5 Steps to the Perfect Blog

There’s a big difference between a great blog post and a good blog post; one, your readers will get to the end and share it around, the other will sound like a brain splurge of content that’s faintly interesting but soon turns your reader off. Maybe before they read the end and arrive at the Share Button.

5 Steps for the Perfect Blog with Digitally Sorted

Even if you’re not much of a writer, that’s not a problem – all you have to do is stick to the outline below to create something that’s not only readable, but gets the reader to take action too.

Your Blog Outline
1. Eye-Catching Headline

This is what makes the reader read your content over all the other on the page. It has to be attention-grabbing and it has create intrigue.

Here are 3 easy steps to producing a great headline:

  1. Know your target audience and write for them. Look at the other types of blogs that they read and the magazines they buy. What have they got on their front covers?
  2. Have a think about how you’re going to set your article out. For example, is it going to be a ‘How to’, a list, a personal story?
  3. Write several different headlines experimenting with the different benefits. Do the same identifying the problem. After all, people are looking for two things – something to solve a problem, or something to improve their gain.
2. Intriguing opener

Once you’ve pulled your reader in with your headline, don’t stop there. Provide your audience with a couple of lines to introduce further what you’re going to be saying. Statistics work fantastically well. Try searching for what you need online at National Statistics for example. Don’t forget to look at university research too.

3. Give Points and Evidence

Provide at least 3 points and supporting evidence. Give stories, provide emotional pull, use more statistics where relevant. Are there any case studies, graphs, or even cartoons that help provide colour to your article?

4. Conclusion

Don’t leave your audience hanging! Make sure you tie all the ends of your article together and think about giving them something to take away. Is it something to think about it or an action they take in the physical world?

5. Call to Action

If you don’t have a call to action, you’re not guiding your reader to take action once they’ve reached the end of your article. It’s a bit like presenting them with a dead end and no one likes that. Examples of call to actions include:

  • Share
  • Highlight a Product
  • Subscribe
And don’t forget:

Resources: if you’ve referred to any studies, don’t forget to provide a link to these.

Images: Images make all the difference to a blog post. However, you’ve got to be careful where you find these from otherwise you may get some unfriendly emails. Take a look at this list of free image resources to be on the safe side. 

WordPress Blog Template

If you write for an online publication and you don’t have access to the WordPress system then you’ll be asked to submit your blog, usually in Word.

If you’ve never had access to WordPress before, it can be tricky to work out how your blog post should be submitted and how you should lay out the content. Having worked with many bloggers across many different WordPress sites, this template is the one that seems to work best. So far at least – things are constantly evolving!

This template assumes that the WordPress website has an SEO plugin installed – most good websites will. Download it and get writing.

But before you start, it’s well worth reading this guide ‘Before you Start’.

Download your WordPress Blog Template here:

Free WordPress Blog Template

 

 

 

USEFUL LINKS

8 Things to Think About When Choosing Your WordPress Theme

Choosing your WordPress theme is fun and exciting, but it can also be stressful too – is this the ‘one’? Does it really reflect my product, business or service? Is it too serious? Too fun?

WordPress themes instantly add a professional look to your website yet unless you’re prepared to pay for bespoke coding and additions, be aware that you’ll also be limited to the functionality and layouts that the theme provides. Just ‘moving the logo along a little bit’ or changing the positioning of text isn’t possible unless you’re prepared to code it yourself or pay someone to do it for you. But don’t worry, there are plenty of great themes out there that will have more than you’ll ever need.

And before you get your knickers in a twist, take a deep breath and read through the main things to think about when choosing your WordPress theme:

1. How much do you want to spend?

Your WordPress installation comes with three free themes that are suitable for blogs and there are also free WordPress themes that you can download. If you want a company page or more functionality then paying for a theme makes sense and premium themes cost around $70 (approx. £42). For this, expect theme support, better functionality and ongoing bug fixes.

2. Match your theme to your purpose

Whilst WordPress used to be a platform dedicated to blogging, it’s now evolved so much so that companies are building their websites around their blog and many themes reflect this change, with more company-suitable designs being released.

3. Does your theme match your logo?

If you already have a logo then you’ll want to find a theme that it fits with. Check out the colour combinations that come with your blog and see what the fonts look like too. If you have further money to spend, you can have these changes made bespoke for you.

4. Don’t be fooled by its appearance

Many themes look great but also try out their live preview. Click through as much as you can and better yet, find other blogs and website using that same theme and test it out. Does it work from a user point of view? Also look at it objectively – the main criteria for your blog should be functionality – does it have the functionaliy that you want? If you’re setting up a blog for example and want to run adverts, then make sure it has a layout for at least 2 columns.

5. Choose a theme from a reputable supplier   

Anyone can design and code a theme and upload it for free or a small fee. If its not coded well or doesn’t have support then you may end up becoming hugely frustrated with your design. Changing themes at the start of a website isn’t too much of an upheaval but it helps to change it as little as possible as you then have plug-ins and widgets that may need reconfiguring.

A personal favourite is  StudioPress . They have high quality design and coding that is reflected in their prices, but it’s worth it. Their support team are responsive and there’s a great forum to find answers and guides to setting up your website.

Take a look: StudioPress Themes for WordPress

6. Is there Support?

Most reputable WordPress providers offer support as and when needed. Sometimes the designer is available to answer questions and help out directly, sometimes there’s a forum and in some instances wordpress theme providers require a fee in exchange for troubleshooting.

7. Is your theme compatible?

Make sure your theme is compatible with as many browsers as possible otherwise some people may not be able to see your content. By ensuring w3 validity and cross-browser compatibility, you’ll be off to a solid start.

8. Check the T’s and C’s

Especially when choosing a free theme. If a theme requires a lot of backlinks back to their site, move swiftly on – this shouldn’t be part of the ‘deal’. And there are thousands of free WordPress themes out there, it’s just a case of searching through them for the right one for you. A great place to start for free WordPress themes is the WordPress Theme Directory.

 

Which hosting with TSO should I buy?

Digitally Sorted TSO Host DiscountIf you want a website, you will have to buy hosting. There are often very reasonable monthly and annual hostings packages and often these include more than one website, as well as email addresses.

A favourite hosting provider is TSO Hosts. Having tried several in the past 10 years, TSO Hosts has never once had major, unexpected downtime (most hosting providers will have a small percentage of downtime – this is normal), have a responsive email ticketing service and customer care line and also have a one-click WordPress Installation functionality.

Here are instructions for buying hosting with TSO Hosts*
  1. Click here – www.tsohost.com – to land straight on the TSO web hosting page.
  2. Scroll down to see the Plans and Pricing.
  3. The Lite or Standard version is recommended.
  4. Click on Buy Now.

You will receive an email sending you all your dashboard details – keep these somewhere safe!

Which hosting to buy

*This is for people who want a personal website or small company website. 

Now you’ve got hosting – what about your URL? If you’ve not bought that yet, it makes your website easier to manage if you buy your URL and hosting from the same place.
Need some advice choosing a domain name? 

10 Things You Must Consider When Choosing Your Domain Name

Your domain name is your URL. It can be up to 67 characters in length and you can also include numbers and hyphens. Domain names can cost from as little as a few GBP a year depending on the extension you use and the likely popularity of the name. Choosing your domain name can be lots of fun as well being equally frustrating and painful. These handy tips will help you when choosing your domain name to make there’s no regrets later.

Where to start

Begin by summing up what your website is going to be about in 5 words. Then brainstorm these words, looking at ways you can combine them and work them together into something that makes sense.  There are several places online to check whether your ideas for domain names work.

A personal favourite is 123-reg.co.uk as it also gives suggestions for variations on your domain name as well as examples of different extensions that you could consider. However, before you go and buy your domain name, also think about hosting – it can make your website a lot easier to manage if you buy your URL and hosting from the same place. Whilst price is important, good hosting is essential so I would choose hosting first and after experimenting with various URL ideas, buy them from the same place. Take a look at ‘What is Hosting?‘ for more information about this.

Think you’ve come up with a good name? Before you click on any ‘buy’ button, make sure you ask yourself these 10 important questions:

1. Does it match your company / brand name?

With websites being the first port of call for people to go to when they’re searching for more information it’s important that your URL has some correlation with what your company or brand name is. For example, if your company name is Digitally Sorted these would be examples of names that could work, in personal preference order from best to worst:

  • DigitallySorted.com
  • DigitallySorted.net
  • DigitallySorted.co.uk
  • Digitally-sorted.com
  • Digitally-sorted.co.uk
  • DigitallySortedServices.com
  • DigitallySortedYou.com

If you try and reduce the ‘Digitally Sorted’ element down, it loses its sense of ‘what’. For example, ‘DSServices’ could relate to anything.

2. Does your URL say what it’s about?

If your URL describes what service or product you’re supplying then you’re onto a winner. This also makes it easier to remember. Single words make for great URLs although the availability of these are becoming less and less. There is a current trend for tech companies especially, to embrace one word names, such as Huddlah (sports community), Boxed (letting you buy goods in bulk from your phone), Estimize (crowdsourced earnings estimates for stocks), Watsi (crowdfunded low-cost, high impact medical care for those that need it most), Kiip (gives you vouchers for free products when you use certain apps), Lyft (easy to access, cheap taxi service).

There is also the trend to combine words together to form names and URLS, such as Coinbase (making it easy for users and businesses to use Bitcoins), WatchSend (helping developers understand how their apps are used), FlightCar (rent your car whilst you’re on holiday) and Homejoy (cost-cut home cleaning services).

3. Is it easy to remember?

Is it a made up word or a combination of words that already exist? Does it sound like something else? Whilst the URL may be easy for you to remember, other people may have difficulty so something as simple as possible is best. Having a random word as your URL is definitely worth it if you have time and investment to put in supporting brand development and awareness. Companies such as Google, IKEA, Starbucks, Skype, Amazon, Yahoo etc have all spent money on their branding.

4. Is the domain unique?

The domain name has to be unique in order for you to purchase this. However, is it similar to another website that’s out there at the moment? For example, if your service is organic health and food products and www.PlanetOrganix.com is free, then you may find yourself accidentally driving traffic to your competitor.

5. Is the .com version available?

There are so many new extensions becoming available such as .ventures, .company, .photography, .gb.net etc and the general rule is that the more unusual the extension, the more likely the domain name of your choice is available. However, the .com is the most common domain extension, driven by the fact that it was the first domain to be used commercially. Try if you can, to get your hands on a .com domain name as many people still believe this is the only extension available. If that’s not available, .net is the second most commonly used extension.

6. Is it easy to type?

This may sound silly but if your URL needs a lot of thought before the user types it in, due to length, unusual characters, use of unmemorable sounds or words then you may lose a good proportion of your visitors. There have also been studies in ‘awkward’ letters detracting from easy writability; these include letters such as ‘q’, ‘z’, ‘x’, ‘c’ and ‘p’.

7. Will other people like it?

Don’t forget that even though its your company and domain name, other people are your main target – after all, you’re already sold on what you’re going to be writing about, your service, product etc. Does it make sense in other people’s minds? Ask friends and family around you what they think of it.

8. Are you trying to be too clever?

If your company name is Made For You and the url www.madeforyou.com is taken, as are all other versions, think twice about getting too clever and replacing letters with numbers or adding hyphens. Whilst www.made-for-you.com works, www.m4de4y0u.com will be extremely hard for your potential customers to remember.

9. Does your URL infringe any trademarks?

Be sure to steer well clear from any already trademarked names, even if only part of the name is used. Whilst internet domain name law disputes are often full of grey areas, it’s not worth getting into a legal dispute over and these can be costly.

10. Does it still make sense as a URL?

Don’t make the mistake that some companies have done by not viewing their name as a URL. The Tech recylcling company, IT Scrap didn’t check what their domain name would look like and so it is unfortunate that it reads www.itscrap.com

The same is with:

www.whorepresents.com – Who Represents; a database of talent representatives

www.penisland.com – Pen Island; a pen company

www.therapistinabox.com – Therapist in a Box; a product offering emotional healing

www.powergenitalia.com – Powergen Italia; an Italian electronics company

And even if you think your name sounds ok, make sure you check it against the endings of your web address. As well as .com URLs, more are available such as .info, .net, .me, .name etc. Otherwise, you may end up with something like this:

www.budget.co.ck – Budget Car Rentals in the Cook Islands

www.swissbit.ch – Swiss Bit; for electronics

 

What is hosting?

Digitally Sorted TSO Discount Offer What is Hosting

In order to have a website that’s accessible via the world wide web, you need to have hosting. For individuals and smaller organisations leasing ‘space’ from web hosting companies is the most cost efficient and most easy to manage option.

So what is hosting?

Hosting is where your website will ‘sit’. Any images and content that you upload to your website will be stored with your hosting provider. It’s what gives the body of your website substance as it were.

If you’ve got personal websites or small business websites, then hosting can start from as little as a few pounds a month. Most hosting companies offer better deals if you buy annual hosting and this can start from £14.99 with companies such as TSO Host. Their Lite deal, for example, lets you host two websites, have 10 mailboxes and also has a one-click WordPress Installation functionality.

As well as using a hosting provider, many small businesses often have their own servers and can provide hosting for you, even if it’s not their main product. From a personal standpoint, managing your own hosting means that you have access to it as and when you want. In addition, many hosting providers have excellent customer service and can talk you through most problems.

 

What does URL stand for?

 What does URL stand for?

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It’s also known as a web address as well as a domain name.

However, the main thing you need to know is that it’s the unique identifier for your website. It’s what other people type in to arrive at your website.

The internet isn’t ‘just the web’ and there were several different protocols associated with the internet, such as:

  • www – world wide web – used to signify websites
  • http:// – hyper text transfer protocol – this could signify several different locations including on your computer
  • FTP – File Transfer Protocol – used to transfer files between two computers over a network.

Nowadays, the ‘web’ is much less separate. Because the ‘www’ protocol was the most popular, virtually all internet servers such as Google, Bing etc will open up the same page regardless of whether you’ve entered http://www.digitallysorted.com or http://digitallysorted.com

Your URL will show up at the top of your browser and unless you have any redirects, it will by default show the homepage.

 

How to ‘like’ a Facebook Business Page from another Business Page

If you’re a small business or a start-up reciprocity is key.

One of the first things to establish is mutual appreciation from other businesses. So let’s start with Facebook. Liking another Facebook Business Page from your Business Page will help get their business more exposure to your fans and vice versa.

So how to ‘like’ a Facebook Business Page from another Business Page

1. You have to be an admin of the Page you want to ‘like’ other business pages from. Go to the page you want to add to your business page’s Likes. Under the cover photo on the right you’ll see a Cog icon normally by the ‘Message’ functionality. Click on this and a dropdown will appear. Click on ‘Like as Your Page’.

How to 'Like' a Business Page from another Facebook Page

2. A list of pages that you are an admin of will display in a list. Click on your business page that you want to add the ‘like’ to.

HowToLikeABusinessPage02

3. Visit the Business Page you just added this like to and in the right hand column under the ‘XX Friends like [Your Facebook Business Page] you’ll see a list of the pages that your business page likes.

How to 'Like' a Business Page from another Facebook Page

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How to Resize & Crop Images Without Using Photoshop

You’re responsible for the website content and you want to swap in a new image. You’ve found the image, you know where you want it to go, yet you need to crop and resize it. There’s no budget for a designer, you don’t know how to use Photoshop and this problem is really annoying.

So is there a way to crop and resize images without needing Photoshop or a similar application? Of course. And it’s free.

Let’s take the WPF Therapy site as an example.

It’s time to update this right hand image (highlighted in red).

WPF Therapy Screenshot

How to resize your image

1. Find out what size your image needs to be.

Click and drag the image onto your desktop. Left click on it and ‘Get Info’ on the pop that appears.

Image information pop up

Right Click on the image to bring up this screen. Then click on ‘Get Info’.

Get Info pop up

The information you need here is the ‘Dimension’.

This gives you all the information you need. The section you need to look at specifically is the ‘More Info’ section where it tells you the dimension.

In this case, dimension is 200 x 110.

This means it is 200 pixels wide and 110 pixels high.

 

2. Click here to open up PicResize in your browser. This is a free online application.

PicResize Screenshot

 

3. Click on Load a Picture

 Load a Picture

4. Follow the instructions and when you have chosen your image, click on ‘Load Picture’.

 Load Picture

5. Your image will load. You will be able to see in the top right hand corner the following:

Selection – what size of image you choose

Size – the size of the image uploaded

Position – the position of your cursor over the image

Information area

 

In this instance, the image is 1024px x 1024px large which means it is best to make this smaller first before you crop it to the right shape. Otherwise, you will only see a part of the image when you crop it.

 

6. Click on the Resize button on the left and choose your dimensions. Click on the percentages in the pop up, or make it a custom size. Ensure that the ‘Lock Aspect Ratio’ button it ticked. Then click on ‘Apply’.  Remove the pop up by clicking on the small cross in the corner of it.

 Resize Button

7. Now to resize your image. Click and drag on your image. This will bring up a bounding box. Keep an eye on the top right hand information area as this will tell you when you’ve when you’ve got your size correct.

 Crop Image

You can click and drag on any of the corners of the bounding box to adjust the size. You can also click and drag the whole box (position the cursor inside the bounding box) to position it over another area of the image.

When you have the bounding box positioned and sized properly, click on the Crop button on the left to finalise this.

The screen will show you the finished product. You can also add ‘extras’ such as text to this image.

 

8. Save it. When you’re happy with your image, choose from the options on the bottom left.

Save Image

 

Choose Format: Select JPG if it’s a photo or image with a lot of gradients. Select GIF if it is an image made up of block clour.

Save to :Choose ‘Save to Disk’ to save it onto your computer. This will most likely be saved in your Downloads Folder.

 

And there you have it. Your image resized and cropped and ready to be uploaded!

 

 

How to train your website: LESSON FIVE: Accessories for your website

When you have an animal as a pet, you will also find that you need accessories for it. For example, a water bowl, a food bowl, a collar, a lead, a couple of toys, even perhaps, a dog house. The amount of accessories out there are seemingly infinite and it can be hard to work out which would be best for your animal. Here are just some of the basic accessories and tools that will help your website grow strong and healthy when used in the right way. The Digital Bandit - Accessories for your Website

Google Analytics

It is imperative to have some kind of tracking tool collecting data from your website. Google Analytics is free and relatively easy to install and use. If you have more than one tracking platform that you use, be aware that you will get varied results, as each will use a slightly different way of recording data. For a more accurate view of your website’s data, ensure you use one consistently. Ensuring you have analytics for your website means you can better judge what’s working and what’s not on your website. Is one section of your website getting considerably more traffic than the other? Why? Has your traffic suddenly dropped off? You need to know about it and why. According to Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithms, your site is likely to be judged by (and not exclusively on):

  • The amount of content above the fold – the fold is the point at which a user has to scroll to see the content further down the page.
  • The bounce rate for a page – this is the percentage of people who enter your site and ‘bounce’, ie, they leave straight away without looking through other pages.
  • The click-through rate of the page – this is the number of pages that a user clicks through before leaving your website. It is important to ensure that users don’t just stop at a ‘dead end’ when they reach the bottom of your page.
  • The number of clicks a page gets in results – the more a user clicks through from a page through to other internal pages, the higher Google rates it. This can be particularly effectively where one page acts as a ‘landing page’ to other areas of your site.

Use Google Analytics for: understanding your website better and knowing where improvements can be made. http://www.google.com/analytics/ Free to use.

Google Keyword Tool

This will help you understand the best keyword to use for your web pages and blog posts. The Google Keyword Tool will allow you to understand which keywords are more competitive and which are more feasible to rank for. You can also use this to understand what else people may be searching for. This is definitely a tool to use before you start writing your blog post. Use Google Keyword Tool to: set the foundations for a blog post that’s optimized for search. https://adwords.google.com/o/KeywordTool Free to use.

Google Drive (formerly Google Docs)

Whilst this isn’t strictly speaking a tool that will help you run your website, it is one of my favourites for collaboration with others and for writing down inspiration as you come across it. You can choose from a Word document, PowerPoint Presentation, Excel Spreadsheet, an online Form (great for when you want user’s feedback) and Drawing (perfect for if you want to add captions to an existing image).  Each document can be shared with more than one person, either with as a Read-Only or with editing capabilities. You can even download the online document that you produce. This saves you the hassle of remembering your notebook as you can access this online from any computer. If for example, you are in charge of the company Twitter or Facebook account and others in your company want to add some of their own updates, they can share it with you there for you to approve and upload. Use Google Drive for: collaborating with others and keeping ideas or content in one place https://drive.google.com/#my-drive Free to use.

Google Alerts

If your To Do list is already piled high then make life that little bit easier for yourself by ensuring you’re keeping up to date with your industry news easily and conveniently. In Google Alerts, you can set a search query for whatever you like, choose what kind of results you want it to send you (e.g. everything, news, blogs, books etc), how often you want to receive these and voila!, you will receive updates to your chosen email address. This is especially great if you’re looking for inspiration for new blog posts, and even to keep up to date with any mentions of your company or product online. Use Google Alerts for: keeping up to date with industry news easily and quickly. http://www.google.com/alerts Free to use

Google Alerts Screenshot

Set up Google Alerts to keep up to date with industry news online.

Social Media Accessories

These are all specific platforms that will help you manage your social media platforms.

Bitly Link Shortener  

Bitly is most useful when posting links to Twitter. With only 140 characters, it’s important to use each character wisely. Whilst Twitter will automatically shorten links for you, however, with a tool like Bitly, you have the added bonus of stats. This allows you to understand how successful your tweet was as you can see how many people have clicked on your link. To use, just copy and paste your link into Bitly. It will then shorten it and you can copy and paste it back into Twitter or wherever you would like it to go. The only downside of shortening links is that users can’t tell where your link is going to. Sometimes, people use this inappropriately by telling a user one thing and linking to an entirely different site to get traffic. However, if you consistently link people to where they expect to go, you should build up trust with your followers. Use Bitly to: maximise characters in your tweets and track the click-throughs you’re getting from them. https://bitly.com   Free to use.

Bitly Screenshot

Use Bitly to shorten links and to find out how many click-throughs from them you receive.

HootSuite

Use HootSuite to schedule your tweets (perfect if you’ve got a busy week coming up and you want to write these in advance. Also very useful if you’re organizing an event – you can make sure it’s getting promoted right up until the day) and share them easily with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus etc. By investing time with HootSuite, you can ensure that your social media networks are continually active months in advance, even if you’re busy on other things. Use HootSuite to: update your social media networks even when you’re not around. http://hootsuite.com/dashboard Free to use.