27 January 2014

i ♥ my blog: task 4 – write something epic

I ♥ My Blog: Task 4 -- Write Something EPIC
Today’s task is to write something epic for your blog. Spend the next few days working on an amazing blog post. Set the tone for the rest of 2014 with this fantastic article.

A lot of bloggers or website managers enter the new year with one goal in mind: traffic-building. Whether it’s “I want to increase my audience” or “I want more traffic in general,” bloggers often hone in on that traffic goal and think of little else. That’s perfectly fine—it’s a great goal, and of course we all want our audience to grow—but if we focus on a goal like that too singularly, we forget that our purpose is not building traffic.

Let me repeat that … Your purpose, as a blogger, is not to build traffic.

Your goal is to be awesome.

Let me explain. When we focus on “building traffic” as our mission, we focus on the share-factor, the generation-factor, the numbers game. What we stop focusing on, however, tends to be the thing that matters most: the people factor. We get so focused on building our numbers, we forget about delivering meaningful content for our audience. I urge you to stop focusing on the promotional element of blogging—yes, you can learn to master Twitter and Facebook and Google Plus, and so forth, but that’s not the main goal—and learn to refocus on the personal element. To put it in a word, you need to learn to be … Epic.

What does being “epic” have to do with great blogging? Simply put, it shifts the focus. When we’re focusing on numbers, we tend to focus on efficiency. Again, efficiency is great in blogging; you need to learn how to be efficient to keep yourself from going insane. But by focusing on being epic, we’re thinking a little differently. Here are some things to keep in mind to be epic:

be effective

By “be effective” I don’t mean efficient: I mean, “Have an effect.” Be real with your readers. Give your content value. Be useful. Give your readers something that really impacts them, by giving your readers something they can use, whether it’s to improve their lives or generate conversation or something else altogether.

be personal

Being personal in blogging is a two-fold work. First, to be personal means to be people-oriented. Stop focusing on the numbers and think about the people who are generating those numbers. Your reader is not a statistic … so stop treating them that way. So often, the main thing we look at is how much traffic we get and how much our numbers rise month to month. In doing this, we forget that there are faces behind those numbers. If we’re not writing to those faces, we’re not doing our jobs. Period. The second aspect of being personal is related: remember that we’re part of our own audiences, too. Whoever your audience is, you probably count yourself as “one of them.” If you’re writing to writers, you’re probably a writer. If you’re writing to gardeners, you’re probably a gardener. Consider the difference between these two statements: “You need to consider your audience” versus “We need to consider our audiences.” One sounds like an accusation; the other sounds like a mutual journey. Consider the power of embracing our audiences as “people like us” instead of “people who like us.”

be inspirational

Inspire your readers. Give them something to think about. Change their lives. Blow them away. Create something they will find worth sharing with others. Imagine: What would happen if we focused on inspiring and motivating our audiences? What would happen if, instead of thinking “How can I keep my audience?” or “How can I keep my numbers up?” we thought “How can I motivate and encourage my audience?” and “How can I keep their passion up?” Then, write the answer to that question.

be cooler

I’m not telling you that you have to be the top content creator out there, or even the coolest writer out there. But there’s a lot of mediocre content out there, and a lot of people are writing the same things over and over. Be cooler than that. Take what others have done and make it better. Find your own unique bend on a familiar or popular topic. Be the person other people go to when they want “something different” on the same old theme.

Your Turn: What’s something epic you have in you? How can you be Effective, Personal, Inspirational, and Cooler right now? What’s the burning topic you’ve had in you? What does your audience need to hear today? Share what you think it means to be epic in the comments below, or share the most epic thing you’ve read recently and what makes it epic, so we have some examples to pull from!


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***** 

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24 January 2014

blogger gold: the ten commandments of blogging

I ♥ My Blog: Blogger Gold from the Web!
Just this past December, Stanford Smith, the marketing director at Pushing Social, shared "The 10 Commandments of Blogging" at PR Daily. Smith's tips include the importance of building an email list, having a great looking blog, and using social media wisely. Check them out at the link below:


Your Turn: What are your top "commandments" for blogging? What are the rules you always hold to with your writing? Share your tips, rules, and blogging "commandments" in the comments below! 

Bonus Task: Think about your blog's topic or niche and come up with a "ten commandments" for that subject! (It doesn't have to be a ten commandments list ... it could be a top five list of tips, or a top seven rules for achieving this or that within your topic. Remember, these are the types of posts that tend to be evergreen, so have at it!)

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22 January 2014

5 tips for creating awesome blog content in 2014

I ♥ My Blog: Create Awesome Blog Content in 2014!
We’ve all heard that “content is king.” But how do you make sure that your content rules? Here are five basic tips for creating great content for your blog or website. Keep in mind, these are the basics: only you can really determine what’s “great content” for your site. But by following these five basic “rules” of content, you’ll have a simple standard to build the foundation of your website’s ability to consistently produce content readers love!

be visual

Graphics are a great way to break up text content, which helps keep readers from becoming bored with your writing. Images also give your readers something to remember in two ways. First, they provide an eye-catching reminder of points within your text content (which means readers associate the graphic with your content, so that they remember the content better). Secondly, they represent you: your graphics should give your readers something to remember you by. I’m a big fan of self-generated website graphics. Bonus: I’m also a big fan of investing time in learning a graphics editing program like Photoshop (if you have a buck to spare) or Gimp (if you’re counting pennies). Graphics that you make yourself add a personal touch … just be sure that they are made (relatively) well (you don’t have to be Picasso … just make sure you’re a fair step up from finger painting).

be real

Be sincere in your writing, and make sure your voice is clear, concise, and genuinely yours. A lot of advice on creating good content will focus on using concise language, short sentences, and so forth. But all of that is meaningless if your readers sense you are being insincere. Write on topics you’re actually interested in, not just things you think people want to read. If you have a sense of humor, use it. If you’re fascinated by linguistics, use it. Whoever you are, whatever your style, make sure it is clear in your writing and blog content. People will be attracted to your genuine style, and will stick with you as long as you stick with it.

be brief

That said … remember that whole “use concise language, short sentences, and so forth” thing? Well, it’s still important. Just as no amount of short speech will keep a reader’s attention if you’re phony, no amount of genuine and sincere writing will keep your reader’s attention if you’re long winded. Use bullet points or lists to break up sections. Highlight important points in bold so readers know what to focus on. Keep it secret … keep it safe. Wait, no, wrong franchise: Keep it simple and sweet.

be catchy

Use strong headlines to draw readers into your piece. A strong headline doesn’t necessarily have to be quirky or evocative … it simply needs to be something that readers are looking for. For example, you’ll find any number of articles with the title “How to Create Awesome Content.” It’s not particularly interesting, but it’s what a lot of bloggers want to know. If you’re looking for “evergreen” article ideas, consider “How To” or “What Is” content. That said, it doesn’t hurt to have a truly catchy title every once in a while! Think carefully about the headlines, headings, and blurbs you use within your articles and blog posts.

be anticipatory

Anticipate! Don’t just think about what’s popular now … think about what the hot topics in your subject matter will be in a few months. Look at the current hot topics and think about how they will change. Anticipate what your audience will be looking for, and be ready to provide it. For example, if you’re site focuses on writing, you probably know the big writing events throughout the year: April is Poetry Month, November is National Novel Writing Month, etc. Start writing unique ways to celebrate Poetry Month in March. Start sharing tips for organizing and drafting a novel in September and October. If you write a home improvement blog, think about the big “seasons” in housing: spring cleaning, summer moves, fall d├ęcor, winter home improvements. Share relevant content in those seasons, but also be the one providing decorating tips well in advance of the upcoming holiday or housing season. Create the content your readers need before they know they need it, and make sure when readers come to your content they read it thinking, “I was just thinking about this!”

Your Turn: How do you make sure you have great content? What are your “rules” for creating awesome blog posts, articles, and so on? Share your tips for creating a good standard of blogging, and your fundamentals for creating content, in the comments below!


*****

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Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

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20 January 2014

i ♥ my blog: task 3 – define your readers

I ♥ My Blog: Task 3 - Define Your Readers
Today’s task is to define your readers. Work on identifying, and defining, who your audience is … that is, who you are trying to write for. This has a lot to do with your blog or website’s purpose, but also takes the definition of what your site is all about an important step further. Rather than just focusing on what you want to do, defining your audience defines both who you are doing it for and what you think they want from you.

To start defining your audience, consider the following:

what is your niche?

Your niche is made up of your blog or website’s theme, subject matter, and focus. For example, Our Lost Jungle focuses on the art of creative writing, publishing, and other subjects related to writing, cultivating creativity, etc. My niche is along the same lines: to keep it broad, my niche is creative writing. Knowing your niche helps you define your audience, for obvious reasons …  your readers are looking for writing within that same niche. Understanding your niche helps you to understand what it is your readers are looking for. Further, once you understand your niche, you can examine other blogs or websites that write within your chosen focus to see what works.

Things to consider when considering your niche include: genre, subject matter, tone, standard content

who are your desired readers?

While defining your audience has a lot to do with knowing who is reading you now, it also has a lot to do with who you want to be reading your work! Think about your dream reader! What is that person looking for? Knowing who your dream reader is helps you to define what you need to do to read those readers. As you consider the type of audience you want, also look at what your desired reader is already reading. What do the big name blogs and websites that cater to your desired audience do that works? How can you mirror it on your site? How can you do it better, or differently?

Things to consider when defining your desired reader include: what are they looking for, what are they reading, what can you offer

how can you refine your readers?

Refining your readers does not mean you’re trying to cultivate or improve the people you’re reaching out to … it means you are narrowing the breadth of your audience. It’s one thing to say “Our Lost Jungle is a site for writers.” It’s another to get specific and know that the readers I’m trying to reach are “writers who are seeking guidance in navigating the tricky waters of the writing world.” There are more specifics to the type of writer I’m writing for … but the takeaway is that you need to tailor your expectations of your reader (who they are, with as specific a focus as you can get) so that you can adequately tailor your writing to match that audience!

Things to consider when refining your audience include: specifics (who you are specifically writing for), varieties (you will likely have more than one specific group you are writing for), blends (you should also consider where your audiences intersect, and what you can do with those intersections)

Your Turn: Who is your audience? What do you need to do to cater your content to both the audience you have and the audience you want? Share your thoughts on defining your audience, and how it affects your blog or website’s content, in the comments below!


*****

Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please also sign up for the free email updates from Our Lost Jungle!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

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17 January 2014

i ♥ my blog: “i want to go to there” – five sites to visit to make your blog awesome(-er)

I ♥ My Blog: Five Sites to Visit to Make Your Blog Awesome
In case you’re wondering why this Friday’s post is so late, you can thank a fellow reader. I had a post on a few great articles on blogging all ready to go … and then I got an email with a kind of unique question. The question, from a new blogger, started out simple enough: “Why is your site so awesome?” And while I was all kinds of humbled by that question (and assumed “awesome” was used in the same way some of my students used to tell me my lecture outlines were awesome, as in “helpful,” not necessarily “cool”), the writer went on to ask: “And where do I go to make my site awesome?”

So for a few hours today I went hunting.

To be honest, the answer to both questions is: You. My site is “awesome” because my readers—you—are awesome, and you keep me on my toes! Your site will be awesome when you look into that same awesome you and find what it is that makes you awesome. But, knowing this isn’t the answer you (or the questioner) are looking for, here are a few great sites to visit to help your blog become awesome.


writersbucketlist.com

A Writer’s Bucket List by DIY Writing is an amazing resource for getting yourself motivated to write this year! This site is chop full of helpful tools, prompts, resources, and more to help you “find your path” as you free-fall into writing. And why are you free-falling, you may wonder? Because DIY Writing will all but literally push you out of the writing nest. Go there once you’re ready to step your first bold steps out of your comfort zone, and get ready for an amazing ride!

how to be legendary

“You cannot fail. You can only quit.” This manifesto from Johnny B Truant is yet another kick in the pants. While not expressly for bloggers and writers, it’s definitely a must read for anyone hoping to get their own butts in gear and knock out some major goals. The site is merely a landing page to download a free copy of the manifesto, but it’s definitely worth a visit, and an entering of your email, and a clicking of a “Submit” button.

copyblogger.com

Copyblogger is a site full of valuable information designed to help you provide valuable information. In their own words, Copyblogger works to teach people “how to create killer online content … that attracts attention, drives traffic, and builds your business.” With phenomenal (and frequent!) articles on writing tips, valuable writers to watch, and more, they are an invaluable resource for figuring out how to do this online writing thing. Sign up for their mailing list and you’ll get instant access to all their “fresh Copyblogger knowledge” as soon as it’s available. Even if you’re not thinking about content marketing just yet (and even if you have no idea what that is), I’d still recommend bookmarking the site.

writer's market

Writer’s Market is a publication of Writer’s Digest, and it is … have I used awesome too much yet? Well, it’s awesome.  If you click on the “Author Advice” tab on the home page, you’ll be taken to the blog, where you’ll find tons of great tips for your writing. Right now, Writer’s Market editor Robert Lee Brewer (who is also, in a word, awesome) is sharing a “Get Started Write” Challenge with daily tips and tasks designed to help you really cultivate your pursuit of your writing dreams. As Robert points out in one of the first posts of the challenge, while January is “a month when many people start chasing their writing dreams … most don’t keep it up into February.” Visit the Writer’s Market page, and start catching up on the Get Started Write Challenge, to really make this year work for your writing!

the (nearly) ultimate guide to better writing

Here’s another free download, this time from Write to Done. This helpful resource will give you daily inspiration for your writing, help you figure out how to get started on your next writing project, and how to cross the finish line strong. Signing up on the page linked above will grant you both access to the guide and regular updates from Write to Done that are amazing. If you’re not feeling particularly motivated, check out Write to Done. If you think your writing needs improvement, check out Write to Done. If you’re a writer, check out Write to Done. Seriously. Go there. Check it.

Your Turn: Where are your favorite places to go to get writerly inspiration? Who do you turn to? What makes them awesome? Share your tips and go-to’s in the comments below!


*****

Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please also sign up for the free email updates from Our Lost Jungle!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

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15 January 2014

six essential elements your blog needs

I ♥ My Blog Month: Six Essential Elements Your Blog Needs
When it comes to updating, upgrading, revising, or starting your blog, there will of course be things that any site would have: content, color schemes, etc. While the items listed below may be items you have on your blog or website already, they are each things you will want to carefully consider as you start your new year of writing! Think of how a simple upgrade to each of these areas of your site can impact your readers and the overall appeal of your page.

a hot headline

Both the tagline and headlines on your site need to be eye catching, focused, attention grabbing, and brilliant. That probably sounds like an exaggeration … but it really isn’t. Your site’s tagline is your site’s mission: it should tell visitors what your site is about, who and/or what it is for, and what you’re about. To be brilliant, it doesn’t have to be the greatest thing since sliced bread; it just needs to be something that gives your readers that immediate sense of what your site is for that will keep them there long enough to see more. The same goes for your post titles. Make sure they are captivating, and invite people into your words and writing with a title that makes them want to read more.

an amazing about page

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having a well-written “About” page. Taking the time to write this page right will do many things for you. First, it tells your readers who you are and what you and your blog are about. Second, it helps you to focus in on what your page is about for yourself. Sit for a while and think: “What am I about?” Ask yourself what this blog or website is really “about.” As you write out the page, be willing to renegotiate your plan for your site as this page develops. In the same way, you should constantly be revising this page as your site develops; add or remove details as they become relevant to what you are trying to do with your site. Make this page inviting, and your readers will feel more and more that they “know” you as they apply what they read on this page to the rest of your site!

phenom.com graphics 

You should always tailor your graphics for your site. Whether it’s the buttons you use in your sidebar or the images you use for your posts, your pictures and graphics need to fit the image and brand your site is aiming for. Don’t just grab any old image … make sure they are catered to the look and feel of your site! If you use your own photos, make sure they are high-quality images. If you use outside pictures or graphics, always make sure they are properly credited, and placed well within the post so they are neither overlooked nor overly prominent.

linky links

Always, always, always include links to your social media pages! Readers want to be able to engage with you as much as possible. You don’t have to share every detail of your life, but if you have a Twitter account your readers should know about it. If you have a Facebook page, your readers will want to visit it (and you should be sharing your blog posts there, along with other engaging content). If you have a Pinterest profile on which you share pictures, articles, or quotes relevant to your site’s mission, share it! Give your readers more ways to engage with you, and guess what? They’ll engage with you more!

a star to steer her by

Your site must have an easy way for readers to search your site and navigate through your archive. Make sure readers have easy access to older posts. Include relevant “related articles” from your site at the end of posts. Try to find a tool that allows you to automatically share the most popular posts from the site. Use pages to break up content. Make sure your site has a search tool, and a link to your archive so readers can find posts based on publication month, topic, etc. Tag your posts so readers can click a tag to see all your other content written on that same theme.

a killer contact tool

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that in having a site, you are constantly engaging with an audience. You have invited them into your life, and you’ve asked them to share in your journey. It’s only natural that somewhere along the way someone will want to connect with you beyond simply commenting on your site. While you should make sure you make it easy for readers to comment and engage with you directly on the blog, you also want to include some way for them to send you more private messages. Include an email address where readers can reach you, or a “Contact Me” page with a special form for sending you a message. Make sure the email you give is one you don’t mind getting emails sent to; for example, you shouldn’t include your work email, and you may even want to have one separate from your primary personal inbox. You also need to make sure you are responding to messages if you’re inviting people to send them!

Your Turn: These are only a few key elements of a great blog or personal website. Naturally there are others that I haven’t included. Which tools or page elements do you think are “must haves” for a great blog or website?


*****

Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please also sign up for the free email updates from Our Lost Jungle!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

***** 

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13 January 2014

i ♥ my blog: task 2 – update your “about me” page

I ♥ My Blog: Task 2 - Update Your "About Me" Page
Today’s task is to update your blog or website’s “About Me” page.

One of the things we’ll be talking about this month is reader engagement, and how to effectively interact with your site visitors in a personal way. Your “About Me” page is one of the critical first steps in making sure your audience knows who you are and what you’re about. Why? Besides the fact that it literally tells your readers the answer to those questions, the About page on almost any website is typically one of the highest trafficked pages (for obvious reasons). So if you haven’t updated your About page in a while, now is definitely the time.

When it comes to updating your About or About Me page, there are a few things you need to consider:

about … who?

What is your “About” page … well, about? Is it about your site? Is it about you? The answer is: it depends on who you’re trying to reach, and what you want your site, overall, to do. If your site is primarily for a business, organization, or something along those lines, your About page will most likely focus on explaining what the mission of that business is. If your site is more personal, the About page should be more personal as well. If you’re somewhere in between … so should your About page be.

who’s on first?

Many people write their About page in first person, especially if it’s a personal blog. Keep in mind, however, that a first person About page is, by nature, a lot less formal … and can come off as unprofessional. That’s not to say it’s wrong, or bad, to write your page in the first person. Just keep your reader in mind. Third person is the standard for a “specialized” presentation of a person’s biographical or professional information; it can also, however, come off as distant to your readers and make them, in return, feel distanced from you. Whichever you choose, know why you chose it … and make sure you stay consistent.

feelings … whoa, whoa, whoa

Just as you must carefully cater the content of your site to what you intend your site’s purpose to be (sticking with your selected themes and addressing your selected audience), you must also carefully consider the personal information you share on your About page. You can, for example, share a lot more of your interests on the About page to give readers a better sense of the “you” behind the site; it’s your place to diverge from the carefully planned path of your site to show your readers that you’re more than just A, B, and C … there’s also a little “Z” in there, and it makes you a more interesting, and relatable, person. What you want to be careful of, however, is sharing too much. This is a bio … not an autobiography. Make it personal and personable … just don’t make it so personal it’s overwhelming!

we go together like …

Make sure you’re sharing links to your other websites, content, et cetera that’s available to your readers. Let them know that they can find you in more places than just your site. Share your accomplishments, or provide links to other pages you frequent, especially pages related to your topic.

be different

Your About page doesn’t have to be a block of paragraphs. It could be a poem. It could be a top ten list. It could be a video or series of photographs and images. Maybe you’ll split your About page up … Many sites have separate Bio, Links, and other pages that combined do the work of a single About page with more room for flexibility and creativity. Figure out what works for you (and what will work for your audience), and run with it!

Your Turn: Take some time this week to visit some blogs or websites you read frequently, or new pages, and check out their About pages. Is it an “About” page, an “About Me” page, a Bio, a Welcome page, or something different? How can you steal ideas to revamp your About page for the new year? (Keep in mind: maybe your About page doesn’t need a major update … don’t fix what ain’t broken, y’all!) Share your plans for your About page … and drop by with a link so we can all see what you’ve done!


*****

Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please also sign up for the free email updates from Our Lost Jungle!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

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10 January 2014

i ♥ my blog: four fun (and free) tools for bloggers!

Four Fun (and FREE!) Tools for Bloggers!
Fridays during “I My Blog” month are dedicated to tools and resources for bloggers and writers, including articles, free tools, and other great resources to make writing a blast. Today, we’ll focus on four fantastic tools to help the process of blogging feel like a walk in a technology-laden park! Ready? Here we go!

Zemanta 


Zemanta is, in a word, awesome. Check out some of your favorite blogs: chances are, at the end of the post (or even sometimes within the post) the author has linked to a few related posts or articles from around the web. If you’ve ever wondered how a blogger has the time to find all those posts, here’s a short answer: Zemanta. (I’m not saying that all bloggers with related content links have used Zemanta; it is, however, a great tool if you don’t have time to go and research related content for everything you write!) Zemanta is a tool that reads your blog post as you write it and suggests related content from around the web in real time. You can add related content with thumbnails to the end of your posts to share great resources with your readers and engage with other writers! The one annoying thing is that it does update in real time … which means you kind of have to pay attention as suggestions appear! (And if you’re copying and pasting an entry, things can get a little hectic, so be warned.)

Buffer

If you’re not a fan of the HootSuite interface, which can sometimes be a little less than user friendly, you may want to check out the Buffer app. With browser plugins and apps for Apple and Android, this tools is another fun way to engage with your blog audience. This tool, however, is more on the social side. With Buffer, you can schedule tweets, Facebook posts, and more to go out on your schedule. One great thing that differs between HootSuite and Buffer is that with Buffer you can set your posts for any time: no more limits to 5 or 10 minute increments! If you want to send a tweet at 2:30 pm, you can. If you want to schedule a Facebook post for 5:27 am … you can do that, too. Check it out, and get social on your schedule!

If This Then That

If This Then That is a tool that lets you create “personal recipes” based on the familiar “If … Then” formula. A sample “recipe” would be “If I load a picture on Instagram, then upload it to Dropbox” to create an instant backup of your Instagram photos. This tends to be more of a social tool (for example, you can set up a formula to text you when you’re mentioned in a tweet or Facebook post), but can also be used as a great tool for finding blog content: i.e. “If an article mentions ‘poetry’ then send me an email.” This is one I’m still testing and figuring out, but it looks like a powerful resource to anyone who wants to take the time to figure it out (it’s not complicated, it just takes some playing with).

PicMonkey

Zoh-em-goodness, I love this tool. PicMonkey is a “freemium” online service that allows you to create awesome graphics for your blog. With free clip art, and great photo editing tools, you can create awesome images to go along with blog posts. If you’re looking for a bit more content, try Fotor (www.fotor.com), which offers the same service but with even more clip art and overlays.

Your Turn: What tools do you use while you’re blogging? Special search engines? Link generators? Graphic locators? Share your best resources in the comments below to help us generate a pool of great tools to use and share!


*****

Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please also sign up for the free email updates from Our Lost Jungle!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

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What? No Resources?!
  • Here's your chance to practice some effective blogger habits!
  • Share some of YOUR favorite resources!
  • What websites do you use to help generate content?
  • Where do you go to find your images? 
  • Share below and help others find great tools by being the resource!
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08 January 2014

7 habits of highly effective bloggers

I ♥ My Blog: 7 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers
We’ve all heard of the “7 Habits of Highly Effective” something or other. No matter what you’re doing, there are going to be habits you need to cultivate in yourself in order to be the most effective in that job or task or title. This month, we’re focusing on your title and “job” as a blogger and writer. Here’s a look at seven habits you need to start cultivating in order to make the most of your blog or website!

:effective bloggers know their audience:
In order to be effective, you have to know what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for. This means that as a blogger, you must constantly be analyzing and reevaluating your audience, and working to meet their needs. If you know you’re writing for people who need tips on how to get published, or how to grow a garden, or how to maintain a healthy weight, then you have to constantly target your writing toward meeting that need. Beyond that, you should also be finding ways to reach your audience: don’t just throw words at them, but engage with them. The more you engage, the better an idea of who you’re really writing for and to!

:effective bloggers create awesome content:
As a writer, you must constantly work at finding great things to write about, and write about them well. I’m not talking about making every single blog post the Magna Carta. Not everything can be the greatest thing you’ve ever written. But you should always be finding ways to make your writing unique, relatable, useful, and engaging. That’s what makes it awesome.

:effective bloggers develop expertise:
To be an effective writer or blogger, you don’t have to know everything about your chosen topic … but you do need to have a good, solid foundation of knowledge before leaping into blogging on a particular topic. Study. Read. Engage with others in your field. Find out all you can about your topic, and weave that knowledge into your content. And don’t be afraid—never be afraid—to share things you’re just finding out yourself! An expert is someone who shares their knowledge … even if that knowledge is relatively (or entirely) new.

:effective bloggers foster curiosity: 
Speaking of new knowledge … Don’t just stick to your blog and make it into a bubble for your existence in the blogosphere. Explore! Go out and see what others are saying. Engage with them. Ask them questions. Quote them. Invite them to guest blog on your site. Networking isn’t always just about employment. Sometimes it’s about finding mentors, or finding great outside sources of information to help you become better at what you’re doing. Learn to be curious about the information, knowledge, and other writers out there; allow yourself to reflect a curious pursuit of knowledge, and engage with those who have something to teach you.

:effective bloggers get out there:
Beyond simply being curious, you also need to work on getting yourself out there. As you pursue blogging or work on maintaining your website, explore opportunities to engage with your desired audience. Whether it’s responding to comments or finding opportunities to be a guest blogger, find ways to put yourself out there for the world to see, and read, and discover. Don’t be shy about asking for an opportunity to share your writing with a new audience. The worst another blogger can do if you ask to be a guest blogger is say “No.” The worst thing you can do as a blogger is not ask. And I mention responding to comments for a reason. Each time you respond to a comment, whether on your own site or in response to a post you found elsewhere, you’re building relationships. That’s a key. Take it, and unlock doors.

:effective bloggers socialize:
For petessake, get on social media. Tweet. Post to Facebook. Ask and answer questions on Quora. Track down and share great articles and Youtube videos. Share pictures on Instagram. Get on Pinterest. If you want to grow your reach and audience, you have to socialize! You may have noticed a theme developing in these “effective blogger” tips: you have to engage to be engaged with. Whether you’re engaging on your own blog or website by responding to comments and answering reader emails, or engaging elsewhere by posting to social media and commenting on that last great article you read, you have to be willing to reach out and talk to folks. Again, it’s networking, and it’s helping to build your audience. It’s also helping you to figure out how you best engage with your audience. The more you engage, the more engaging you are. And guess what? People want to read and engage with people who are engaging.

:effective bloggers are goal-oriented:
This could be the number one habit, but … it should also be a pretty obvious one. If you want to be effective, you have to have goals. Why? Because goals point you in the direction you need to go, and help you to really be productive in what you’re doing. Goals won’t determine the ultimate destination you’ll reach in your blogging efforts, but they will help to keep you on the path as you work to get there. And remember: your goals are constantly changing. You may start off wanting to help a group of people achieve a shared goal (publication, going green, culinary skills, losing weight, etc.). But a year from now, you may feel you’ve achieved that goal, and now you want to channel that into writing a book. Your blogging goals will change as you do. Your blogging goals will change as you achieve them. Keep a constant eye on your goals, and make sure you’re following through on them … and adding new ones as you achieve old ones.

The key in all of this is to find what works, and work with it. Great bloggers know what works … for them. They test and try things until they discover the thing (or things) that works for them, and they run with it. You’ve heard the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, blogging is like that. The only trick is: blogging is a mystery machine you have to put together before you know if it works. So put it together. Discover that great idea, that awesome writing style, that perfect thing that will get folks reading and responding to your work … and then keep working with it. The key is, you’re working with it, not growing stagnant in it.

Your Turn: Which of these goals do you need to work on? Are there any goals you would add? Share your thoughts, ideas, and advice in the comments below, and let us learn from your experience!


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06 January 2014

i ♥ my blog: task 1 – create an editorial calendar

I ♥ My Blog Task 1: Create an Editorial Calendar
Today’s "I My Blog" task is to create an editorial calendar for your blog or website.

This task is actually multiple tasks rolled into one... simply because it calls for you to do a bit more than just slap together a calendar! Here’s a bit of what putting together an effective editorial calendar entails:

“what’s the point?”

Before you can even begin to put together a working editorial calendar for your blog, you have to get an idea of what your blog is about. What are you trying to do with your blog? One of the big mistakes new bloggers make is listening to folks who tell them, “You’re so [smart/funny/etc.], you should totally have a blog!”

Don’t get me wrong: blogging is in no way only for a select, "elite" group of writers. However, those who go into it without a clear purpose beyond “someone told me I should do it” are more likely to either burn out or quickly run out of things to say. Unless your blog is a personal diary/journal, you likely have some idea of where you want it to go and what you want it to do. Consider that before starting to generate a calendar, and you’ll be more likely to start putting together a calendar that really helps you to achieve that purpose.

“theme team!

Another big mistake bloggers make is thinking they can only talk about one thing. Once you run out of things to say on that topic, what do you do? Stop writing, or start a new blog about something else, or just suddenly switch from writing a personal fitness blog to a blog about your zany family? What if your focus is poetry and you suddenly find yourself on a fiction kick? What if you start writing about architecture but find yourself wanting to share some awesome recipes?

Rather than limiting yourself, be open to addressing multiple topics. Think of how you can categorize the things you want to talk about. Maybe you want to focus on advice one day, personal updates on another, and leave a third day open to whatever comes to mind. Be open to where your blog can go … just be sure that you are carefully considering what your topics will be and how they work together to answer the “What’s the point?” question of your blog!

“fubsoy!”

“Fubsoy” is a phonetical spelling of the acronym “FBTSOYP,” which stands for “flying by the seat of your pants.” Just as you want to have some specific topics in mind, you also need to remember that the key to maintaining a blog long-term is forgiveness: that is, the ability and willingness to forgive yourself if you need to skip a day, or change topics, etc.

Rather than dictating a rigid schedule, an editorial calendar actually encourages flexibility: if nothing else, consider it your “backup plan.” Yes, the point is to come up with topics to talk about on a day-to-day or week-to-week or month-to-month basis … but let’s say you plan an article on, I don’t know, the color of beets and suddenly find yourself more interested in, oh why not, “why everything tastes like chicken.” Allow the switch. Write about why everything tastes like chicken this week … you now have a great idea for a future article, and can come back to the color of beets somewhere down the line. Or maybe you’re not interested in beets anymore. Fine. Scrap it. As the pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean often noted, an editorial calendar is “more ... guidelines than actual rules.”

Your Turn: Create an editorial calendar for your blog this month, or for the next two months, or the year. Consider the following questions: 
1. What is the point of your blog? What is it for?
2. What/who is the target audience of your blog? Who is it for?
3. What are some topics you may want to cover?
4. How can you break those topics up into specific posting days?
5. What are some ideas for posts you can come up with right now to plug into your calendar?


Share your editorial calendar, or thoughts on the use of an editorial calendar (Is it necessary? Pointless? Why?), in the comments below! Share, and steal, ideas … let’s help each other make 2014 our best writing year yet!

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03 January 2014

i ♥ my blog month: getting started!

I ♥ My Blog: Getting Started!
Welcome to the 2014 "I My Blog" Month Challenge! For those who did not participate last year, this challenge is really just a month-long quest toward rekindling the flame with your website or blog. Whether you’ve lost sight of the original purpose of your blog or simply don’t feel the same passion when it comes to writing regularly, this challenge is designed to help you regain some focus, revitalize your blog, and get 2014 started on the “write” foot!

Each week will feature three types of post:

:tasks:

On task days (Mondays), you’ll be presented with a “call to action” prompt designed to help you revitalize your blog or website. Whether it’s generating an editorial calendar or refocusing on who your audience is, each task will in some way focus you on the basics of blogging, and help you navigate (or re-navigate) yourself into the direction you need to go to keep your site going strong!

:tips:

Tips (Wednesdays) will be aimed at giving you suggestions or general ideas for what your blog needs to keep it going. More than keeping you afloat, these tips are meant to keep you flying … if not soaring! These will include habits to get into as a productive blogger, blog and website elements to make sure you include, and tips for generating content and reader “engagement.”

:tools:

The tools posts (Fridays) will all be focused on great resources around the web that will also help you stay focused. These may include other challenges, articles with blogging strategies, links to resources, fun blogging tools, and more!

If there’s one else I ask of you during this challenge, it would be that you take this as an opportunity to “test the waters” with your blog or website. See what works … figure out what doesn’t. Try new things, or make something tried and true a genuine habit of your blogging. And please remember to share your progress, questions, success, struggles, and resources as we work through this challenge together! One thing I always stress among writers is that none of us is in this writing thing alone: we are a cloud of sharedness, a chorus of unitedness. None of us should journey alone: and so, as you journey, share that journey with all of us!

The first task goes live Monday! Until then, think of some of the things you’d like to try this month. Start thinking of what it is your blog needs to get the flame blazing again!

Your Turn: Share your 2014 writing/blogging aspirations in the comments below!


*****

Want to stay connected? I invite you to connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Please also sign up for the free email updates from Our Lost Jungle!

Want to be the first to know about upcoming Jungle happenings? Sign up for the Our Lost Jungle Newsletter for updates, contest alerts, and more! Sign up here, or use the link at the top of the right column!

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