Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ten keys to a perfect blog post

Blogging seems easy. Especially to those of us who do it often. Just write what's on your mind -- even if it's just stream of consciousness. You don't have to follow any AP or MLA Style Guidelines. There are no rules. No regulations. It's basically just a public diary of your opinions and expertise. But to a beginner, it can be an overwhelming challenge -- particularly when you're just getting started. There are so many things to consider: what do I write about; what should I title it; which blogging platform should I use; which image should I choose; etc. etc.

Then once you actually get started, how do you finally get people to read it? Outside of pricey and/or guerrilla marketing techniques, the easiest way to ensure the maximum number of eyeballs view your post is to write something worth reading. Now, not only does this mean that your public diary of opinions and expertise must be interesting and informative, but it also means you have to keep going. You have to keep writing and keep posting. And you have to do it consistently. You need a plan. You need a formula. And, fortunately, I've calculated it for you...

Here are the ten keys to the perfect blog post that will ensure your blog posts get read, get shared, and then get read again:
  1. Platform: Each blogging platform has its pros and cons. Tumblr is good for shorter blogs, especially those that are mostly images or animated GIFs. WordPress is good if you're trying to build more than just a blog, and want an entire website. Same goes for the blogs integrated into website building tools like Weebly or Wix. But if you're trying to drive the maximum amount of traffic to your website, then Google's Blogger (or Blogspot) is your best choice. Though they don't admit it, Google's organic search results most definitely favor their own blogging platform over its competitors when all other SEO factors are similar. 
  2. Title: Blog titles can be as tough company names, but the secret is to choose a name that tells its readers what to expect from your content. Blog post titles are even trickier. Though you definitely need to choose a title that gives the reader an idea of what to expect in the post, it's also important to make it mysterious enough that they don't get all the information they need in the title alone. Have you ever read a headline on Twitter or in the news that told you everything you needed to know (i.e. "Lebron James agrees to new deal to return to Cleveland Cavaliers" or "Star Wars Episode VII sets new box office record with $500 billion weekend")? It's a great summary, but the reader doesn't even need to leave their Twitter or Facebook feed to visit your blog. Instead, use questions (i.e. "How many records will Star Wars Ep. 7 break?") or at least less descriptive titles (i.e. "Lebron James decides to leave Miami"). And the easiest trick is to just create a list or countdown. Humans appear to be hardwired to tune into lists, according to
  3. Image: Every blog post should include an image. It's not only important to break up the page visually, but also for social media and RSS feeds. Almost every social media platform and RSS reader today includes images, and most of them automatically pull images from your post. Why? Because a picture is worth a thousand words -- and sometimes, an image is even worth a thousand retweets
  4. Length: The ideal length a blog post is a highly-debated topic. And though there is no limit (i.e. the 140-character limit on Twitter) there is a general consensus that shorter is better. Human attention spans are getting shorter every year, so in order to not overwhelm the reader, keep their attention, and ensure they get to the end where your call-to-action should exist -- keep it to 2,000 words or less. Then be consistent. If you post 500 words once per month on average -- continue to post 500 words once per month. Write. Rinse. Repeat.
  5. Call-to-Action (CTA): Every blog post needs a call-to-action. Even if you're just writing a personal blog with no advertisements and nothing to sell, each and every blog post should end with a conclusive CTA where you ask the reader to do something, whether it be to leave comments or share it on social media. It's the easiest way to increase engagement with your readers.
  6. Social Media Share Buttons: If you want your blog post to be read by people outside of your inner circle of friends and family, you need it to go viral. Not necessarily viral like "Charlie Bit Me" or the "Social Media Explained Donut Edition" -- but at least viral beyond your own personal network. In order for it to go viral, you need to make it as easy as possible for people to share your blog posts to all their favorite social networks. While most platforms include built-in social share widgets today, you can always utilize embeddable HTML modules like ShareThis
  7. Section Headers: Because of the diminishing human attention span, you need to make your blog posts as skimmable as humanly possible. Utilize headers, chapters, section titles, and/or bold statements -- literally, make the most important statements bold -- to highlight the key points of your blog post. This is another reason why top 10 lists work so well. People don't have time to read every word, and if it at first glance they can't find something interesting or if they feel overwhelmed by the length of your post -- they'll bounce immediately.
  8. Tags / Keywords: In today's always-connected and intertwined world wide web of keywords, it is imperative that you utilize tags and keywords to link your blog post to other similar blog posts (both that you wrote and those that exist outside of your own blog). It's also why you should always "tag hash" -- and even consider utilizing hashtags in your blog post titles so that every time your post is shared on Twitter or Facebook it's automatically connected to the every other blog post with that hashtag. 
  9. Links: SEO is key to driving traffic to any website, webpage or blog post on the internet. And two major ways to improve SEO today are by utilizing both inbound and outbound links wherever possible. With blog posts, it's key to not only link to other related articles and blogs, but to also utilize reciprocal links to connect readers to other blog posts you have written, i.e. Top 10 SEO tips for 1st page Google search results.  
  10. RSS: Lastly, and probably rightly so, are RSS feeds and "Subscribe" buttons. You need to give your readers a way to subscribe to your blog and get notified when new posts are written. But with the inevitable death of RSS feeds, the most future-forward plan to allow people to subscribe to your blog is by adding Twitter "Follow" buttons, Google+ "Circle Me" buttons, and Facebook "Like" buttons to your blog.
Did you find this blog post about blog posts helpful or interesting? Then follow me on Twitter, circle me on Google+, and like me on Facebook

My 8 favorite features in iOS 8

iOS 8 for iPhone & iPad

Well I've had iOS 8 BETA installed for almost two weeks now, and though it is still a bit buggy and lacking some of the new integrations that will make this next software update really exciting once it's released to the general public this Fall (i.e. Health, Homekit, Family Sharing, iCould Drive, etc.), there are still some pretty cool new features you can take advantage of right now if you have a $99/year Apple iOS Dev Center account.

There is a laundry list of significant upgrades you can read about on, but these are my top 8 favorite new features in iOS 8:

  1. Group Messaging Details: My absolute favorite feature in iOS 8 is the beefed up group message "Details" tab in the top right of every iMessage, which includes: naming your conversations; reviewing all of the photos/videos inline; sharing your location with everyone in the group; and the all-new"Do Not Disturb" and "Leave Conversation" features.
  2. Battery Usage: Extend the life of each iPhone and iPad charge by seeing which apps are the biggest drain on your battery under your General Settings menu.
  3. Voice iMessages: When you can't look at your phone (i.e. while driving), Siri can't translate your mumbling voice to text, or you just want a faster way to respond to someone it's now easier than ever to quickly record your voice and send it as an audio file via iMessage with a single click-and-swipe.
  4. Photography: The Camera and Photos apps have some great new features as well, including: smart composition tools, smart adjustments, new filters, camera timer, separate exposure & focus selections when taking photos, and time-lapse videos.
  5. Hands-Free Siri: Get Siri's attention without pressing the "Home" button by simply saying "Hey Siri" when your iPhone is docked at home or charging in the car.
  6. Swipe Notifications: The notifications system in iOS 7 was a drastic improvement over iOS 6 but nowhere near perfect. With iOS 8 Apple has made a few more tweaks that really improve notifications, including a single Notification Center and inline swipe-to-respond and swipe-to-dismiss controls.
  7. Keyboards: The keyboard in iOS 8 now not only allows third-party developers to create completely new keyboards (i.e. Swype) to be used as default, universal keyboards -- but the all-new QuickType feature is a surprisingly smart new tool that predicts the next word you are going to type and gives you three options to choose from at the top of every iOS 8 keyboard.
  8. Weather: Apple has finally ditched Yahoo! as the default data provider in it's integrated Weather app and added more details thanks to its new partnership with The Weather Channel.
Have you installed iOS 8 yet? What's your favorite feature? Or what you looking forward to most? Leave your thoughts in the comments below:

Top 100 favorite TV shows of all-time

Ryan Pratt's Top 100 Favorite TV Series Ever

Well, I finally did it. After list after list of top movies, I finally completed my much-requested and highly-debated list of top TV shows. And although I was a national movie critic in a prior life, I do not consider myself a professional TV snob by any means, so I'll spare you my list of "Top 100 Best TV Series Ever" and jump right into favorites. But keep in mind, I'm a millennial, so don't expect too many Dick Van Dyke or Lucille Ball appearances in this list. These are shows from the 80s through the 2010s. Some were binged on Netflix and Hulu, while others were from the pre-DVR-sit-on-the-couch-at-8pm-era. It's a list full of groundbreaking dramas that shocked, hilarious sitcoms that had me ROTLF, guilty-pleasures like reality MTV, and the cartoons I grew up on. It not only includes shows I watched from season premier to season finale, and episodes I've seen a dozen times, but also a show that got cancelled after just 22 episodes.

These are my top 100 favorite TV shows of all-time:
  1. Lost
  2. Seinfeld
  3. House
  4. How I Met Your Mother
  5. Family Guy
  6. Home Improvement 
  7. Walking Dead
  8. Friends
  9. Survivor
  10. Game of Thrones
  11. Mad Men
  12. Grey's Anatomy 
  13. Friday Night Lights
  14. Breaking Bad
  15. Saved by the Bell
  16. The OC
  17. Homeland
  18. Entourage
  19. Fresh Prince of Bel-air
  20. Big Brother
  21. South Park
  22. Fringe
  23. Whose Line Is It Anyway?
  24. Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey
  25. Dragon Ball Z
  26. Law & Order: SVU
  27. The West Wing
  28. Late Night with Conan O'Brien
  29. Rob & Big
  30. King of Queens 
  31. Around the Horn
  32. Deadwood 
  33. Family Feud
  34. The Unit
  35. Jackass
  36. The Bachelor 
  37. The Challenge
  38. TRL
  39. Everybody Loves Raymond
  40. The Following
  41. Shark Tank
  42. Talespin 
  43. SportsCenter
  44. NCIS
  45. Planet Earth
  46. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  47. X-Files 
  48. Ghost Adventures
  49. Two and a Half Men
  50. Bones
  51. Newsroom
  52. Full House
  53. Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
  54. The Office
  55. Scandal
  56. The Price is Right
  57. Double Dare
  58. Gossip Girl
  59. Jeopardy
  60. Are You Afraid of the Dark
  61. True Detective
  62. Big Bang Theory
  63. Vampire Diaries
  64. True Blood
  65. Man vs Food
  66. House Hunters
  67. 24
  68. American Horror Story
  69. Step-by-Step
  70. So You Think You Can Dance
  71. Wipeout
  72. Heroes
  73. X-Men
  74. American Dad
  75. Boy Meets World
  76. Spartacus
  77. That 70's Show
  78. Family Matters
  79. The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon
  80. Power Rangers
  81. Live! with Regis & Kelly
  82. Laguna Beach
  83. Fear Factor
  84. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  85. Wheel of Fortune
  86. Animaniacs
  87. The Cosby Show
  88. Baywatch
  89. 30 Rock
  90. Nip/Tuck
  91. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
  92. Batman: The Animated Series
  93. Jack Hanna's Wild Countdown
  94. Seaquest DSV
  95. Looney Tunes
  96. PTI
  97. Revenge
  98. King of the Nerds
  99. Gargoyles
  100. Inside the Actor's Studio
What did I miss? Add your suggestions and knee-jerk reactions in the comments below: