Seasonal Articles and Posts: Ideas for Content

Seasonal Articles and Posts: Ideas for Content

Seasonal articles are, in some areas of the web, regarded as a joke. Fine. All I can tell you is that mine have been successful, so my advice is this. Let the others go evergreen.

. So, what sort of seasonal article could you write in the later part of this year? Here are some suggestions.

Top Five Predictions for 2017

Predictions articles are remarkably easy to write. You look to see what people predicted for the current year – what came true? Next year will be more of the same. Come up with four predictions on that basis, and add one of your own, specific to your own industry. Predictions don’t have to say the world will end (we have enough of those in 2012) you can simply say ‘the market for XYX will continue to grow’  If you can’t think of a lot to say about the predictions, just write more of them.

Predictions articles look forward; it’s usually easier to write the articles that look back. You’ll need to write ‘2016, the year in review‘ which is kind of boring, but one article or post which might prove useful is a Thanksgiving article, write about 5, 7 or 10 ‘Things to Give Thanks for in 2016‘. With the current state of the economy, if you have work, income and a roof over your head, you have lots to be thankful for. You can develop a Thanksgiving article for publication in November and then extend/rewrite it for the end of the year, as ‘Favorite things about 2016’.

This is also a great time for cooks – recipes and hints and tips for easy entertaining will be in demand, as will ideas for decorations.  As always, address your article to the readers pain, most want to save money, effort or time, and quite often all three.  The first paragraph of the article should spell out what the readers is going to learn from reading your article, an why it will be useful. Be clear about who the article is for, and why, for example,

‘Your first Thanksgiving as a Mom can be difficult. Either you have to travel with your new baby, or you have to look after the baby while organizing a family celebration. If the first seems difficult, the second choice can be frightening. Fortunately long distance travel with a baby can be trouble free, as long as you are properly prepared.

Ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas (Holiday) centrepieces also make great posts for this time of year along with ideas for celebration tablescapes of all kinds. Articles on fall and winter seasonal decorating will be of general interest, but why not target those who are selling their homes? Tasteful seasonal decorations can go a long way towards making a home seem appealing and now could be the perfect time to use the spur of  NANOWRIMO to create your own compelling content.

Why should I buy from you and not someone else? The answer should be because what I get from you is better, you go further, your provide more. Bonus content could be the perfect thing to tip the scales in your favor. Create something seasonal and add it as a free gift to your customers for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or just because of reasons! You’ll find it gives a great boost to your sales. Repeat the process for Spring and for Summer and you may find you have something substantial enough to sell.

Why bother? Because of what I call the author effect.

I worked for years as an IT consultant, but when I published my first book,  things changed. The interview process was entirely different, people came to me, not the other way around, and yes, the fees I could charge increased. Don’t underestimate the power of the author effect, it makes a difference.

So, what are you writing for this time of year?

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The Proof Readers Poem

I don’t usually ‘do’ poetry. It’s not really my thing, however a friend posted a poem on my facebook page and I remembered that back in the distant past (2012 I think) I wrote this tongue in cheek set of guidelines for proof readers.

With apologies to serious poets everywhere, I present,

The Proofreader’s Poem 

If you’re the kind whose writing flows

from word to word in perfect prose

don’t think there’s nothing left to do

once words are found and phrases too.

There’s one thing left; you have to check

the grammar, don’t let spelling wreck

your careful words, your charming phrase

don’t leave your reader in a daze.

Move to the end, work in reverse

or read aloud, be bold! Rehearse!

Correct it all before you send

so publication can’t offend.

Check out your use of their and there

apostrophes and all, beware!

Be accurate with homonyms

and passive voice – a writers sin.

Check its and it’s, they’re often wrong;

its name is something which belongs

to it, and every single day

its name is spelled the self same way.

So, when you write, please write with flair

but let your watchword be take care

check before the publication

grammar, spelling, punctuation.

Remember, if you get them right

your business interests will take flight,

the millions that you surely crave

will flood right in, so please be brave.

Be ruthless when you proof read prose;

build links so your web business grows.

For anyone interested, parts of this were inspired by an old public safety announcement which I think appeared on the BBC, all about the need to wear a hard hat on a building site. 

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How to Write Every day

How to Write Every day

English: penulis = writer

English: penulis = writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Posting to your blog every single day can feel like a chore, but more often it just feels impossible.

Yes, writing a book is hard, but with a book you have a plot or central idea you’ve already worked out. With a blog each new post requires a new idea, and that’s hard. And it’s not just a problem for bloggers, Fiction writers also have blogs these days in order to promote their books, so do non fiction writers,  freelancers, publicists and small business owners with stores on the net.

Certainly there are some days when you have something to say, some great piece of knowledge to impart (which reminds me, we must talk about the ‘design’ when writing fiction sometime) or just something to grump about.

But some days it’s just not easy to find a subject at all, so here are some hints and tips about how to keep writing every day, so even if you’re not being employed to write, you can keep your blog updated.

First of all, take a look at this post, and you’ll learn all about creating a content plan. If you don’t have one, you need one. But suppose your content plan says that today you’re going to write about the three best ways to promote your blog, and you don’t have the time to research it, what do you do then?

Move the topic to another day and write about something else. You can find things easily enough by going to google news and typing in a couple of keywords. You’ll find out what’s in the news today. Your post should comment on it.

Easy really. And it doesn’t take long.

Why should you update your blog regularly? Well, because your readers want to see new stuff each time they visit, AND becuase the more often you update your site, the more often Google will visit, and your articles will be indexed faster. The can’t rank until they’re in the index, so the faster that happens, the better it is.

So, what’s in the news this week? There’s quite a fun post on the New Yorker, about their new literary blog, Page-Turner, which promises us  ‘criticim, contention and conversation about the most important books of the moment.’ I’ll wait and see whether it’s useful, personally I’d be more likely to read criticism, contention and conversation about the most popular books of the moment.  Since I’m taking my first steps into writing fiction, I’d like to know what it is that makes popular books sell and why, so I can do the same thing.

I know they say you should never start out writing a book with the intention of writing for money, but seriously, isn’t a book with no readers a very sad thing?

What do you think? Should writers set out to write the best they can, or is it OK to head straight for popular fiction? Leave a comment.

Also, if you are a writer for hire, a regular update schedule gives prospective customers confidence.

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Publish And Be Damned

I belong to a mastermind group which is a constant source of good information, but this week, I saw a clear example of something really interesting.

A new member of the group has a website, an e-commerce store, and she was asking for advice about it. The problem for most of us was that we couldn’t see the store. It hadn’t been published, so we asked her why. She said it was because it wasn’t finished, and she didn’t want anyone to see it until it was perfect.Those of you with blogs may be a little puzzled here, those of you with web stores may be smiling. We have the secret knowledge, and that is that websites are

a. never perfect

and

b. never finished.

This isn’t just a problem for web store owners, it’s a problem for everyone who dreams of one day having their own business. And it’s a problem for writers.

We could send a publisher our latest masterpiece, but it’s not quite finished. It needs a bit more editing, or proof reading. Or something!

It seems like any excuse will do as long as it gives us a chance to avoid the greatest disgrace the world has ever known.

FAILURE. 

Rocks fall, everyone dies.

The Earth explodes.

The Universe comes to a fiery end.

All because we publish with a couple of typos, or a manuscript is rejected, or because someone visits a website and doesn’t like what they see.

I came away from the mastermind angry, and for a while, I really couldn’t work out why. Then I realised it was because the new member was just like me; a woman.

We all have this problem to some extent, and I think this is one reason why most entrepreneurs are men. The problem is ‘people pleasing’ it is mostly a problem for women. We come up with lots and lots of reasons for pleasing people, we want them to be happy, for example. But the real reason is quite different. Most of us are not really in the “pleasing people” business, we are in the fear business. We are deeply, horribly, painfully  afraid of rejection, and so we try to please all the people, all of the time, because we think that if we don’t please people, we don’t deserve to be happy.

As a point of view, it’s crap. It’s self destructive. I know this, and from time to time, I still suffer from it.

If you create something beautiful, someone, somewhere will think it is ugly.

If you create a website for coffee drinkers, the chances are tea drinkers will find it boring.

If your write a novel, filled with romance, the chances are that someone who prefers stories of action and adventure won’t enjoy it at all.

And if you write a blog post about the problems of being a female entrepreneur or writer, the chances are that all your male readers will yawn, and some of them will decide not to bother visiting your blog again.

SO WHAT?

When you write that novel and send it to publishers and have it rejected, the sky does not fall.
When you build your webstore and then find a huge flaw in its construction so that only one eyed soup-drinkers from Borneo find it usable  – the planet doesn’t explode.
When you create a blog and can’t get the format or colors the way you want them, the Universe does not implode in a ball of primordial fire.

Very little happens, except that we learn something. So we act on the learning experience and we start again.

We read the reject letter, review any criticism with gratitude, review and send out to another publisher.

We find the flaw in the website, fix it, and make a note to be sure it doesn’t happen again.
And sometimes, we look at a problem, decide it’s not that serious and live with it for a while, because having colors the way you want them is great, but it’s not as important as getting your blog out there and finding readers.

All this takes understanding. It’s important to realise when you have a real problem, and when you’re just being a people pleaser. Learn how to stop.

Or not.

After all, if you don’t send in your manuscript, if you don’t publish your website, if you hold back your blog until you get the header just right, you’re not out there, competing with the rest of us.

So go ahead.

Wait till it’s perfect.

It makes life easier for those of us who publish, warts and all.

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How to Write Better Blog Posts – Not!

You and I both know that there is a lot of serious rubbish on the web. I don’t mean rubbish that is serious, I mean rubbish that is really, really bad,  the sort of article which says  ‘it is important to have information in your articles, because information is really important’. (Yes, that was a real example)

Mostly I ignore it, because it’s not worth commenting on. It is intended as fodder, usually for search engines, and hopefully, one day, it will become completely redundant.  All we need to do is wait. The web is still young.

Sometimes, however, I read an article which actually annoys me to the point where I get cross. Not because the article is simple search engine fodder with no content, but because it could have been, should have been, so much more than it is.

The article I’m writing about (and I’m loath to link to it) is http://smallbiztrends.com/2011/07/6-tips-to-writing-better.html and the reason I’m cross is that a blog like small business trends, with over 100,000 readers really ought to be able to do a much better job when it sets out to tell people how to write  blog content I’d love to know what you think – am I being too harsh?

Here are some of the points I disagree with.

Don’t worry about beating your competitor’s blog; focus on making yours better every day.

While I can’t argue with the sentiment, most of the business owners I know spend all their time worrying about their own situation and don’t have time to think about the competition, never mind feel paralysed by their success as suggested in this paragraph.  The difficulty most small business owners have with blogging is finding the time and wondering what to blog about, not worrying about the competition.

Reconnect with your passion for your industry.

I’d love to think that everyone has a passion for their industry, but many are just trying to make a  living.  We’ve all heard the guru advice that it doesn’t matter what we build our business on, we should look at the figures and make decisions based on keywords and search volume. Many many small businesses on the web exist without even a smidgen of passion to reconnect with, but they still need to blog, and blog well.

Remember the goal of your blog.

This one, I have to agree with, but it’s not that people have to remember the goal of their blog, it’s that they have to realize what that goal is. Many start blogging because they were told to, and without realizing that blogging isn’t about traffic or leads (as mentioned in the small biz article) it’s about dialogue and it’s about personality.  Finding out what customers want, and then giving it to them, takes on a different dimension when you can actually do that – ask customers and see what they say!

It’s not the best marketers or the best business owners who make the best bloggers. It’s the best storytellers — the people who can make us feel something …

Story telling is important – in fact it’s a vital skill, but fortunately most of us have it. If you can tell a friend what you did yesterday, you can tell a story. I’m not looking for a small business blog to have me emote all over my breakfast serial, what I do want to know is that they want to help me, which admittedly gives me a fleeting,  nice warm fuzzy feeling, but then I want to know how they can help me, and that’s not emotion, that’s good old information. The best blog stories are the ones which talk about how the business helped it’s customers, so that as a reader I can identify with that customer and realize that the business can help me too.

It’s hard to put passion in your writing when you’re afraid of what the Negative Nancys of the industry are going to say.

Starting a new business, putting your time and effort into something new, is one of the bravest things I know. There are many who never get started down the small business road, and I understand why; it’s scary. But for those who have, the fact that there are others which might disagree with their view is not the big fear. Dying penniless and alone because your business fails – that’s a fear.  Losing your home because you lost your job and the expensive course you bought from that internet guru turned out to be garbage – that’s a fear. The owners of internet based small businesses are not bothered by a few bad comments they can turn off with a single click. They have other things to be afraid of.

Just write, and don’t stop writing until you’ve gotten out everything you needed to say.

No! No, no and no again. Blogs are great, but they are also short. Write by all means, write without interruption, but until you’ve gotten out everything you needed to say? I don’t know about you, but I think I could probably just keep on writing, and writing, and writing.  Writing a first draft without edits is a good idea, but as someone once said, there are no good writers, only good editors.  Writing for your own blog means there is no editor, no-one to tell you you’ve written too much, or too little. No-one to remind you that on the web, short is usually sweet.

So now you know what I think. Did you read the article? Here the link again http://smallbiztrends.com/2011/07/6-tips-to-writing-better.htm

What do you think? What’s the one thing you could do to improve your blog posts?

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Personal Branding Online and the Writers Voice

Visualization of the various routes through a ...

Visualisation of roots through the Internet. Image via Wikipedia

With millions more businesses opening on a daily basis, how you can make yours stand out?

Your business communications need to stand out.
They need to be remarkable.
And the competition is growing every second.

And it’s not just business owners who have the problem. If you’re a writer, how can you make your writing stand out? How can you make sure clients hire you and not someone else? How can you make sure publishers will cherish your talent and not send out another ‘reject’ letter?

In an earlier post I said that for your writing to stand out, your need to have a personal brand online. Let me clarify that a little.

If you are a professional writer and you write articles and blog posts for other people, your job is to write in their style.

If you are a business or blog owner who wants or needs to outsource their writing, you need to be sure that the writer(s) you hire know what you stand for; that they can become extensions of that brand.

And that isn’t going to happen unless you know what the brand is; what you and your business stand for.

So which ever you are, writer, author, business owner you need to have and understand the concept of personal brand.

It’s related to the concept of an author’s ‘voice’. Once you know what the brand is, you know what sort of ‘voice’ you need to develop in your writing. You know what the branding personality is.

The first step is to know who your audience/reader/customer is.
You need to know specifics, like age and gender, but the more you know, the better it is.

Most people believe that general appeal is what they need, that a broad view is the best, but it’s not. The web is a warren filled with niches, you need to specialise. One way to do that is to say who you are writing for, and why.

Most people don’t.

They’re afraid that if they say they write for group A, they’re audience will shrink. It won’t.
They think that being specific is the same as being pushy. It’s not.
They’re somehow ashamed of what they do. So why do it?
They’re not actually sure who they are writing for. So think about it, learn!

This is not just an Internet problem. Many business owners have a problem promoting their business in person, as well as on the web.

Years ago, I used to go to a networking group, and almost every week there would be someone who’d stand up and say ‘Good morning everyone, I’m XXXX and I’m a YYYY. And you all know what a YYYY does, so that’s all there is to say, really’.

The result was truly forgettable. And the same thing happens on the web.

It’s often very difficult to give a business personality through a store, but that’s one reason blogs exist.

You can, and should, give your business a personality through your blog, that’s where you can explain not what your business does, but how, and who, it helps. The personality is part of the business, and ideally it should form part of your business plan.

You’re not throwing customers away, you’re bringing the right customers in.

The great thing about the web, is that it is niche friendly. You can develop a business which serves the needs of underwater basket weavers, but you might find there is a lot of competition.

You can develop a business which serves the needs of one-armed, under water basket weavers, and you’ll find less competition.

You can develop a business which serves the needs of one-armed, under water basket weavers with dogs, and you can probably corner the market, because only you will be able press all the necessary buttons. By learning about the problems of a specific group, you learn how to write articles they’ll find helpful. The customers would have to be mad to deal with anyone else. You don’t have to make do with a small part of your niche, you can grab it all.

And then, of course, you can start work on another.

And here the web has a huge advantage over the real world.
You can develop a dog loving brand for your work with one armed under water basket weavers with dogs.
You can develop a knitting fanatic brand for your work with one armed under water basket weavers who like to make baskets to hold their knitting.

And, you need never reveal that you don’t own a dog, you can’t knit, you have two good arms, and you never saw the point in underwater basket weaving in the first place.

Really?

Next post – authenticity!

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