The goal of this post is to help you fully understand the functions of the DrivingSales.com blog publishing tools and hopefully inspire you to go out and share more of the knowledge you've got bottled up. There are a lot of bright people in this community who have some great things to share. It dawned on me that some of you simply may not be familiar with everything that's available to maximize your blogging efforts while helping you learn some new things.
So, here's a nice list of the key items you should focus on for each of you blog posts to make sure they get as much attention and exposure as possible. If you're going to put in the effort to share your experiences, then why not make sure you maximize those efforts?
These are the main sections within the blog publishing tool in the control panel.
Give your blog post a strong title: The title of your blog post can make or break your post. I'm a huge fan of numbered posts like the example below: "11 Backlink Types Google Hates" - Other title examples that help draw in eyeballs and entice users to click your link include questions such "Is Your Merchandise Process Killing VDP Views"; how-to's such as "How To Create Awesome BDC Processes"; and this-vs-that such as "Google Adwords vs. Bing PPC - Who Has The Edge?" Additional blogging best practices include capitalizing the first letter of each word and period isn't necessary at the end of the post title.
Use the "kitchen sink" to format your post properly: I've noticed many people don't use these tools; maybe they don't know what they do? I like to write my initial draft either in a Google doc or in an email just to get started, then I copy/paste it here.
If you're doing this, I recommend clicking on #1 - the 'paste as plain text' button. This will paste your content into the publishing tools without any formatting and will give you the least amount of headaches trying to delete spaces, line breaks and additional text formatting issues that you may experience. Next, turn on #2 - the spell checking button. Select "Enable SCAYT [Spell Check As You Type] Make your posts look professional and eliminate any spelling errors by clicking on the words with the red underline for the replacement choices. Use #3 - the link button to add links to your posts when appropriate to provide greater depth or to point to a supporting point - especially if you have other blogs, videos or forums posts within the DrivingSales.com community. This helps tell your story even better by adding multiple layers of perspective as well.
Pro Tip: Set the link property to open a new window so it's easier for users to come back to your post.
Lastly, use #4 - the add image button to add an image. This can be an image (royalty-free/non-copyright of course) you find online or host on your site. The images in this post are hosted on my own personal site, it just lets me access and edit them easier.
Additional formatting options: Hopefully, one of the reasons you wrote your blog post in the first place was to create a reaction, get the reader to think about something or even to take a specific action.
Try ending your blog posts with a question or even a link to take action based on what you just shared. Be careful though, this isn't an invitation to simply post a weak sales pitch or just a video and tell people to sign up for your hot new product or service - that's a perfect way to either ensure nobody clicks your links or even worse, get your post deleted by the mods. Mix things up and using a different style for the last line of your blog post using the formatting drop down menu. Highlight the desired text, click the Styles drop down and select Special Container form the menu to add the effect you see below.
Add a featured image to your posts: This is different than using the add an image button referenced above. This feature allows you to add an image anywhere within your blog post. I typically add it to the beginning of my posts (by placing cursor before the first word of the blog post) and set the alignment to 'left'. Adding a featured image to your post pushes that image to the home page - if you don't add an image your avatar will be the default image. Larger featured images get better click through rates than posts with just an avatar. (And if you don't have an avatar on your account, the default shadow image will appear and that won't help CTR's at all)
Formatting your featured image: Once you upload your image (be sure the file format is .JPG) you can crop the image for style and effect. Once you've selected the area, click the Crop button to move on to the next step.
Format your featured image: Once your image is uploaded, you'll see the formatting box. (Just like when you're using the add an image box from example #2) You can provide the "Alt Text" I recommend using this field simply to get yourself in the habit of adding relevant keyword text to all of your images (Just as you should be doing on your dealership website) You can resize the image in the width column, be sure to click the lock to keep the size in proportion. Then, select your alignment - I usually select left, just a personal preference. If you don't select the alignment your image will sit above your text.
Pro Tip: Recommended largest size for any image posted is a width of 575. Images added via their URL will be clickable and can be viewed in their own window at full size - that's how I post infographics.
Select your category and broadcast options: You can select up to two (2) categories for your blog posts. The content river on DrivingSales is designed to provide you a personalized experience based on the preferences selected in your profile. Want to edit your preferences? Select the content categories that match your interests so you see the content you're most interested in seeing. Want to position yourself as a thought leader? Focus on a specific topic and direct your efforts towards those categories.
Comment are turned on by default, no need to turn them off.
And most important is the Exclusive Content option. Check this box if the content you're posting is exclusive to DrivingSales.com and isn't going to be shared on another blog or community for a least two weeks. Not only does this create more value for your own content but it also ensures your post is featured in the Exclusive Content section at the top of the home page. This content is also heavily promoted by DrivingSales via our social channels and also within our weekly DS Newsletters.
For dealers, this is a great way to share your thoughts, build your own personal brand and get even more exposure/feedback. For vendors, this is another way to enhance your content marketing efforts by targeting your content specifically to the progressive nature of the DrivingSales community. You can also take advantage of the distribution opportunities from our social efforts as well. (And yes, that includes promoted posts) If you forget to check this box, you can always go back and fix it to push your post to the top.
Don't try to game it, the mods will find the duplicate content very quickly and your post will be pushed to the community blogs below the fold.
Format your advanced settings: I recommend using the advanced features for maximum visibility and to create more consistency with your content marketing. Every post you publish or every page your create in your dealership website needs it's own unique description and page title. Create better habits by doing the right things everywhere you create content.
Use the Post Excerpt container to control the content visible on the home page. If you don't add any content, a default amount of text will be grabbed from your intro. I prefer using the first couple of sentences to grab attention while not overwhelming the reader as they scan the content.
Use the Title Tag container to create the page title for the post if you want to use something different than the blog title. This will also create your URL slugs. Be sure to add your Meta Description, not only to optimize the blog post but to also create good habits and get your mind thinking about the mechanics needed for your content. No need to use the Meta Keywords container, Google doesn't recognize this field anymore.
Publishing your posts: Once you've covered all of these items, you're ready to either publish immediately or schedule your post. Why not start your week off strong by creating a couple of blog posts on Sunday and schedule them for later in the week? You'll build even more good habits and you'll improve your writing skills.
Pro Tip: Best times to publish new posts are early in the morning or lunch time Monday through Thursday. If you're an active blogger, you can also leverage the slower publishing activity during the evenings, Fridays and the weekends to give content even more visibility - you won't be competing against newer content and will be seen by the rest of the community.
Please let us know if you need additional information about the DrivingSales Community, the different sections and their functionality. We appreciate your feedback and use it to continuously improve!