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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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Developing your eBook writing skills

hands holding an electronic reader to view an eBook

Creating an eBook may be easier than printing a hard-copy book, but it still takes effort and skill to make it a good eBook.

Writing an eBook appeals to many people, but not so many have done it. Is it something you have been thinking of doing?

The following eBook tips come from a ProBlogger webinar I participated in at the end of July. They look short and simple but there is a wealth of information there if you take the time to think about them.

 

  1. Always add value to your readers, whether it is information, instruction or entertainment. Without value, it will not good and is not likely to get much word of mouth promotion nor good reviews. This has to be the basis of any eBook you write – just like it is the basis of good blogs posts and articles.
  2. A blog can be a great testing ground for your eBook ideas.
  3. Choose an eBook topic on what could sell AND what you can actually write about! In other words, balance your skills against your readers’ needs
  4. An outline for an eBook can help designers start before content is complete – a time efficient option!
  5. In writing the solution to a problem, make sure it is a problem people recognise as a problem. For example, people buy a book on travel photography by perhaps not one in taking colour photos even though it is a basic skill and component of travel photography.
    ‘When writing an e-book, try to write about something with tangible results i.e. Take Better Travel Photos’ by Bright Fox Media
  6. make sure your topic has enough content to last – an eBook is longer than a blog post or magazine article remember!
  7. republishing existing  blog content is fine, especially if it is reorganised and updated.
  8. do a plan or outline of your eBook
    1. it is a good starting point for writing your eBook
    2. it provides a structure that stands no matter what order you write the content in
    3. enables planning your launch and content that can be used to generate interest (eg guest blog posts, social media updates)

What challenges have you faced when thinking about, planning or writing an eBook?

 

Blog post writing isn’t always easy, but it’s possible

Does every blog post come naturally and easily? scrabble letters 'writing blog posts'

Speaking for myself, the answer is a definite no!

Speaking on behalf of clients and many business people I have spoken to, I would also give a resounding no!

Speaking for yourself, do you think it’s easy to write blog posts? How about if you try writing them to fit a marketing schedule?

So sometimes we have to make ourselves write a post, even if it is hard finding an idea or topic.

Don’t force your writing

A post on SEO outreach by Emma Fox stated “don’t force yourself into making something for a website.” (Yes, the same post that inspired my post about taking time to develop ideas last week has inspired this post, too!)

It’s an interesting statement.

You can take it to mean its best to write naturally and don’t go too far in making your posts relevant to a very different topic. Which are good points.

Or you can read it as advice to  only write for other blogs when you feel like it. Which sounds very nice, but is not so practical for a business owner trying to market their business!

Choosing a guest blog host

 When it comes to choosing where to put a guest blog post, I try to get that balance through the following ideas:

  1. if the blog’s topic is too far from my areas of knowledge, I don’t write posts for them
  2. I only approach someone with a potential guest post when I know I have the time to provide the post, meaning I have a bit of time to be able to write without it being a huge chore or stress
  3. I don’t try being someone else or write in another’s voice so the post feels natural. I will angle the content and tone to suit an audience but keep to what feels right for me
  4. I am experienced in writing on demand – I think you can choose to write at any time, not just want for the right mood, without feeling forced into it. Habit and attitude can get you writing – like Chris Guillebeau, I like the quote  from Somerset Maugham: I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.

Choosing your blog hosting arrangement

Setting up a blog may seem daunting but it really doesn’t have to be. However, the first step, how to host your blog, can be difficult if you haven’t done it before.

List of varous factors in choosing a web host

Some things to consider

So, here are some things to know and consider before making your choice…

  1. check out the various advantages to hosting yourself or through your blogging software
  2. if you already have a website, adding the blog to that site means you share the traffic, have only one URL to promote, can see combined statistics through your host and only have one host relationship to deal with
  3. think long term – what do you want from your blog? how do you want to manage it? Just because you don’t need a feature now shouldn’t be a major reason in your choice. For example, a hosted blog won’t let you add Adsense ads which may be something you want to do in 12 months when you’ve built up some traffic.
  4. how technical are you – or how much technical support do you have? While installing and updating the blog software doesn’t require html knowledge, some people find it challenging so a hosted blog has appeal
  5. what will your audience expect? Do you need to earn their trust? Seeing your blog on your domain and branded appropriately goes a long way to building trust and credibility
  6. minimise risk by choosing a reputable host which ever type of hosting you go with
  7. assess the different risks for your business

What other questions are you considering (or did you consider) as part of your decision?

Honesty in your blog comments

Once you start blogging you will start getting comments. Unfortunately, a large proportion of them will probably be spam, but the real comments are great.

What about the real but not-so-great comments you may get?

As I wrote a few years ago (back in December 2007 to be precise – old content that still rings true!), I think you have five choices about how to act on negative comments.

Spam and outright abuse I think should be deleted and forgotten.

Comments that just disagree with you or  realistic or even constructive  criticisms are a different story.

Keeping negative comments in your blog seems honest to me – you’re not censoring and are being transparent.

It may be confronting to leave negative comments live, but it gives you a chance to be human and show that you are open to feedback – especially if you show that you have learnt from it.

Have you ever left negative comments in your blog? What response have you got from doing so?

Would you use negative comments to stir a controversy or a discussion?

An interesting campaign by comments

Like most bloggers, I get spam comments – boring and annoying but that’s the way it is. Luckily, I have plugins so don’t often see all the spam that comes in.

Occasionally I do glance through what has been filtered as spam to check things are on track. Recently, a found a number of comments in the spam filter that were a bit different.

Using comments to get a message spreadannouncing through blog comments

Leaving comments in a blog can of course be one way to share your message, and attract traffic back to your site to really explain what is important to you.

But this is the first time I have seen someone set up bulk comments (and I assume it was automated so probably has been sent to many blogs) in order to make their point of view heard.

This isn’t a commercial message, either (although their site could be monetised of course) so it really stood out to me.

Imagine if do-it-in-a-dress, World Vision, Kiva, Greenpeace or any other charity or community group used this tactic – see why I thought this was unusual?

Sharing negative messages

The comments I noticed were criticisms of a writing site

The commenter’s name was even entered as derogative terms against that service so they were definitely keen to ruin the company’s name.

I didn’t click on the link provided as I have no desire to read a diatribe against another service, plus I don’t trust links in spammy comments!

Personally, I have not looked at the named site but I have heard of it. I know some people have found it useful for finding writing projects while the details I have heard concern me and others (the pay rate is apparently ridiculously low so clients can’t assume they  are getting quality results and it is not respecting the writers’ time and effort).

I don’t like what I know about that service and similar ones but I have never heard they are dishonest about the pay rates so each to their own.

I agree that the uninformed may be influenced by such sites to work for well under reasonable pay rates because they don’t know any different. It is fair to let new writer’s understand the industry.

It isn’t right to spam the internet with claims of scam and fraud about another company.

So what’s the middle ground?

How can you share a warning with people without crossing legal boundaries and without damaging your own reputation?

Little PB Event tips to create big things for you

My first word of advice – if going to what is likely to be a great event with lots to process afterwards, book out the following days so you can process it!

Attending the PB event last week (yes, this time last week I was sitting in a room to hear Shayne Tilley in the second sessions of the day) was great and I came away with lots of ideas, inspiration and information, plus some great new friendships and relationships.

However, it was back to work as usual on Monday morning. Well, I say as usual but I’ve had some urgent client projects come up this week so it has, in fact, been more hectic than usual.

So I haven’t had the time to sit and read through all my notes or listen to the recordings of the sessions I didn’t attend. Or relisten to the great ones I want to get more out of.

Nor share a lot of those tips and insights with others.

From little actions big things happen

Right from the start, Darren set the theme of the weekend to be from little things big things come.

little plant growing

Even the biggest trees started as small seedlings

{I have to say that I was often distracted by the song ‘from little things big things grow’ used in an ad promoting a group of industry super funds! Distracting similarity but the message is accurate and valuable in both instances.}

It then followed that all the speakers gave practical information so we could pick up little details and see how to apply them to our own blogs. With everyone repeating that taking things step by step and doing lots of little things you can build a success (however you define success).

Major take home message: make 15 minutes a day to work on something important.

Think about it – 15 minutes a day isn’t that hard to find but adds up to 75 minutes a working week or 60 hours (which is 7.5 working days) a year – with 4 weeks annual leave allowed for :)

How many new designs could you create or words could you put to paper or sales calls you could make in 60 hours? That may just be the ‘extra day in the week’ many people wish for.

If you want me to write a post on ways to use that 15 minutes, let me know as a comment or email me – or send me a tweet for that matter!

Provide quality and value for your readers

The event was aimed at bloggers so the message was to give readers quality – but the concept is just as valid for any aspect of your business.

Some points on this:

  • Make posts and information products useful and informative
  • Find your voice (or brand) and stay with it
  • Monitor what your readers like and give them more of that
  • If accepting money for a sponsored post or ad, ask ‘what’s in it for my readers?’ You get paid, obviously, but make the post valuable to your readers above all
  • add opinions as well as information or share a learning experience so people feel they get an answer (paraphrased quote from Chris Guillebeau)

 Make a connection

Various speakers over the conference touched on the importance of engaging and connecting with your audience and with other bloggers.aspects of community

Here are some of their quotes (written as they spoke so these are close to word-perfect but may be slightly different to their exact words):

Look after and engage your readers – engaged readers will do more for making money than having lots of readers ~ Darren Rowse

Involvement begets commitment ~ James Tuckerman

A focus on building relationships and providing value to people will lead to success ~ Chris Guillebeau

[within your blog have a ] hidden message of ‘you’re not alone’ coming through as everyone needs to feel connection and belonging ~ Chris Guillebeau

Final words

I think Darren had some important words to say in his opening and closing talks.

The theme was little things add to big things, but also to realise everyone starts small so don’t feel inferior to others. Again, based on my notes, he said:

Comparing yourself to other bloggers makes you feel small and is not constructive – focus on good things happening on your own blog. Look at other blogs for inspiration not comparison.

If you have questions or simply want to learn more from the great speakers at PB Event, you could…

  • leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer you
  • grab a virtual ticket to PB Event and hear all the speakers (and see their slides). {Yes, this is an affiliate link so I would get a commission for referring you.}
  • use the #pbevent tag in Twitter – there are still a lot of tips being shared
  • read blog posts from people who were there – try posts from Belinda, Rita, Helena, Alison and Chantelle to get you started

And with that said, I am off to read more pb event posts myself and do 15 minutes for my subscribers – you can subscribe to get updates of new posts by ticking the box as you leave a comment or fill in the form in the sidebar.

How do you feel as a blogger or small business owner – do you feel small compared to others with more readers or a bigger income? Do you compare yourself to others rather than acknowledging your own progress and successes?

Being nice with your guest post refusals

handwritten note of no thanksWhether or not you want them, as your blog gets older and more popular it is extremely likely that you will be offered guest posts for your blog.

And assuming you want to maintain a certain standard (in writing quality, content value and staying to a style and topic range), you will need to reject some, if not all, of those offers.

I’m not going to cover why we should reject posts nicely – or reject them at all rather than just ignoring them – that’s a topic for another day. And I’m ignoring obvious spam for this post, too.

Rejecting with respect

The key to refusing a guest post nicely is to be polite and respectful.

Even if the guest post is irrelevant to you or low quality, someone has taken the time to write a post and submit it to you. If they have really tried, they will have an emotional attachment to the post and your response.

How to reject professionally

  1. be polite
    • use their name with a greeting –  “Hi Sam”
    • thank them for their submission
    • don’t use derogative or insulting words
  2. show respect
    • show you have a reason for the rejection – it doesn’t have to be in detail but adding ‘we don’t accept guest posts’, ‘we only use posts on this topic’ or ‘your post doesn’t suit our style/audience’ makes the rejection less personal and lets them know how to avoid the same mistake
    • don’t be insulting, rude or patronising
    • write a proper response – a single ‘no thanks’ looks lazy and disrespectful so use proper sentences
  3. be positive where possible
    • if you list faults with the submitted post (such as if you like their information but want the writing improved before you could use it), start and finish with positives about the post

The rejection note doesn’t have to be long as long as it is respectful and makes sense - a greeting, one or two sentences and an ending is enough.

Example rejection notes for a guest post

Hi Sam,

Thanks for submitting your “how to treat frog fungal infections” post. It was well written, however, my blog only accepts posts on business related topics.

Kind regards,

Tash

Hi Mary,

I received your guest post yesterday, thanks. I won’t be using your post in my blog because it doesn’t meet the guidelines for guest posts.

Cheers,

Tash

Thanks Phoebe.

Your guest post, Measuring your social media ROI, was fascinating and well suited to my blog. However, I found it a little hard to understand at points and a couple of sentences seem to stop mid-idea. The questions you posed were thought-provoking so I would be interested in seeing a revised version.

Hope to hear from you soon,

Tash

Hi Bob,

While I appreciate you sending me a guest post I don’t think it suits my audience so I have removed it from my inbox.

Regards,

Tash

 

* image courtesy of 123rf

Setting rules for guest posts on your blog

As I have just started using guest bloggers on this blog (see Karol’s post from yesterday as an example), it seemed timely to discuss how you establish guidelines for your guest bloggers.

Why have guest blogger guidelines?

Every blog is different – as are all the bloggers – which means two things.

  1. to keep your blog focussed on your brand and style, you need to define how that happens
  2. not all bloggers will have the same high standards as you  so don’t assume any guest blogger will behave professionally or within your style

Guidelines for guest bloggers helps maintain your blog. Publicly available policies or guidelines will also reduce the number of blog posts you receive that don’t meet your rules.

What goes into guest blogger guidelines?

Well, the short answer is ‘that’s up to you – it’s your blog!’

rules & guidelines for blogs

Fun or formal, long or short, guidelines are handy…

But I’m guessing you want a more detailed answer so here are some important points to consider – you may or may not list all of them for bloggers to see but it’s good to have considered each one relative to your blog.

  1. length of posts – minimums and maximums
  2. unique content vs reused content – including how long after you publish the post can it be used
  3. standard of writing – is average acceptable or do you want great?
  4. standard of content – is it correct and up-to-date? Does it give something new or just spout motherhood statements?
  5. copyright and ownership – be sure the blogger has the right to offer you the post and any accompanying images
  6. how many links can be included in the post? in the bio box?
  7. how long is their bio? will it be shown and can it include images?
  8. do posts have to be informative rather than an ad for someone else?
  9. can affiliate links be included?
  10. what type of content do you want (or not want)? For instance, toplists only takes lists and other sites don’t want reviews
  11. what topics do you want (or not want) covered? Does it have to be something not covered before in your blog?
  12. will links get a dofollow or nofollow attribute?
  13. what promotion do you expect from the guest blogger?
  14. do you expect the guest blogger to visit your site and respond to comments? it’s in their best interests to do so but many don’t
  15. are there suitability factors such as no adult concepts or no swearing?
  16. how often will you post something by the same person?

Which ones do you include in your guest blogger policy (even if it is an unwritten policy so far!)?

Did anything on that list make you say “Oh, that’s a good idea!” and get you thinking?

I’ll post more about hosting guest blog posts soon, but let me know if you have specific questions…

Finding value in old content

I’ve written a lot of blog posts and newsletter articles. Hopefully I’m not the only one who thinks there is valuable information amongst my writing and that people have learnt a thing or two from me!

So to reshare some of that past information, I see two options – copy it to make it appear recent or refer to it.

Copying old content

It is an interesting question – should you grab old content and just paste it in as a new blog post or newsletter article?

I prefer to offer new information so someone could theoretically read back through all my posts and not read the same piece twice.

I guess I’m a bit of a purist as pretending old content is new seems like cheating to me, but I accept that most of us need to save time – and it isn’t always easy to think of new things to write about.

However, I see bigger reasons to not copy old content forward. For one, my old content is still available where it is so anyone can search for it if they’re after that topic. It seems a little silly to copy it across so it could show up in twice in a search – and wouldn’t do my credibility much good, either. Then there is the duplicate content punishment it could potentially get from Google and friends.

Writing by quill and candle light

Old content still has value despite technology advances

If we’re talking about a post from at least a couple of years ago, I would think an update is often a good idea anyway. Things change quickly in this technological age – an article on online marketing five years ago would have excluded Twitter and Pinterest so that article would be out of date and less valuable now.

Referring to old content

I much prefer referring back to old content.

In fact, I do it all the time by adding links to my blog posts and newsletters that lead back to older posts so people can get further, related information.

Instead of copying across an old post, I think it’s more valuable to link back to that post and expand on that topic or give an update. Going back to out online marketing example, I could write a new blog post along the lines of “Back in 2007 I wrote about online marketing. With the introduction and growth of new social media channels, it is now time to update my list of marketing options.” I don’t have to rewrite all of the old content because the link does that for me.

Social media itself provides another way to reshare old content – it is just as easy to tweet a link to an old post as a new one, for example.

Resharing my old content

At the start of each month, I send out my newsletter.

Starting now, at the end of each month I will look back at some old content from that same month (for example, in May I will refer back to something I wrote in May in a previous year).

Some of that content may need updating, other bits won’t as grammar and good writing doesn’t change the same way technology and business practises can.

So look out for some reshared ideas on Thursday…

And you?

How do you share your old content?

What do you think about seeing old content?

Is copying content across as if new a time saver or not-quite-right? Would anyone even notice?

Headings to attract more readers

Headings (or titles) to blog posts and other online articles are important.

A good heading will entice people to read the post which means they will click on a link to it as well. So write a good heading not just within your blog but in the title you use for links to your blog post.

Including relevant subject words in a heading has two advantages for bringing in more readers.

Anybody looking for information on a specific topic will be attracted by seeing those words in the heading. It will also stop uninterested people clicking through to your post (and this is a good thing if you are trying to reduce your bounce rate and not waste time and bandwidth on people who are not your potential customers anyway).

Including subject words also helps search engines summarise your blog post and determine its importance and relevance for any specific search term.

Here are a few examples to show how a subject word can help:

What I’m reading vs My top business books

Preparing dinner vs Planning nutritious meals

My hobby vs Bike riding for fun

Which of these headings do you think will show up in search engine searches for business books, healthy cooking and bike riding?