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The Only Blog Post Idea List You’ll Ever Need

This guest post is by Stephen Pepper of Youth Workin’ It.

There are so many articles out there on how you can come up with new blog post ideas, but do any of the suggestions actually work?

We started our youth work blog in September 2011 and have posted six days a week ever since, so we’ve had to come up with over 200 posts related to youth work so far. Needless to say, it’s been tricky coming up with this many ideas.

I’ve read all kinds of different suggestions on how to overcome blogger’s block, but each person’s experience is different. Here are 20 techniques we’ve used to help counter blogger’s block.

  1. Embarrassing stories: Think back to moments of your life when you were really embarrassed. Use that situation to craft a post relating to your niche—there’s a good chance it’ll entertain readers (as did our post on how being asked to rate the first time with your wife out of 10 on a BBC gameshow watched by millions can relate to youth work).
  2. Choose subjects for each day of the week: This has probably been my single most helpful way of deciding what to write. Each day from Monday to Saturday has its own category—Mondays are for posts on youth work activities, Tuesdays are youth work Q&A, Wednesdays are program administration, and so on. This means our focus can be more defined each day, rather than having to come up with a random topic every time we write. You can do this even if you only blog once a week—the first week of the month could always be based on one subject, the second week on another, and so on.
  3. Use special days as inspiration: Use special days and public holidays as post idea prompts. For example, we have a Spotlight on Youth series where we focus on a certain young person based on certain public holidays. For example, we wrote about the former child soldier Ishmael Beah on Veteran’s Day. On National Pirate Day, write your post in Pirate language. National Pancake Day? Work your post around that.
  4. Cell posts: Can you divide your posts into two, like a cell divides? You might start writing a post and realize that you’re starting to talk about two different things. For example, we recently started wrote a series about parents’ involvement in your youth work. When working on a post about unsupportive parents, we realized there were actually two types of unsupportive parents—one who’s unsupportive of their child, and one who’s unsupportive of the work you’re doing with their child. These are completely different issues, so we were able to get two days’ worth of posts out of one original idea.
  5. Change of scenery: Changing your location can have a big impact on your creativity. We’d started getting stale with our idea creation recently, so we went and sat on Virginia Beach for an hour to come up with future topics. After an hour, we had over 100 new blog posts ideas.
  6. Write for sub-niches: Youth work has a number of specialized areas—urban, rural, faith-based, LGBT, gangs, foster care, mental health, sexual health, young offenders, etc. There’s a good chance that whatever niche you’re in has many similar sub-niches. Make a list and use it to inspire further ideas.
  7. Use Google Analytics: Take a look at the keyword searches that are bringing people to your site, as this will give you a great idea of what information people are looking for. You may think that the fact that they’ve arrived at your site means you’ve already written about what they’re searching for, but that’s not always the case. We did a series on preparing young people for job interviews (including what they should wear), but we’ve had many people arrive at that post having searched for what youth workers should wear to job interviews. It’s a completely different topic, but we can now create a number of posts about youth worker interviews.
  8. Likes: What do you love in your niche? Why are you blogging about it? What was your favorite moment relating to your niche? These questions can all be turned into posts for your blog.
  9. Dislikes: Similarly, what do you hate about your niche? What practices wind you up? Let these frustrations become passionate posts.
  10. Consider opposites: By looking at an issue from opposite directions, you can get two new blog post ideas. For example, we recently gave advice on how to come up with good youth group names, but also wrote a subsequent post on how to avoid a lame youth group name.
  11. Be inspired by social media: On Twitter, are there any hashtags specific to your niche? Keep an eye on these as they’ll give you a good idea of questions people may want answered. On Facebook, are people leaving comments on your page that you could address in a blog post?
  12. Solicit guest posts: Try to build up a bank of guest post submissions from other bloggers. These can then be used when you’re feeling dry of ideas.
  13. Search research: Use Google’s keyword tool to discover what people are looking for, as opposed to what you think they’re looking for. This is also where your sub-niches can also come into play. For us, instead of searching for “youth work,” researching a sub-niche like “youth retreat” uncovered a number of keyword searches like “youth retreat themes,” “youth retreat ideas,” “youth retreat games,” etc.
  14. Compilations of your own posts: Introduce your readers to some of your most popular posts by making a compilation list. If you’ve covered a number of sub-niches, you could even have a series of compilations based on each of those sub-niches.
  15. Compilations of other bloggers’ posts: If you want to become an authority in your niche, you’ll need to read other blogs relating to the same niche. Show them some love by creating a compilation of the best posts you’ve read recently and linking to them.
  16. Take training … and share it: Have you had specific training relating to your niche? My wife (the better half of Youth Workin’ It) has an MA in youth work and community development. She’s therefore able to share her learning from her Master’s to youth workers who don’t have that qualification.
  17. Consider current affairs: Are there any popular news stories not directly related to your niche that you could write about by giving your niche’s take? For example, after watching the Stop Kony video, we provided a youth work session plan idea based on the Stop Kony campaign, as well as an opinion piece on whether youth groups should support the campaign.
  18. Use other people’s ideas: Don’t plagiarize other people’s blog posts. Yet there’s nothing wrong with taking their idea and improving on it, or offering a different opinion.
  19. Explain jargon: Are there phrases in your niche that wouldn’t make sense to an outsider—or even an insider? Write a series of posts explaining words or phrases that would be jargon for most of the population.
  20. Run competitions: Are you selling ebooks or any other resources? Hold a competition where readers get the opportunity to win a copy of one of your books. This is not only an easy post idea, but also provides another opportunity to promote your resources.

There are 20 items in this list. What tips can you add to build on these? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

Stephen Pepper is insurance administrator by day, youth worker & blogger by night. He and his wife run Youth Workin’ It, which includes a youth work blog and have started producing their own youth work resources to help youth workers worldwide.

Make Money Blogging for Real: 3 Must-Know Factors

This is a guest contribution from Jerry Low.

Most people have heard of the success of Perez Hilton’s blog and that he makes somewhere between $200,000 to $400,000 each month blogging about the latest celebrity gossip.

Success stories like Hilton’s might make the prospect of earning a fortune blogging seem real, but the truth is that it is hard work and not very many crack that six figure per month mark. Still, you can make a decent living from blogging, if you know how to go about it.

Every now and then, I’m pulled aside at a family gathering or am emailed by someone who wants to know if it’s possible to make money blogging.

Some of the common questions include:

  • How do you make money online?
  • How does AdSense work?
  • Should I attend this “make money online” course?

The answer is an absolute yes. You can make money blogging.

While not in the six figures, Matthew Woodward, for example, made approximately $20,000 in December of 2014. That’s a pretty nice paycheck for blogging.

Even a simple idea like Michael Malice’s Overheard in New York, where people submit posts of things they’ve heard somewhere in New York, earns about $9,000 a month from private advertising revenue, such as banner ads placed on the site.

Personally, I have been making money online since 2004. I quit my day job as a rubber dam engineer in 2006, and never looked back.

So, again, the answer is: Yes, you can start a blog easily and make some money.

There are a lot of different online business opportunities, too.

The only question left is: Do you have the writing quality and blogging know-how to get it done? It’s not something easy, but I promise you it’s worth it.

5 ways of making money from your blog without having your own product

When you think of making money from a blog, you might think about Google ads, but there are a few different ways you can make money from your blog:

  • AdSense – People make hundreds of thousands from Google AdSense ads. AdSense makes up about one-third of Google’s revenue. Pay is good, but you will need to play by Google’s rules. There are reports where Google AdSensers get bumped out of the program without warning.
  • Affiliate marketing – This is simply a way to sell related items without the cost of developing a unique product. This is mainly how I make my living online, so this is a viable way to earn money from your blog.
  • Banner ads – Another way to make money from your blog is to sell banner ads on third party sites such as BuySellAds.com. My experience is that this is fairly low pay, but better than nothing. All the different areas of your income can pool together to make a difference in your overall blog earnings.
  • Selling ads directly on your blog – You can earn good money by selling banner ads directly on your blog. However, your blog must first have a good amount of traffic to attract the higher paying advertisers. At first, it might be better to focus on building that traffic and then you can more easily attract the big players.
  • Product reviewer – This might not pay you monetarily, other than the amount you’re earning from blogging, but it can help you try out the newest products in your niche. Merchants send you their products for trial, and you write an honest review. WHSR blogger Gina Badalaty, for example, does this and wrote some great tips on how to become a product reviewer. The key to becoming a product reviewer is that you need to be an influencer in your niche. Personally I get free hosting accounts to test at WHSR so I can write a review on it.

3 key factors: What makes my blog work and why yours doesn’t?

1. You need to be in a profitable niche!

One of the first things you want to think about is your niche and whether it is profitable. Some experts advise being a big fish in a small pond, but I think the exact opposite. You should try the big pond because that is where the money is.

While your great Aunt Mary’s unique recycled dress quilts might be amazing, not that many people are as interested in reading about them as about quilting in general. Don’t limit your topic too much.

When I first got started, I created a site selling inflatable boats online. Can you imagine how many people might buy inflatable boats online? That’s right, not many.

What’s worse, this product is a seasonal product and only sells during the summer, so I was further limited in my sales. Having that said, I did make some money from the site – averaging not more than two sales per year. My inflatable boat business didn’t even take off enough to launch it onto the small pond, much less a big pond.

So, how do you find a profitable niche? Personally, I use SpyFu to check out what advertisers are spending on a niche that I think I might like to tackle. If advertisers, or merchants, are spending big money on that industry, then it means there is money to be made.

spyfu-cpc

There must be a reason why these people can afford $8 – $17/click on these keywords.

If you do not have a SpyFu membership, you can simply do a Google universe search (search at .com, add &pws=0 at the end of your search strings) on the niche you are interested in. Are there any advertisers in the search results? If so, then there may be money in this niche.

Use Google keyword planner to guesstimate the average price of a click in your industry – with that you can predict roughly how much you can earn per Google AdSense click. The higher the pay per click, the more potential there is to earn.

Login to CJ.com and search merchants – use Network Earnings (the green bar) as a potential earning indicator. See image below to understand how I interpret the numbers at CJ.

cj-adv

Network Earnings = How much the advertisers are paying compare to overall. Higher Network Earnings = more affiliates in the program;. 3 month EPC = Average earning per 100 Clicks = How profitable is this affiliate program in long term; 7 day EPC = Average earning per 100 clicks = Is this a seasonal product?

2. Are you getting sufficient targeted traffic?

Another thing you need to keep in mind is the targeted traffic possibilities for a given niche. To be able to make decent money, your blog must have sufficient targeted traffic possibilities. This is where your SEO and social media marketing (SMM) kick in.

When people search for info relevant to your niche topic, they become your target audience. The more people who search for that topic, the bigger your potential audience.

Also, if someone follows your competitors on Facebook, those people are your targeted audience. If you are thinking about jumping into a niche and you see that your closest competitor has a couple million page likes on Facebook, then that is a good sign that there is a big target audience.

More targeted traffics = more money

However, to win the attention of this target audience, you have to gain skills in both SEO and SMM. It is simple math. The more targeted traffic your blog gets, the more money you’ll make.

Here’s how it works: Let’s say you are selling a web hosting service as an affiliate and the average conversion rate is 3%. On average, every 100 visitors that you refer to the web hosting provider, you’ll manage to get three sales. If you manage to refer 200 visitors, then theoretically there will be six sales down the road.

We want all tails keywords

longshorttail Image credit: Bytelaunch

You’ll want to be sure that you figure for both primary and secondary (short-tail and long-tail) keywords to get the best idea of overall traffic possibilities.

Owen Powis, the CEO of Wordtracker, advises that:

“A clear, well-organized site structure helps Google find your content and makes the navigation of your site easier for your customers.”

Being aware of the different target keywords (both primary and secondary) and the advertising basics aimed at those keywords will make your blog more successful.

3. Are you building a List?

You’ve probably heard multiple gurus saying that building an email list is of ultimate importance when driving traffic to your site. If you want to make money blogging, you’ll want to capture your site visitor’s emails and send them emails that will drive them to visit your site over and over again.

If you need help with building and making money out of your email list, here is a very handy guide written Marya Jan on Problogger.net.

Why is an email list so important? An email list is your greatest asset online because those signed up are trusted leads who have visited your blog. Your email subscribers already trust you and your authority on this topic.

If you were going to buy something online, you would probably look at products based on the recommendation of someone you trust. If you wanted to buy a guide to read, you would first look at guides written by or recommended by someone you trust.

If you were following Adam Connell (from Blogging Wizard) new venture WP Super Stars from the beginning, you should note of is that he started collecting email subscribers ahead of time. That’s right -You can start collecting subscribers before you even have a blog. Reach out to family, friends and acquaintances to get started.

Bottom Line – You can do this!

When it comes to making money from blogging, you have to be creative and keep an eye out for new opportunities and changes in how search engine algorithms and advertising work. However, with a bit of foresight sprinkled with hard work and consistency, you too can make a living from blogging.

Jerry Low is a geek dad who enjoys building web assets. You can get more of his blogging tips here

Building Your Audience From Zero to Traction

This is a guest contribution from Brian Casel.

If there’s one common thread among many of those who build successful businesses online, it’s this: They’ve been able to build an audience, which has helped them gain traction and spread value with a farther reach.

But what if you have no audience yet? Zero subscribers. Little to no traffic. How can you get started, when nobody knows who you are?

I was there about 18 months ago. My blog received less than 20 visitors a day. My newsletter did not exist. I had been blogging for years, but couldn’t connect with an audience, let alone create a product they might buy.

Since then, I’ve turned it around by embracing a three-step strategy I’ll share with you today. As of this writing, my newsletter is up to 5000 subscribers, the blog receives hundreds of visitors per day, and my course has sold multiple five-figures since it launched four months ago.

These aren’t groundbreaking numbers. But to me, they represent the difference between blogging as a hobby (where I was at a few years ago), and meaningful part of my business today.

Now—I’m sure you already know the mechanics of building an audience: Blog posts. Landing Pages. Email lists. Autoresponders. Yadda Yadda. Those are the tools and tech, and there plenty of resources where you can find the right ones for you.

But those things won’t actually get people to stop, take notice, and give you their email address because they want more.

So how do you do that, when you’re still unknown?

Let me break it down with four important concepts:

  • Your “Who”
  • Their “Why”
  • Resonate
  • Exposure

Your “Who”

The most important thing in building an audience, or marketing a product, is to know who you’re writing (or selling) to. The more you know your audience, the easier it is to resonate with them. (tweet that)

But how can you possibly know who your target audience is when you don’t have an audience yet?

A lot of advice out there tells you to hunt for your audience. Do keyword research… Analyze buzz trends on social media… capitalize on current news headlines. They’re telling you to spot a herd of people and catch that wave.

To me, this always seemed like a monotonous and uninspiring way to create content. So I never followed this advice.

In fact, I’m pretty sure none of the folks that I subscribe to — who happen to have very large audiences — never followed this advice either. Probably for similar reasons. They just didn’t want to.

This brings me to my first point: You get to choose your who.

Your who is the person you care about and the person you genuinely want to help. They’re probably a lot like you. Maybe you’re further along in your journey, or maybe they’re further than you. Either way, you guys are probably on the same path.

Do this:

Give some thought to who you want as your readers / listeners / subscribers. This part is totally up to you. At the end of the day, if you don’t care about the people you’re writing for, then you won’t be able to help them, which means you won’t get very far anyway.

In my case, I was a freelance web designer, and I transitioned to a products business. So I decided the my who are my peers — freelancers and consultants who work on the web and want to transition to a products business.

By the way, lots of different people will stumble across your site over time. The vast majority of them won’t be your who. Only a small slice of those new visitors are. Those are the ones you want as subscribers and they’re the ones who you want to see again. So focus your attention on them.

Their “Why”

Finding your who is up to you. But creating content that resonates with them is not.

Now you need to reconcile your who with their why.

Everyone is on a journey. Everyone wants to get to a destination that is different and better than where they’re currently at. This is always changing. For everyone.

If you asked me 10 years ago where I wanted to go, I would have said I wanted to find my career path, and meet a girl.

Five years ago? I wanted to get more clients, and find a home for my wife and I to settle down.

Today? I want to build my products business so my growing family can live comfortably and travel.

Next year? Who knows…

How would your people answer that question? What is their why?

Do this:

Set up a welcome email autoresponder sent to every person who joins your email newsletter. Here’s a screenshot of the email I send to every new subscriber who joins my newsletter:

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.21.23 am

Keep that welcome email short and to the point, which is: Ask your new subscriber, “where they want to be one year from now?” I recommend adding, “What’s your biggest hurdle holding you back?”

In the beginning, you won’t have many responses. That’s OK. You’ll get plenty of replies over the course of year.

The fun part is to watch how your audience’s why changes over time. Your understanding of it will change too. The more in touch are you are, the easier it is to write things that help them get ahead, and the more likely your posts will resonate.

Writing stuff that resonates

So you know who you want to be reading your blog, and you’re in touch with the journey they’re on (their why). Now how do you actually speak to that, and create content that truly resonates?

I found a very simple method: Just answer questions.

Every blog post / podcast episode / video / whatever you create should be your answer to a question that your people are seeking an answer to. They have a very specific problem, and your post is the solution. In fact, it’s the best solution they’ve come across in a very long time.

That’s what it takes for a blog post to resonate.

Do this…

Start every new blog post with a question. Have you noticed that the first few paragraphs of this article contained several questions? The idea for this article literally came from a question that one of my subscribers asked me a few weeks ago.

Here are some places I go to identify questions that I could answer in new articles:

  • Questions people ask me when replying to my newsletter.
  • Questions people ask me when I’m out at a conference.
  • Questions that come up in forums and communities that I hang out in—particularly the ones that I feel eager to hop in and answer.
  • Questions found on Quora and Reddit, and similar question/answer sites.

Spend an hour and come up with a list of 5 (or more) questions that your people are asking. Make sure they’re questions that you’re eager to answer. I’m sure there are many that fit this criteria for you.

Exposure

Now I don’t want to give the impression that if you simply write great content that could resonate with the right people, then it will.

It probably won’t.

Unless… you get exposure in places where your people are already hanging out.

Here are the common “tactics” that most people focus on. These have never worked for me:

  • Cold email a popular blogger and cleverly include a link to your new post, in hopes they might tweet it. I tried it. Sometimes it gets that tweet. Great… For a minute. I stopped doing this because I hate the idea of “pushing” my stuff on someone who didn’t ask for it. Plus, they’re super busy and I want to respect their time.
  • “Go viral” on Hacker News, Reddit, Digg.com. I have submitted posts to these a handful of times. Maybe twice my hit the front-page for a while and brought a spike in traffic. Almost none of those folks ever subscribe and return.
  • SEO Keyword Optimize my posts. Have some of my posts done well in search engines? Sure. Do I know how or why that happened? Not really. My goal when I write is to help my people get ahead, and hopefully get them to subscribe so they’ll come back again. SEO traffic typically doesn’t play out this way. The channels I’ll list below do.

So here’s what has worked for me, and what I think you should focus on when you’re just getting started:

Answer questions in forums

I suggest focusing on just one or two online communities that you personally feel connected to.

Find a question you’re eager to answer and post the best response you can possibly fit in the reply box. Then finish by including a link over to your blog post on that same topic.

Don’t simply reply by saying “Good question, I wrote a whole article on it: LINK”. You should actually answer the question right there in the forum, then provide the link for more. Build credibility and earn their trust with your thoughtful reply, then invite them to your site for more.

Case Studies

Readers love hearing about real-world examples of a problem being solved. You still want to be sure you’re answering a question, but your answer (or solution) can come in the form of a case study.

I found that these types of posts tend to get shared and passed around a lot. One of my post popular articles from last year on my System For Selling, where I covered how we set up Trello as our CRM, and our process for handling inbound sales leads. This continues to get passed around, and even wound up getting mentioned on Trello’s blog!

Podcasting

While you won’t get thousands of listeners overnight, podcasts are much less competitive and easier to reach people than a new blog. There simply aren’t as many podcasts as there are blogs.

I also found that podcasts seem to build a more intimate relationship with your audience than readers of a blog. Plus, it’s fun!

Paid acquisition

I wouldn’t recommend this if you’ve never managed an ad campaign before. But if you know you’re way around Facebook ads or Twitter ads, then you might try it as a way to jump-start your email list. Point this traffic at a landing page for a free, educational resource, that is highly relevant to the people you want to reach, and the topics you write about.

I’ve had better success with Retargeting ads, since those are seen by folks who have already found you through organic channels first, but maybe didn’t opt-in to your list on their first visit.

Related: Tips and Tricks to Nail Facebook Advertising With Jon Loomer
The Lowdown on Facebook Advertising, and What We’ve Found Works Really Well

Return Visitors

Now, to be clear: The ideas I just listed above won’t bring in tidal waves of traffic. They’ll be more like drops and splashes. That’s OK for now. They’re only intended to get things going.

What will really move the needle are getting those first visitors to return and to share your content. That’s where your email list comes in.

Here are some ways I found work well attracting those first subscribers to your email list:

  • Offer a free resource, like an email course, highly relevant to your people’s why.
  • Point everything to the free resource: Bylines on your guest blog posts, link to it from your Twitter profile, mention it when you go on podcasts, this is your “gift” that you’re proud to share with anyone who might benefit from it. So promote it.
  • Include bonus content on some of your posts. For example, in my System For Selling post, I offer the exact setup instructions for anyone to download when they subscribe to my list.

The small breaks

As I’m sure you can tell, none of this audience-building stuff happens overnight.

The reality is it’s a long series of “small breaks”. A high profile Retweet. A guest post opportunity. An invitation to be on someone’s podcast. All of these add up and build exposure over time.

Some might see these as “lucky” breaks. But I see them as inevitable opportunities that arise when you repeatedly put yourself out there, serve your audience, and stick with it!

Brian Casel was a freelancer who turned productized business owner. Today he writes his newsletter and blog to help you do the same. Get Brian’s free email crash course on Productizing Your Service.

Setting Goals: Why You Need Them, and How to Write Them

 

 

“How can you get where you’re going if you don’t know where that is?”

Surprisingly to me, the topic of goals seems to divide bloggers into two camps: the ones who think goal setting in any situation is of vital importance, and the ones who think that blogging should be more spontaneous and fluid.

I think they’re both right.

The great thing about blogging that perhaps other business ventures don’t have is the personal aspect. The sharing of stories, the authentic representation of real life people in the real world. Sometimes it’s hard to put structure on that, to say your blog must do X and Y if you are ever going to get to Z. Many people buck the idea of pointing their blog in a direction rather than let it evolve naturally. Plus some of us just really hate being told what to do.

The difference can usually be boiled down to the main reason you write your blog, and where you want your blog to go. Is it a creative outlet? A thing of passion? A bit of fun that isn’t meant to be stressful? Or are you hoping it will earn you some money, maybe some freelance writing work, some speaking engagements, or even a book deal? Maybe even a bit of both: a creative outlet that makes an income?

In order to reach a destination, you have to know where you’re going. And if you’re happy for some structure, a bit of guidance, and practical steps you can take to build your blog into a vehicle to get you where you’re going, then you need some goals.

I know – I tried to resist it for a long time, even though I planned to either monetise my blog or find online work from my blog since the day I realised you could (which, incidentally, was about five minutes after I started it). I liked seeing how my blog evolved slowly as I learned things. I eventually got my head around SEO, about building traffic, and about the importance of good design (that one took me a while).

But the day came when everyone was talking practical goals. That in order to take your blog to the next level, then you better have some stepping stones to get you there. Wandering around doing whatever takes your fancy can only last you so long. Although the scenery is nice.

The Value of Goals

There are plenty of positive outcomes of goals even if you don’t reach them.

Goals give you structure

This is particularly useful if, like most of us, you’re juggling blogging with your life, your other job, your family, and your other responsibilities. There’s often not a lot of time left in the day to blog and you hate wasting it. If you have goals you’d like to reach (post twice a week, get five new Facebook fans this month), then you’re more likely to work on something that will help you reach your goal rather than fall down an Instagram rabbit hole and an hour later you’re on your cousin’s brother’s best friend’s Queensland holiday photos from two years ago. You haven’t written a thing and now it’s time to go to bed. Having even small goals can help you to use your time more wisely.

Goals keep you looking ahead

While reviewing things of the past to figure out what worked and what hasn’t is an excellent tool to keep your blog on track, it’s best to spend most of your time in the present, looking toward the future. Goals can keep you on track by giving you something to aim for. You might feel like perhaps you’ve hit a plateau and are looking around to lift yourself out. You might have made a mistake (like all those years I didn’t think email lists were important) and want actionable steps to rectify it. Having a point you’d like to reach keeps you focused, and also provides a chance to feel successful when you make it.

Goals keep you accountable

I have been meaning to write an ebook for three years. Two years ago, I started it. I haven’t touched it since.

I had some vague plan of maybe working on it for 15 minutes a day, like Darren’s famous story, and I even added it to my daily “to-do” list. At one stage, trying to make it even easier on myself, I made it only five minutes a day to work on it.

Without a specific goal, though, broken down into manageable pieces (design a cover one week, write 500 pages on Tuesday the 15th, perhaps), my vague plan got me nowhere. That book is far from finished two years later because I haven’t been accountable to myself for getting it done. That’s two years of lost revenue.

I’ll say that again: two years of lost revenue.

I could have set a goal, broken it down into manageable chunks (exactly what I talk about in How to Blog Effectively When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed because hey I had a job and two toddlers and a blog and overwhelmed was exactly how I felt) and done it in steps, then I could have had that book ready ages ago.

Goals are motivating

Success is the best motivator. There’s nothing like that adrenalin rush you get when you pull something off. You put in hard work and you were rewarded. More of that please! You’ll move heaven and earth to make some time to get that stuff done because you know it works. It feels good to win.

Goals keep you in forward motion

If there’s anything I hear the most about bloggers a few years into their journey is that they can’t break through middle ground. They’re not quite beginner, they’re not quite pro – but what they’ve always done (which saw results in the past) just isn’t cutting it any more. Some people even like to rest here a while – but at some point, most bloggers want to keep growing, keep building their readership, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Setting practical, achievable goals can help bust you out of that rut, while reinspiring you to ignite that passion you had when you first started. Then when you reach that goal (and you find it was easier than you think), then you’ve moving forward. You’re growing.

Setting Practical, Achievable Goals

So we’ve established why goals are important (and if not vitally important to you personally, then at least useful). The next thing to do is chat about how you can make great ones – and actually reach them.

Write them down

Don’t fall victim to the vague plan, I like I did. Set aside a few minutes for brainstorming, then organise your ideas into goals you’d like to achieve. Stick them on your mirror, write them on a whiteboard, email them to yourself, save them into Evernote, write them in your diary – it doesn’t matter where, just write them down. People who write their goals down are significantly more likely to achieve those goals, and it can help you remember your main purpose. It’s fine if you change them later, but get them down somewhere first.

Don’t have many

The best way to overwhelm yourself and ensure you never get anywhere is to write yourself a long list of concrete goals that are impossible to uphold. The fewer in number you keep your goals, the easier they will be to reach and the more likely you’ll be to keep on the path. They need to be adjustable and malleable as your expectations and knowledge changes. You might like to have maybe one a month, or a set of 10 that are dependent upon the goal before it being met. Whatever will be the strategy you are most likely to stick to.

Make them S.M.A.R.T

You’ve probably heard it before – keep your goals specific (“grow my newsletter list by 50 this month” rather than “grow my newsletter list”), measurable (quantities are good here), actionable (something you do rather than something you are), realistic (by all means challenge yourself, but don’t aim for the impossible), and timely (deadlines are exceptional at getting you moving and stopping the “I’ll get to it one day” lie). Do each of your goals fit this criteria?

Break them down

It’s all very well and good to say you’d like to grow your newsletter list by 50 readers this month, but as specific as that is, it’s still quite general. How are you going to reach that goal? What’s the very first step you can take to reach that goal? You might like to break it down by weekly tasks:

  1. Create or upgrade your subscriber incentive by week 1.
  2. Add an extra sign-up box at the end of your posts by week 2.
  3. Write a post describing the value of signing up to the newsletter and pointing people to the new or updated subscriber incentive (and of course, where to sign up) by week 3.
  4. Offer a short-time only extra bonus for newsletter subscribers by week 4.

Set both short and long-term goals

I think most of us have a sort of goal or destination for our blog lurking in our grey matter somewhere, but sitting down and putting pen to paper can really help you figure out what you want and why you’re putting all this effort in. You might even surprise yourself with what comes out when you give it space to grow. So even if you think you’ve got an idea of where you’re headed, write it down anyway. Then run it through the SMART criteria – see if you can put it on a timeline, or make it more practical and actionable than it is. That’s your long-term goal.

Your short-term goals can be a mix of the broken-down steps you’re taking to get to the long term goal, and other small fun goals you set yourself to be just that little bit better than you were before. One of your goals might be to take a writing course, or to have a guest post published on your favourite site. It can be pitching an article to an authority site that you’re absolutely terrified to do – it can even be as small as simply finding out who to pitch to by Friday next week.

Have a buddy

It works for weight loss, so it can work for your blog goals too! You can have an accountability partner and chat together about your goals for the week or month and check in regularly to see how each other has gone. You can have the same goals as a friend and motivate each other to reach them (or even make it a little competition!). You can just email a friend a list of things you’re going to do, or you can even write them in a blog post and be accountable to your readers, like Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom does in her goal review posts. Just make sure you tell someone (other than the cat) so you’re more likely to reach the goal rather than face the embarrassment of telling them you failed.

Keep track of them

I like the idea of saving a file or having a notebook for your goals and jotting down your progress. You can write down what you’ve done to try and reach them, whether it was useful or not – or you can just tick them off as you go. But check in regularly to make sure you’re on track and that they’re still the kinds of goals you’re interested in.

Review them

Plans (and blogs) can change, and what you might have thought was important at the start of last year now has no significance whatsoever. Set regular reminders in your calendar to review your goals and make sure they’re still relevant to you. You can change them, increase them, or throw them out entirely and start fresh. You might also meet some of your goals much faster than you anticipated, so you might want to set yourself some more.

Why You Can’t Set Goals

You’re too busy

I know, it’s hard enough to get through what needs to be done every day let alone step back, take a deep breath, and figure out the big picture. If you treat brainstorming and goal-setting like a non-negotiable task, and block out time on your calendar to do it, then you’re more likely to treat it with the importance it deserves. Make your first goal setting a time to create your goals.

You don’t know what you want

You will when you sit down and brainstorm, I promise. If you give yourself time to reflect and think about your blog and what it means to you and where, ultimately, you’d like to take it, then you’ll begin to realise there are milestones you’d like to achieve. Start with a few and when the time comes to review those goals, you’ll have come up with a few more to add to the list.

You don’t know how to write a game plan

Well now you do!

  1. You brainstorm
  2. You prioritise your ideas into short-term and long-term goals
  3. You run those goals through the SMART filter
  4. You break them down into manageable chunks, and you give those chunks deadlines
  5. You put a list of your goals somewhere where you will see them
  6. You email your goals to a friend for accountability
  7. You set your first step to see you on your way

See? No excuses now!

So were you like me and thought you’d be fine without goals? Have you had goals since day one? You might even have a buisness plan! I’d love to hear how you structure your steps to reach your dreams.

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama (with the added bonus of good food!). Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.

 

4 Steps to Successful Product Creation Every Blogger Should Know (But Most Don’t!)

2015_01_30_probloggerThis is a guest contribution from Danny Iny.

You’ve heard it all before.

Yet another internet marketer has “taken the stage”, extolling the virtues of the newest “revolutionary” product or tactic that is guaranteed to blow the wheels off your competition and have you rolling around in hundred-dollar bills before your next electric bill comes due.

But you can only hear the proclamations so many times before you start to get skeptical.

Like, really skeptical.

So you tune out the noise and do your best to keep your head down, grinding away at the same old thing you’ve been working on for months.

Six months later, after spending countless hours and a lot of money that you really hope you make back in sales…

You end up with the same old outcome.

But what if there was a way to create the kind of success all those “Get Rich Quick” gurus are spouting on about?

What if it turned out to be a process that’s not only profitable, but also scalable and repeatable?

And… what if someone was finally able to crack the code?

Turns out, all it takes is a little bit of telepathy.

Step One: Tune In (Listen to What Your Audience is Broadcasting)

Now, before we get started and you get all excited (or disappointed) that this is (just) another get-rich-quick scheme… ;-)

…let’s get one thing straight: this process takes hard work – a lot of it.

If you don’t put in the work, that fat pile of cash isn’t going to just materialize all by itself.

The first step is to listen to your audience.

I can hear you already: “but, Danny! I do listen to my audience. I give them what they say they want, and they *still* aren’t buying anything that I offer!”

But, chances are that the way that you’re listening isn’t quite what it could be.

First, the good news – chances are that you are an expert in your field, and because you do listen to your audience, you have a good sense of your industry.

But, there’s also bad news – the likelihood is high that you have preconceived notions about both the industry and your customers, and these preconceptions are keeping you from breaking through.

Gather Data About Your Audience

There are a few different ways to collect information from your audience:

  1. Eavesdropping on Conversations

Even if you don’t have an audience, you can start listening to conversations around the web.

Eavesdropping is the same online as it is in person, and by finding out where your target audience hangs out, you can start to listen to and track the things that they say.

Are they active on Facebook groups or Twitter? Do they leave lots of comments on the big blogs in your industry? Are they involved in forums around your topic?

Pay attention to the exact words that they use to describe the problems.

  1. Taking note of email conversations

If you already have an established audience, you can use this to your advantage. It’s not a requirement, just an added bonus. FYI, this is the only step that requires an audience!

Take note of the things that your audience emails you about. Do they have specific issues or topics that they bring up regularly? Do many of your readers talk or complain about the same things?

And, if you’re feeling a little bit shaky about your connection to your audience, here’s a great ProBlogger post about building up your blog.

  1. Simple surveys

Whether you have an audience or not, you can create a simple survey to gather even more data.

And when I say simple, I mean simple: just two questions long!

The first question will be, “if you had 15 minutes to ask me anything, what would it be” – this question can be broadened (and clarified) by including a topic area, if you don’t have an established audience or are bringing people to your survey via advertising.

The second question will then be, “if I promise not to sell you anything, can I follow up with a phone call?”

(Hat tip to Ryan Levesque and his Deep Dive Survey process for the survey information in this section!)

  1. Informational interviews

Anyone who agreed to the phone call in the survey will then go on to do an informational interview with you.

The most important things to cover in these informational interviews are what challenges they are dealing with at the moment, and what they’re currently doing to solve the problem.

This is where you can really dive deep into the issue that your audience is having and ask clarifying questions, to get to the heart of what’s going on.

These interviews will last somewhere around thirty minutes or so, just long enough for you to gather the data you need, without being overwhelming to your interviewee.

Analyze the Data You Gathered

The next step after you finish gathering your data is to analyze it!

You’ll want to search through the information that you’ve been collecting, and look for patterns:

  • Is there a topic area that comes up often?
  • Are lots of people having the same (or a similar) problem?

Then, figure out how you can solve the problem. Is there a product or service that you can provide for them that would make a huge impact on their lives? What can you easily and dependably provide for them?

Step Two: Talk Back (How to Ask What Your Audience Wants)

Once you have figured out how to solve your audience’s problem, you might think that it’s time to retreat to your office and create the solution.

But, wait!

There’s still more to do, to make sure that your audience wants (and will pay for) the solution that you are ready to offer them.

Even if you started out the process without an audience, by now you have a list of people who have answered your survey and participated in your informational interviews.

You will present the offer framed as a response to their demand: “here’s this thing that you asked me for – guess what – I’m going to do it for you!”

You’re not actually selling anything at this point, but rather just gathering more feedback and validation about whether you will proceed with your offer or not.

If the responses that you get range anywhere in the “vaguely interested” to “crickets” range, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board, to look through your data and see if there is a different direction that you can go.

But, if your audience responds enthusiastically, reaching out with grabby hands and shouting, “yes, yes, yes!! Gimme!” then you know that you are on the right track!

Only after hearing this enthusiastic response should you move on to the next step.

Step Three: Set off the Fireworks (Invite Your Audience to the Show)

If you’re not feeling completely comfortable with releasing something for sale on your blog just yet, check out this article about what to do before you launch a product.

The key to planning a pilot is to offer minimum viable richness: only as much as needed, and no more. There won’t be extra bells and whistles, no fancy software is necessary, and the first students will be early adopters – kind of like beta testers for a new software product.

Your early adopters will have access to the material for a fraction of what the eventual course will cost; this discount is in exchange for the feedback that they will give you throughout the course.

You will open up a brief registration window to sell your pilot course, in this order:

  1. Open the cart – Send out an email to your audience letting them know that you are offering the pilot.
  2. Send follow up emails – If you have trouble with the actual selling, head over here to grab a set of sales templates that you can swipe and use word for word in your sales process, on the house. But move quickly – they are only going to be free for the next couple of days!
  3. Close the cart – Once the registration window is done, close the cart!
  4. Decide whether to move forward – If your pilot only sold a few spots, it’s time to decide whether to move forward – did enough people sign up to make the experience worth it for both you and them?

(If only your mom and your Aunt Betty signed up, it may be time to refund their money and head back to the drawing board! Sorry, Aunt Betty.)

But, if you sold most of the spots, or even sold out, congratulations! You have validated that your offer is a good one, and that people will pay for the solution to their problem.

Now it’s finally time to make good on your promise, and solve their problem!

Step Four: Blow Their Minds! (Launch to Massive Success)

Even though this is only a pilot of your eventual product or course, you still want to provide an amazing experience for your students.

You want to create an educational experience that is efficient, effective and appealing.

You want to make sure that you teach only what your students need to know, and to be crystal clear and thorough in teaching the content.

One way to do this is to ask, “based on my students’ desired outcome, what do they need to know?”

You will want to build in small wins for your students, structuring the course content in such a way that your students are able to create a habit of succeeding!

You will plan your course material so that one idea builds on the ones taught previously, and you will run the program from a basic outline of the course.

The pilot course won’t be perfect, but it will teach you a lot about what can be improved for the eventual full course.

And, as long as you are delivering what you promised to your pilot students, the likelihood is that both you and they will learn a lot from the process!

Tying the Process Together

So now you have the full step-by-step process of how to launch a product from scratch, with almost guaranteed results.

You’ve learned how to:

  • Tune in telepathically to your audience;
  • Figure out how to solve their biggest problems;
  • Use their feedback to validate that they will actually pull out their wallets;
  • And, work with them to pilot the solution to success!

If you’re still feeling like you’re not quite ready, I’ll be hosting a webinar on Saturday, February 7 that will walk through the process in more depth.

By now you can see that it’s definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme. But, when used properly, this process can absolutely bring some cash in the door.

You now wield the power that those “Get Rich Quick” gurus only dream about.

That means it’s time to get out there and start collaborating with your audience.

They have a problem, and they need YOU to solve it!

Danny Iny is the co-founder of Firepole Marketing, and creator of the Course Builder’s Laboratory. If you want to learn more about this, you’re invited to attend a one-time only free training webinar that he’s hosting, teaching “How to Build and Launch a Blockbuster Product… Every Time!”

 

SEO: The Must-Dos That You Just Can’t Miss

Last year, we had Rand Fishkin sort us out with a comprehensive post on SEO basics, tips, and tricks. If you haven’t thought much about SEO and the traffic it can bring your blog, now would be the time to do it! Get into the right habits at the start of the year, and they’ll become second-nature.


 

We welcome Rand Fishkin to the ProBlogger Theme Week today to talk us through all things SEO. While this week we’re exploring all the things you can do with a post after you hit “publish”, Rand is reminding is to take a second before we do and have a look at the things you can do to optimize your post before it even gets into the hands of your readers.

For days, you’ve been agonizing over this post. The hours of guilt for not starting it sooner, the toil of finding the right topic, the relentless editing and re-editing, and now, at long last, the publish button is there, tempting you to end the struggle and at last declare this tiny battle over.

publish-button
(above: the blogger’s tantalizer, teaser, needler, and tormenter)

If you give in to that sweet release, it will feel good, at least for a little while. But in the months and years to come, you’ll look back at that post and, perhaps in revery, read it again, and think to yourself:

“That was a really excellent post I published. Why has it had so little success?”

It started so well. The post had some retweets on Twitter. It got shared and liked a few times on Facebook. Maybe it even got a bit of traffic from Google+ or Pinterest. But, then, the traffic stopped. Your post wasn’t “new” anymore, and the web world, it seemed, no longer cared for something more than 24 hours ago. In fact, the data backs this up – social sharing half-lives across networks are <7 hours.


spike-of-hope

There is another way.

The vast majority of content consumed on the web isn’t actually found through social media. In fact, the largest driver of traffic to web content (outside of direct navigation) is still the same source it was 3, 5, and 10 years ago, and remarkably, in spite (or perhaps in part because) of the rise of social & mobile, this source is still growing.

You’ll probably recognize it:

google-search-box

Search, and Google in particular (with 90% of worldwide share), still drive vastly greater quantities of traffic than all the social networks combined (some good research from DefineMG here). Given Google’s 3.5+ Billion searches performed each day, that shouldn’t be a surprise, but to many bloggers, thinking about search, Google, and all that “SEO stuff” has been put aside in favor of Facebook shares, likes, tweets, +1s, and the more visible feedback and applause that come from social sources.

That bias is understandable – a visit from a Google search doesn’t have a fancy embeddable counter you can show off. 30,000 visits a month from search engines doesn’t carry nearly the same social proof that 30,000 Twitter followers does.

But, it should.

The vast majority of visitors who come via social have a browsing-focused intent. They’re looking for something interesting, distracting, temporal, and, only rarely, directly or immediately applicable to an activity that will lead to them accomplishing the goals you’re hoping for on your website (a subscription to your posts, a following of your social accounts, purchasing your products, etc).

On the other hand, searchers know exactly what they want and when they want it – right now. Almost no searches are entirely serendipitous, but most every social visit is entirely so. A searcher is seeking to find information, accomplish a task, or transact in some way right this minute. That’s why they performed a query. If your blog post (and your website, more broadly) helps them achieve this goal, the value of that visit to both parties can be fantastic.

Here’s the tragedy:

When you look over those past posts, you might realize that yes, dammit! It’s time to do some SEO! No more ignoring Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the rest. But, sadly, that ship has probably sailed. One of the harsh truths of blog-focused SEO is that a few hours after a post is published, 90%+ of the ranking ability is spent. Sure, you could go back and tweak some titles, language use, or even URLs (depending on your CMS), but those don’t have a good chance of helping the post perform moving forward.

It’s that first burst of activity – of social sharing and people emailing it around and links coming in – that set the stage for ranking success in the search engines. The words, particularly the title, of the post are how others will describe it when they share, link, tweet, and pin. Those words are strong signals to search engines of how and whether to include your page in the search results. Likeiwse, the first few hours are when you’re most likely to earn that attention and awareness of potential linkers. Links are still a huge part of how search engine algorithms rank pages, and without them, you’ll usually struggle to perform. Both of these are short-lived opportunities on which you need to execute if you’re going to have SEO success with your blog.

Thankfully, you can resolve to make this a priority in the future. It may sound like a bad infomercial, but you can substantially upgrade your blog’s SEO potential with less than 5 minutes per post. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Keyword Research
  • Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion
  • Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Step 1: Keyword Research

Earning additional search visits from the content your blog produces over a long streth means ranking for a keyword term or phrase that gets at least a few queries each month. You probably don’t want to tackle competitive phrases where you’ve got little chance to rank on page 1, but you also don’t want to to be ranking brilliantly for a search term no one ever types. In general, phrases with fewer searches are going to be less competitive (if you want to get more data-driven about analyzing the relative difficulty of ranking for a keyword, there’s a tool for that).

Google’s Keyword Planner Tool is still the best one out there to show relative volume levels. Here’s what it looks like:

adwords-kw-planner1

I plugged in a few possible searches related to the post you’re reading now (which is, in a very meta way, about doing SEO for blog posts). The suggestions you see above are what Google’s keyword tool returned. They expanded on a few of my ideas and showed me some terms I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to put in. But, before we go further, there’s four important points to be wary of when you’re looking at the Keyword Planner:

adwords-kw-planner2

A) These aren’t ALL the terms and phrases Google knows are related to your keyword(s). For whatever reason, they’re not comprehensive and, on any given search, may omit numerous good options. This is why it pays to refine and rerun once or twice, and to expand your brainstorm list of terms. It’s also why I’ll suggest using another methodology in combination with Keyword Planner below.

B) The numbers you see are not accurate. We’ve seen them show numbers that are 1/4 of the actual searches for a term and we’ve seen them show 4X the real figure. What is useful are the relative quantities. If Keyword Planner says term XYZ gets twice the searches that term ABC gets, you can be fairly sure that XYZ > ABC. Don’t panic about choosing a term with only 10 or 20 searches/month. These low numbers are actually where we see the least competition and the least accuracy from Google in under-reporting real volume.

C) This “competition” does not refer to how hard it might be to rank in the organic results for a given keyword. Keyword Planner is showing a competition level that’s related to AdWords bids and how many campaigns are targeting these terms. Don’t be too discouraged if it says “medium” or “high” as the organic results won’t always reflect what the paid ads do.

D) Likewise, the cost column can be mostly ignored when thinking about SEO. The one area it can be helpful is to provide a sense of how transactional in nature the search query is, and the value of that traffic to others. If you’re thinking about offering ads on your blog, for example, you might want to note how much advertisers are paying to be in front of searchers for a keyword related to your topic(s).

The other keyword research source I’d encourage you to pursue is Google’s autosuggest. It often illuminates keyword ideas that you may not have seen through AdWords Planner. In fact, some of the best terms and phrases to target are those Keyword Planner hasn’t listed, but autosuggest does (this is because many other SEO-focused content creators have likely missed them).

blog-seo-autosuggest
Start typing, but don’t hit enter!

Step 2: Post Title & Body Content Inclusion

Once you’ve found a few keywords that might work, modify your blog post’s title to include it if you can. For example, when I started drafting this post, I titled it “Publish Now And 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost.” It had a catch and it matched the tone I was aiming for with the piece, but it didn’t target any of those lovely keywords that can help it potentially earn visits for years to come. So I thought up three more:

  1. Publish Your Blog Post Without SEO, and 1000s of Visits Will Be Forever Lost
  2. Your Amazing Blog Post – SEO = 1000s of Lost Visits
  3. These Simple SEO Blogging Tips Will Save You 1000s of Lost Visits

Even though I don’t like #3, it’s probably the best optimized title (note that Google is pretty smart these days about interpreting modifications of words like “blog” and “blogging” that have the same meaning/intent). But, that doesn’t mean I’ll choose it. As I noted above, a lot of a post’s potential success is based on its ability to get in front of the right eyeballs. A title that’s optimized for keyword placement but doesn’t resonate with social sharers and potential linkers isn’t worth compromising for. Instead, I’d go with #1 or #2 and I happened to like #1 just a bit better.

The only other part of this step is to make sure the post itself has at least a mention or two of the target keyword phrase and is actually about that topic (nothing infuriates searchers more than discovering a page ranking in Google that’s not actually about what they wanted – and those user/usage metrics will, eventually, hurt your rankings).

Step 3: A Teensy Bit of Proactive Outreach

Chances are that when writing your post, you mentioned someone, used a graphic or image from somewhere else, linked to some reference-worthy content on another site, or called out a service or organization in some way. If you believe there’s any chance that they (the referenced party) would be interested in reading what you’ve written about them, don’t be shy – let them know.

Twitter makes this incredibly easy (and Google+, too, for those of you using that service). In this post, for example, I referenced a study from Bit.ly, some search stats from Statcounter, and a great post from Define Media Group. Immediately upon hitting publish, I should tweet, G+, and/or email all three of them and say thanks, making sure to point them in the direction of this post. Maybe they’ll share it, maybe they won’t, but they’ll know I appreciate their work, and that goodwill might be valuable in the future, too.

Likewise, if I know there’s a few people in my network or among those that I follow/interact with on social media or the offline world who might benefit from or enjoy this post, I should drop them a line, too.

This might be 30 seconds of thinking about who to contact and another 2 minutes sending the messages, but the reward for that effort could mean the difference between a post that spreads, earns links, and ranks, and one that falls into the tragic “Flatline of Nope.”

———–

A few last pieces of advice:

  • Don’t worry too much about targeting a keyword phrase in more than one post. If at first you don’t succeed, try again! Google has no penalty for a blog that publishes 3-4 posts all chasing the same keyword. The only time I might not do this is if you’re already ranking very well for a term/phrase, in which case, I’d consider updating the old post vs. writing a completely new one.
  • Updating & re-publishing can be a super power! If you’ve got a post that did well, but didn’t quite make it to the first page of results, consider revising it, adding in the most modern information, and publishing a new post to replace the old one. You can use a 301 redirect or rel=canonical tag to point search engines from the old version to the new one.
  • If you need inspiration for titles or content in niches where you think there’s just nothing exciting to write about, I can’t recommend Buzzsumo enough. Give the tool a spin with a few searches related to your potential topics and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Not every post needs to be or should be SEO-targeted. Writing for your audience, for yourself, or simply to court serendipity is a wonderful thing. But every few posts (or at least every few dozen), think about all those poor souls who are searching and finding none of your amazing work – do it for them :-)

p.s. A couple years ago, I created a presentation centered around my love for bloggers and blogging entitled: How to Earn Traffic Without Selling Your Soul. If you’re worried that SEO means sacrificing the beauty of your work, check it out – it may just restore your faith that the two can live in harmony.

Say Goodbye to Bad Habits: Five You Should Ditch in the New Year

Say Goodbye to Bad Habits: Five you should ditch today // problogger.netI don’t know about you, but it’s around this time of year when I start thinking about all the things that didn’t quite work out over the last 12 months in my blogging efforts. Things I got wrong, things I didn’t try hard enough on, things I know I should do better. In short, it’s time to re-evaluate how I blog, so I can blog better.

And what I know for sure is: Next year, I want to blog smarter, not harder. I want to slow down and focus on the priorities and make sure they’re being done properly.

I’ve developed a few bad habits over the years, and from what I’ve heard, I’m not the only one. Let’s refine our workload and jettison these ways of thinking that don’t serve us well. Let’s swap them for a more intelligent strategy that will make our blogs stand out from the crowd and provide use to our readers.

Are you guilty of any of these?

1. Thinking an email list isn’t such a big deal

Well, I hate to break it to you, but it is. It truly is the only method of communicating with your readers that you are in control of. Your words, straight to your reader. No algorithms, no fast-pace feed, just your information they can access at their leisure.

I revamped my site earlier in the year, and didn’t bother putting my email subscribe boxes back in because they didn’t fit the new theme. I didn’t have time to redesign them, and I didn’t want to pay for something I knew I could do myself. My laziness has cost me hundreds of valuable email addresses, and the ability to share what I have with interested people.

I know some bloggers wonder what the point of a mailout is, and wonder if its only people with something to sell who would concern themselves with having one – but it’s invaluable for any blogger who want to reach their audience. Even if you think you will never need email subscribers, offer your readers a way to sign up anyway. You won’t regret that.

2. Forgetting to share your posts on social media

I try to share my posts at the same time each day, both because those times get the most engagement, and also to provide some consistency for readers who get my updates. But often real life got in the way of manually updating my channels, and sometimes it meant I didn’t get anything up all day. I resisted using scheduling tools for a long time, for many reasons, but in the last few months I’ve experimented with a few. I cannot believe how much better my blogging experience is now that I’ve settled on a schedule that works for me, and the ability to schedule my post updates across all social media (except Instagram and Pinterest, I still prefer to do those in the moment) has become so much easier.

I’ve been using CoSchedule for the last month or two on my personal blog and I don’t know how I ever lived without it. An editorial calendar plugin that keeps your content organised and also allows you to schedule social media posts from right within your WordPress dashboard before they’re even published. Your post goes live, and your scheduled social media updates follow after, at a time you’ve pre-chosen. Genius.

3. Wasting time

Oh boy – this has been a big one for me. I work from home with very small children, and I have limited amount of child-free time each week to get a lot of things done. I couldn’t afford to waste a second – but I was wasting lots of them. I found myself either procrastinating or getting caught up in less-important tasks, which left me little time to get the big stuff done. I felt behind the 8 ball for a lot of 2014 until I sat myself down with a big task list and a determination to be in charge of my schedule, instead of letting it be in charge of me.

Some of the biggest things that has turned my productivity around:

  • checking email at certain times only
  • doing specific tasks only on specific days
  • having an editorial calendar
  • timing myself to see exactly how long tasks would take so I’d stop underestimating the time it would take to do something
  • organising tasks in order of priority

4. Failing to have an editorial calendar

Who needs those? I mean, unless you run a themed blog that creates content in line with the holiday calendar, right? Wrong! Part of the problem was that I was wasting time because I didn’t know what to write about. I found that once I sat down with either a headline or a topic, I could write a post no problem. But if I was sitting down to a blank slate, I wrote less than half of the posts that I needed to.

It didn’t take long – just a few minutes of brainstorming, and a few more minutes shuffling that around to certain points on the calendar. I always know in advance what I’m expected to do, so I find that I waste less time and get more done. I challenge you to come up with 12 post ideas right now – and you will know at least one thing you will be writing per month next year. Or create a theme a month and write to that theme as the year goes by. Go on – you only need 10 minutes, a pen, and a piece of paper.

5. Ignoring networks

I get it – you’re shy. Or you think your blog isn’t “big” enough to play in the big leagues. Well, I’m not sure how you expect to get in the big leagues if you don’t chat with the people who are either already there, or trying to get there too. While you might think there is a hierarchy of people out there in blogland, the reality is there’s room for everyone. Get chatting with other bloggers, no matter who they are. Jump in on Twitter conversations, start discussions on your Facebook page, join a linkup or blog hop, lend a hand to a fellow blogger in a group or forum asking for advice. Share other bloggers’ posts, link to them on your site, invite other writers on your blog, and offer to guest post for other sites in your niche.

If you ask any “big” blogger what was a turning point for them, or how they managed to grow their traffic, more often than not, you’ll hear them say that another blogger bigger than them linked to their content. It’s a world of collaboration, and it will get you further than where you’re going on your own. Make a friend!

So I dare you to ditch these bad blogging habits before the year is out. Replace them with smarter ways of driving your blog forward and increasing the enjoyment you get from it.

Which ones are you striking off your list this year? What will you do instead?

Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama. Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama (cat pictures welcome!).

 

What to Do BEFORE You Launch A Product On Your Blog

Over the last 5 years there has been a shift in the way that many bloggers try to monetise their blogs.

Rather than relying upon advertising and working with brands to make money – many have started to develop their own products to sell directly to readers (whether it be by selling virtual products or physical ones).

There are many reasons why selling your own product is a good thing to do. No longer will you be sending people away from your site – but they’ll be staying with you. You can also ensure that the quality of what you’re selling is high and you end up taking 100% of the profits of sale – not just a small part of it for the traffic you send.

Of course selling products on your blog takes a lot of work – more than many bloggers realise when they dream of doing so.

If you’re thinking of creating your first product – get ready to get focused!

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For one you need to develop your product. At dPS our photography eBooks take a minimum of 3-6 months to write, edit, proof, design and launch (and we have a team working on it around the clock).

But it isn’t just a matter of creating a product. There’s a lot more that you should be working on BEFORE you launch a product that will help to ensure it is profitable.

The Sad Tale of a Blogger with a Great eBook and No Sales

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I spoke recently to an eBook author/blogger who couldn’t work out why her eBook hadn’t sold well. She’d read of the success of other eBook authors making big money with eBooks and decided to create one of her own.

She worked hard for months on producing the best eBook that she could. Her problem was that she focused so much upon creating the eBook that other things too a back seat for the months it took to produce it.

  • Rather than publishing five high-quality weekly blog posts, she slipped to being lucky to publish one mediocre one
  • Her twitter account became a ghost town
  • She stopped emailing her newsletter list
  • Her Facebook page posting dropped away
  • She stopped interacting with other bloggers in her niche

On the day she launched her eBook she did so with a fantastic product but a blog with very little engagement or reader goodwill. Her eBook barely made any sales as a result.

The Other Scenario I See the other situation I’ve seen many times are people who create products and then when they’re ready to launch start researching how to find people to buy it which results in them starting a blog, email list, social media accounts the day they want to launch their product!

Believe it or not I’ve had quite a few confused emails from people in this boat over the years!

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They end up starting out even further behind than someone with a blog that they’ve ignored to develop a product.

Having a Great Product Is Only Half Of the Profitable Product Puzzle

I’ve heard these kinds of story from bloggers many times in the last few years – in fact it is a challenge I faced in producing my own first eBooks (when I had to do it all myself).

There’s so much work involved in producing a product like an eBook – writing, editing, designing, marketing – that it is easy to let everything else slip.

The problem is that having a great product to sell is only half of the profitable product puzzle. The other half is having people ready to buy it.

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If the sacrifice you make to create a product is looking after your readership then your efforts will be wasted.

If anything – in the lead up to launching your product you should INCREASE your efforts in serving your readership, deepening engagement and growing a positive relationship with those who could potentially buy what you’re developing.

Here’s what to Focus on BEFORE you Launch a Product on your Blog

Before I suggest some areas to work on before you launch a product let me say that this is always a juggle and it’s hard to get perfect.

Not only are we working on creating a product, keeping a blog running and engaging readers – on top of that there’s ‘life’ (family, other work etc).

It’s not easy but being prepared is so important!

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Other than creating the product itself, here are four things I’d be working on to help me be ready for a profitable product launch.

1. Growing a ‘Warm’ Email List

NewImageBy far the biggest source of sales for our eBooks have been email. Yes your blog and social media will product drive sales too – but email is likely to convert better. I’d estimate over 90% of our eBook sales come from the emails we send to our list.

There’s two parts of this task.

A. having people sign up to your list – promoting your email list is really important.

B. keeping your list warm – don’t just email when you’ve got something to sell. Keep your list ‘warm’ by sending them regular useful information. On dPS this means we send them a weekly newsletter with all our latest tutorials every Thursday night.

Regularly emailing your list with useful content grows the relationship, builds trust and gets them used to hearing from you.

It’s so important!

2. Growing Your Blog Archives

NewImageMost of the people who subscribe to your email list (and social media accounts) will have found you as a result of reading a post on your blog. Keep producing great content on your blog to keep them engaged.

This will give you content that you can email to your list but also will help you to keep growing that list (fresh content gives people more to share on social and via word of mouth).

Also use your blog to take your readers on a journey towards your product launch. For example:

  • Telling your readers that you’re working on something for them
  • Involving them in the journey of creating your product
  • Using blog posts to research and test ideas in your product and building anticipation of your launch

3. Building Your Social Presence

NewImageWhile I’ve not seen a heap of sales coming directly from social media for our eBooks I do find social media to be a great way to keep our readership engaged and to build our brand – all of which can help when it comes time to email our list and launch a product.

I also love using social media to understand our readers and research products.

In the lead up to a product launch I quite often ask questions that relate to our product to help me understand what our readers needs and problems are and what might trigger their interest. This is golden information when creating sales/marketing material (sales pages, emails etc).

I don’t tend to sell too hard on social at the time of a product launch but do include a little messaging on our social accounts to support our emails.

NewImage4. Grow Your Network and Affiliate Relationships

Your readership, list and social network is probably where most of your sales will come from but there’s also potential to go beyond that if you have relationships with other influencers.

This might simply be friendship type relationships (another blogger who simply wants to support you) or commercial relationships (where you offer commissions to those who sign up as your affiliates).

Either approach works best if those relationships are warm and engaging ones.

Think about when you would promote what another blogger is doing? If you’re like me you’re more likely to promote then if they are engaging, friendly and communicating regularly with you.

So keep interacting with other bloggers in your niche in natural ways (don’t overwhelm them). This might simply be by engaging on social media but it could also be private industry groups on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Also consider promoting what they are doing to help grow trust and relationships. Find win/win ways to benefit from supporting each other.

How to Get your Dreams Into Reality

Again – I understand the juggle it takes to create a product without letting your blog suffer. It isn’t easy but let me finish with two pieces of advice from my own personal experience.

1. Take Action

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve met bloggers with a dream to create a product that they’ve not actioned.

Get that dream out of your head! I spoke at World Domination Summit on how to do this (the video is below) but the #1 thing you need to do is ‘take action’ – even small actions.

I put off creating my first eBooks for over two years because I couldn’t see how I could keep my blogs running AND create those products. I was juggling a lot (we were also starting a family and newborns/sleep deprivation didn’t help).

So for over two years I took no action on my dream and in doing so missed out on two years of a new income stream and learning.

When I finally did take action and launched my product my first feeling was one of regret that I didn’t find a way to do it earlier.

Don’t allow yourself to be paralysed – you need to take action, even if it is very small steps. Which leads me to my next point.

2. Take Your Time: Small Steps Can Still Get You There

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Telling your to ‘take your time’ might seem at odds with my last point of ‘taking action’ but I think it can co-exist. Let me explain.

If creating product means you need to sacrifice the relationship with your readers – don’t do it. Find a way to take action that doesn’t cost you that relationship.

After two years of taking no action on my dream of creating my first eBooks I decided I needed to do something – anything – or give up the dream.

The only way I could do it was to get up 15 minutes a day earlier every day and get it done.

15 minutes a day isn’t much (although when you’ve been up settling babies in the night it feels like a sacrifice) but it is more than 0 minutes a day. Over time it adds up – 15 minutes a day over a month is 7.5 hours (an extra work day a month) and over 3-4 months you’ll be amazed what you can achieve!

In 15 minutes a day I took small but steady steps toward my goal of launching an eBook. I initially spent it on writing, then on editing, then on design, then on researching and setting up shopping carts, then on writing sales copy etc.

It took me months to get there but in 15 minutes a day steps I launched that first product WITHOUT sacrificing the relationship I had with my readers.

In fact I grew the relationship I had with my readers even stronger – so when those first eBooks launched (here on ProBlogger with 31 Days to Build a Better Blog and on dPS with a Portrait eBook) they blew my mind with the sales that they achieved.

You don’t need to make a choice between creating a product and looking after your readers!

Stat-Driven Tips on How to Pitch to Big-Name Publishers in Your Niche

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This is a guest contribution from Wil of Startup Bros.

What’s the best way to pitch a content idea to the big players in your niche? What do today’s top publishers look for in a contribution? Many of today’s biggest influencers get hundreds of pitches every week. How do you stand out from the crowd?

It’s a tough question to answer unless you’re the one who’s doing the sifting. So, the folks over at Fractl went straight to the horse’s mouth to find out what separates the good enquiries from the bad. After surveying 500+ industry-leading publishers, writers and editors over the course of three months, they found several interesting trends. As you continue reading, you’ll find out specific, stat-driven dos and don’ts to keep in mind during your next pitch.

Publishers Love Market Research

What should you write about? Fractl’s study showed that 39% of publishers put a premium on market research, especially if it’s exclusive. That means you should either put your own spin on somebody else’s study (like what we’re doing right now) or write about research that you’ve personally done. Doing your own market research is actually easier than you might think. Once you come up with some questions you want to answer, here are a couple ideas to get reliable data:

  • Ask your email list or social following to complete a survey about an interesting industry trend.
  • Do the same thing, but using a crowdsourcing tool like mTurk or Google Surveys.

There are two big R’s to remember when writing about market research – Relevant and Recent. For example, you wouldn’t expect to publish your research findings about people’s favorite new restaurant chain on TechCrunch. Similarly, you wouldn’t expect SEOmoz to publish yet another “10 Reasons You Should Be Doing SEO” post.

Make Your Contribution Easy to Digest

Fractals study shows that publishers like content that’s easy to absorb. For articles, that means that you should write with plenty of white space. Use bold and descriptive subtitles so that readers can get your message without consuming every single word of your content. Better yet, incorporate graphics or imagery into your contribution. Fractl’s study shows that non-text contributions are becoming more and more important. Over 36% of published pitches feature some form of mixed media, whether that’s an infographic, data visualization or something else.

Publishers Want You to Collaborate

This one is actually a bit surprising. It turns out that almost all top-tier publishers want to work with you to develop your contribution.

  • 70% of publishers want you to pitch an idea, not a finished piece.
  • Only 30% will consider publishing a finished article, and even then they’re picky.

For each publication you target, come up with three or four different ideas you can pitch them. This gives your publishers a sense of ownership because they’re participating in the creation of your content. Warning!You shouldNEVER mass-pitch a contribution to lots of places at once. That’s a good way to get your email address relegated to the junk folders of the top publishers in your niche.

When & How to Pitch Top Publishers

When and how do publishers like to be pitched? Fractl’s study turned up some interesting trends:

  • 81% of publishers want you to pitch by email.
  • 69% prefer to respond to enquiries in the morning.
  • Shockingly, only 9% of publishers respond to pitches made through social media.
  • Less than 1% of publishers want you to call them with your pitch… The rest adamantly hate phone calls.

In addition to never pitching over the phone, you should also avoid pitching during holidays. Unsurprisingly, most publishers don’t read pitches they get during their time off work.

How to Write Your Enquiry

By now you know what to write about, what type of content today’s publishers want, when and how to pitch your idea… Now all you need to know is how to write your actual enquiry email. Fractl’s study turned up a few surprising trends you can incorporate into your next pitch:

Subject Line Matters Most – 85% of publishers open or delete an email pitch based on its subject line, so this is the most important part of your pitch. Ideally you want your email’s subject line to be descriptive and engaging using only 6 – 10 words.

Keep it Short & Sweet – Once they’ve opened your email, 85% of publishers want to read a brief pitch of less than 200 words. Don’t waste time buttering them up or assuring them that their readers will love your post… Introduce yourself, make your pitch and get out. Your idea should be so intriguing that 200 words is all it takes.

Good Grammar or Go Home – This shouldn’t need to be said, but Fractl’s study revealed just how important it is. Apparently, 9 out of 10 publishers will instantly delete a pitch if they find spelling or grammar errors. So, triple-check your enquiry email before you hit the send button.

What Can You Do With These Stats?

Fractl’s study makes it clear that behind the big names are normal people with likes and dislikes just like you and me. If you give them what they want, they’ll return the favor. With these stats, you don’t have to be nervous or afraid to pitch the biggest publications in your industry.

You now have the knowledge you need to stand out from the crowd and cultivate mutually beneficial connections with the leaders in your niche. Now go out and start pitching!

My name is Will, and I’m a young entrepreneur and marketer living in Tampa, FL. You can learn more about me from the StartupBros About Page.