Source For Free Images That Will Knock Your Socks Off

maldivespavilliononpierI’ve mentioned Unsplash.com before as a site to get copyright-free stock photos.  Indeed, there are several sites that have sprung up over the last couple of years that provide excellent photography with either no copyright restriction or with very generous royalty-free licenses.

But today, I want to talk just about Unsplash.com.  It has become a repository for spectacular landscapes.  That’s not its mission.  It serves up all kinds of subjects.  However, more landscapes appear to be submitted than other kinds of photos.

This is a great opportunity in so many ways.

Think about it this way: look at the photo at the top of this post.  What associations does it bring up for you?

When I first saw it, I thought I could smell the wood of the pier and the salty sea water under it.  I could almost hear a gull cry.  I thought how nice it would be to take a book and a folding chair down to that pavilion at the end of the pier and just sit, read and enjoy the silence, solitude and sea breeze.

Pictures like this are wonderful for inspirational posters.  Or inclusion in inspirational videos (maybe even with the sound of a gull dubbed in.)  They’re great in greeting cards and postcards. They are valuable to use as conceptual art for stimulating ideas for posts and articles of all sorts. They make fine backgrounds for compositing to create illustrations for books and ebooks.

There is no end to their uses.  They are a treasure trove for putting together products quickly.  Or making a point that you can’t fully express with just text.

Their greatest value, however, is in the fact that they make you feel something.  They speak to the emotions of your readers or viewers.

Nature photography — especially landscape– and art actually has been shown in scientific research to quickly and effectively reduce stress and lift spirits.

Because of the emotional connection, folks who read your articles and books may be more engaged and more likely to write comments or reviews.  People who view your nature/landscape themed videos may be more attracted to see more of your channel.  The products you make from photos that are excellent in and of themselves will probably sell better.  Especially if you are good at enhancing them and fitting them to the right products.

As I said, free public domain photos that are so good are a real opportunity.  What are you waiting for?

Take it.  Create something even more wonderful than the photos per se.

What Gives An Online Article or Post “Quality?” Which Should I Write?

laptop keyboardAre you sometimes stumped by how hard it is to figure out what is the best approach for online writing?  About what makes it the elusive “high quality” you’re told readers want?

If you’re a good writer, you not only research your topic, you research how to best present it.  You also try to learn how to write and format for the type of publishing platform you or your publisher will use. You know that your writing itself is good writing, but what makes it work well for online readers?

The sheer volume of advice available on those subjects is overwhelming.

Advice for writing good online articles is contradictory.

The contradictions are partly because some advice applies primarily to blogs and some applies to standard websites. Oh yes, and some of it applies to standard websites that also have blogs.

So, for example, if your website is a WordPress site, with a focus on blogging, your writing needs are determined by that structure.  But, if you want to do article syndication, your copy has to work as either a feature article or a post.

Fortunately, most people are interested in blog posts these days.  So you could just focus on what makes a good blog post.  And most of the time a long post will work as a feature article as well.  If only you could get a clear idea of what the purpose of a blog is.

There are many contradictory ideas about what blogging is for.

Is it primarily for up-to-date, newsworthy articles?  Can it combine short, newsy articles with evergreen content?  Should it contain advertising?  Is it just a way to sell products with content being secondary or tertiary? Should you have just posts or should you have separate pages that are for special topics articles?

Is blogging closer to an online newsletter and meant to be part of a standard website?

The contradictory advice also results because some of it considers SEO needs, some doesn’t consider SEO needs, and some only focuses on content-as-SEO.

Even if you can resolve the issues of “to-blog-or-not-to-blog” and what a blog is for, you still have the size issues.  And the format issues.

Some people advise that you write long, high-value articles or posts.  They say that it serves your readers best and is also the best way to get promoted in the search engines.  They argue that the long articles are more likely to be noticed and linked to because of their high value.  They claim that long articles are more likely to go viral than short ones.

Others say that articles should be short.  That research shows most readers merely scan for the information they want.  That if you want to give longer articles you should turn them into handouts and have your readers download them.  And that images will help draw better attention, so short articles that are well illustrated are best.

Of course, the short-article-with-images advocates don’t mention that search engines can’t read images. They judge content by keywords, number of words, ratios of keywords to total number of words, words in headlines and many other factors involving words.

So who’s right? What’s the best advice for writing online?

There are many more issues, and much more advice out there.

The seemingly opposing sides all have helpful advice. At various times. In various ways.  But you can cut through that to the basics.

It is important to write enough about your topic to satisfy your readers.  And to know how much is too much.

It is important to know how to format for the best online reading experience — which includes much scanning.  And then be able to draw the reader in.

It is important to have graphics for support.  And infographics are extremely helpful.  But you also need to be careful not to over-do.  If we’re talking about readers, we’re talking about people who are looking for words more than pictures.

It is important to provide new information and new ways of looking at things.

Optimizing your articles for search is essential.

But the most essential of all the advice is to research and identify your reader.  Then write for your reader.

While writing for your reader, adapt your writing to include optimization for online considerations like formats that aid readers who are looking at a backlit screen with their eyes drying out while trying to read paragraphs that might be too long for their ability to focus.

So, you’ll want to break up long text or capture attention with paragraph heads and sub-heads. This actually helps you to adapt to naturally incorporate excellent keywords in those heads and sub-heads to excite both your readers and the search engines.   And it give you a chance to create some color in your writing by choosing attention-getting, web-safe hues for the fonts in your heads and sub-heads.

You may also want to break up text with relevant photos and illustrations, which gives your reader’s eyes a respite, and gives you a chance to get more keywords in by using captions on the images.  (Since a picture is supposedly worth a thousand words, it’s also a way to get your message across more clearly.)

So, good writing and good formatting for your reader is actually good SEO as well.

And, finally, if you make it easy for your readers to read, you make it more likely for them to share.  The more they share, the more readership you can build.

Go write some good articles.

The 10 Fastest and Easiest Written Content Creation Methods

businesswomanatdeskWriters and would-be-writers have looked for ways to speed up writing for centuries.  Long before someone declared “content is king” on the Internet, there were books that advised writers how to produce more books, essays, pamphlets or news stories and do so quickly.  Some of those ways still apply today.

But, we have a great deal more assets to improve our writing speed and productivity, as well as a great deal more to write about.  Here’s my top 10 list of the fastest, easiest ways to write our blog posts, articles, books and ebooks.

And although there’s much more to content creation as a topic, in this article we’re going to focus on written content.

Please note this, however: This article is about writing faster and more easily while still maintaining quality standards.  You won’t find anything about spinners, automated aggregators or automated content curation.  I encourage you to write well and constantly improve your writing skills.  I encourage you to do your own unique writing — or, in some cases, re-writing.

1. Templates

I think using templates is the fastest way to create almost any content.  And most particularly, written content.  Templates give you an organized structure. They can provide a re-usable stylistic approach to the kind of article you are writing.  They can offer a slant, a point of view for your approach to a particular topic.  If they have a layout built in, they can help you visualize what the end result will look like.

A very good template can serve as a “fill-in-the-blank” document that practically writes the article or book chapter for you.

A great place to get article templates is EZine Articles — ezinearticles.com.  They have a suggested format/layout as well as an angle of approach to specific topics.  (And if you are doing article marketing, they’re the premier site to submit articles.)

2. Dictation

Whether you dictate to a person or tape or by using dictation software, you will find common requirements: your speed and pacing must match the capabilities of the person or software doing the recording and/or typing of the recording.  That is, you must learn to be a good dictator.

Dictation is entirely different from talking or lecturing.  You must speak clearly.  You must be able to judge the pace the person or software can tolerate.  You must remember to give gramatical, punctuation and style instructions.  For example, when you finish a sentence, you must say “period.”  When you finish a paragraph, you must say “new paragraph.”

There is a learning curve to dictation, just like any other skill.  But once you know how to do it, you can write really fast.  Really, really fast.

Remember this: if you have a problem with getting back garbage rather than the wonderful ideas you thought you were dictating, the problem is more likely with you than with your secretary, transcriber or software.

Nuance.com offers dictation software for both PC and Mac.  It’s very good.  I’ve personally used both versions.

3. List Articles

List articles are exactly what the name suggests.  They are lists of x number of people, places, things, ideas, etc., with a description of what they are and why they belong on the list.  They can be of any size.  Each item can be of any number of words or paragraphs.  They can fill books or a 250 word blog post.  You begin with an introductory paragraph, provide a numbered list of the items you’re covering in your topic, and end with a concluding paragraph and/or call to action.  You can write them directly into a word processor; you can dictate them; you can curate the items in your list.  You can make a list article using any combination of the methods I suggest in this article and others I don’t mention here.

I’ve already said that using templates is the fastest method for producing content.  And because lists are templates in and of themselves, list articles are the fastest type of articles/posts to write.  They are also the most popular with readers.  They are the easiest to read. They are the most likely to go viral.  Bar none.  And although you can’t publish every article as a list article, you can write every article as a list article and reformat it to appear as a different style.

4. PLR Rewriting

Yes,  it’s possible to get decent private label rights materials.  But no matter how well done they are, they’re pretty generic. So, you’ll have to rewrite them for that reason alone.  The other basic reason you’ll have to rewrite them is that it will make your articles or other documents unique.  Otherwise, you might have problems with the search engines, which don’t “like” seeing the same content on several sites.

One of the good sites to look into for PLR is easyplr.com and they have a nice article recommending reputable PLR sites http://www.easyplr.com/bestplr.htm.

5. Public Domain Rewriting

For “evergreen” topics, there’s nothing like the public domain for getting material you can publish without payment or permission.  But, with the older material, you’ll have to rewrite just because older writing styles are so stiff and awkward.  And, of course, a great number of ideas or things thought to be fact, are wrong or just out of date.

With newer material, you’ll need to rewrite in order to update it as well.  Much of the post-1922 public domain, especially material from the 50’s and 60’s, cover ideas that were the groundwork for what we know today, but were just the beginning of the knowledge we have now.

6. Writing Prompts

Writing prompts are idea starters for both fiction and non-fiction.  They may be as simple as “finish this sentence” or as complicated as describing an intricate scenario.

They are meant to spark you into writing by defeating the “blank page” syndrome.  You don’t have to figure out what comes first, it’s already been provided.  You just have to figure out what comes next.

They may be headline topic specific, such as “On Making Apologies for Oneself.”  They may simply ask for a sentence or paragraph that can be inserted in many primary topics, such as “describe a rock covered with ice.”  Whatever the form you find them in, you can discover free writing prompts all over the internet.  Just search for them.

7. Article Starters (or Chapter Starters)

Article and chapter starters are sort of pre-written outlines or points lists that let you fill-in-the-blank with content.  They are a form of writing prompts, but with more structure.  They are a form of outline template, but very topic-specific.  Maybe they belong under the topic of templates, but they are available commercially under the description of “article starters,” so I’m treating them as a separate category.

I first heard about these as PLR publications from Peggy Baron http://www.peggybaron.com/blog/.  She has a PLR site and another site dedicated to the article starters: http://easyarticlestarters.com/.   Take a look at the article starters site to get a good idea of how they work.  You can get some from her, or you can take the idea and make your own.  A generalized template for a list article would be a good foundation for an article starter.

8. Interviewing

Describing how to do interviewing sometimes takes longer than actually performing the work of interviewing.  As the writer, your job is to ask the questions.  Most of the content is provided by the interviewee. (Which also means that you’d better get it in writing that the interviewee is giving you at least editorial and reproduction rights to the answers, if not the copyright.  Often both parties publish the interviews. But structuring rights is a subject you’ll have to ask your attorney about.)

You can do interviewing in person or at a distance.  Orally or in writing.  Personally write the questions and/or tape them.

If you submit a list of questions in writing and have the interviewee return the answers in writing, you save a lot of time and the trouble of making a transcript.

If you do the interview in person or on the phone (or Skype) and tape it, you’ll get a far more personal and social “feel” to the interview, even in the transcript you’ll make.  Furthermore, you can publish the interview in writing, as an audio, and as a video with the audio timed to slides.

And, you can always make a video interview directly, then spin off audio and transcript.  A live-recorded video can be the most compelling format, but right now I’m just covering written content development.

9. Mind mapping

Mind mapping — a visual graphing of a thought process, using a branching tree structure — was introduced using that name by Tony Buzan.  And it’s his trademark for some uses.  However, the process has been around for centuries and has been adapted from “radial diagram,” “idea sunbursting,” “spider diagrams,” “concept maps,” and other methods that are similar.

Whatever you call it, you start by putting a word, idea or object in a central position on a page and allow your various thoughts about it to surround it, connecting them by lines, arrows or more litteral drawings of tree limbs.  Thus, the thoughts, connected ideas, or analyses become “branches” of whatever is in the center.  Each “branch” can have its own “branches.”

The process helps you analyze the topic of your writing and organize your thoughts logically around it.

10. Curation

Content curation is a practice of developing articles or blog posts by aggregating several articles/posts on a specific topic from other blogs or websites and tying them together in a logical order expressing your own theme.  Some curators also curate the accompanying media, such as photos and videos.  Some curators also scrub the articles’ links and references.

Content curation is considerably faster than trying to write a complete comprehensive article on a subject.  In fact, in most cases, you can cover a great deal more of a topic using your own ideas on the subject combined with curated posts from other writers.  You simply have to be careful to take only a “fair use” amount from any other writers.  And you must make sure to curate other media that permits reposting.

Using “content curation” is still a bit controversial.  There are a great number of risks involved — both legal risks and risks to your reputation as a writer.  Yet there are quite a number of reputable curators who are doing quite well with the process.

Closing Thoughts:

Now you have a list of the top ten techniques you can use to produce articles and posts faster.  Sometimes quite a bit faster.

Did any of them intrigue you?  Go find out more about them and give them a try.

Soon, I’ll be writing individual posts or articles about some of these techniques in more depth.

And I’ll have some tools for you to start using the techniques.  Tools like article templates.

Stay tuned to this website to learn more.