Shitty first Drafthow to write a blog post

Now comes the fun part – you get to write your draft and not care how good it is! Let me explain…

There are two things that stall out most bloggers and authors: 1) thinking their work has to be perfect and 2) trying to edit before finishing the first draft.

There are two things that stall out most bloggers and authors: 1) thinking their work has to be perfect and 2) trying to edit before finishing the first draft. Click To Tweet

Instead, use a simple writing template to get the words flowing and keep your thoughts in order, AND avoid editing or looking up references until the draft is done. Before you know it you’ll have what author Anne Lamott famously calls your “shitty first draft.”

You can download the writing template here.

ultimate blog post writing template
Use a simple blog post writing template to get the words flowing and keep your thoughts in order

3. Super Fast Editing

“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.” Brian Clark, Copybloggers

Editing can be fun. The hard work of writing your post is behind you and the trick now is edit quickly and be done. Set yourself a time limit for editing. It’s amazing how much you can improve your post in 5 minutes or less. Sure, you could spend an hour thinking of clever analogies or searching for the perfect images – but that’s not as important as getting it done.

Fussing over some sentence or punctuation will just slow down the process and make it less likely that your blog comes out on a regular basis. You can always spend more time editing your next book.

Here’s how to do super fast editing:

1) Remove redundancies, most uses of “that” and chop long sentences into smaller ones.
2) Keep the reader moving by breaking big paragraphs into smaller ones.

3) Build in short teasers that keep the reader moving like:
Let me explain what I mean…
But, before I get to that…
There’s only 3 things you need to get started:

3) Grab a catchy, license-free image at pixabay, unslpash, or pixels.

4) Include a call-to-action: invite comments, link to your products, invite to share on social, etc.

4. A Publishing Routine

“Don’t try to plan everything out to the very last detail. I’m a big believer in just getting it out there: create a minimal viable product or website, launch it, and get feedback.” Neil Patel

Publishing is simply a mechanical exercise. Don’t waste time on this. If you’re using WordPress (over 30% of all websites do), log in, open a new post, copy/paste your text, add the main image, add tags, check your Yoast plug-in, set the date to publish on and hit “Publish.”

This is not the time to explore some cool widget or learn the HTML code for borders around your image. Stick to your routine and move onto promotion.

5. Follow a Promotion Plan

“What you do after you create your content is what truly counts.” Gary Vaynerchuk

You can waste a lot of time here or we can do it all for you. Find out how to get the social media monkey off your back for half the price of a Virtual Assistant.

If you are going to do this yourself, create a routine. We call these Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). Not only will you not waste time dreaming up some newfangled way to get more retweets, you’ll have a routine you can hand off to a freelancer or staff when you’re ready.

There you go: how to write a blog post in less than 60 minutes. And, guess what? That’s how long this one took to post!

Now here’s how you can help me! Click on the social share button (on the left) and help your friends learn how to publish a blog post in 60 minutes or less.

Want more info on How to Get The Social Media Monkey Off Your Back?

How To get the Social Media Monkey off your Back E-book

 

 

Click here for our white paper.

 

 

 

 

Or contact us at yourblogworks.com/contact/

The ultimate list: 7 reasons why you (yes, you) need a blog today

Do you need a blog? 7 reasons the answser is yes

Does your business need a blog?

Sometimes we do things just because everyone else does. Like wearing socks to work or washing our car on Saturdays. Sometimes we need to rethink those decisions. Especially when it comes to marketing.

In this post I will explore the question … does your business need a blog?

A bit ironic to write about this in a blog, but here goes…

Blogging has been around for over 20 years and is no longer the domain of only political pundits and geeks. According to some estimates, there are 300 million active blogs(!) and approximately 40% of businesses use a blog to connect with their customers and attract new ones.

And there’s loads of glowing statistics promoting the benefits of blogs:

Bu,t the question remains: do YOU need a blog for your business? After all, maintaining an active blog takes time, effort and attention – three things usually in short supply.

Maintaining an active blog takes time, effort and attention- three things usually in short supply. Click To Tweet

First, you have to research, write, edit and publish the blog with images and keywords. Then you have to promote the blog and worry about generating traffic and converting that traffic to sales. It’s a lot of work – especially if you don’t have a team helping you.

That’s why in this post we are looking at the WHY of blogging. You’ll want to also explore our other articles about how to write a blog, find a ghost writer, get more traffic, measure success and even overcome procrastination.

Here are the top 7 reasons that experts believe you DO need a blog.

Top 7 reasons you need a blog

1. Build loyalty

In the crazy-busy world of marketing, blogs are unique. Instead of pushing your products and services on consumers, with your blog you attract them with valuable information they want to consume. Just like a magazine or TV show; we are attracted to the content—selling is secondary.

Instead of pushing your products and services on consumers, you are attracting them to you with valuable information they want to consume. Click To Tweet

Blogs also build loyalty. Small at first, your blog will find loyal readers who value your advice, want your recipes or enjoy your unique insights on life. Those loyal readers can then join your list, attend your webinar, visit your restaurant or buy your online course.

A great example of building loyalty with the blog is Angela Liddon of the Oh She Glows recipe books. Since 2008, Liddon has built up a fan club of over 1 million readers and written New York Times best-selling cookbooks (we have 2 of them). The heart of her success started with posting to her blog 3 times a day!

Blogs can build loyalty - Oh She Glows
The care and attention to every blog post took Angela Liddon from baking and selling snack bars from her home to a New York Times best-selling author.

2. Build your platform

Of all the reasons you need a blog, the most powerful could be to build an online platform.

In the old days of marketing, we would define a market position with the 5 P’s (promotion, product, price, place, people). Now we use “platform” to refer to all the pieces you have on the Internet related to your business that create an image in the consumer’s mind and a competitive advantage in your market.

As author Michael Hyatt would say, your platform is about leading a tribe of engaged followers”.

Now we use “platform” to refer to all the pieces you have on the Internet related to your business that creates an image in the consumer’s mind and a competitive advantage in your market. Click To Tweet

Uber entrepreneur Neil Patel used his blog to build a platform as a consultant and speaker and for his associated companies, Neil Patel Digital, Crazy Egg, SproutSocial and Hello Bar.

Build your blog with a platform
When Neil Patel started to build his online empire, it all started with a blog.

3. Attract new followers

Here’s something you probably don’t know about your blog. Most visitors are new to your site. A sampling of 20 BlogWorks clients found that over 85% of visitors were new to the site. First time. Brand spanking new to your world—that’s a huge opportunity, and another reason you need a blog.

It’s like renting a hotel room and 85% of the people who walk into your evening seminar are meeting you for the first time.

What an opportunity!

Those first-time readers can join your list, request more information, watch a demonstration video, buy product or bookmark your site for future reading.

But, arriving at a blog for the first time can be confusing. As author, podcaster and blogger, Pat Flynn writes, “it’s like trying to read a book that was written on loose-leaf paper, un-numbered and thrown into the air and having the pages randomly land on the ground.”

The trick is to guide those new visitors to where you want them to go. Start with an index of the blog posts you most want new visitors to read. From each blog post direct your readers to read related blog posts or to your contact page or product page.

Attract new followers with your blog
A simple way to welcome new readers to your blog is to hand-pick the list of blogs you want them to read first.

4. Convert to sales

Of course, converting readers to sales is the most popular blogging objective. You want readers to buy your recipe book, order that exercise bike or contact you about executive coaching. That would be great.

While some readers will go straight to your sales page or fill in your contact form, it’s less likely on the first visit. What’s more likely is a reader will commit to a small first step – like joining your list.

Following that, your job is to move them to a sale.

Design Pickle founder Russ Perry does a great job of getting new visitors to watch a video before making a buying decision. After all, not everyone is going to sign up for a monthly fee over $300 on their first visit. But they will be closer to making that decision after committing to a 3-minute video (we use the same strategy).

Convert blog readers to sales
You might not be ready to commit to a $300+ monthly fee, but how about a 3-minute video?

5. Build your list

The long game with blogging is to build a valuable list of followers who eventually need what you sell. Getting to your prospect’s inbox will always generate better results compared to social media or advertising.

The good news is that list building from your blog with tools like Mail Chimp, Zoho and Constant Contact is easier than ever.

Start with a simple offer of delivering your latest post directly to your follower’s inbox, then go the next step with an “ethical bribe” for signing up, like a free ebook, or 30 minutes of coaching. Next, build a simple email sequence that starts to be delivered once a new prospect joins your list.

Referral expert, Steve Gordon makes his blog promise on the home page of his site The Unstoppable CEO “We help service businesses get great clients.” From there it’s an easy one click to schedule a call to learn more or to download his ebook “The Exponential Network Strategy” and 8-video training series.

Build your list with your blog
A clear promise with an easy call-to-action is the best formula for a high performing site.

6. Nurture your followers

Let’s imagine someone interested in your consulting company or gluten-free recipe for chocolate torte finds your blog. Great – that’s the first step. But if they aren’t ready to buy or even join your list, what will you do to stay top of mind? That’s another reason you need a blog.

As a professional speaker, I need my clients, event planners, HR managers and speaker bureaus to remember I’m still active and looking for speaking opportunities. Rather than calling them every two weeks, I send them my latest blog post by email.

Sure, I might only have an email open rate of 25-30%, but that’s still thousands of people who are being reminded of the work I do.

Nuture your followers with your blog
Instead of calling my clients every two weeks, I send them my latest blog post by email

7. Pure fun and sharing

There is nothing wrong with having fun with your blog. Blogger Tim Urban makes it clear from his homepage at Wait But Why you should expect the unexpected, starting with his promise of “We publish every sometime.”

Urban’s blog posts range from simple cartoons to tackling complicated global social issues with 20,000+ word treatise that dive deep into topics like the birth of the electric car.

These are big, hairy topics and Urban is fearless. He also has some fun with his readers, like this recent post about table-hogging at a coffee shop.

Pure fun and sharing
Sometimes the best approach to a touchy topic is with humor

 

Here’s the bottom line (funny, I’m at the bottom of the blog) – get clear about the purpose(s) of your blog and then put it to work. Nothing beats a loyal customer and your blog is one of the best ways to get more of them.

Still considering whether you need a blog and want to read more?

You’ll want to also explore our other articles about how to write a blog, find a ghostwriter, get more traffic, measure success and even overcome procrastination.

 

Want more info on How to Get The Social Media Monkey Off Your Back?

How To get the Social Media Monkey off your Back E-book

 

 

Click here for our white paper.

 

 

 

 

Or contact us at yourblogworks.com/contact/

How to get more blog traffic (142%!)

How to get 142% more blog traffic

Let’s face it – if you have a blog you want traffic – right? But you need to know how to get more blog traffic.

It makes sense: more traffic equals more business…

In fact, companies that blog receive 55% more traffic than companies that don’t. And according to at least one study, 83% of consumers trust the advice of a blog.

The trick is to first get people to read your blog. And for that I have some help. In fact, I’ve used these same strategies to increase my blog traffic by 142% in one year. Not bad when you consider most blogs we watch trickle along with a modest 5-10% annual growth.

Before I get to my solutions on how to get more blog traffic, let me ask you a question:

Are you writing your content to be helpful?

Don’t get me wrong – it’s great that you want more business. But, if your blog is all about click-through rates and opting into lists – it will be obvious. Like the old saying: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

If your blog is all about click-through rates and opting into lists - it will be obvious. Like the old saying: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Click To Tweet

Here’s the good news…

If you write your blog to be truly helpful – without expecting something in return – you will build a tribe and eventually get what you want. It might not be gangbusters overnight, but you will attract people who like your approach. That will happen.

With that caveat out of the way …

Here’s a quick summary of all 25 points on how to get more blog traffic – Slideshare style:

Here’s my favourite (all white-hat) 25 tips on how to get more blog traffic without breaking the bank or staying up all night.

  1. Know this is important work and publish on a regular basis. Once a month is much, much better than – as Tim Urban puts it: We publish every sometime.
  2. Write shorter posts. If you insist on writing Ulyssey’s-length essays you might be losing a lot of readers.
  3. Notice what works and do more of that (this is my fav. overall strategy – read this).
  4. Write in the second person (“you”, “your”, not “me”) – after all, every reader cares most about themself.
  5. Write about your failings. “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.” Denis Waitley
  6. Share on social media (hey! we can do that for you).
  7. Take a risk – like write a short post (#2), admit you suck as something (#5), take a bold stand (#19), or start with a personal story (#24).
  8. Do (just a bit of) research. As a minimum, use a tool like buzzsumo to find top ranking blog posts on your topic.
google analytics
With a little strategy and some hard work I was able to increase my traffic 142% in one year.
  1. Be funny (at the very least choose a funny image.)
  2. Write stuff people will want to link to.
  3. Be remarkable.
  4. Don’t interrupt your writing with a lot of links (except for this post, of course.)
  5. Keep adding to your idea pile (I use Evernote and tag them as ‘unused blog posts’ to capture ideas on the fly.)
  6. Kill and bury old, low traffic blog posts. This is a good SEO strategy, but also good for your readers.
  7. Edit ruthlessly. Pro writer’s tip: don’t start editing until you have completed the first draft.
  8. Experiment with your blog on video, SlideShare, illustrations, cartoons or finger paint.
  9. Be patient! Great content with some promotion will attract the readers you want.
  10. Quote bloggers with big followings (then let them know on social media).
  11. Take a stand—a strong voice will cut through the Internet fog and, like a search light, will find the readers you want.
  12. Make it easy for readers to share your blog. We use the floating share button from sumo.
  13. Ask your readers to do something. Like add a comment, share the post or download a guide.
  14. Read lots of inspiring blogs. “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Stephen King
  15. Don’t be boring. That’s worth repeating: don’t be boring. There.
  16. Tell stories.
  17. Assume every day is a new beginning because you always have new readers.

I know you’re reading this because you care. You care about results but you also care about helping people with your blog. That’s cool.

Knowing how to get more blog traffic can be confusing

Blogging is hard work.

Some months I struggle with every blog I write. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time, or the topic, or the damn thing just stalls out in the middle and I don’t know how to wrap it up in a meaningful way.

What keeps me going is knowing that __________ (fill in your monthly website traffic) people are coming into my “hotel room” to read what I wrote. And most of them are new (point #25). That’s a big and exciting responsibility, opportunity and role that I play.

If you’re up for that, I know these 25 tips and actions on how to get more blog traffic will help to fill your hotel room.

Thanks to Seth Godin for inspiring this short post. And Jeff Goins for adding to Seth’s post with his own list.

 

Want more help getting results with your blog? Check out these posts:

Tips and Encouragement for Bloggers who Doubt
21 Traffic Building Tips from Professional Bloggers
Build blog traffic while you sleep

(and our cool download “Get more blog traffic now”)

 

How the experts create world-class PowerPoint Slides (and you can too)

powerpoint

 This post was originally published on www.hughculver.com

We’ve all been there.

We were looking forward to the presentation – it could have been a webinar, keynote speech or office meeting. And then there were the slides…

…tiny fonts, long lists of indecipherable bullets, fuzzy clipart from the 1990’s and blocks of text repeating word-for-word the presenter’s speech. The content could be pure gold, but you’ll never know.

Bad visuals and sloppy design drag your attention away even more than the guy next to you tapping away on his phone.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

With a bit of forethought, a touch more effort and by using these uncommon approaches your slides can make you look like a pro and drive home all the right points without stealing the show.

Just like in the movies – good visuals make the story stronger and bring out the best in the actors.

Whether it’s a sales pitch, team update, webinar, main stage keynote, all-day workshop, screen-capture video or upload to SlideShare, your slides can be your best friend and make you look like a hero.

Here’s why this is important.

Visuals work (more than ever)

All day, we’re confronted with more content than we could ever hope to consume.

Emails, websites, magazines, reports, newsletters, and video compete for our attention. That’s where visuals come in. Not only do we process images faster than words, and 65% of us are visual learners, but presentations using visual aids were found to be 43% more persuasive.

A well-placed picture, infographic, video or animation can drive a lesson home (more on that below), segue to a new lesson or add a perfectly-timed humorous distraction.

It’s the reason why over 80% of TED presenters use PowerPoint slides (or Keynote for a MAC) – they need to make the maximum impact in only about 18 minutes.

Powerpoint
Over 80% of TED presenters use slides.

The trouble happens when slides are slapped together and tacked onto a presentation last minute, rather than being designed as a part of the message.

In a typical 60 minute keynote you can present 30-60 slides. And each one has a job. Just like the screenplay for a movie, you’re unfolding a story that leads your audience on an emotional journey.

Your job is to choose images that follow that journey.

Here are 5 uncommon ways to put more juice in your visuals and add more punch to your message.

We’ll start with planning.

1. Plan before you Paste

It’s easy enough to add images to your PowerPoint presentation, copy, paste and move on.

But wait!

Before you head off to search for a picture of a cute baby or office workers “team building”, ask yourself what emotional message are you communicating?

Your hard content is made up of your words, text, bullet points, facts, and statistics. But emotional content is all about stories, visuals, and tone – even the speed you deliver your content.

Powerpoint
Al Gore used lots and lots of data and graphs to provide overwhelming proof that the threat of global warming is real.

In the Academy Award-winning presentation, turned documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore used lots and lots of data and graphs to provide overwhelming proof that the threat of global warming is real. The point was not to have you remember the graphs or statistics—the point was to convince you to listen to science and facts and not opinion-based naysayers.

When Apple CEO, Tim Cook unveils the latest Apple watch or iPhone model he uses photographs that show off the sleek designs and ease of operation – not the complex, high-tech wiring that makes it all work. Apple wants you to fall in love with the product – details can come later.

“I love using verbal stories but sometimes, an image can tell a more powerful, surprising, or efficient story.” Ron Tite

Tesla promotes the driving experience.

Similarly, when uber-entrepreneur Elon Musk unveiled the “every man’s” Testa Model 3, it was all about driving experience (driving range, safety, carrying capacity and speed) and nothing to do with the complexity, research or science that makes the car work.

Before you search for visuals, ask yourself what do you want your audience to feel. Is your message about hope and optimism, teaching, and information, or is your goal to provide clarity and direction? Getting clear about one or two emotional goals should provide a filter for every visual selection decision.

“Each change on the screen should relate to one simple new thought,” wrote Garr Reynolds in his popular book Presentation Zen Design, “that should be expanded and explained by the presenter.” (hat tip to Dave Delaney)

One more example:

Powerpoint
Amy Cuddy’s goal was not to impress us with research data but motivate us to use power poses.

In her popular TED talk about “power poses,” Harvard Social Psychologist, Amy Cuddy showed images of the actual poses she was describing. Similar to Apple and Tesla, Cuddy’s goal was not to impress us with research data, but to motivate us to use power poses to feel better and to be more successful in meetings, relationships and negotiations.

Now that you’ve thought through the emotional reaction you want, let’s look at making your visuals memorable.

2. Make it memorable

Nothing puts a wet towel on your presentation faster than cheesy pictures that scream ‘stock photo!’ Sure, your picture shows office workers happily smiling to the camera, but if it looks staged or fake your audience can’t relate to it. In fact, bad stock photography can be more of a distraction than an aid.

The good news is, with a little effort you can find brilliant, free images to support your message and draw your audience in.

Nothing puts a wet towel on your presentation faster than cheesy pictures that scream ‘stock photo!

Sites like unsplash, pixabay and pexels are great for finding unique, original images that are rated as creative commons zero (you’re allowed to use without permission or giving attribution to the artist). If you don’t mind a few extra clicks, you can save time by using librestock.com which sources free images from some 47 plus sites.

You can also use your own photographs.

For example, I have pictures (like picking up garbage on my runs) that support the story I’m telling. I also have an inventory of images that set the mood for my message, like a wandering footpath (goals and next steps), sunrise (hope and new beginnings) and walking my dog (habits and routines).

“Opt for clear before clever. Your audience should never be distracted from what you’re saying because they’re trying to figure out what your slide means.” Rob Cottingham

Read more about your choice of colors, shapes, and fonts in this Venngage post.

Now that you’ve selected your images it’s time to bring out the best in them.

3. Bring out the Best

With a little creativity, you can transform a ho-hum image into a show stopper that grabs your audience. Let’s start with the rule of thirds.

Rule of thirds
Use the Rule of Thirds to make your image more interesting.

This classic photography technique can be used with any visual. The basic idea is to make your image more interesting by putting what you want us to focus on off-centre. Start by dividing your image into two evenly spaced vertical lines and two evenly spaced horizontal lines. If you’re working with an existing image, try to crop so your focal point is on a horizontal line or at a point where the lines cross.

Cropping

A simple improvement to most images is to crop out any unnecessary background to emphasize a central area of focus. Cropping can sometimes make it easier to have a clear area to add text to, for example as a featured image on your blog post.

Original art

If you’re feeling brave, you can always use original art to get your message across.

Wait but why
If you’re feeling extra brave, use your own photos or stick man, like Tim Urban, in your slides.

Tim Urban, in his popular blog, waitbutwhy.com uses his comical stickman drawings to dress up his often sardonic points of view (see how he turns his blog post images into a slide deck in his 2016 Vancouver TED talk about procrastination).

Other examples are Jessica Hagy’s index card messages, James Clear’s graphs and Hugh MacLeod’s art on the back of business cards.

A quick way to get started to bring out the best in your images is to use canva.com, picmonkey or if you’re more of a fan of starting with a template, adobe spark. All are free tools that allow you to very quickly crop, add text and graphics, overlay screens and export a sharp image ready to go into your PowerPoint presentation.

And with a little research, you can turn a small collection of facts and statistics into an eye-catching infographic using Venngage.

After hunting down and improving your images, it’s time to shoot some holes in your bullets.

4. Build Better Bullets

If you have to use bullets to get your message across, proceed with caution.

Any time your audience sees text (like this blog post) they’ll start to read. But they’ll quit just as quickly if bullets seem redundant, too long, or too hard to read.

This is such a common problem it’s worth looking at why it happens in the first place.

When we create a presentation (webinar, slide deck, SlideShare, screen capture video or infographic), we’re sharing information. And a common assumption is more is better.

In fact, less is almost always best (see below).

The purpose of your visuals is to pull your audience in to pay attention and because we remember visuals more than text, your visual is there to anchor your message and make it memorable.

Anything more than that is too much.

Powerpoint
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield used 35 slides and only 5 words in his 2014 TED Talk.

In his 2014 TED talk, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield used only 35 slides with a total of five words (and he received a rare standing ovation.)

If you are flipping through your latest slide deck, here’s a quick rule:

  • limit bullets to four on a slide,
  • each bullet no longer than eight words and
  • use at least 32 point font.
Powerpoint
Start by limiting your bullets to 4 on a slide.

“Please use a font WAY larger than you think you’ll need, for the people in the back of the room and for those looking at your webinar or course on their phone.” Phil Gerbyshak

Two more tips: if you are presenting slides, always:

  • animate your bullets (so the audience can process each bullet as you present it) and,
  • use a remote clicker (so you don’t distract the audience by leaning over and searching for the right key every time you want to advance a slide.)

5. Less is Best

The most common mistake with any presentation is to have too much content. In almost all cases, less is best.

“The best advice I got was don’t use slides.” Brian Massey

Your visuals are there to add to your message, reinforce key points and create memory anchors that make you and your message more memorable. Cramming in more content won’t get you there.

Powerpoint
Del Harvey, VP of Trust and Safety at Twitter.

When Del Harvey, VP of Trust and Safety at Twitter, spoke at TED 2014, she dramatically emphasized the exponential growth of traffic on Twitter with one slide. “Back in January 2009,” she said, “we saw more than two million new tweets each day on the platform. January 2014, more than 500 million. We were seeing two million tweets in less than six minutes. That’s a 24,900-percent increase.”

Her slide simply read: “That’s a 24,900% increase.”

“People are only capable of absorbing a very small amount of material at a time.” writes Garr Reynolds, “Therefore, it is counterproductive to throw up a slide with lots of text or complicated diagrams.”

Every time I delete slides from my keynote presentation the talk improves. I’m less concerned about clicking the right slide at the right time and I can focus more on connecting with the audience.

And there’s always a bit of hesitation before I hit the ‘delete’ button. I catch myself thinking: ‘But this is great information’ or ‘What if someone wants to write this stuff down.’

I never regret the decision to delete.

“Leave most stats on the cutting room floor, and focus on masterfully detailing the implications of a few statistics.” Tom Webster,

Pro tip:

If you’re in a habit of designing your slides to also be handouts, you could be making a mistake. Your visual presentation is there to augment your message, not be the complete message.

If you do need handouts, don’t cheat and use the print handouts option in PowerPoint (or Keynote)—lots of your slides are there as visual anchors and won’t make any sense in handouts. Instead, handouts should be created separately as a stand-alone document.

When in doubt, delete—no one will miss what isn’t there.

“Slides should reinforce your words, not repeat them.” Seth Godin

Get started

When I’m designing a new deck (or doing triage on a deck that’s gone stale) I have three objectives:

  1. choose images that support the emotional content (cautionary, upbeat, motivational, trustworthy, etc.)
  2. create visuals that anchor the lesson (if you use the image again will it remind them of the lesson?)
  3. use the minimum amount of text to support the message (don’t duplicate what you are going to say)

Your message and delivery are what your audience came for. With a little effort, your visuals will help bring your message to life and keep people talking about you long after the standing ovation.