Lessons from a Top Performing Content Marketing Blogger

Posted August 24th @ 6:16 am by Roger C. ParkerPrint

I’d like to share some lessons I learned becoming a Top Performing Blogger for the Content Marketing Institute.

During July, two of my Content Marketing Institute posts were in their Top 10 most shared posts. 

  • Later, the the Content Marketing Institute created a 3-year compilation of my book recommendations and reviews, The Essential #BetBooks Reading List for Content Marketers. It contains capsule descriptions of over 50 relevant nonfiction books for content marketers, helpfully organized by topics. You can download, embed, or view it on SlideShare.

Learning from previously successful guest posts

The Top Performing Blogger recognition sparked my interest in taking an in-depth look at the 27 guest posts I’ve shared on the Content Marketing Institute blog. My goal was to identify the common characteristics of the most popular posts. This would help me:

  • Self-improvement. Analysis of my previous posts would help me to build on and, hopefully, surpass my previous most popular posts.
  • Share my findings with other bloggers. The Content Marketing Institute is a sharing community of content marketers from a broad spectrum of specialties and experience levels. Besides their blog, the Content Marketing Institute community is reflected by Content Marketing World, the fast-approaching largest content marketing event in the world as well as their weekly #TweetChats.

Equally important, by analyzing my top performing blog posts and comparing them with blog posts by the experts and top performers whose opinions I value the most. This permits me to identify areas where I can improve my own blog posting performance.

As Joe Pulizzi said in a recent phone conversation, “Content marketing success is a process of continuing evolution and improvement.”

Identifying my top performing blog posts

The starting point was to open the Blog Post Tracker I created to plan and track my Content Marketing Institute blog posts. (See How to Organize Your Blog Content with A 3-Step Post Tracker.)

I created it using using Mindjet’s MindManager mind mapping software. Click the graphic to the right do view a larger PDF of the mind map.

This would allow me to look for characteristics the most popular posts shared in common, as well as other lessons.

For simplicity, I divided the posts into 3 levels, using markers to indicate their relative popularity:

  1. More than 1,000 social media shares
  2. 400 to 999 social media shares
  3. Less than 399 social media shares

Lessons in blog post popularity

Although I will undoubtedly continuing to analyze topic popularity in greater detail in the near future, the following lessons are immediately apparent:

  1. The market speaks. In many cases, topics that I considered extremely important, like 7 Reasons to Hire a Former Teacher For a Content Marketing Job, although popular, weren’t as popular as I had hoped. Likewise, my biggest case study in the power of content to sell in a competitive environment, This 7-Step Content Marketing Plan Earned an $87 Million Paycheck was popular, but didn’t attract the attention I felt the topic warranted. A final example: when I was writing Worksheet for Turning Your Pivot Points into Stories for Better Content Marketing, based on lessons learned from Todd Wheatland’s The Pivot: Marketing Backstories, I was sure it was “Pulitzer Award” quality.  (I guess not.)
  2. Blog posts gain impact when visually reformatted as LinkedIn SlideShare presentations. On two occasions, moderately successful blog posts were far more popular when made into SlideShare ebooks and presentations. For example, my original 12 Months of Content Marketing Ideas for SlideShare post attracted a healthy amount of traffic. But, when the Content Marketing Institute reformatted it as a SlideShare presentation, it became their most popular Slideshare for over two years. (It’s now Number 2.)
  3. Transparent benefit and utility. Not unexpectedly, many of the most popular blog post titles address into obvious market concerns and promise a structured approach to achieving their goals or solving their problems. Sometimes, the power of opposites to engage by arousing curiosity is employed, i.e., the 1 Idea/2 Months of Content, example earlier in this post.
  4. Tools add impact to words. About a third of my blog posts included checklists, worksheets, and templates to not only engage readers, but make it easier for them to take the next step. The blog post comments frequently mentioned the checklists and worksheets as welcome additions.
    • At a time of decreased time resources and the ever-increasing productivity demands, even a simple 1-page worksheet can help break a complex project into simple, easily-addressed tasks.
    • Likewise, checklists, like my Content Marketing Checklist: 22 To-dos for SlideShare Success, helps readers monitor their own progress, saving their co-workers time and helping them remedy the problem on their own.
  5. Writing is just part of the blogging process. Maybe it’s just the way I work, but, often, I often spend several weeks thinking about blog posts and sketching out the content plans for a blog post, before I begin to write. In addition, writing often doesn’t start until I’ve spent a day-or-two creating the checklists and worksheets. Once I have created the checklist, it becomes relatively easy to write the blog.
  6. Familiarity builds readership and drives traffic to earlier posts. As the number of published blog posts has grown, there is a definite trend to increased popularity and social media activity for my latest posts. In addition, there is often unexpected social media referrals to earlier posts.
  7. I’m often asked, Does it get any easier? The jury’s still out on that. What has happened, over time, is that it may not be easier, but I am far more comfortable with the whole process. Basically, I’m better at anticipating rough spots in the blogging process and preventing them from derailing the entire process. More on this to come!

Disclaimer. I have based the social media numbers in my mind map on the current social media counts. However, about 3 years ago, the counters appeared to have returned to zero due to a hosting situation. This impacted several of my earlier posts, some of which had attracted hundreds of Tweets.

The lesson, of course, is to develop an independent system for tracking the performance of your blog posts, to preserve the integrity of your data.

Thank you and an invitation

Thank you, if you’ve ever commented, Liked, Tweeted, ReTweeted, or shared one of my blog posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. And, if you have any comments, questions, or takeaways from the lessons I’m compiling from my Content Marketing Institute guest posts, please share them as comments, below. And, don’t be shy about suggesting future topics you’d like me to address in future Content Marketing Institute blog posts!

How Influencers Can Help Authors Sell More Books

Posted August 10th @ 6:37 am by Roger C. ParkerPrint

The power that influencers can play in selling more books is illustrated by Amy Morin’s recent experience.

Immediately after Rush Limbaugh mentioned her bestselling book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do book on the air, leading it to become a Number One seller in several categories and creating a sell-out situation on Amazon.com and Walmart.

Within minutes, out of the hundreds of thousands of books on sale at Amazon, her book’s sales rank was 124!

Click the graphic to read a transcript of Rush Limbaugh’s comments.

This occurred shortly after her book was profiled in the Business Insider, leading to a follow-up discussion.

Backstory: Amy Morin’s virtual blog post success

As you may remember, if you’re a loyal Published and Profitable reader, I’ve frequently written about Amy Morin and the seeming “overnight success.”

If you’re not familiar with Amy’s story, you can get caught up by reading Amy Morin Tells How She Became a Bestselling Author which contains links to previous blog posts and a recording of our interview.

Basically, Amy’s original 675-word blog post was soon viewed by over a million readers (now over 10 million). This lead to a publishing contract for what quickly became a bestselling book.

What’s often overlooked in Amy’s story

What’s omitted from the “short version of the story,” of course, which she shared during our interview is the years of fine-tuning her writing skills by blogging and copywriting for others. This paved the way for her to confidently move forward when her original blog post became a viral marketing success.

Amy Morin’s “Wild and crazy publishing stuff!”

Amy’s latest emails contain two important lessons that I’d like to share:

  1. An openness to new experiences. Although an accomplished blogger and copywriter, Amy had no previous long-form, or book-length, writing experience. Yet, she was open to the challenge of completing her book on an accelerated deadline while continuing to serve her clients. This attitude continues today. For a limited time, her publisher has dropped the price of her ebook for a few days to just $1.99. Yet, her enthusiasm remains, This publishing stuff is far more wild and crazy than I ever imagined!
  2. Continued willingness to share and inspire. The candor that Amy exhibited in our interview remains. After sharing the story of her recent roller-coaster ride to greater sales, she ends her email with these words: Just crazy how one mention from a super influential person can make all the difference in the world. So the moral of my story is never give up promoting your book – even when you feel like you’re treading water – because you never know what could happen!


As of midnight, Sunday, August 10, 2015,  the Amazon Kindle version of Amy Morin’s 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. I can’t think of any other book that offers as many meaningful insights and actionable perspectives as this!

Looking for Topic Ideas for a Blog Post Series?

Posted August 3rd @ 8:00 am by Roger C. ParkerPrint

If you read my recent article, Turn to  1 Idea into 2 Months of Content Marketing (and More), you’ll want to attend this week’s free teleseminar call.

The article appeared as a guest post on the Content Marketing Institute Blog.

Tomorrow, I’m going to share additional ideas and tips for creating a series approach to your blogging strategy, including topic ideas.

Details about tomorrow’s call

Our August writing and book coaching call takes place Tuesday, August 4, at 4:00 PM Eastern.

  • First part of the call. I’ll open the call by sharing ideas and tips authors and content marketers who want to explore a series-based blogging strategy. I’ll discuss some of the questions to ask yourself before committing to a series approach to blogging. I’ll ask describe some of the real-world issues and questions that you should ask before committing to a series-based blogging strategy.
  • Second part of the call. During the remainder of the call, I’ll open the lines for callers to share their questions about a series approach to blogging. You’re invited to share your ideas for a blog post series you can turn into a book or ebook.

How to attend this call

Out call takes place Tuesday, August 4th, at 4:00 PM Eastern. All Published & Profitable friends and members are invited to attend. The call will be recorded.

There is no charge to attend to attend this free coaching call and ask questions. To join us, dial 605-475-6150 and enter PIN 513391. Related post, Content Marketers Turn to a Series Approach to Blogging.

Help for Content Marketers Looking for the #BestBooks

Posted August 3rd @ 8:00 am by Roger C. ParkerPrint

Are you a content marketer looking for a reading list and concise reviews of the essential best books for content marketing?

The Content Marketing Institute has recently published The Essential #BestBooks Reading List for Content Marketers.

It’s a 58-page compilation of 3 years of my twice-a-year reviews of the best books for content marketers.

Designed for easy reading, you can immediately access the reviews on SlideShare, or you can download them to your computer, tablet, or smartphone for later reading. You can also embed or share them with your co-workers and clients.

Expert advice about all aspects of content marketing

For your convenience, the Content Marketing Institute organized the reviews into 5 key categories.

This reflects my belief that content marketers can benefit ideas from fields far beyond the continent marketing world. The categories include:

  1. Content Marketing & Content Strategy. The 10 books in this category includes my “core” recommendations written by leading content marketers from around the world. Each title reflects its author’s area of specialization.
  2. Writing & Content Creation. The 11 books in this section focus on the challenges involved when writing for content marketing.
  3. Marketing & Branding. Content marketing also involves techniques associated with traditional advertising and marketing, as well as brand building. There are 9 books in this section.
  4. Creative Ideas & Business Inspiration. This is the largest section, with 15 books. The books in this section addresses topics associated with idea management and cultivating creativity-enhancing attitudes and environments.
  5. Processes & Productivity. The 7 books in this section primarily deal with topics that involve psychology. Topics include personal motivation, dealing with procrastination, and focusing on projects until completion.

How to remember more of what you read

To help you remember more of what you read, I’ve also created a bonus list of 7 tips plus a free downloadable Read & Remember worksheet.

Use the worksheet to take notes while reading books and ebooks, no matter where you are.

Although I created the worksheet so you could fill it out by hand, you can also adapt the worksheet to a software-based spreadsheet or mind map.

You can also use the worksheet to help you keep track of ideas for reviewing books on your blog, preparing Amazon.com Reader Reviews, or creating GoodReads recommendations.

Share your reading recommendations

After reading my list of The Essential #BestBooks Reading List for Content Marketers and downloading my Read & Remember worksheet, please share your comments and experiences.

Did I inadvertently overlook a book you think I should have included? And, after you’ve had a chance to download, print, and fill-out a few of my Read & Remember worksheets, let me know if you found it a useful alternative to underlining. Thank you!

Heidi Cohen’s Actionable Marketing Guide | Newsletter Marketing Best Practices

Posted August 3rd @ 6:34 am by Roger C. ParkerPrint

Heidi Cohen’s Actionable Marketing Guide newsletter reflects numerous newsletter marketing best practices at work.

As you would expect from one of the nation’s most respected copywriters, each issue is helpful, relevant, and concise.

But, her newsletters offer more than just helpful information

What I find most exciting is her newsletter’s sense of  personality and place.

Using story to engage

The July 13, 2015, issue of Heidi Cohen’s Actionable Marketing Guide is an example of how carefully Heidi uses story to immediately engage her readers. She begins:

“Today is the second day of Manhattanhenge, a natural event dubbed by Neil deGrasse Tyson of the American Museum of Natural History.  He was thinking of Stonehenge when he created the term.

Manhattanhenge is when sunset aligns precisely with Manhattan’s street grid. Since the grid is rotated 30 degrees east from geographic north, Manhattanhenge happens twice a year, three weeks before and after the Summer solstice.

In addition to the grid you need a clear view of the horizon. New Jersey provides this view across the Hudson River. New York’s tall buildings create a vertical channel that frame the sun as it sets. In the process it creates a radiant glow of light that illuminates both the north and south sides of every cross street.

My husband took this picture in 2012 on 23rd Street and Broadway.”

What does the above have to do with promoting Heidi Cohen’s copywriting?

On the surface, absolutely nothing!

Yet, you’re hooked by the language, the details, and–of course–the perfect photograph.

The wealth of details and the brevity of the presentation speak for themselves, establishing her persona as a savvy, but friendly, New Yorker who invites her readers to vicariously enjoy her city. It’s a pleasant conversation opener, before she gets down to business.

By itself, Heidi’s ability to notice a strange word, Manhattanhenge, communicates a copywriter who is able to look below the surface and be inspired by words that many might not even notice–but are certain to be remembered. A trait I’m sure her clients appreciate!

Often, attempts to use stories fall flat because they have a self-conscious, or “manufactured” feel.

Heidi’s story, however, is genuine and–even better–visual.

From there, she comfortably moves on to sharing concise, helpful tips and inspiring readers to attend her interviews, explore her new book recommendations, and download resources like her 2015 Content Marketing Success Checklist.

Not an isolated example

A week later, Heidi hit another home run:

The summer heat is on. Manhattan has been hazy, hot and humid.

Late yesterday afternoon, one of my knitting friends and I took our knitting and headed out to Brighton Beach in the less hip part of Brooklyn.

Brighton Beach is a public beach on the Atlantic Ocean a few short blocks from the Q subway train. It’s complete with a boardwalk and Russian restaurants. It’s the anti-Hamptons.

While a Manhattanite has lots of beach options via car or train, never underestimate the value of time and convenience. The same holds for your marketing. What are your customers seeking that only you can provide?

Once again, there’s an unexpected word, in this case, “anti-Hamptons,” that helps define the piece.

I especially like the segue between her story and the big question for marketers that follows, i.e., “What are your customers seeking that only you can provide?”

Train yourself to be constantly learning

Opportunities for self-paced learning are all around us–if we take advantage of them.

My original intention was to compile a “Top 10″ list of ideas and lessons from Heidi Cohen’s newsletter.

Instead, I’m simply going to encourage you to subscribe to Heidi Cohen’s Actionable Marketing Guide newsletter and pay attention to each issue–as I do.

If you’re an author or content marketer looking for email newsletter best practices that you can analyze and adapt for your newsletter, you’ll find important examples and lessons to be learned from each issue. You’ll also get a chance to enjoy a taste of life in the Big Apple!

Content Marketers Turn to a Series Approach to Blogging

Posted July 23rd @ 6:41 am by Roger C. ParkerPrint

Find out why over 2,100 content marketers have Tweeted my article, How to Turn 1 Idea into 2 Months (and More) of Content Marketing.

The article appeared Monday morning on the Content Marketing Institute Blog.

By 11:00 AM, EST, the number of Tweets exceeded 700. As the illustration shows–the number continues to grow.

Help me sustain the momentum!

Why serial content matters

I wrote the article to share the importance of replacing the current content marketing emphasis on “topics” with a serial blog post approach.

Instead of trying to cover a complete topic in a single blog post, serial content allows you to address important topics over a series of related blog posts. As I describe in the original post, the benefits of  serial content include:

  • Greater detail. You can go deeper into important topics when you share the information over 2, or more, blog posts.
  • Synergy. Each blog post not only attracts it’s own readers, but it also directs the reader’s attention to previous blog posts in the series.
  • Anticipation. In addition, each blog posts builds reader anticipation for the next blog post in the series.

The above are just a few of the advantages that serial content content marketers sharing helpful, relevant content in their blog posts.

Blogging a book

Serial content also forms the foundation of blogging a book, i.e., writing the first draft of your book a little at a time, as blog posts which will appear as chapters, or sections of chapters, within your completed book.

Serial content also encourages productivity by breaking a complex project with distant a deadline, i.e., “finish my book by Dec. 15th” with a series of simpler tasks and and weekly deadlines.

Learn more by reading the full article. It also contains examples of series content created using Mindjet’s MindManager mind mapping software. (See the first installment of my 7 Keys to Thought Leadership Success on LinkedIn.)

If you like what you find, please help maintain the momentum of the blog post by sharing the Content Marketing Institute blog post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Or, leave a comment or question below, or ask me a question.