Become a Better Blogger: Essential Blogging Skills Every Business Needs

Become a Better Blogger: Essential Blogging Skills Every Business Needs

Whether you want to attract more clients to your freelance service or business, drive more customers to your store, or just build a bigger audience for your blog, it’s vital that you understand the essential skills that every blogger needs.

In the past, we’ve published a few articles on this blog about the benefits of content marketing and how to grow your WordPress business through better blogging. However, in today’s article we’re going to cover some of the essential skills almost everyone needs in order to find success online.

Even if you aren’t writing the content yourself, it’s important to have a good understanding of what good content looks like. This knowledge will help you to recognize whether someone is a good writer for your blog or not. It will also enable you to determine if the work they do for you is up to standard.

Whether you’re already involved in the growing WordPress economy, or you’re looking for a way in, blogging can be a great entry point. Having a busy blog can also help accelerate the sales of your WordPress-related products and services.

So whether you’re totally new to blogging or you just want to brush up on your skills, here is the essential knowledge that every blogger needs in order to grow their audience. Whether you want that audience to go on to become customers, clients, or your join your network, these tips will help you get the best results from your efforts.

1. Know Who You’re Writing For

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Know your audience

Whether you’re a freelancer in need of a steady stream of new prospects or a business looking for more customers, I hope that you already have a good idea of who your ideal client or customer is. This persona is who you will be writing your blog content for.

However, if you’re blogging to build a reputation, grow an audience, or cultivate a following, you might not have given as much thought to the topic of who your ideal reader is.

Creating a Reader Profile

The more specific and detailed you can get when it comes to creating the profile of your ideal reader, the more focused your content will be. As your content becomes more zoomed in on your ideal reader, the more it will resonate with them, offer real value, and help turn them from a one-time visitor into a subscriber or follower.

Find Your Niche

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Find your slice of the market

When it comes to determining who you’re writing for and what your ideal reader looks like, niching down as much as possible is the goal here. If you want your blog to serve WordPress users, for example, what type of WordPress user do you want to attract?

Are these WordPress users:

  • Coders
  • Web designers
  • Hobbyist users
  • Blog owners
  • E-commerce store managers

Then there are the other things to think about, such as their location, their age, whether they are an Apple or PC person, if they prefer cats to dogs, if they value time over money or prefer to invest their time and learn how to do the job themselves, the list goes on…

Overcome the Resistance

I’m sure in your field, you can niche down more than you have already. However, you might be resistant to niching down as much as is necessary. This is understandable. You don’t want to turn away potential readers or customers who fall outside of your laser focused target demographic.

However, being specific about who your target reader or customer is doesn’t mean excluding everyone else. It just means that when your ideal prospect comes along, they will instantly connect with what you have to say.

Instead of leading with a bland message, in the hope of not turning anyone away, do the opposite. Really refine your voice to ensure your target audience simply can’t turn away.

Furthermore, the better you’re able to flesh out the persona of your ideal client, customer, or reader, the easier it will be each time it comes to sitting down and writing a new blog post.

2. What Action Do you Want Them to Take?

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Define your goals

Armed with your ideal reader profile, it’s almost time to start writing. However, before you do, there are a few more points you need to be aware of.

The next task is to determine what you want your visitors to do after they’ve found their way to your blog and started reading your content.

What Are Your Goals?

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What’s the next step in the journey?

If you’re blogging purely for businesses reasons, then you should already have an idea of this. For those who are blogging to grow their business, the next action typically could include deciding to become one of your clients or customers. While for bloggers with less tangible goals, such as growing an audience or building a platform, the desired next step in the visitor journey might not be as clear.

However, even for business owners and entrepreneurs, the next step in the client or customer acquisition journey won’t always be the same. If you are promoting low-ticket products or services, then yes, the desired action you want your reader to take is to add the item to their cart and make a purchase.

Don’t Just Shove Your Offer in Their Face

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Don’t try to cold sell

However, if you are promoting high-priced items, such as high-end web design projects, online training courses, or big-ticket products like a car, simply presenting visitors with the opportunity to make a purchase often isn’t the best approach.

Start a Relationship or Qualify Your Leads

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Evaluate your leads

The higher the price of the item you are offering, the more you’ll have to do to warm up your prospects before asking them to make a buying decision.

One way of achieving this is to ask your visitors to complete some other action that will help you to either qualify them or start building a relationship with them.

If you’re a web designer, but only want to work on projects in the $20,000 to $50,000 price range, then you need to qualify your leads as quickly as possible to exclude tire kickers and projects with a budget outside of that range.

detailed online form that asks essential questions can help you to quickly filter out unsuitable leads. Another example would be scheduling an appointment for an investigatory call as soon as possible to see how serious the prospect is.

If you are offering high-priced products that typically aren’t purchased online, then the next step in the buying journey might be to arrange a live viewing or test drive, or to seek permission to send out an information pack.

For those of you offering high priced training courses or coaching programs, you ideally want your visitors to sign up to your email list as the next step towards your final goal. This then gives you the opportunity to connect with them through a free series of emails, before presenting them with the opportunity to sign on the dotted line.

Using a free email course as a lead magnet, can help you start a relationship rather than have a request for money being your first point of contact.

If you aren’t in it for the money, and are blogging to build your audience or for some other reason, then you’ll still want your readers to take an action after they’ve read your content. This could include asking them to join your email newsletter, become a follower on social media, or some other action that gives you a way to keep in contact with them.

If you really think about it, each project has its own individual acquisition journey – whether you want to acquire a new customer, client, or follower. Knowing what action you want your visitors to take next will help ensure your blog content is aligned with that goal.

3. How Can You Help?

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Help your audience through your content

Ok, so now we know who we’re writing for and what the purpose of our blog, it’s time to fill in the missing gap: establishing how to best help or serve your audience.

If you want to get your visitors to take the next step in the journey you’ve mapped out for them, you’ll need to give them something in return. What your visitors are looking for here is value.

This value could come in many forms. This includes more literal interpretations of value such as helping them to save money or generate more revenue.

Alternately, if could just be providing entertainment, information, or a welcome distraction from what they should be focusing on instead.

We all find value in different places. As you’ve already created a detailed reader profile, you should be able to determine what value your audience is seeking and how you can provide it.

Once you’ve delivered some form of value, whether it’s advice, inspiration, information, or entertainment, it’ll be much easier for your visitors to accept the offer you’ve laid out for them and take action.

4. What to Write About

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Time so start writing

So now the moment you’ve been waiting for: it’s time to start writing. But what should you write about?

The best way to get started is, with your detailed reader profile by your side, begin thinking about how you can provide your target audience with valuable content, in a format that they would appreciate.

What Questions Can You Answer

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What questions are you asked?

A good place to start is thinking about the questions you can answer. Think about what questions you are often asked by your clients and customers. This can be before, during, and after you’ve made a sale or completed a project. Do your friends and family often ask you for help or advice in certain areas?

These questions and requests often cover the same topics your target audience are searching the internet to find answers for.

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What are people asking Google?

Not only will answering these questions on your blog help your content receive traffic from the search engines, but it will also provide real value to your audience. Using your blog to answer these questions, helps remove any doubts they might have about taking the next step in your buying journey.

Examples of this could include:

  • How much does X cost?
  • What does the process involve?
  • Does X work or is it a scam?
  • Is X better than Y?

Using your blog to answer the typical questions your audience will have, can help them to overcome any last minute objections they have. This in turn enables them to move forward with confidence.

How You’ve Helped Others

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Share your successes

If you want to gain the trust of your audience, you’ll need to demonstrate why they should take you seriously.

If you’re blogging to promote a product or service, then you can use completed projects or examples of your products being used by your customers as inspiration for your blog posts. Instead of simply publishing client or customer feedback and testimonials, interweave that content into blog posts.

Tell the story of how you were able to help. Be sure to include the results the user revived, and how others can benefit from your expertise. This approach can be applied to your web design portfolio too. Don’t just present the finished projects. Instead, explain what the problem was, how you solved it, and what the results have been for the client.

What You’ve Already Accomplished

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Tell your stories

One of the best ways to connect with your readers is through storytelling. If you’re using your blog to promote yourself, create blog posts that share the stories of how you’ve been effective in the past.

Make sure you’re not simply showing off or bragging, but that your stories include actionable advice that your readers get value from.

If you want your visitors to start a relationship with you – whatever your end goal – you must be able to provide real value and demonstrate your credibility.

Essential Blogging Skills Final Thoughts

Embracing blogging can be the start of an exciting journey. Creating your own content that is published online for the world to see can be nerve racking.

However, if you stick with it, your blog can open up many doors and opportunities that just wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. From new relationships, greater business growth, and countless other opportunities, the benefits of blogging are numerous.

When it comes to putting virtual pen to paper, your blog posts can take almost any form, from list posts and interviews, through to case studies and tutorials. This level of freedom on offer can at first, seem daunting.

Although there really are no hard and fast rules as to how your content should read or look, there are a few blogging guidelines you can use to get started. After that, you can start thinking about finding your true voice and getting more creative with your content.

Blogging can take up a large amount of time, especially if you’re more invested in the other tasks of your business. However, by understating who you are writing for, what your goals are, and knowing what to write about, you can become a much more productive blogger. And if it all seems like too much work, there are plenty of freelance bloggers out there, standing by to take over the writing duties.

13 Best Google Maps Plugins for WordPress

13 Best Google Maps Plugins for WordPress

If you run a business in the real, brick-and-mortar world, success hinges on customers being able to find you. Customers won’t spend forever trying to work out your location for themselves – it’s your responsibility to do the heavy lifting for them. I’m talking, of course, about providing them with an interactive map.

Although the Google Maps API comes equipped with embedding code, many WordPress users will feel more comfortable using a dedicated map plugin. After all, a dedicated Google Map plugin offers more features, customizations, and settings.

And that’s precisely the purpose of today’s article: to introduce you to 13 of the best WordPress Google Maps plugins. To cater to all budgets, this collection includes both free and premium map plugins.

WP Google Maps (FREE)

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Let’s kick things off with one of the most popular map plugins, WP Google Maps. This is the free Lite version of the plugin, which currently boasts over 200,000 active installs.

WP Google Maps lets you add an unlimited number of markers to maps, letting you highlight locations of interest. To further draw visitors to a specific area of your map, you can add colorful polygons and polylines to them, too. Probably the best feature in this free plugin is the store locator – and also possibly the most valuable to you. Add pins to mark all your stores, and then let visitors use a helpful search function to find the nearest one.

You can also add a number of different layers to your website, depending on your needs. This includes bicycle, traffic, transit, and weather layers. The plugin is super-easy to use, too, with maps added to any post/page using a supplied shortcode. In fact, you can have your first map configured and live in a matter of seconds!

Google Maps Bank – Easy Google Maps (FREE)

Google-Maps-Bank

Google Maps Bank is a plugin that blends usability with a quality set of features. To avoid inexperienced WordPress users from getting lost, the plugin comes equipped with a helpful 7-step wizard. The plugin also supports over 800 custom marker icons, a variety of Google Map types (road, terrain, satellite, etc.), and directions to your location.

The free version of this plugin is admittedly somewhat limited – you can only build two maps, add five markers, and use one polygon/polyline. If you want unrestricted usage, consider upgrading to the Pro version, which also boasts additional premium features like custom markers and pre-built themes. Prices for the Pro version start at $25.

5sec Google Maps ($12)

5sec-Google-Maps

5sec Google Maps is one of the most popular premium map plugins among WordPress users – probably due to its cost effectiveness, ease of use, and neat range of features.

You can add maps anywhere on your website using shortcodes, plus the plugin ships with a dedicated map widget. You can also place an unlimited number of markers on your maps, with markers coming in 12 fun styles. You can add text boxes to your markers, too, a great way to provide potential visitors with more information about your locations. The plugin is available from CodeCanyon for just $12.

Maps Builder (FREE)

Maps-Builder

Maps Builder is one of the better free Google Maps plugins around. It lets you build and edit your map using an intuitive builder feature – the builder resembles the WordPress Customizer. The plugin makes it as easy as possible to add unlimited markers to your maps, adopting a ‘point and click’ system.

The plugin also comes with full control over an extensive set of default map options – such as zoom level, street view, and map style. You can integrate the plugin with Map Icons, too, giving you a wide range of marker options.

A premium version of the plugin is available for $58. Maps Builder Pro supports map mashups, layers, and custom markers, in addition to all the free features just outlined.

WP Google Maps PRO ($39)

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This is the Pro version of the WP Google Maps plugin – as such, it features all of the Lite version’s functionalities, plus a number of cool premium ones.

One of the main new features is custom markers – color and icon. You can also animate these markers, to command extra attention. When visitors click on one of the markers, a small pop-up displays additional information, plus an image of the location.

Another cool feature is the location ‘carousel.’ Visitors can scroll a rotating wheel of places, which they can click to jump to a specific spot on the map.

The store locator feature also includes advanced functionality – notably the ability to categorize your locations so that visitors can find a more exact one. The plugin can also provide street directions to the nearest store.

Comprehensive Google Map Plugin (FREE)

Comprehensive-Google-Maps-Plugin

Next up, the ever-popular Comprehensive Google Map Plugin – an awesome free plugin with over 200k active installs. Why so popular, I hear you ask? This is largely down to the plugin’s impressive feature set (especially for a free plugin), flexible customization options, and ease of use.

My favorite features include aggregated map ‘mashups,’ a choice of over 250 marker styles, and GPS location. This last one is particularly useful, allowing a visitor to find and plot the route from their current location to their desired destination with ease – ideal if you want more footfall in your brick-and-mortar store!

MapPress Pro ($30)

MapPress

MapPress Pro is an awesome Google Maps plugin built by developer Chris Richardson. This premium plugin lets you add stylish maps to your WordPress website, with a selection of over 100 marker styles. You can also create cool map ‘mashups,’ combining multiple maps in one.

To help visitors find their bearings, you can also list your marked locations below the map (as seen in the screenshot above). Visitors can click on their preferred destination, which instantly jumps them to the relevant spot on the map. To further assist, the plugin can even display directions for getting there.

free version of the plugin is also available – and very popular – with a more limited feature set. If you’re working with a budget, the free version is well worth checking out.

Snazzy Maps (FREE)

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Want to build the funkiest, most stylish maps possible? Look no further than Snazzy Maps – a free-to-use plugin for personal purposes, or available from $10 for businesses.

Snazzy Maps lets you apply user created ‘styles’ to your maps – similar to filters in photography. There are hundreds and hundreds of creations on the Snazzy Maps website – browse them here – with plenty of beautiful, distinct styles to pick from.

Best of all, Snazzy Maps integrates with the majority of popular Google Maps, meaning you can combine Snazzy Maps’ style with another plugin’s functionality. Awesome, right?

Mapify.it ($17)

Mapify

Mapify.it is one of the top map plugins available to WordPress users. Although fully compatible with Google Maps, it also allows you to upload your own custom maps while retaining Google Maps functionality – for example, the ability to pan and zoom. So, if you want a tailored, branded map to display directions to your business, this plugin is probably best-suited to your needs.

Mapify.it also lets you place custom markers for your destinations, complete with hover boxes. You can add text to these hover boxes, or, more impressively, entire image galleries. The plugin is available for just $17 from CodeCanyon, representing excellent value.

Google Maps Widget (FREE)

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Looking to add Google Maps specifically to your widget areas? Many plugins offer this feature, but Google Maps Widget was built primarily as a widget. However, due to shortcode functionality, you can add maps to any post, page, or custom post type, too.

The plugin boasts plenty of customization options – zoom levels, size, map type, pin marker style, color, and text. If visitors want an expanded view of your map, they can also click to activate an expanded lightbox-version of your map.

Responsive Styled Google Maps ($16)

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Another premium one now. Responsive Styled Google Maps is capable of producing some of the prettiest maps around. In fact, there are over 50 unique styles in total, with a further ten marker icons (or you can upload custom icons). Note: some of the map styles are courtesy of Snazzy Maps.

With map style the focal point, it’s little surprise that this plugin ships with a handy ‘live preview’ option. This allows you to view the map you’re building and the changes you make in real time. The plugin comes with extensive settings, letting you configure the map exactly to your specifications. Other features include marker pop-ups, clustering, and search functionality.

Intergeo WordPress Google Maps Plugin (FREE)

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Next up, a powerful, feature-rich map plugin from the team at Theme Isle. The Intergeo WordPress Google Map Plugin’s main draw is the ‘map builder’ functionality. This gives you full control over your maps’ appearance, with a choice of default positioning, the opportunity to configure a stylish color scheme, and the ability to overlay a variety of marker styles on your maps.

The theme also supports a helpful ‘cloning’ tool – this allows you to duplicate the settings of your maps for speedier configurations in future. Most innovatively, though, the plugin features an awesome AdSense integration service, so you can even monetize your maps.

Geo Mashup (FREE)

Geo-Mashup

So far, we’ve talked a lot about plugins that are targeted at the internet’s most popular map service, Google Maps. But what if you want to use a different service? What are your options then?

Well, Geo Mashup gives you more flexibility than the average map plugin, with full integration with OpenStreetMap and Leaflet – as well as Google Maps, of course.

This plugin’s coolest feature is the ability to ‘map’ content – in others words, assign your posts/pages/custom post types to a location on the map. This is a feature that could definitely appeal to travel bloggers, estate agents, and job boards. The plugin also supports a Geo Search widget, marker clustering, and the ability to connect markers.

Final Thoughts

And with that, we’re done: a quick run through of 13 of the best Google Map plugins WordPress has to offer.

All plugins featured in this list are easy to use, offer a neat collection of features and functionalities, and are affordable – in fact, the majority of the plugins included today are free.

As always, this list doesn’t include all Google Map plugin options. With this in mind, it’s over to you: If you want to share your favorite map plugins, please do so in the comments section below!

Article thumbnail image by Delices / shutterstock.com

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