blogging basics

How to Write Content that Keeps People Reading

Want to know the secret to getting people hooked on your content? Use these tips to engage your readers. Have you ever come across an article or blog post that was REALLY good? Like mindblowing, share-with-everyone-you-know good? Probably yes.

And have you ever come across a post that was maybe...not-so-good? Unfortunately yes.

So what's the secret?

What makes some information is so captivating that you just can't stop reading while other information makes reading a college history textbook sound interesting? Why do some words cause you to excitedly take notes while at other times you re-read the same thing three times and then give up?

The good news is that there is an answer (and a pretty simple one too).

Write content that causes readers to learn and/or laugh.  

[Tweet "Want to know how to write content that keeps readers hooked? @britthouchins shares the secret."]

The reasoning behind this is due to the fact that people read for two very basic reasons.

  1. People read because they want to be EDUCATED.
  2. People read because they want to be ENTERTAINED.

Let's go back to #1.

People love to read articles that teach them something, whether it's how to make a delicious recipe, start a capsule wardrobe, or to Google why platypuses have bills. To ensure that your writing gives readers what they're looking for, there are a few steps you should take.

Write to Educate

  • Give action steps. When a reader wants to follow your lead and learn a process, be sure to tell them the necessary steps involved in order to complete it. Of course, not everything is going to be in a step by step format, but if done right, a well-written post should explain concepts thoroughly and in chronological, reasonable steps.
  • Include tips. Everything you write should have tips included. Everything. It doesn't need to be a basic list of tips either. Tips can take on many forms: keys, tactics, techniques, ways, warnings, suggestions, methods, rules, options, processes, etc. All it takes is for one good idea that you've shared to satisfy the reader.
  • Make them think. Give examples to help get their brain juices flowing. Readers crave more than just information. They want to see how they can apply it in their own lives.

Now for #2.

The internet has brought entertainment to our fingertips 24/7. We like to read articles that are captivating, not boring. Bringing this element into your own writing can dramatically increase the engagement in your posts.

 Write to Entertain

  • Write conversationally. No one wants to read a dry article. My writing style is very informal; I write the way I talk. My hope is that by doing so, my readers can feel as if I'm talking with them one-on-one. Writing conversationally can help readers feel more at ease and even more willing to comment.
  • Use humor. Most people like to laugh. (To those of you who don't enjoy laughing, my apologies. You may skip this and go immediately to the section labeled "Don't Have A Sense Of Humor"). Basically it just means when you have a chance to say something in a funny way, do it. Of course, don't use too much humor and stay away from anything offensive, but by all means insert some light-hearted fun when applicable.
  • Tell a story. Especially a real one, as it provides a sense of credibility to what you're saying. A story can set the mood or provide a background to what you're about to say later on. It can be funny, sad, serious, or embarrassing. Sharing a good story always a great way to engage the reader.

There you have it! The secret to keeping readers hooked on your content. Try it out and see if people don't come running back for more ;)

What do you think? Is the reason people read because they want to be educated and/or entertained?


How to Use Google Adwords Keyword Planner for Better Blog SEO

Want to boost your blog SEO? Follow these 5 steps to using Google Adwords Keyword Planner. If you have a blog or a website, you're probably well aware that SEO (search engine optimization) is important for gaining traffic and ranking higher in Google searches. Many bloggers have shared tips for great SEO. Some of my favorites that I recommend reading are 10 Ways to Boost SEO for Bloggers by Gina and Simple SEO by Nora. They both provide great tips for those who want to increase their SEO but aren't sure how.

One thing I've learned about SEO is the importance of the keyword you set for your post. So today I'm showing you how I use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to increase SEO for my blog. And guess what? It's easy! :)

A keyword rich post is more likely to show up in higher ranks of Google, especially if it's specific. But if you're anything like me, coming up with the perfect keyword is a struggle sometimes. Google's keyword planner takes away the fuss of trying making up a keyword for your post. Ready to get started? :)

Step One

Go to Google Adwords Keyword Planner.

Want to boost your blog SEO? Follow these 5 steps to using Google Adwords Keyword Planner.

Step Two

Log in or Sign up.

If you already have an Adwords account (a.k.a you host Google Ads on your site), just log in using your Adword credentials. Otherwise, go ahead and sign up (it's free).

Step Three

Follow the prompts until you reach "Your First Campaign"

Don't worry about the "Billing" section that comes right after. You aren't setting up an ad on Google, so you won't pay a thing. Rather, you're just here for the keyword planner. Once you're done using the keyword planner, go ahead and exit. No need to go on to the billing step (unless you're a business and want to pay for ad space on Google).

Step Four

Navigate to Choose a Target Audience > Keywords. Click on Select Your Keywords.

Want to boost your blog SEO? Follow these 5 steps to using Google Adwords Keyword Planner.

Step Five

Type in a few different keywords that are relevant to your post. The number that appears is the search popularity of that combination of keywords. While a bigger number means more searches, it also means that there's more competition. Select your keywords carefully.

Another tip!

Hover over the right of the green bar and click More Like This. More keyword suggestions will appear! You can keep doing this to get an idea on what's being searched frequently.

Want to boost your blog SEO? Follow these 5 steps to using Google Adwords Keyword Planner.

And that's it! Told you it was easy :)

I hope this helps you when deciding on keywords for your posts. If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear them below!

Have you ever used Google's Keyword Planner?


Easy Ways to Promote Your Blog When You're Bored

If you ever find yourself with a spare 10 minutes or longer, try some of these easy blog boosters to expand your online presence. #blog #blogtipsWe all have those days when we feel bored, uninspired, or lacking energy to create a post – and that's totally okay! You can still use your downtime to promote your blog in small ways. If you ever find yourself with a spare 10 minutes or longer, try some of these easy blog boosters to expand your online presence:

[Tweet "Does your blog need a boost? Here are 9 SUPER EASY ways to promote your blog when you're bored! via @britthouchins"]

Create, maintain, and edit a list of blog topic ideas

Even before I started my blog I had a Google Doc called "Blog Post Ideas". I still use it to this day! Whenever I have an idea pop into my head, I write it down. I've found that using Google Drive works better (for me at least) than a notebook because it's synced with the cloud and I can access it both on my phone and computer. If you're feeling bored, use this time to jot down some ideas for upcoming blog posts. I find some of my greatest inspiration by reading magazines or simply browsing the web.

Reach out to a blogger you admire

Making blog friends is one of the best things about blogging! Don't be afraid to send a friendly email to a blogger you admire or one you have been following for a long time.

Comment on other blogs

Networking with other bloggers is one of the best ways to boost blog traffic. Take an hour to read through other blogs and leaving genuine comments on posts you love. If you're not totally in love with the post or the blog, then don't comment. It's better to be genuine and make connections with those you click with than to just leave your link and run.

Repin old posts onto relevant Pinterest boards (again)

Pinterest is such a great referral source. While pins will continually show up in search results and get repinned, it doesn't hurt to do some extra promotion ;) Go through your archives and pin your images to relevant boards, even if you've pinned it there before. You've most likely gained some followers between now and then who haven't been exposed to that amazing post of yours!

Make your images Pinterest friendly

In the blogging world, it's really important to have visually appealing images. And, we have to admit, sometimes our old posts aren't very Pinterest-worthy. Maybe your blog style changed (or you discovered it!) or the photos are just plain outdated. Go through your old posts and check to see if the photos/graphics match the branding of your blog.

Follow new people on Twitter and Instagram

Growing your audience can be as easy as finding and following other like-minded people. Take a few spare minutes to follow some new people and comment/like/send them a tweet. It’s important to interact with other people online if you want to get noticed!

Discover your social media influence

If you haven't done so already, sign up for Klout to determine your social media influence. Klout is designed to help you understand and leverage your influence on different social networks. Advertising agencies use it to identify influencers that would be great at promoting their products.

Make your pitch list

When you have some free time, sit down and come up with a pitch list. Think of dream brands you would like to work with, brands that would be a good fit to work with you now, and ideas for guest posts/collaborations with other bloggers. Once you have a few ideas, go ahead and contact them! The worst that could happen would be them saying no. And even if they do, the fact that you'd tried shows that you're serious about your blog and want to leverage it in the best way possible. So don't be afraid! Take the chance! :)

Schedule social media promotion of old posts

Most of the time, only your most popular posts will be revisited. But what about the rest of your archives? Take a few minutes to go through your archives and schedule each one for some social media promotion. Personalize your tweets and Facebook shares using Hootsuite or Buffer (I prefer Buffer, as it's minimal and more aesthetically pleasing). Try to schedule them out over a long period of time, especially if you've been blogging for over a few years. Once every few days should be fine, since you'll still be promoting your current posts.

What do you do in your free time to promote your blog?


Elevate your blog by following these blogging basics from The Kardia.

35 Ways to Improve Your Blog

Keep your blog up to date and improve your reach! #blogtips Blogging is a quickly growing industry. In the last few years it's become a standard for businesses to run a blog and nearly any question you have can be answered from a blog post. With all these changes and growth happening, it also means that you need to keep your blog up to date–and I'm not just talking about post frequency! Keeping your blog current with the times shows that you care about your space on the internet. Taking just a few minutes today to improve your blog's look and feel can dramatically improve it's future.

[Tweet "Don’t miss these “35 Ways to Improve Your Blog”. #blogtips via @britthouchins"]

  1. Remove Google Friend Connect and use Google+ instead.
  2. Purchase your domain (no more .blogspot or .wordpress!)

  3. If you're on WordPress, always update all your plugins.
  4. Make your Categories or Archives in the sidebar a dropdown menu or a short, simple list.
  5. Don't use centered text. Either right align or justify it.
  6. Remove any following counters. They just take up unnecessary space.
  7. Simplify your footer. Decide what needs to be included and either delete or move anything else.
  8. Add a social sharing widget such as Shareaholic or AddThis.
  9. Add a hover Pin It button.
  10. Remove obnoxious pop-up ads. Even the most loyal readers dislike clicking "close" every time.
  11. Make sure you have a disclosure policy, terms of service, and privacy policy.
  12. Make sure all graphics are Pinterest worthy and replace graphics from old posts. The optimal size for images are at least 735 pixels wide. The height can be adjusted according to your needs, but taller images are more likely to get repinned.
  13. Make sure your font is big enough and dark enough to read.
  14. Space widgets evenly in the sidebar. Whitespace is your friend!
  15. Get a handle on your stats. Set up Google Analytics to track important statistics like unique visitors (users) and pageviews. Also, did you know that you can check Twitter Analytics?
  16. Proof-read your posts. Don't just rely on spellcheck.
  17. Link back to your own posts within another relevant post.
  18. Join a blogging community! I recommend The Peony Project.
  19. Create a Gravatar account to display your avatar beside your comments.
  20. Use Alt tags on images.
  21. Make external links open in a new tab. If a user clicks on a link and it takes them to a new site, they might not come back to yours! So check the box that says "open link in new tab" or add target="_blank" after the Alt tag.
  22. Set up a business blog email.
  23. Make images fit the width of your content/post. For example, if your content is 650px wide make your photos at least 650px wide. Everything will look cleaner with your text and photos lined up on both sides of the page.
  24. Write in a conversational tone.
  25. If you have a lot of affiliate and group buttons, move them to a separate page.
  26. Set up an RSS feed and have an option for people to get your posts mailed to their email.
  27. Move your "daily blog reads" list to a new page instead of listing it in the sidebar.
  28. Move your ads around to find the best locations.
  29. Streamline your images. Making images more cohesive and recognizable increases the chance that they'll be shared on social media! It also improves the overall look and feel of your blog "brand".
  30. Write a blog mission statement.
  31. Use Disqus as a commenting system. One of the most commonly used commenting system, Disqus allows you to easily visit other blogs and keep up with who you need to reply to.
  32. Delete any Wordpress plugins that are unnecessary, as they slow down your blog's loading time.
  33. Make sure you have a search bar.
  34. Link to your favorite or most popular posts.
  35. Make sure your blog reflects who you are as a person. You'll enjoy blogging so much more if your blog is an extension of who you are!

Do you have any tips to improve your blog?


Elevate your blog by following these blogging basics from The Kardia.

Is Your Blog Legal?

How to make your blog or website legal by adding a disclosure policy, terms of service, and a privacy policy. #blogging #blogtips Owning your own blog is a great feeling. You get to do something you love while being an influence in other's lives and can even make some money doing so. But have you ever taken the time to make sure your blog is legal?

Having an online presence in today's digital age means that there are legal requirements that come with owning your own blog or business. Not only do you need a disclosure policy, but you need a terms of service and privacy policy too. Because most of us don't know how to write legal stuff, I'll show you how you can make your blog legal in less than 30 minutes using online policy generators.

But first, here are a few things you should take note of:

  1. Use a separate page, not a blog post, for each policy. Having them on separate pages will increase your site's SEO.
  2. Link to each of the policies somewhere on your home page. I have mine linked in my shortened disclosure policy in the sidebar, but some people like having it linked in the footer area.
  3. You should still have both a full Disclosure Policy and a shortened one. The longer one should be on a separate page and go into more detail while the shorter one is for posting on your homepage (the short one can be more informal sounding too).
  4. Update your policies at least once a year to keep them current. Usually there should be a sentence at the beginning or end of each policy saying something along the lines of "This document was last updated on December 28, 2014."
  5. I am not a licensed attorney, nor should you take the information in this post as full legal advice. The policy generators may not fully cover all legal requirements, but they are a good start :)

Disclosure Policy

Most bloggers have some sort of disclosure on their site, which is super important! If you monetize your site in any way, whether it be through sponsors, affiliate links, or Google Ads, you need to have a disclosure according to the Federal Communications Commissions. I used this Disclosure Policy generator to write mine.

Terms of Service

Another notice you should have on your site is a Terms of Use/Service. I'm sure we've all seen a Terms of Use agreement before, even if most of us don't ever read them (oops!). If you scroll to the bottom of most websites, you'll find a Terms of Service or Terms of Use Policy. This serves as a sort of "contract" between the business and visitor. Terms vary depending on the type of business it is, but having one for your blog is important to help protect you from any potential legal action by visitors to your site.

I used Privacy Policy Online's Terms of Service Generator to help write my Terms of Use policy. You'll definitely want to take the time and actually read what it generates and tweak different items. It's a lengthy document, but you want to make sure it fits your site. Some important things that should be included are: rules governing the use of your site, user content, limitations of liabilities, any warranties, intellectual property information, and breaches of contract.

I also changed a few things, like taking out my address and phone number and inserting my email instead. I also linked to my privacy policy page when it was mentioned in the document and changed the Law and Jurisdiction part to my state of residence instead of whatever state came generated with it.

Privacy Policy

The third important piece of information you should include on your blog is a Privacy Policy. This is extremely important if you collect anyone's information: name, email, payment information, if you host a linkup, etc. Basically, a Privacy Policy discloses how your site will store their information.

A Privacy Policy should essentially state that you promise to keep any shared information safe and that you will not share it with anyone other than trusted third parties (like your newsletter provider). I don't fully understand the various federal and state laws that have specific rules on Privacy Policies, but I do understand that California is the strictest. I used Generate Policy Generator to make my Privacy Policy and tweaked it to fit my site.

Again, if you update any part of how your site collects data, you must update your Privacy Policy and let your users know. For example, back in December I added a feature to my Google Analytics that tracks demographic information. Because adding that feature required a tracking cookie, I needed to update my Privacy Policy stating how exactly I was using reader's information and how they could opt out if they wanted. I wrote it myself since the Privacy Policy generator didn't offer this option. Here's what I added (you can use this if you ever add demographic information to Google Analytics):

Google Analytics Display Advertising

Our Site’s use of the Google Analytics cookie and the DoubleClick cookie allows us to enable features in Google Analytics that aren’t available through standard implementations. Display features include:

  • Remarketing with Google Analytics
  • Google Display Network Impression Reporting
  • DoubleClick Platform integrations
  • Google Analytics Demographics and Interest Reporting

You can learn more about the use of the Google Analytics cookie and the DoubleClick cookie by visiting the Google Analytics Cookie Usage on Websites page. You may also opt out of the use of these cookies through your Ads Settings, Ad Settings for mobile apps, through the Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on, or any other available means.

I hope you learned a little more about how to make your blog/website is legal today! I urge you to take the 30 minutes or so to set everything up and make sure you're protected.

Do you have a disclosure policy, terms of service, or a privacy policy?


Why Your Blog Needs a Mission Statement

Blogging Tip: Why your blog needs a mission statement One of the biggest lessons I've learned in the short amount of time I've been blogging has been the importance of focus. I've learned that you need to focus on the task at hand, because time is valuable. I've learned that you must plan and think ahead if you want to stay ahead. And I've learned that you can't blog about everything if you want your blog to be successful. You need a focus; a purpose; a mission.

[Tweet "Your mission statement is what sets you apart from other blogs. via @britthouchins"]

I wrote about my goals for the blog this year, and when I took a step back and looked at the big picture, I realized that the only way I'm going to accomplish all of them is if everything I do is driven by a sole purpose.

I want that purpose to be evident to you, my readers. I want to be able to steer the direction of my blog instead of letting it steer me. Having a blog mission statement enables me to have a constant reminder of what my purpose is.

You should have one too! Writing a mission statement isn't hard at all! In fact, it's a lot of fun! :) Here are a few tips to get you started:

What is a mission statement?

A mission statement is a short one to three sentences that declares the purpose of a business/organization and defines the reason for its existence. The mission statement sets the tone of the company and outlines concrete goals. So ideally, these few sentences should sum up everything, from your brand and blog to your goals and purpose. It should be both descriptive and concise, yet resonate with your readers. Overall, the statement should be one that inspires community and ongoing commitment.

Why do I need a mission statement for my blog?

Whether you've been blogging for years, a month, a day, or are still in the dreaming process, having a mission statement will be a huge help in moving your blog forward. Not only will it help you stay focused, but it will be a constant reminder on why you blog (when those doubts set in), and what your intentions are for your space on the internet. For example, when opportunities arise, you can check to see if they line up with your mission statement before agreeing or declining. And as your brand and business grow, don't be afraid to make changes to your mission statement! In fact, it's encouraged :)

How do I write one?

Your mission statement is what sets you apart from other blogs. Ideally, it should show the practical ways in which you will accomplish your overall vision. Here are a few suggestions to help you write your own:

  • Answer these questions:
    • Why do you blog?
    • Who is your ideal audience?
    • What do you provide/want to provide your audience? Resources? Advice? Tips? Support?
    • Where do you want your blog to be in five years?
    • How are you going to get there?
    • If you could share with your readers only one thing, what would it be?
    • How will you practically accomplish your vision day-to-day?
    • What does your blog offer that’s different from everyone else?

Don't skip that last question, as it's the most defining thing for your blog and mission statement. A successful blog is unique and offers value to it's readers by not being a copy of someone else.

  • Once you've answered those questions, look for any repeating patterns in your wording. What sticks out? Use those words as a starting point for drafting your mission statement.
  • Revise and Refine
    • Write your mission statement over the span of a few days. You can write up a draft, then come back to it with a fresh mind. Make adjustments and refine it until you like it!

And while we're at it, here's the mission statement for The Kardia (please don't copy. Everyone's mission statement is different and unique).

To inspire and encourage young women to utilize the unique talents the Lord has given them to make their mark on the world. As a community of dream seekers, The Kardia aspires to support these women in their creative endeavors, personal relationships, business ventures, and all areas of life.

Do you have a blog mission statement? Let me know in the comments!