This is a big fat image, and other lessons learned from blogging like a madman.

A Big Fat Header Image

Psst… want to know how I screwed up?

It’s time for self-reflection! Why don’t you come along and find out the greatest lessons learned about blogging (and how I screwed up along the way?)

30 articles, 90 days.

Yep, we’re on track. We’ve done 30 articles in the past 3 months, and we’ve learned a long since Jan. 1. Are we satisfied yet with our progress? No! But we DO want to share with you what we’ve learned since then. Now, I’m not saying I’m the greatest writer, yet. Far from it. But I am a better writer, hands down.

You want to write better? Let me help you.

Er, rather, what I did WRONG while blogging.Not because I know what I’m doing, but because I don’t.

Sure, I’ve written copy for years – copy that has made people some good money. However, writing a blog article is different than writing almost anything else (unless you’re Hunter S. Thompson, God bless his soul.) But now that I am blogging regularly, I’m becoming a better copy writer and creative guy.

And you will too.

Yes, I am a hypocrite. Carry on.

Yes, I am a hypocrite. Carry on.

First, I’m a hypocrite, so let’s just get that out of the way.

You’ll notice that this is a fairly long article. And right below I say keep it short(er). So, am I a hypocrite or something? Yes. Carry on.

Well, perhaps I need a bit more explanation.

Let’s put it this way – I am not going to stop and try to make things “perfect” (another of the things I learned). In fact, that is one of the biggest problems that everyone has with writing articles – never thinking that you’re good enough to write, and therefore you never write. Well that’s just crap. How are you going to get better?

Using images for impact; summing up an article with a simple, colorful image.

Using images for impact; summing up an article with a simple, colorful image.

What to do.

1. Visual Impact.

Don’t hesitate pulling the trigger on eye. I just wrote BIG FAT IMAGE at the top of my article and you’re still reading (gotcha!)

    • Write for impact! There are too many blogs and articles out there competing for eyeballs. If YOU had a choice to read something short and pithy or long and detailed, which do you think is going to get read?
    • Keep it short(er). I know you have so much to say, but seriously, this is the Interweb. I’m not saying that you never have to say what you want to say, but it’s probably better to break up a big big article into 3 digestible bits. It’s harder to write shorter since you have to say so much very efficiently, but that’s the haps. Only very few people want to read your elaborate articles. You know what a hyperlink is? Well, use that to cross-reference the articles together and you’re set.
    • Keep it simple(er). This sounds like the short(er) thing above, but writing simple means using common jargon PROVE ONLY ONE THING. For instance, in this article I am proving that I learned something about blogging – that’s it. Everything that I say below will be about what I learned about blogging. Don’t try to explain everything; rather, something that will take too long to explain is probably another article. Reference that you’re going to write more about something, then move on. You’ll probably get a bump in your RSS signups anyway, because people don’t want to miss the ‘other part’ of the article.
    • Use interesting and alarming headlines. Need I say more? OK, a bit more: some of the top articles that have received the most pageviews use words like I love you, Meet Lew, and Brainstorming.

[/default_list]

One of the great lessons I learned from Ian Laurie: big fat images work.

 

  • Use big fat images. I can’t say this one enough, but big fat images are just wonderful (especially at the top of the article). However, if you can make your big fat image mean something concrete, it’s even better. That means either showing something in black and white, like a graph, or putting the reader in a mental position that they can relate to.
  • Use pictures to explain big chunks of text. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, that’s one thousand words that you don’t have to write.
  • Bullet points: If you do have large amounts of text, be sure to break up that text into digestible bits, like bullet points. It’s easier for the eyes to scan.
  • Use bold text of the most important word (or phrase) in the paragraph.
  • Humor is really important. Laughter is the best medicine. Don’t be afraid to use humor in your articles if you think it’s appropriate. The bottom line is you’re going to get read more if you’re entertaining and educational at the same time.

2. Brand yourself.

Halloooooo!Go ahead, be yourself! It humanizes the articles and makes it easier to relate.

  • Offer mistakes as well as successes. One of the largest responses (views) that I got was on an article called Greg 2.0: what I wish I had known. To be honest, I thought it would be interesting but not one of the most popular. After all, I’m just rehashing ‘stupid mistakes’, right? Well, the bottom line is that everyone wants to know things you’ve overcome.
  • Write like you’re talking. Create story-like articles. I would much rather read a story than an article. They’re more fun.
  • Write like you’re listening. By keeping the reader in mind while you’re writing, you’re putting yourself in their shoes. It keeps you on track and lucid in your expression.
  • Write like you’re a leader (because you are.) Everyone – repeat, everyone – is an expert in something. Write about that. Don’t be afraid to express yourself – you have something to say that is important to someone, somewhere! Better to write for your ‘tribe’ and everyone.
  • Write for you. You’re just more passionate about what you write when you write something that interests you. That comes through when the fingers hit the keyboard.

3. Do your research.

Positively silly.

Researching your article topic before you write is key. Why? Because there are a lot of smart people in the world, and you’re probably not the first person to think of whatever you’re writing about.

  • Do quick searches on the Interwebs while you’re writing. You’re not alone in what interests you. When you’re writing articles, use ‘quick searches’ just to see what’s out there. Do this 7-10 times about what you’re writing about, that very moment – there’s bound to be some great information that might help you explain the case.

4. Social media marketing is your friend.

Article writing is a social activity; you’re writing for an audience. Make your article easy to distribute.

  • Reference people. When you reference people, they notice. They interact with you. And they start to follow you. Now you have a connection, albeit a tenuous one, to a person you respect and honor. They might tell others about you, and that’s what it’s all about.
  • Wide-spread slathering of article submission only works so well. If you blast your articles to every publication, your message is cloudy. You’re not really talking to your peeps.
  • Channel-specific tactical strikes are much better. Don’t slam Facebook with your articles, create a Facebook Fan page and slam that. Let your Fans grow naturally.
  • Refer companies that have social media marketing departments. For instance, when I wrote my 9 Biz Apps article, I referenced the company MindJet MindMapper, and they retweeted me. And now I have visitors. Notice that I referenced a company that probably has a social media marketing department (even if it’s one person, that’s great!) They’re trying to show that people like their software. So, by referencing people, you leverage their marketing skills for your benefit.

I create articles, and I give them away for free. And sometimes, people refer others to my articles. Note the spike in traffic due to the referrals!

  • Comment on articles that inspire you (and you use as reference material.) Wise information hunters scan article comments almost as much as they scan the article itself. Seems silly, but actually it’s very smart. Sometimes the comments have more elegant solutions than the articles itself. That means if you leave a comment, they follow through to your website, and BLAM you have visitors, again.

5. Create a structure for writing before you write.

MindManager has completely transformed the way I write – it’s an awesome tool. For instance, this article has been structured in that program before I wrote it. This allows me to do a few things.

  • Creates a structured argument. Mindmapping tools (and here’s a free one) allow you to move topics around quickly, so you create a stellar structure that is easier to read.
  • Reminds me if I’m saying too much. If I write out everything in there, I can see where I’m overexplaining things and cut down the text.
  • I don’t repeat myself. I sometimes say things twice – this process stops that.
  • I write faster. Since I have a structure to follow, I can write much, much faster. Ever wanted to know how I write 3 articles a week and still get all my work for clients done? It’s not magic — it’s mind mapping!

6. SEO considerations.

  • Use internal links to your advantage. When you reference articles that you wrote already, you’re creating link candy for search engines like Google. Plus, you’re cutting down on the amount that you have to write (you already explained it somewhere else!) Once you have written enough articles, you can reference two or three other articles per article, and cut down on your writing even further.
  • Keyword considerations. Use a tool like Google’s Keyword Tool to see how people explain phrases – variants on how you coin something. This helps you create keyword-rich articles that are more likely to be found.
Boring but oh-so critical keyword analysis.

Boring but oh-so critical keyword analysis.

  • Trend watching: Use sites like Mashable or Google Trends to see what people consider interesting, right now.

What not to do.

  • Don’t worry too much about the perfect article. As stated before, trying to write the perfect article is insanity; I’ve spent 5 hours on articles and the flow just goes to hell. You need to develop a thick skin and allow yourself to fail. Remember, you’ll get better. Writing 12 not-perfect articles is going to get you closer to your writing goals than 3 ‘perfect’ articles.
  • Don’t try to write for every audience. Know your audience. Who are they? What do they want? Have you ASKED them? Find a person that you want to write for. Ask them what they want to hear about. Write that.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Seriously, writing is kinda like this:

fail-fail-fail-success-fail-fail-success-fail-success-success-success.

  • Don’t wait. You might be waiting for the perfect moment to write. It will never come.

And above all…

  • Just write. There is nothing like creating something. Believe in the act of writing and that’s it’s pleasurable (because it is.) So what if it’s not perfect? You can always rewrite an article (just like I did this one).

What’s in store of the future.

30 articles done, 120 to go. What are we going to be writing about in the future? Well, that would be up to you. What would YOU like to read about? Have any ideas?

Have any ideas? Would you like to send us an email about it?

What do YOU want me to write about?

Here are the topics that we know we’re writing more about in the next 90 days.

  • Analytics, particularly Google Analytics. Analytics is absolutely the best way to learn ‘what to do next’ if you can get the right report to show you. We’ll share our experiences with GA and how you can use it to discover trends, root out problem points in your website, and build tests to improve your website.
  • Speaking about testing, usability testing. We’re going to be writing more about usability and the power it has over your website success and financial future. UT is very important in knowing how to design your website.
  • Segmentation. Breaking up your customers by ‘need’ is critical in the flow of your website. This is the primary reason that websites fail. If you don’t know your customer, how can you speak to them effectively? This also spills over into User-Centered Design (UCD), where websites become powerful selling tools.
  • WordPress. We’re big fans of WordPress and learned a lot about themes, widgets, plugins, and hosting in the last 90 days. We’re also getting into WordPress MU, which allows you to run multiple blogs at onc – we’ll keep you posted.
  • Mobile web. Did you know that 1/5 of Americans access the mobile web every day? Mobile devices and functionality is changing the game on how your customer access your products and services.
  • Social Media as we continue to grow stronger in the ways of the Force.

I want to thank some brilliant writers…

Throw a little Gonzo into your articles, won't you?

I want to thank some brilliant minds out there for helping me become a better writer. You should check out their blogs and what they’re writing about.

  • I would first like to thank all the people that have retweeted, forwarded, and blasted my articles across the Interweb. I love you, and I continue to write for you.
  • All my clients – thanks for supporting me financially and allowing me to turn your businesses inside out,
  • I would also like to thank Darren Rowse for incredible articles on the art of blogging, particularly his article on the 21 Ways to Make Your Blog or Website Sticky,
  • Glen Allsopp, on absolutely inspiring me to reach new heights, especially with his article on How I Really Built a Blog with 6,500 Subscribers,
  • Ian Lurie for his common sense and telling it like it is, particularly his 7 Tips for StumbleUpon Success,
  • Seth Godin for helping me find my voice and become the leader that I was born to be,
  • Brian, Jon and Sonia at CopyBlogger for showing me that writing copy for blogs is a unique beast,
  • Denise Wakeman on how to build a better blog,
  • Tim Ash on reminding me of what I already know about Landing Page Optimization,
  • And last but certainly not least, Avinash Kaushik for showing me that writing technical articles can be fun and filled with humor.

Looking forward to writing the next 30 articles for you, dear readers! Citius, Altius, Fortius!

– Gregory

Greg Cox

Analytics Geek. Gregory likes Motorcycles, Cooking, and Sciencey stuff.