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Blog Post Ideas: Maximize Your Reach with the Right Topics – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

With the ubiquity of blogs, one of the questions we hear the most is how to come up with the right topics for new posts. In today’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, Rand explores six different paths to great blog topic ideas, and tells you what you need to keep in mind before you start.

Blog post ideas

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Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re going to chat about blog post ideas, how to have great ones, how to make sure that the topics that you’re covering on your blog actually accomplish the goals that you want, and how to not run out of ideas as well.

The goals of your blog

So let’s start with the goals of a blog and then what an individual post needs to do, and then I’ll walk you through kind of six formats for coming up with great ideas for what to blog about. But generally speaking, you have created a blog, either on your company’s website or your personal website or for the project that you’re working on, because you want to:

  • Attract a certain audience, which is great.
  • Capture the attention and amplification, the sharing of certain types of influencers, so that you can grow that audience.
  • Rank highly in search engines. That’s not just necessarily a goal for the blog’s content itself. But one of the reasons that you started a blog is to grow the authority, the ranking signals, the ability to rank for the website as a whole, and the blog hopefully is helping with that.
  • Inspire some trust, some likeability, loyalty, and maybe even some evangelism from your readers.
  • Provide a reference point for their opinions. So if you are a writer, an author, a journalist, a contributor to all sorts of sources, a speaker, whatever it is, you’re trying to provide a home for your ideas and your content, potentially your opinions too.
  • Covert our audience to take an action. Then, finally, many times a blog is crafted with the idea that it is a first step in capturing an audience that will then take an action. That could be buy something from you, sign up for an email list, potentially take a free trial of something, maybe take some action. A political blog might be about, “Call your Congress person.” But those types of actions.

What should an individual post do?

From there, we get into an individual post. An individual post is supposed to help with these goals, but on its own doesn’t do all of them. It certainly doesn’t need to do more than one at a time. It can hopefully do some. But one of those is, generally speaking, a great blog post will do one of these four things and hopefully two or even three.

I. Help readers to accomplish a goal that they have.

So if I’m trying to figure out which hybrid electric vehicle should I buy and I read a great blog post from someone who’s very, very knowledgeable in the field, and they have two or three recommendations to help me narrow down my search, that is wonderful. It helps me accomplish my goal of figuring out which hybrid car to buy. That accomplishment of goal, that helping of people hits a bunch of these very, very nicely.

II. Designed to inform people and/or entertain them.

So it doesn’t have to be purely informational. It doesn’t have to be purely entertainment, but some combination of those, or one of the two, about a particular topic. So you might be trying to make someone excited about something or give them knowledge around it. It may be knowledge that they didn’t previously know that they wanted, and they may not actually be trying to accomplish a goal, but they are interested in the information or interested in finding the humor.

III. Inspiring some amplification and linking.

So you’re trying to earn signals to your site that will help you rank in search engines, that will help you grow your audience, that will help you reach more influencers. Thus, inspiring that amplification behavior by creating content that is designed to be shared, designed to be referenced and linked to is another big goal.

IV. Creating a more positive association with the brand.

So you might have a post that doesn’t really do any of these things. Maybe it touches a little on informational or entertaining. But it is really about crafting a personal story, or sharing an experience that then draws the reader closer to you and creates that association of what we talked about up here — loyalty, trust, evangelism, likeability.

6 paths to great blog topic ideas

So knowing what our blog needs to do and what our individual posts are trying to do, what are some great ways that we can come up with the ideas, the actual topics that we should be covering? I have kind of six paths. These six paths actually cover almost everything you will read in every other article about how to come up with blog post ideas. But I think that’s what’s great. These frameworks will get you into the mindset that will lead you to the path that can give you an infinite number of blog post ideas.

1. Are there any unanswered or poorly answered questions that are in your field, that your audience already has/is asking, and do you have a way to provide great answers to those?

So that’s basically this process of I’m going to research my audience through a bunch of methodologies, going to come up with topics that I know I could cover. I could deliver something that would answer their preexisting questions, and I could come up with those through…

  • Surveys of my readers.
  • In-person meetings or emails or interviews.
  • Informal conversations just in passing around events, or if I’m interacting with members of my audience in any way, social settings.
  • Keyword research, especially questions.

So if you’re using a tool like Moz’s Keyword Explorer, or I think some of the other ones out there, Ahrefs might have this as well, where you can filter by only questions. There are also free tools like Answer the Public, which many folks like, that show you what people are typing into Google, specifically in the form of questions, “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Do?” etc.

So I’m not just going to walk you through the ideas. I’m also going to challenge myself to give you some examples. So I’ve got two — one less challenging, one much more challenging. Two websites, both have blogs, and coming up with topic ideas based on this.

So one is called Remoters. It’s remoters.net. It’s run by Aleyda Solis, who many of you in the SEO world might know. They talk about remote work, so people who are working remotely. It’s a content platform for them and a service for them. Then, the second one is a company, I think, called Schweiss Doors. They run hydraulicdoors.com. Very B2B. Very, very niche. Pretty challenging to come up with good blog topics, but I think we’ve got some.

Remote Worker: I might say here, “You know what? One of the questions that’s asked very often by remote workers, but is not well-answered on the internet yet is: ‘How do I conduct myself in a remote interview and present myself as a remote worker in a way that I can be competitive with people who are actually, physically on premises and in the room? That is a big challenge. I feel like I’m always losing out to them. Remote workers, it seems, don’t get the benefits of being there in person.'” So a piece of content on how to sell yourself on a remote interview or as a remote worker could work great here.

Hydraulic doors: One of the big things that I see many people asking about online, both in forums which actually rank well for it, the questions that are asked in forums around this do rank around costs and prices for hydraulic doors. Therefore, I think this is something that many companies are uncomfortable answering right online. But if you can be transparent where no one else can, I think these Schweiss Doors guys have a shot at doing really well with that. So how much do hydraulic doors cost versus alternatives? There you go.

2. Do you have access to unique types of assets that other people don’t?

That could be research. It could be data. It could be insights. It might be stories or narratives, experiences that can help you stand out in a topic area. This is a great way to come up with blog post content. So basically, the idea is you could say, “Gosh, for our quarterly internal report, we had to prepare some data on the state of the market. Actually, some of that data, if we got permission to share it, would be fascinating.”

We can see through keyword research that people are talking about this or querying Google for it already. So we’re going to transform it into a piece of blog content, and we’re going to delight many, many people, except for maybe this guy. He seems unhappy about it. I don’t know what his problem is. We won’t worry about him. Wait. I can fix it. Look at that. So happy. Ignore that he kind of looks like the Joker now.

We can get these through a bunch of methodologies:

  • Research, so statistical research, quantitative research.
  • Crowdsourcing. That could be through audiences that you’ve already got through email or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.
  • Insider interviews, interviews with people on your sales team or your product team or your marketing team, people in your industry, buyers of yours.
  • Proprietary data, like what you’ve collected for your internal annual reports.
  • Curation of public data. So if there’s stuff out there on the web and it just needs to be publicly curated, you can figure out what that is. You can visit all those websites. You could use an extraction tool, or you could manually extract that data, or you could pay an intern to go extract that data for you, and then synthesize that in a useful way.
  • Multimedia talent. Maybe you have someone, like we happen to here at Moz, who has great talent with video production, or with audio production, or with design of visuals or photography, or whatever that might be in the multimedia realm that you could do.
  • Special access to people or information, or experiences that no one else does and you can present that.

Those assets can become the topic of great content that can turn into really great blog posts and great post ideas.

Remote Workers: They might say, “Well, gosh, we have access to data on the destinations people go and the budgets that they have around those destinations when they’re staying and working remotely, because of how our service interacts with them. Therefore, we can craft things like the most and least expensive places to work remotely on the planet,” which is very cool. That’s content that a lot of people are very interested in.

Hydraulic doors: We can look at, “Hey, you know what? We actually have a visual overlay tool that helps an architect or a building owner visualize what it will look like if a hydraulic door were put into place. We can go use that in our downtime to come up with we can see how notable locations in the city might look with hydraulic doors or notable locations around the world. We could potentially even create a tool, where you could upload your own visual, photograph, and then see how the hydraulic door looked on there.” So now we can create images that will help you share.

3. Relating a personal experience or passion to your topic in a resonant way.

I like this and I think that many personal bloggers use it well. I think far too few business bloggers do, but it can be quite powerful, and we’ve used it here at Moz, which is relating a personal experience you have or a passion to your topic in some way that resonates. So, for example, you have an interaction that is very complex, very nuanced, very passionate, perhaps even very angry. From that experience, you can craft a compelling story and a headline that draws people in, that creates intrigue and that describes something with an amount of emotion that is resonant, that makes them want to connect with it. Because of that, you can inspire people to further connect with the brand and potentially to inform and entertain.

There’s a lot of value from that. Usually, it comes from your own personal creativity around experiences that you’ve had. I say “you,” you, the writer or the author, but it could be anyone in your organization too. Some resources I really like for that are:

  • Photos. Especially, if you are someone who photographs a reasonable portion of your life on your mobile device, that can help inspire you to remember things.
  • A journal can also do the same thing.
  • Conversations that you have can do that, conversations in person, over email, on social media.
  • Travel. I think any time you are outside your comfort zone, that tends to be those unique things.

Remote workers: I visited an artist collective in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I realized that, “My gosh, one of the most frustrating parts of remote work is that if you’re not just about remote working with a laptop and your brain, you’re almost removed from the experience. How can you do remote work if you require specialized equipment?” But in fact, there are ways. There are maker labs and artist labs in cities all over the planet at this point. So I think this is a topic that potentially hasn’t been well-covered, has a lot of interest, and that personal experience that I, the writer, had could dig into that.

Hydraulic doors: So I’ve had some conversations with do-it-yourselfers, people who are very, very passionate about DIY stuff. It turns out, hydraulic doors, this is not a thing that most DIYers can do. In fact, this is a very, very dramatic investment. That is an intense type of project. Ninety-nine percent of DIYers will not do it, but it turns out there’s actually search volume for this.

People do want to, or at least want to learn how to, DIY their own hydraulic doors. One of my favorite things, after realizing this, I searched, and then I found that Schweiss Doors actually created a product where they will ship you a DIY kit to build your own hydraulic door. So they did recognize this need. I thought that was very, very impressive. They didn’t just create a blog post for it. They even served it with a product. Super-impressive.

4. Covering a topic that is “hot” in your field or trending in your field or in the news or on other blogs.

The great part about this is it builds in the amplification piece. Because you’re talking about something that other people are already talking about and potentially you’re writing about what they’ve written about, you are including an element of pre-built-in amplification. Because if I write about what Darren Rowse at ProBlogger has written about last week, or what Danny Sullivan wrote about on Search Engine Land two weeks ago, now it’s not just my audience that I can reach, but it’s theirs as well. Potentially, they have some incentive to check out what I’ve written about them and share that.

So I could see that someone potentially maybe posted something very interesting or inflammatory, or wrong, or really right on Twitter, and then I could say, “Oh, I agree with that,” or, “disagree,” or, “I have nuance,” or, “I have some exceptions to that.” Or, “Actually, I think that’s an interesting conversation to which I can add even more value,” and then I create content from that. Certainly, social networks like:

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Forums
  • Subreddits. I really like Pocket for this, where I’ll save a bunch of articles, and then I’ll see which one might be very interesting to cover or write about in the future. News aggregators are great for this too. So that could be a Techmeme in the technology space, or a Memeorandum in the political space, or many others.

Remote workers: You might note, well, health care, last week in the United States and for many months now, has been very hot in the political arena. So for remoters, that is a big problem and a big question, because if your health insurance is tied to your employer again, as it was before the American Care Act, then you could be in real trouble. Then you might have a lot of problems and challenges. So what does the politics of health care mean for remote workers? Great. Now, you’ve created a real connection, and that could be something that other outlets would cover and that people who’ve written about health care might be willing to link to your piece.

Hydraulic doors: One of the things that you might note is that Eater, which is a big blog in the restaurant space, has written about indoor and outdoor space trends in the restaurant industry. So you could, with the data that you’ve got and the hydraulic doors that you provide, which are very, very common, well moderately common, at least in the restaurant indoor/outdoor seating space, potentially cover that. That’s a great way to tie in your audience and Eater’s audience into something that’s interesting. Eater might be willing to cover that and link to you and talk about it, etc.

The last two, I’m not going to go too into depth, because they’re a little more basic.

5. Pure keyword research-driven.

So this is using Google AdWords or keywordtool.io, or Moz’s Keyword Explorer, or any of the other keyword research tools that you like to figure out: What are people searching for around my topic? Can I cover it? Can I make great content there?

6. Readers who care about my topics also care about ______________?

Essentially taking any of these topics, but applying one level of abstraction. What I mean by that is there are people who care about your topic, but also there’s an overlap of people who care about this other topic and who also care about yours.

hydraulic doors: People who care about restaurant building trends and hydraulic doors has a considerable overlap, and that is quite interesting.

Remote workers: It could be something like, “I care about remote work. I also care about the gear that I use, my laptop and my bag, and those kinds of things.” So gear trends could be a very interesting intersect. Then, you can apply any of these other four processes, five processes onto that intersection or one level of an abstraction.

All right, everyone. We have done a tremendous amount here to cover a lot about blog topics. But I think you will have some great ideas from this, and I look forward to hearing about other processes that you’ve got in the comments. Hopefully, we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Do you want more social traffic to your blog posts? Wondering how to tailor your blog post shares for each network? Properly sharing your blog posts via your social media channels will help deliver a steady stream of visitors to your blog. In this article, you’ll discover how to successfully cross-promote your blog posts on […]

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If It’s Painful, It’s Broken: Unbounce Blog Team Takeaways from 2016

Since I joined the Unbounce family three years ago, our marketing team has grown from seven to 35. The content team alone has grown from two to 12.

That kind of growth comes with a lot of potential to do exciting things.

But scaling a team quickly also uncovers inefficiencies, and results in a helluvalotta growing pains.

Which is fine, really. I’m not much of a jock, but I know that without pain there is no gain.

giphy

2016 in particular was a really productive year for the content team at Unbounce. We were able to fix a lot of inefficiencies in our processes, and experiment with things that we just didn’t have the bandwidth for before.

In short, we pulled the plug on what wasn’t working and doubled down on what was working.

If you’ll allow me to, I want to share some of our biggest takeaways with you. In part because I wanna show off our gains (#humblebrag), but also because I wanna prevent your pains.

(P.S. Much of this progress can be attributed to an improvement methodology we started using called the Improvement Kata, which could be the subject of its own 10,000-word post. …But you can learn all about it in this 60-minute webinar.)

Process improvements: If something is painful, it’s because it’s broken

When I began work at Unbounce in 2014, I was the main person dedicated to the blog. I spent my days writing, editing and making sure that we maintained our historically high editorial standards.

But I was doing this in a silo, so when we began onboarding more team members who were to contribute to the blog, things started to feel a little painful.

Suddenly, it was evident that we needed new processes. And the only way to fix inefficiencies was to first diagnose them:

  • I was spending too much of my time working with external contributors and responding to queries that I couldn’t focus on content that contributed to big picture business objectives
  • I was used to being a lone wolf, but now my team members needed visibility into which posts were in the pipeline (and at what stage)
  • With more team members, prioritization of content pieces was becoming more difficult

After listing all the pains, we started looking for solutions as a team.

What did the doctor(s) order? You can read about all our process improvements in this post, but here are some of my personal favorites:

  • We killed our “Write For Us” page.
  • We refused to take on any post that didn’t first have a fully fleshed-out pitch (you can steal the template for it below).

Produce better content by getting off on the right foot

Download Unbounce’s blog pitch framework and ensure all your content is 10x content.
hbspt.forms.create({ css: ”, portalId: ‘722360’, formId: ’64e8a438-dccd-4831-988d-1f2c5c4889ef’, target: ‘#cta-hb’, onFormReady: function() { if (navigator.appVersion.indexOf(‘Win’)!=-1) { $ (‘.hs-form select’).click(function(event) { $ (‘.hs-form select .hs-input option’).prop(‘disabled’, false);}); } } });
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But my favorite change was one that alleviated a ton of pain…

Treat blog posts like campaigns

When I started blogging in 2008, the #1 piece of advice I was given was to establish a posting frequency and then stick to it.

But last year, at marketing conferences and across the web, I began to hear whispers of something different: publish less, but publish deeper.

This suggestion was attractive to me because I’d been working hard for two years to make sure that our editorial calendar was filled with back-to-back actionable articles. I was able to maintain a frequent publishing schedule, but this resulted in me neglecting something far more important: a sound distribution strategy.

We were working hard to create awesome content, but weren’t making the time to be sure that people would take notice.

So in 2016, we started experimenting with treating blog posts like campaigns.

What do I mean by this? Taking the time to plan, write and promote epic posts — the kind of stuff that makes your CMO drop their work and share the post in a department-wide email — even if it means dialing back on publishing frequency.

More specifically, “campaign” posts go through five phases (read about them in detail in this post):

  1. Determine the goal of your post so you can determine later whether or not it was successful (and guide the content of the post).
  2. Do keyword research if appropriate so your post will continue to get organic traffic.
  3. Loop in influencers who can help you amplify your content after you hit publish. Include quotes — as Andy Crestodina said in his keynote at Content Marketing World, “An ally in content production is an ally in content distribution.” Beyond that, start thinking about distribution strategy before you write a single word.
  4. Create custom blog assets that you’d like to see in your own social media feeds. Think of how you can create a consistent design experience across all channels.
  5. Distribute according to a predetermined plan. Milk all your channels for everything they’re worth.

We get so much more out of posts when we take this well-rounded approach — we feel happier and more strategic (instead of feeling like we’re on a content farm). It feels less painful and it actually feels like less work. Here’s another great bit I heard at Content Marketing World:

More of a spirit of experimentation

Optimization is such a core part of our business — we preach it in our webinars, on our podcast, on the blog. “Always be testing” echoes through the hallways to the extent that it’s become a bit of a cliché.

Yet, when it came to actually conducting tests on our blog and other content, we were quicker to make excuses than make time for optimization. Not because we were slackers — quite the opposite — but because we were too focused on furiously pumping out content to take a step back and take a look at the bigger picture.

Until we decided to just do it ✔️️ and were inspired to launch a two week optimization experiment. For the experiment, we halted publishing and focused entirely on optimizing evergreen content. In a nutshell we:

  1. Researched top traffic posts
  2. Freshened up the content of the post to keep them evergreen
  3. Optimized those posts for lead generation (this part was key)

You can read all about our experiment (and how it resulted in 700 new leads for us) in this post. Or just grab the checklist below and get started.

Ready to optimize your high-traffic posts for lead gen?

Steal the exact process that Unbounce used during their two week optimization experiment.
hbspt.forms.create({ css: ”, portalId: ‘722360’, formId: ‘6959abbb-59e1-4de0-9ab3-36da2443c394’, target: ‘#ready’, onFormReady: function() { if (navigator.appVersion.indexOf(‘Win’)!=-1) { $ (‘.hs-form select’).click(function(event) { $ (‘.hs-form select .hs-input option’).prop(‘disabled’, false);}); } } });
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Our main takeaway? Optimization isn’t just for conversion rate optimizers and performance marketers. Content marketers stand to gain a lot by taking a step back, too. Even if it means temporarily forgetting about your editorial calendar.

More accountability

Everyone is aware of certain inefficiencies and pains within their organization or on their team, but seldom do we make the time to take ownership of these and actually resolve to fix them.

I’d encourage you to take a step back and think about what hurts and what bandaids you have at your disposal. It may seem daunting or like a lot of work at first, but I think you’ll find that it pays off in the long run.


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