If you blog, or advise authors who blog, or plan to do either of those things, you may be as disturbed as I am that the life of a blog post is very, very short. You create it; it appears; a few buddies may let you pop it onto their site as a guest post; others may point at it through Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn (or otherwise); and it dies. I know, you can rewrite it, mix it into another stew, spin it around some through social networking, write a book about it, anthologize it, and so on, but that post per se fades fast.
When I started as an article writer in Gutenberg’s era, part of my process was to query an editor, write and sell the piece, then sell it again and again (usually unchanged). Or I queried different editors and rewrote the article from different angles if I got several go-aheads. Then I could sell those “new” articles, reprints of each, and so on. That still works, but more slowly and with fewer publishing venues.
It doesn’t work for blogging, though. The structure is more convoluted; nobody pays you directly for blogs; their reach is shorter and more erratic; and they are like stars in a daily changing sky. But what I’m about to propose helps restore the potential income return by putting blog copy repeatedly in the most interested hands to keep its ideas and its text alive longer.
The Cluster Structure
Four related blog posts about emceeing serve to provide a good example of what you can do with blogs about specific areas of your business. And what I’m sharing here is how I let the readers of any one of them know not only that the others exist (one is many months old and well buried) but also how they can link directly to them (since I’m rather certain they won’t go into my index or earlier postings to find them).
What I did is inject an information module in each post. With very slight changes from one to the other, it reads:
Let me interrupt for a second to suggest three related blog posts about emceeing, plus two speaking products, here. My speaking credentials? See GordonBurgett.com for more information about the 2000+ paid speaking/emceeing performances I’ve given.
- “Emceeing: how to write a script that works!” (posted 7/3/12).
- “Emceeing or show planning: What to remember when prepping a one-hour presentation” (posted 8/7/12).
- “Emceeing: A full script for a two-hour show” (posted 11/4/12). This is the script talked about in the following blog post.
- “Emceeing: The thinking behind writing the 11/4 two-hour show script” (12/28/12).
- “Four Special Tools That Get Speakers Booked First!” (e-book, available through our order form or from Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords).
- “How to Set Up and Market Your Own Seminar” (audio seminar with workbook, available through our order form).
So why is what I’m suggesting different? What’s new?
It’s the focus on:
- The cluster of backward references to directly related information that the reader can link to and read all at the same time.
- The information inserted in the links, which ties the items together (like the script and how-to-prep of the same show).
- The fact that when you have something special you want to share, you can plan a cluster of related blogs, loosely integrate them, then tell the reader of each post where they can link to the others. If the titles are clear, you needn’t explain why they would care to.
The cluster can appear at the end of each post in a resources listing, but I put mine higher up so readers will be more likely to see it and pay attention to it.
The other advantage I see is that when you select a specific topic, you can plan three or four spinoffs as followup blog posts, and list them as “coming” in an overview of the topic in blog post #1. Plus, you can tell readers when those future posts will appear and what their links are so the links will open up when they are posted. (You do that by entering the title and a few words about each future blog post in your dashboard and leaving that there until you create the final posting. That title will provide, in advance, the coming post’s link title and reference number to call it up when it later appears.)
A Pertinent Plugin
Rebecca Morgan, great speaker and co-owner of the excellent Speaker Net News, clued me in about a post plugin called “Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.” This free piece of software will dip into your reservoir of posts and select posts you’ve already put in print that are related, listing them after your closing signature (or name) as “Related Posts.” Each selection is linked and followed by a sentence about the post’s contents.
The plugin installation was easy too. I just opened “Plugins” at my own WordPress dashboard, went to “Add new,” found “Upload,” and typed in the plugin name. The next time I posted and checked, it had chosen four good links from my earlier 275 posts. (It helps me find older posts too. I just insert the topic I’m looking for in the title of a blank post, put some xx’s in the body, and save it as a post. Attached will be four other post titles about the same subject that I put in the title. Then I just have to remember to cancel that dummy post right away so it won’t appear later as a “related post.”)
How do you tie your cluster in to product or service selling? Gently. (The better the blog content, the more readers will tolerate product references—because they will be more likely to want to see and buy the products.)
We tie in to selling in four ways through our blog posts. At the end of each post, we provide information that takes the reader back to who we are, key things we do, and where our Website and order form are hiding. We link almost every item we mention in a blog post to a product or resource. We sometimes link directly to our order form, or to a section of our order form that deals with products highly relevant to the blog. And we link to a specific landing page, which takes the viewer fairly quickly to a Buy button.
I think a cluster of four “with your permission” links is probably the largest we can use without abusing readers. So if we had a bigger group of related posts—which we do on “professional speaking,” among other things—the inserted information module might, rather, have two links.
One would lead to a list of all the professional speaking blog posts, organized by date with short annotations and live links. That list could obviously be expanded as more posts are added, and it would probably include a link to the order form for our speaking products.
The other link would lead to a list of our products (and perhaps to products we sell through affiliate relationships), also with short annotations and live links to landing pages with links for ordering.
Why do I like this kind of blog and product linking in the posts themselves? Because the people reading a specific post deliberately sought its information. They are self-selected prospective buyers, the kind you want most, and once you’ve got them to the order form, they are in your database and permanently available to you. Plus, they have friends with similar interests and needs, and since nothing is freer than blogs, they are very likely to share good ones about the subject they like with their friends who may like it too. And if you tell all of them where to find similar blog posts, bingo.
Also, if Google suddenly blesses you, your expanded information module in your newly popular post will tell readers where they can go for more information and thinking on the same subject, and they will all have an easy time getting there.
Gordon Burgett has more than 1,700 articles in print, including several he has contributed to the Independent. He is also the author of 43 published books, and he has given more than 2,000 paid speaking presentations, including a recent one to the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association about niche publishing and marketing. To learn more: gordonburgett.com.