How to Write a Cover Letter for a Job Application

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/WordStreamBlog/~3/MnUqsOEhuHE/how-to-write-a-cover-letter

One of the slyest tricks you’ll come across on a job application is the part where it says that attaching a cover letter is optional.

 How to Write a Cover Letter for a Job Application

Sure, some companies genuinely may not care if you include a cover letter with your application or not, but most hiring managers use this as a way to weed out applicants long before anyone in HR starts sending out emails. They know candidates that care about the job will go the extra mile, and the cover letter is your chance to make a strong first impression.

Although there are as many ways to write a cover letter as there are to skin a cat, the best way is often the simplest way.

In this article, we’ll show you how to write a cover letter that will send your job application to the top of the pile and land you that first crucial phone screen or first interview.

Here are 10 things you need to know about writing a great cover letter. Let’s get into it!

1. What’s the Point of Writing a Cover Letter?

In brief, your job cover letter is a way to tell the people that you want to hire you why they should hire you. It should illustrate your fitness for the role, your professionalism, and your competence, all while revealing a little bit of your personality.

It’s also your opportunity to provide some context for what’s in your resume, explaining anything your resume leaves out and highlighting the parts of your resume that are most relevant to the role.

Sound tough? We promise, it’s not that hard, and once you get the basics down, it’s easy to modify your cover letter slightly for each role, so it’s as relevant as possible to the exact job you’re applying for.

2. How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?

As with resumes, cover letters shouldn’t exceed one page in length; any longer and you risk turning off the hiring manager before they’ve even glanced at your resume.

In terms of word count, this means that you should be aiming for around 500 words.

As a rule of thumb, try to stick to around three paragraphs (four at most), not counting the salutation and sign-off.

How to write a cover letter for a job application newspaper job advertisement 

Apply today for immediate consideration!

3. What Should a Job Cover Letter Include?

A great cover letter for a job application includes the following parts:

An address and salutation An introduction that tells the hiring manager who you are and what role you’re applying for A statement about your interest in the role, and why you’re the best person for the job A brief section outlining your qualifications and relevant past experience A quick conclusion that reiterates your interest in the job, the best ways to reach you, and closes with a friendly but professional sign-off 4. What’s the Proper Format for a Cover Letter?

A basic cover letter for a job application should look something like this:

cover letter template

As you can see, the cover letter includes your name, address, and contact information at the top, followed by the date and the recipient’s name and address. The body of the cover letter (again, three paragraphs should do the job) should all fit on one page with room for your sign-off.

(Protip: You can find this and other cover letter templates in Microsoft Word.)

5. What Salutation and Sign-Off Should You Use in a Cover Letter?

As a general rule, you should tailor the language, style, and tone of your cover letter to the type of role and company to which you’re applying. A cover letter for a job at a prestigious law firm, for example, would be very different from a cover letter for a part-time retail position.

How to write a cover letter for a job application old-timey Victorian gentlemen portrait

“I say, old chap, did that candidate address you as ‘sir’ just a moment ago?
I like the cut of his jib.”

That said, the basic salutation that works in almost any situation is “Dear Mr./Ms. [Name].” If you don’t know the hiring manager’s name, you can use a generic salutation like “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Recruiting Manager.” (Experts recommend avoiding “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam” as they sound antiquated.)

Note: You should also avoid using “Mrs.” when addressing a female hiring manager, even if you know for a fact that she’s married. Use the politely ambiguous “Ms.” instead.

As a sign-off, stick to something simple and professional like “Sincerely” or “Regards.”

6. How Should Your Open Your Cover Letter?

How to write a cover letter for a job application introduction salutation 

Solid advice. Image via WikiHow.

Typically, a cover letter introduction (the first paragraph) should accomplish three goals. It should tell the reader:

Who you are Why you’re writing to the recipient Why that person should continue reading

Although there are a few “clever” ways to open your cover letter, most tend to be pretty formulaic. For example:

“My name is Dan Shewan, and I am writing to apply for the position of Staff Writer.”

The line above addresses two of our three goals; it establishes who I am and why I’m writing to the recipient. It’s up to you whether to include where you saw the vacancy. (I don’t tend to include this, as the hiring manager already knows where they’re advertising, so why bother?)

If you happen to be a referral or you know someone at the company, this would be a good place to mention that, i.e. “My name is Dan Shewan, and I am writing to apply for the position of Staff Writer, which I heard about from your magazine’s editorial assistant, Jane Doe.”

We still need to deal with the third objective of our cover letter’s introduction, though, which is to give the recipient a reason to keep reading. This is where you get a chance to mention how awesome you are:

“With more than a decade of editorial experience across a wide range of publications in print and online, I believe I would be an excellent candidate for the role.”

By including this line, I’m giving the hiring manager that reason to keep reading. I mention how long I’ve been doing what I do, offer a glimpse of the kind of experience they’ll see on my resume, and conclude with a strong, confident statement of intent.

At this point, I’m ready to segue into the real meat of my cover letter.

7. What Goes in the Body of the Cover Letter?

Remember, cover letters are an opportunity to prove you can be the very specific individual that the hiring manager is looking for. This is what the body of your cover letter, the second paragraph, should illustrate.

A great way to do this is to picture yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes.

The hiring manager responsible for screening candidates probably has someone pretty specific in mind. She knows what her ideal candidate’s major was at college, what specific skills they have, how many years they’ve been in their field, and the kind of projects they’ve worked on. When it comes to cover letters, hiring managers are looking for one thing – relevance. In short, the hiring manager knows exactly who she’s looking for.

How to write a cover letter for a job application HR interview

“It says here you can walk AND chew gum. I’m impressed – so impressed I’m
going to continue leaning on my keyboard with my elbow absentmindedly.”

Your cover letter is an opportunity to prove that you are that person, by aligning yourself perfectly with the hiring manager’s idea of her dream candidate.

The second paragraph of your cover letter (which should be the longest and most substantial part) is where you should do that. Tell the recipient, in about 5-7 sentences, why you’re the absolute best person for the job, by highlighting specific elements of your education and past job or life experience that you can bring to the table.

If you’re truly passionate about the job and your field, make sure that shows! Nobody wants to hire someone who’s just desperate for a job, any job.

Here’s an example of a great cover letter body via Ask a Manager:

As you will see from the attached resume, I’ve built my career in a variety of roles and industries, mostly in small companies where I was not just the admin but also gatekeeper, technology whiz, bookkeeper and marketing guru. I’m not only used to wearing many hats, I sincerely enjoy it; I thrive in an environment where no two work days are exactly the same. In addition to being flexible and responsive, I’m also a fanatic for details – particularly when it comes to presentation. One of my recent projects involved coordinating a 200-page grant proposal: I proofed and edited the narratives provided by the division head, formatted spreadsheets, and generally made sure every line was letter-perfect and that the entire finished product conformed to the specific guidelines of the RFP. (The result? A five-year, $1.5 million grant award.) I believe in applying this same level of attention to detail to tasks as visible as prepping the materials for a top-level meeting and as mundane as making sure the copier never runs out of paper.

Notice how the cover letter backs up claims (like “fanatic for details”) with specific examples and evidence ($1.5 million grant award).

8. How Closely Should Your Cover Letter Match the Job Description?

Pretty closely!

Because the person making the decision on who to hire knows what they want, it’s a good idea to look for clues in the job description and mirror those back in your cover letter.

Tailoring cover letters to the requirements laid out in the job description is one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the competition. In fact, many companies actually use software that scans applicants’ cover letters for specific keywords or phrases from the job description, and failing to include these keywords could exclude you from consideration altogether before the real screening process even begins. This is another reason why matching your cover letter to the job description is so crucial.

We get it: If you’ve been out of work for even a moderate length of time, applying for jobs can be a soul-destroying grind, and after a few months on the market, it’s easy to see why so many people fail to customize every single cover letter they send out, especially if they’re playing a numbers game by applying to dozens of companies every week.

How to write a cover letter for a job application writer's block classic painting

“Must have a Master’s degree or greater, 10+ years of professional experience. Starting
salary of $35,000 per annum.”

Don’t make this mistake!

Because the hiring manager has done the lion’s share of the thinking for you, the easiest way to make your cover letter more relevant to the specific job you’re applying for is to “mirror” the structure of the job spec in the cover letter. Let’s say you’re applying for an opening for an office and events coordinator role. Here are some of the key job functions and requirements:

How to write a cover letter for a job application sample job description 

You should use exact terms and language from this list in your cover letter to describe your own applicable experience and skills.

For example, you could open your cover letter with something like this:

“As an experienced events coordinator with considerable expertise in the planning and execution of ambitious corporate events including customer functions, conferences, and executive meetings, I believe I would be an excellent candidate for the role.”

Notice how the list of events from the first bullet point is mirrored here?

As above, you should back up your claims with examples, borrowing words from the job description itself so that the hiring manager can clearly see you’ve paid attention to the job listing and are a good fit for the job:

“In 2016, I was responsible for the travel and accommodation arrangements of 40 staff members traveling from San Diego, CA to Boston, MA for the INBOUND marketing conference. My primary responsibilities included negotiating with commercial airlines to secure cost-effective flights, handling individual needs such as unique dietary requirements for several delegates for the duration of their stay, and liaising with several nationwide logistics firms to ensure conference booth materials were delivered and set up on time. As a result, we achieved a 35% reduction in year-over-year travel and accommodation expenditure, and secured a more favorable rate with a more efficient nationwide logistics operator.”

In the paragraph above, we’re mirroring the original job spec, but we’re making it more interesting, specific, and relevant. We’ve demonstrated that we can definitely handle the rigors of the job and backed up our assertions with a nice little humblebrag about how we also saved the company a ton of money.

How to write a cover letter for a job application INBOUND marketing conference show floor

Mad props to HubSpot’s event planning team

9. What’s the Right Tone for a Cover Letter?

Pay close attention to the language used in the job listing, and reflect this with the language of your cover letter. Be formal when applying for a role with a formal job description. If the description is more fun and “kooky,” you can be a little more creative and casual (within limits).

Many job descriptions reflect a company’s brand voice and values. This means that mirroring the kind of language used in the job description in your cover letter doesn’t just make sense stylistically, but also offers you an additional opportunity to prove that you’re a good culture fit.

10. Do I Need a Cover Letter When Applying to Jobs on LinkedIn?

This might shock you, but cover letters used to be actual paper letters that served as the cover of a person’s resume. That they would physically mail to an employer. In an envelope.

Today, of course, most job applications are processed online, and a huge number of these are handled through LinkedIn.

As you might already know, LinkedIn offers an amazingly convenient way to send prospective employers your information, known as “Easy Apply.” This essentially sends a truncated version of your LinkedIn profile directly to a hiring manager’s InMail inbox (LinkedIn’s internal messaging and mail service), from which they can view your entire profile and application package.

How to write a cover letter for a job application LinkedIn Easy Apply

A beacon of light amidst the darkness

Remember how I said that one of the sneakiest tricks in a job application is the part where it says cover letters are optional? Well, I’ll be honest with you – I don’t think I’ve ever included a cover letter for an Easy Apply role on LinkedIn.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, however.

How Do LinkedIn Cover Letters Differ from Regular Cover Letters?

There are even fewer carved-in-stone rules about LinkedIn cover letters than there are for ordinary cover letters. There are, however, some unique considerations you should bear in mind when crafting a cover letter for LinkedIn applications.

For one, there’s the fact that your LinkedIn profile itself combines elements of both your resume and a well-written cover letter. Your LinkedIn profile’s summary essentially functions as its own cover letter, and your profile hopefully contains a great deal of detail about your professional accomplishments (as well as those vital connections that are becoming increasingly important in today’s job market). As such, LinkedIn cover letters may be a little shorter and more rudimentary than the type of cover letter I’ve outlined above.

However you choose to structure your LinkedIn cover letter, keep it brief; the hiring manager already has a lot of information to look over, so don’t waste time.

Many Thanks for Your Time and Consideration

There are almost as many ways to write a cover letter as there are jobs to apply for. However, as long as you manage to pique the hiring manager’s curiosity and maintain a professional and respectful tone, cover letters are just a chance to get your foot in the door.


3 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ProbloggerHelpingBloggersEarnMoney/~3/FOwb-1nRBZs/

make-blog-post-conversational.jpg

This post is by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

You’ve probably heard that your blog posts need to be “conversational”.

You may also have been told why: to create a sense of connection with your reader, keep them engaged, and make your blog sound less like a lecture and more like a discussion.

That’s all true. But making your writing “conversational” can be tricky – especially if you come from a business or academic writing background.

If your blog posts tend to sound a little dry and stilted, here are three simple ways to change things.

#1: Talk Directly to Your Reader

Write your post as if you’re talking a specific reader. Picturing an actual person may help – someone you know in real life, or who comments on your blog. You could even imagine you’re emailing them, or writing a Facebook post or comment.

And use words like “I” and “you”, even though you were probably taught not to at school or work. When you’re blogging it’s totally fine to write from your personal experience, and to invite the reader to step into your post.

Here’s an example from Jim Stewart’s post 9 Tips for Recovering Your Google Rankings After a Site Hack. (I’ve highlighted each use of “you” and “your”.)

If your WordPress site has been hacked, fear not. By following these tips you can fortify your site and kick wannabe hackers to the kerb.

And provided you act quickly, your WordPress site’s SEO traffic—and even its reputation—can recover within 24 hours.

This is clear, direct writing that speaks to the reader’s problem. And it’s easy to read and engage with: it’s almost like having Jim on the phone, talking you through fixing things.

Note: As Jim does here, always try to use the singular “you” rather than the plural “you”. Yes, you hopefully have more than one reader. But each one will experience your blog posts individually. Avoid writing things like “some of you” unless you’re deliberately trying to create a sense of a group environment (perhaps in an ecourse).

#2: Use an Informal Writing Style

All writing exists somewhere on a spectrum from very formal to very informal. Here are some examples:

Very formal: Users are not permitted to distribute, modify, resell, or duplicate any of the materials contained herein.

Formal: Your refund guarantee applies for 30 calendar days from the date of purchase. To request a refund, complete the form below, ensuring you include your customer reference number.

Neutral: Once you’ve signed up for the newsletter list, you’ll get a confirmation email. Open it up, click the link, and you’ll be all set to get the weekly emails.

Informal: Hi Susan, could you send me the link to that ProBlogger thingy you mentioned earlier? Ta!

Very informal: C U 2morrow!!!

With your blogging, it’s generally good to aim for an informal (or at least a neutral) register, as if you were emailing a friend. This makes you seem warm and approachable.

Typically, you’ll be using:

Contractions (e.g. “you’ll” for “you will”) Straightforward language (“get” rather than “receive” or “obtain”) Chatty phrases (“you’ll be all set”) Possibly slang, if it fits with your personal style (“thingy”, “ta!”) Short sentences and paragraphs Some “ungrammatical” features where appropriate (e.g. starting a sentence with “And”)

You might want to take a closer look at some of the blogs you read yourself. How do they create a sense of rapport through their language? How could you rewrite part of their post to make it more or less formal? What words or phrases would you change?

#3: Give the Reader Space to Respond

Conversations are two-way, and that means letting your readers have a say too. If you’ve decided to close comments on your blog, you may want to consider opening up a different avenue for readers to get involved, such as a Facebook page or group.

When you’re writing your post, don’t feel you need to have the last word on everything. You don’t have to tie up every loose end. It’s fine to say you’re still thinking about a particular subject, or that you’re still learning. This gives your readers the opportunity to chime in with their own expertise or experiences.

Often, you can simply ask readers to add to your post. For instance, if you’ve written “10 Great Ways to Have More Fun With Your Blogging”, ask readers to contribute their own ideas in the comments. Some people won’t feel confident about commenting unless explicitly invited to do so, ideally with a suggestion of what they could add (e.g. “What would you add to this list?” or “Have you tried any of these ideas?”)

On a slightly selfish note, if you’re not sure about the value of comments, remember it’s not just about your readers getting more out of your blog. Some of my best blog post ideas have come from a reader’s suggestion or question in a comment. And many other comments have prompted me to think in a more nuanced way about a particular topic.

There’s no one “right” way to blog, and some blogs will inevitably be more conversational than others. If you’d like to make your own posts a bit more conversational, though, look for opportunities to:

Use “you” and “I”. Talk directly to your reader, and share your own experiences where appropriate. Make your language fairly informal. Don’t worry about everything being “correct” – just let your voice and style shine through. Open up the conversation by inviting readers to comment, or encouraging them to pop over to your Facebook page (or join your Facebook group).

Have you tried making your blog more conversational? Or is it something you’re just getting started with? Either way, leave a comment below to share your experiences and tips.

Christin Hume

The post 3 Simple Ways to Make Your Blog Posts More Conversational appeared first on ProBlogger.

      


One Screenshot You Must Include When Pitching a Sponsored Post

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ProbloggerHelpingBloggersEarnMoney/~3/fubt5Z-R1g4/

william-iven-22449.1.jpgIf you’re familiar with sponsored content as an income stream, chances are you’ve been asked for a media kit or a proposal to do a sponsored post. Unfortunately, the world of sponsored post rates and assessing the value of your site is a bit like the wild, wild west.

It can be daunting putting together a media kit, especially when you don’t have the ‘big numbers’ everyone seems to flaunt and expect. So most bloggers look at what everyone else is doing, and then create something similar. Brands can then compare one blogger to the next simply by looking at the stats they’ve included.

While that’s great for them, it’s bad for you. You don’t want to be judged on numbers alone. Two bloggers with the same audience size can generate very different results for a sponsored campaign. And a smaller blogger can often outperform a larger one.

One of the biggest issues with media kits is they often only highlight the totals, such as reach (Users) and pageviews (Impressions) for the past 30 days. They’re rarely broken down by location or demographic, and almost never by topic. Bigger numbers may look more impressive, but they can set the wrong expectations.

Another issue is showing averages, such as average time on site or average bounce rate. They’re averages, which makes them look… well, average.

If you want to really impress a brand, create a media media kit that focuses on the topic of the sponsored post.

Let’s say you have a baking blog, and the brand wants to promote a chocolate product. Wouldn’t it make sense to show how crazy your audience is about your recipes that include chocolate?

Pretty logical right? But how many of you actually do it? Maybe you’re not even sure how to do it.

Well, today I’m going to show you how with Google Analytics.

What screenshot do I need?

If you navigate to Behaviour, and then All Pages, you’ll see results for all your content (usually sorted by pageviews).

Google Analytics Behavior All Pages.png

But what you really want is a screenshot that highlights content related to whatever topic the sponsor is interested in.

Using Darren’s Digital Photography School blog as an example, let’s say I wanted to pitch a sponsored post to a Wildlife Photography Tours company. Naturally I’d want to demonstrate how many people are interested in wildlife photography content on the DPS site. Assuming the term ‘wildlife’ is in the URL of these posts (after all, it’s good SEO, right?), I can use the search function in Google Analytics to bring the relevant content to the surface.

You may not have noticed the search function before. But it’s there, pretty much in the middle of the screen. And you type in a keyword (on our case, ‘wildlife’), it will return a list of blog posts with that keyword in the slug.

Google Analytics Topic Search.png

And this is where it gets interesting.

Instead of generic totals, you’ve now shown interest in the sponsor’s topic. In our case, the screenshot shows interest (pageviews) in the topic over a year. After all, sponsored posts hang around a lot longer than a month. And why pitch for one sponsored post when you can show them what a long-term partnership could look like?

You can also point out things like the time on post being longer than the site average. (Agencies love ‘dwell time’ as a measure of engagement.)

Of course, you don’t have to put this in your media kit, although you certainly can. I usually either send or embed it in my intro email and draw attention to it.

You can still included totals in your media kit, and most potential sponsor would expect that. But now you can also send them something they probably wouldn’t expect, which will help your pitch stand out from the rest.

What are some interesting things you’ve done to help your sponsored post proposals stand out from the rest? Share them in the comments below.

The post One Screenshot You Must Include When Pitching a Sponsored Post appeared first on ProBlogger.

      


214: 4 Realities of Blogging All Bloggers Need to Talk About

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ProbloggerHelpingBloggersEarnMoney/~3/vz-mNzEhv6s/

4 Difficult Realities All Bloggers Face

During a conference last year I was invited to have dinner with three other bloggers who had all been blogging for 5-10 years and were now doing it full-time.

It was a fun dinner, and we covered a lot of ground in terms of conversation. But during dessert the conversation got a little deeper as one of them began to share how they were struggling with their blog.

On their surface, their blogging was going okay. They had a great readership, and the content they were putting out was going well. But on the inside they felt disillusioned.

And as they continued their story, I looked around the table and saw a lot of nodding going on. Their story was resonating with us all.

I related to it a lot. Blogging can be hard sometimes, and it’s to become disillusioned.

As a blogger I’ve heard people rave about my, blog with comments like:

“You’re so prolific!” “How do you stay so productive?” “How did you write that way?”

But on the inside I’ve wondered why they can’t see what a grind and a struggle blogging can be.

This podcast is largely positive and constructive about how to build a profitable blog. But after reflecting on this conversation from last year it struck me that while I often talk up blogging, and share the benefits of doing it and the tactics of building profit, it may be worth acknowledging some of the hard stuff we face as content creators.

So in today’s episode I want to talk about four realities of blogging that many of us bloggers don’t always share.

Part of why I’m doing it is to give you a realistic insight into the life of a blogger. But I also think it’s important for us bloggers to realise that we’re not alone in facing some of these things. Being a little vulnerable with each other during that conversation last year seemed to lift our spirits a little. And out of the conversation came encouragement to keep at it.

So today I present four things about blogging that are hard. By no means is it a definitive list – I could probably come up with a lot more for a part two – but I hope it’s helpful.

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Further Listening on 4 Realities of Blogging All Bloggers Need To Talk About 167: My Million Dollar Blog Post (and How Procrastination Almost Stopped me Writing It)

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view Hey there, and welcome to Episode 214 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse and I’m the blogger behind problogger.com, a blog, podcast, events, job board, and series of ebooks all designed to help you to grow a profitable blog. You can learn more about what we do at ProBlogger at problogger.com.

In today’s episode, I wanna do something a little bit different. Last year, I was at a conference and was invited to have dinner with three other bloggers. They were bloggers who had all been blogging for 5 to 10 years, they were all full time at what they do. Relatively successful bloggers. It was a fun dinner; we laughed, we joked around, it was fairly lighthearted for the main. We covered a lot of ground in terms of our conversation.

Somewhere around the time that dessert was served, the conversation got a little bit deeper as one of our dinner party began to share that they were struggling with their blog. On the surface, this particular blogger’s blog was going okay; they had a great readership, they were producing lots of content, they had built a team, they had a beautiful design. It was all going well on the outside, but on the inside the blogger was feeling disillusioned.

As the blogger shared, I looked around the table and I saw that we were all nodding at the story. The story that the blog was telling was resonating with us all. I personally related a lot. There are times in blogging where it’s hard. There are times where it’s easy to get disillusioned. There are times as a blogger that I’ve heard people rave about my blog with comments like, “You’re so prolific” , “You’re so productive”, “How do you write like that?” But on the inside, I’ve wondered why they can’t see what a grind and a struggle it can sometimes be.

This podcast is largely pretty positive and constructive about how to build a profitable blog, but it struck me this week as I reflected upon that conversation that whilst I talk about blogging a lot, sometimes I don’t talk about the negative sides as well. Perhaps, it’s worth acknowledging some of the hard stuff that we as content creators face. In today’s episode, I want to go there. I want to talk about four realities of blogging that many of us as bloggers don’t always share. We like to present the positives and that’s great, but perhaps sometimes it’s worth going into these slightly darker and more personal, vulnerable places. I hope you allow me to do that today.

I want to do so partly to give a realistic insight into the life of a blogger. It’s not all bells and whistles. I also want to share it today because sometimes I think as bloggers, we think that we’re the only ones facing this kind of stuff. It struck me during that conversation with my blogging friends last year that simply by us each sharing about the tough stuff that we went away from that dinner with our spirits lifted a little bit more, slightly more energized and encouraged by one another’s stories.

Today, I want to present four things about blogging that are hard. By no means is this a definitive list. I can probably come up with 40 of these things, and perhaps there will be a part two at some point. I hope in sharing these four things that whatever you’re facing at the moment as a blogger, you’ll be a little bit encouraged that you’re not alone and perhaps come away with some ideas about how to combat these four things.

Let’s get into the first tough things about blogging that we don’t often share.

The first thing that I want to talk about is that it’s hard to be creative every day. Content creation, when you’re doing it on a regular basis, whether it’s daily or even weekly, it’s hard sometimes. There are times where it just flows. There are times where you sit at the computer and ten blog posts just come out of you, or three podcasts, or you get so many ideas and you get into the flow. But there are also many times in the life of most bloggers where you sit at that screen and you wonder what it is that you should be writing about, or you feel like you and everyone else has already written on every topic that there is to write about in your niche, or you doubt whether you are the right person to be writing on that topic, whether you have the skills, or experience, or authority to really go there. Or where you struggle to get into the flow of writing, you’re just getting to that flow. Or where you’re fighting distractions or even boredom with the task at hand.

The reality is that it is sometimes hard. There are days where it does flow and there are many days where it doesn’t. I just want to acknowledge that as the first thing today. My tip for you, if that’s what you’re facing, there’s many other podcasts we’ve written, I’ve put together, on this particular topic but my main thing that I want to say to you today if that’s the place you’re in is to push through the pain. You need to know that hurting is an essential part of growing your creative muscles.

I’m sitting here at my desk today, I’m standing here actually, and my muscles are sore. My triceps are sore. I went to PT, my personal trainer, yesterday, and he worked my triceps and they hurt. It hurt at the time and it hurts today but I know that the result of that hurt is that I will have stronger triceps. I don’t think they’re ever going to be massive but I’m experiencing growth as a result of some of that pain.

The same thing is true of your creative muscles. Good things happen when you exercise that creative part of yourself. You need to push through that, you need to persist with that.

Get into the flow by creating something, anything. Sometimes, the hard bit is just starting out. But once you get going, once you push through that initial resistance, that’s where the energy comes, that’s where the ideas come, that’s where the creativity comes. Make creating a regular thing, schedule it into your day, into your week, and push through that regularity and repetition of creating something, anything, even if you don’t publish it. It’s part of getting into that flow.

Number two thing that I want to talk about is that first drafts are almost always bad. My favorite bloggers, they just seem to have this innate ability to put words together in such an amazing way that seems, as a reader, effortless. It looks almost like some sort of superpower. There’s a couple of bloggers that come to mind. Every time I read one of their articles, I just feel alive as a reader. It’s amazing, they have this incredible gift.

The reality is that behind the scenes, the article that you’re wowing over usually starts out nothing like its finished, public version. The article probably started out as a hastily scribbled bullet point list on the back of a napkin, or them jotting something down into a notes app on their iPhone. It was probably then turned into a first draft that was full of mistakes and awkwardly formed ideas. In time, it was probably refined and re-worked. It was probably revisited time and time again. It was probably added to and then subtracted from. Its headline, its opening lines, its conclusions were probably agonized over, it was probably critiqued and edited numerous times and then polished and eventually it was published. It was probably published by someone who then continued to proofread it and edit it after it was published, in the days after.

Creating content takes time. It rarely, if ever, comes out of the author ready for publishing in its first draft. I’ve never, ever written a blogpost that didn’t get an edit, didn’t get reworked.

The tip I have for you, if you are looking at that piece of content that you’ve written and it’s awkward and it’s not flowing and it doesn’t look very good is to keep putting effort into editing, into finishing your work. You need to put as much time into the editing and the polishing and the finishing of your work as you do into that first draft, if not much more.

The second thing, your first drafts are usually almost always pretty bad.

The third thing I wanna talk about is that—this is speaking from my experience—you never really finish anything. Nothing is ever perfect. In 15 years of blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever hit publish on anything on my blog or my podcast that I’m 100% happy with. There is almost always, as I hit publish, a tension within me, mixed feelings. Excitement on one hand, pride, satisfaction. But also on the other side, there’s almost always some uneasy feeling that maybe I could have done a little bit more, or maybe I could’ve added more detail, or maybe I could’ve polished it further, or maybe I could’ve got an extra quote, or maybe I could make it look better.

On one hand, these feelings of “I could do more” can be a good thing. I just spoke in the last point about how you should let those feelings drive you to improve those first drafts. On one hand, those feelings are great, but on the other hand some of us as content creators allow these feelings of “I could do more” to stop us publishing or releasing anything at all. I think, really, one of the skills as a blogger is to find a place between those two extremes. Perfectionism can be both a superpower and a curse. Allow it to drive you to improve what you do, but also learn that you sometimes just need to set free, you need to put what you’ve done out there, you need to set free what you create.

You can always tweak later, but you will never build anything of value unless you hit publish on it. Leave with that tension. Acknowledge that perfectionism within you. Work with it, but also resist it so that you do publish something.

The fourth thing kind of relates to this idea of perfectionism. The fourth thing that I want to acknowledge is that procrastination impacts us all. It happens to us all. We all know what it is to procrastinate.

Here’s a little secret for you. I outlined this very podcast in March of 2016. It was the day after the conversation that I had with my friends. Now, as I sit in front of this podcast, my microphone, recording this podcast is now the 4th of October, 2017. It’s taken a year and a half for me to get this podcast done. Even the most productive people have the temptation to put things off. In many cases, it’s the things that we procrastinate about that ultimately have the power to hold us back most.

For me, procrastination is often tied to fear. It’s the things that scare me that actually are the things that have the biggest potential to bring good things into our life as well. You need to learn to see procrastination as a signal that it’s something you need to really pay attention to. If you’re a procrastinator, after this episode finishes, go and listen to Episode 167 for my ultimate procrastination story and tips.

I hope somewhere in the midst of these four things, there’s some encouragement for you. I don’t want this to be a Debbie Downer, I don’t want it to be a negative podcast, but I want to acknowledge that sometimes it’s hard. It’s hard to be creative every day. It’s hard when you look at those first drafts and you think it’s awkward and it’s not working. It’s hard when you put off things. It’s hard to get things finished. These are four things that I’ve struggled with over the years and I want to let you know that it’s okay to have those struggles too but I encourage you to push through them.

I would love to hear what struggles it is that you wish more bloggers would talk about. You can do so in a couple of ways. You can do it over on our podcast notes, show notes today at problogger.com/podcast/214 or over in our ProBlogger community Facebook group. Love to connect with you there and I look forward to chatting with you next week in Episode 215.

If you’re looking for something else to listen to, go and listen to Episode 167, the one I mentioned in that particular episode. It’s about procrastination. It was me telling a story of my ultimate procrastination, something that cost me a lot of money when I procrastinated on but it gives you some practical tips about how to get things done too. Go over and join the Facebook group. problogger.com/group.

How did you go with today’s episode?

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The post 214: 4 Realities of Blogging All Bloggers Need to Talk About appeared first on ProBlogger.

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New Findings Show Google Organic Clicks Shifting to Paid

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/seomoz/~3/CtqacaBI4k0/google-organic-clicks-shifting-to-paid

Posted by Brian_W

On the Wayfair SEO team, we keep track of our non-branded click curves: the average click-through rate (CTR) for each ranking position. This helps us accurately evaluate the potential opportunity of keyword clusters.

Over the last two years, the total share of organic clicks on page one of our e-commerce SERPs has dropped 25% on desktop and 55% on mobile.

For the ad-heavy non-local SERPs that we work in, paid ads are likely now earning nearly the same percentage of clicks as organic results — a staggering change from most of the history of Google.

Organic CTR loses 25% of click share on desktop, 55% on mobile

Looking at 2015 vs 2017 data for all keywords ranking organically on the first page, we’ve seen a dramatic change in CTR. Below we’ve normalized our actual CTR on a 1–10 scale, representing a total drop of 25% of click share on desktop and 55% on mobile.

Organic receives 25% less desktop CTR and 55% less mobile CTR compared to two years ago.

The much larger drop on mobile is particularly relevant because we’ve seen large traffic shifts to mobile over the last two years as well. The overall percentage drop plays out somewhat similarly across the first page of results; however, the top four were most heavily impacted.

The first four organic results were most heavily impacted by the CTR shift from organic to paid.

About the data

It’s important to note that this type of CTR change is not true for every SERP. This data is only applicable to e-commerce intent search queries, where ads and PLAs are on nearly every query.

We gather the impression, click, and rank data from Search Console. While Search Console data isn’t quantitatively correct, it does appear to be directionally correct for us (if we see clicks double in Search Console, we also see organic Google traffic double in our analytics), site improvements that lead to meaningful CTR gains appear to be reflected in Search Console, we can roughly verify impressions via ad data, and we can confirm the accuracy of rank. For purposes of this data pull, we excluded any keywords that Search Console reported as a non-integer rank (such as ranking 1.2). We have thousands of page one keywords, including many large head terms comprising millions of combined clicks, which gives us a lot of data for each ranking position.

We remove all branded queries from the data, which hugely skews click curves.

It’s important to note that paid ads are not getting all the clicks that organic is not. In addition to the small number of people who click beyond the first page, a surprising number do not click at all. Our best guess is that all ads combined now get about the same percentage of clicks (for our results) as all organic results combined.

Why is this happening?

It’s no secret to SEOs who work on transactional keywords why we no longer gain as large a share of clicks for our best rankings. We suspect the primary causes are the following:

Ads serving on more queries More ads per query Larger ads, with more space given to each ad Google Shopping (which show up on more queries, list more products per query, and take up more space) Subtler ad labeling, making it less obvious that an ad is an ad

At Wayfair, we’ve seen Google Shopping results appear on more and more search queries over the last year. Using Stat Search Analytics, we can track the growth in queries serving Google Shopping results (modified by search volume to give a qualitative visibility score) across the 25,000 keywords we track daily on mobile and desktop. The overall share of voice of Google Shopping has grown nearly 60% in the last year.

Number of transactional queries serving Google Shopping has grown nearly 60% in the last year.

On top of this, we’re often seeing four PPC ads for a typical non-branded commercial term, in addition to the Google Shopping results.

And with the expanded size of ads on mobile, almost none of our queries show anything other than ads without scrolling:

This great image from Edwords shows the steady growth in percent of the desktop page consumed by ads for a query that has only three ad results. We go from seeing five organic results above the scroll, to just one. In more recent years we’ve seen this size growth explode on mobile as well.

At the same time that ads have grown, the labeling of ads has become increasingly subtle. In a 2015 study, Ofcom found that half of adults don’t recognize ads in Google, and about 70% of teenagers didn’t recognize Google ads — and ad labeling has become substantially less obvious since then. For most of its history, Google ads were labeled by a large colored block that was intuitively separate from the non-ad results, though sometimes not visible on monitors with a higher brightness setting.

2000 – Shaded background around all ads:

2010 – Shaded background still exists around ads:

2014 – No background; yellow box label next to each ad (and ads take up a lot more space):

2017 – Yellow box changed to green, the same color as the URL it’s next to (and ads take up even more space):

2017 – Green box changed to a thin green outline the same color as the URL:

What to do about it

The good news is that this is impacting everyone in e-commerce equally, and all those search clicks are still happening — in other words, those users haven’t gone away. The growth in the number of searches each year means that you probably aren’t seeing huge losses in organic traffic; instead, it will show as small losses or anemic growth. The bad news is that it will cost you — as well as your competitors — more money to capture the same overall share of search traffic.

A strong search marketing strategy has always involved organic, paid search, and PLA combined. Sites optimizing for all search channels are already well-positioned to capture search traffic regardless of ad changes to the SERPs: if SEO growth slows, then PLA and paid search growth speeds up. As real estate for one channel shrinks, real estate for others grows.

If you haven’t been strongly invested in search ads or PLAs, then the Chinese proverb on the best time to plant a tree applies perfectly:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

With a similar percentage of clicks going to paid and organic, your investment in each should be similar (unless, of course, you have some catching up to do with one channel).


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Professional Development for Bloggers: How to Learn on a Budget

Originally published on: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/ProbloggerHelpingBloggersEarnMoney/~3/6DZM1dDXuqw/

bloggers-professional-development.jpg

I have a confession to make: I was a bit of a geek at school. I was the kid who asked questions all the time. What can I say? I loved learning.

And I still do. Every part of the process is exciting for me – learning new things, meeting new people, and being inspired. So imagine how excited I was when I left school and discovered my employers would actually pay me to learn. ‘Professional Development’ quickly became my two favourite words.

Unfortunately, being paid to attend conferences and stay in nice hotels so I could learn and network ended when I left the corporate world. And who pays for your professional development when you’re a blogger? That’s right – you.

Working for yourself means there’s no training and development are who’ll pay to keep your skills up to date. But because I value it so much, I’ve kept investing in my own professional development since going solo. And in this blog post I’m going to share some of the learning opportunities the ProBlogger team and I recommend.

Further Education

When I realised my traditional sales and marketing skills were in danger of being superseded in a digital world, I enrolled in a Diploma in Digital Marketing. It wasn’t strictly blogging related, but it covered content marketing, social media, advertising, PR, acquisition/conversion/retention strategies and much more.

Do those skills sound familiar? They should – I use them pretty much every day to manage the ProBlogger and Digital Photography School blogs. I studied online for a year to get my Diploma in Digital Marketing through the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing in the UK. It’s fairly intensive, requires two assessments, and you even need to physically sit two exams despite being an online course. (My writing hand was almost dead after writing with pen and paper for six hours.)

Would I do it again? Yes. Sure, it was expensive. But being taught industry best practice by qualified professionals and getting a formal certification at a Bachelor Degree level was definitely worth it.

Conferences

When you have to pay for your ticket, airfares, transport, accommodation and room service, you become very picky about the conferences you go to. Which is why ‘looking local’ is your best first option.

I was lucky. One of the first blogging events I went to (a ProBlogger event, where I met Darren for the first time) was right here in Melbourne, Australia. Of course, there have been other great local events, but I’m proud to say I’ve been involved with the ProBlogger Events here in Australia for the past five years. (Here’s where you can read about our most recent event and sign up for alerts about our next one.)

Unfortunately I won’t be attending the next one in Dallas, Texas. But Darren will be there, co-hosting with Digital Collab of the Success Incubator on the 24th of October. It will also feature amazing speakers including  Pat Flynn, Kim Garst and Andrea Vahl. It’s a fantastic opportunity, and tickets are still available if you can make it. (It will be Darren’s last international trip for the year.)

If there isn’t much happening in your local area, you may need to look further abroad. My first international blogging conference was BlogHer in New York in 2012. It was quite an experience for me. I got to meet a lot of bloggers, and be exposed to new ideas and new ways of doing things. I also learned about sponsored content trends (which was new to me at the time) that would soon be heading to Australia.

One I wish I could get to more often is Mike Stelzner’s Social Media Marketing World in San Diego. I was there in 2015, and appreciated the focus on social media, which was becoming more and more a part of a blogger’s online environment. In recent years the agenda has expanded to include more content marketing and a dedicated stream for ‘creators’ such as bloggers and podcasters. You’ll usually find Darren speaking at this event – it’s one his favourites, too.

There’s another one that isn’t strictly blogging, but can give you insights about the kinds of marketing skills you can consider – Hubspot’s Inbound in Boston. It’s the one where I flew to the other side of the world only to get locked out of Seth Godin’s keynote. (Oops!)

If you’re looking for conferences, Social Media Examiner has a list of events being held around the world. There’s also a comprehensive directory of 400+ worldwide digital marketing events at marketingterms.com.

Blogging Courses and Resources

Of course, a big part of what we do here at ProBlogger is provide access to free and affordable content to help you with your blogging. ProBlogger has more than 8,000 free blog posts and a library of six eBooks. (We’ll also be adding some courses soon, so watch this space.)

One of our most popular books is the best-selling 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. It’s a great resource you can use whenever your blogging needs a bit of focus and revitalisation. There’s also Blogwise – our collection of productivity tips that’s currently being offered as part of the Ultimate Bundles Blogger’s Genius Toolkit.

The Blogger’s Genius Toolkit

One of the reasons we’ve endured with eBooks is they’re so affordable. We’ve contributed to (and been an affiliate for) the Ultimate Bundles Blogger’s Genius Toolkit for the second year in a row because it represents such amazing value.

The team at Ultimate Bundles has put together the best resources on all the topics that matter to bloggers – mastering social media, monetization, creating and selling products, time management and productivity, growing an email list, and so much more.

All-up there are 91 resources in the toolkit. The eBooks, eCourses, templates and workbooks alone are worth more than $5,800. And on top of that you get $1,193 worth of free bonus offers, and ten tools and services to help you run your blog better.

But the best part (and one of the main reasons we take part each year) is that you can get the lot for just $97. That’s about the same as a course or a few eBooks. And a lot less than a flight from Melbourne to Boston.

There’s even a full 30-day happiness guarantee, which means you can try it out without any risk.

Here’s where you can learn more and buy the bundle. But be quick – it’s only available until 11:59pm EST on Monday the 9th of October.

Blogger Groups

If you’re looking for more free advice and support, Facebook Groups can be a fantastic resource for new and advanced bloggers alike. While many Facebook groups are set up for paid courses (and therefore restricted), there are still plenty of free ones.

ProBlogger Community is our free closed Facebook Group where Darren, Kat Jarman (our Community Manager) and I hang out with nearly 10,000 bloggers. It’s a great place to ask questions, offer valuable tips, and help each other. It costs nothing to join – you just need to answer three simple questions). And we have guidelines on taking part in the conversation that help stop it from becoming spammy and self-promotional.

It’s also a great place to get direct input from Darren. We direct most enquiries we get via our contact form to the group, so you’re more likely to get his attention this way.

Here are some other places we like to hang out.

The Inspired Bloggers Network Facebook Group is a similar group that also has strict guidelines around self-promotion and profiting from the group. It’s there to encourage and educate bloggers.

You’ll find Darren in Rachel Miller’s Facebook Massive Growth Strategies group since he became a student of her course. There’s a free group you can join, and a different group if you buy the course.

For the Aussies in the house, we also love hanging out over at Aussie Bloggers, where we often help out and join the conversation. We love their two straightforward and very Australian rules – 1. Don’t spam the group. 2. Don’t be a dick. Enough said really!

Hopefully you’ll appreciate the spam and sleaze-free communities in these groups as much as we do.

What are some other ways you’ve progressed your professional development since becoming a blogger?

Jonathan Simcoe

The post Professional Development for Bloggers: How to Learn on a Budget appeared first on ProBlogger.