<![CDATA[Custom Content Factory - Blog Writing for Businesses - Blog]]>Sat, 05 Dec 2015 03:06:34 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Boost conversion by starting with effective landing pages]]>Fri, 22 May 2015 04:35:53 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/boost-conversion-by-starting-with-effective-landing-pages

You only get a few seconds to make a good impression when a potential customer first visits your site. Your landing page needs to grab their attention right away. Effective landing pages are vital to successfully converting your potential customers into paying customers. However, it is not just the design of the page that matters; it's the content that matters most.

The question is…how do you make sure that your landing pages are doing what you need them to do? Most importantly, is your copy writing having a positive effect on your conversion rates or are you missing the opportunity to put your best foot forward to your potential customers.
What your landing page should or shouldn't do
Effective landing pages have one job and that is to get your potential customers’ attention! Once they are there, no matter the route they took to get there, you want them to only have two options for leaving your landing page, hence why they are often referred to as squeeze pages. No menus, no sidebars, and definitely…no outgoing links. Limit their options...they are going to buy something, or they will need to close their browser window.
It all begins with the right headline
The type of headline you use will depend upon where your business and product stand.

  • If your company and product are relatively unknown, the headline should state the promise, then be followed up with a subhead that describes the method. For example, “Lose weight fast” followed by “Our routine helps you shed pounds in 15 minutes a day.”
  • If your product has been around for a while and people know what you promise, make your promise more specific. Instead of “Lose weight fast!”, you’ll want “Lose three inches in six weeks!” and follow it up with a more specific subhead.
  • If the target audience is tired of people making the same basic promise, put the method first and the promise later. That would be something like “This 15 minute exercise routine works your whole body” and then follow up with “Lose weight fast—all the workout, half the time.”
  • If everyone in your niche is doing the above, then it’s time to up your game a bit. Now you’re not just losing weight fast, but in the fastest way possible. The object here is to find the single most outlandishly awesome thing you can say about the product that is actually true.
  • When every potential customer is bombarded with a million of these messages every day, as would be the case with weight loss, it’s time to get specific. Instead of targeting people who need to lose weight, switch your focus to a specific subset of people who need to lose weight. Something like “Still trying to lose pregnancy pounds?” would work here.

Above all, remember this...don’t make promises that your product cannot deliver! You don’t just want a one-time customer; you want a lifetime customer. This will not happen if your customer is disappointed with the results.
Be a problem solver
To some extent, you’ve already done that with the headline, but now you want them to read the rest of the landing page. You need to convince your potential customer that you have the solution to their problem or that your solution is better than everyone else’s. Keep this part brief. Effective landing pages aren’t the place for dissertations. Stick to a few short paragraphs explaining how you have the solution to their problem.
Social Proof
We are all hardwired to want to be part of the in-crowd. Effective landing pages provide testimonials from previous customers that act as social proof that your product works. Include several, so it doesn’t look like you just begged your neighbor to say something nice. They should be brief and to the point. When possible, add pictures of the customers. This will make your approach feel more personal.
The call to action
You’ve convinced them you can give them what they need. Now nudge them that extra little bit to seal the deal. Keep it simple, concise and clear. Make your buy button a color that stands out from the background. If it’s true, try suggesting that your offer won’t be available forever because there are only so many spots left or the sale only runs for two weeks. This can be a great way to get your potential customer to act.
Some resources
The Internet is full of resources. Copyblogger.com is an excellent resource for all things copywriting and specifically about landing pages. Several services generate landing pages, including Lead Pages. They are expensive but they provide samples of their work that can show you excellent examples of effective landing pages.
<![CDATA[How to get your blog to stand out from the crowd]]>Wed, 29 Apr 2015 02:24:18 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/how-to-get-your-blog-to-stand-out-from-the-crowd

So you have a blog, it’s been around awhile, and you’ve gotten comfortable with publishing excellent content regularly. You take care to write well. You add images, format the post well, and do as much SEO optimization as can be expected from someone who isn’t an expert. You’ve built yourself a small audience, but still you wonder how to get your blog noticed so it can go from being a clichéd sideline to something that actually matters.

It’s not easy but it’s not as impossible as it seems.
Zero in on your target audience
You probably have an idea who your target audience is, but it’s time to get specific. You can’t market your blog just to people who are interested in interior design or gardening or whatever generic category your blog fits. You need a much more specific target, so create an avatar–ideally more than one–that represents the kind of person who would read your blog. It should be something like this:

Jane is a young professional who has just upgraded from her first post-college apartment. She’s got an active social life so she wants interior design ideas that will look fabulous to her guests while staying within a budget.

Once you have done that, figure out where Jane goes on social media (Facebook Groups, Twitter Hashtags, Pinterest, Instagram, wherever) and make sure to share your content there. Spamming is not how to get your blog noticed. If you’re exposing your content to a group, participate in the group. The best way to attract people is to be a person.
Contact some influencers
In every industry there are people who have popular blogs and social media feeds. You can tap into a slice of their audience by interviewing them. If you bring them to your site and you have good stuff to offer, some of them will stick around.

It’s best not to concentrate on the blogs that have the heaviest traffic. It would be great if they would agree to an interview, but the reality is that they are bombarded with interview and guest post requests constantly. You have a much better chance of getting a positive response if you aim for the folks who are just a little bit more popular than you are.

And as with anything when approaching someone else, be polite, be positive, and expect to be ignored or rejected most of the time. When someone does agree to an interview, be respectful of their time. Be professional. Get your questions to them quickly, and notify them when the post goes live so they can send it out to their followers.
Automate posting to social media
Everyone will tell you that posting to social media is how to get your blog noticed. It's true to a point, but your audience is global and isn't necessarily on social media when you are. Even if they were, the way social media posts fly by these days, your audience could be actively looking for your content when you post it and still miss it just because their stream if flying too fast. Automation can help.

On some sites it might be inadvisable to post the same content more than once or twice a day. In these cases, find the optimum times for your target audience and post then. On something like Twitter where there are a million messages in your stream every five minutes, posting multiple times a day won’t be frowned on as much so you can post a new post every other hour. Just make sure that you’re participating and not just spamming. If someone replies or retweets, respond or favorite their retweet just because people like to be acknowledged.

Of course you need tools to automate. Tweetdeck can do some of it, and there are countless Wordpress plugins that will work. Jetpack is a popular Wordpress plugin that automates social media and also provides a host of other handy tools.

But our favorite is Buffer. Buffer allows you to build up a list of posts to be posted, and a list of times and sites to post to. It will go through posting what’s in the queue whenever the next scheduled posting time occurs. There’s a Chrome plugin and a mobile version that ensure you can add to your queue no matter where or when you encounter something you want to share.

Building an audience is hard, but it is possible. Just remember: In all things, be a person, be polite, and have fun. It’s a slow process, but the rewards can be tremendous. And remember, nobody knows all the secrets to how to get your blog noticed. If you have an idea, try it; it just might be your breakout moment.
<![CDATA[Copywriting - Headlines that grab your readers' eyeballs...]]>Wed, 29 Apr 2015 01:23:22 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/copywriting-headlines-that-grab-your-readers-eyeballs

As a copywriter, headlines are some of the most important words you write. They are so important, in fact, that if you spend more time copywriting headlines than you do the articles that go with them, you are probably doing it right.

It is easy to see why. In our connected world, we see thousands of headlines every day. Every blog post, e-mail, social media update, and every article in every newspaper and magazine begins with a headline. The competition for attention is steep.
The headline has one job
And that one job is to get a potential customer to click the link and read the first sentence of the article, blog post or e-mail. The purpose of the content is to bring the reader closer to being a paying customer by providing value to the reader. If the reader does not read the article, they cannot get any value from it. It is just that simple.
A lot of the work is already done
It may seem contradictory to suggest that it is impossible to spend too much time copywriting headlines only to follow that up by suggesting that a lot of the work is already done. However, headlines are not new; they have been around more or less forever. As long as there have been people using words to convince people to buy, there have been people trying to figure out the best ways to do it. You can build off their efforts.
Headlines make the reader feel special
Headlines that promise to make the reader feel smarter than everyone else, or like they are part of a special in-group perform very well. Sometimes those headlines look like this:

  • The Secret of [_____]. Everyone loves being in on the secret. If you are reading this article, chances are you want to be in on the secret to copywriting headlines, so a good headline for this article would be "The Secret to Copywriting Headlines." Of course, we do not want to stop with good. We could probably do better with something like "The Secret to Copywriting Great Headlines," or "The Secret to Copywriting Headlines that Really Work."
  • Little Known Ways To [_____]. "Little Known Ways To Have Great Sex," "Little Known Ways To Make Great Brownies," "Little Known Ways To Save on Car Insurance." Anything that promises to let the reader in on something most people do not know is going to work well.
Sometimes it's about inclusion
Sometimes it is not about feeling special as much as it is about not feeling excluded. Headlines like these:

  • Who Else Wants [_____]. "Who Else Wants Great Abs?" "Who Else Wants Great Cookies?" The “Who else” subtly suggests that there is some social proof that the information in the article is already working for many people. If people really want great abs or great cookies, they are missing out if they do not click.
  • This Technique is Helping [_____] to [_____]. "This Technique is Helping People Copywrite Headlines," "This Technique is Helping Shoppers Save Money." This style headline has the same sort of implied social proof of the “Who Else” headlines but helps zero in on the target audience more.
Some things just work
We do not always know why things work, but we can use the fact that they do, so here are some things that a lot of great headlines have in common.

  • They are Short. If someone has to stop to read your headline, you’ve probably already lost them.
  • They Ask Questions. There is something about questions that seem to draw people in like their lives are not complete until they have the answer.
  • Lists. I know, I know. List posts are some the most clickbaity nonsense on the internet, but that does not mean your list post has to be clickbaity nonsense.
Research and test
You always want to use the best headline, but you cannot always know what the best headline is. The good news is that people are willing to tell you which headline works best. All you have to do is put up the same post with both headlines, give them the same exposure, and track the clicks.

You can also spend a little time every day paying attention to the kind of headlines you click on and look for similarities. Think about the things you like to click. You will probably find that a lot of the headlines look like the ones suggested here. Compare what you like to what your test results show, and you will have a winning strategy for copywriting headlines.
<![CDATA[New Trends in Online Marketing That You Need to Know]]>Tue, 27 Jan 2015 05:42:49 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/new-trends-in-online-marketing-that-you-need-to-know
Everyone has a Facebook page, why is yours special? Before 2010 having a Facebook page with a few likes was all it took to see who was engaging your brand. Well not any more. Creating silo pages for customers to land on does nothing more than take up digital real estate. You need to fill your pages with content that leads customers through an incentive loop. Read this, click this, share this, buy this. Each point of the loop should be more engaging than the last. Ideally, ending in a sale.
Create an Incentive Loop

Every couple months a list of new marketing trends tends to go viral. Why? Simple. Consumers are constantly looking for new ways to engage businesses. All you have to do is give it to them. This list of online marketing trends are a must in today’s crowded digital marketplace.
The Era of Mobile is Upon Us
With 90% of adults using mobile devices, it is safe to say that mobile is the first place customers encounter your content. If you haven’t already, it’s time to build a dedicated mobile site or update your old one to be responsive. If a customer looks for you on their smart phone and the page fails to load, you just lost a customer. Spend some time with your web developer or use a template from Wordpress or Squarespace to get your site updated and mobile ready.
Facebook is Taking Over Video Content
To no one’s surprise, Facebook has stepped up their video ad game. Facebook is quickly stealing the video ad market from long-time champion Youtube. How? By providing easily integrated tools, free “call to action” buttons and better formats for advertisers. If you’re ready to start video marketing on Facebook remember to keep it short, include a strong call to action and create shareable content. Don’t worry, all it takes is a smartphone to make a decent video.
Hire a Professional Writer
It’s been said once, and I’ll keep on saying it: Content is king. In order to provide engaging content catered to your brand, you need a professional writer. Luckily, there is a slew of them out there looking for contracts. Find a writer that specialized in your niche and set up a content schedule. Hiring a writer will keep your content fresh and relevant. Not to mention, a good writer will help customers recognize your brand voice, no matter what platform they find you on.
Personalize It
Customers are tired of click-bait and flashing banner ads. Instead, they want to hear a story. They want to buy into a brand that connects with them personally. Tell your story and make it personal. Drawing customers in with enticing content and a personal relationship will lead them to your products at a much higher conversion rate. 
Find Your Demographic and Pay to Reach Them
Spend more money on advertising. In the early days of the web, small businesses could lock in on a niche and find cheap ad space. Now a days, the internet is a cluttered landscape. Paying to have your content at the top will directly increase your marketing efforts. Find out which platforms your users are engaging on and pay to be at the top of their feed. Your bank might cringe at first, but the pay out will prove its worth in the end.
<![CDATA[Social Currency in the Future of Online Marketing]]>Mon, 19 Jan 2015 05:30:09 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/social-currency-in-the-future-of-online-marketing
The traditional value chain is dead. Customers have become the heart of the modern day value chain because of customer to brand interaction on social media. I’m talking about Social Currency. 

Tweet for Products

For those of you not familiar with Social Currency, it is using a consumers social network in return for your products. Handbag designer Marc Jacobs sold handbags in return for brand advocates. Customers looking to purchase the handbag were asked to tweet to their social media networks about the product. 

The more impressions the tweet received the cheaper the bag. Simple and brilliant. So, I ask you, What are you doing to create brand advocates? 
The Facts

Let’s look at some facts. Vivaldi Partners recently did a study on how consumers connect with brands on social media. In the study, they found that, 

“...Of the consumers connected to brands on social media, only 43 percent are motivated to share ideas for new products or services. Even less—33 percent— want to engage and connect with other consumers...

Of that 33 percent, five was the average number of brands followed per user. If that pool didn’t seem small enough, only 44% of those following brands are sharing with friends and family about their favorite brands. It is a very competitive landscape. How can you stand out from your competitors and win the hearts of the sharing elite? 

Types of Social Currency

Vivaldi Partners tells us that there are several types of social currency interactions:
  • Utility - a brand provides value that the customer enjoys receiving. A standard follower.
  • Information - a brand shares information that a user finds useful and important. A Sharer
  • Conversation - a brand becomes a part of the digital dialogue. A commenter.
  • Advocacy - a brand establishes a strong enough connection for a consumer to defend and share the brand. An Advocate.
  • Affiliation - a customer joins a community of others that like a brand. The Cult Follower.
  • Identity - the brand has become a core part of a consumers' identity. Brand Superstar.

Improving Your Social Currency

When it comes to social currency, your objective shouldn’t be a sale. Consumers are tired of being blasted with ads and sales in their newsfeed. Instead, the goal is to create a brand advocate. That one customer that tells all of their friends about their favorite brand. Preferably on social media. 

Keep in mind when creating content for your brand advocates, most users unfollow or break up with a brand because the information isn’t relevant, unique or interesting. Others leave because the posts become to repetitive or occur to frequently. 

Mastering social currency requires brands to provide real world value for likes, shares and comments. Small businesses on Instagram frequently host contests for tagging friends or sharing photos. Freemium games provide in-game rewards for following a brand on Facebook. Marc Jacobs sells handbags for tweets. 

Identify the value your business can bring in exchange for social media interactions. Start creating brand advocates that talk, like share and comment about your brand to build a powerful following of customers in the digital landscape. Entice your audience with real world value in exchange for digital action. 

Go generate some social currency to establish your brand as an industry leader, Now!

Don't forget to ask us how you can take advantage of the 30% discount on our blog writing service that we offer all new clients!
<![CDATA[Getting traffic, but no sales?]]>Fri, 05 Dec 2014 21:09:03 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/getting-traffic-but-no-salesInvigorate your blog with these three simple tips. 
Why is conversion on your website so important? 

Let’s say you are currently converting 2% of the people who visit your blog into customers or enquiries. If you can tweak your website and double that to 4%, that will mean you will have twice as many customers without needing to have any extra visitors to your website. That means twice as many customers for no extra advertising cost!

Sometimes just a few small changes can bring major improvement in conversion rates. 

Check out these simple tips to get the most out of every visitor to your website:
TIP 1: Remove the guesswork from your blog
It’s your job to convince your visitor to take action on your website and turn into a potential customer. Before working out how to do that, you need to know what you want that visitor to do. 

There are the more obvious things:

  • Call you
  • Fill in a contact email form
  • Send you an email
  • Make a purchase

You can assume that at least 80% of the visitors looking at your site are interested in the type of services you offer, so why aren’t those 80% of people getting in touch with you?

Let’s say that 10% of the people who visit your site are getting in touch – that leaves 70% who are interested in your services that are not contacting you. You need to put yourself in these people’s shoes.

What is that 70% thinking? Why are they on your website?

  • Are they not convinced that you’re the best person for the job? Is there not enough trust there? (Credibility)
  • Are they not in the right part of the sales cycle? Are they not yet ready to become a customer but only looking for information? (Lead Magnets)
  • Do they want to get in touch but can’t figure out how to? (User Centric Design)
  • Something else?

To be as effective as possible, your website should be focused on capturing as many visitors as you can. This is what is going to increase your profits without increasing your advertising spend.
TIP 2: Always, always, always establish your credibility.
Here’s what it comes down to for your website – your potential customers need a good reason to trust what you are saying. 

You can say that you are the: 

  • “best plumber in New York City”; or 
  • “provide the best floral photographs for weddings”; or 
  • “offer the most delicious double roasted coffee in the world”. 

The problem is that all those competitors’ websites your potential customer is visiting before and after your site, say the exact same thing. Your customer is looking for the best solution to their problem. You need to tell them why they should listen to your assertions. 
Here's how you can show your credibility: 
Your company's credibility should revolve around your brand story. On how well it solves your customers' problems and any resources that outline company's expertise. 

Remember, the majority of your customers aren't going to meet you face-to-face. So what can you do to help them ease the barriers in doing business with you and their belief in your company to deliver what you promise. 

In addition to your regular “About us” page, have a page called “Why us / Our story” (or similar), as well as also having a reviews/testimonials page or section. 

To make this even more effective, you could organize your website so that the top bullet points of what achievements make you worth listening to are above the fold on every page (“above the fold” just means that it is viewable on your visitors’ browser window before they scroll down).

Be specific about your accomplishments:

  • Do you have any third party recognition? Any awards?
  • Do you have reviews or testimonials that real previous customers have written? 
  • What specifically have you done for other people or businesses? 

How did you help them succeed? (89% of people you helped found love; you helped ABC business go from 20,000 in profit to 150,000 in profit; 87% of your customers came from word of mouth from other customers; etc) 

Your potential customer needs to know exactly why they should trust what you write on your website. They want to hear the stories of how you helped someone just like them. 
TIP 3: Make it easy to buy
You don’t need a whole new website to add more calls to action. Instead, you can add different levels of engagement – a path for how each all your visitors to be engaged. 

There are a many different actions that can be recorded, such as:
  • joining an email list 
  • taking polls, surveys, etc.
  • visiting multiple pages 
  • downloading white papers, reports or fact sheets 
  • participating in conversations on your social media channels 
  • sharing your content via social media, bookmarking or email 

For people to engage with your website, you need to give them a path to follow. Re-read your web copy and make sure that what you’re asking them to do is obvious and specific.

People will appreciate it when the information they are trying to find is clearly defined. You website is of no use if the visitor does nothing. Your goal is to simplify the process as much as possible and make sure that once someone has decided to take the action, it’s very easy to follow through. 

Here are other strategies you can use to turn your website into a customer machine:

  • User centric design, layout essentials, avoiding stock photography, no flash introductions and responsive design
  • Increase the hosting and site speed
  • Being socially integrated
  • Blogs, interactivity and fresh content with your opinion
  • Capturing more visitors details - Lead magnets
  • Getting to the point quickly and instant gratification
  • Copywriting essentials

Conversion optimization is not a one-time task. For your website to continuously produce results, you need to create a system of ongoing testing and improvement. It should feel like a habit rather than a singular process. Start mapping out the big picture and reverse-engineer the process to achieve your major objectives.

Let’s get a conversation going. Maybe we can even discuss some example recommendations in the comments section of the article.

<![CDATA[Is guest posting still a valid online strategy?]]>Wed, 12 Nov 2014 02:50:08 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/is-guest-posting-still-a-valid-online-strategy
Online marketers often rethink their strategy, especially in terms of marketing efforts that might be outdated or no longer providing the results they need. With so many changes in technology, the online marketplace and competitor strategies, it might be time to review your own marketing efforts to make sure that you are still on the right track and set up for online success. 

Google’s Matt Cutts posted on his personal blog that webmasters should no longer use guest blogging as a way to gain links. And if you do accept a blog post from a writer, make sure that it was written by someone you are willing to vouch for in terms of credibility and quality. Cutts’ statement made SEO agencies quite worried. And the question over the success of guest posting remains an important one. 
Guest posting used to be quite an accomplishment for writers and marketers, especially when asked to contribute to a reputable blog or website that is seen as an authority in its industry. It was in essence a way of saying that your content is regarded to be of high quality and worthy of being published. It used to be a responsible marketing effort and writers mainly contributed to websites to have the opportunity to offer valuable, high quality content for their audience.
But it is for this reason that more and more marketers have decided to use guest posting solely as a way of increasing the number of links to their own websites. Random emails from writers all over the world have popped up in front of blog owners, requesting them to accept guest posts on a variety of topics, simply in turn for a link to a website they have never even heard of. 

This has definitely contributed to the negative vibe that surrounds guest posting tactics. But this doesn’t mean that guest posts are completely dead –it just won’t work the same way as it used to before. 

Although it generally took a while for guest posting to really take flight, it was viewed as something that is great for both SEO and the website in general. Honest, legitimate guest blogging was very popular for site owners, blog authors and readers. But it wasn’t long before this strategy was exploited and used as a way of building cheap links, fast. Bloggers wanted as much as possible, for the least amount of effort. Bloggers even started to pay a fee for their blogs to be accepted and posted in order to gain a backlink. 
The game of buying cheap links
What will Google do?
Most professional marketers and SEO gurus think that Google will simply discount guest post links from irrelevant blogs, ignore anchor text links from guest posts, and place more emphasis on social signals. Google might also start looking at author rank to determine whether the quality of the content will be up to standard. So in a way, yes, guest posting will become obsolete – but not if you follow the rules.

Here are the recommended strategy for future guest blogs:
  • Only post on relevant blogs. Ideally these blogs should rank higher than your own website. Linking from bigger blogs that are relevant to your website will help with traffic, branding and sales. It will offer great exposure for your business.
  • Avoid keyword rich anchor texts. This will become a huge red flag so avoid this where possible. Don’t let your site be penalized so avoid using exact-match or keyword rich anchor text when publishing blog posts on other blogs. 
  • Always share. Link to sites that offer value to the reader, not only to your site. Mention relevant websites or sources that can strengthen the quality of the content overall.
  • Boost your author rank. With Google Plus becoming more relevant and popular, it will be easier for Google to determine the quality of your writing. So focus on publishing only valuable content as you don’t want sub-standard blogs linked to your professional profile. 
Guest posting will help with SEO
Guest posting can still help improve your SEO. Since you have to avoid using keyword rich anchor texts and only link to your site when it really benefits the reader, you won’t rank for specific terms as easily as you could in the past. But the links will still help to improve your site’s overall authority and, more importantly, it will increase your long-tail traffic.
The debate that online marketers often face is whether or not they should still go ahead with guest blogging as part of their online marketing strategy. There’s no definite yes or no answer; it all depends on how you use guest posting, the type of content you choose, the sites you post on, and the quality of your content. Although it may seem like guest posting is slowly dying, it can still help your rankings, just not in the way that you might think.
Cutts feels that innocent website owners are being negatively influenced by bloggers, simply because these “fake” marketers will tell them just how beneficial a guest post will be for their website, and that they are getting “free content” in the process. So these websites are being penalized because they were convinced by bloggers that their site will improve, while it’s in actual fact nothing more than a disguised link scheme. This again shows just how important it is to stick to the rules and guidelines when it comes to publishing a guest post, so that you do not fall in the same trap and be penalized before you know it. 
In conclusion
To recap, guest blogging can still be a good addition to your online marketing strategy but we don’t know for how long this will remain true. Since an increasing number of online bloggers use this as a link building exercise, over time guest blogging has become a spammy practice and you don’t really want to associate that with your company. 

Our tips for you: 

  • Use guest posting sparingly; 
  • Only choose real high quality, high authority blogs; 
  • Make sure you offer valuable, click-worthy content. 
  • Don’t focus on guest blogs as your main link building strategy but rather only as a supplemental marketing strategy. 
<![CDATA[Why workflow processes are essential to content marketing sucess]]>Tue, 11 Nov 2014 07:20:26 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/why-workflow-processes-are-essential-to-content-marketing-sucessYou know content marketing is where it’s at for online marketing success. But how do you know if you’re doing it right, faithful to your brand and building the right customer audience? 

You’ve got renegade freelancers on one side, a web team that doesn’t know the new editorial schedule on the other, and you’re defending your content marketing budget from other departmental poaching by the skin of your teeth.

After all, creating content marketing strategy and effectively executing it are two wildly different things. The answer you’re looking for is found in content marketing workflows. 
What are content marketing workflows?
Content marketing workflows is the structure behind your content strategy. Breaking down your content strategy into processes to keep your content subject matter and editorial schedule on track. 

Workflows include:

  • Identifying individual tasks
  • Assigning owners for those tasks
  • Setting deadlines for each task
  • Establishing an editorial hierarchies to keep your content aligned and perfected
  • Structuring an approval ladder to advance each task forward to completion
  • Measuring success of strategies to learn which tactics are the most effective for your brand and audience
  • Create content distribution path and the tools needed to measure success

Before creating a workflow process or even deciding what type of content that you need to create, be it utilizing social media, curating blog content, or writing an eBook for your industry niche, there are a few steps you need to go through to be effective. 
1. Develop the core of your content strategy
Have you ever worked in a group where each member has a different idea of what the final product should convey? Before you get anywhere with your marketing, your strategy has to be clear so all team members can identify with it.

With a centralized objective for your content strategy, each content interaction you present to your target audience will add to a unified image of your brand. To develop your content marketing goals, these four elements need to be considered:

  • Define your marketing goals. What do you want to achieve with your marketing strategy? How can your content communicate this goal and lead customers to help you achieve it? This is a cross-departmental conversation that needs to guide your marketing decisions.
  • Create customer personas. Find out your various customers that frequent your online business. You may have more than one type of customer and identifying the demographics and psychographics will help develop your editorial tone and brand for each. 
  • Identify your customer pain points. You need to reconcile your customer information needs with your marketing goals. What can your company offer to meet the needs of your target audience and encourage them to move forward in the purchasing cycle? Use various tools and methods to uncover what problem that your customer wants solved. Ask your customers for feedback and use that information to identify how you are the best choice for your target market.
  • Identify the problems in your industry. Where is your industry going? Can you be on top and offer the next thing your customers will be looking for before your competitors? Change and the possibility of mistakes is better than falling behind and becoming obsolete. Keep track of what your competitors are up to and trends at the forefront of your industry through trade organizations, trade conferences, and networking across your industry. 
2. Developing your company’s voice
Essential to all content marketing is making certain that your content is consistent with your organization’s brand. If your are outsourcing your content creation, you need develop strict guidelines around tone, style, voice, and the core messages that you want your content to speak towards. Wrangling off-key employees will wear you down so start on the right note.

Working to define your brand helps you center your themes. You have your business objective for your content marketing endeavor, and the persona your brand employs to deliver that information is a vital component to creating content that reflects your brand. 

Will your content tone be casual? Or professional? Full of anecdotes for a more social and personable presentation? Or will you rely on technical jargon to enhance your brand authority?

Establishing your tone, voice, and persona will give your marketers a clear definition of the goal they need to deliver to your customer.

When identifying your brand persona, take a look at the below key components to help you get on the right track:

  • What are 3-4 keywords that embody what your brand’s essence?
  • What distinct advantages does your brand offer your customers over your competitors?
  • What is your company’s goal to contribute to your target customer?

Once you have these answers, you can examine the decisions for your brand’s marketing so that the image associated with your brand matches your brand’s purpose. Persona can be expressed through your logo, tagline, colour choices, font decisions, language utilization, and tone.
3. How much will creating content cost?
Creating, maintaining, and distributing content isn’t free. Especially creating quality content that builds engagement. This means creating a budget that will meet your needs. 

This is where many marketers have a hard time. To make it easier, ask yourself these questions: 

  • What type of content do you want to create? Video, whitepaper, blog post? Depending on the choices, production expenses change drastically. How frequently will you be creating content?
  • Are you planning on hiring freelancers to develop your content while keeping in-house editors? Your content team is the foundation of your strategy and you need to have a plan on whether you are going to invest on an in-house team or outsource if your budget requires.
  • If you have multiple editors and a need for ongoing schedule modifications, you may want to look into investing in content marketing management software. 
  • What tools will you be using to measure your metrics? Measuring engagement and interaction is vital to knowing which portions of your content marketing are delivering--and which aren’t. 
  • Create a lead generation funnel and determine what your cost-per-lead (CPL) is going to be. Remember, it must be a qualified lead. It can be calculated by determining the cost of content production plus distribution costs, divided by total number of new orders generated. This will help determining your content marketing ROI and a key indicator as you build your budget. You don’t want content operations to be so expensive that it eclipses sales revenue. 

These are just a sample of the considerations for your content marketing budget.
4. Building your content team
Developing your content team can be difficult and time-consuming. But it doesn’t have to be. Prior to building your team, you must create a style guide, which helps provide an outline on your content voice, style, readers and other guidelines. 

Every member of your team should have defined roles, clear approval structures, and an understanding of the core content marketing objective. The roles you will need to consider change depending on your primary marketing media, but most share the following:

  • Core objective development board, where a cross-departmental team established a clear brand persona and content marketing goal
  • Project budget team to keep the finances on track and avoid over or under-spending in certain areas
  • Content creation team to build your content
  • Editorial team to keep that content streamlined
  • Design team to augment your customer’s experience of your content and provide a professional finish
  • The hands-on audience interaction team responsible for following up with your potential customers as they interact with the content
  • Metric and success measurement team to offer insight into the process and where you can improve

Even if you are operating as a one-person show, the different roles you need to tackle will require definition and a balanced time management approach.
Nail your workflows, nail your campaign
Once you have the foundation for your workflows built, setting up your content creation and approval structures becomes much simpler. Setting standards for your team based on your content marketing goals in your company’s voice, and planned within your budget, you can best build the base for long-term success.

<![CDATA[8 common blog writing mistakes ]]>Sun, 09 Nov 2014 20:05:51 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/8-common-blog-writing-mistakes
This is perhaps one of the most common errors in blog writing. Run-on sentences might be something that writers have heard of before, yet they continue to make this mistake. A run-on sentence refers to a sentence that connects two independent clauses together inappropriately. What exactly is an independent clause? Quite simply, it refers to a complete subject and a complete verb that can stand on its own as a sentence. So, in plain terms, you can refer to an independent clause as a sentence on its own. To avoid this mistake, do not connect two independent sentences together unless you can use a comma or a semi colon, or even a conjunction (for, but, and, or, so).
1. Avoid run on sentences
Blogging is not only a great way to show off your writing skills but it’s an excellent way to demonstrate what your company has to offer. It helps to give your brand a voice and connect with your audience in an attempt to help attract new customers, set yourself apart from the competition and increase the possibility of getting qualified, fresh leads for your business. 

But blogging is not always a matter of straightforward writing; if you feel that you haven’t been seeing the results that you’ve been hoping for, there is a good chance that you are not blogging as effectively as you could. So, if you are committed to make a change for the better, here are a few common blog writing mistakes that you might just be guilty of – so read on and see how you can improve. 
2. Sentence fragments
Another popular mistake when it comes to blog writing is sentence fragments. This usually happens when a sentence is missing a subject, verb, or both. To avoid this, always make sure that your sentence has all the essential parts in order to be complete. The subject of the sentence should be a noun performing an action, a noun that is acted upon, or a noun that is being described with the use of a verb (was, were, is, are, etc.). The verb is usually the action performed by, or on, the subject. Sentence fragments often occur within blog posts and other written content and it is quite a common mistake, especially when it comes to less experienced writers.
3. The dreaded comma splice
The next blog writing mistake is the comma splice. It's a type of run-on sentence and it occurs when two independent clauses are connected with a comma alone. Instead of doing this, include a coordinating conjunction (yet, so, but, and, for, etc.) after the comma to divide the two sentences. It’s a bad mistake to make, yet it’s a common occurrence in many blog posts!
4. The subject-verb agreement
This issue involves a little less grammar speak, but it’s none the less important to note. The subjects of your sentence and the verbs they perform should always be in a numerical agreement. In plain terms – a single noun should be paired with “is”, instead of “are”. As an example, he and his friends are at the movies, or he is at the movies. These errors often occur when the writer works too quickly, not paying attention to what they are writing and not proofreading their work. 

5. The dependendent / independent clause
When a dependent clause tries to act as an independent clause, it can cause all kinds of sentence fragments. A dependent clause must be connected to an independent clause in order to be seen as grammatically correct. When a sentence or clause begins with a dependent word it is seen as a dependent clause. A good example would be “When I was young, I had to do my homework on my own.” You can tell that “I had to do my homework on my own” is an independent clause because it can stand alone and make sense by itself. But, the dependent clause “When I was young” doesn’t make sense by itself. The word “when” really spoils it!
6. Always be consistent with your publishing
How often do you publish new blog posts? If you cannot quite remember the last time you publish a post, this is definitely one of the first problems but you should address.

You should have a publishing schedule that is consistent and predetermined. Without a proper structure, your blogging activities and easily get sidelined and your readers won't know when to expect fresh content. Why would they return to your blog then?

If you don't already have one, it's time to make use of an editorial calendar for your company's blog. This will help you to plan your blog posts in advance and stay consistent with your publishing schedule. There are many free tools available online that you can use for your editorial calendar; the most important aspect is that you stay consistent and carefully planned your future blog posts.
7. Never hold back on value
Writers often find it tempting to write teaser content, while holding back the good stuff for a newsletter or e-book. People can quickly be turned off by this approach as it implies that there are strings attached. Authoritative bloggers know that they will always have more to offer in the future than they do now, so that is the real reason why people will subscribe to their content. Your audience will wait eagerly for future content because they know you did not hold back today. 
8. Always be on point
Avoid covering too many different topics at the same time. Stick to your main topic and cover it in-depth, otherwise you are just white noise to the audience. Covering very few topics with great depth will provide value to the right people and this will boost your business image too. As the saying goes, “Go an inch wide and a mile deep!” 

These steps all form part of a continuous cycle that will help any blogger to be more successful and become popular in their specific market. You might not always be perfect, but you can always improve and become an authoritative blogger for your business. Dedication and consistency are always key to your success as a blogger. 

<![CDATA[How to write engaging blog posts by telling stories]]>Tue, 28 Oct 2014 05:19:05 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/how-to-write-engaging-blog-posts-by-telling-storiesDid your readers fall asleep while reading your blog? 

You know whose fault it is – yours – but don’t worry – there’s a centuries-old technique that makes a blog post on how to do your taxes seem so awesome it invokes excitement.  Not only does it keep your reader awake, it keeps them coming back for more.
The story and you
Most of what you read about the process of writing great guests posts shares a common theme – content must be unique and compelling. In fact, some bloggers have gone so far as to consider it the golden rule. While I can’t argue with any of that, I can say there’s a worthy alternative approach:  Tell a Story
When you tell a story, you’re relating something in a way that resonates and connects.   It’s simple, unexpected, credible and it taps into our emotions.  This is the best way to grab a reader’s interest, especially someone with a very short attention span who quickly scans content on a smartphone looking for solutions to a problem.  

Great storytellers (and great bloggers) follow a narrative technique called the dramatic arc or more officially Freytag’s Pyramid
1) Grab your reader's attention by the throat
Shakespeare did it in The Tempest. The shipwreck in the opening scene grabs your attention and in the very next scene, the audience is told to be quiet and listen. You’re hooked and want to know more.  Keep in mind that story was written over four hundred years ago and still commands attention. 

How do we get that kind of passion into our guest posts?  Think about your audience.  Think again from their perspective and begin to write for them.
First, concentrate on your headline.  Write out at least 20 headlines and keep massaging them until one resonates.  Remember to consider the audience. It has to resonate with them and be relevant to them otherwise there’s no point to it.
It might be oil & gas executives worried about profitability – your headline would mention how they could increase their margins.  Likewise, if you’re writing about the specific nutritional needs of children of single mothers, your title might tap into their personal fears. 

Don’t be overly clever in the headline; just include information immediately useful to the target audience.  It may take some time to get the headline the way you want it, but the effort is well worth it. Remember to tie it to your target audience’s emotions.
2) Be Ernest Hemingway (Or tell a good story)
What do all good stories have? Simply put, a beginning, a middle and an end. A great story illuminates who we are as individuals or it sparks a deeper understanding and enlightens our minds.  To get started, here’s an easy-to-remember formula:
5W + H = S
This equation employs the journalistic Who, What, When, Where, Why and How (not necessarily in that order) to build a story. It’s loosely based on Freytag’s Pyramid (Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution) and can be used to build great guest blog posts.  As you answer each question, you’ll start to see your story take shape. Although these are only some of the questions you might ask yourself, remember to minimize the sales pitch and keep your message simple and tight.  
  • Who are you writing for (Audience Identification & Back-Story)?
  • Who are you (Introduce the Writer/Narrator)?
  • What is the problem this post solves (Related Incidents)?
  • What do you want from the reader (Manage Expectations)?
  • What gives you the right to provide advice?  (Build Credibility)
  • When is the story set (Time-Frame)?
  • When will the turning point occur (Climax)?
  • Where do you want to take your audience (Falling Action)?
  • Where is the demand for this product or service (Soft-Sell)?
  • Where can we get this product/service/ or see this idea in action (Establish Relevance)?
  • Why do we even care about this (the Take-Away or what’s in it for me?)

  • How did we get to this point (Resolution & Lessons Learned)
  • How can your product/service/idea be implemented (Next Steps)?
  • How is your post unique (Examples, References)?
3) We all crave meaning
Look for stories in everyday conversations with customers and employees about your products or services.  Did you or your company recently overcome adversity in something?  It’s the emotional component that will bring people into your story.  Remember – stay humble while telling the story; you don’t want to come across as ‘preachy’ and besides, this keeps you credible.

Be authentic at all times and be sure to remove any jargon that may creep into your post. Being authentic demonstrates that what you’ve learned from your mistakes forms the basis of your content. Remember, perfect people aren’t interesting, but imperfections are.

Lastly, ask yourself what you want your audience to feel.  For any examples you provide, can you think of any ways to add emotion to them?  The best way to build emotion is through anecdotes. How can you illustrate your point by providing examples to support your point?
4) Whoever tells the best story creates brand recall
Annette Simmons said it best in her book, The Story Factor

 “Stories need sensory detail to stick in the mind.  Experience is what happens when the body makes sense of what it hears, smells, tastes, sees, and touches. Crawl down the ladder of telling them what to think and provide a raw simulated experience they can’t forget.

There are also practical storytelling considerations. As we said before, you must have a powerful headline that is tied to the underlying emotional investment that resonates with people. They become connected to the story even before they’ve even read it. 

Be as brief as possible when providing your core message.  It must add value and solve problems while entertaining or enlightening your target audience. Keep your text easy to read by using short paragraphs that have visual appeal on a mobile device.

Include information about yourself.  This includes admitting your thoughts and emotions behind your topics.  The internal conversations (disappointment, frustration, revealing joy or enthusiasm without fear) you have with yourself about certain business topics.  Doing so clearly demonstrates you are human and can be trusted.
At some point you’re going to need a few tools to carry you the rest of the way.  Don’t worry, there’s plenty of storytelling guidance available and even more tools for you to consider.  

Take a look at the National Storytelling Network for ideas on how to become a master storyteller. 

Brand stories are now the most important currency of the war for capturing our customers' attention. With both marketing and psychological studies indicating that stories are the best way to communicate a message, brand managers and online marketers are moving their customers through powerful brand stories.

<![CDATA[Capturing authenticity: Using native ads and branded content to bond with your audience]]>Mon, 06 Oct 2014 05:21:33 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/capturing-authenticity-using-native-ads-and-branded-content-to-bond-with-your-audience

The last year has seen the rise of a new kind of advertising that moves beyond the traditional banner advertising. It has been credited with an 82% increase in brand recall. It has performed exceedingly well in clickthrough rates vs traditional display ads and people view native ads 53% more than they do banner ads

With the decrease in clickthrough rates on traditional online advertising, publishers have been on the lookout for the Holy Grail of ad revenue. And they may have found it in native advertising. 

For the unititiated, there may be some confusion  on the difference between native advertising and branded content. In branded content, the company simply creates content that is published on their own platforms – such as on their website or branded apps. For example, American Express runs the Open Forum targeting small business owners or even Footsmart’s Running Health Resource Centre.  It isn’t the same as placing advertisements on a webpage. The company creates the content (images, blogs, articles, infographics, etc.) and places it on their own property. 

What differentiates native advertising is where the sponsored content is published. To be considered native advertising, the content must be published on a media property or a publishers site. It is a type of branded content that treats branding as secondary to the content. The goal of native advertising is to present the branding in a way that’s doesn’t interrupt the consumer’s experience of the content. A good example is what The Onion did for H&R Block
Advertisers are now publishers
As banner ads are losing their appeal and are increasingly providing low ROI, native advertising allows the marketer to get consumers to engage deeply with the brand. However, for it to be successful, you must offer quality content at a price that doesn’t wipe out your marketing budget. 

Of course, partnering with a media property or publisher is a strategy that you can consider, but make sure that it doesn’t dilute your brand equity.

If you’re considering a native advertising campaign, there are a few things that you must be aware of. 
1) Make your content shareable
A consumer recognizing that your content is valuable and shareable is beneficial in two ways; it spreads your advertising and it acts as “word-of-mouth” endorsement for both your product and your content. Unfortunately, a lot of branded content is far from shareable because it lacks authenticity. 

Shareable content must be dynamic and authentic first, and it should be a sales tool second. No one outside of your company is going to share a straight pitch for your product. An article discussing only your product is technically native advertising, but it won’t reach a wide audience. 

Too many companies see native advertising as a way to conceal their product message in the form of a blog. It’s like an infomercial and no one is fooled by this tactic. 

Good native advertising is like product placement in a movie or a television show. You might not even notice it, or if you do, it doesn’t bother you or change your enjoyment of the entertainment. The value is in the association of your product or service to the content or publisher that creates the brand recall. The value that the content brings to the consumer, either if it’s extremely entertaining or educational,  is the authenticity that draws in web users and makes native advertising engaging and (most importantly) shareable. 
2) Subtly introduce your product to the audience
It’s vitally important that each type of branded content is labeled as such. Online audiences are highly sensitive to branded content trying to pose as journalism or blogs. If you do so, you risk losing the trust of your reader and prospective buyer. 
Remember, users are used to being able to choose if they want participate in an advertisement. They will resent your brand if your content is thinly-veiled advertising much like the much derided misstep of The Atlantic Magazine promoting Scientology

The majority of consumers (66.1%) find that links to more information (leading to the product website) at the end of articles are the best way to introduce native advertising. That makes sense, because end-of-blog links are non-intrusive and clearly marked as advertising. If you use this tactic, you must make your content so engaging that the reader sticks around until the end of the article. 

Attention grabbing online content is informative and of high-quality. Low quality writing and SEO keyword stuffing isn’t going to fly like it did in the if-you-build-it-they-will-come days of content mill domination. 

By creating customer personas, you have a higher chance of developing content that meets the needs of your target audience. Customers identify well with brands that that reflects their current needs and personality, and that includes content. When creating content, think about the needs of the end user, just as would when you design a product. 

Consumer attention is fluid, so native advertisers must engage in continuous improvement. Test different kinds of content and use analytics to prove what kind is working. Don’t rest on just one successful type or style of content though, move from videos to text content and even apps, because it can quickly fall out of Internet favor, as was the case with infographics. 
3) Align editorial with your brand
There are some dangers that marketers must be aware of in developing and distributing sponsored content or native advertising. Without proper alignment of your target audience, the publisher platform and brand, you can damage your company’s credibility immensely. 

The biggest example is how The Atlantic, a well-respected intellectual publication allowed the Church of Scientology to create a   When the sponsorship came to light, The Atlantic Magazine (and the Church) lost the trust of their readers and suffered an even wider backlash of negative publicity. 
4) Low quality content brings your brand down
Unfortunately, many marketers tend to look at content production as a commodity  and choose a content vendor based on pricing. As a result, there is a potential of creating content that isn’t useful, relevant, or compelling because marketers rush to create it or create it on the cheap. 

Publish bad quality content, and your readers will remember your brand in a negative light, or even worse, ignore it. And you will never be able to win them back. 
The best way to avoid this is to: 

  • Vet your content vendors thoroughly and make sure that they understand your style guide and have the experience in producing content for different audiences. Ask them about their portfolios and have them identify the target audience. 
  • Plan a detailed editorial style guide that allows any content producer to understand who the target audience is, editorial tone, and examples of style so that anyone can contribute content at a consistent quality. 
  • Do not rush in producing content. Create an editorial calendar and make sure that you have enough time for edits, re-edits that may occur until everything is ready to go. 
No matter what format or flavor, presenting information naturally is the key to bonding with your customers. Technology offers a way to speak directly to customer in ways that have never been possible before. 

But, if this communication isn’t natural and polite, it quickly becomes the abrasive equivalent of shouting at people walking past you on the street. 

“Natural” branded content is quality, informative, appropriately labeled, and placed where it might reach interested consumers. The advertising portion of the material is visible without overwhelming the rest of the content. 

The producers take care to keep up with current content trends. Most importantly, the content reflects both the nature of the brand and the personality of the target market. 

<![CDATA[How to get a journalist to cover your story]]>Thu, 02 Oct 2014 03:40:13 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/how-to-get-a-journalist-to-cover-your-storySo, your startup has a great story to tell. And you know that as soon as everyone hears it, they would be lining up the proverbial door, ready to join you towards your awesome vision. 

Now, all you need is to get The New York Times to cover you. No, WIRED… 
Or how about Fast Company? Now that would be cool. 

Just getting the attention of an established journalist will catapult your story to readers, viewers, and listeners across the nation, or perhaps around the world. You’ll get tones of traffic! You’ll be rich! Maybe get a quick exit to Facebook for a few billion. 

So…you send a quick email to the Sr. Editor at Fast Company and explain how awesome your startup is. But you don’t hear back. Seconds go by. 

Hours. Days… and nothing.    

Unfortunately, this is how hundreds of new entrepreneurs go about their publicity campaigns. Not only do you frustrate yourself, you also make journalists tear their hair out from every bit of spam they receive in their emails. 

Well, here’s how to grab the attention of journalists in three easy steps and not file you away in their spam folder.
1) Create your personal brand - be an expert in something. 
I can understand the need to bring a story you feel so passionate about to a larger audience. It's normal to have a sense of urgency, but you'll find yourself disappointed when your pitch fades out from relevance or is simply ignored.

It's not easy, but it’s going to take a lot of patience and practice. 

You will need to adopt a strategic and more flexible approach, and integrate yourself into a multi-stage process that will build your relationships with journalists and make you a credible source.

Your ultimate goal is to build your value as a source before you can market your stories reliably over the long-term. 

Start writing and placing your expertise for everyone to see.  In order to build your credibility as an expert, you need to be published everywhere.  Here’s how. 
  1. List all industry media publications: Start by listing all the media properties that your industry peers read. This may include industry blogs, social media pages and profiles, online magazines, newspapers and even video channels if possible. 
  2. Do your keyword research: There are so many ways to do keyword research. A quick search can provide you with hundreds of resources. The reason you want to do keyword research is to uncover what your potential readers are searching for. What questions do they want answered? When you have uncovered a list of long-tail keyphrases and keywords, you can now start creating different  topics that are relevant to the information needs of your target audience. 
  3. Build relationships with industry influencers online: Track the key influencers in your industry and start conversing with them. Comment on their posts, ask questions through social media, essentially networking online. What you’re doing is seeding the garden before you really need them. 
  4. Write.  At the same time, you should be writing your articles and posts for each of the publications that accept guest posts. Once you have been published, encourage the industry influencers that you’ve networked with to share your posts and articles to their network, either through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or even forums. 
The key to this strategy is to be consistent in your content production and networking. As your personal brand gets more visibility, you should create a blog or website under your domain where people can reach out to you.

The purpose of creating a personal brand is to have key reporters, bloggers and influencers chase you for your expertise, instead of the other way around.  
2) Go where the journalists are
One thing that journalists do when they write their articles is research. They need sources and first-hand accounts to back up their reporting. Sometimes due to tight deadlines there is no time to chase quotes. This is when journalists and bloggers go to online source-to-journalist resources and databases.  

These sites, many of which offer free signup, will allow you to connect with journalists who are in need of sources on any number of topics. I suggest checking out these popular choices:
These sites will allow you to build an online profile and submit pitches which are filtered categorically and matched to queries submitted by journalists. You can also receive notifications on leads put out by different media outlets, and have them filtered to your field of expertise.
Not only do these sites help journalists save time, they are a huge benefit for brands looking for exposure on the cheap.  And who knows, you might even come across a high profile journalist looking for a feature in a large publication. 
3) Establish a connection using social media
While pitch and query sites are an invaluable tool to pitching reporters, the careful use of social media can be an invaluable tool to supplement and bolster your credibility. Find journalists that cover your field of interests and expertise. Read up on what they're writing about, and join in on the conversation.

The trick is not to use social media to pitch, but instead to use it as a tool to build relationships with journalists. Subscribe and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, and message boards. 

Many news sites and blogs integrate discussion and comments into their sites. Incorporate your social media profile to contribute to meaningful discussion.
You can use AllMyTweets to keep track of topics that a journalist may like or dislike. Cover events and report on them, and make sure to connect them back to relevant discussions. Tweet, re-Tweet, hashtag, and @ddress other users and journalists intelligently. 

While not necessarily a direct way to pitch, you are building a sense of credibility, and most importantly, you are reaching out to a very accessible audience. Journalists will take note of this, and having built that familiarity with them will set you apart when you're ready to pitch directly to them. 

And don't be afraid to advertise it! Make sure to use social media ads and even a pay-per-click ad campaign if needed to influence targeted media outlets. This will establish a presence for your company. 

So you've gotten a lead off of a query site, or you've built a rapport with a journalist through social media, and you feel ready to contact them with your pitch. 

What now? 
Here's a breakdown of how to improve your pitches, and things to absolutely avoid:

  • Establish communication as quickly as possible, and provide your press release well before the deadline. Email them first, and follow-up with a call, and if need be, leave a short and detailed message.
  • Discuss your pitch and provide them with the information they need. Make sure your pitch is well-researched and relevant. Journalists will be irritated if you respond to leads without anything to back it up. 
  • Provide the information up front and avoid beating around the bush. Keep your pitches to the point while using a unique angle to make your pitch stand out. You can do this by adding a personal touch, while being honest and transparent.. 
  • Research the journalist beforehand; read what they write. Use your familiarity with their work to build a long-term relationship. Don't burn the bridge just because your story gets cut, or dropped - don't make it personal in the wrong way! In doing this, they may even follow up with you later on a new lead. 
  • Consider hiring a PR specialist or content writer to spruce up your press release and email outreach. Our parent-company, Custom Content Factory offers online press release and blog writing services.
  • Develop your email signature. Make sure to include your social media accounts and all contact information.
  • Make your subject line a simple, no-nonsense headline, rather than a boring explanation of the topic. 
  • Make sure to include documents and embed links to supporting sources, preferably using links in the email itself rather than file attachments.
  • Make use of bullet-points and headings to make your pitch easy to read. Include photos and videos where appropriate.
  • Be creative with your press release. Depending on the industry, some journalists may prefer a less formal approach. Consider making a video press release. 
  • Be ready for a follow-up. Make sure your contacts are available for an interview, and make it a high priority to make follow-up information easily accessible.
Keep trying!
It may take a while before you get your first breakthrough. You may even get a strong lead that never follows through. The key is to keep trying. Journalists value persistence. 

They may read your pitch without responding. Sometimes the story might not be right for the current news cycle, and it's simply impossible to cover every interesting pitch that comes their way. As long as you keep trying, you are leaving an impression. If they don't run your story, they may still give it mention in a roundup or another article related to your story.
<![CDATA[Write drunk, edit sober - developing your blog writing voice]]>Thu, 10 Jul 2014 03:41:33 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/write-drunk-edit-sober-developing-your-blog-writing-voice

There are thousands... no...millions of bloggers out there. 

And yet, they all sound the same. 

Kinda boring, don't you think? As a reader, take a look at what blogs you spend the most time on and the places where you leave the quickest. 

If you were interested in healthy foods, would you spend more time reading someone who wrote like this:
" I made these a couple of weeks ago because I had a wicked craving for fish tacos and all I had on hand was shrimp. So I made a command decision: I made shrimp tacos.

It’s called troubleshooting! I’m good at it, but only if it involves food.

Put me in the desert and tell me I have to find my way out using my awesome sense of direction? Goodbye forever. Ain’t happening.

Did you know I can spin Marlboro Man around a thousand times with his eyes closed and with his eyes still closed he can point in any direction and determine whether it’s north, south, east, or west simply because it’s so embedded in his being?

Did you know I can spin around a thousand times with my eyes closed and throw up?I digress. Let’s move ahead with the tacos, okay? " 

From The Pioneer Woman

Or would you like to hang out at this blog:

"...First off, I would like to discuss the proposed theories that coffee has been affiliated with. Coffee has been believed to cause an increased risk of chronic diseases such as hypertension, stroke, cancer, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (1). Coffee has been thought to increase mortality in cardiovascular disease (CVD) patients (2). Also, the consumption of coffee may cause adverse effects with people who have hypertension (3). Lastly, many people believe that coffee is a diuretic..."

Taken from the American Society of Nutrition
Huge difference, isn't it? 

Ernest Hemingway had said famously -  “Write drunk; edit sober.”   

As writers, we find that to be the best piece of advice that any writer can have in creating their masterpiece. But, how does being a borderline alcoholic help with your blog? What Hemingway meant was that after your initial burst of creativity, be ruthless in your editing. Because it's the editing process where you develop your tone and also where all the hard work is done. 

So, the next time you start writing your blog, make sure that you spend the time to develop your writing style that will make your readers connect with you. Keep in mind that the writing style you use meets these two criteria: 

  1. Your tone should match the type of content you create
  2. Matches the expectations of the audience that you write for

You don't want to write with teenage angst if your audience are IT Managers... with LOLOMFG and other acronymns which would only bring down your credibility. 

But, don't also write in a dry, academic tone that would make War and Peace a light, frothy read in comparison. 

So how do you develop your writing voice? 

Hemingway had his own style that evolved from his time as a war journalist - short, clear sentences that was boiled down to the bare essence. His philosophy was - if you can communicate a concept in three sentences instead of five, do it.  He once won a bet that he could write a story in six words. On a napkin, he wrote - For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn. 

However, there isn't really a strict set of rules in creating your writing style. There’s no “right” style that you have to follow. Your own writing style is really a combination of your personality, how you view the world and most importantly, how you speak. 

Some people communicate in a very flowing writing style. Others write in short bursts of thought and focus entirely on the main points of what they write. What matters isn’t learning a style, but finding your own style and developing it.

The more you write, the more you will get better at it.  And your writing style will evolve over time.  At first, it may seem difficult and slow, however, as you keep writing, you'll notice that you become more efficient.  

Here are some tips to develop your writing style:

1. Be a voracious reader. 

Read every book that you can lay your hands on. Read blogs and magazines. Newsletters. Novels.. By reading more, you will understand the type of writing styles that you resonate with. But reaDiscover how articles are put together, understand how good writers create interest and engagement. You'll start learning what makes for uninteresting blogs and what really grabs your attention.   

Your blogging too will naturally improve and evolve, especially if you are making the effort to study and learn technical skills such as grammar, the mechanics of the writing process itself, and certainly, the art of storytelling.

2. Write as much as possible. 

Practice makes perfect. On top of reading as much as possible you have to write as much as possible. Play writing games with yourself... a good one is picking one word around a theme and writing for ten minutes - answering questions such as what memories does it bring for you, what emotional pull does it have, why is it interesting for you... Don't stop and don't correct until the ten minutes are up. 

Other techniques that you can use are: 
  • Write on topics that make you push your boundaries.  By allowing yourself to ignore your inner censor, you can start focusing on letting your writing flow. Putting yourself into an uncomfortable topic makes you focus on the topic and not editing your writing. 
  • Write about your passions. Start writing about topics that get you excited. Let your inner child out and play with the words. 

3. Learn from the top bloggers/copywriters

Although, we did mention that finding your own style is unique to you... learning the fundamentals of blogging from the masters can help you. Learn from top bloggers, such as:

By using them as a foundation for your own writing, you get a feel for how they communicate. Analyze their writing style, understand how they craft their headlines and how they create a compelling story that grabs the readers' attention immediately.  

4. Learn copywriting

Although copywriting is used in direct mail pieces, landing pages and websites, to persuade a target audience to take action, the lessons that you learn from copywriting techniques can help you immeasurably with your writing. Some of the best bloggers are also copywriters. As mentioned earlier, they know how to craft a great headline and how to create a compelling post that grabs the attention of the reader immediately and keep them reading until the end. 

5. Read your writing out loud 

It's not the writing that is important - but the editing. As Hemingway mentioned - it's not the creative act of writing that is important, but the hard work of editing. One of the best tips that we've received in regards to editing, is reading your work out loud. You will pick up some nuances that may not come up when you're reading to yourself. Mistakes such as repetitive words, or tone of voice that sounds too casual, too formal, stiff or even dry can become evident to your ear.   

Most importantly never stop learning.

Although Hemingway was known as a hard-drinking, big-game hunting, prize winning writer, he always took the time to help out others with their writing. Much of his wisdom was taken from a lifetime of writing and in spite of the years, it still can be applied to the art of blog writing today. 

Like Hemingway, the best strategy is to keep an open mind with regards to your writing style. Learn from the pros, learn from your friends and peers, and learn from yourself.

If you persistently work and focus on writing.. your style will begin to meld and take shape. With millions of other writers out there all competing for eye balls… a unique style and perspective is the best tool to get them glued to your page.

Before writing a post, get your creative juices flowing. Have a glass of wine, drink a beer, take a nap or go for a run.. whatever it takes.

Go write.

Write fast. Until you are out of ideas.. and then revisit in the morning for some cold sober editing.
<![CDATA[Matthew Hooper - Building an internet presence]]>Fri, 22 Jun 2012 07:38:00 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/matthew-hooper-building-an-internet-presence
Matthew Hooper has made it his mission to help people build their internet businesses through his site MatthewHooper.com
Who is Matthew Hooper?

I was originally from a small town in northern British Columbia but I eventually ended up in Taiwan for over seven years after getting tired of the rat race lifestyle. Now I help individuals, small businesses and organizations build an internet presence.

Why did you start MatthewHooper.com? How does your website make money?

MatthewHooper.com has had many incarnations over the years. It started nearly a decade ago as a personal site. In its current incarnation, I originally started to use it as a way to answer questions that I got asked repeatedly. Anything from software recommendations to website best practices. I started to get asked more about websites and then to make websites for other people. That is what led to what it is now.
The site itself doesn't really make money directly. I don't run ads but I'll occasionally have affiliate offers. I mainly use it as a way of drawing in new clients or students which led to me creating an online course. I build websites for people and I also coach them. A lot of this comes as a result of the website.

How do you come up with the content that meets your readers' needs? Why did you choose this niche?

The content on the website is almost like an FAQ. If I get asked the same question more than once through email, it ends up being a post. That way when I get asked again, I can direct them to a better written article on my site instead of hastily written email. 

The niche was something I have always been dabbling in. I started using WordPress way back when it was just getting off the ground and I have been growing with it. It started more as a hobby but I then found it was something that I could make a living from. 

What's your marketing strategy to drive more readers?

The biggest thing that I do to get more readers is guest posting. I wish I had more time to do more guest posts because this is something that has brought the most traffic to my website. 

I noticed that you have a WordPress course - what is that about? 

The course is something that I developed as a low priced alternative to what I offer as a service. I find that lots of people want to get a site online but it's hard to find a single resource that will take them from start to finish. This is what my WordPress course does. For someone that doesn't have the budget to hire me but has the time to put into learning how to do it themselves, this is a great option.

As some of our readers are bloggers and one of their challenges is how to be more efficient in their writing. What lessons can you provide for them in not getting overwhelmed in writing frequent blog posts and still have time to market their website. 
I don't really think of myself as a blogger. The content that I create falls more under the inbound marketing or content marketing umbrella. My main goal is to either get people to hire me for my services or to take my courses. I'm not really trying to gain a huge readership, just my "1000 true fans". Because of this, I write content that appeals to those types of people. If I have nothing to write about, I won't write a fluff piece just so that I can say I publish every day. I think if your website is small, your better off writing a guest post on a site with a large audience that overlaps with yours. Go for quality over quantity.

With the Panda and Penguin updates, writing great original content has become even more important in promoting your blog. Some industry insiders are saying that the SEO industry will disappear entirely in a few years as optimization will be replaced by content marketing - what are your thoughts?

The SEO industry will never disappear, it will just evolve. The days are gone when you could spin a bunch of crappy articles and blast them across the internet hoping that would be good enough to get you on the first page of the search results. Content marketing is SEO. Guest posting is just a more acceptable form of article marketing. Writing good content that shows up in search engines and gets shared across the web is what every content producer should strive for. Social signals are only going to become bigger keys to gaining search rankings especially as Google+, Twitter and Facebook gain greater momentum.

Although you are a big fan of Wordpress as a CMS, are there any other platforms that you would highly recommend for new bloggers?

I am 100% biased in favour of WordPress. Mostly because it's what I use for myself, my clients and my students but also because I feel it's the best option. There are other CMS solutions out there but they tend to be overkill for the needs of most small to medium size businesses or organizations. 

There are some workhorses out there like Drupal or Joomla but those are good if you really need a specialized solution. You can also expect to pay a lot for a Drupal or Joomla developer. 

On the low end, there are solutions like WordPress.com (which is a crippled version of the WordPress.org version that is common among bloggers) or simple solutions like Blogger or Typepad that a lot of people soon outgrow. They aren't really a true CMS anyways. WordPress has a huge support community with countless themes and plugins that will help you accomplish most of what you would want to do with a CMS these days.

What are some of the mistakes that people do in creating a blog?

I think one of the mistakes that people make is not putting enough thought into what people do when they get to their website. I often ask students or clients what they want visitors to do when they get to their website. "I'm on your site, now what do I do?" Do you want me to buy something? Sign up for a newsletter? Fill out a contact form? Whatever it is, it should be the easiest thing to find on your website. There should be a link to it from every page or every post. If you just want someone to share your post or leave a comment then tell people that. Don't assume that people see your website the same way that you do. Ask friends or family for their opinions, at the very least.
Where do you see MatthewHooper.com in the future?

I want it to grow into a resource that helps solve all kinds of problems people have when they are trying to build an internet presence. This may either be through the free articles that I post on the site or through some of the products or services that I offer.
<![CDATA[Life in the fast lane - lessons learned from our marketing intern]]>Mon, 18 Jun 2012 18:41:58 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/life-in-the-fast-lane-lessons-learned-from-our-marketing-intern
Back in the blistering cold of Montreal’s latest winter, I was soon to graduate from one of Canada’s top Universities. 
Hoping my career was about to take off, I had a few options up my sleeve.

Many of my peers had landed jobs at investment banks, real-estate firms and major marketing agencies. I had good enough grades to do the same, but the corporate office was not for me. I am the entrepreneurial type, I wanted something different, I wanted to learn, and I wanted to learn fast. 

It turns out the web is great place to do this. It is not only humungous but ever evolving.  It was pounded into our heads at business school that “nothing is more constant than change”, a saying never more appropriate for the online world. 

If I wanted to learn something useful, something that would stick with me forever, online marketing was a great skill to have, and to take with me for the long haul.

Here’s what I’ve picked up:
1. You’re Lost Without Killer Content

Design, presentation, promotion, SEO can all bring traffic to your website. However, if you want people to stay, share, and engage with what your offering, high quality content is priority number 1.

Google’s new updates are putting more emphasis on content, and punishing those who cannot keep up with the trends. Pushing out spammy content has never been harder, and it will continue to be as Matt Cutt’s team at Google gets smarter and smarter. If you want to get found by Google, write epic content, and write it often.

2. Building Relationships has Never Been Easier

Coming from an “offline” oriented University (something I feel needs to changed), we were always encouraged meet local business owners or hit the phones in order to build a network.

Don’t get me wrong, these tactics can be effective… however doing so online is much more effective.
A simple Google search, or a browse through content curator Alltop will immediately get you in touch with your industry experts or potential clients.

These are precisely targeted contacts…. not the dude next door.

Provide some quality content in return.. and you’re in!

As a current online marketer, and a future entrepreneur, I feel these two findings will stick with me forever. Our world, online and offline, is constantly changing… being able to establish a strong network, and providing valuable content will never be overlooked.

Taylor's work at Custom Content Factory entails assisting in an array of areas including: blogging, competitive analysis, and online marketing. Taylor recently graduated with a Bachelor of  Commerce from the University of McGill. 

<![CDATA[3 Reasons Why Google+ is Important for your Blog Writing]]>Fri, 01 Jun 2012 17:42:21 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/3-reasons-why-google-is-important-for-your-blog-writing
It’s time to forget about the old days of spammy link strategies and poor quality content. As a search consumer, you no  longer have to worry about going through hundreds of badly written articles and spam sites to find the one that gives you good information. 

Like Apple back in the early days, Google+ has its fair share of skeptics. Recently, a report from RJ Metrics was published indicating that, although Google+ has seen some solid user growth, engagement still lags far behind Facebook and Twitter

Google claims the report is skewed because of a small sample size and only publicly shared data is included. However, numbers aside, Google has made it clear that Google+ will play an important part in its continuous process to improve its search algorithm so that they can provide quality search results for their users. 

If you’re a blogger,  this is important. You cannot overlook the importance of social media and Google+ in your efforts to get more visibility and higher rankings. 

Here are 3 reasons why you should consider Google+ as part of your social media and content strategy...
Reason 1 - Google will index you faster

Google is now using social media as part of its social proof strategy applied to content. This is done for two reasons:
  • Proof that a “real” author is writing: Because when a Google+ account is associated with a blog, Google knows that a “real” writer is associated with producing the posts and not an affiliate or spam website where the owners are largely anonymous. Here’s a great post on Joost de Valk’s blog Yoast on how to get your Google Authorship visibility.
  • Social proof - are your readers loving your blog: With the emphasis on social media actions such as sharing blog pages through twitter, facebook, or even email. Or by determining the number of people who retweet and like your articles...Google has begun to give value to Facebook and Twitter shares in search results, but obviously in order to self-promote, Google+ shares will continue to be weighted more favorably.
All in all - using Google+ can help customers find your business easier and faster.. who's going to argue against that.

Reason 2 - Impact on Personalized Search

As the web has become more and more personal, Google has started to reorder search results based on recommendations in your given social graph. For instance, if you search pancake restaurant in Google, you may now see a connection from someone in one of your circles who has +1’d a given restaurant. That particular restaurant may rank higher in the search due to the number of pluses they get.

As the difference between a standardized search and a personalized one continues to grow, an increased reliance on your social circle (or community recommendations )and a less reliance on link popularity will begin to dominate search results.

Also, your Google+ profile picture has began to appear in the search results of your blog posts, allowing your posts to stand out even more. Although, the value of social sharing is still in its infancy, its impact will continue to rise as does Google+’s user base.

Reason 3 - Influence

One problem that could arise for Google’s new +1 approach is that spammers would ultimately take advantage and be “+1ing” poor content. However, over time as Google begins to analyze their +1 data, they’ll be able to find individuals who have more influence than others, and weigh their results accordingly which would combat this problem.

These changes won’t occur overnight, however as more and more people hop on the Google+ train, search results will change accordingly.

In short, getting people to naturally +1 your content will get you more organic traffic from Google.. at very little cost to you. As Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land put it, “...+1 becomes the new Page Rank.”

It turned out to be senseless to bet against Apple back in the 80s, will you do the same with Google+?

It is Google we’re talking about here.
<![CDATA[2 lessons online marketers can learn from the Montreal student protests]]>Wed, 30 May 2012 23:32:30 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/2-lessons-online-marketers-can-learn-from-the-montreal-student-protests
Photo Courtesy of Occupyportlandnews.com
The last few months have been an interesting time for the city of Montreal. Blocked traffic.

Molotov cocktails.

Smoke bombs in the metro.

Students being forced to not goto school.

Sounds like an uprising in a Third World country doesn't it? (Many people who live here sometimes consider Quebec to be a third world province, but we digress...)

It all started when students rose against the government over the increase in tuition prices, but, somehow degenerated into a protest against everything that the current provincial government stands for. Whatever you political affiliation, what is fascinating though, is how important social media and the internet plays in the keeping the movement alive.

And how the people and even the police have used social media to push its points and maintain communications. A few lessons can be learned from this event for online marketers and we've boiled it down to two:

1. Real-time social media monitoring is necessary in order to keep up with the latest trends.

The Quebec student strikes seem to follow a similar pattern: organize, gather, protest, disband and often repeat. In scale the protests are quite significant, but the most remarkable component is the organizational abilities of the students, amidst the Montreal Police’s valiant efforts to put them to a halt.

If it were not for social media, student protesters would never be able to effectively organize and communicate in such an effective manner. Through Facebook groups, status updates and tweets, everyone is aware of the most up to date information - in real-time.

It may seem obvious, but the student’s dependence on social networks is a glaring sign of today’s reliance on the most up-to-date information through social networks.

So, what's the lesson for the online marketer??

In relation to online marketing, today’s newest trends and success stories will stem from the ability to monitor and respond to emerging consumer sentiment online.

In order for companies to develop strong relationships with their clients, they need to be constantly monitoring the social networks that their customers hang out at. Just as the police are monitoring the same networks that the Quebec students are using and likewise, the reliance Quebec students have on these same networks to communicate with each other.

Within minutes, hundreds of thousands of Quebec students can be informed and unite; the same should be said for online marketers looking to cash in on new trends.

2.  Organizational mistakes or alterations can be amplified to have disastrous impacts.

The Charest government never thought that a $254/year increase in tuition fees would result such a massive uprising. Although small in monetary value, the scope of backlash has caught on to 83% of Quebec’s students. The protests show no signs of slowing and recently, the Quebec Minister of Education has resigned under the increased pressure of her duties.

The same could be said in the world of online marketing.

The ability of news and ideas to spread instantly means even small mistakes can have disastrous effects for companies.  Back in January, McDonalds tweeted the hashtag #McDstories in an effort to promote positive stories from their suppliers.

However, unhappy customers hijacked the hashtag, unveiling a wide variety of unpleasant experiences they’ve had - such as finding fingernails in their burgers. @SkipSullivan tweeted, “One time I walked into McDonald’s and I could smell type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up. #McDstories”.

Within minutes a parade of similar tweets was sent around the twittersphere, all in criticism of the Golden Arches.

As news and ideas spread can now spread to hundreds of thousands in less than a second, organizations must be extra cautious regarding the messages they send out, and also the people they put in charge.
<![CDATA[Content news around the web]]>Thu, 17 May 2012 04:44:47 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/content-news-around-the-webHere is a recap on what's happened this week in regards to content marketing.. Enjoy! 

The content conundrum: 5 ways to create expert content with little resources 
If you're a small business, it's more than likely, there is one person handling not only social media, but also the content marketing. This involves blogging, writing email newsletters, answering social media comments, and writing guest posts as part of blogger outreach. As your customers are more than likely to use social media as a way to do their research before purchasing, it's extremely important that you produce great content that will build your credibility and develop relationships....  Anita O'Malley from PerspectivMarketing.com shows you how. 

General Mills explain their success in content marketing 
An interesting article by Forbes who interviewed the top 3 leading advertisers and their content strategy. General Mills discusses their magazine Tablespoon and how it helped their brands. 

How to be a formidable content curator - a 17 step guide
A great post on how to share awesome, relevant content for your audience using the simplest of tools. Chris Lake of econsultancy.com explains that being a resource can mean finding information that your readers can't find on their own. 

7 New things to do after you've written a new blog post
A week late, but here is a great update from Brody Dorland from DivvyHQ on how to promote your blog post to get maximum visibility. We highly recommend #3 - tie in Google+ to your blog especially with the Panda and Penguin updates.


<![CDATA[Some great online marketers to follow on Twitter]]>Sun, 13 May 2012 21:18:57 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/some-great-online-marketers-to-follow-on-twitter
A great way to keep up-to date on the newest online marketing tactics and trends is by learning from the best. Many of them share their knowledge on their their own blogs and Twitter feeds . We have a small list of some of the top internet marketers, their blogs and Twitter accounts. Read and learn from them! 

Jill Whalen ( @JillWhalen) is considered to be an old-timer of the online space. She has been involved in SEO since the early 90's as CEO of High Ranking, a SEO agency in Boston. She maintains a great SEO newsletter called the High Rankings Advisor  and is a prolific tweeter. She is highly engaged with her followers and provides some great insight into the SEO world. 

Rand Fishkin (@randfish) is the CEO and one of the founders of SEOmoz.org. He has managed to grow SEOMoz to become one of the most respected companies in the SEO space. His knowledge of online marketing, SEO and social media is great. He and his team write extensively on internet marketing and have some great insight on how to rank well.  

Todd Malicoat (@stuntdubl)  is an SEO teacher who creates and organizes certification programs in online marketing for Market Motive. Another one of the old-timers in online marketing, he has been involved in the internet industry in many capacities. Most recently as a consultant for various companies such as Meredith Corporation, PBS and Real Networks. He has a great blog on StuntDubl.com , where he writes about SEO, social media and online marketing.  

Dan Zarella ( @danzarella ) for lack of a better term, can be considered a geek. He is the original madman scientist of social media for Hubspot, always experimenting and trying to figure out how to improve online marketing.  He also maintains a blog at DanZarella.com outlining some of his experiments. An interesting experiment he recently did for a federal intelligence agency was the use of Twitter to predict social unrest and map it.  

<![CDATA[Zoocasa.com - Finding your dream home online]]>Thu, 10 May 2012 16:21:17 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/zoocasacom-finding-your-dream-home-online
We were lucky to interview Kellie Leigh when she came into Montreal for the MTL140 conference..She kindly took the time from her busy schedule to answer our questions about her newest gig for Zoocasa.com (Rogers Communications owned real estate based website). Being in the media industry since 1998, she brings a lot of experience to her position, handling social media marketing, online branding and content marketing.

What is Zoocasa and how does it benefit home buyers?

Zoocasa is Canada’s Fastest Growing Home Search website.  It benefits buyers by providing them with valuable and up to date information about the neighbourhoods.  We have extensive neighbourhood demographics on each and every listing.  People can see the age, ethnicity, occupation, education and age of the people in every neighbourhood across Canada  We also have Google street view, a mortgage calculator, gas calculator and Walk Score.

How does Zoocasa make money?

Zoocasa.com is fully supported by our local and national advertisers.  We offer targeted, neighbourhood level advertising to local Realtors as well as standard IAB banners.

How are you reaching out to potential users or prospects?

I have used Social Media such as Twitter, Facebook & YouTube as my way of reaching out to Real Estate and Mortgage Professionals.  Many of my clients also introduce me to their colleagues in the industry.  I also write a blog called What Is New @ The Zoo!

We educate Real Estate professionals on how to use Zoocasa.  They see the value, and take it a step further to educate their clients.

Are you supporting Zoocasa's social media with other marketing tactics?

Zoocasa has partnerships with companies such as Re/Max of Western Canada, EXIT Realty, The Real Estate Book, Homes & Land,  OBEO & Point2.

We have also been actively sponsoring events such as Realtor Quest, Agent Reboot, REBar Camp, Richard Robbins IGNITE as well as many other events & golf tournaments nation wide.  These events get us out into the community and allow us to have conversations about our product.  From there it is all word of mouth.

With so many social media platforms out there, how do you know which to use? Which has worked for you?  

I believe that one should be actively involved in all of the top Social Media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn.  The reason why I am active on all is because people usually have preferences for one.  I connect with different people in different places, the place or places of their preference.

How would you measure the success of a social media campaign?

I measure the success of our Social Strategy by increased awareness of our product, which has contributed to Zoocasa’s audience growth at 95% year over year.

How did you create a social media strategy for Zoocasa? And where does content fit in?

My social strategy has been to connect with the Real Estate community across Canada and engage in conversation with them, getting to know everyone as a person before it translates into business.  I have built very real relationships with agents and that has translated into full support of our business.  My clients promote Zoocasa on their websites, and we promote them.

As far as content goes,  What Is New @ The Zoo is focused on marketing efforts of the Real Estate community, comparing different mediums to advertising on Zoocasa.  There is no medium that is as targeted as Zoocasa.  Over half a million people come to our site per month,  66% of them are looking for an agent, and 54% don’t have a pre-approved mortgage.  You can’t get more targeted than that considering that online is where people begin their search!

Are there specific formats that you follow when you create content for social media?

The content ranges from Real Estate Marketing to commonly asked questions about Zoocasa from the Real Estate community.  I believe that the only rule to social media is that you be authentic and I am a true believer in sharing the knowledge of marketing that I have gained in the last 14 years.

Twitter has been used as a communication tool to stay in touch with agents I have met with as well as to introduce myself & Zoocasa to the community.

What social media trends can affect the way Zoocasa use content?

Zoocasa is always at the forefront of technology, so staying up to date on all of the latest Social Media trends is very important.   It’s also great to be able to listen to our community and take their suggestions on how we can make a better user experience, for people searching for a home as well as Realtors and Mortgage Brokers.

<![CDATA[Nick Thacker - On how to be an awesome writer and live better!]]>Tue, 08 May 2012 17:39:39 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/nick-thacker-on-how-to-be-an-awesome-writer-and-live-better
As part of our ongoing series on successful bloggers to answer the question - what makes a successful blog, we've interviewed Nick Thacker. He is the owner of Livehacked.com, a great blog for writers on how to achieve success in the publishing world.

1. Who is Nick Thacker?

I'm a creator. Writing books, blog posts, articles--or music, building businesses, or whatever--I enjoy the process of creating something from nothing. I've been an entrepreneur for around 7 years, most recently at LiveHacked.com, where I am trying to help people find out their inner passion for building and creating cool stuff, then find the confidence to "ship" it!

2. Why did you start Livehacked.com? How does Livehacked.com make money?

LiveHacked.com is part personal blog, part resource center for budding writers, entrepreneurs, and creators. Its target focus is "productive writing," "platform building through blogging," and "getting more done in a distracting world." The current stage it's in is solely as a content-center--the monetization will come through books and paid resources for people who like what's going on (for example, I'm just about finished with a book on creating a business plan for a blog by answering 101 "questions" about your passion and topic.).

The next stage will be community-driven: creating a tribe and launching a movement of people who want to engage and interact with others and create content out of it.

Eventually, I hope to roll out a publishing resource site for authors and bloggers--we'll see!

3. Why not a video blog? Or a podcast? What made you choose to write a blog?

Truthfully--quality control and consistency. I don't have good enough equipment to create high-quality video and do the lighting. I know I could do something simple with my MacBook Pro, but spending years doing A/V production in church sort of ruined my ability to accept that quality! If I do it, I don't want the quality to be a hindrance to the brand.

The consistency part is why I haven't done podcasting. I read and write all the time, so blogging is easy (or easier!). Podcasting, though, might be fun for awhile and then become a chore--I don't want to either be stuck producing a podcast that's not fun for me, or worse: produce something people can TELL I don't enjoy!

Both mediums are amazing ways to capture and exchange ideas, though--I hope to be able to incorporate them into my platform soon, but for now I'm sticking to my guns!

4. How do you come up with the content that meets your readers' needs?

The first thing I do is ask myself what I would want to read--is there a question I had (or have) that I can try to answer? If so, I'll do some research and write about it.

Second, I ask anyone who reads the site--if you sign up for the newsletter, I ask, "what are you struggling with?" (thanks to Derek Halpern for that AWESOME advice!), and then personally respond to the email, thanking them for their response. Then I try to help. If it's a question they ask ("how do I promote my book," or "how can I get people to read my blog?") then I can do some more research and provide an opinion. If it's a more intangible response, like "I'm struggling with getting started on my big projects," I might try to offer some insight based on what got me through the bigger projects, etc.

The last way to come up with content is to steal it! Not steal the actual content, necessarily, but to steal the subject matter or the idea: if there's a post a certain subject that's getting massive response, there's a good chance people want to read about that subject! If it's something I know about and have an opinion on that might help others, I'll write something on the same subject, or from another perspective, that explains a different aspect of it. That way, I'm not actually "stealing" anything--just writing on a topic I know is currently popular!

5. How long does it take to create a blog post for you?

I'll spend anywhere from 2 hours to upwards of 4, but the longer I spend on a post the more I tend to think it can better served in another format, like an ebook or course or something. Length isn't really the issue--I write quickly enough--it's the organization of my thoughts into a coherent format that makes sense, and finding the research/studies/images to support the post.

I have the exact same process for posts on LiveHacked.com as I do for guest posts--neither is "more important," and both are permanent, so I try to write equally in-depth stuff for other websites as I do for my own. The only difference is that I might try to leave a guest post more open-ended to get traffic to my site, and on my own site I'll end with a call to action ("sign up," "leave a comment," etc.)

6. What's your marketing strategy?

  1. Always add value. If it doesn't directly add value to someone's life, I probably won't put it in the rotation. Buying ads might generate traffic, but they won't "add value" for someone, and you'll pay a premium for less of a result. On the other hand, engaging and interacting with people through social media sites, guest posts, and email courses is cheaper and much more effective.
  2. I try to position myself and my blog in front of people the way I would want to see myself. If that didn't make sense, I try to pretend like I am my own target market--what would get me motivated? By that measurement, I don't respond as well to "free ebook!" as I do to "how can I help you?," so that's what I try to offer. Furthermore, I want to read highly actionable and immediately useful content--so that's what I create, no matter where it gets posted.
  3. Be consistently helpful. This is two things in one: be consistent, AND be helpful. So I'll consistently write for other blogs, consistently use things like Buffer to leverage my social media reach, and consistently try to add value to every connection I make with other people.

Those are the lofty, idealistic things you'll find in my marketing plan. Here are the things in my marketing "bag of tricks:"

  1. Guest post. It's free, positions you in front of the perfect audience, and is "evergreen" in the sense that as long as the blog is there, your content is pointing back to your site.
  2. Create an "In List" for social media interaction. We can't connect with everyone, even in our own niche. So we need to seek out the people we can directly and consistently affect and be affected by. For example, I have an In-List for Twitter: a private list of about twenty people who have audiences slightly larger than my own, and I promote their content and their stuff way more often. That means I'm going to be in their face much more often, but I'll be promoting THEIR stuff, not MINE, and they don't have a massive following, so they're not totally swamped by people shouting their name. By the time I want or need some help promoting my own stuff, they'll know my name, hopefully like me, and help me get the word out.
  3. Build cranes. I started with a newsletter list of 200 (personal and professional emails, none of which actually signed up! oops), and it sat stagnant for TWO YEARS while I did nothing.

In February, I relaunched my site as LiveHacked.com and focused on building a small "crane" that could build a small "platform." That meant I guest posted on some small blogs and urged people to sign up for my list--it grew to 250 by March.

In April, I focused on the next size up: a bigger "crane," that could help me build a bigger "platform." I wrote a bunch more posts, and sent people to my Fiction Writer's Guide to Writing Fiction 20-week free course. The results? I DOUBLED the signups in about two weeks, and am now focusing on the next biggest phase:

An even bigger crane--more posts, more content, more courses, and more books...

Basically, the crane/platform strategy is an exotic form of "start small." But it really works, and got me in the right mindset!

7. I noticed that you have a free course on writing a novel. Why's that?

I've always read fiction thrillers as my escape from the real world, and so I decided to write one awhile ago. I learned so much during the process--not just on writing fiction, but on goal-setting, productivity, and creation in general--that I thought it would be helpful to other writers as well. Half of my readership is made up of people who love to write, but can't get to "The End." The other half is people wanting to build something from nothing; to get noticed. Writing a novel may not help, but the tools I found and used certainly help me build other stuff as well!

And it's free because it's a crane--leading to a larger platform!

8. On Problogger, you mentioned that leaving comments on other blogs is a great way to drive traffic back, however, with Google disallowing any backlinks from commenting, is this still a good strategy?

I think it's a great way to develop the long-tail in your overall traffic strategy. Looking at Analytics data over the few years I've maintained my site, I see tons of incoming traffic from sites I've left an insightful, thoughtful comment on. Sure, I REALLY want to leave a comment on those sites that aren't rel="nofollow" or whatever, but I've had real traffic in the long run from people who clicked over from another site.

It's not something I'm going to recommend as an SEO tactic--there's just too much work involved for too little payout. But for overall traffic and engagement, absolutely. Plus, as a blog owner, I understand the feeling of getting a great comment on a blog post--so it's a way I can "pay it forward!"

"...I can bet that our current understanding of SEO won't be anything close to the future understanding of it--except that people like great content, and they want to figure out how to answer their questions and solve their problems..."

9. What is the best way to discover guest posting opportunities as a way to drive traffic back to your site?

I start by looking at the sites I already read! What works really well for me is to find a search bar on a site I read, and search for "guest post" on it. Many times I'll find a long-forgotten page detailing the guest-posting policy, or at least a contact form. I don't spend too much time seeking out sites I don't already read--it takes too long to get acquainted with the readership by commenting and interacting.

However, whenever I come across a site I love, I'll subscribe immediately and start the process of becoming a "regular reader"--and whenever I'm ready to guest post, I'll already have more of an "in" with the site owner.

10. Is guest posting one good way to create backlinks or part of a larger strategy?

Definitely part of a larger strategy; that of getting targeted readers. To me, there's no reason to focus only on SEO--my site will be successful by building long-term relationships with actual readers, not by generating traffic and clicks. Yes, the backlinks help--but they don't pay the bills.

11. What is your opinion on Google's action against blog networks such as Buildmyrank and others? How does it change your blog marketing strategy?

You know, it's upsetting that the Panda update and Google's recent actions have hurt certain "repository"-style websites. But if you build an entire business model around a proprietary algorithm that you don't fully understand nor control, how can you be expect to maintain the status quo at all? In all honesty, I've always focused on SEO as an integral part of an overall strategy, but nothing more. I'm focusing on capturing long-term readers, and whether or not a backlink increases my external SEO or not, it definitely increases the chances someone will find LiveHacked.com!

Google has a stranglehold on the entire Internet currently, but it won't last forever. I have no idea what it's going to look like ten years from now, but I can bet that our current understanding of SEO won't be anything close to the future understanding of it--except that people like great content, and they want to figure out how to answer their questions and solve their problems.

If we can help them do that, it won't matter what Google or any of the other search engine players decide to do.

12. What are some of the mistakes that people do in promoting their blog?

I can answer this one very well, because I've made most of the mistakes! First, thinking that the online world is any different than the offline world in terms of what people want. They want engagement and relationship, NOT self-promoted hype and hyperbole.

Second, I made a big mistake when I first started in online marketing by trying to offer what I thought people wanted, rather than what I was passionate about. The result was a quick level of growth, then a plateau after I lost interest, then a decline.

A third mistake is trying to do a little of everything. The web makes it easy to try so many new things in promoting our work, but that doesn't mean we should. It's great to explore the traffic strategies to see what works, but we can quickly become spread too thin and fizzle out. Instead, it seems like focusing on a few or a handful of proven growth strategies and sticking with them for some time would be the best long-term strategy.

13. Where do you see Livehacked.com in the future?

Planes, trains, and spaceships, entire branded theme parks, and becoming a household name. No, really--I hope LiveHacked can grow, for sure, into something that more people can get use out of. Everyone has a "big project" or "lifelong dream" that they're completely and totally capable of accomplishing, but for whatever reason, don't.

I want LiveHacked.com to become the site that helps people figure out what that reason is, and get over it. Eventually, I see LiveHacked moving from a personal blog to more of a community-driven publishing and content-creation project. We'll see!

<![CDATA[Top Health and Fitness Blogs to Follow ]]>Mon, 07 May 2012 14:04:09 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/top-health-and-fitness-blogs-to-follow
Here at CustomContenFactory.com, when we’re not writing cool articles, creating ebooks or working on cool things, we’re checking out some awesome blogs! Today, we're bringing some of our favorite health blogs that you could learn from... Take a look:

Ben Does Life
Ben Davis' story is one of challenge and inspiration. On 2008, Ben made the decision to start changing his life around on a promise to his grandmother. A few years later, he has lost 120 pounds, finished marathons and competed in an Ironman. He not only has won his battle over obesity, but also his was against depression. This blog is an example of a man who's living life to the full.

Primal Toad
Primal Toad is written by Todd Doesnberry who focuses on the Paleo Diet, a form of nutrition that goes back to the caveman days - only lean meats, fruits and vegetables. No Bread or flour-based products. The recipes that he lists are great and cheap to make..  We highly recommend the Chocolate Cinnamon Malt Smoothie!  He provides some great information on how to live in a smart, scientifically accurate way to optimal health.

StrongLifts is all about weight training. If you're a fitness freak, take a look at this site for tips and tricks on how to up your strength. It has a large and vibrant community that supports and encourage each other to get stronger.  The site contains dozens of  guides and instructions on how to live a healthy life including suggestions on nutrition.

Fit Bottomed Girls
Everything you want to know about health, fitness, nutrition and leading a healthy, balanced life for women. They've won awards for their writing and knowledge put on the website. A site filled with great information that can make a difference in your life!

<![CDATA[Brad Smith of Fixcourse.com - How you can create great content to drive quality leads]]>Thu, 03 May 2012 00:32:40 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/brad-smith-of-fixcoursecom-how-you-can-create-great-content-to-drive-quality-leads
Brad Smith is the founder of Fixcourse.com, a lead generation agency for small businesses. He’s a digital marketing consultant, who’s worked with clients in a variety of industries.. Today he provides us with insight as to how a small business can compete effectively with great content...

How different is small business marketing online vs. online marketing for corporations?

The most obvious difference is resources (more money to invest/spend and more people to help out).

But the other thing is that successful companies in online marketing understand how to systematically scale and grow their businesses.

They know what the Cost of Customer Acquisition is, and the Lifetime Value of a Customer. So they know how much they can spend on paid channels, and how to optimize conversions and testing to improve.

They have a long-term strategy set in place, and the individual tactics they use or experiment with follow that strategy.

Smaller companies, or less successful corporations spend too much time obsessing over tactical issues (that usually don’t have a huge influence), and may lose sight of their goals because they don’t/can’t quantify their effort.

How can the small business stand out online?

1. Have a voice (personality): I was once at a conference, and one of the panelists was in charge of PR for a large multinational.  She literally had a list of “social media responses” that her legal team blessed. She (and her team) weren’t allowed to deviate from that.

That is the exact opposite of how social media works. No one will feel passionate about a brand that hides behind a list of standard responses.

So you can be more human, and use speed to your advantage.

2. Stand for something: SImon Sinek has a great TED talk about how people buy “why you do it”.  Almost every product or service you can sell today is a commodity. So what you need to realize is that people don’t buy your “product” or “service”, they’re buying a solution.

So Simon’s talk hits this point home and gives you pointers on how your business can stand for something.

3. Have enemies: If your business is going to stand for something, then there needs to be examples (whether it’s other companies or ways of doing something) that you don’t agree with. You’re not trying to market to every single potential customers. You’re trying to market to customers that buy into your worldview.

So these customers will respond when you get them emotionally engaged and committed to your cause - not the other persons.

What is content marketing in your eyes?

Content marketing is the process of creating content for the purpose of increasing awareness, attention and engagement around your brand.

It can help companies create their own media marketing asset - which gives them the ability to build an audience and market directly to that audience over time.

The result is that you’re able to acquire customers for much less, and keep them around longer (all while decreasing your costs related to advertising, etc)

Which forms of content marketing are effective for small businesses?
  1. Blogging: It gets people “in the door” and keeps them coming back. This format is also most widely adopted and distributed - giving you the best option for reach.
  2. Email newsletters: Email is still the best converting online channel by far. So invest in creating email marketing campaigns for prospective, current, and past customers. You can even automate and schedule lifecycle emails (http://fixcourse.com/lifecycle-email-marketing/) to give you the best return on your effort.

What are the 3 most important criteria that a business owner must look out for in creating a content strategy?

  1. Why should my target customers care?  Most businesses produce terrible content, so it doesn’t compel people to take action (like share their content, subscribe for updates, or purchase).
  2. Are your expectations realistic?  Successful content marketing is really difficult. Even coming up with one post could take a long time. So you need to have realistic expectations. Not only in terms of success, but also what it takes to succeed. You can’t hire cheap writers, produce mediocre content, and expect huge results in the first 90 days.
  3. How does this support my business?How are these actions going to support your revenue goals?  Most people start social media because they hear about it on TV and in the news. But a bad social media presence is worse than none at all. So don’t fully commit unless you understand what you’re getting yourself into.

With all the talk about social media (Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest), should I have a blog or just use social media instead?

Your blog, hands down!

Why should a business (or any person interested in making money online) get involved in social media / blogging in the first place?

The answer is to get attention. (That’s why blogging is like a media marketing asset). You want to provide value (by doing these things) in exchange for their attention.

So the most valuable thing to an online marketer needs to be their audience’s attention (and data).

When you’re on other social networks, you don’t have control or ownership over your customer’s information. If your company page violates Facebook Guidelines (which is really easy to do), then you’ve just lost all that data and valuable information.

Is there a great example of a small business using content marketing and the web to stand out and increase sales?

The best (and most well known) that come to mind are Copyblogger, SEOmoz, and HubSpot.

They’re all software companies that use content marketing as a way to get customers.

It helps them reach new customers, but it also helps them keep existing customers around longer (so they buy more products, or buy more frequently).

If you believe having a blog is important, what are your top 3 words of advice on how a small business can leverage it today?

Define - What does your company/brand really stand for?  Who do you serve?  And what is the unique solution you provide? This helps answer #2 below.

Positioning - How will your blog be different from all the competition? Make sure you come up with a unique positioning (i.e. Blue Ocean Strategy), otherwise people won’t remember you.

Goal - What is your content marketing/social media goals?  Unless you have realistic goals set, you won’t know what daily actions or tactics to use.

What advice do you have for the small business owner who has trouble coming up with engaging content?

  1. Niche down to focus on a specific market segment
  2. Focus on what your product/service does for your customers (experience, etc.)

I just wrote a post about this -> http://fixcourse.com/blog-content-ideas/  

What are the biggest mistakes that a small business owner could make in online marketing?

1. Can’t define success - You need to be able to define success, or what success will look like, before investing time and effort into this. Because it will take a lot of commitment, and consistent actions to achieve anything significant.

2. Chasing latest shiny tactic - Most small businesses owners get obsessed about the latest social network, etc. because it’s “all the rage”. You’ll waste a lot of time and effort if you chase everything. Instead, identify the biggest priorities for your business - no matter how sleek or sexy - and get to work on those first.  For example, if you don’t have email marketing campaigns set up for prospective, current and past customers, then don’t even think about other social networks.

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<![CDATA[4 Links that will help you become a better blogger ]]>Tue, 01 May 2012 18:28:50 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/4-links-that-will-help-you-become-a-better-bloggerAs writers, we love anything related to content marketing and writing, which is why we've compiled a list of great content tips and articles from around the web... Check it out:
  • 27 awesome ways to get people to listen to you
  • 3 tips for increasing your content productivity
  • 12 important steps bloggers should never forget
  • 10 must have templates for content marketers
If you want to learn more about content marketing and blogging, subscribe to our RSS feed above!

27 awesome ways to get people to listen to you
As a blogger or content marketer, not only do you need to create and maintain your editorial schedule, but you also have to do some blog marketing. This involves commenting on other sites, doing guest blogging, promoting your posts and connecting with others through social media. All this is tough to maintain over a period of time. This article shares a few ways how to get your readers to listen to you... 

3 tips for increasing your content productivity
Being productive in your blogging is a problem that many online marketers have. Your success in blogging is dependent on being consistent, organized and relevant. This article outlines how you can produce quality content frequently.

12 important steps bloggers should never forget
A blog is a great way for you to get your message out. However, if you're not showing up on Google and your traffic is low, make sure that you follow these steps.

10 must have templates for content marketers
Being organized is key in your content marketing strategy. These templates will help you clarify your vision and create an content map that will allow you to provide fresh, relevant content that meets your prospects needs.

<![CDATA[Benny Hsu - How to start a blogging career and be happy]]>Thu, 26 Apr 2012 18:15:29 GMThttp://www.customcontentfactory.com/blog/how-to-start-a-blogging-career-and-be-happy
Benny Hsu is the founder of the Get Busy Living Blog  and author of the Get a life that doesn't suck ebook.  He writes a great blog on personal development and how you can achieve your life goals. We interviewed him on how you can get started in blogging and live a balanced life...  

Who is Benny Hsu?

I'm 34 years old and I live in Florida. I have a regular job, but I have my passion in making iPhone apps and in blogging

What is your blog about? How did you start it?

My blog is about helping people bring out the best in them to live a better life. I started it in the beginning of 2011, but I actually had the domain for almost three years. I just didn't know what to write about so that's why I didn't start a blog earlier. Finally I found a topic, personal development, that I really wanted to talk about and knew I would be interested in it to write for a long time. 

When did you realize you made it as a blogger?

Well I don't think I've made it as a blogger yet (still shooting for the top), but I do remember my first post that went viral for me. It was a list post about 40 bloggers that were doing great things online. I got so many comments and retweets from it. Brought me a lot of recognition and new readers. 

Since then I would say being asked for an interview makes me realize I've done something right with blogging. 

How does your blogging career differ from your previous careers - especially in terms of life satisfaction?

It's much more satisfying. I love it. I could spend all day reading about blogging and working on my blog. It allows me to be creative which I love. I get to meet people all over the world. I get to inspire people and hear from people how much I've helped them. It's really rewarding. 

What were your challenges in starting the blog and how did you overcome them?

Getting readers was a big challenge. We always want more readers. We don't just want ten visitors a day. I overcame it by constantly commenting on other blogs. I would share other great posts. I would focus on writing content worth sharing. It wasn't an overnight success. I had to do everything a little at a time. 

How has your success as a blogger affected other aspects of your life?

It's given me more confidence. It's opened more opportunities that I would have never had before. I've been able to meet some amazing people. 

How did you grow and market your blog? 

I did it one step at a time. I did a lot of commenting on other blogs. It wasn't a quick "Great post" comment, but I took the time to really read their post and leave a good comment. I created a Facebook page and slowly got followers. Now Facebook is one of my top sources of traffic. I created a free ebook to give away and that's helped with gaining new readers. I love Twitter so I use that to share any new post. 

What are the most effective revenue generators for your blog?

Right now my biggest source of revenue is affiliate marketing. I'll promote products I trust to my readers and make a commission from them. 

Blogging takes a lot of work - how do you balance your life? 

I try to focus on only blogging when I have time. I try to not let other distractions bother me when I'm blogging. 

What would be the best advice for people new to blogging?

Just get started. Don't wait to be perfect before you start. Every A list blogger started as a beginner. Start now and focus on learning as you go. It's much better that way. 

What is your vision - where do you see yourself in the future?

I see myself as having a media empire. I love being an entrepreneur. I'd love to be in video, writing, speaking, and creating products. I'd share my experience and knowledge with others to help them perform at a higher level and make more money.