How to Write Headlines for Your Creative Business That Don’t Make You Cringe with Embarrassment (or, Why Great Headlines Beat Peanut Butter on Pancakes)

Formulas. Blueprints. Templates. Rules.

I tend to dislike most of these things. And so do most of the other creative business builders I’ve talked to.

But when it comes to writing headlines, templates and formulas can help if you’re experiencing a rough patch while trying to create magnetic headlines for your creative business, especially when you’re first starting out.

Besides, templates and formulas are just a starting point, a way to get the creative juices flowing. You use them to get something down on paper, then you tweak from there, depending on your personality and your business and service offerings.

So today I give you headline formulas, blueprints, templates and rules.

Because if you can train yourself to write attention-grabbing headlines (you can), then your content is much more likely to get read, shared and acted upon. Good news for you, right?

How Important Are Headlines?

Some well-known and uber-successful copywriters suggest that at least half the time you spend writing a piece should be spent on the headline; it’s that important. Agreed.

You may have heard the statistic that 8 out of 10 people will read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the copy. The headline is there to get them to read the rest of that copy – that’s its sole purpose, in fact – so if it’s not compelling, you can bet the rest of the blog post or article or sales page you’ve just slaved over will, unfortunately, be ignored.

And we’re trying to run successful businesses that rely on writing and sharing content that moves people to act, so ain’t nobody got time to be ignored.

That said, the body content of the thing you’re writing, be it a blog post, a newsletter, a sales page or what-have-you also needs to be well-written and persuasive, and it must deliver on the headline. But you knew that.

Golden advice nugget: When writing headlines for your creative business, keep in mind what your audience is thinking, and that is, WIIFM: “What’s In It For Me?” 

Now then, let’s talk about a few headline formulas.

Promise a Benefit or Arouse Curiosity

Two of the most effective ways to approach writing headlines is to promise a benefit or arouse curiosity.

This is something I learned in my American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) copywriting training. According to the fine folks at AWAI, a powerful headline does these 4 things:

  • Begins to develop a relationship with your audience/potential clients
  • Delivers a complete message
  • Compels readers/potential clients to read more
  • Grabs the reader’s attention

Examples of benefit-driven headlines from my blog:

:: For Photographers: The Simple Yet Powerful Website Copy Tweak That Will Win You More Clients (& How to Implement It) {Benefit: win more clients}

:: The Dreadful Client-Repelling Mistake That Will Keep You Broke (and how to fix it) {Benefit: how to fix a mistake that repels clients}

:: What a Personal Development Book from 1959 Can Teach You About Writing Web Copy That Sells {Benefit: write web copy that sells}

Pretty straightforward, right?

Using Curiosity in Headlines

Google will return over 14 million results when you search on the phrase, “creating curiosity in copywriting,” which tells you what a powerful concept curiosity is in persuasive writing.

If you want to arouse curiosity, one way to do it is to ask a question your audience/readers/potential clients want the answer to. If you pose a question that’s aligned with your audience’s needs and desires, they’ll want to read on to find the answer.

Examples of headlines that evoke curiosity from my blog:

:: What Can Chocolate Cake and Donuts Teach You About Selling More?

:: Can Copywriting Principles Work for Visual Artists?

:: Creatives: Are You Making These 3 Web Marketing Mistakes?

A site called Upworthy does the curiosity headline very effectively, by essentially creating that really annoying “clickbait” I personally don’t jive with. At all. But hey, it works for them.

You can read more about Upworthy and some background on why “curiosity-gap headlines” work here:

Upworthy’s Headlines Are Insufferable. Here’s Why You Click Anyway 

Follow Copywriter, Brilliant Marketer and Expert Business Strategist Dan Kennedy’s Lead

As a copywriter and marketer, I follow Dan Kennedy’s work, read his blog, subscribe to his email newsletter, and read the occasional book he’s written. And while he’s not for everybody, his advice works, if you feel comfortable following it.

In Chapter 3 of his book, The Ultimate Sales Letter: Attract New Customers, Boost Your Sales, Kennedy shares some fill-in-the-blank headline formulas you can use to get people to read your sales material. (He mentions the movie Gone in 60 Seconds and wisely says, “That’s what your recipients will be if you do not command their attention and literally drag them into reading.”)

Of course, the same formulas can be used to create headlines for your blog posts and subject lines for your emails as well.

(Caveat: If you spend any amount of time online you’ll recognize these formulas, because so many bloggers, copywriters and other business builders use them. For that reason I try to use them sparingly, because I don’t want my writing to sound like everyone else’s.)

Here are a few of Kennedy’s fill-in-the-blank headline formulas along with his examples of how to apply them:

Who Else Wants ___________?

Examples:

:: Who Else Wants a Hollywood Actress’ Figure?

:: Who Else Needs an Extra Hour Every Day?

How ___________ Made Me ___________

Examples:

:: How a “Fool Stunt” Made Me a Star Salesman

:: How Relocation to Tennessee Saved Our Company $1 Million a Year

___________ Ways to ___________

Examples:

:: 101 Ways to Increase New Patient Flow

:: 17 Ways to Slash Your Equipment Maintenance Costs

Two other formulas Kennedy mentions that I’ve personally used are the “Secrets of” and the “How To” headline.

Examples from my vault:

:: For Creatives: The Secret to Transforming Your Boring Lackluster About Page Into an Ideal Client Attracting Magnet

:: How to Create a Free Opt-in Offer Your Target Audience Will Love (and why you need to)

Use Specificity and Numbers

Let get real: we’re all crazy-busy trying to build our creative empires online, and the people we’re trying to attract are too. So you have to get their attention quickly.

One way to get straight to the benefit-driven point in your headlines and immediately hook your readers is to use specificity and numbers.

Why does this work so well?

Because specific details and numbers are more credible than general statements.

For example, which of these examples is more compelling and believable to you?

:: How to Make More Money Selling Digital Products

OR . . .

:: How I Made $6,557.68 Last Month Selling 2 Easy-to-Create Digital Guidebooks

And how about this . . .

:: Tips for Getting More Clients with Your Website

OR . . .

:: 7 Easy Website Tweaks You Can Implement Today That Will Double Your Client Enquiries

Here are two headline examples from my own vault that use specificity and numbers:

:: A Foolproof 6-Step System for Generating Dozens of Ideas for Blog Posts and Newsletters That Your Target Audience Wants to Read (in Under an Hour a Week)

:: How to Improve Your Small Business Website Content Today for Better Sales: A 7-Point Checklist

These kind of headlines reward the reader by letting them know the specific and compelling benefits of reading the article even before they’ve read a word of the body content. What a timesaver for your readers; they’re gonna love ya for it!

The Instant Clarity Headline Formula

The instant clarity headline looks like this:

End Result Customer Wants + Specific Period of Time + Address Objections

Obviously, to be able to make this formula work, you need to have a deep understanding of your customers and clients and their needs, wants and desires with respect to your offering.

I first learned this formula from a fellow called Dane Maxwell, and the example he uses to demonstrate the formula is this, from the real estate niche:

Recruit 2 Top Producing Agents Each Week Without Cold Calling Or Rejection

He goes on to share that using only the first item (end result) or the first and second together (end result + time frame) can also be effective, but using all three elements at once is the most powerful and persuasive.

The reason this formula works well is because it instantly telegraphs the benefits and results the reader (or client or customer) can achieve from reading the content or buying the product or service. It’s all about what important to the reader, client or customer.

So if you’re a wedding photographer for example, maybe your clients want candid, natural-looking shots in which they look relaxed and happy. And the time frame they want it in is their wedding day. As for objections, they may feel there’s no way you – someone they don’t know all that well – can capture their special moments without making them looking posed and stiff.

So using this formula, a wedding photographer could come up with something like this for a blog post headline:

:: The No-Fail Formula for Getting Candid, Natural-Looking Shots on Your Wedding Day Without Looking Posed, Uncomfortable or Stiff

Or let’s say an interior designer wants to write a blog post to help her ideal client – a busy young family on the go with a couple of small children and a dog – undertake a DIY design project to spruce up their home. The end result they want is a luxurious home that reflects their specific taste and design style, but it also has to be practical and easy to keep up. And they don’t want their lives to be disrupted in the process, so the DIY project can’t take more than a month.

So our interior designer could write a blog post with a headline like this:

:: From Chaos to Calm: 7 Simple Steps for Transforming Your Busy Young Family’s Home into an Oasis of Practical Luxury in 30 Days or Less

Now let’s talk about the “cringing with embarrassment” part. (or, How to Use Magazine Headlines and Book Chapter Titles to Craft Compelling Headlines Your Target Audience Will Love)

The headline formulas discussed above are time-tested and work well, which is why they’re used and shared so frequently. But sometimes the headlines that result can feel over the top for us sensitive creative types.

So one of the handy little tips I like to share with my clients when it comes to both getting ideas for content their target audience wants to read, AND brainstorming great headline ideas at the same time, is the magazine headline method and the book chapter title method.

Magazine Headlines

One of the best ways to practice writing headlines (and to spark ideas for blog posts your audience actually wants to read) is to grab a bunch of magazines in your niche and read through the headlines.

(I wrote more here about using the magazine method to find out what your target audience wants to read.)

Publishers do exhaustive research and spend thousands of dollars to figure out which stories will generate the strongest response among their readers, so why not piggyback on that research to gather headline ideas for your own blog or newsletter?

And to make it super-easy, you don’t even have to go to the bookstore, just sign onto Amazon online and go to the magazine section.

Once there, search for magazines in your industry or niche and read through headlines of 5-10 magazines there.

(Caveat: Don’t copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; instead, put your own creative spin on them, geared specifically to your business and your audience.)

For example, suppose I want to generate headline ideas for an interior design business. So I go through some magazines in the home design niche over on our good friend Amazon, and putting my own spin on what I find there, I come up with the following headline ideas:

:: How to Create the Perfect Beach House Décor on a Budget

:: How To Do Rustic Right

:: How to Create Big Style in a Small Space

:: Your Luxe Living Room: 12 Small Changes You Can Make Today for Big Impact

:: DIY Weekend Project: Create the Perfect Outdoor Retreat

From Magazine Headlines in the fashion industry, I came up with these headline ideas:

:: The Best _________ for Every Body Type (swimsuit, dress, etc.)

:: How to Look Like You Hired a Stylist (Even When You Didn’t)

:: Hot Trends and Amazing Accessories for Every Budget

:: 5 Minute Styling Tricks You Can Learn Today

:: The One Accessory Every Woman Needs Right Now

:: How to Dress for Your Body Type

Book Chapter Titles

You can use the same method to gather book chapter titles to use as headline templates. Here’s what you want to do here:

Search on your topic in the books category; choose a few books in your niche from the returned results.

Once you get to the list of books you want to check out, click on books with the “Look Inside!” option on the book cover image so you can get a look-see at what’s inside.

Once “inside” the book, cruise through the Table of Contents, specifically Chapter Titles of said book, and let the idea sparking begin!

(Again, you don’t want to copy these headlines/ideas verbatim; you want to use them to craft headlines that are geared specifically to your business and your audience.)

So let’s take our hypothetical interior design business and come up with some headline ideas from book chapter titles:

:: How to Decorate Like a Pro, Even If You’re Design-Challenged

:: 3 Investment Pieces Everyone Should Own: Which Pieces to Spend the Big Bucks On and Why

:: Home Design Basics: What You Need to Know Before You Get Started on Your Next DIY Project

:: The Ultimate Guide to the Best Decorating Resources Online

:: How to Build a Room Around a Signature Piece

Now let’s do the same for our fashion business:

:: How to Shop Like a Stylist

:: How to Go from Demure to Daring with a Signature Wow Piece

:: 3/5/7 or 2/4/6: Guide to Understanding Clothing Sizes

:: The One Must-Own Item That Complements Every Body Type

:: 10 Wardrobe Staples Every Woman Should Own

See, how easy was that? By spending just half an hour looking through Amazon, we came up with 21 headline ideas, not to mention, ideas for what to write about in the first place!

Now just for fun, if you’re completely stumped for a headline idea, head on over to Portent’s Content Idea Generator. Enter the subject you want to write about, and the generator will give you some headline ideas.

When I did this for the very article you’re reading right now, Portent suggested the following headlines:

:: Why Great Headlines Beat Peanut Butter on Pancakes

:: The 5 Best Resources for Magnetic Headlines

:: How Benefit Driven Headlines Are Making the World a Better Place

And my personal favorite:

:: Why Copywriting Will Change Your Life

Fun stuff, huh?

So there you have it. Tons of easy-to-implement headline templates you can start using today to get your content read, shared and acted upon. And for still more writing magnetic headlines goodness, check out the additional resources below.

Additional Resources

If you’re serious about learning to write great headlines, you can head over to Copyblogger at the link below and sign up to receive the free e-book, How to Write Magnetic Headlines. I’ve got it and it’s good. Seriously, you’ll find dozens of easy-to-implement headline templates in it, so go to town, my friend:

How to Write Magnetic Headlines

From Alexandra Franzen, here are 10 ways to write blog post titles, headlines & email subject lines that make people go, “whoa!”

And from Buffer, check out this in-depth post on how to write headlines for all the various kinds of content you’ll be writing as you build your online empire:

30+ Ultimate Headline Formulas for Tweets, Posts, Articles, and Emails

Comments? Questions? Other headline templates you’d like to share? Leave ‘em in the comments below!

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15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly, from the fine folks at Copyblogger

I love it when I find an Infographic to embed on my site that speaks to something near and dear to my heart — and this is one of  ’em.

The English major in me loves these quick and easy grammar lessons from the good folks at Copyblogger.

Enjoy!
15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
Like this infographic? Get more content marketing tips from Copyblogger.

Content Creation Case Study: Blog Topics for an Interior Design Business

This is the second in a series of Content Creation Case Studies, where we explore a few dozen blog topic and newsletter ideas for small business bloggers in the creative space.

(Marketing online with killer free content is one of the most effective ways to up your business visibility, increase your search engine traffic, and establish yourself as the go-to person in your niche. All of which, if done correctly, will result in more sales. To do that well, you need to add fresh new content to your blog at least weekly, if possible. And to do that, you need topic ideas. That’s why I’m adding these content creation case studies to the blog on a regular basis, to get you, my creative friend, to start creating your own killer content. Check back frequently for your creative biz type – I’m sure to be covering it in a case study sometime soon.)

Last case study I laid out my system for easily and consistently coming up with dozens of content ideas, and put a clothing and accessories boutique through a brainstorming session, generating 34 potential topics this business could blog about.

Today we’re going to apply the same brainstorming & content creation system to an interior design business.

(Check out the links at the end of this blog post for more information about the system I use. Also note, the topic ideas here are slightly generic; you would obviously trick these ideas up to gear them to your specific audience.)

Amazon is a great place to start the brainstorming, so let’s begin there. What you want to do is search for books in your topic area, then look at book chapter titles. Next take a look at magazines on Amazon in your topic area, and note article headlines.

From these two resources I noted 28 blog topic ideas someone in the interior design business could write about.

From Amazon Book Chapter Titles, these ideas surfaced:

How to Decorate Like a Pro, Even If You’re Design-Challenged

How to Define Your Interior Design Style

How to Set a Decorating Budget

3 Investment Pieces Everyone Should Own: Which Pieces to Spend the Big Bucks On

Design Basics: What You Need to Know Before You Get Started on Your Next Project

Guide to the Best Decorating Resources Online

How to Build a Room Around a Signature Piece

How to Tie a Room Together with Color

A series of Home Design 101 and How-To Shop posts would make a great category for a weekly blog post (again, using Amazon book chapter titles):

Using Color 101

Lighting 101

Rugs 101

Room Layout 101

How to Shop for Furniture Online

How to Shop: Dept. Stores

How to Shop: Vintage and Second-Hand and/or Consignment

How to Shop: Catalogues

How to Shop: Yard Sales and Flea Markets

Ideas Generated from Magazine Headlines:

How to Create the Perfect Beach House Décor on a Budget

How To Do Rustic

50 Best Kitchen Ideas

50 Best Bathroom Ideas

Little Changes for Big Impact

How to Perk Up Your Rooms with Color

How to Create the Perfect Outdoor Retreat

Transform Your Home with Details

10 Picture-Hanging Tips

How to Create Big Style in a Small Space

Best Buys for Every Budget

The 28 ideas above came from 20-30 minutes of brainstorming on Amazon, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg, as there were over 33,000 books listed in Amazon in the interior design category alone. **I don’t suggest using the headlines you find on Amazon verbatim; instead, use them as writing prompts — you’ll want to tweak them for your specific business and target audience.

After signing out of Amazon, I came up with a few ideas of my own:

* How to Hire an Interior Designer: 5 Must-Know Tips (other variations on this idea: When to Hire an Interior Designer, Why Hire an Interior Designer, etc.)

* Essential Design Principles Every DIY’er Needs to Know

* How This Home Got Style: A Before & After Story (turn this into a weekly or monthly series on your blog and use it to show off your kick-butt design skills)

* One Couple, Two Very Different Design Aesthetics: How to Combine Your Styles for Maximum Impact (and Happiness!)

* From Ho-Hum to W-O-W: How to Use Luxe Accessories to Spice Up a Boring Room

 

And there you have it – 33 blog topic ideas from 30 minutes of brainstorming.

Now it’s time for you to give this brainstorming technique a try and let your creative freak flag fly, baby!

—–
**The Amazon generated ideas are somewhat generic; if this were a real client of mine, I would suggest much more specific blog topics based on their particular brand personality and target audience.**

For blog content brainstorming and content creation, I use the process I outlined in “3 Content Creation Hacks That Work Every Time,” and “How to Generate Blog Post Ideas, Part 2.”

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

How to Set Up a Blog in 4 Easy Steps

Wordpress.org for blogging

That’s right, my creative friends!  Let’s get this get this piece of your marketing pie in place ASAP, so you can start sharing your brilliance with the world and educating your prospects and customers about what you have to offer.

We’ve talked on the blog many times about the benefits of blogging for business, so I won’t belabor the point here. Instead, let’s jump right to setting up your blog.

(Read more here about the benefits of blogging for your business if you still need convincing.  ; ) )

If you’re serious about creating a piece of online real estate which you own and control, and which can help build your brand online, then the method and resources below are what I suggest. Especially, use WordPress.org for your blogging platform. It’s simply the most robust and customizable platform out there, and proves you’re a serious player and not just a hobbyist when it comes to your business and brand.

There are just 4 steps to getting your blog set up (yes, it really is this simple), and they are:

1. Buy a domain
2. Get web hosting
3. Set up WordPress.org
4. Pick a theme

Each of these things are fairly simple and straightforward to do, and you DO NOT need to be “technical” to do them on your own. Seriously. If I did it, anyone can do it.

The link below will take you to 4 short videos on how to do each of these steps; all 4 videos together will take less than half an hour to watch. The videos explain, step-by-step, in simple language, how to get your blog up and running quickly.

(The videos were created by David Risley, who earns a healthy 6 figures a year plus from blogging, so he knows what he’s talking about where blogging is concerned. I took an intensive months long blogging course from David a few years ago which taught me much of what I know and use today.)

David Risley’s blog set up guide, in 4 Easy Steps:
http://www.blogmarketingacademy.com/blog-setup/

Good luck, and Happy Blogging!

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

Content Marketing for Small Business: 3 Articles You Need to Read Now

flickr photo by Rennett Stowe

Today on the blog, an OPC (Other People’s Content) Round-up of killer content marketing & strategy articles.

You’ll find thousands of articles about content marketing out there on the vast interwebz, but if you read these three now, you’ll be able to create your own content marketing plan (at least the 101 version) and start implementing it tomorrow.

Check ’em out:

Small business owners, get your content strategy ducks in a row for killer results. This article will give an excellent overview of how to make it happen:
http://www.quicksprout.com/2012/03/08/9-hard-hitting-content-strategies-for-small-business-blogging/

Next, use these 10 content marketing templates to get everything organized. Templates for content planning, keyword tracking, sales communication, and more:
http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/2011/08/content-marketing-templates/

And finally, 3 things your content must do — be entertaining, strategic and shareable. Get the details here:
http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog/2012/07/02/the-3-essential-elements-of-successful-content-marketing/

So there you have it, enough information to get you started on your own content marketing plan.

Leave your questions or insights on content marketing in the comments section below!

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

Content Creation Case Study: Blog Topics for a Clothing and Accessories Boutique

Fashion - Clothing and Accessories Boutique

If you’re dipping your toe in the content marketing water, then you know that marketing online with killer free content is one of the most effective ways to up your business visibility, increase your search engine traffic, and establish yourself as the go-to person in your niche.

All of which, if done correctly, will result in more sales. And who doesn’t want that?

To make content marketing work for you, however, you have to commit to creating original content on a regular basis. Yet I see so many blogs and websites out there that I know must have started with the best of intentions, but at some point ran out of steam.

You know the ones – blogs that were posted to twice a week for a few months, then once every other week, then, oh, about once every other month, until the sad day when you visit the blog and you can see the blogger just gave up. Because all that’s left is the ghostly shadow of a blog that hasn’t been posted to in months.

Ahem . . . is that you?

Of course when you’re trying to run a business, creating killer content on a weekly basis can seem overwhelming. The complaint I hear most often is, “but I don’t have enough ideas to write about every week.”

Today I’m going to take you through the exact process I use when working with a client to brainstorm blog topic ideas and create a content plan, using a fictional Clothing and Accessories Boutique as an example.

**The examples below are somewhat generic; if this were a real client of mine, I would suggest much more specific blog topics based on their particular brand personality and target audience.**

For blog content brainstorming, I use the process I outlined in “3 Content Creation Hacks That Work Every Time,” and “How to Generate Blog Post Ideas, Part 2.”

Essentially the steps are:

1. Keep an “Ideas” file and set aside an hour or two each week to brainstorm topic ideas

2. During that time, go through the resources below and “idea gather,” adding the best ideas to your ideas file

3. At the beginning of each week/month/quarter or whatever time increment works best for you, review the ideas in your file and plan out your content for the week/month/quarter, etc. How you plan out your content will depend on your goals, products or services you’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks and months, and any sales, events, promos and so on you have planned.

The resources from which you will gather ideas are: magazine headlines, Alltop, Amazon, Google Alerts, blogs in your niche, and HARO queries, to start. (For more information on these resources and how to use them to generate blog topic ideas, read the blog posts linked up above.)

Let’s take this fictional Clothing and Accessories Boutique through the paces, using just two of the resources above:

From Magazine Headlines in the fashion industry, I noted these ideas for blog posts:

The Best _________ for Every Body Type (swimsuit, dress, etc.)

How to Look Like You Hired a Stylist (Even When You Didn’t)

Best Colors to Wear Now

Hot Trends and Amazing Accessories for Every Budget

5 Minute Styling Tricks

The One Accessory Every Woman Needs Right Now

How to Dress for Your Body Type/to Flatter Your Body Type

From Amazon Book Chapter Titles, these ideas surfaced:

How to Shop Like a Stylist

Top 5 Fashion Misconceptions

10 Glamour Essentials Under $100

How to Shop for Vintage/How to Wear Vintage

How to Go from Demure to Daring with a Signature Wow Piece

15 Must-Own Accessories

3/5/7 or 2/4/6: Guide to Understanding Clothing Sizes

How to Personalize Your Look with Vintage

How to Camouflage with Color

The One Must-Own Item That Complements Every Body Type

10 Wardrobe Staples Every Woman Should Own

(That’s 18 blog topic ideas, and that bit of brainstorming took me less than an hour to do. Once I used the magazine headlines and book chapter titles shortcuts, the ideas below also came to me. )

A series of Fashion 101 Posts would make a great category for a weekly blog post:

Why You Should Spend More on the Basics

5 Investment Pieces Every Woman Should Own

Steps to Developing Your Personal Style

How to Shop: Dept. Stores

How to Shop: Sample Sales

How to Shop: Vintage and Second-Hand and/or Consignment

How to Shop: The Internet

How to Shop: Catalogues

How to Decide if a Trend Works for You

A series of Definition Posts would also work well:

Haute Couture

Prét-a-Porter

Sample Sale

And how about a “Style Icons” category for this fashion blog?

The Grace Kelly Guide to Looking Sexy in Pearls

The Jackie O Guide to Finding the Perfect Pair of Sunglasses

The Marilyn Monroe Guide to Dressing Like a Bombshell

The Betsey Johnson Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Style

That’s 34 total ideas for blog posts; if our fashion blogger posts twice a week, that’s over 4 months worth of material. And I only used the Magazine Headlines and Book Chapter Titles shortcuts to come up with these 34 ideas — if I finished out the exercise using the 4 other resources mentioned above, I could come up with enough ideas for an entire year.

The same will happen for you: once you get into this process and let it flow, you are going to come up with many of your own killer ideas for blog posts, whatever your topic happens to be.

**I don’t suggest using the headlines you find on Amazon verbatim; instead, use them as writing prompts — you’ll want to tweak them for your specific business and target audience.

Now you try it. Go ahead, let your creative freak flag fly, baby!

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

How to Write the Perfect Blog Post

I love to share a good resource when I find one, because hey, sharing is caring.  Check out the uber-useful cheat sheet below before writing your next blog post, from Derek Halpern at Social Triggers (link to his info below, under graphic).

PerfectBlogPost
Like this? Get more marketing tips from Social Triggers.

How to Generate Blog Post Ideas, Part 2

Last blog post I talked about my system for consistently generating dozens of ideas for blog posts and weekly newsletter content, and shared three resources you can use to find kick-butt ideas of your own.

This time I want to talk about three other good resources for idea-gathering:

1. Google Alerts

Google Alerts will allow you to monitor any topic or search term you choose; when results are found for that search term, Google sends them to you in an email.

You choose result type:  “Everything,” or, news, blogs, videos, discussions, books, etc., frequency:  once a day, as they happen or once a week, and how many: “only the best results” or “all results.”

This is a great tool for generating content ideas, but you can also use it to gather market and competitor intelligence, and who doesn’t want that?

Go here to set up your own Google Alerts.

2. Blogs in your niche

I love this as an idea generator, because it’s essentially killing two birds with one stone – you’re likely reading the blogs in your niche anyway, so why not gather some ideas while you’re there? Just pop over to a few of your favorites and note what’s being written about.

But don’t stop there – you’ll also want to pay attention to which blog posts get the most interaction in the way of comments and social shares.  This will give you an idea of some of the hot topics in your niche.

You’re not going to copy these ideas verbatim, of course, but use the material to spark your own ideas, and add these to your Ideas File.  You can then write about these topics from the opposite viewpoint, or go deeper into them for a more nuanced view, etc.

3. HARO Queries

HARO is an email list you sign up for to receive daily queries from reporters who need sources for their stories; it stands for “Help A Reporter Out.”

There’s a whole other blog post waiting to be written about how to mine HARO for sharing your expertise and getting publicity for your business, but today I simply want point out what a great tool it is for generating blog post ideas.

Why is this a such a great short cut for getting content ideas?  Because each HARO email alert will have several queries in multiple categories, and since journalists are looking for sources for these stories on a deadline, you already know they are super hot, timely topics.  Just a little tip from me to you.  ; )

Sign up for your own HARO email alerts here.

 

There you have it, 3 more excellent resources to add to your blog post idea generating toolkit.  And for still more idea gathering, you might want to check out forums in your niche, Tweetmeme for trending Twitter topics, Google Trends, or simply address questions your customers frequently ask .

So tell me, what are your go-to tips for coming up with blog post and newsletter topic ideas?  Please share in the comments, I’d love to know your tricks!

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

3 Content Creation Hacks That Work Every Time

If you have a blog, a newsletter, social media accounts you post to daily, or any other venue that requires fresh new content on a regular basis, you’re familiar with the never-ending hunger of the content beast.

The content beast is devoted to gobbling up the very best and meatiest content you can provide, but come next week, or next day, or next hour, that content eater wants to be fed again.

And creating this content on a regular basis is what prevents a lot of harried, overworked small business owners from engaging in content marketing at all, despite its many benefits.

I get it. It seems overwhelming.

But you’re smart – you know that for marketing and SEO purposes, positioning yourself as an expert in your niche online by providing juicy new content on a regular basis is a critical piece of your marketing pie.

What you need is a system.

Because here’s the thing:  great blog post or newsletter ideas don’t materialize out of the blue, like an inspirational lightning bolt from a Greek god/goddess — well, sometimes they do, but you can’t count on this bit of serendipity on a weekly basis – you need a system for coming up with ideas.

So I’m a gonna tell you what I do, then I’m going to give you the no-fail techniques I use that work like a charm, every single time, to generate fresh content ideas daily, weekly and monthly.

My personal system for consistently generating ideas for blog posts, newsletter content, guest posts, social media status updates, and so on, which can be adapted to any niche you happen to do business in, is this:

1. I keep an “Ideas File” – a Notepad doc is open on my computer at all times while I’m on the interwebs.  Anytime I see anything that sparks an idea – blog post, newsletter, newspaper headline, social media status update, video, etc. —  I paste the link to that resource into my Notepad doc and add a few notes about it.

2. I set aside at least one hour each week to get really quiet and do some serious brainstorming for content ideas.  Early in the morning at my desk with a strong cup of coffee, a legal pad, and the patio door open seems to work best for me.  (The key is to treat this hour each week like a firm it’s-written-in-ink-in-your-day-planner appointment with yourself.  )

3. I commit an hour each week to go through the resources below and “idea-gather;” again, making a note in my Notepad doc of every idea that comes to me while doing so. These content creation “hacks” have served me well, and I bet they’ll do the same for you.

That’s it — that’s my current “system,” which I constantly tweak, but which works extremely well for me.

Tried-and-True Methods for Generating Heaps of Compelling Content Ideas

I’m going to take the broad topic of “small business marketing” through the paces of the content creation hacks below to show you how I do it.

1.  Magazine Headlines

One of the best ways to spark ideas for blog posts your audience wants to read is to grab a bunch of magazines in your niche and read through the headlines, a handy little shortcut I wrote about in more detail in How to Create Blog Posts Your Target Audience Wants to Read.

Publishers spend thousands of dollars and do exhaustive research to figure out which stories will generate the strongest response among their readers, so why not piggyback on that research to gather some ideas for your own business/blog/newsletter niche?

Want some examples?  I thought you might.

From Entrepreneur (online), I spied these headlines:

• Need Ideas for Your Business Blog?  Here Are 50

• How to Create a Social Media Marketing Schedule

• How to Adopt a Sales Mindset

• In Amish Country, A Lesson in Niche Marketing

My creative juices are already flowing with ideas for a blog post and a couple of social media status updates I can do, using just the headlines here.

2. Alltop

Alltop bills itself as “an online magazine rack for your favorite topics.”   Essentially, Alltop aggregates the latest stories from the best sites and blogs that cover a particular topic.  They then group these collections, or “aggregations,” into individual web pages, and display the five most recent headlines of the information sources as well as their first paragraph.

From the “small business” topic page on Alltop, I found these interesting stories (among hundreds):

• How to Grow a Business with Little Cash

• Don’t Confuse Passion with Competence

• Do Your Services Pass the Sniff Test?

• The 5 Biggest Email Marketing Mistakes

• 7 Low-Budget Small Business Marketing Ideas

• How to Write A Business Story Pitch

3.  Amazon

There are hundreds of ideas hiding in plain sight inside Amazon you can riff off of for your own content ideas.  Here’s what you want to do here:  search on your topic in the books category, then pick a few books in your niche from the returned results.  Once you get there, click on the “Look Inside!” option on the book cover image.  Once there you can cruise through the Table of Contents of said book, and let the idea sparking begin!

I searched the Books category on “small business marketing,” which returned 5193 results.  Gold mine!  : )

From the book “Duct Tape Marketing” by John Jantsch I see these chapters in the Table of Contents:

• Identify Your Ideal Client

• Discover Your Core Marketing Message

• Get Found Online in Your Town

From the book “Book Yourself Solid” by Michael Port, these:

• Why People Buy What You’re Selling

• Develop a Personal Brand

• The Book Yourself Solid Web Strategy

I’ve already written about getting found online in your town a little and I know it’s a topic I want to produce more content on, so that’s going into the “Ideas File,” ditto “Why People Buy What You’re Selling,” because I find the psychology of business and sales so fascinating, and it would make for a great blog article.  So there ya go, I just got at least two ideas for blog posts from spending just 10 minutes on this exercise.

Now don’t you know that if I spent an hour going through the chapter titles of a few more of those 5193 books on small business marketing, I’d come up with dozens more ideas? You betcha, and you can do exactly the same thing.

There are several other resources I use regularly to generate ideas for content, which I’ll talk about next time on the blog.  Until then, why don’t you give these three methods a try and see what you come up with?

What are your tried-and-true methods for coming up with great content?  Share them in the Comments!

 

[Don’t have time to do this yourself, but want an editorial calendar of solid content ideas for your blog and newsletter for the next 60-90 days?  Check out the Content Coaching/Strategy Session option on the Work With Me page!]

Why Your Small Food, Wine or Creative Business Needs a Blog

The inbound marketing experts at Hubspot report that businesses that blog get 55% more website visitors than those that don’t.

If you know anything about blogging, you already know that it’s great for search engine optimization, hence the statistic above.  But if you’re a small business or solopreneur just starting out, you may not even have a website to optimize just yet.

And that’s Reason # 1 for starting a blog, so you can quickly establish your home base online if you haven’t yet. You want to have some kind of online presence that has a blog or website as its centerpiece. Did you know you can set up a free blog on WordPress.org, and this can BE your website? Yep, you don’t have to use the WordPress platform for blogging, you can use it AS your main website, and it makes a very nice one, in fact.  And did I mention it’s free?

(This blog you’re reading?  It’s running on WordPress.org.  Didn’t cost me anything at all for the blog platform itself, just $10 to register the domain name and about $8 per month for hosting. That’s all.)

Reason #2:  If you’re a creative business, a blog is a perfect place to strut your creative stuff on a regular, instantly updateable, basis.  For crafters, photographers, painters, graphic designers, writers, interior designers, jewelry makers, etc. – what better way to keep your latest, greatest work of art in front of your customers and potential customers?

The beauty of a blog over a website is that you can update it as often as you like, even several times a day if you’re feeling it.  Got a bolt of inspiration you want to share with your readers and customers on the fly?  Update your blog in minutes with your latest image, design, handcrafted jewelry, or other work of creative genius.  ; )

Reason #2a:  If you’re a restaurant or wine business, same idea as #2, above. You know how frequently things can change in this business, and having a blog is a great, instant way to update your customers and prospective customers on what’s going on.

You know how it is:  your weekly specials already went out to your e-mail list subscribers and/or you put them up at your website, and now the trout/sea bass/mahi mahi or what-have-you didn’t come in.  You have to sub something out on the menu, and now you can update the weekly specials instantly on your blog.

Wine peeps, same for you.  I’ve worked in the industry, so I know how disappointing it is when that excellent wine you tasted with your rep on Wednesday, the one you were going to offer at your tasting this weekend, doesn’t come in.   But if you’ve got a blog, you can write a few lines about something else delicious and wonderful you’ll feature instead.

(And yes, you can do all this via your Facebook or Twitter account as well, but on your blog you’re not limited by a finite number of characters, and you can make the experience so much richer for your audience.)

Reason #3:  You need to have a piece of online real estate that you own and control.   You have no ownership of your social media profiles/accounts, so it’s wise to funnel your Facebook, Twitter and other social media followers to a place you DO own and control, and where ideally, you can also collect their e-mail addresses:  a blog.   And you also want a place where you can share longer form content than you can at your social media sites.

Let me give you an example:  I have a friend who is a gifted photographer.  She owns a really cool business where she offers a specific and individualized service for her clients.  She’s got tons of email addresses of folks she’s sold to before, thousands of followers/fans on her FB business page, and lots of followers on Twitter.  She also has a website, hosted on Yahoo.

There’s a lot of great stuff going on here, but she doesn’t have a central hub that she owns and controls.   Now, what if Twitter and Facebook went away tomorrow?  Not likely, I know, but what if?  There go 3500 leads – poof.  But if you’ve got those 3500 coming to your blog, and ideally signed up for your e-mail list, you have a real, true asset.  And one you can market to and interact with again and again with your high quality content, products and services.

Social media sites are great, but you want to get your peeps over to your main hub or website – so use social media to share and interact and to add an extra  layer to your customer service (among other things), but make sure to also use it to drive peeps to your blog or website, where you can collect their email addresses, build a relationship with them, and then communicate with them over and over again.

Those are just three reasons you want to consider having a blog for your business, and ones I think are very important, but there are loads of other good reasons as well:

• To establish your expertise and set yourself up as an authority figure in your niche

• To interact with clients/customers and prospects, and to educate them about more than your products and services

• To build and strengthen authentic relationships with your customer base that makes them know, like and trust you, so that they want to come only to you for that thing you do. A blog is a great way to build a personal connection with your audience.

• To capture leads (through an e-mail sign up form on your blog – easy to implement)

• To improve your search engine rankings

•  A blog is a valuable marketing asset where you can build a following that is naturally curious about what you offer.

I know maintaining a blog is a commitment, because you’ve got to figure out what to post and you’ve got to have time to update it regularly, but the benefits far outweigh the time commitment, if done correctly!  : )

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]