About Jimmy Daly

Jimmy Daly is the Head of Content at Vero, a startup that's changing the way marketers use email.. Follow him on Google+ and Twitter @jimmy_daly.

How To Write A Great Roundup Post

How To Write a Roundup Post

It may sound counterintuitive, but when done correctly, sending readers away from your site is one of the best ways to keep them coming back. That’s the idea behind content curation.

Before we dive into the details of roundup posts, let’s define the term curation. As Neicole Crepeau writes on Convince & Convert, curation “is the art and science of finding and sharing quality content on a specific topic.” It’s the dirty work that helps readers understand an industry, event, person or product.

Robin Good breaks down the traits of a successful curator in his excellent post, Content Curation Is Not Content Marketing.

The content curator characterizing traits:

1. Is not after quantity. Quality is his key measure.

2. Does not ever curate something without having thoroughly looked at it, multiple times.

3. Always provides insight as to why something is relevant and where the item fits in its larger collection (stream, catalog, list, etc.)

4. Adds personal evaluation, judgment, critique or praise.

5. Integrates a personal touch, in the way it presents the curated object.

6. Provides useful information about other related, connected or similar objects of interest.

7. Credits and thanks anyone who has helped in the discovery, identification and analysis of any curated item and links relevant names of people present in the content.

8. Does not ever republish content “as is” without adding extra value to it.

9. Does not curate, select, personalize or republish his own content in an automated way.

10. Discloses bias, affiliation and other otherwise non self-evident contextual clues.

One of the most straightforward ways to curate content is write roundup posts. Even though the meat of the content is written by someone else, these posts can be extremely valuable for audience development, reader engagement, SEO and lead conversion. Let’s take a look at how it’s done.

Step 1: Identify sources.

A strong roundup is only as good as its sources. You need to find the most interesting and insightful content possible, meaning you need to unearth new and interesting articles. The first step is automating the collection of good information. Using tools like an RSS reader (Feedly is our favorite), Google Alerts, IFTTT and Twitter lists, you will be able to manage huge amounts of information. Here are a few other interesting content discovery tools:

This is a great start, but it’s not enough to monitor the same feeds all the time. You need variety. There are many places to find new bloggers in your industry but social media and message boards are great places to start. Identify the most-used hashtags in your vertical and monitor them on Twitter and Google+. Get involved in subreddits and forums to meet new people and share ideas. These are great ways to uncover new and interesting content written by up-and-comers in your vertical.

As you find content to highlight, use tools like Evernote, Honey and Pocket to save, tag and organize it. When it comes time to write, everything you need will be in one place.

Step 2: Cite, cite, cite.

The quickest way to upset influential bloggers and lost your readers’ trust is to “lift” content. Roundup posts are, by nature, collections of content written by someone else. The goal is to spread ideas, not take credit for someone else’s work. Done right, a roundup makes it abundantly clear who wrote the posts, tweeted the tweets or published the videos you are curating. Always link to their site, blog or Twitter handle. In fact, it’s wise to let them know in advance so they can tell you where to link. Use do-follow links so the sources can get credit from Google also.

Step 3. Look at what influencers are publishing.

Here’s are some examples of how some of the best curators approach roundups:

Here are examples of roundups that I post on a weekly basis:

Roundups are a great opportunity to embed media like YouTube videos, tweets and Facebook posts into your articles Visual, engaging and interactive content goes a long way towards bringing readers back to your site for the next roundup.

Step 4. Be consistent.

In general, content marketing is a long term strategy. The most successful sites publish great content on a regular basis for years. Roundups rely even more on consistency to work. They depend heavily on subscription-based tools like email marketing and social media as opposed to SEO.

One of the keys to curation is providing analysis and value. This will not and can never happen in a single blog post. Earning the trust of readers takes months and possibly years.

Blogger Peter Larson, also known as the Blogologist, recently provided insight into the growth of his popular site RunBlogger. He writes that it took a year to get his blog up and running.

I want to emphasize this point: unless you have an existing online following from another site, or some other existing platform/audience that will help draw traffic to your site immediately (e.g, you’re a famous book author, public figure, etc.), you really need to take a long-term view when starting a blog. Don’t get discouraged by low traffic numbers initially, if you put in the necessary effort they will rise over time.

Curation works but it’s hard work. Give the strategy at least six months and, as always, pay attention Google Analytics and other data to tweak your work as you progress.

Step 5. Promote it.

As we mentioned above, roundups rely on relationships, meaning that curated posts might not bring in the organic traffic that your other articles do. They can, however, establish meaningful relationships with your target readers.

Perhaps the best way to build an audience around a weekly roundup post is an email newsletter. In 2009, Instapaper creator Mark Armstrong started a blog called Longreads which highlights great longform journalism. Using an email newsletter and Twitter, Armstrong built the site in the destination for discoing longform content. The site has since been partnered with Atlantic Media and attracted 125,000 Twitter followers.

If you are just getting started, make sure you are collecting email addresses from day one. Get in the habit of creating and sending an email newsletter each week. Even if you only have a handful of subscribers, these people could be the foundation of something truly great.

Do you have questions about curation or examples of great roundup posts? Let us know in the comments.

Controversial Content: Is It Worth It for Your Business? A Look Back At Grantland

Grantland Controversy



The story behind Dr. V’s Magical Putter will likely be a topic in journalism schools for years to come.

Caleb Hannan, a young reporter for the pop culture and sports website Grantland, pitched his editors on a story about a so-called magic putter. It’s an entertaining story, and absolutely worth a read, but this post isn’t about putters, it’s about handling controversy on your blog. To make a very long story very short, the subject of Hannan’s article, inventor Essay Anne Vanderbilt, was transgender. Hannan discovered this in his reporting but Vanderbilt had not made that information public. In October 2013, she committed suicide.

While it remains entirely unclear whether Hannan’s reporting had anything to do with Vanderbilt’s death, Grantland posthumously “outed” her when they published Hannan’s story in January. The story was initially well-received, the backlash was thorough and harsh. Journalists defended Hannan, saying he did what any trained journalist would do, while others suggested that his work directly impacted her untimely death. Regardless, Grantland made some serious mistakes, which editor-in-chief Bill Simmons addressed in a post the next week.

Someone familiar with the transgender community should have read Caleb’s final draft. This never occurred to us. Nobody ever brought it up. Had we asked someone, they probably would have told us the following things …

  1. You never mentioned that the transgender community has an abnormally high suicide rate. That’s a crucial piece — something that actually could have evolved into the third act and an entirely different ending. But you missed it completely.
  2. You need to make it more clear within the piece that Caleb never, at any point, threatened to out her as he was doing his reporting.
  3. You need to make it more clear that, before her death, you never internally discussed the possibility of outing her (and we didn’t).
  4. You botched your pronoun structure in a couple of spots, which could easily be fixed by using GLAAD’s style guide for handling transgender language.
  5. The phrase “chill ran down my spine” reads wrong. Either cut it or make it more clear what Caleb meant.
  6. Caleb never should have outed Dr. V to one of her investors; you need to address that mistake either within the piece, as a footnote, or in a separate piece entirely.

(And maybe even … )

  1. There’s a chance that Caleb’s reporting, even if it wasn’t threatening or malicious in any way, invariably affected Dr. V in ways that you never anticipated or understood. (Read Christina Kahrl’s thoughtful piece about Dr. V and our errors in judgment for more on that angle.)

To my infinite regret, we never asked anyone knowledgeable enough about transgender issues to help us either (a) improve the piece, or (b) realize that we shouldn’t run it. That’s our mistake — and really, my mistake, since it’s my site. So I want to apologize. I failed.

There are a number of lessons to be learned here, even if your blog falls on the marketing side — as opposed to the journalism side — of the content spectrum. Controversy is surefire way to generate clicks but if you are in the business of content marketing, it likely doesn’t align with your business objectives. Here are a few things to keep in mind before publishing a post on a controversial topic.

3 Things Questions to Ask Before Blogging About a Controversial Topic

  1. How does this post serve my audience? Your readers come to your blog because they trust you as a source of information. Trust must be continually earned, meaning you need to advance your readers knowledge, entertain them and provide content that can’t be found anywhere else. Controversial topics likely don’t fit the bill unless they are directly related to your niche.
  2. How does this post advance my business goals? For most content marketers, the goal of blogging to drive leads and ultimately sales. If addressing a controversial issue, particularly by offering a personal opinion, means that you will alienate potential readers and customers, stear clear of it.
  3. Is this the right platform for personal opinion? A personal blog is the right place for personal opinions. A business blog is the right place for resources, news and knowledge. Of course, sometimes there is overlap between personal and professional presences online, meaning business owners and blog editors have to be careful about what they say on the web.

It is, of course, possible to address controversial topics tactfully.

  1. Choose your battles carefully. If you choose to take on a controversial topic, understand that you may get backlash. Be prepared to handle negative responses. Is it worth the extra pageviews?
  2. Present both sides of the story. Controversial topics, especially newsworthy events, generate a lot of interest online. If you are looking to capitalize on a surge of searches and social media activity, consider address both sides of a story without offering an opinion. This way you can keep readers informed without upsetting potential leads.
  3. Start a discussion. Gregory Ciotti tackles this beautifully on the Unbounce blog:

Successful controversial content on business blogs should stir up a debate that people feel strongly about, but that won’t result in genuinely hurting people’s feelings.

Essentially, a debate that will have people tripping over themselves to leave their opinion and share it, but one that avoids offensive topics and instead promotes controversy on topics that the general public will not be genuinely upset with.

The thing is, the controversy DOES NOT have to be stupid or silly like arguing over toilet paper, I use that example to simply remind you to stay away from “true” controversies that take things too far.

Have you effectively used controversy in your content marketing? Let us know in the comments.

For more in-depth Content Marketing Tips, download our free guide:

FREE GUIDE: Boost the Value of Your Content

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The Best of the “Best of the 2013”

2013 was a huge year for content. Marketers finally made headway in the battle for the Internet’s attention, and as evidenced by the chart below, content was top-of-mind for quite a few searchers.

content marketing search trends

Traditionally, news stories get the most attention online but content marketing has opened new doors for marketers looking to grow their audiences online. At the end of the year, many of the web’s most prominent publishers took a look at their analytics and rounded up their most popular stories. We examined some of the best of the “best of” lists to get an idea of what kind of content spurred sharing and attracted searchers in 2013.

Google Zeitgeist

This annual production offers an in-depth look at what people searched for in many different categories. The most-searched topics in 2013 were the deaths of Paul Walker and Nelson Mandela, and the Boston Marathon bombing. Scroll down the list, however, to see what memes, brands and even reality TV stars had our attention last year.

Google Zeitgeist

YouTube: Year in Review

Videos are often the most viral form of content. That was especially true in 2013. What Does the Fox Say? led the way with 350 million views. For perspective, that’s more than 2,000 combined years of time … simply amazing. See the rest here.

The Year in Digg

The kings of curation collected 21,303 stories in 2013. Their editors poll data from social media and hand-pick viral, insightful and sometimes controversial content to share with their readers. By balancing data and editorial judgement, then measuring the results, their year in review offers and interesting glimpse into what readers want in content.

digg year in review

TIME: Top 10 Everything of 2013

As a major news and lifestyle publisher, TIME has the opportunity to explore a number of different audiences. You can get lost in this collection of 54 lists and hundreds of stories, which in itself is a lesson on the value of re-purposing content.

TIME 2013

Reddit: The front page of 2013

Memes and viral content are often born on Reddit. There is plenty of trending news and timely content that gets shared on the boards, but where Reddit really shines is unearthing GIFs, pictures and stories the world has never seen before.

The lists above offer a look at pop culture in general but let’s take a look at some niche content to see what resonated with readers in different verticals. Some topics may be irrelevant to your work, but it’s important to see how smart publishers are communicating.

Let’s also take a look at the two biggest viral hits of 2013. Neither were accidental, and in fact, each was the result of careful planning and social media savvy.

Commander Chris Hadfield: Space Oddity

More than 21 million views later, it’s clear that Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is a content-creating genius. What you might not know, however, is that he has quite a bit of help distributing and promoting his content.

Hadfield’s son Evan helps with social media strategy and promotion. When asked about his dad’s Twitter account, Evan noted that his dad understands that he has access to valuable information but wasn’t sure how to make it accessible and shareable. As he told Teaching Kids News, “There is a difference between tweeting and tweeting in a way that people can respond to and enjoy properly.”

Copyblogger recently recognized Evan’s work as an example of how content creators can get a better understanding of their audience.

  • Understanding what the audience wants.
  • Understanding how different formats work together.
  • Understanding what makes content shareable.
  • Understanding how content creates the overarching message you want.
  • Understanding how to drive the behavior you need, whether it’s a sale, an email opt-in, or international support for the planet’s patchwork of space programs.

It takes a lot of trail and error but smart strategists can measure data against their editorial judgement to create content that thrives.

Batkid Saves Gotham City

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is famous for making wishes come true, but they outdid themselves when they helped five-year-old cancer survivor Miles Scott save Gotham City. The effort, which you can read about in detail here, had all the telltale signs of a social media phenomenon but needed help from the experts. Clever Girls Collective, a social media marketing firm in San Jose, Calif., volunteered their skills and the rest is history.

There were 406,960 tweets on the day of the event, using either the #batkid or #SFBatkid hashtag on Twitter. Mashable also announced that Batkid was discussed in a total of 117 countries, and the news reached somewhere between 750 million-1.7 billion people worldwide, according to social-media agency Clever Girls Collective. More than 21,683 Instagram and Twitter photos were posted by Friday afternoon.14] This single [Buzzfeed article garnered over 2.5 million hits within 3 days of the event. Public interest brought so much traffic to the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s website that it crashed.

Clever Girls detailed their carefully-planned social strategy, which you can read here.

A Few Lessons in Engagement:

  • Get visual. People love images. Whether its photos, graphs, charts, data visualizations, infographics or videos, building visual elements into content can improve engagement and share-ability.
  • Be the source. The biggest digital wins go to the sources of great content. Tactics like news-jacking can be helpful but shouldn’t be the primary method of content creation. To generate original content, interview smart people, research open data and post your own original ideas.
  • Go big. You will notice that a lot of the content that thrived in 2013 was big, either in length or preparation. Don’t be afraid to invest in big content because it’s usually worth it.
  • Create your own “best of” list. Why should everyone get to have all the fun? Even small blogs have the opportunity to repurpose their own content. The year’s end is the perfect time to reflect on your work. It’s a nice way to gain perspective on what your readers are interested in, learn for next year and maybe even earn some new visitors.

What was your favorite content of 2013? Let us know in the comments.

Guest Blogging Tips Even Matt Cutts Would Approve Of

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, recently came down on guest blogging in a big way. In a post on his personal blog, Cutts had this to say about one of SEO’s most popular link building tactics:

Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.

That’s a broad, sweeping statement that has a potentially enormous impact on the content marketing community. Keeping in mind that Cutts wrote this on his personal blog, not an official Google outlet, it’s important to consider the implications of Cutts’ post. First, there is nothing wrong with guest blogging unless it’s done in a spammy way. Anyone who runs a website has gotten the emails promising free content in exchange for links. These days, that’s on par with keyword stuffing and doorway pages. Low-quality is obvious to Google, and more importantly, to your readers.

Conversely, there is a entirely legitimate guest blogging operation happening on some of the best sites on the Internet. It’s called journalism. Journalists frequently write for multiple sites and it’s hard to imagine that Google would want to bury their articles on the 15th page of search results. In each case, authors write for different sites. The difference is simply quality.

 

Here are some actionable tips to keep your site visible in search and your readers engaged with your content.

3 Ways to Avoid Guest Blog Spam

  1. Think like a journalist. Despite the fact that most journalists are cynical about content marketing, all writers can learn a thing or two from seasoned journalists. First and foremost, a good journalist will never publish an article that isn’t insightful, accurate and authoritative. You want guest bloggers that are well-known to your audience and engaged in the community. Anything less is disservice to your readers. As a general rule, if someone wants to write for free, you should be wary.
  2. Insist all contributors use Authorship. Imagine if you could check a writer’s authority by running their Google+ profile through a tool like Open Site Explorer. We aren’t there yet but when Google Authorship officially becomes a ranking factor, it will solve a lot of the problems Cutts discusses in his post. To prepare yourself for the future, insist that anyone who writes on your site has authorship setup properly.
  3. Stick with quality over quantity. Remember, less great content is better than more mediocre content. The best blogs serve their readers first. Strong search traffic is merely a side effect. Jerod Morris nails it in his recent Copyblogger post:

    Google fails as a search engine if it starts penalizing sites that deliver quality content just because that content happens to be in the form of a guest post. And we all fail as publishers if we follow a strategy of chasing hypothetical algorithm changes.

    Quality will always win.

    There are plenty of sites that use multiple contributors who will never have to worry about getting dinged by Google. Here are a few examples:

3 Ways to Use Guest Blogging Effectively

  1. Think social. It’s never a good idea to write for search engines anyway. Write (or solicit) posts so informative, insightful and useful that people will want to share them on social media. When people come to your site to read an article, they are giving Google useful data. For example, when you drive traffic via social media and those visitors don’t bounce, Google can immediately begin collecting data about engagement. This, in turn, helps them decide where to rank new content.
  2. Pay for great writers. If you don’t have time to write as much content as you want, consider paying a professional. Yes, it costs money but it’s one of the best ways to get great content. It’s an investment in your site and business. Rates vary from $30 per article to $2 per word. Ideally, you want someone who understands your industry so check with your peers before posting on a site like Elance. Here are few good places to find people who can write about marketing and social media:
  3. Try inbound marketing. That’s right, practice what you preach. Write content for your own site that is so good, the best blogs in your industry will beg you to write for them.

The Alternative to Guest Blogging

Given all this advice, it’s important to remember that accepting and contributing guest content is entirely optional. Rand Fishkin of Moz makes a compelling case to take an alternative route by avoiding guest posting entirely. He explains in the video below:

[VIDEO HERE]

Strive for quality, serve your readers and don’t let an algorithm define your content marketing.

10 Things Every Writer Should Understand About Google+ Authorship

Building authority on your website with good content, SEO, social media and email marketing has always been important to content marketers. In 2014, plan to add authorship to the list of ways you plan to market and grow your site. Authorship, which was rolled out by Google in 2011, connects content to the person who wrote it. Using Google+, search engines can keep tabs on a writer’s content and in the future could factor their personal authority into their search algorithm.

Authorship will be hugely important over the next few years. To help you get acquainted, here are ten things every content creator needs to know.

google authorship example

1. It’s very easy to setup.

Considering how easy it is to link your Google+ profile to your content, it’s a no-brainer that every writer should spend five minutes setting this up. First, add any websites that you own or contribute to in the “Contributor to” section of your Google+ profile. Next, add a link to your Google+ profile in your author bio on each site you write for. Make sure to include ?rel=author after the Google+ URL. For example, mine looks like this:

https://plus.google.com/+JimmyDaly/posts?rel=author

If you are contributing content to a site that you don’t own, simply ask the site’s webmaster to include your bio on your posts. Send them HTML to ensure that the correct link and attribute are used.

Check out Google’s instructions to ensure it’s setup correctly.

2. There are lots of WordPress plugins to help.

There should be a link to your author bio on every article you write. A number of WordPress plugins make this process very simple. Try Fancier Author Box to easily customize your bio. If you are using a WordPress theme that already includes author bios, check out Google Plus Authorship or Google Author Link.

It’s best to use a plugin designed specifically for your author bio rather than simply adding the link in your site’s header or footer. Authorship is designed for posts that have been authored by a writer or blogger. Home pages, archives and category pages don’t count. Mark Traphagen explains on his blog:

When Google uses the term “authorship” they are being quite literal. Authorship-connected content is to be unique content created by a real, identifiable human being. Your company mascot or logo is not an author; not in the real world and not in Google’s eyes.

As always, it’s smart to play by the rules.

3. It will help you build authority.

When Eric Schmidt — former CEO and current executive chairman at Google — talks about SEO, you listen. In his recent book, “The New Digital Age,” Schmidt has this to say about authorship:

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.

Although Google isn’t yet using authorship as a ranking factor, it’s inevitable that they will in the future. However, because of the integration of Google+ with products like search, people who have you in their circles see your content higher in search results. This personalization means that people who are active on Google+ and have built large followings have a better chance at getting their content seen and clicked in search results.

4. It increases click-thrus on SERPs.

Additionally, authors whose photo appears in search results are getting more traffic to their sites. Authorship is one example of rich snippets, or microdata, that helps Google categorize and rank your content. Google wants webmasters to know that rich snippets like authorship can generate more traffic:

These rich snippets help users recognize when your site is relevant to their search, and may result in more clicks to your pages.

A study by Search Engine Journal confirmed that users are more likely to click links in search results that have images associated with them. Even results at the bottom of the first page were clicked more often that the first result if authorship was properly implemented. Read the full study here.

Authorship on search results

5. It puts a face on your content.

When people search for information online, they want to hear from someone they can trust. Authorship adds much-needed human context to the web. In the same way that social networks have capitalized on relationships and trust, Google is looking to connect people.

Brands are slowly coming around to this idea. Big Data, analytics and metrics are worthwhile investments, but the companies smart enough to invest in content should also remember that they are trying to reach humans.

6. Google has a patent for it.

Even more interesting, they filed for that patent nine years ago. This is a longterm plan that Google is still working on. Kevan Lee explains on the Buffer blog:

Google authorship wasn’t always Google authorship. It began as Agent Rank.

In 2005, Google filed a U.S. patent on Agent Rank, a system that would allow the content of expert authors to rank higher in search results pages than the content from less credible authors. In many ways, this was to be the foundation for today’s Google authorship.

Making the web more human is no easy task, but Google is working hard to make it happen.

7. Google regrets emphasizing PageRank.

PageRank, which matters less now than it did in the old days of SEO, turned out to be an insufficient way to measure quality. Links alone do not denote authority. As Demian Farnworth wrote on Copyblogger, “The problem with PageRank was that you could game it.”

The Google search team spends their time making results as useful as possible for readers, not marketers or writers. With the benefit of hindsight, Google now understands they need better ways to rank content. Authorship is one of the many ways content can be contextualized and quantified.

8. It’s not too late to be an early adopter.

Because authorship isn’t officially baked into Google’s search algorithm, it’s not too late to be an early adopter. All signs indicate that authorship will be extremely important to the future of content marketing. Get in the door early and reap the benefits when the time comes.

9. Say goodbye to anonymity.

Remember when it was easy to hide behind fake usernames and profiles? That’s getting much harder. As technology permeates every aspect of our lives, the web is becoming a layer rather than a platform. In the world of constant connectivity, anonymity doesn’t work. Recently, Google replaced YouTube’s commenting system with Google+ profiles in an effort to weed out spam and offensive material.

Black hat SEOs might be upset about the end of anonymity but thoughtful, quality writers should be thrilled. Content that is tightly integrated with personal author bios and social media accounts will help readers trust the information and the human behind it.

10. You really should be active on Google+.

While we are waiting for Google to make authorship official in their search algorithm, it’s worth spending some time getting active on Google+. As we already discussed, the more people that follow, the more chance you have at getting your content seen. Google+ isn’t the social dead zone that many people claim. In fact, it’s bustling with activity and conversations about nearly every topic.

If you are having trouble getting started, try searching some of your favorite hashtags or joining a few communities. Here are a few of my favorite people to follow:

Here are a few of my favorite communities:

Have any questions about authorship? Let us know in the comments.

13 Steps to Take Your Content Promotion to the Next Level

Content promotion is an art. It requires strategy, time and, most importantly, people. In order to grow an audience and attract attention, your posts — no matter how great they are — need to be effectively promoted on social media, with email marketing and in real life. Here is a look at how to take your content promotion to the next level.

1. Start with relationships.

If you are starting with keywords, you are starting in the wrong place. We all want our content to rank well in search engines but the seed of a great post lies in its value to others, not its technical qualities.

Take a hard look at your current audience and the readers you are trying to reach. If they aren’t reading your work, whose work are they reading? Find out. One of the most powerful assets a blogger has is their network of other bloggers in a niche. It’s time to build that network.

Here are a few really specific ways to network with your peers. It’s the first step in massively growing your audience:

  • Comment on their blogs.
  • Include their work in roundup posts.
  • Send them an email to ask a thoughtful question.
  • Follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
  • Don’t patronize them. Simply let them know you like their work. Make sure there are links to your own work in your email signature and social media profiles so that it can be easily discovered when you contact people.

2. Plan your topics strategically.

Think about promotion before you ever write a word. Depending on the topic, you can identify platforms or groups of people that might like your work. For example, content about technology might get traffic from a Hacker News submission while a post about holiday decorations will play better on Pinterest. Every vertical has websites, social networks and message boards that cater to readers. Examine them. Think about the topics that frequently succeed in your niche and follow their example (and network with the bloggers that write them!).

3. Choose the right format.

Should you go with a listicle or a case study? A Q&A or a column? There are so many ways to shape your content that it can lead to “analysis paralysis.” First, take a look at these 72 content types and see what feels right. You may also want to align the format of the content with other successful pieces.

4. Shape your content accordingly.

I’m a huge fan of Digg. I know that articles featured on Digg get thousands of hits. Here’s a quick look at how I got one of my articles featured on the site by writing it specifically for the platform.

The Digg editors appreciate timeliness, thought-leadership, cultural relevance and longform content. (I’m sure this isn’t part of their editorial guidelines, just my obersavation.)

I took a look at my vertical: technology. Were there any timely events coming up that might interest a wider audience? (In technology, there’s always an interesting event coming up.) In this case, Internet Explorer’s 18th birthday was just around the corner. I put together a visual history of Internet Explorer and submitted it to Digg the morning of the event.

It was featured on the Digg homepage that day and shared on their Facebook and Twitter channels. It delivered an enormous amount of traffic and social shares. And it happened because our team was strategic and prepared.

Not every piece of content is right for a mainstream platform like Digg but every piece you write should be worthy of a link, a share or a discussion in a message board. Here’s a few tips to increase the likelihood that people will help you promote your content:

  • Quote smart people. It provides value to your reader but also gives the quoted person a vested interested in your post. You can take it to the next level by interviewing a leader in your vertical.
  • Link to external resources. “A rising tide lifts all ships.” Don’t be afraid to link to your competitors’ content if it provides value to a reader. Let them know about the link you gave them and ask them to share the content.
  • Use visual aids. Learn how to use Photoshop, Pixelmator or another image editing tool. Even the simplest visuals are proven to help your content gain traction on sites like Pinterest and Twitter.

5. Focus on quality and value.

In other words, forget about SEO until after your intelligent, insightful, share-able post is written. Too often content creators fall prey to SEO’s tempting shortcuts. Stay strong. And more importantly, stay laser focused on creating content that delivers value to your readers. Content written for SEO has a funny habit of failing miserably.

Neil Patel does a great outlining a longterm approach to high-quality content:

You can write great content, but it doesn’t mean you will see an increase in traffic. You can write crap content in large quantities, and you are more likely to see your traffic numbers go up.

In the long run, however, crap content will lead to disappointed readers, which hurts your long term traffic. Yes, in the short term, things will grow like a hockey stick, but once search engines continue to see that users are bouncing away and no one is willing to tweet your content or even link to it, eventually your traffic will tank.

6. Go Big.

Mackenzie Fogelson from Mack Web Solutions recently wrote an amazing post on “big” content on the Moz blog. She recently released a 147-page guide on community building and details the experience here.

The point is this: “big” content draws attention. You can’t do this every day but you can do it monthly or annually. It doesn’t have to be a PDF or ebook either. Here are a few ideas for big content that you can apply to nearly any vertical:

  • 100 best blogs in [vertical]
  • A crowdsourced list of tools for [target reader]
  • The complete history of [person, place, thing]

7. Don’t publish during happy hour.

So many bloggers are guilty of this. You spend all day working on a great post. By the time you finish, most of the office has gone home or hit up a nearby happy hour. You are so excited about your post that you hit “Publish” at 5pm on a Friday. It gets lost of a sea of disinterest and by the time Monday rolls around, it’s too late to resuscitate your dying article.

Plan to publish at peak times. Belle Beth Cooper offers these suggestions on the Buffer blog.

  • 70% of users say they read blogs in the morning
  • More men read blogs at night than women
  • Mondays are the highest traffic days for an average blog
  • 11am is usually the highest traffic hour for an average blog
  • Comments are usually highest on Saturdays and around 9am on most days
  • Blogs that post more than once per day have a higher chance of inbound links and more unique views

Based on this insight, plan for greatness by posting early in the week and early in the day. It gives you time to promote and your audience time to respond.

8. Drop an email.

The people on your email list are there because they 1) value what you have to say and 2) appreciate your work enough allow you to communicate with them. Permission marketing is based on trust. If you have a truly great resource for your readers, email them. Just be careful not to abuse this privilege. Their trust in you in fundamental in the success of your blog and your business.

9. This isn’t a press release so approach it differently.

Press releases are dead because public relations firms don’t understand how the media works. Luckily for bloggers — who are the new media — your content is much, much more valuable than a press release.

Every blogger has gotten a press release asking them to write about a product or person. It’s a cry for help, a shameless sales pitch. When promoting your content, don’t act like a PR person!

As a blogger, you have already found a great topic and written an interesting post. The work is done, you are just letting people know about it. Be careful to avoid sounding like PR person … it’s a surefire way to kill interest in your work.

Instead, act like a journalist. You want to pitch your content, not sell it. For example, you might email the editor of a popular blog with an excerpt of your post to say “Hey, I’ve got this great article that I think your audience would appreciate.” Or you could @ mention them in a tweet or tag them in a Google+ post. There are so many ways to connect with influential people outside of selling to them.

10. Post links carefully.

Forget about directory submissions. They don’t work. What does work, however, is posting on submission sites and message boards. There are a number of submission sites that can send hoarded of interested readers to your content if you approach them carefully.

  • Reddit. Self-promoting isn’t outright banned on Reddit but it’s certainly frowned upon. The great thing about Reddit is that there is a Subreddit for just about every topic. The down side is that without a lot of listening, commenting and engagement on your part, your submissions will likely go unnoticed. If you decide to post on Reddit — and you should if your content is valuable enough — make sure you follow the rules. (Each Subreddit has a list of rules on its sidebar.) It’s also wise not to lead with a link. Get involved in a Subreddit by commenting and listening before promoting a piece of content.
  • StumbleUpon. You can submit a lot of links to StumbleUpon assuming that they are interesting or noteworthy. Don’t bother submitting news-jacking articles, which are fine to write but require a different approach to successfully promote. Instead, choose your best work and submit it under the proper category. The results may surprise you.
  • Pinterest. Visual aids can improve nearly every post. You don’t need to create an entire infographic but you could select a poignant quote and pair it with a graphic. You could also create a pie chart or bar graph with tools like Piktochart or Infogr.am. Once you create these assets, Pinterest is a great place to put them to work. Create boards for lots of topics and post your work here.
  • Google+. One of the best features of Google+ is the Communities. Just like a real community, you have to give in order to receive. Get engaged in relevant communities and you will likely find a willing audience when you have something great to promote.

11. Ask for links politely.

There is a right way and a wrong way to ask for a link. Here is an example of the right way.

You’ve built a good relationship with another blogger. You frequently link to their work, you chat on Twitter and you are hoping to find a time to meet up for coffee soon.

Over the past week, you’ve been pouring your heart and soul into an awesome post. It’s a great resource for the community and you know that your audience will eat it up. Once it’s posted, you ask your blogger friend if they would consider linking to it in a future post or sharing it on Twitter. If your relationship is based on trust and value, and your content is as great as you think, it’s highly likely your friend will link to your work. Return the favor sometime. Or, even better, link to their work before you publish.

12. Create content about your content.

You can promote your own content internally as well as externally. For example, link to your “big” content on a regular basis in other posts. You should also include your best content in roundup posts occasionally. Build old posts into your social media schedule to stretch out their life and write follow up posts as your topics evolve.

13. Repeat.

Content promotion is an ongoing cycle. Your network of bloggers will always be growing, your audience will expand and your strategies will become more effective. You will learn where to promote content, who you can rely on for a link and when to publish posts for the greatest impact. Pretty soon, your work will promote itself, leaving you with more time to work on the next great post.

32 Essential Tools & Software for Content Creators

Note: Want to get all of the tools listed here linked in a handy spreadsheet, this post as a PDF, and another free bonus?

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A guide to hacking your content marketing workflow.

As Steve Jobs once said, “Real artists ship.”

To make content marketing work, writers need to be shipping great content on a regular basis. Having the right tools is key to maximizing productivity. The best writers find ways to keep the focus on writing while also finding ways to highlight and reference work from other content creators to help build relationships and amplify distribution (making the content you create work harder for you).

This list will focus specifically on tools that will help make your research and content creation workflow simpler and faster (for some additional resources on promoting content once you’ve created it you’ll find a number of them in the additional resources at the bottom of the post).

Research, Reading and Discovery Tools

The first step to creating great content is understanding the industry and the audience you are writing for. The tools below will help you get plugged-in to the best content, discover new sites, and connect with the best bloggers in your vertical.

  • Feedly – In the wake of the Google Reader shutdown, Feedly has emerged as the best way to subscribe the RSS feeds. RSS is still one of the best ways to monitor your industry for news and content. Feedly’s mobile apps and UI make this a better replacement for your old Google Reader. Don’t underestimate the power of RSS feeds.
  • Instapaper – You never knew how badly you needed Instapaper until you’ve tried it. It’s a great way to save articles for offline reading. It also cleans up saved articles to minimize distractions. Set it up on all of your devices to collect content for later.
  • Pocket – This is basically the same thing as Instapaper and an equally great product.
  • Prismatic – One of my favorite ways to “unearth” new content. Subscribe to just about any blog or category to find new and useful information.
  • Digg – Digg is back, baby! The new Digg is a highly-curated feed of “the most interesting and talked about stories on the Internet right now.” The daily email newsletter is also a must-read.
  • Fre.sh – Created by BuzzFeed, Fre.sh is constantly updated feed of the 50 most popular stories on the web. Not surprisingly, most of the links send readers to BuzzFeed stories but there are links to great across the web.
  • IFTTT – Their tagline, “Put the internet to work for you,” is pretty accurate. Connecting different sites and services is a powerful way to automate your workflow. For example, automatically save new Cornerstone Content articles to your Pocket account or feed content you’ve written to Buffer. According to The Verge, the owners wants to “open up IFTTT as a platform and let anyone make a channel” meaning writers and publishers should be paying close attention.
  • Google Trends – Track the popularity of keywords in Google Search over time. This is a simple but powerful way to see what people are interested in. The graphs can also be used as visual objects in your own content.
  • Ahrefs Content Explorer – This tool combines the largest content index with powerful analytics. It discovers ~5 million new posts every day, and pulls detailed performance stats for each of them – social shares, backlinks, anchor text, organic traffic, keywords it ranks for, and more. The system also highlights domains that never linked to you, which makes it perfect for discovering new link building opportunities.
  • Google Webmaster Tool Bulk URL Removal Chrome Extension – Google Search Console allows you to remove URLs, which is good for when cleaning up outdated content. The problem is you can only remove one URL at a time. Thankfully, this free Chrome extension allows you to remove multiple URLs at once. Download the extension here: https://github.com/noitcudni/google-webmaster-tools-bulk-outdated-content-removal

Content Creation and Curation Tools

Content needs to be more than text to maximize social sharing. Here are few tools to help content creators add engaging, social objects to any article.

  • Timeline JS – Create embeddable, responsive timelines. Using Google Spreadsheets, Timeline JS allows you to build rich timelines that include videos, photos and tweets. See an example.
  • ThingLink – This is an easy way to make images interactive. Upload an image, tag it, then embed it on your site. See an example.
  • Piktochart – Infographics are awesome tools for displaying data-driven content but hard to create from scratch. Piktochart uses template and drag-and-drop tools to make the process much easier. See an example.
  • Infogr.am – Another tool for creating infographics but this one works best with spreadsheets of data. See an example.
  • Wordle – Word clouds are a cool way to add context to a presentation, like the State of the Union and an iPhone launch. Visual elements like this make content infinitely more shareable. See an example.
  • Polldaddy – Surveys and quizzes are another way to make content interactive and interesting. One idea: Create trivia questions about old content to breath new life old posts. See an example.
  • Google Public Data – There is an insane amount of data here and Google has made it all very easy to navigate and share. See an example.
  • Docurated Content Marketing App – This app helps marketers analyze and discover the best content for each marketing/sales support scenario.

Content Production Tools

Here are a few tools to help content creators hack their productivity.

  • Mou – Stop writing web articles in Microsoft Word. Markdown is a basic text-to-HTML conversion tool that makes writing for the web easier. Mou is the best app for writing in Markdown, loaded with keyboard shortcuts, live previews and custom CSS.
  • Editorially – The reason that most writers use Word is because their copyeditors want to track changes. If you write in Markdown, Editorially fixes this problem by allowing multiple people to edit the same article (like Google Docs), track changes and see previous versions.
  • Pixelmator – Every content creator should have basic image-editing skills but Photoshop is overkill. Pixelmator is Photoshop’s little brother and at just $15, it’s an amazing image editor.
  • Cloudup – This is an easy way to share images, files and especially screenshots. If you ever publish screenshots, this little app will save you time (and storage space).
  • Clipboard Cleaner – Removes formatting from your clipboard so you easily move text without styling. It’s a lifesaver for web writers (especially if you are using Microsoft Word).
  • Cloud Clip – This nifty app saves your clipboard history in case you need to access it later.

Other Awesome Content Marketing Tool Lists

This isn’t the only great list out there. Here are few others that you should bookmark.

Is there a great tool we missed? Let us know in the comments.

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