How to Land and Manage Guest Blog Exchanges

A guest posting program is a great way to build relationships, provide value to your brand partners, and increase your reach. I’ve coordinated guest blog exchanges in varying degrees for different clients while maintaining consistent internal blogs.

I began getting questions about how it’s done after writing a post on it for Hubstaff (download it here), and have continued to get questions until today. To that end, I’m sharing a few tips and lessons I’ve learned along the way below.

Keys to successful guest blog exchanges

You need to do it for the right reasons

Guest blogging is great for capturing external backlinks to help with SEO. The more backlinks you have from authoritative websites, the more trusted your domain is seen as.

However, this is not the end game for a guest post program. Your end goal is to provide value to relevant audiences.

If your products or services aren’t useful for the people reading your guest post, you’re spam. If you’re only after a link, quality blog readers will see through the tactic in a heartbeat.

Here are a few ways to find great partners for a blog exchange.

  • Start with your existing network. Reach out to your integration partners, brands you’ve worked with before, and look through your collection of business cards from industry events.
  • Pay attention to their domain authority. Look for blogs that have a higher DA than yours, or a score of 20 and above.

Pro tip: Don’t mention your brand in your guest post. Instead, try linking to a relevant article from your own blog, or leave the introduction to your author bio.

You need to know how to craft an email

The first step to starting a discussion for a guest post exchange is to reach out. I recommend doing this via email, since your target partners can respond in their own time and forward your email to the rest of their team to get thoughts.

Here are a few tips for reaching out.

  • Include their company name in your subject. One of my favorites has been “[Partner] + [Company] marketing collaboration” since it captures attention immediately.
  • Don’t forget to follow-up, and when you do, add a “Re:” in your subject line.
  • If it’s in line with your efforts, offer both a guest post as well as a guest post exchange. Some teams with awesome blogs are would appreciate a blog from you, but don’t have time to write one in return.
  • Don’t move too quickly. In your first email, ask if they would be interested in doing a guest post exchange, don’t assume they’re already in.

Email outreach template

Subject: ILoveDogs + DogSittersUnite collaboration opportunity

Hi Rocky,

My name is Rachel from DogSittersUnite. I found your blog and noticed we have fairly similar audiences, so I’m reaching out to see if you’re interested in doing a guest blog exchange.

Let me know, and I can send you some title pitches and a little more information about DogSittersUnite.

Thanks!

Rachel

Pro tip: Use tools like Contactually or Boomerang to remind you when it’s time to follow-up with a blog you’d like to do an exchange with.

You need writers and partners

Once upon a time, when I was young and foolish, I thought I could handle a professional blog on my own. Since then, I’ve learned that a great blog has a number of people behind it, including writers, editors, individual contributors, and project managers.

Working with the Skubana blog has taught me that an informative, useful blog is a collection of expertise from around the industry, and answers common questions that our target audience has.

This is possible only with a reliable team of writers and content partners. I recommend vetting and amassing an army of freelance writers to work with, in addition to building up relationships with regular industry partners for guest posts.

Here’s what to look for when hiring freelance writers.

  • Talent: can they do the research and deliver impeccable work?
  • Professionalism: will they quit in the middle of a job? Are they willing to sign an NDA?
  • Time management: do they meet their deadlines and ask questions well in advance?
  • Responsiveness: do they leave you in the dark about where they are on the article?
  • Adaptability: will they adapt to your target blogs’ word count and content guidelines?
  • Accommodating: are they willing to use the project management tool you use to assign work and track deadlines?

Pro tip: Answer questions you get on your blog. E-commerce expert Chad Rubin is always open to questions about selling online, and he answers many of them on the Skubana blog. If you get a question on a topic you aren’t an expert on, reach out to a partner and ask them to answer it in a guest post.

You need to be meticulously organized

When you find great writers, work out agreements with target blogs, and are ready to get down to business, you need to have a set process in place for quality assurance and to make sure deliverables get where they’re needed on time.

I recommend using Trello to organize a blog post exchange program. It’s a kanban-style project management tool that allows me to track each individual article through our pipeline.

Here are the lists I create in Trello to monitor guest posts & internal articles. I also have designated labels to tell me if an article is an outgoing guest post, an inbound guest post, or an internal post.

  • Idea bank: titles and questions
  • Being written: assigned to a freelancer or being written by partners
  • For review: internal articles and incoming guest posts ready for my edits
  • Sent: outgoing guest posts that we’ve sent to partners
  • Scheduled: prepped and ready on our blog
  • Published: published on our blog
  • Externally published: published on others’ blogs
  • Amplified: the top 10% blogs that we take special care to share out

I limit one article to one card, assign it to a writer, set a due date, and file it in the appropriate list.

Pro tip: If your writers prefer to bill after every article, you can keep track of freelancer payments using Trello as well. Just add a label for “paid” articles, and add it as you send out payments.

You need to build out a healthy pipeline

What’s more important: consistency and quality within your own blog, or getting great guest posts published on other [relevant] blogs?

I can’t get you a definitive answer on that, but thankfully there are marketing communities that are happy to chime in. I asked the question on Inbound.org, and you can read some answers here.

However, if you manage things well, you won’t have to choose between the two. Balance your guest posting strategy with your own internal content and you’ll be able to get posts out on multiple blogs (including your own) every week.

Here’s what I am for to build a healthy blog pipeline.

  • At least 3 freelancers who can write 1-2 blog posts/week.
  • 2 outgoing guest posts/week.
  • 1 internal post/week.
  • 1 incoming guest post/week.
  • 5 weeks of 2 posts/week proofed and scheduled, with an option of publishing a 3rd post if there’s a feature release or urgent topic that comes up.

Pro tip: If you run on WordPress, download their Editorial Calendar plugin so you can get a good overview of what’s scheduled to go live when.

What are your tips for managing guest post exchanges? Share them with me in the comments!

Tips on Hiring Freelance Writers You’ll Love

Content lies at the core of good marketing, and great content is created by great writers. I’ve had the opportunity to experience both ends of writing; client and freelancer, and have picked up a few tips on hiring awesome freelance writers.

Sections

Where to find freelance writers

Hubstaff Talent

This freelancer portal was built by awesome former clients of mine, and has $0 in fees. It’s completely free for freelancers and clients to sign up and contact each other directly–in fact, you don’t even have to communicate through the platform. Hubstaff Talent can connect you directly to a freelancer’s inbox.

Check out my profile on Hubstaff Talent

From the freelancer side: One of my favorite clients found me via Hubstaff Talent, and I recommend creating a profile if you’re a freelancer open to new projects.

Freelancer

Freelancer.com is a platform that allows you to specify your price range as you browse freelance writers. You can post a local job, a contest (wherein the winner gets paid), or a project. You can also browse freelancer profiles to see if there’s a good fit.

Upwork

Upwork is a popular freelance projects platform that’s gotten so sophisticated it has its own built-in project management and time tracking tools. Their fees are on the high side, so in-demand freelancers may charge a rate 10-20% higher than normal. However, if you want to take advantage of their payment protection, in-house tools, and streamlined processes, this may justify the added expense.

ProBlogger

ProBlogger is a job board that I consistently hear good reviews from. The site was built to help bloggers who want to create and grow their own blogs, so it’s frequented by writers who want to improve and write professionally.

Inbound

Inbound.org is a community of marketers who are usually, unsurprisingly, also great writers. Many of them are open to freelance projects, or looking for new opportunities, so their job board is a great place to find new talent. You can also browse their member profiles and filter by those who are looking for work.

Are you a member of Inbound? Me too, please say hi!

GrowthHackers

The GrowthHackers community is a great place for growth marketers to come together and share interesting articles from around the web, ask questions, and discuss industry news. Their job board is another great place to post an opening, but note that they specialize in growth marketing, which may or may not involve plenty of content creation on their parts.

I’m on GrowthHackers, too. Please say hello!

AngelList

AngelList profiles startups, and so their listings are filled with startup jobs. This means if you’re a big company, you may not be eligible to post jobs on this portal. Otherwise, it’s a great place for talent to find you.

Remote Job Boards

There are multiple remote work job boards where you can post a position for a need for a freelance writer. A few of them are listed below.

If you want to see a few more options (including those that specialize in other work such as development/design), check out NoDesk’s Remote Work section.

Authentic Pros

This is a directory for creative professionals that you can browse through. There isn’t much in the way of background or experience, but it lists skills and places you can find them (ie. Twitter profile).

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional social network where you focus on colleagues, connections, and career versus friends, family, and personal life. It’s an excellent place to find career-oriented writers who are open to freelance work. You can post a job on LinkedIn, or browse through professional profiles. As you add connections and expand your reach you should also gain access to a few awesome writers in your extended network.

Reddit

There are a lot of trolls on Reddit, but there are also some pretty great job candidates out there. There are subreddits dedicated to writers, to freelancers, and to different industries. Here are a few to start;

Slack communities

The other day I got a notification that someone in a Slack channel I’m part of was looking for a social media copywriter. He had hit @channel and sent pings to all 3,000+ members of the open community.

Slack is an interesting one because you can join communities around the world on the platform, somewhat like having a giant Skype group. PR Newswire put together a list of Slack communities for writers and creators, which is a good place to start hunting for a freelance writer.

Email Newsletters

This is getting a little more creative with your freelancer hunt. Pick a few of your favorite industry newsletters and sponsor a job post within them.

To help with this, picture your ideal freelance writer. What will s/he be interested in? What industry will s/he specialize in? Look for the email newsletters that your perfect freelancer would sign up for, such as newsletters on marketing if you’re looking for a marketing writer, or SEO if you want someone who knows SEO.

Your favorite blogs

When is the last time you read a piece of content that taught you something awesome? Chances are, the writer behind it is pretty good at what s/he does. Whenever you come across an article that makes you pause and appreciate the writing, take a look at the author bio and see if s/he is open to freelance writing. This tactic may require patience, research, and luck, but at least you’ve already seen their work in action.

Curious about where to start? Ignite Visibility put together a nice list of places to guest blog for marketers.

My personal favorite: Referrals

Finally, we come to my personal favorite. Some of the best writers I’ve worked with have come referred by others. I just posted a LinkedIn status update looking for writers, and someone I had collaborated with before and connected with on LinkedIn sent an amazing writer my way.

As a freelancer, I’ve been referred by happy clients, and have referred great freelancers to clients I was too busy to accommodate in turn.

Questions to ask before you hire a freelance writer

Aside from the standard question of “what’s your rate,” here are a few questions I ask to gauge the fit of a freelance.

Are you willing to sign an NDA?

Not all my clients require their writers to sign NDAs, but if you plan to add them to your PM tool where they can see other internal documents and processes, this is a best practice.

What’s your article availability?

I ask this so I know how many articles I can assign a writer regularly. I prefer working with writers long-term, so it’s good to get into a routine.

What article length are you comfortable writing?

There’s value to succinct, 500-word articles that cut to the chase and don’t waste any time. There’s also value to 3,000-word in-depth guides. Know what lengths your writers are comfortable with so you can assign appropriately.

If I’m having someone do an “ultimate guide,” I’ll assign it to the writer who likes to dive deep. If I need an update on a new feature, I’ll send it to the writer who gets their point across and can educate in as few words as possible.

What topics are you most familiar with?

This is so I know what they enjoy writing about. As they type out a list, usually the topics near the top are the ones that came to mind first for them, which means those are the topics they’re most familiar with.

How do you prefer payment? PayPal, ACH, something else?

I’ve learned to clear this up before starting work with a new freelancer, because everyone invoices differently. Some writers want a down payment, some work with packages, and others invoice after every article. It’s also important to figure out how they accept payment to avoid any confusion later. For example, if they only accept bank deposits but you’re in a different country, problems will pop up.

What project management tools are you familiar with?

This seems inconsequential, but it’s much easier to onboard  a freelancer who already understands the platform you work with. This isn’t a huge problem with writers who are quick learners, but some of the best freelancers out there are already so busy they may not have time to learn the ropes of a new PM tool in-depth.

 Anything else I should know?

I like asking this question because it covers any concerns that a writer might have working with us. It’s their opportunity to set expectations and let me know if they plan to go on vacation anytime soon, if they are open to full-time work, etc.

How to find a writer you’ll love working with

Gauge their responsiveness during your communications

I’ve worked with freelancers who gave me radio silence as they missed deadline after deadline. It gets stressful, especially if you have a client or partner who’s waiting on that information.

Tip: Pad your deadlines. If we have a guest post going out to a partner, I give them an estimated delivery date that’s a week later than the due date I set for myself and our freelancers.

Do a test task first

This is the most important step I’ve incorporated as a manager and as a freelancer to vet my clients. It’s crucial to do a test task before signing on to a bigger commitment so that you can gauge a writers’ work, communication skills, results, responsiveness, ability to hit deadlines, and how they get along with the rest of your team.

How do you find and vet your freelance writers? Are you looking for writer recommendations? Do you ask any other questions before hiring? Let me know in the comments!

Leverage your unique strengths

pineapples-leverage-your-unique-strengthsI recently met with a local Philippine designer who discussed the importance of using local techniques and materials in his work.

The Philippines utilizes pineapple fiber in their traditional dress, which means the culture has worked with it for generations. They’ve learned how to cut it, treat it, etc.

They absolutely cannot compete with Italy in leather, or China’s silk, but they have the knowledge and material for pineapple fiber right there in their roots–so why not leverage that instead of trying to compete with ancient markets?

The same concept applies to business. Are you a marketing agency trying too hard to offer PR?

A writer can’t compete with a graphic designer when it comes to design, but they are great at creating compelling copy.

If you’re in the market for leather, go to Italy, but if you’re in the market for pineapple fiber, source from the Philippines. If you’re looking for content, hire a writer, if you’re looking for design, hire a designer.

Don’t confuse your clients by trying to do too much…a jack of all trades but an expert in none only gets you so far.

Focus on your unique strengths, and grow your skills so that your clients understand exactly what they’re investing in when they work with you. And if they want something else, they can (and probably should) go somewhere else.

Where to Learn About Management, Marketing & Strategy

Every so often (and more often than not, these days), I come across amazing articles that must be shared. Simply Tweeting them isn’t enough.

So I’m collecting some of my favorite posts about management, leadership, marketing and more (the ones I couldn’t help but read all the way through) right here to share with you.

Management

What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

“New research reveals surprising truths about why some work groups thrive and others falter.”

What motivates us at work? More than money

“We really have this incredibly simplistic view of why people work and what the labor market looks like.”

5 Things You Should Never Assume About Your Teammates

Don’t assume they use the same tools, prefer the same work environment, or have the same communication techniques or priorities.

Building a Content Team: How I Pay, Motivate, and Manage Blog Writers

There are a few arguments here I may not agree with, but it provides a great (and transparent) method for managing a content team.

Inside Automattic’s remote hiring process

How does Automattic consistently hire an awesome team without ever hearing each other’s voices?

The Wolf

“The Wolf moves fast because he or she is able to avoid the encumbering necessities of a group of people building at scale.”

Ten Rules for Web Startups

Leading a web startup? Be picky.

The ‘Adaptable Leader’ is the New Holy Grail — Become One, Hire One

“There are three distinct mindsets that allow new employees and leaders to become constant learners: the Gamer Mindset, the Beginner Mindset, and the Growth Mindset.”

What kind of agency owner are you—a Technician, Manager, or Entrepreneur?

Your happiness at work may depend on the answer.

Hard Choices: Growth versus Profitability

Which should you choose for your company?

Strategy

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

“When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster.”

#45 – Work vs. Progress

“The more challenging the problems the less linear the work will be.”

What Psychology Teaches Us About Structuring the Workday

“Instead of thinking about your day as one long to-do list or trying on different time-management exercises for size, take a closer look at the science of how your brain functions throughout the day and try to match the right tasks to the right mindset to help maximize productivity.”

The Startup Pivot Pyramid

This pyramid is a visual representation of how to build a startup from the ground up. From the foundation to the top we see; customers, problem, solution, tech, and growth. We learn that changing something at the base also changes the top of the pyramid, since you’ve altered the foundation.

Marketing

How to Go Viral (and Not Regret It)

It took Jeff Deutsch an impressive six months to write this 6,000+ word article, and it’s no surprise why. It’s excellent, chocked full of stories, lessons and great things to know from amazing marketers. Definitely worth reading and revisiting multiple times. Also, it’s funny.

Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing

“From finding the right team and coming up with ideas that’ll resonate with your audience to successfully promoting your content and scaling your content efforts up over time, we aimed to create a holistic look at the field of content marketing.”

The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

“The Beginner’s Guide to SEO has been read over 3 million times and provides comprehensive information you need to get on the road to professional quality Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.”

7 Ways to Use Cognitive Biases to Increase Email Signups

Learn about loss aversion, the framing effect and more, plus how to use them to your advantage.

Lessons learned from Airbnb’s Email Specialist

An interview with Lucas Chevillard of Airbnb.

Ecommerce SEO: The Definitive Guide

Learn about why SEO is so vital if you’re selling online, and how to improve your results.

The first rule of pricing is: you do not talk about pricing

The second rule is you don’t think about pricing (heavily tied to psychology), and the third rule is experiments are the only way to make sense of it all.

Consulting As a Side Job

A comprehensive guide to becoming a great consultant.

13 Advanced Link Building Strategies You (Probably) Haven’t Used

The title says it all, but you’ll find plenty of links throughout the blog post leading to other useful articles on this website. I love the depth of his analysis, research, and testing with all of the strategies.

Etc.

Some everything-interesting bonuses, because there are just so many great articles out there.

The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp

“What the future of low-wage work really looks like.”

Small Business Guide: How to Write a Blog Post

Blog posts are important for a small business, because they help you reach your target audience and provide value to your industry. When written well, they showcase expertise, inspire trust and even entertain. Here are the basics of writing a blog post.

Pick a topic

If you’re looking up how to write a blog post, chances are you’ve already got an idea of what you want to write about.

Refine that idea by thinking up potential titles for your blog post. You can use Buzzsumo for ideas on which titles are most popular, or Google Analytics to discover any relevant popular search terms.

Do some research

Unless you’re already an expert on the subject, the research phase of the writing process is vital. Articles should be well-researched, authoritative and informative.

Decide what you want to say

Now that you’ve done some research, take a stance. Decide what you think on the topic and jot down your notes.

You could brainstorm about;

  • Best way to approach the topic
  • Top 3 takeaways on the topic
  • Why it’s important for your target audience

Get your first draft down

Write like the wind. At this stage, don’t worry about perfection. Just get your thoughts down on the page, and then organize them into a reasonable structure.

Tips on writing;

  • Stick to one idea per paragraph.
  • Have a clear beginning (introduction), middle (body paragraphs) and end (conclusion).
  • Avoid unsupported claims.
  • Avoid jargon that readers outside your industry wouldn’t understand.

Edit x3

Edit, edit, edit. Add any links that are needed and make sure you cite your sources. This is the stage where you or your editor (if you have that luxury) will weed out any mistakes in spelling, grammar, ideas or flow.

Tips on editing;

  • Change the font size to catch mistakes hidden by line breaks.
  • Read it out loud.
  • Run your post through content tools.
  • Ask someone else to look over your post.

If you’re writing this blog post on WordPress, like I am, you’ll also want to refine the SEO settings, add a featured image (don’t forget alt tags) and select the appropriate categories.

Hit publish

Pour yourself a glass of wine, because you’re done! …Until it’s time to work on sharing it 🙂

Which metrics matter: What to track in Google Analytics

Google Analytics (GA) can be complicated to navigate if you’re just starting out. I had a hard time figuring out which metrics matter and which are a waste of my time to monitor. After working with a few SaaS businesses and an assessment firm, I put together this post to share what numbers I pay attention to and why.

Which metrics matter: What to track in Google Analytics

First, make sure you connect your GA account with your website. DKS Systems has a guide on how to use GA, which includes some useful screenshots of the setup process.

Audience Overview

When you go to the overview, these are the metrics you see right off-the-bat.

  • Sessions – how many times a visitor interacted with your site.
  • Users – how many visitors have been to your site at least once (usually, the count doesn’t count repeat visits).
  • Pageviews – how many pages were seen on your site.
  • Pages per Session – the average number of pages someone views on your website each visit.
  • Ave Session Duration – how long someone typically stays on your website.
  • Bounce Rate – when someone goes to your website, views one page, then leaves immediately, they raise your bounce rate. This number indicates how many people are leaving your site without looking around first. High bounce rate usually means the quality of your content is low, or you’re targeting the wrong audience.
  • % of New Sessions – the number of first-time visitors to your site compared to overall visitors.

The only metric I look at in this overview is our bounce rate. According to The Rocket Blog, you should be concerned if your bounce rate goes over 70%.

As a rule of thumb, a bounce rate in the range of 26 to 40 percent is excellent. 41 to 55 percent is roughly average. 56 to 70 percent is higher than average, but may not be cause for alarm depending on the website. Anything over 70 percent is disappointing for everything outside of blogs, news, events, etc. – Good, Bad, Ugly, and Average Bounce Rates

If your bounce rate goes over 50%, I recommend taking a closer look at who you’re targeting. Look at your keywords and key phrases, the audience they’re reaching, your website design (UX), and the pages with the highest bounce rates.

If you have a handful of pages with high bounce rates, revamp and improve the content in those pages, or delete them altogether. If you have multiple pages targeting the same keyword or phrase, combine the content into the page with the lowest bounce rate, then 301 redirect the other pages.

Individual pages

In the left-hand sidebar, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. From here, you can filter by URL to find individual pages and dig a little deeper. You can set the dates to look at as well, so if you want to see a page’s performance over the last week you can customize it to show just those dates.

Blog stats | Which metrics matter: What to track in Google Analytics

Here’s what those numbers mean.

  • Pageviews – how many times that page was seen
  • Unique pageviews – how many times that page was seen by unique invidiuals (not someone leaving then returning a little later)
  • Avg. Time on Page – how long people spend on that page
  • Entrances – how many times a visitor entered your site through this page
  • Bounce Rate – single page visits
  • % Exit – how many people left your website right after this page
  • Page Value – (Transaction Revenue + Total Goal Value) / Unique Pageviews

Out of these numbers, I look at bounce rate, % exit, and unique pageviews. These numbers paint a good picture of how effectively you’re reaching your target audience, and how well the content is serving them.

Want to see where those page views are coming from?

Once you get to the page you want, go to Secondary dimension > Acquisition > Source / Medium.

Which metrics matter: What to track in Google Analytics

You’ll be able to see whether the traffic is direct traffic, from social media, or from another website like Inbound.

Where are your referrers coming from?

To find your main source of views, head to the left-hand sidebar. Go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.

Traffic channels | Which metrics matter: What to track in Google Analytics

Here are the metrics I look at on this page;

  • Organic search – from search engines
  • Direct – from a bookmark or typing the URL directly into the search bar
  • Social – from social media
  • Email – from email newsletters, forwarded emails, or your email signature link
  • Referral – from another website (ie. Reddit, GrowthHackers)

High organic search traffic means we’re handling our keyword and phrase strategy well. Our content is getting found via search engines and thanks to our SEO efforts.

I look deeper into the social traffic to see which channels send the most visitors to the blog. If I see Twitter is doing well, I’ll spend a little more time sharing and engaging on that platform.

If we’re getting an unusual number of views from email, it likely means our content was featured in an email newsletter. I narrow by date and Source / Medium (covered above) to find out whether it was our own email newsletter or another.

Digging deeper into referrals shows which outside websites send the most traffic to our content. You can also look at your overall referral sources by going to the sidebar, Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals.

Referrals | Which metrics matter: What to track in Google Analytics

This metric is a big one, because it shows me where our content does best. It helps me find out where our audience is, and where I should focus more of my efforts on.

The information above tells me I should be looking at audiences on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, and LinkedIn. Most of these are social media networks, so I can see our social efforts are doing well.

Keep in mind these are fairly surface-level metrics that I look at as someone who handles the blogs and social media of my clients. If I had a hand in paid advertising, I’d check out PPC. Eventually, I’ll also research deeper into conversion rates and analyzing why certain traffic converts better than other visitors.

Where to learn more about Google Analytics

Some great places to continue learning about GA;

Side Project Ideas (Feel free to take any)

Side projects are one of the best ways to market your business and stay on your toes. There’s always going to be a learning curve when you create something new, so doing a side project is also a great way to gain new skills and improve on existing ones.

I’m creating this list to brainstorm a few ideas, and potentially give them away. Why? This is practice, my way of getting out of a rut. If they’re good ideas, they’ll happen whether or not I list them. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit or the cash.

House listing directory

Brokers are welcome to list their spaces online on a website that serves as a directory for an area. Each listing must have an expiration date, to avoid houses still up even after they’re sold. This could expand into the rental market, but should focus on one area. Ex. Oregon vs. all of America. Should definitely start out as a free service, just to connect brokers to people looking to rent or buy a house/apartment.

Lessons in your inbox

Learn about the world by reading your email. Curate an email newsletter covering world topics (ie. the 10 most important things in the world today), or marketing, or just interesting facts that can serve as ice breakers or conversation starters. Each section can link to a longer article about the fact (source), but readers should get the gist just from reading the newsletter. Total time it takes to read should be no longer than 2 minutes.

Grown-up bounce houses

Kids’ parties are so much more fun. Why? It would be great to bring fun back into birthday parties, especially as you get older. Target audience would be 25- to 30-year-olds who are still fit enough to have bounce houses and other fun activities at their parties. Tagline could be something like “making birthday parties fun again” or “we got old, but our parties don’t have to.”

Tax software for freelancers in [country]

Freelancing is a growing industry, and the rules surrounding it in developing countries are complicated. Software like TurboTax would be much appreciated, but isn’t always available. Larger companies typically already have their own software to automate their returns, make payments, etc. Ideally the software would also allow freelancers to file and pay exclusively online, without ever having to wait in line somewhere or go through an accountant.

Start a side project

An automated email course (MailChimp is great for this) walking someone through the steps of starting a side project. This includes testing the idea, narrowing your audience, evaluating market demand, selecting the platform, tools to use, how to market, getting funding, etc. It will take a while to create everything, but after that all people need to do is sign up to start getting the emails.

Email myself

Something like Pocket, but to your inbox. You can save various URLs in this web tool (could be a Chrome extension), and whenever you’re ready hit send and the tool will email all the URLs to your inbox. I’ve browsed the web on my mobile phone many times and have manually copied + pasted interesting links to email to myself and check out later.

Build a business: [Country]

All the resources (and contact information) needed to start a business in a certain area. Places to learn about the business laws, articles discussing tax rules, directories for shipping companies, customs brokers, packaging, talent management, accounting, etc. The basics of setting up your own business, which varies by country (or even city).

Travel with new friends

This one will focus on traveling with fellow remote workers. Instead of joining a retreat organized by a host, connect with people who want to travel in the same area as you. For example, I want to go to New Zealand in September, and the platform will help me connect with other remote workers who are looking to be there. It should have a system for confirming hotel/hostel/airbnb reservations, flights, etc. Plus, it’ll list WiFi spots, since everyone traveling together will have the same sort of lifestyle (needs a few hours of work each day).

Any ideas to add? Or want to collaborate? Add a comment below or contact me.

How to Transition from a Personal to Professional Instagram Account

How to Transition from a Personal to Professional Instagram Account | Rachelandreago.wordpress.com

If someone were to look at your personal Instagram feed, what images would you be most proud of? (Selfies are disqualified, btw.)

Would it be the many images of your homemade cakes and pastries? Is it the photos of your hand-sewn baby accessories? Or pics of leather handbags that you paint for fun?

Eventually, you start getting orders for your goods, and questions about how much you charge. Voila, your hobby has become your profession, and it’s got potential.

As more and more potential customers follow you on Instagram, you should begin to feel hesitations about posting personal photos. After all, you don’t want to share intimate moments with your kids or a pic with an audience you know nothing about. You also don’t want to bore potential customers with posts they aren’t interested in. If someone is following you to keep up with your cake creations, they don’t want to see 20 posts in a row of your dog.

Your next step should be to transition from a personal to professional Instagram account. This article outlines how to do it.

1. Create a new account with a branded handle.

You can create a new Instagram account from the mobile apps or on your desktop (you’ll only be able to upload photos from the mobile apps). If you haven’t already, decide on what you want to call your service or product.

Set your Instagram handle, and aim for something short and memorable.

Tip: Did you know you can add multiple Instagram accounts to your app? Just hit the settings button, go to “Add Account,” and log into your secondary account (you can add up to five). This is incredibly useful, because you won’t have to keep logging in and out to switch between your personal and professional Instagram accounts.

2. Set up your profile info

Your profile image should be 110 x 110 pixels and high quality. If you have a brand logo designed, then use that as your profile photo. If not, you may want to use a photo of one of your products, or you at work.

Try not to change your profile photo too often, as it’s what people will begin to recognize and associate with your posts.

Your description should focus on the client.

Descriptions that talk about your product or service are okay, but they don’t project value to the reader. You only have 150 characters to make a first impression, so you need to do it memorably.

Here are some sample descriptions of the same imaginary brand. The first one focuses on the brand, and the second focuses on the client.

Designs by Debbie creates beautiful, hand-painted leather goods. We can fashion a piece after your favorite cartoon, or something uniquely designed.

vs

Show off your style with unique, hand-painted designs on your purses, belts, wallets and more. Add new personality to your well-loved leather goods.

Both will work fine, but the second one paints a picture. Which would you be more likely to follow?

3. Add some starter images

Populate your new Instagram account with related photos from your private account, so that new visitors don’t get put off by an empty account. It’s also a waste of eyeballs if you have people checking out your account but not finding anything there.

I recommend posting all of the related high-quality photos you have, minus the best 10 (more on that later). The reason for this is you don’t have any followers yet. That means you could post 30 images, and you won’t flood anyone’s feed.

4. Move your clientele to your professional account

Remember those 10 top images we put aside earlier? Use them to send traffic to your new professional Instagram account.

a. Add your new brand info to your images

Upload the images into Canva. This is a web-based design tool that makes it incredibly easy for non-designers to create quick yet beautiful designs online.

On each image, add text that says something like “[Brand name] has moved to [new Instagram handle]. Please follow us there to see more of [product/service].”

It’s free to sign up for Canva, but if you use any of their paid assets (ie. they have free icons, but you can also use one of their specially designed ones for $1) there will be a cost to download your image. Since you are uploading your own images, you shouldn’t have to worry about that for this exercise.

You now have 10 great images with built-in CTAs (call-to-action).

b. Schedule and re-schedule the images

These image announcements should go out over your personal account over the next three months. You can do this manually, or save yourself some of the headache by using a social media scheduling tool like Hootsuite. It’s free to set up an account, and their analytics are awesome.

In the description of each of these photos, add your new Instagram handle so that followers can easily click to your new account and follow you from there.

A sample announcement posting schedule for the first month might look something like this;

First month schedule | How to Transition from a Personal to Professional Instagram Account

P.S. I created that image in Canva.

By the second month, most of your followers will have seen your announcements, so you can scale back to five images. The third month, pick three of the images that got the most response from the last two months, and re-share those for good measure.

5. Posting photos

Now that you have your brand Instagram set up, you should populate it with new content. Make sure your descriptions are engaging, your images are sized correctly, and keep your account warm.

Make a Website has a great infographic on social media image sizes, and even offers a free download of psd templates.

Here are a few posts to try;

  • Overlay an image with your contact information. Add a CTA “Call for orders” and measure results.
  • Post a video of you creating your product/service. Speak directly to your followers.
  • Post a photo of your workshop or work space so your viewers can see the back-end of the products/service.
  • Build anticipation for a new project with in-progress pics.

Your turn

Have you transitioned from a personal to professional Instagram account? I’d love to hear about your experience.

If you have any tips to add, or questions you want to ask, feel free to send them in the comments.

WordPress Tutorial: Plugins to Supercharge Your Website

WordPress Tutorial: Plugins to Supercharge Your Website

WordPress is a leading content management system and one of the most seamless tools I’ve ever worked with. With beautiful themes, great usability for both website visitors and managers, and an ultra-customizable platform, it’s my go-to choice for websites of any kind. Here are some of the plugins I recommend installing for security, functionality, and content marketing.

All In One WP Security & Firewall – A comprehensive, user-friendly, all in one WordPress security and firewall plugin for your site.

WP-SpamShield Anti-Spam – An exceptionally powerful WordPress anti-spam plugin that eliminates comment spam, trackback spam, contact form spam and registration spam.

WP-Optimize – This effective plugin allows you to extensively clean up your WordPress database and optimize it without doing manual queries.

W3 Total Cache – Easy Web Performance Optimization (WPO) using caching: browser, page, object, database, minify and content delivery network support. (Don’t cache an unfinished website.)

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – This plugin displays Google Analytics reports right in your dashboard. It inserts the latest GA tracking code into your pages, and gives you a good overview of how your content is doing.

Yoast SEO – I love using this to optimize my content. It’s easy to use, provides actionable tips, and updates in real-time so you can check your content against SEO best practices.

Broken Link Checker – This plugin will check your posts, comments and other content for broken links and missing images, and notify you if any are found.

Extra tip: Check My Links isn’t a WordPress tool, but it’s a great Chrome extension that allows you to check for broken links on your website.

Title Experiments Free – Split (A/B) test multiple titles for a post and discover which gets more page views. Great way to increase click through rates.

Editorial Calendar – This plugin allows you to view all your posts and drag and drop them to manage your blog schedule.

Better Click to Tweet – Insert beautiful, customizable click to Tweet boxes into your posts to encourage social shares.

Learn more: Content marketing + Blogging in WP

CoSchedule has an awesome post on basic HTML lessons for WordPress users and content marketers. I consider this a must-read for content marketers and bloggers starting out, since they go over the basic skills and formatting.

It’s all about the processes for these blogs. Here’s a blog writing process from CoSchedule, a writing workflow from Hubstaff, and a process to review web content from GatherContent.

Have any plugins to add? Share them in the comments below.

37 Tools to Research, Write and Share Remarkable Blogs

Online Content Creation Tools

After writing 538 professional blog posts (and that’s the last time I’m going to hunt down all the articles I wrote for various clients), I’ve decided to share the many tools I’ve found useful to research, write, edit and share remarkable blogs.

Here’s what’s in this article;

For Inspiration and Collecting Ideas

Evernote, Trello and Google Keep are great tools for collecting ideas and collaborating with other blog writers on your team. Evernote supports everything from short lists to lengthy research, Trello uses the kanban board system and Google Keep is like your personal post-it note board on the web. Each of these tools allows you to write your ideas down and brainstorm useful resources for each post, ie. helpful URLs, comments, rambles.

This is a Trello board where I can collect upcoming blog post ideas

This is a Trello board where I can collect upcoming blog post ideas

Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts are your eyes and ears on the web. These services will monitor the web for keywords that you determine, then alert you when they are mentioned. For example, if you’re interested in online marketing, set up alerts for “inbound marketing” to get emailed whenever someone mentions it online.

Inbound marketing Google Alert - Content Creation Tools

Pocket and Flipboard are excellent for discovering and saving interesting content from around the web. If you find an interesting article, just add it to your Pocket account to revisit later. On Flipboard you can “flip” different articles you find into your own personal online magazines. You can browse the articles that other users store in Pocket or Flipboard based on topics you’re interested in.

Flipboard - Content creation tools

Want more? Kristi Hines collected 25 Resources for Content Marketers so you never run out of blog post ideas again.

Doing Keyword and Topic Research

These are the tools that I use to discover the best keyword to optimize for.

Keyword Planner - Content creation tools

Google Keyword Planner and Keyword Canine* both show how popular a keyword or phrase is via average searches per month. They also show how high the competition is for that ranking.

*Keyword Canine now has paid plans only. A free (for now) alternative is SEMrush || KeySearch is an alternative to Keyword Canine that provides good analytics, but is a bit pricey.

Keyword tool - Content creation tools

Keyword.io and Keyword Tool provide great keyword suggestions based on what you’re looking for. Keyword Tool uses Google’s autocomplete to recommend keywords based on an algorithm from objective factors such as how often past users have searched for a term. You can use these to find keywords that are sometimes hidden in Google Keyword Planner.

Discovering Your Title

Ahrefs Content Explorer - Content creation tools

Buzzsumo and Content Explorer both show highly shared articles so you can draw inspiration from their titles. You can also search popular questions on Quora to find out what kind of questions people are asking about your topic. Position your title as an answer to those questions.

Headline Analyzer - Content creation tools

When you have a good title in mind, run it through CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to get it “graded.” It will let you know whether your title is too wordy, what types of words you can add to make it more engaging and more. Aim for a score of 70 or higher. If you’re having trouble getting your score up, you can also check out CoSchedule’s list of Power Words.

TitleCap - Content creation tools

You can also use Portent’s Content Idea Generator to create titles for you, then run your title through this title capitalization tool to make sure you’re capitalizing the right words based on your style guide.

Here’s an awesome article on 9 Useful Headline Tools that has even more useful links.

Writing and Publishing

My absolute favorite content management system is WordPress. It’s customizable, beautifully designed and has a great user interface. WordPress.org also has awesome plugins (my favorite is Yoast for SEO) and great themes. This blog is run on WordPress.com because it’s incredibly low maintenance, still has awesome themes and it’s free. WordPress has a “distraction-free writing mode” that makes the visual/HTML editor full-screen so you aren’t tempted to switch to a different tab or window.

WordPress distraction free writing mode - Content creation tools

Medium and Ghost are a few other blogging platforms you can use to get your writing out there. I’ve personally used Medium and find it easy to simply get your point across. Medium also has some amazing blogs you can explore, I’m signed up to get email digests and always enjoy the articles they send.

Medium - Content creation tools

If you want an incredibly simple website, you can also check out Squarespace. You pay one fee and they take care of your domain and e-commerce compatibility.

Every Good Post Needs Images

All great blog posts need awesome images. I’ve personally used Canva (my favorite), Piktochart and Pablo from Buffer. I love how easy it is to use these tools! You can select the perfect image sizes and they provide stock images right in their platforms to make the user experience even easier.

Canva - Content creation tools
Easel.ly will help you create infographics and Page2Images allows you to create a screenshot of a page by inputting the URL. Gratisography and Unsplash are two places to find amazing high-resolution royalty-free photos that you can use anywhere without worrying about copyright infringement.

Don’t Forget to Edit Your Article

Once you have your keyword, title, article and images all set, it’s time to edit the content. Read over everything you wrote and use these tools to make sure it’s perfect.

Grammarly - Content creation tools

Grammarly and the Hemingway App detect common spelling and grammar errors in your writing. You can input your text into either of these to evaluate readability and grammar. Grammarly also has a Chrome extension that works as you type and will check your work in real-time. It is able to detect contextual spelling errors, and will alert you if you use the wrong word even if it’s correctly spelled.

The Readability Test Tool - Content creation tools

The readability score of your blog will tell you how easy it is for people to understand your writing. The goal is to make your article as accessible as possible. It should be easy to understand and absorb. You can use this Readability Test Tool to evaluate your content from a URL or direct input.

Search Engine Optimization

Hooray for search engine optimization! I love SEO because it adds a technical aspect to a creative pursuit. SEO is almost a game; Our content competes with other, endless content on the Internet to reach the top spot on search engine results and land on reader’s screens.

Yoast SEO - Content creation tools

The Yoast plugin, as mentioned above, helps you create optimize articles based on a set of best practices. Here’s a quick rundown on SEO best practices and you can view an SEO article I wrote for 237 Marketing + Webhere.

Keyword density analyzer - Content creation tools

Use this Keyword Density Analyzer to make sure your article includes your keyword enough (but not too much).

Share It

I use Buffer and Hootsuite to schedule social media shares (you can also find awesome gifs to add here). As far as I know, Hootsuite is the only platform that allows for pre-scheduled Instagram posts. Buffer is incredibly easy to use and can tell you when the best time to share for your audience is with their Optimal Scheduling tool.

Buffer - Content creation tools

You can encourage blog readers to share your post by generating automatic sharing links with this Share Link Generator or pre-written emails with mlto.tk. WordPress plugins like Better Click to Tweet  or CoSchedule’s Click to Tweet can generate click-to-tweet content right within your blog article. *You will need to use WordPress.org to use these plugins.

Better click to tweet plugin - Content creation tools
Going beyond social media, you can use JustReachOut to pitch to journalists.

Measure Results

Almost done! After you publish your blog, make sure you measure the results. Google Analytics is awesome for seeing how many visits a certain blog post earned and how many views you’re getting each day, week, month or year. Check out where your visitors are coming from, how long they’re spending on your site and where they’re going after.

Google Analytics - Content creation tools

You can also analyze your site or blog post with Moz’s Open Site Explorer to discover how many backlinks you received and where you’re mentioned on the web.

Your Turn!

What did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!

Thank you for checking out these 37 content creation tools. I hope you found something useful.

Happy puppy