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How to Increase Organic Traffic: 6 Handy Blogging Tips

How to Increase Organic Traffic - 6 Handy Blogging TipsNowadays, companies, brands, and even individuals are expected to have an optimized Internet presence. Whether a business creates a blog as part of a marketing initiative or an individual uses blogging to promote a personal brand, having a blog that draws organic traffic has become an important aspect of creating a successful online presence.

Though it can be tempting to pay for ad space, organic traffic is more important. Organic traffic consists of individuals searching specifically for you or your niche service or product, which means these are the individuals who are most likely to convert into customers or clients. Besides basic SEO practices, such as including proper keywords in your content and metadata, we offer several additional blogging tips here that can help you make the most of organic searches.

Know your niche, and find content opportunities.

In the fast-paced, instant-gratification world of the Internet, one of the biggest mistakes a blogger can make is trying to be all things to all readers. Instead of focusing your content on trends to gain more readers, figure out what is most important to you, and write about that.

Maybe you’re the new owner of a new dog grooming company, a marketer at a large corporation, an experienced writer, or a stay-at-home mom with a passion for DIY projects. Through the Internet, you can reach huge audiences hungry for good content about any one of these topics. Become an expert in your niche, and provide quality content that appeals to your specific readership.

Once you have determined your niche, research others who provide the same type of content. What posts are most popular? This is your passion; think about what information you would search for, and come up with a list of topics to write about. From there, see what content gaps exist in your niche, and then fill them with the best possible content.

For example, the owner of that small dog grooming business might find 2,341,748 articles describing the best shampoos for dogs but little information on the best options for dogs that have been sprayed by a skunk. A detailed article reviewing the most common shampoos in this category might draw more readers and rank higher for this more specific search topic than yet another generalized top 10 list.

Determine who the influencers are within your niche, and then network and promote your content.

Make a list of the top influential bloggers in your niche by finding the blogs with the highest readerships. Tools such as Buzzstream can help you determine who these influencers are, depending on specific keyword searches, and provide contact information for them. What kind of content are they creating? Take the great content you have created already and ask one of these top bloggers to provide a point of view.

You can also think on a bigger scale and create a post that includes advice from several influencers. Once your post goes live, make sure you contact these bloggers to let them know and share it on their social media accounts, which can be a great way to increase your own readership. The goal here is to get a link back from one or more of these influencers, who likely have high Google authority rankings in your niche. When one of these sites links back to yours, it will increase your search ranking and organic traffic.

Take advantage of content distribution and social networks to reach a wider audience.

Sharing content over social media networks is the first step in content distribution. Sharing strategically and often gives you the advantage of putting your content in front of the right audience, which will transfer into link clicking and organic traffic. The key is, once again, to know your audience and at what times they are most likely to see your post. Utilize account management applications to schedule content and share that content multiple times over different networks to gain the most exposure. Social referrals are an important factor in subsequent organic traffic.

Understand the importance of different types of link building.

BacklinkingBroken link building: Broken link building can be time-consuming when you don’t use tools. This method of link building involves finding broken links on other sites that are relevant to your content or have high authority value and then asking the site administrator to switch out the broken link for yours. Consistently following through with this practice can help you gain organic traffic by building site authority and search rankings.

Implied links: Implied linking is a new process Google has implemented that takes into account brand mentions without a direct link. This means search rankings benefit from your brand or website name being mentioned on other websites without them actually having to link back to you. The more you are mentioned, the higher your search ranking (and organic traffic) will be, because Google realizes your content has authority within your niche. To benefit from this type of link building, it is important to grow your reputation and network and to market your brand to get others to mention your name.

Backlinking using images: Consider all the photo- and image-sharing social networks available. Some high-authority content sharing sites are also relevant to growing your number of backlinks by sharing quality images. This type of link building works well for designers, photographers, or other image-heavy sites that can share their images on stock image directories, Flickr, or design directories with a link back to the original content. The more backlinks a website has, the higher it will rank in a search, resulting in more organic traffic.

Focus on long-tail key phrases rather than generalized keywords to tap into your niche audience.

Instead of focusing on general keywords that return millions of search results, consider your niche audience and what they are searching for specifically in relation to your content, product, or service. If you were to search for a local dog groomer, you probably wouldn’t simply search for “dog groomer” but rather “dog groomers in Chatham–Kent” or “the best dog groomer in Chatham–Kent” to make sure you received the most relevant results. This is how most users search for information, making long-tail key phrases more rewarding for niche content, which ranks higher when fewer, more specific search results are returned.

Google also looks at whether content is able to answer a long-tail keyword phrase in the form of a question and ranks quality how-to content higher in such search queries. Keep in mind what exactly your audience may be searching for, and include these key phrases in your content to increase your organic traffic.

Use schema markup in your SEO practices to boost organic traffic.

Schema markup is a more advanced SEO option that helps search engines return more information from your site in search results. The difference between schema markup and basic SEO is that schema tells the search engine what different aspects of your content mean by going beyond indexing for keywords. Schema explains that, for example, one keyword is the author of the content, another keyword is the product or service a business offers, and a third keyword tells the search engine what type of content is being displayed. Websites that incorporate schema markup into SEO rank higher in search engine results, because the search engine actually understands these relevant results. For more information, visit Schema.org or the Google Structured Data Markup Helper.

Image source: goranmx/Pixabay.com, Tante Tati/Pixabay.com

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5 Books Every Work-from-Home Businessperson Should Read

5 Books Every Work from Home Businessperson Needs TN

5 Books Every Work from Home Businessperson NeedsTired of the office life? Many people aspire to work from home, but doing so requires a particular set of skills. It’s not all pajamas and cuddling your cat while bringing in the money; successful work-from-home businesspeople are excellent at time management, personal organization, work–life balance, and marketing their unique skills to maintain a livable income. Below, Inklyo has rounded up five books that offer great tips for working from home.

1. My So-Called Freelance Life, by Michelle Goodman

Written for female entrepreneurs, My So-Called Freelance Life has practical tips for working from home for anyone wanting to leave the 9-to-5 grind (not just women). The author, Michelle Goodman, has been a successful freelance writer for 16 years and shares her experiences and tips for working from home, while delivering her advice in a relatable, funny, and highly readable way! Michelle offers a thorough overview of what’s involved in growing a successful freelance career, and, although she is a writer, the basic principles she describes are useful for any freelance creative work.

My So-Called Freelance Life covers how to organize your clients and jobs to optimize your output, plan your own career path, plan your workload based on how much you want to earn, market yourself using a great web presence, network and gain clients through referral, and negotiate projects and contracts. It also covers legal, budgeting, and tax issues. Overall, Michelle offers some great pointers for those wanting to do freelance work and those who are already doing freelance work.

2. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, by Laura Vanderkam

Laura Vanderkam’s book on time management, 168 Hours, is one of those reads that people either love or hate. The author advises us to start thinking in 168-hour blocks (i.e., the number of hours in a week), monitor what it is we are actually spending our precious time on, and then cut the time-wasters. She offers sound advice for spending your time mindfully and on pursuits that further your career, relationships, and passions. In 168 Hours, quality is more important than quantity, and living a full life is as easy as out-sourcing the tasks we don’t want to do to make room for the ones we love. This is one principle that many readers have an issue with, but besides a tendency to whitewash the fact that time management may look different to people of various economic means, the core concepts of her book provide realistic tips for working from home.

3. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr, Dr. James E. Loehr, and Tony Schwartz

A work-from-home businessperson reading.The Power of Full Engagement is a powerful book that aims to help people change their perspectives on time management and their daily routines. The core concept here is that, instead of prioritizing the amount of time you put into your day-to-day actions, you should focus on the energy cost of those actions. An over-packed schedule not only creates stress but is also detrimental to productivity—which is especially important for those who work from home and depend on their own ability to self-manage. The authors explain the cost of spreading yourself too thin and how it affects your happiness, physical state, and engagement with life. These same positive and negative energies also affect how well you do your job. The Power of Full Engagement provides key principles to ensure that you are using your energy efficiently and in the way that is best for you, an important tip for anyone working from home.

4. Creative Personal Branding by Jurgen Salenbacher

Jurgen Salenbacher’s Creative Personal Branding is a great place to start for anyone wanting to learn more about developing their personal brand. In a world so driven by fast information and seemingly endless options, having a dynamic, recognizable personal brand is a must for anyone working from home. In this book, branding is explained in detail, from defining your own marketable skills to how to market those skills creatively in today’s global market. How well you present yourself has a huge impact on your success as a freelance businessperson or entrepreneur.

5. Organizing from the Inside Out, by Julie Morgenstern

Organization is not just for Type A personalities. Julie Morgenstern’s book Organizing from the Inside Out covers many areas of life and explains how keeping your surroundings organized can lessen stress, create more positive thinking, and increase productivity—all of which are important when you work from home. The book is laid out in chapters that cover separate areas of life, from your kitchen and your kids’ rooms to your office space and home-based business. Morgenstern’s goal is to help you build an effective strategy for tackling the disorganization issues specific to your life, so that you can forget about mental and physical clutter and focus on your own success and goals. The chapters about using technology to organize projects and resources are especially relevant and packed with tips for working from home.

Image sources: Startup Stock Photos, kaboompics.com

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10 Useful Sites All Marketers Should Save to Their Favorites Bars

10 Useful Sites All Marketers Need in Their Favorites Bars

10 Useful Sites All Marketers Need in Their Favorites Bars

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If you’re a marketer who often finds yourself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of marketing resources available online, rest assured that you’re not alone. There are many useful sites and apps out there, but that doesn’t mean that all of them are right for you. Each marketing expert must determine which marketing resources and sites best suit his or her needs. I’ve been accumulating my own list of resources over the last little while, each of which occupies its own comfy spot in my Favorites bar. These useful sites might not all be right for you, but I’m sure that some of the items on my list will end up occupying your Favorites bar as well—that is, if they aren’t already there.

1. Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a site used for scheduling and managing social media posts and metrics across different platforms. Hootsuite can be used for over 35 popular social networks, including popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Not only does Hootsuite allow you to schedule posts, it also gives you information about who is reading, liking, and sharing those posts. I could go on forever about all the advantages of using Hootsuite for keeping your social media strategy on track, or you could go ahead and try it yourself.

2. Google Analytics

Marketing experts worth their salt understand the importance of tracking and measuring their efforts. What’s the point of organizing and following through with campaigns if you don’t know how well—if at all—those campaigns are working to improve your conversion rates? Google Analytics is one of the best marketing resources for keeping track of your progress, and it will ultimately help you improve your marketing strategy. Like the other useful sites listed in this post, Google Analytics is free to use.

 3. URL Builder

Though URL Builder is part of Google Analytics, I have this site saved as its own page in my Favorites bar. I regularly depend on this useful site to create custom URLs that enable me to track the activity of my site’s visitors. While some of the other sites in my Favorites bar are reference sites with information to which I often refer, URL Builder has a practical application that I use often. Creating and distributing great content is all well and good, but if you can’t keep track of how that content is helping your site improve, your job isn’t being done in its entirety.

4. Canva

People who work in marketing must wear multiple figurative hats. We sometimes fill several roles, including writer, researcher, manager, and even graphic designer. This last point is where Canva comes in handy. One of the better-organized graphic design sites out there, this useful site allows marketers to create custom presentations, flyers, and other graphic images. Its fun, fresh, and simple modern design allows even amateur designers to create professional-looking pieces. With free access to sites like Canva, marketers for even the smallest companies no longer have any excuse for not creating beautiful, professional content.

5. StockSnap.io

In case you haven’t heard, corny stock photos are out. Gone are the days of businesspeople smiling back-to-back with their arms crossed across their chests. Instead, websites are now making use of real photographs of nature and of normal people in everyday situations. There are a few useful sites for finding copyright-free photographs, but StockSnap offers a particularly beautiful collection of images for you to use in your marketing efforts.

6. HubSpot’s Marketing Blog

Content marketing is a fairly new phenomenon. If you’re looking for a credible source of diverse information regarding the glamourous field of content marketing, look no further than the HubSpot Marketing Blog. It’s one of those marketing resources that I rely on much more than I sometimes think I should. Some of the posts cover general topics like the psychology of marketing, while others are detailed accounts of specific topics like buyer personas. Whatever you need to know about marketing, you can probably find it on HubSpot.

7. Pocket

Ever come across an article, video, or other piece of content that you thought would be great for your blog or social media, but that you didn’t have time to look at? With Pocket, you can save all such content in one place, then look at it later. You can download Pocket on your phone, tablet, or computer, and once you’ve saved something to Pocket, you don’t need Internet access to look at that content again. Pocket is a great app for keeping track of useful sites and marketing resources, and it can help you stay organized.

8. Scoop.it

This content curation site is useful not just for distributing your own content, but for finding other great marketing resources and useful content to share with your followers. Scoop.it users add their own content to the site, along with a description, allowing other people to view that content according to topic. It’s basically just one big platform for sharing things, and—as we all know—sharing is caring. Especially in the world of marketing.

9. Piktochart

If you think infographics are super cool, but you haven’t the foggiest idea how to create one of your own, have no fear—Piktochart is here. This site allows you to make professional infographics quickly and easily. Infographics can be great forms of visually interesting content; if you don’t have any for your site yet, I recommend that you check out this cool marketing resource. Did I mention that it’s free?

10. Google Drive

While not strictly a marketing resource, Google Drive can be a content marketing team’s best friend. If you’re working with a team of people, this large online storage space can help you share files and collaborate without having to deal with the hassle of over-sized email attachments. Google Drive also allows you to work on the same content from different computers, tablets, and even smartphones. If you want to have access to your work wherever you go, or if you’d like other people to have access to it, Google Drive might be the site for you.

Conclusion

The age of content marketing is here, and with it, an abundance of resources for marketers like you and me. If you make use of some of the resources above, you’ll surely have an easier time navigating the competitive and complex world of content marketing. You might even have a bit of fun along the way.

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Writing Cats and Dogs: Which Blog Style Should You Adopt?

Which Blog Style Should You Adopt? I couldn’t possibly begin to tell you why a raven is like a writing desk, but I can tell you how a pet is like a blog post. As you’re probably aware, there are different types of blog posts, just as there are different types of pets. One easy way to break down blog styles, particularly if you’re as great a fan of four-legged companions as I am, is to think of the different types of blog posts in terms of two groups: the Dog and the Cat.

No, I’m not saying that some blog posts rule while others drool. And no, your blog posts aren’t going to drink from your toilet or shred your curtains. The analogy is a bit subtler than that, though I think we can agree that blog posts would be much more exciting—although also more destructive—if they did get into such shenanigans, no?

The “Dog” Post

The first type of blog post is the Dog. Much like my favorite type of furry friend, this blog style tends to have a short attention span. Most dogs are content to chase a ball, but only until they spot a squirrel. Likewise, a Dog-type blog post only addresses one topic, and it only does so long enough to cover the basic information about that topic. Just as your dog must investigate every smell in the backyard, the readers of your Dog-type blog post have other posts to . . . smell. Don’t try to limit their noses to just your post. Instead of sticking around, they’ll probably just get distracted and—SQUIRREL!

Dog PostShort-form content is best for Dog posts. This blog style also lends itself to fun topics, like this one. Dogs enjoy playing and generally having a good time; similarly, you should use Dog posts to focus more on enjoyment than on information. Just as certain dog breeds are more suited to some people than to others, different types of Dog posts will be enjoyed and shared more by some readers than by others. This means you need to create lots of different types of blog posts to appeal to different kinds of readers. Think of each type of Dog post as a different breed of dog, if you will.

One of the great benefits of the Dog post is that this blog style encourages social sharing. Dogs make great companions to almost all people, and Dog-type posts tend to get along with a wide variety of people as well. In summary, Dog posts are fun, easy to read, and highly shareable.

The “Cat” Post

My dog has one solution to most of life’s mysteries: sniff it, lick it, and hope for the best. My cat, on the other hand, is a much more pensive creature. While my dog is happy to abandon any problem that cannot be solved with his mouth, my cat investigates each new scenario she encounters until she comes up with what she deems a reasonable solution (or until she gets scared and runs away—whichever happens first, really).

Cat PostIn terms of types of blog posts, the Cat-style post tends to be longer, more focused, and more targeted (here’s an example). This blog style lends itself to long-form content, allowing the reader to learn lots of specific information about a given topic. Each Cat-style post should be targeted to one specific group of readers. While dogs get the happy title of “man’s best friend,” cats aren’t always so universally loved. However, those who do have cats love them a lot. So each Cat-style post should be tailored to the type of person who needs the information that post has to offer rather than be written for everyone.

Ever asked someone to watch your cat while you were away? If your cat is anything like mine, it probably hid every time that person entered the room. It may have even refused to eat until it felt safe enough to come out of hiding. Like real cats, Cat-style blog posts are not always shareable. Sure, your cat may accept an elite group of people into its life, but for the most part, that feline is not willing to spend time with strangers. While Cat-style blog posts aren’t necessarily as shareable as their Dog-style counterparts, they provide great benefits for the people who do choose to read them. After all, cats make great pets, too!

Which Type of Blog Style Should You Use?

I know there’s an epic battle between “dog people” and “cat people.” Some may argue that you can only have one or the other, but when it comes to types of blog posts, you definitely need to take advantage of the benefits of both Dog posts and Cat posts. One works to attract and entertain people, while the other works to target more specific groups with the information they need to make educated business and consumer decisions. And, as with real dogs and cats, why would you choose only one when you can have the best of both worlds?

Image sources: Websubstance/BigStockPhoto.com, snapwiresnaps.tumblr.com/Pexels.com, Thomas Jarrand/Stocksnap.io

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Catch Me If You Can: 10 Ways to Hold Attention by Producing Engaging Content

How to Produce Engaging Content

Catch Me If You CanProducing engaging content is one thing, but holding a reader’s attention? That’s another. We all know how much content there is on the web, but we also know how easy it is to not read it. Okay, okay, so maybe we do read some articles and blog posts, but let’s be real—most of us tend to skim them rather than read through them in their entirety. We’re busy, and we’ve got things to do! So in today’s hustling and bustling world, how do you write engaging content (articles, blog posts, ebooks, etc.) while keeping your readers interested? Read, skim, or scan the top 10 list below to find out.

1. Make your offer.

Offer information that is original and relatable.

By providing your readers with information that is new, original, and relatable, you will be giving them something that no one else is—engaging content that holds their attention. A lot of the news and information that can be found online is the same from one source to the next, but by offering readers something new that they can’t find anywhere else, you are bound to capture—and hold—their attention.

2. Tell a story.

Present your information as a story to really connect with your reader.

If you present your information as a story, readers will be much more inclined to keep reading—to find out what happens, to learn more about your product, or to find a meaningful connection that they can relate to. In addition, if you have a consistent voice and make your story emotionally relevant, you will be that much more likely to connect with your readers and hold their attention.

3. Be a space maker.

Make your content reader-friendly by optimizing your use of white space.

By formatting your content in a way that is visually appealing and uses the right balance of white space and text, you will already have readers wanting to read your article or blog post. The right amount of white space draws the eye to certain areas and prevents the page from becoming cluttered or disorganized, making skimming much easier.

4. Don’t be afraid to be bold.

Make your headings and subheadings stand out so they can be scanned by the reader.

Just as with white space, you want to make sure you’re using headings and subheadings that draw the eye, offer relevant information, and provide enough knowledge to give even skimmers and scanners a general idea of your article or blog post. Although your ultimate goal is to have them read the whole thing, if they can get what they need just by skimming, then you’ve still done your job well.

5. Make magic with bullets.

Use bullet points to provide a visual break while presenting your information in a way that is easily skimmable.

Bullet points break information up to make it easily digestible, concise, and generally easier to skim. They also contribute to the balance of white space and lend themselves to the visually appealing layout of your content.

6. Get the gist.

Scan only the points that you have highlighted to see if the reader will be able to get the gist of your article or blog post simply by skimming or scanning.

This is probably one of the most important points in this article. While you want your readers to actually read your entire article, you know that many of them won’t. However, you still want to get your information across, and you want your readers to come away with more knowledge than they had before they stumbled upon your article. By making the content of your main headings and points informationally efficient, you will be able to give your readers what they need even when they don’t read every word. This will keep them coming back for more because it will be concise, compelling, and engaging. If you ask me, it’s a win–win!

7. Include links.

Include linksInclude internal links back to your own content.

Not only will these links give readers the opportunity to engage with more of your content via other areas of your site, but they will also allow you to keep the article or blog post concise. By including internal links, you won’t feel compelled to cram all the information into one article, which your readers will appreciate. This is also an easy way to boost your site’s search engine optimization (SEO), as the keywords you use will be more concise and the internal links will show the relevance of the content to the rest of your site.

8. Prettify your format.

Draw the reader’s eye by formatting your posts in a way that is visually appealing.

Whether this means using interesting font styles, unique images, or SlideShares instead of standard articles, format your articles so that they appeal to your readers. Readers are much more inclined to read visually appealing articles. And, once they realize that your content is engaging, too, they’ll be hooked!

9. Use numbers.

Numbers catch the eye and make information stand out.

Have you ever noticed that you’re much more interested in reading a headline if there’s a number in it? Numbers automatically give you some context, which keeps you wanting more. “The Top 5 Ways to Earn More and Do Less.” What does your brain automatically think? “What are the top five ways? I must know—now!” Including numbers, especially in your headings, makes your readers think they are privy to something, something that no one else knows . . . which keeps them engaged and glued to the page. It can also let readers know that an article is a quick read, because lists are easy to skim (see point 6!).

10. Avoid errors.

Edit, proofread, and be error-free.

Without proper editing and proofreading, none of the tips above will matter. If your content is great but riddled with spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, there’s no way your readers are going to stick around. If your content is engaging but lacks the professionalism of grammatical accuracy, your readers will become disengaged with each typo they see. Having error-free content is the ultimate key to holding your readers’ attention, so it’s imperative that you avoid making mistakes. To ensure that your content is error-free and awesome, have your articles and blog posts edited by the experts at Scribendi.com. If you’re serious about producing engaging content that holds your readers’ attention, there’s no better way to get the results you want than by using a professional editing service (and following these 10 tips).

Image sources: Jon Eckert/Stocksnap.io, PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay.com

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When Should You Listen to Music at Work?

Music at work

Everything You Need to Know about Music and Productivity

When Should You Listen to Music at WorkLots of workers rely on music to get through the workday. Whether they’re headbanging to Metallica, grooving along to Arcade Fire, or report writing to the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, these employees insist that listening to music can increase their productivity. How much truth is there to this claim? Are employees simply using their headphones to escape boredom, or are music and productivity really linked?

Research seems to indicate that listening to music in the workplace has a positive effect on employee productivity because it alleviates boredom—more specifically, music makes people more productive because it makes them happier. Let’s look at some of the research on music and productivity to see how you can best use music to get through your workday.

Why Should You Listen to Music at Work?

Multiple research studies indicate that listening to music positively affects productivity in the workplace. A 2005 study by Teresa Lesiuk showed that computer programmers who listened to music produced better work in a shorter period of time than their coworkers who did not listen to music. The music helped the programmers pace themselves while completing tasks.

This positive effect of music on employee productivity is great news for music-loving workers everywhere. Still, some employers may have their doubts. An enjoyable activity that magically makes employees more productive? For some employers, this seems a bit too good to be true. So, what is it that creates this miraculous link between music and productivity?

A Happy Worker is a Productive Worker

No, there isn’t a “productivity” section of your brain that kicks into high gear when you’re exposed to music. There also isn’t a certain song or music genre that will have you working at five times your normal speed. The principle behind music and productivity is a little less pseudoscientific and a whole lot simpler than this. The simple truth is that music improves employee productivity because music makes people happy.

The field of research pertaining to music and neuroscience is vast and complicated, but when it comes to music and emotion, one central idea is almost universally accepted: music elicits an emotional response in the listener. Even our negative emotions can be experienced in a positive way using music, according to Apter (2001), who states that even those who use music to experience unpleasant emotions do so with the underlying intention of “enjoying” their difficult emotions (as cited in Lesiuk, 2005). Just like watching sad movies can help us process our feelings when we’re feeling down, listening to music that makes us sad can actually work to make us happy in the long run. (Ah, the magic of art!)

Not surprisingly, several studies have found that music improves our moods. People perform higher on measures of emotions after listening to music. During Lesiuk’s 2005 study, for instance, the programmers’ positive moods increased during the weeks of the study when they listened to music, but decreased during the week of the study when the music was discontinued. Additionally, because music is also known to reduce anxiety, it may actually be able to help employees relax, focus, and complete stressful tasks in shorter amounts of time.

Music boosts happiness, which boosts productivity

Can an improved mood really have that big of an impact on employee productivity? Recent research suggests that it can. Of course, music isn’t the be-all and end-all of workplace happiness; bigger, more encompassing issues like personal fulfillment, work–life balance, and a sense of accomplishment also contribute greatly to happiness in the workplace. Still, even the relatively small mood improvements that occur when people listen to music can increase workplace productivity.

Remember: Everyone Is Different

So, music has a positive effect on mood, and elevated mood has a positive effect on employee productivity. Does this mean you should exchange full-time silence for full-time music? Not necessarily. For one thing, according to Furnham and Strbac (2002), certain tasks require more concentration than others; depending on the task you’re working on, music may be too distracting (especially if you’re not used to listening at work). Individual differences should also be taken into account when deciding how often you should listen to music at work, if at all.

Researchers have looked at differences between introverts and extroverts in terms of music’s effects on mood and productivity. The results have not been entirely conclusive, but some of the studies lean toward the assertion that introverts have a harder time listening to music and working than extroverts. (This may have less to do with the music and more to do with the complexity of the task.) Doyle and Furhnam (2012) found that “creative” individuals are less likely to be distracted by music than “non-creative” individuals, but their study does not address whether introverts or extroverts are more likely to be categorized as “creative.” Nor does it address how this might conflict with the results of other studies on the topic.

Correlation versus causationAs Lesiuk (2005) points out, the correlation between music and mood is still somewhat fuzzy. Though her study gave some pretty solid support for music being the cause of improved mood, other research hasn’t been so straightforward. Lots of studies have found that people with more positive outlooks tend to listen to more music at work; however, if you’ve ever taken a social studies or science course, you know that this assertion falls into the dangerous “correlation versus causation” predicament. In this case, it’s possible that the music does not cause positive mood, but that people who are generally happy to begin with tend to listen to music more than those who are not.

As you can see, there is still much to learn about music and productivity. If there is one lesson to be taken from all these different research studies and perspectives, it is this: do what is best for you. One thing that researchers seem to agree on is that, for individuals who do enjoy music while working, the type, duration, and genre of music don’t seem to matter. Individual music preferences are the most important indicators for music’s effect on productivity (Lesiuk, 2005). It doesn’t matter whether you want to listen to classical music, rock, rap, or indie pop—as long as you’re listening to music you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to succeed. You should also keep in mind that familiar music tends to be less distracting than music you’ve never heard before. You may even decide that any music at all is too distracting when you’re at work, and that’s fine too. Everyone is different; just focus on finding what works best for you.

Conclusion

Employee satisfaction is key to employee productivity—and what makes people happier than music? The next time you’re debating the use of headphones in your workplace, whether as an employee or as an employer, take this research into consideration. Happier employees mean better quality work for the company, and more of it—and that, my friends, is what we call music to everybody’s ears.

Image source: Daria Nepriakhina/Stocksnap.io

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How to Screw Up a Blog Post (In 7 Easy Steps!)

How to Screw Up a Blog Post

How to Screw Up a Blog PostHey, it’s a jungle out there. There’s a blog for everything. Food photography, travel blogs, political rant pages, corporate musings, fan page free-for-alls . . . you name it. With all that competition, who wants to stand out and create an engaging, creative blog that actually adds value to the Internet? Not you. Quality work and responsibility to readers are just too much darn effort. You and I, we much prefer to float comfortably in the recesses of Internet no man’s land. We’re not attention seekers—we’re far too lazy for that. Afraid your blog might actually do well? Follow these simple blogging tips to make sure your blog is a complete and utter dud—in fact, its boo-boos won’t even go viral. It’ll even fail at failing.

1. Don’t proofread.

Typos, punctuation errors, and painful spelling mistakes are the quickest, easiest way to give your blog a death sentence (ooh, the puns). After all, a clean, error-free post might actually make you look credible, and you don’t want that.

2. Remove all comprehensible train of thought.

You know what happens when your writing is easy to read and has a logical flow, don’t you? People might *gasp* keep reading it. All structure, consistency of tone, and clear thought processes must be removed from your writing. Immediately.

3. Post irregularly, if at all.

It’s bad enough that you have to be bombarded by all those bloggers constantly updating their sites with structured, consistent schedules. Who do they think they are, anyway? You certainly don’t want to add to the success mess, and you really need to take care of those annoying Internet prowlers who have decided that your blog is interesting, or they’ll stick around no matter what. How can you rid yourself of such pests? Well, stop posting, of course! Or, if you must, post at random with long stretches of silence in between. Once you’re off your readers’ radar and have established that you can’t be relied on, they’ll swipe on to terrorize the next site with their incessant subscriptions, comments, and shares.

4. Steal whenever possible.

Isn’t Internet rage a joy? Of course it is. And what’s the fastest way to stir up the anger pot? Why, stealing intellectual or creative property, of course! Hijack ideas, writing styles, photos, or other created media, and don’t credit any of the original sources. Be prepared for the initial wave of attention your blog will receive (what horror!) when people start to realize you’re stealing their material, but worry not—it’s all negative, and it won’t last. Once your integrity is destroyed, no one will subscribe to you. You might even be so lucky as to receive a cease-and-desist order.

5. Plaster blank space with gaudy advertisements.

Maybe you’re a literary genius. Despite all your best efforts, you just can’t turn off the wordsmith charm, and people keep flocking back to your blog. Lucky for you, there’s a fail-safe to divert readers from even the best content: gratuitous advertising. Banner ads, pop-ups, and sidebar post-its will send potential subscribers—even the ones who really want to stay—away from your blog with grimaces on their faces and carpal tunnel in their primary click fingers. Did you know the speed at which a user runs from your page is directly proportional to the degree to which ads are unrelated to your blog’s topic?

6. Fill up on keywords.

Google keeps getting smarter and faster when it comes to finding more ways to send people to your page. How rude! Lucky for you, there are always new ways to convince the Google bots that your page isn’t worth visiting. Some of the latest? Saturating your content, tags, and anchors with keywords, of course! Once your text is so agonizingly full of keywords that it’s nigh unreadable, and your primary keyword is in every tag, even when it doesn’t make sense for it to be, Google will obligingly penalize your blog so that it appears too far down in search results ever to be noticed.

7. Ignore your readers.

Ugh, are people leaving comments, tagging you in things, asking questions, and suggesting content for future posts? Give them the silent treatment. Readers stick around when they feel like they receive a personalized, relevant, engaging experience, which of course you don’t want. By no means should you ever reply to readers when they make an effort to communicate with you. That would just make them feel too validated and like they actually gained something from your blog. Yuck.

In summary . . .

Be a bore. Be inconsistent. Over-advertise. Refuse to communicate. Publish your typos. Steal. Confuse. Distract. Disappear. Such are the magic tools by which you can keep your blog safe from Internet success. Now… who wants to hang out on MySpace?

Image source: Luke Chesser/Stocksnap.io

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How to Speak Millennial: 9 Best Practices to Follow When Writing for Millennials

Millennial Falcon

The Millennial Falcon

Haters gonna hate . . .

Many an article has been penned (or, for the comment-lurking nitpickers, typed) about the failings of the Millennial generation.

  • Why, they’re online addicts with short attention spans!
  • They’re narcissistic, materialistic, unrealistic twerps who don’t understand what it means to get a real job!
  • They’ve forgotten how to maintain interpersonal relationships that don’t involve a screen!
  • They’re entitled and demand everything for free!
  • They’re the reason marriages don’t work out anymore!
  • They’re only skinny because they photograph their food instead of eating it!
  • They’re click-happy, swipe-happy, selfie-taking, duck-lipped (or, if we’re really staying on trend, sparrow-faced) Fickle Freddies who share content more for social recognition than personal interest!

Whew. Annoyed yet? We certainly are.

Leave the big brush behind

In addition to painting with ridiculously broad strokes over a population that spans different countries, cultures, education levels, and consumer values, these often obnoxious claims fail to recognize the power of Millennials in online culture. Perhaps one truth that may be safely applied en masse is that this generation grew up during the rise of the Internet. Their formative years were spent alongside a rapid technological advancement not experienced by any other generation.

We’re talking about people who watched Family Matters and Full House, nursed Nano Pets, and jammed to the Backstreet Boys on Discmans. People who can imitate the sound of dial-up Internet but now navigate touchscreens and instant communication like extensions of their bodies. Millennials have grown up with constant, fast-paced changes to the way knowledge and information are obtained, processed, and shared.

As a result, they read and interact with content differently than those who witnessed these changes during adulthood, or those who were born already plugged in to the App Store. Any online writing venture marketing to Millennials must address their unique reading styles. These are tech-savvy individuals with a literal world of obtainable knowledge and purchasing power. Writing specifically for Millennials may be the biggest influence on your blog’s potential success.

Get ready to target your writing

Millennial PocahontasIf Pocahontas were a Millennial, she’d have sung, “The thing I like about news feeds is, you can’t log in to the same feed twice; the info’s always changing, always flowiiiiing!” In addition to the surge of information that constantly threatens to drown out yours, there’s this hard truth to face: your content probably isn’t original. The rule of the Internet seems to be if you can think of a concept, it already exists online somewhere. So, should Millennials swipe upon your blog, will the design and writing be enough to keep them there? The following steps are a guide to help you when blogging for Millennials so that you attract and keep your readers—and convince them to share your posts.

1. Looks are everything

Online content marketing tycoon Hubspot reported that Internet users judge the aesthetic value of a website in as fast as one-fiftieth of a second. That snap impression is particularly influential on Millennials, who, according to Millennial Marketing, will actually reject quality content if the visual effect is poor. Cluttered, unappealing web spaces are perceived as unreliable, unprofessional, and unintelligent. As seen in this helpful infographic by Digital Information World, 94% of online users develop mistrust and dismiss a website because of poor design, and 75% use website design as the basis for their opinion of a website’s credibility. For those who don’t identify as particularly tech-savvy, blog hosts like Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr have built-in design templates and customizable options, as do many domain providers like GoDaddy and Wix.com. It’s worth it to take a few hours to play with these features and develop a unique, attractive web space that will make Internet readers want to stick around.

2. Meet their needs, and stop there

Remember the cutesy acronym KISS—Keep It Simple, Stupid? This doesn’t mean you should lower the reading level of your writing, but rather that you should keep your main text focused. Provide links to supplementary information instead of explaining it in the post itself, which often weighs down the writing and makes it harder for your answer-seeking readers to find the information they came to your page for in the first place.

3. Make the hunt easy

An important development (evolution or mutation? We’re not sure…) in the way Millennials read is that they scan for important information rather than reading content in its entirety. The most successful blog posts are those that are structured so that the main points can be gleaned from a quick scan even if you don’t read the entire piece. Headings, subheadings, lists, and graphical content are all excellent ways to guide readers to your post’s critical information in a hurry.

4. Use visual interest

In a similar vein, Millennials are more responsive to visual content than block text. This may require some technical skills or the selection of a host site that is better optimized for visual aids (Medium and Tumblr are great examples). High-quality images or videos are not only more likely to attract online readers to your blog post in the first place; they also increase the chances of those users sharing your post with their social media circles.

5. Teach, don’t preach

Unlike the older Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Millennials respond best to content that reads as if it’s been written by someone similar to themselves—friends, family, even strangers—rather than by “experts.” In short? Be relatable and genuine in your writing. The #YOLO trend has thankfully died down (save for a few ill-thought-out tattoos), but the concept “You Only Live Once” does a good job of summing up what kind of content reaches Millennials. This is a generation that is largely motivated by firsthand experience. Create an experience through your writing that is interesting, relatable, and shareable.

That said, one of the most painful and misguided writing trends hitting websites meant to market to Millennials is the plague of dumbed-down writing. People read content to learn something, so don’t make your audiences feel that they aren’t being taken seriously or that you, the writer, are not trustworthy. Interesting, engagingly written content that teaches its readers something or inspires a dialogue will have more lasting appeal than assumed-to-be-popular vernacular.

6. Separate the trends from the fads

This is a biggie. Staying on top of trending topics, visual styles, and overarching messages that resonate positively with Millennials is important in developing a feel in your writing that will appeal to this target group. For example, 48% of Millennials interviewed for the Boston Consulting Group’s U.S. Millennial Supplemental Consumer Sentiment Survey (2013) reported they prefer to invest their time, money, and attention in companies that demonstrate social responsibility and environmental sustainability. In this study by NewsCred, 64% of Millennials report positive responsiveness to posts that are useful and relevant to their cultural interests.

What not to do, however, is hastily adopt fads. Fads don’t have lasting value within the generation; they are catchy items that surge in popularity and die down just as quickly, often drawing negative reactions when used after their peak. Need proof? Think of how quickly “clickbait” headlines plummeted from edgy to cringe-worthy.

7. Optimize for sharing

While the joke that the Millennial reader processes only 140 characters or fewer is a tad insulting, the point does have merit in terms of sharing potential. Incorporating Twitter-sized pockets of information into your post or boiling down the essence of the piece to such a size will help in getting it shared across social media platforms. Consider how lengthy news articles use pull-out quotes to highlight key information. Are the most important points of your post contained in succinct, nicely worded parcels?

8. Proofread

The Internet is brutal to those who make innocuous typos or punctuation and spelling errors. What happens in Vegas may stay there, but your Internet blunders are just a screenshot away from being permanent and globally accessible, like the ones seen here. We cannot state enough the importance of having your blog content edited by another party, preferably a professional.

9. Creep

Millennials process information quickly.When you’re faced with endless waves of competition, staying current is critical in maintaining approval from Millennial audiences. Research popular keywords, keep track of trending headlines and hashtags on Twitter, and be aware of frequently shared or liked news items to keep your own writing interesting and relevant. Millennials grew up in an era of rapid change that forced intuitive learning. As a result, this group of Internet consumers processes information quickly, learns fast, and adapts even faster; if your blog doesn’t do the same, they’ll move on to one that does.

Marketing ain’t wasted on the young

Advertising analytics prove that brand loyalty and buying habits are established at a young age. Politicians know that the underexploited young vote has the power to turn an election. Online writing industries—from blogs to news outlets to creative content hubs like Colossal and Upworthy—have shifted their headlines, content presentation, and writing voices to suit the reading styles most consistently observed in younger audiences. Millennials dominate the online world and are the next generation of consumers; wise bloggers know how to play to the reading habits and responses of this age group to successfully generate a following. Still above writing for Millennials? Better not quit your day job, son.

Image sources: OpenClipartVectors/Pixabay.com, Luis Llerena/Stocksnap.io, ClkerFreeVectorImages/Pixabay.com

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10 Ways to Alienate Your Blog Audience

10 Ways to Alienate Your Blog AudienceThere’s a lot of great information out there about how to engage your audience. I’m sure you’ve read all the guides on how to avoid common blogging mistakes, but those guides have one big problem in common: they all assume that you want to avoid those blogging mistakes. All these experts think you and everyone else out there just wants to engage your audience, but I know better. I know that you would much rather alienate the heck out of your audience than engage them with your writing, which is why I’ve compiled a list of the 10 best ways to do just that.

1. Be a know-it-all.

You’re not writing about your topic because you’re a novice in the field; you’re writing because you’re knowledgeable about your subject, and as such, you have every right to tell your audience everything they need to know. They might not know they need to know, but you know they need to know, you know? Some may say that this type of alienation is bad, but I say there’s no better way to engage your audience than to cram information they don’t understand (or care about) down their throats.

2. Be better than casual English.

And by that I mean be as formal in tone as you can possibly be. They say that using the wrong tone is one of the most common blogging mistakes out there, but I say that “wrong tone” is subjective. Ideally, you should use a document that’s at least 100 years old for your tone guidelines. People will love it. You’ll sound super smart and definitely not like you think you’re better than everyone else—including, you know, your readers, who will totally love feeling left out of the language loop.

3. Don’t distract them with pictures.

Why on earth would anyone want to look at images when they have all your wonderful, exceedingly thorough, and painfully pompous—um, I mean, formal—prose to get through? Sure, there may be tons of evidence out there about how much images can do to help you engage your audience. But that’s not what you’re going for; you’re going for complete and total alienation. With no images for your readers to look at, you’ll be well on your way to achieving that goal.

4. Talk about yourself. Really, who cares about anyone else anyway?

This is your blog. This means that it is totally acceptable to make it about you and only you. I mean, why would anyone even be bothering to read something you have written if they weren’t interested in hearing about every single occurrence of your everyday life? Being a complete narcissist is absolutely the best way to engage your audience, especially if you’re the only member.

5. Put other people down.

I think we’ve already established that when it comes to blogging, you clearly know better than your readers. And you know who else you probably know better than? Everyone else. You obviously don’t conform to common wisdom regarding blogging mistakes, and because you’re not all that interested in learning how to engage your audience, I think it’s fair to say that you can totally get away with being a big virtual bully.

6. Ignore your followers.

One way to engage your audience is to keep the lines of communication open. Allow commenting on your blog, and be sure to respond to all constructive feedback—both positive and negative—and suggestions. You can also pay attention to what people are saying about you on social media and respond accordingly. That is, those are the rules if you want to engage your audience. Because your blog aims to alienate your audience, you want to be sure to ignore any and all feedback. Ain’t nobody got time for responding to feedback anyway.

7. Share your broad spectrum of knowledge.

Share your broad spectrum of knowledgeIf you want to engage your audience, you might consider focusing on one very specific topic for each blog post. However, seeing as you’re looking to alienate your blog audience, I suggest a different route: tell your readers everything you know about anything related to your topic. Then tell them everything you know that’s even vaguely related to your topic. Heck, just tell them everything you know about everything.

8. Rely on keywords like you rely on oxygen.

There’s nothing that can alienate a reader quicker than a post that’s jam-packed with keywords. As you’re not looking to engage your audience, be sure to use keywords more liberally than McDonald’s uses salt. While your readers are washing down your blog post with a large Coke, you can take the time to watch your SEO not improve at all, thanks to Google’s latest algorithm updates. Better to have no winners than for everyone to be a winner. Am I right?

9. Write for everyone.

You don’t want to discriminate in your quest for alienation; you want to alienate everyone equally. That’s why you should write your blog posts on the principle that everyone and their grandma is going to be interested in reading them. Be formal for the stuffier folk, write more casually for the younger readers, and throw in lots of references that only your hipster fan base will understand. Before you know it, you’ll have quickly and easily alienated most of your readers!

10. Don’t proofread.

A well-written, thoroughly proofread post is one of those blogging mistakes that you can’t afford to make when you’re trying to alienate your audience. Don’t waste your time by hiring an editor or proofreader for your work. Just write, publish, and watch as your readers all run away in displeasure. It feels good to be alone, doesn’t it?

An Alternative Approach

If you’ve changed your mind and decided that you’d like to avoid blogging mistakes and engage your audience in the future, you might want to consider checking out some of the other advice Inklyo has to offer. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with all the latest in content writing, including advice for keeping your blog active and up to date.

Image sources: wgbieber/Pixabay.com, robeo/BigStockPhoto.com

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Do Not Submit Articles Filled with Spelling Errors and Bad Grammar

Do Not Submit Articles Filled with Spelling Errors and Bad Grammar

Why submitting articles with errors may land you in hot water

Rejected.Do Not Submit Articles Filled with Spelling Errors and Bad Grammar

This is a word none of us ever wants to hear in any context, but especially when it’s attached to writing we have agonized over and, in some cases, spent months or years crafting. Rejection brings with it pain, disappointment, and often regret. The one rejected is left wondering what could have been done differently. That’s why it’s important not to submit articles filled with spelling errors and bad grammar!

There are no simple answers to ease the pain of most of life’s rejections. Fortunately, that is not the case with writing. If you have worked diligently to complete a text, chances are you have focused on the larger issues of writing—logical organization, eliminating redundancy, and strengthening arguments. But have you paid enough attention to grammar and spelling? Have you taken the time to learn English grammar?

In an increasingly digital world, we often ignore the rules of standard written English. We dash off e-mails riddled with spelling and grammar errors, knowing the recipient will be able to understand what we mean. While this type of writing is acceptable in day-to-day communication, it can lead us to develop bad habits that can carry over into our formal writing. If we don’t take the time to eliminate these errors through editing, we could be left with a document that causes editors to reach for their red pens, or worse, reject the article outright.

This brings us to the number one rule of article submission: check and re-check your spelling and grammar. If an editor cannot make it through one page without stumbling across errors in your writing, he or she likely won’t continue to the second page. Spelling, grammar, and typographical errors reflect poorly on the author—you. These errors suggest that you are careless, that you don’t take pride in your work, or perhaps that you simply don’t care. If you don’t take the time to meticulously edit and proofread your own text, then the editor is left to wonder what other shortcuts you may have taken.

Reviewing your article again and again may seem tedious. The English language, after all, is full of obscure rules that can strike fear into the hearts of many writers. But fear not; there is hope! Listed below are the most common—and easily corrected—grammar and spelling errors made by authors.

  • Subject–verb agreement: A cardinal rule in the English language is that the subject must agree in number with the verb. This easy-to-remember rule is sometimes hard to follow when sentences are convoluted due to complex ideas and descriptive phrases. Strip away the unnecessary phrases to determine whether your subject and verb agree.
  • Capitalization: Capital letters are used as signals. They can signify an important noun (e.g., John Smith) or adjective (e.g., American), the pronoun I, or the beginning of a sentence.
  • Ending punctuation: The punctuation that appears at the end of a sentence acts as a full stop, signaling to the reader that the thought presented in the sentence is now complete. Be sure that your chosen punctuation mark (period, question mark, or exclamation point) matches the meaning of the sentence.
  • Commas: Many writers dread the comma because it can cause numerous problems, especially comma splices. If you are using a comma to connect two complete thoughts (independent clauses) in a sentence, be sure the comma is followed by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, yet, or so).
  • Apostrophes: Most problems with the apostrophe occur when a writer mistakes a plural (more than one) for a possessive (showing ownership). In this case, apostrophes are used to show possession: driver’s means belonging to the driver, while drivers means more than one driver.
    • Special case: The pronoun it can cause some confusion. It’s is a contraction meaning it is or it has, while its is the possessive form of it.
  • Homophones: These are words that sound like other words but are spelled differently. Homophones can wreak havoc on an article because many authors forget to search for these easy mistakes. Groups to notice in particular are: their/they’re/there, it’s/its, here/hear, your/you’re, to/too/two, through/threw, and weather/whether.

Eliminating these common grammar and spelling errors, and indeed all errors, will show your editor what you already know—that you are serious about and take pride in your work. If you struggle with learning English grammar or just need a refresher, do not submit articles filled with spelling errors and bad grammar. Instead, check out GrammarCamp, the online grammar course created by the editing experts at Scribendi.com.