The New Yoast Content Feedback and the Red Pen of Death

 

 

Do you use the Yoast SEO WordPress plug in on your blog? If you do, then you’ve noticed a few changes lately. It still offers the same convenient traffic-light grading system for your content, showing you at a glance how well you’ve worked your keywords in for best optimization. The new system adds content feedback to the equation – and that’s where Yoast gets a big fat D- grade.

Because the feedback reads like an especially dour nun took a big red pen to your blog post and is scolding you over your use of…good writing.

(I can say this because I survived 12 years of Catholic school and grew up with nuns in the family. And I loved them dearly and they were the most joyful, happy people I have ever met. The nuns who taught me in grade school? Not so joyful. But who would be surrounded by 30 kids every day?)

Yes, the new Yoast content feedback system leaves a lot to be desired.

It scolds you for using complex sentences.

It scolds you for writing more than two sentences to a paragraph.

In short…it seems to want to dumb down blog posts to the least common denominator.

Now, I’m not knocking on Yoast. God knows that as a content marketing writer, I appreciate the ease and convenience of a plug-in. What disturbs me more is the idea that internet readers cannot absorb thoughtful, engaging, and well-written content.

Polysyllabic words, complex sentences with multiple clauses, and longer blog posts are all part of my content platform. They might be part of yours as well. The prevailing wisdom from the SEO gurus is that such content isn’t read, and increases bounce rates because visitors arrive at your site and are immediately turned off by large text blogs.

I’m not so sure about that. I think it depends on your blog and on your readers. I don’t visit political, religious or social commentary blogs for the Cheerios and Sippy Cup version. I want meat, potatoes, steak knives and beer. I want thoughtful content I can chew on in my head the rest of the day, essays that make me think deeply about subjects that I care about.

If I visit a DIY blog, or a home and garden blog, or a pet blog, I want something different. I want big, pretty pictures. I want personality. I want to see the project. I want clear directions. And yes, simple step by step content makes it easier to read.

Everything in content marketing depends on your audience. What does your audience want, need and desire? Then it is a matter of matching your offering in the best possible way to what your audience wants. This is Marketing 101.

The SEO Bot Gods may seek simple content, but if that’s not what your audience wants, in the end it isn’t worth dumbing down your blog for the search engines. You’ll always succeed if your content speaks to the intended audience.

Tools like Yoast cannot differentiate and distinguish between a DIY blog and a deeply philosophical blog that explores current events. It tries to apply an identical rubric to all content. But content is not one-size-fits-all. Content must be personal in order to be meaningful.

My recommendation: Continue using Yoast, but if the tone of the content feedback bot gives you flashbacks to Sister Mary Invincta’s 5th grade English class and the Red Pen of Creative Death, just ignore it. I do.

 

 

 

It’s Party Time! Blog Parties Explained

Have you ever seen the term “blog party?” A blog party may be a good way to gain traffic to your blog.

Photo credit: FidlerJan from morguefile.com

 

Blog Parties to Boost Website Traffic

What is a blog party? Blog parties, also called link parties, are online link sharing opportunities. They’re usually hosted on DIY or “mommy” type blogs but may be on any type of blog.

On a blog party or link party, you’ll have the opportunity to share your blog post via a tool called InLinkz. It’s a WordPress Plugin favored by blog party hosts because it offers an easy opportunity for participants to share links.

With InLinkz, the blogs shared on your party are automatically added and updated as participants their blog posts. You can add one post, but some parties allow you to add more than one. You can add any post — an old post or a new one. I like to add one new post per week and then trot out an old favorite from my blog for other parties.

Whatever post you choose to share, it should feature a good quality photograph that you have permission to share. The more eye-catching the photo, the better. The photos are displayed in a tiny thumbnail, so they should be bright and big. Little details tend to get lost in the smaller pictures.

Once you share your link, what happens? Well, with each blog party, it’s different. Some party hosts request you to leave a comment or share other participants’ posts. Read the instructions on the blog party itself. Hosts set their own rules. Most ask you to follow the blog party hosts on social media, and comment and share at least 1 or 2 other party posts. Some ask you to add a graphic or code to your sidebar.

Where to Find Link Parties

The best place to find link parties is on your favorite blogs. Start looking for them, because most bloggers in the DIY and “mommy” space (those catering or writing to people who have children, families, craft, garden, etc) participate in at least one or two per week. I’m a co-host for the #HomeMattersParty or Home Matters Link party, by the way, over on my home and gardening blog, Home Garden Joy. You’re welcome to add your blog post to this week’s party or the new on happening each Friday if you fit the profile of party participants: DIY, crafts, recipes, homemaking, etc.

You can also search for link parties online. There are also groups on Facebook dedicated just to bloggers promoting link parties.

Why Participate in Link Parties?

Link parties are a good way to generate traffic to your blog posts, but they can be a lot of work. There are numerous pros and cons to participating in link parties:

Pros/Advantages

  • Can generate traffic
  • Network with other bloggers
  • Find other parties to participate in
  • Share on social media and have your posts shared

Cons/Disadvantages

  • If it’s not the right niche, it may not generate enough traffic.
  • Co-hosting a party is a lot of work and requires time.
  • The traffic you get may not be the ‘right’ kind of traffic. In other words, it may be lookie-lous but not people who are truly interested in reading your blog posts.
  • It’s useful for consumer blogs…and may not work well for business related blogs.

I have included blog parties in my toolkit this year to boost traffic to my gardening blog, Home Garden Joy. One of my goals for the blog this year has been to boost page views and lower the bounce rate.

I’ve been participating in a link party as a co-host consistently now for six months and have seen my blog traffic double. More importantly, links are being shared. One link to an old blog post went viral last month, causing my traffic to soar. There’s been a continual uptick since then, probably due to the search engines taking more notices of my little blog. At least I hope so.

The bounce rate on my blog, however, remains stubbornly high. I think it’s due to poor naming conventions on my blog from years ago when I considered my blog more of a hobby than a true website. I am still revising many of my old blog posts to make them better optimized and more professional.

My participation in the Home Matters Blog party takes about 3-4 hours per week, which is a considerable amount of time to invest. However, the audience for the party of mostly women in their 30s, 40s and 50s is perfect for my blog and I have met and made many new contacts thanks to the party activities. If you’re trying to reach a specific DIY demographic, participating in blog parties and link parties may be a great opportunity to boost your blog traffic.

For more information on this topic, see:


Marketing Writer Jeanne Grunert
Marketing Writer Jeanne Grunert

 

by Jeanne Grunert/Seven Oaks Consulting. Jeanne is a marketing writer and freelance writer specializing in business, marketing, technology and lifestyle content for clients worldwide. She’s the author of several books including Pricing Your Services: 21 Tips and Plan and Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden. Learn more about her work or hire her to write for you at Seven Oaks Consulting | Marketing Writer Jeanne Grunert.

How to Love Your Blog Again

Every relationship can grow stale at some point. That’s why partners go into marriage encounter weekends, or why self-help books suggest dating your spouse as if you had just met for the first time.

For bloggers, the relationship between you and your blog can also grow stale. What was such an exciting adventure when you started it now seems ho-hum, or worse still, a daily chore you just want to get over, like brushing your teeth or making your bed.

Here’s how to fall in love with you blog again.

Rekindle the Spark: Breathe New Life Into Old Blogs

Reinvigorate, rekindle and rejoice. Breathe new life into an old blog with these tips:

  • Enter a blog challenge: Blog challenges can give you a reason to blog again. Blog challenges are online fun contests centered around a theme. “30 posts in 30 days” is one such theme, the A to Z blogging challenge is another. Each time you enter into a blog challenge, you’re pitching your blogging talents against the contest rules. For me, entering one of my four blogs into the A to Z challenge helps get my creative juices flowing again. (For the record, this year I am entering Six Cats and Counting, my cat care blog, into the A to Z challenge.)
  • Enter a contest: Another fun thing to do is to enter your blog into a contest. You’ll find awards competitions from magazines and websites as well as popularity awards given from one blogger to another like the Liebster Awards. It’s all in good fun, and the added excitement can make you fall in love with your blog again.
  • Start an idea file: Back in the days when I wrote for magazines, I kept a clips file or an ideas file. It was essentially news stories that sparked my interest. When I encountered stories like that, I’d clip them and keep them on file. Sometimes just going through my ideas file would spark new, fresh ways of looking at a topic. Then I’d go off and tackle my own research and have a new story at hand. You can use internet bookmarks to keep your own online clip file or use Pinterest to make a file for future inspiration. Just remember not to rewrite or reword an existing post from someone else. It’s still considered plagiarism even if it’s in your own words.
  • Talk to your readers: By this I mean get out from behind your computer and actually mingle with the folks who read your blog. If you write about antique cars, go to a car show and listen to what people are talking about at the car show. If you’re a recipe blogger, visit a cooking supply store or try a new restaurant. Get back to your roots and find the inspiration among your readers and target audience who inspired you to start your blog.
  • Make an idea calendar: The creative well can run dry just when you least expect it. One way I get around this is to have an idea calendar for each blog. It’s a printed blog planner (I like Sarah Avilla’s planner at My Joy Filled Life. It’s $4.95 but well worth it). I have posts noted for each week, so if there’s a week when nothing immediately comes to mind to write about, I can flip through my binder and choose an idea. You can accomplish the same thing using a notebook. List the months of the year and ideas for posts that come to mind for those months. Maybe April is spring, Easter, new clothes, shopping, and September is back to school, new year, whatever. Having ideas at the ready can be a lifesaver when you feel like you just don’t want to write anything more

Fall in love with your blog again. Find ways to rekindle that passion you once had for writing.


Marketing Writer Jeanne Grunert

 

 

By Jeanne Grunert, President, Seven Oaks Consulting.  Jeanne is a freelance writer, blogger and novelist with a background in internet marketing.  This post originally appeared on Acorns, the content marketing blog of Seven Oaks Consulting. Feel free to link to it. Reprints by permission only.

 

5 Surprising Reasons Why Blogs Fail

 

Do you know the reason why blogs fail? You might think it’s lack of interest, or maybe poor writing, but I’m here to share with you the 5 surprising reasons why blogs fail…and how you can turn that frown upside down and get your blog back on track.

Blog Word Cloud

5 Reasons Why Most Blogs Fail

One of the goals that I set for my website, Home Garden Joy, is to increase my site traffic and decrease my blog’s bounce rate this year. It’s not an easy goal. With WordPress reporting 74,652,825 blogs on their site alone, it’s tough to crack the blogosphere with zippy content.

I decided to join a link party or blog party this year to help boost traffic to my own blog. A blog party is an online event in which a group of bloggers bands together to share, promote, and help each other with their blogs. As part of the blog party, I visit at least 60 to 100 different blogs each week.  That’s a lot of blogs!

Because I’m now reading so many blogs, in so many different categories than my own, I’ve gotten a really good sense about what makes a great blog, a good blog, and a boring blog. These 5 tips are derived from my own experiences reading 100+ blog posts a week.

Ready? Here’s why most blogs fail:

  1. What’s the point? Many bloggers have a hazy, unfocused blog that tries to cover everything under the sun. Today they’re writing about parenting issues, tomorrow about fashion, and on Friday, home decorating. That’s not to say that you can’t do this, but if you do decide to cover a multitude of topics, make sure you do in a fresh, fun way. Having your blog structured around particular posts on a certain day of the week, such as Foodie Friday or whatever can give it structure. Keep your blog focused around one major topic and similar related topics. Structure in blogs, as in art of music, is a key to a successful blog.
  2.  Where do I look first? If you have 17 ads blinking and screaming at me, all boldface type, no discernible headlines, and giant blogs of text, I’m skipping your blog and heading elsewhere. Don’t try to cram your blog with every advertiser you can to make money. Focus on just a few or even none if you’re starting out. Purchase a good blog template if you’re not used to designing a blog. My site host, Web Design of Palm Beach, did an excellent job on the original layout of this website. I purchased the template for my blog, Home Garden Joy, on Etsy. Blogs can fail due to poor design. Hire a professional graphic designer to design your blog or purchase a license to a good stock template. Poor blog design turns readers away.
  3. Nothing new here. When was the last time you updated your blog? While you don’t want to be a slave to blog updates and send out several day, you also don’t want to let months rush by without at least one blog post. A good rule of thumb is to post 3-5 times per week if you want to grow your blog. Blogs can fail from lack of attention. Frequent updates signals your readers that you’ve got something to say. Don’t neglect your blog.
  4. Nobody cares about you: Unless your blog is about an experiment you’re doing or your life, and you’re doing something incredible, I have to say this straight out: nobody really cares about you. If all your posts are about what you want for your birthday, your last pedicure, or the coupons you found online, you’re going to bore your reader to death. Many blogs fail because they are written all about the writer and not about the audience reading the writing. Write with your reader in mind. What do your readers want to know? That’s what you should write.
  5. Be original: Even though I don’t want to know every detail of your pedicure, I do want you to be yourself. I’d rather read the writings of a truly original person than to read a poorly reproduced carbon copy of someone. Be yourself. You can’t be anyone else. If you love puppies and heavy metal music, let your readers know that. Just because Blogger A is famous and Blogger B seems to be making a lot of money doesn’t meant that A and B know what they’re doing. They may be lucky, they may have good sponsors, or they may just have hit on a hot topic. I know of one writer whose blog gets 30,000+ hits a month. Now, I could copy what she does…or I could continue to be an original and grow my blogs in my own voice, style and tone. She’s popular…but I’m not her. Blogs can fail when you try to copy someone else’s style or tone, even if they’re popular. Be yourself. You can’t be anybody else. 

 

Building a successful blog takes time. I know that there are stories out there of people who have managed to build a smashing success in six months, a year, or two. Good for them! Congratulations! For more writers and bloggers, success takes time. It takes practice. It takes blogging, day or night, day in and day out, until finally you hit that sweet spot known as success, however you define success.4


Jeanne Grunert_October 2015

By Jeanne Grunert, President, Seven Oaks Consulting.  Jeanne is a freelance writer, blogger and novelist with a background in internet marketing.  This post originally appeared on Acorns, the content marketing blog of Seven Oaks Consulting. Feel free to link to it. Reprints by permission only.

Three Great Reasons to Ditch Cheesy Stock Photography

Here are three great reasons to ditch the cheesy stock photography the next time you share online content with the world. Whether you’re building a website, writing a blog, or creating memorable social media graphics, do all you can to avoid using stock photography. Here’s why.

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The Dangers of Stock Photography: You’re Un-Original

I’m feeling rather crabby today (that’s my crabby face, above.) (Actually, it’s a photo I took of my office orchid, Audrey II, updated a wee bit by good friend and artist Nan Wagner.) I was browsing Twitter yesterday when a photo popped up of an author’s new book cover. He wrote a vampire-slasher-thriller. I’m not a fan of vampire-slasher-thrillers. I am, however, a great fan of his cover…because it’s the EXACT same cover photo as on my forthcoming novel, I Believe You.

IBelieveYou_1600x2400_300DPI

Oops. My cover designer is the magnificent Melissa Alvarez at BookCovers.us, and she chose the same stock photo, only changing the angle a bit. Oh, yeah, and she made this cover AT LEAST A YEAR AGO. But my book isn’t out yet, and the other guy’s book IS out first. It’s a pickle, I tell you. It’s great minds thinking alike…but he got to market first.

Vampire slayer writer seems to have pulled the same stock image from Deposit Photos and used it “as is”. I like my cover better, but no matter: now we have two covers with the same image, and his book is out first, so I’m probably going to end up having a second cover done at some point to keep from being accused of copying HIM. Even though my cover was created first, I’m just so damned slow at shaping up my novel for publication that he managed to get to market faster. Kudos to him, rotten tomatoes to me.

This only proves what I’ve been saying all along; there are dangers to using stock photography. I have seen many such dangers since my days as a marketing manager at The College Board. During my tenure as the K-12 Marketing Manager, we had  a running joke about seeing the same kids in caps and gowns EVERYWHERE in advertising in the education space. The reason was simple enough – good stock photography of teens was difficult to find in those days. My answer was to work with our Creative Services Director to stage a custom photo shoot. We hired models, scouted locations, and had a huge bank of original images from which to choose from for all of our design needs.

Not everyone can afford to do something as drastic, but everyone today does own a digital camera, cell phone camera, or some other camera. Most of us can take reasonably interesting photos, albeit probably not professional quality. For most of our blogging and online content publishing needs, however, simple, clean, well-lit photos are usually adequate.

The Dangers of Stock Photography: Extortion Letters

Ever hear of the Extortion Letters? I didn’t until a client I was working with several years ago – a well-known, big name client – sent me a strange clause in my work contract. They insisted I do not use any stock photography in my work for them. They named several stock companies I could NOT use. When I called my contact at the company to ask why, she said, “We’ve heard that these stock photo companies sent out letters demanding huge settlements and claiming copyright infringement.”

I laughed out loud at this. I mean, c’mon, how many times had we used stock photography during my marketing manager days and never thought twice about licensing it? But today it’s a different ballgame. Because the market for stock photography is dwindling, many of the stock companies are more aggressively pursing copyright infringement. Some of that infringement is real, to be sure. Google Images is one of the most confusing search engines in the world, especially since so many clueless newbie bloggers just grab images willy-nilly from it without understanding the right way to license images. Many of the stock photo companies take advantage of the ignorance of others and send out scary legal letters demanding hundreds or thousands of dollars for an infringement whether you take the picture off of your website immediately or not.

The stock photo companies also make mistakes and send letters out to INNOCENT people, too. And they don’t want to hear your explanation: “Hey, I took that photo of clouds! That’s my picture!” No, if THEY think it’s their image, they act like you are guilty. A friend of mine who designs websites for a living legally licensed an image from a stock company. He paid the licensing fee and used the image appropriately according to the license terms. He got one of those letters, and despite showing the license agreement to the firm, STILL received demands for payment. That’s why many of these “letter campaigns” are now dubbed “extortion letter programs.”

Stock photography does come in handy.  When you need a special image to convey an emotion or feeling, sometimes there’s no way around licensing the right image. If you pay your fee and use the image properly, according to the license terms, you should be fine, but retain your agreement, emails and receipt just in case. In the meantime, this is one of my top reasons to avoid using stock photography and to being especially careful when I do. It’s unethical to use photos without permission, but it’s also hard to deal with these big companies when they make mistakes or even to negotiate a settlement when you’ve accidentally made a mistake and used a photo without permission.

For more information on stock photography Extortion Letters, see Extortion Letter Info.

The Dangers of Stock Photography: It’s Not YOUR Unique Vision

Stock photography reflects the artistic vision of the original creator, whether it’s a professional photographer in Iceland or a graphic designer in Poland. Either way, it’s THEIR vision, not yours. It pays to develop your own unique vision and artistic expression, especially when it comes to photography.

If you’re a blogger, sharing your own artistic vision through your photography is essential. If you need additional photos, license them properly (see above) but make sure that they depict the heart of what your blog is about.

Most of the time, you can create your own photos. I have learned to become a better photographer thanks to the tips I’ve read on many of the online blogging sites. I use free tools such as Canva and PicMonkey to add effects, crop and edit my images. I’m not as skilled as Nan, who added the blue googly eyes to my orchid picture to create Audrey II, but I can at least make a passage image.

Consider taking an online photography course. Udemy offers many affordable courses. You may also be able to take a course at your local community college or an evening adult education program at your local high school.

For companies, consider doing what we did many years ago: hire a professional photographer, hire a few models, get releases in writing from them, and stage your own photo session. If you are a retailer, a few professional photos of your products will do wonders to help sell them. I worked with a startup retail firm as a consultant a few years ago and we saw tremendous revenue jumps when she hired a professional to photograph the statues she was selling. The lighting, props and angles were just so much better than my client could take on her own. Her original photos were clean and clear, but the professional ones were magical. She hired the photographer and paid for the copyrights to all the images of her products, but the money spent was well worth it and easily earned back in increased sales.

 

Stock photography has its place, but there are many reasons to wean yourself away from it. Consider your options, save all your records if you DO license photos (free or paid), and try your best to give your photos your own unique stamp.