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It’s all about Pillar Content

Today’s lesson is from ProBloggers First Week of blogging and is a very important topic for all bloggers new and old. Pillar Content; how to come up with it? 

For many coming up with great blog ideas is easy, and they just “flow” from your mind.

However, I know from past experience, sometimes our brains just seen to shut down and we get “nothing” which can be very frustrating. The sentence that we always hear “content is king” holds true not only for our readers but for search engines who pick up our posts.

What Is Pillar Content?

Pillar content is foundational or basic content that is essential knowledge for anyone in your niche. It’s evergreen content – it never dates or loses relevance – and it’s the kind of information that people within your audience would search for using Google, Bing, or another search engine. As you can imagine, pillar content is an important aspect of many blogs.

The key here is not to knock yourself out and try and come up with 365 new ideas but to use ideas you have already written about and expand on them.

An example..

 

In Problogger’s example, he uses a mind map to illustrate the various sub-categories that can be built around a topic for a pet and grooming blog. You can see he takes a main idea topic or original post and expands on it.

Just take out your pen and draw a line from your main idea or post title and then extend to bubbles with various ideas or sub-topics. It is a wonderful way not only to organize but to come up with great new material.

  • Pick up a question that a reader asked in the comments and answer it.
  • Take the opposite point of view
  • Write an opinion view
  • Write a piece that helps people “do it”
  • Do you have a picture that would relate to this or video

Take 15 minutes to do this exercise, when completed you should have a page full of new and exciting material that will make your readers want to dive deeper into your posts.

Weekly tasks:

Utilizing the concept of pillar content, your challenge today is write a post after coming up with a subtopic from your mind mapping and don’t forget to link back to the original post if you can!

After you have written your post don’t forget to link it up here and please take the time to read a post or two and leave some love for everyone!

So do tell, how many mind maps did you create and how many new posts did you get out of this process?

Did someone say “shopping?”

the mall shopping centerphoto credit: Hans van de Bruggen

The holidays are coming up on us rather quickly, frankly I’m not sure where this whole year has gone but that is another topic. So today we are going to take a little “trip” away from our computer, yup, that means we all have to get dressed and head outside. I’m sure the fresh air will do us some good too!

The mall is an inspirational place; just as a magazine gave us lots of ideas for our blogs the mall does similarly.

Now here is the exercise:

  1. As I said to do this exercise you must first leave your computer and head out to the mall.
  2. Don’t forget to bring a notebook and pen if you are like me and if you are like everyone else in my family your iPad. (I still am a pen and paper kinda gal, I love looking back on my filled notebooks!)
  3. I live just outside of DC where there are a number of malls at my finger tips, but I realize this might be a little harder for those of you in rural areas but there has to be something near you, I hope… maybe even a Wal-Mart.
  4. When you get inside the mall or shop take a half hour to walk around and just observe…
  • Who is there? Who are they with?
  • What are they doing?
  • What are they buying?
  • How does it look like shoppers are make their buying decisions?
  • What are the retailers doing to get people’s attention and stand out?
  • What messages are the stores using in their marketing?
  • What colors are in at the moment? (other than the holiday decorations which have already gone up here!)
  • What other things are ‘chic’ or in fashion?
  • What type of sales techniques is the staff using?
  • What are retail outlets doing well? What are they doing poorly?

5.  As you watch, jot down some notes.

6.  Once you’ve spent half an hour or so on ‘observation mode’ find a spot to sit down with a coffee (perhaps a pumpkin spice late, or gingerbread late) and go over the things that you’ve noticed and see if there’s any lessons there that you might be able to apply to your blogging.

This process might seem a little random – but it’s something that I’ve done on a few times over the last few years and each time that I’ve done it I’ve come away with at least one new idea that I want to apply in my blogging and I am sure you will too.

Now do tell, what happened on your trip to the mall, and I don’t mean the new shoes that caught your eye…. However I am sure they are very nice!

We are on a “Mission”

mission statement wordscreated with: wordle

After creating and running a nonprofit I fully understand the meaning behind a Mission Statement. It should just run off your tongue when explaining the meaning or heart and soul behind your business or in our cases here blogs. However, when was the last time you stopped and thought about your Mission Statement? When I ran Hadley’s Park, our Mission Statement was painted on just about every wall in our offices.

I believe this is an important piece of information that we should each understand for our blog therefore today’s lesson which ProBlogger originally wrote about in his strategic blogging series is about understanding your mission.

‘Why do you exist?’

This is it people, the moment you need to ask yourself “what is the purpose of my blog? What is it all about?”

‘Why do you blog?’

Get ready because today we are going to begin to craft our mission statements. Let’s start by taking a few minutes (or better still a few hours) to ponder this question. What is it that you blog for? What are your core motivations? Be honest as you answer this question because it’s important to nail it down as much as you can as everything else comes from this.

Some blogging ‘missions’ might include:

  • ‘I blog to make a living’
  • ‘I blog for recreational purposes – to help me relax’
  • ‘I blog to keep a record of the life and times of me’
  • ‘I blog because I want to help others’
  • ‘I blog to because I want to connect with others’
  • ‘I blog because it’s fun’
  • ‘I blog because I want to build profile – I want to be known

Understand as unique as each of our blogs are there is no right or wrong answer here rather to come up with something that is distinctively “yours”.

So why do we need a Mission Statement?

  • Because understanding why we blog then helps us to work out how we should blog to best reach our mission.
  • It will keep you focused.
  • It will keep your content “original” to you, *stop playing the compare game.
  • It will help you keep the type of content you will be proud of.

Today’s Task: post a comment below with YOUR newly crafted or updated blog mission statement below.

Now let’s talk off on our missions…

Pick up that magazine

Magazines

Let’s use the pile of magazine I have in my family room, or your family room to come up with some great bloggy ideas! I am all for finding inspiration all around, even where you least expect it. So today, I am going to make it my business to go through the serious pile I have stacking up and look for some great ideas.

What you need:

Magazines

Sticky pads

Pens or pencils

Open mind!

60 minutes, I’m even timing it!

 

Analyze a magazine with the intention of helping your blog:

I imagine if you are like me a lot of the magazines that you subscribe to are of topics you cover on your blog, for me food, healthy food, wellness, and design, and all of these are on my site.

The Cover- What is it telling you? Short words? Ideas for lists? Giveaways if that is your thing? Take a good look at the headline; what inspired you about this topic to pick up this magazine if you just purchased it?

In the sheets- What colors are being used? What is the chic new type-face? Is there something there that you might incorporate into your site?

The Stories- Nine times out of ten I will find something in a magazine that I “rip out” and put in my “idea folder” be it a title that inspires me, or content that reminds me of a story that I’d like to share with my readers. Read with an open mind…

Niche Ideas-Is there a story that relates to your niche that inspires you to write a post? Is there a new statistic or information that your audience would appreciate if you chose to share it in a post?

It’s all about the interaction- Take a look at how companies interact with their customers; how do they run giveaways or promotions? I know you are thinking “hmm I’m not Pillsbury” but sometimes it is not about the money that the companies spend rather the viral marketing which costs little more than your time.

Our weekly exercis

Go to a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for an hour, set the timer if you must.

Bring a few magazines with you and your sticky pads and pen or pencil to make notes.

Quickly skim the magazine from front to back cover.

Notice what “jumps out at you”

Now start over, upon returning to the beginning make a note of what were the things that “jumped out at you.”

Now go back one more time and this time take your time to think about the following:

  • What drew your attention on the front cover? What techniques did they use to capture your attention in various places?
  • What are the headlines saying? Are they affective? Did they make you want to jump and look for the article?
  • How is their use of photos?
  • How is the magazine formatted?
  • What it the magazines “call to action?”
  • Can you learn from their ads?
  • Who would read this magazine?
  • What do you like about the magazine? What don’t you like about the magazine? Is there something you can use on your site from this magazine?
  • Use your sticky pad to write ideas for posts and “rip” out the pages for the idea folder.

For this week’s lesson:

I would like you to take the hour to review a magazine and go through the above questions. Then either write a post that was inspired by a topic in the magazine, the headline, a photo, or something that “jumped off the pages” at you.

Come back and link up and take a few moments to review a few of the others posts in the group.

Hello it’s Me!

3D character rolling e-mail sign.

Blogging is all about connecting with people. Bloggers write for business or pleasure, either publicly or anonymously, (which I do understand because I wrote anonymously for a year), but at some point you need to let people know how to contact you. After a while someone is going to want to get in touch with you to ask about some kind of opportunity be it advertising, a PR agent, or someone in the media who read your post and wants to follow up for a piece they are working on. And the way to do this on your site is to make sure you have a Contact page. I believe this has to be the second most important page on your site followed up right behind your About Me page.

A lot of time readers want to get in touch with you and offer a little more than a note in the comment box and they would rather send you an email. To be a better blogger you need to keep the lines of communication open with your readers, and you want to make this as easy as possible for them.

I can’t tell you how many people I have personally tried to get in touch with after reading a post and spent up to 5 minutes looking for a way to contact someone to no avail, and I believe this is frustrating! And I don’t think you want to frustrate people who could potentially be contacting you for some kind of business, do you?

I just went through a complete re-design of my site and this summer spent a great deal of time on various pages and this was one of the pages that as simple as it seems I made sure I  included. It has my email, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and Digg as well as a link to my other site that I Co-Founded with my daughter Sarah  The DC Ladies. I left off my phone number because that is just “me” but to many others this is important and the place to be. I also made sure that at the top of my home page all of my social media icons are just a click away. (But this does not replace a Contact Page)

If you have a Contact form on your page, please do not let that be the only means that someone can get in touch with you, again that pushes the frustration button and seems impersonal, add all of your information.

As an experiment and task for the day take a look at your site and see how easy is it for someone to get your contact information so they can get in touch? If nothing else, email please!

If you have a Contact Page, test it! Make sure all of your links work and take you where you want them to go.

Now, Can I contact you? Let’s link up our Contact Page in the McLinky below! Please take a moment to stop by and visit the lovely blogger before you and leave some love for them too!

Baby it’s YOU!

me cufflinks
photo credit: Etsy

First I have to say “hi!” And let you all know I am so happy that you are here to review ProBlogger’s lessons that we worked on in both his books 31 Days to build a Better Blog and The First Week of Blogging I think there is so much that we can learn and take this one step further with each of the lessons.

So, let’s start at the beginning. Why did you start your blog? Was it to raise awareness of something you feel passionate about, or about your business or your hobbies, or children? We all have our own reasons for wanting to share our “stories” with the world. And one of the most important pieces on our site is about each of us- Who are you?

This is an important piece of information and EVERY blog should have one! Your About Me page should be one of your best written pieces. It is a page that a lot of first time readers might check out after enjoying a first post as well as those wanting to know if they should invest time in building a relationship with you: potential partners, advertisers, collaborators, journalists, and people in the PR industry that we all hope “discover” us. It should be written in the same tone that you carry on through your site, are you funny, informative, controversial, or write from the heart. I know a lot of you are thinking “I already have an about me page” but this is a page that evolves as your story evolves, this page should be reviewed and kept current.

Here are a few ideas that you should include in a great About you page.

  1. Your elevator speech- This is your chance to shine in one or two lines and it is important that people can walk away and remember who you are after that brief description.
  2. A Picture is worth a thousand words-so the song goes, but it is true, people like to see “who” it is that is writing. Also make it a picture with some kind of personality.
  3. Who are you and what are you selling?- You want to be as clear as possible why you are writing this. Sharing your beliefs on your About Me page can both inspire readers and gain their trust.
  4. Toot your own horn- Do you have a few posts you are proud of, highlight them here. This is the place to really try and reel them in and have them want to read more and more.
  5. And following up on horn tooting-do you have any testimonials from others that you’d like to share?
  6. Make it personal-don’t forget people love to hear “the story” as I said we all have a reason for starting our blogs so this is the place to open your front door and say “come on in” and let me share my story with you. However, remember this is not the place to write the whole long story of your life, make it brief and understandable.
  7. Make it about THEM-  Everyone likes to feel wanted
  8. Make sure they know how to “keep in touch”.-Leave links to just about every way you want to be contacted and make sure you add a subscribe via RSS somewhere to the page.

Share your reworked About Me page with us!  We’d love to see what’s happening on your blog.  Just leave a link to your page below. I will be tweeting out the URLs this week on Twitter using the hashtag #shelleypbreview
 

Back to School for Bloggers

apple and booksWelcome to Back to School for my new weekly ProBlogger Review. I will be reviewing both “First Week of Blogging” & 31 Days to build a better blog. Some of you might be total newbies, some of you might be starting a second or third blog, some of you might be starting a business blog, starting a vlog, and some of you like me might like to review with the “scholar” of blogging to perfect your own site. In any event I am thrilled as punch to happy to have you join me. I will be posting here on Thursdays and occasionally will be hosting Tweet Up to discuss things a little further.

I will discuss the weekly lessons as well as put up a weekly task. OK, with that said, “Did anyone bring me an apple?”

Today we are starting from the beginning… Let’s take a look at the first week of blogging… As I said, even if you are not a newbie, this is such a great lesson for all of us!

Planning, planning and some more planning..

1. Set up an ideas folder. This is the brain behind your blog; this is where you will store your info to create quality content.

  • You can use old standard office files and label them; I find these useful for magazine or newspaper articles that I save that bring an idea for a post to mind, and those little pieces of paper I jot on with an idea when I am doing something completely different.
  •  Or set up files on your desktop.
  • Set up a main “idea” file and then secondary files within that or idea text documents. *This is where you run in the middle of the night if you get that “great idea” you want to write about but are afraid you will forget about until morning.
  • Each text file is a different idea for a blog post.
  • Write a topic in the subject and leave until later to come back to.
  • Some text files might have 2-3 key points which will help you start to write your content.
  • Others might be full drafts which when reviewed you can move over to schedule to post. (That might be another folder-ready to edit.)

If you are like me you have a hundred ideas going through your head and this will help you keep things organized from the start, and will also help you when you have “writers block” and need something to fill in fast.

2. Brainstorm posts i.e. Mind Mapping. This is key to coming up with great content for future use. Darren explains this in great detail.  The main thing to remember is to sit down with an open mind, doing this 5 minutes before your kids get home from school, or just before it’s time to make dinner is not the time to do this.

  • However you may choose a different method of brainstorming but the key is to set aside specific times to simply come up with ideas to write about. *I now do this the weekend before the beginning of a new month.
  • Mind mapping is also a great way to come up with categories for your new blog on topics which you would like to cover.

3. Set a posting rhythm. After doing your mind mapping you should have a handful of great post ideas to put into your ideas folder. Now is the time to sit down and “realistically” think about your life, do you have a business, children, demanding husband, now is the time to think about all of this and how am I going to fit writing into your blog, don’t fret it can be done! You just have to be organized and come up with a plan.

  • Schedule a time to write your content.
  • Establish a time/day to edit.
  • Decide what days you are going to post on a Calendar. *I do this on my Google calendar.
4. Plan your first week of content. Now that you have both a mind map and an ideas folder of great post topics, and you have set up times to make this happen it is time to pull this all in place. If you have done your mind mapping and sit up the posting rhythm you should be set to work well beyond your first week of blogging.

5. Create a launch post. It’s Show Time!! Now is the time to sit down and take the first idea, the one that sparked your interest in why you wanted to write this blog and put your pencil to paper or fingers to keys and type away…

  • Within your first post I would introduce yourself and let people know why you are writing and creating this site.
  • Let people know how reading your site might help them.
  • Set up an RSS feed through Google and point people to subscribe to it.
  • It is always good to have someone look at your launch post before hitting the publish button, PLEASE make sure all of your spelling and grammar are correct.

 

Now, after taking the time to go through each of these tasks let’s  create a post; either a launch post, a re-launch post or an About Me Page and link up! Take a moment to stop by the blogger just before you and leave some love.

 

I’m so glad to have you with me!

 

 

 

31 days to build a better blog and then some…

For all of the ladies who have followed along in the Winter ProBlogger 31 day challenge I have the links to each day for you to review. If you are new to this challenge welcome, it is a wonderful program written by the Zen Master ProBlogger Darren Rowse designed to help YOU build a better blog. And who doesn’t want to have a great blog that encourages readers to come back for more and more? You can pick up his workbook and join in the fun!

Day One: Write and Elevator Speech

Day Two: Write a list post

Day Three: Promote a blog post

Day Four: Analyze a top blog in your niche

Day Five: Email a blog reader

Day Six: 27 Must read tips and tutorials

Day Seven: Write a link post

Day Eight: Interlink your old posts

Day Nine: Join a forum and start participating

Day Ten: Set up alerts to monitor what is happening in your niche

Day Eleven: Come up with 10 post ideas

Day Twelve: Develop an editorial calendar for your blog

Day Thirteen: Take a trip to the mall

Day Fourteen: Update a key page on your blog

Day Fifteen: Find a blog buddy

Day Sixteen: Solve a problem: 7 ways to identify readers’ problems

Day Seventeen: Watch a first time reader use your blog

Day Eighteen: Create a sneeze page

Day Nineteen: Write and opinion post for your blog

Day Twenty: Leave comments on other blogs

Day Twenty-one: Breathe life into an old post

Day Twenty-two: Pay special attention to a reader

Day Twenty-three: Call your readers to action

Day Twenty-four: How to use a magazine to improve your blog

Day Twenty-five: Ask a question: 10 reasons why questions work and 12 tips on how to ask them

Day Twenty-six: Improve another blog

Day Twenty-seven: Hunt for dead links

Day Twenty-eight: Write a review post

Day Twenty-nine: Develop a plan to boost your blog’s profile and readership online

Day Thirty: 17 statistics to monitor on your blog

Day Thirty-one: Plan the next steps for your blog

Are YOU up for the challenge? If you are stop back tomorrow to see what I have in store for YOU!

Day 31 – Plan the Next Steps for Your Blog

Well this is it; Day 31! As I said on Friday I can’t believe that the challenge is over I have really enjoyed the program myself as well as leading all of you. I am excited to review and get all of my notes in order and put all of these challenges into place. I will be making the move from blogger to wordpress with a new design very soon and feel that this challenge helped me bloom.

I’d like to thank each of you for taking the time to do the challenge these past 6 weeks with me. It was a bit of a challenge at times for me doing it and leading it but like all of you I kept on moving. I’d like to thank you all for your support. A big shout out to Francesca for getting each day’s challenge to “sticky” on the Forum and a thank you to all of the SITS girls for the $100 Gift Card Giveaway.*

Don’t forget that I will be running a review for the challenge on Thursdays starting 3/31 on my site and hope you will continue to work with me as we improve our sites together.

Wishing you all well and hope to see you in blogosphere!

Shelley @shelleyellen

Some Important Info:

If you want to be an affiliate for the “31 Days to Build a Better Blog” ebook check out the 31DBBB Affiliate Page.

If you’re not finished with 31DBBB, I will be putting up a review of the challenge on my site this week and you are welcome to join in our review group on Thursdays beginning 3/31 for weekly reviews and challenges.

In celebration of those who completed 31DBBB, I will be coming up with a badge and will Tweet everyone when I get that back from the designer this week.

Key Concepts:

Successful bloggers often set aside time to think strategically about their blogs every now and again.

Figure out the things you feel are most important in blogging and develop a plan for next month by specifying tasks you want to achieve each day.

Sample Plan:

Six posts a week (Sundays are a day off from posting)

Each post day having its own type of post

Time on Sundays for determining the specifics of each post (topics, titles etc.)

An administration task each Monday

Promotional activities on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays

A day for readers (Fridays) for emailing, answering questions etc.)

Stats analysis on the last day of the month

Brainstorming on the first day of the month

You still have to keep up with daily tasks like comment moderation

Don’t bite of more than you can chew, or you may get blogger burnout

BIG recommendation: Look back over the last 31 days of tasks and identify which ones you might want to perform regularly on your blog.

Questions:

1. What tasks will you continue to perform regularly on your blog?

2. What is the most important thing you’ve learned throughout 31DBBB?

Update: *I’d like to thank the lovely ladies of SITS whose site hosted our Problogger Winter 31 Day Challenge. At the completion of our challenge we had 20 posts on this day’s task on the SITS site’s forum.

If you are just joining us “welcome” and feel free to answer the questions here and leave a link to your post if you wrote one and we can keep the party going!

Day 30: 17 Statistics To Monitor On Your Blog

Wow, it is hard to believe we are only 1 day away from the end of the 31DBBB Challenge! This has been an amazing month; I hope that everyone has had as much fun as I have. After this month, I’m feeling a clear direction and feel like I have more of a plan for my blog – it’s pretty amazing although lots of work and going back through all of my posts. And I’m getting ready for a whole new redo now! (I feel like I’m moving and starting the packing. Uhhh but it’s a good thing!)

I’ve also loved getting to know some of you and your blogs, don’t forget that we will be continuing our challenge on my site and reviewing some of the key days and moving forward with new challenges every Thursday so please don’t be a stranger and stop on by, I will continue to help everyone build better blogs through our Zen Master Problogger and will try to keep everyone inspired and have a giveaway for the group here and there!

The task for Day 30 is to spend time looking at your blog’s statistics to see what you can learn from it. There is a LOT of information in the e-book, but I’ll try to pull out some key points.

Key Takeaways:

• If you haven’t done so already, install tracking on your blog. WordPress has built in tracking, and blogger now shows stats on the site as well as Google Analytics which is also a popular way to follow your numbers.

• A few of the statistics Darren highlights are Overall Visitors, Most Popular Posts, Referral Stats, Bounce Rates, Daily/Weekly Trends, and Exit Pages.

• Don’t become a stats addict! Darren has a huge blog, and he glances at stats a couple of times a day but puts aside only an hour or two a month to go deeper into the numbers.

• Remember that blogs take time to build, and consider setting exponential goals instead of numerical ones – for example, doubling your subscribers or growing by a percentage each month.

This particular exercise tends to become more and more useful over time. Problogger recommends using this as a part of your regular blogging routine.

Questions:

1) Did you track your statistics this month? What did you see?

2) Which statistics do you feel tell you the most about your blog or readers?

But we still have one more day left… so no tears right now please, I have to go get ready for the gym…

The linky love throughout this month has been very good and I loved how it followed over to Twitter. (ps I’m going to continue with my Twitter Tutorials too). So as usual please leave your linky love and make sure I have your email address in this comment if you want to continue on and review with me.

Update: *I’d like to thank the lovely ladies of SITS whose site hosted our Problogger Winter 31 Day Challenge. At the completion of our challenge we had 35 posts on this day’s task on the SITS site’s forum.

If you are just joining us “welcome” and feel free to answer the questions here and leave a link to your post if you wrote one and we can keep the party going!