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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.

3 Growth Hacking Strategies for Bloggers to Quadruple Their Blog Traffic without SEO

This is a guest contribution from Anil Agarwal.

Who else wants more blog traffic?

Hands down, everyone wants it.

Unfortunately getting traffic to a blog is not easy. Every single visitor counts.

One of the hardest things for most bloggers is boosting their blog traffic. If you have a fairly new blog, it’s definitely a daunting task.

The #1 reason most bloggers quit is because they don’t see any growth in their traffic.

If you’re one among them, this article is for you! We’ll discuss a few growth-hacking tips to grow your blog traffic without actually doing any SEO. Are you ready?

What is growth hacking all about?

Growth hacking is the trending keyword phrase these days. It was first introduced by startup marketer Sean Ellis to redefine the startup marketing role.

Growth hacking is a method of achieving incredible growth by using non-traditional strategies.

In simple terms, growth hacking means driving measurable results by focusing on what WORKS! It is similar to 80-20 rule, identifying the 20% of your activities that will result in 80% of the gain. When you apply growth hacking, you’ll get more results in less time by focusing on the things that matter.

So how can you use growth hacking techniques to increase your overall traffic?

1. Reverse engineer your content creation

The simplest way to increase your blog traffic is to create more content, right?

Wrong.

Posting articles daily is simply not going to help. You need to write content that attracts more links, shares and comments from others. How can you do that?

You simply need to reverse engineer your content creation strategy. Instead of writing posts without thinking twice, it’s better to create content that is proven to work.

This is also known as skyscraper technique, it was the term coined by Brian Dean from Backlinko. And it is one of the most effective ways to increase your overall blog traffic.

Skyscraper technique involves in three steps:

  1. Finding link-worthy content
  2. Making it even better than the competition
  3. Reaching to the right people to get more buzz

Let’s discuss these three steps now.

Step 1: Find top performing content in your niche

I know that finding profitable keywords isn’t easy. But you can use tools like Buzzsumo for finding share-worthy content in your industry. Whether you know it or not, Buzzsumo is one of the best tools out there to help you come up with amazing content ideas. You can discover a lot of high-performing blog posts, videos, Infographics, etc using Buzzsumo.

Head over to Buzzsumo and enter the keyword phrases you want.

For instance, my favorite blog topic is “SEO marketing” and here it how to use Buzzsumo to find content that gets more shares and links.

seo

Instantly after entering your keyword you’re not only provided with lots of articles, but it also shows you the total number of shares including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

In the above scenario, we’re came up with excellent post ideas like “17 SEO Myths”, “15 SEO Best Practices” etc. All of these are great blog post ideas and you can definitely improve them by providing more data, creating Infographics, or doing expert roundups, etc.

On the left side, it also has some filters to help you find what type of content form you want (including articles, Infographics, videos etc).

Buzzsumo is not only free (although it has premium version) but it is amazing way to find high quality content in your industry.

Step 2: Make it even better (create timeless content around it)

Once you have a list of great content ideas that are proven to bring you results, you now need to make it even better.

One of the simplest ways to get more backlinks, shares and comments on your blog posts is to making your content a “one-stop source”. How can you do that?

If you’re posting textual format of contents on your blog, write detailed posts.

In one of his blog posts, Neil Patel discovered an “average content length for a web page that ranks in the top 10 results for any keyword on Google has at least 2,000 words.”

seo1

Similarly, if you’re creating videos or Infographics, make them better by creating an appealing design. In summary, add something extra to the high performing content in your niche and make it epic.

Step 3: Outreach to the right people to get more buzz

Once you have epic content on your blog, it’s now time to reaching out to the right people in your niche.

How can you find out the people who are interested in promoting your content?

You can again use Buzzsumo. Here’s how. When you enter a keyword on Buzzsumo, it shows you who linked to the top content including the social sharers.

seo2

Now, reach out to them. Connect them on twitter, find out their emails and start creating more buzz. You can also use tools like Majestic SEO, Open Site Explorer, ahrefs etc to find all of the links pointing to your competitor’s content. And when you reach out to them after creating a link worthy post, you’ll have more chances of getting links to your sites too by asking them without being pushy.

#2. Using content upgrades to boost your email list

Whether you agree it or not, email list is golden. Having a list of hungry email subscribers is an asset for every blogger.

Having an email list will not only increase your blog traffic but it will also boost your sales and trust with the readers. Email list is the second biggest traffic source for Neil Patel’s QuickSprout blog. And for most bloggers the same is true – email list is their top traffic source!

So why not invest your time wisely on building an email list instead of focusing on SEO? Instead of trying all the list building strategies under the sun, it’s better to go for one crazy idea that increases your list. Content upgrade is one such list building strategy that helps your boost your subscribers quickly.

What is a content upgrade?

A content upgrade is an extra bonus that is extremely relevant to your post topic.

For instance, if you’ve a popular blog post titled “10 ways to supercharge your SEO”, you could create something like “on-page SEO checklist” to use as a content upgrade to boost your email list.

A content upgrade looks something like this:

seo3

How using content upgrades can triple your email list?

Content upgrades are usually given away for free to the blog visitors in exchange of their emails.

Content upgrades are extremely specific. Hence, they convert really well. If you want to convert normal website visitors into subscribers, start using content upgrades.

Do they work? Yes, they do.

Brian Dean gives away a post-specific resource on one of his most popular posts.

Did you know that he got a whopping 785% increase in conversions (compared to the previous month).

seo4

That’s A LOT, right? That’s the reason why you need to start focusing on creating content upgrades for your top performing posts or pages.

So how to create content upgrades to increase your overall email list and traffic?

First off, find out five top-performing posts on your blog.

Create a list of posts that got more comments and shares. Also use Google Analytics to find out the top pages that are sending you more traffic from search engines.

Once you’ve the list of popular contents on your blog, you now need to create content upgrades. You can create a bonus, checklist, video or anything that adds more value to the current post.

And you can use tools like LeadPages, SumoMe etc to create content upgrades on your blog posts or pages to grab more email subscribers.

#3. Create an “after post” checklist to get more visibility

Did you know that you’ll get better results when you spend most of your time on promoting your content rather than creating it? Blog post promotion is to get more visibility on your blog posts.

If you’ve creating a great blog post, instead of sitting back and waiting for someone to find your content – it’s way better to create a content promoting routine.

After you publish a blog post, make sure to do the following:

Promoting on social media: Social media is the new SEO. If you want to boost your overall website traffic, be active on social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ etc. Almost every blogger on earth use these social media networks, so you’ll get more exposure for your blog posts if they have attention grabbing headlines.

Posting to forums: Find out the relevant forums in your niche and connect with the other bloggers. Share and comment on their links, and whenever you have posted something on your blog, make sure to submit your links. And ask for a feedback from other bloggers. This is the surefire way to get more visibility on your posts.

Submit to social bookmarking sites: Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious – all are social bookmarking sites that have huge readers. If your post does well on these sites, take it for granted that your overall search traffic will also increase overtime.

Leave comments on other blogs: Want to get more comments on your blog posts? Then, start leaving thoughtful comments on other blogs that are similar to your blog’s topic. Use their names while leaving comments and ask intelligent questions to spread your name across the blogosphere.

Here’s a great blog post checklist written by Pat Flynn, although it was written a couple of years ago – but it’s still worth following.

Spend 2/3 time on promoting “others” stuff and spend the remaining 1/3rd time on promoting your stuff. Why?

Everyone wants more shares, likes, tweets and comments. But most people don’t spend much time on promoting others. What happens if you spend most of your time on promoting others stuff instead of yours? Bang!!

You’ll get more attention from the bloggers. You’re also helping the community by promoting quality stuff on your networks like Facebook and twitter. Eventually, you’ll get more visibility, followers and shares on your own posts too.

So where do you go next?

Then see the results and watch your website traffic grow. Increasing traffic to a blog or website is not a rocket science. By following what works, you can dramatically boost traffic to your blog posts.

Check out the growth hack techniques mentioned above, pick anyone of them and start implementing.

The best part about using growth hacking to your content marketing strategy is this: you’ll get results really fast. They don’t take months to see the results. You’ll see the rewards within days or weeks.

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and apply growth hacking techniques to improve your blog traffic.

Do you have any more strategies that will increase website traffic without doing any SEO? Let me know if you’ve any more insightful growth hacking tips in the comments.

Anil Agarwal is the guy behind Bloggers Passion blog where he is helping readers in building their first professional blog and at the same time, helping them build high quality traffic to their blogs.

How to Build Your Blog’s Audience with Long Form Evergreen Content

Who wants to grow their blog’s audience?

I’m yet to meet a blogger who doesn’t, so I’m picturing in my mind a room full bloggers with their hands in the air!

If you’re one of them, I would highly recommend you spend a few minutes today listening to the first 20 or so minutes of this podcast by Tim Ferriss who outlines how he’d build his audience if he were starting from scratch today (note: the rest of the podcast answers other questions which are good but less relevant for bloggers).

There’s some great ideas in his answer that in essence are similar to what I’ve written and spoken about previously on:

  • identifying who you are trying to reach
  • asking where those readers are gathering and/or focusing their attention
  • and then trying to work out how to build a presence in those places

But one of the other key messages in Tim’s podcast that really stood out to me was this statement that he made:

‘The most labor-efficient way to build readership over time is long-form evergreen content.’

There is so much wisdom in this statement and I’d highly recommend bloggers ponder two parts of it.

Long Form Content

There has definitely been a trend over the last few years for many bloggers to move toward shorter form content. I’m not sure if this has been the result of the short for nature of social media, an assumption that people’s attention spans are short, the pressure to publish more posts or something else – but I’ve heard it taught from the stage at conferences and have definitely noticed more and more bloggers creating shorter posts in recent years.

My experience has been similar to Tim’s. I’ve noticed that it’s my longer and more in-depth posts that tend to get the most shares, the most links and the most traffic – both when they’re launched and over their long tail life.

There are definitely exceptions but today as I look through the top 10 most read posts here on ProBlogger over the last 12 months the shortest one is 714 words and the longest is over 7000. Their average is 2491.

I recently spoke about some of the benefits (and some of the costs) of creating long form vs short form content here so won’t go on too long about it except to say that at the very least longer form content is worth weaving into the mix of content on your blog.

I’m not arguing that every post needs to be longer form – it takes a lot of effort to create and there is a definitely place for shorter content – but the effort you put into longer posts can be a great investment to make into your blogging.

Further Reading: read Search Engine Journal’s article Why You Need to Start Creating Long, Evergreen Content Today.

Evergreen Content

Note for those not familiar with the term ‘Evergreen Content’: Evergreen posts are ones that don’t lose their relevancy over time. You write them today and they will be as helpful to readers in a few months (or even years) time.

I know that not every blog topic/niche naturally lends itself to the creation of evergreen content (for example ‘news’ and ‘reviews’ sites can sometimes struggle with it) but most blogs should be able to find a way to create at least some content that doesn’t date quickly.

As I look through the most read posts on both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School over the last 12 months every single post is what I’d consider to be evergreen content.

Of course part of the reason for this is that it’s the main focus of what I do – but we do cover ‘newsy’ type posts from time to time on dPS and apart from a spike in traffic shortly after it is published it rarely ever gets more than a trickle of traffic ever again.

To illustrate the case for Evergreen Content

Let me give you a couple of case studies. Here’s how a time sensitive post announcing the launch of the New Adobe Lightroom that we published on dPS recently performed in terms of traffic.

Screen Shot 2015 06 17 at 10 51 48 am

You can see the initial burst of traffic as it went live and as our readers excitedly gobbled up the hot news (and it was fairly significant news in the photography niche).

But in the month after it’s had little traffic and I suspect will never see more than a handful of visitors coming to it in a given day again.

Contrast this with an evergreen post I published back in January of 2007 on the topic of ISO Settings.

Screen Shot 2015 06 17 at 11 00 27 am

The post had it’s own little spike in traffic in the first days (although I had hardly any readers at that point) but to this day it continues to get traffic (for example yesterday it had over 1100 visitors).

The beauty of evergreen content is that it not only gets the same initial spike of traffic to it when you publish but it also is much more likely to be searched for and found in search engines in the years to come.

The other benefit of the evergreen content is that you (and others) are able to keep sharing it on social for years to come also! It is this evergreen content that I’ve built my whole social media workflow around.

Take a look at this daily traffic graph of the same post on ISO where you’ll see some bigger daily spikes periodically on the days I retire it on social media.

Screen Shot 2015 06 17 at 11 03 39 am

I have given that post a refresh occasionally over the years but it’s largely the same content that I published in 2007 and despite being 8 years old still gets a great reaction every time I share it on social.

Note: worth noting here is that this example is not what I’d consider to be ‘long form content’. It’s around 700 words in length which isn’t short – but it shows you that there’s a place for ‘mid sized’ form content too.

The most compelling case for investing time into Evergreen Content…

As I look at the two examples of posts I’ve just shown you what strikes me most is the investment that was put into those two posts was similar.

From memory I probably spent an hour or two writing the post on ISO. I’m not sure how long the author who wrote the Lightroom announcement post spent on it but looking at it he put at least that much time into researching and writing it.

Considering that investment of time – I’d say the case for evergreen content is pretty clear.

The quote I started with from Tim Ferriss was all about labor efficient ways to build readership. It’s not the only way but I’d have to say that I think he identified one approach that really resonates with my own.

Further Reading: Check out Ali Luke’s post Your Ultimate Guide to Creating Amazing Content that Draws Readers Into Your Blog.

How to Tell if Your Idea for an eBook or Course Is a Profitable One

You've got a ton of ideas, but Darren's written about How to Tell if Your Idea for an eBook or Course Is a Profitable One on ProBlogger.netThe old saying that ‘everybody has a book inside them’ may be true – but for bloggers I’ve found it is probably more accurate to say that ‘every blogger has at least 10 ideas for eBooks inside them’.

I was at a mastermind event recently and a blogger shared her list of ideas for eBooks and courses and then looked at me quizzically and asked – “but which one is the most profitable idea?”

To truly answer the question my blogger friend would need to create and launch all of the products – but it got me wondering if there might be some ways to test her ideas before creating the products to see which might work best as a product.

What follows are some questions to ask and some techniques to try to do just this.

Just keep in mind that a there’s much more to profitable products than great ‘ideas’. Success will be dependant upon many factors including the quality of what you create, the size of your audience (here are some ways to build it before launch) and the marketing strategies that you use to launch your product.

1. Is the Idea Important and Meaningful to You?

Let’s start with a question that won’t guarantee profit in any way shape or form but which has definitely become the first question I ask any time that I create a product – is it something important to me?

I ask this question for a number of reasons.

Firstly, if the idea is important to me there’s a good chance it’ll be important to others.

Secondly, if the idea is important to me (and others involved in the creation and selling of it) I’m going to produce a much higher quality product and be able to market it much much more effectively.

Perhaps the best example I can give you of this is 31 Days to Build a Better Blog which meant so much to me as I created it and which was so easy for me to enthusiastically promote after.

In fact 31DBBB was created with no intent of it ever becoming a product (it was written initially as a free series of blog posts) and purely because I thought it would help people – it’s no wonder it went on to become my biggest selling product.

2. Does it have a Tangible Benefit?

Having being a part of creating and launching close to 40 eBooks, printables, kits and courses in the last six years, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is around making sure your idea has tangible benefits to those who will buy it.

It might sound obvious but it’s a lesson we learned the hard way (more than once) but producing eBook that we thought were on ‘important’ topics but which didn’t have tangible benefits.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog is another great example of this – there’s a benefit in the title that seemed to grab people.

The other example I’ve spoken about in presentations I’ve given over the years is the story of our photography eBooks at dPS.

Both eBooks were by the same author and were written, designed, priced and marketed in extremely similar ways. Sales on the other hand couldn’t have been much more different.

The first eBookTranscending Travel: A Guide to Captivating Travel Photography had a very tangible benefit. You’ll take better photos when you travel!

Not only does this have a tangible benefit – it’s in an area that most people have had a painful experience of (getting home from a trip and being disappointed with the images).

The second eBookCaptivating Color: A Guide to Dramatic Color Photography was on a topic we thought was of real importance to photography but in hindsight didn’t have as specific or tangible a benefit.

To this day I think both eBooks are as good as one another (in fact I think the Color Photography one is still more important for photographers to get a handle on) but Travel has always outsold Color (to this day it’s sold double).

Some topics can be tweaked to be more tangible in their benefits while others are much trickier on this front. I’d be leaning to those with obvious benefits in areas that people have a felt need on.

Is There Evidence of People Paying for This Type of Information?

An exercise that is most beneficial to undertake when setting out on this journey to create a product is to do some analysis of the marketplace to see what else has been produced on the topic.

There are numerous benefits of doing this but one of the key ones for me is that it shows whether people pay for that type of information and to see what kind formats of products seem to be doing well.

It shouldn’t take you too long to get an idea of this. Head to your local news stand and see what magazines there are on the topic, head to Amazon and look at the books that relate (and try to get a feeling for how well they’ve sold by looking at their rankings and numbers of reviews), look online to see if other eBooks, courses, membership sites or other products have already been created.

If there are a lot of products on your topic you have some proof of concept but you also might well have a challenge on your hands too as the market might be cluttered. If this is the case it might be worth doing some deeper analysis of the competition.

  • What do they do well?
  • What formats seem to have worked well and what have not?
  • Are there any gaps in the market?
  • What marketing techniques do they use?

The more research you do into these questions the better positioned you’ll be in to tap into what is working for others but also create something that stands out from the rest.

Test the Idea

As bloggers we have a real advantage over many other publishers of online products – we have a great way (or a number of great ways) to test our ideas to see how they resonate with people before we even begin producing our products.

For almost every eBook, course or other kind of product I’ve created I’ve first gone to my audience in some way to test the idea. By putting it ‘out there’ some some way I see whether it gives my readers energy but also quite often get feedback that makes the product better or that gives me hints as how to market it more effectively.

It’s never quite the same but usually involves some combination of the following ideas.

Blog Posts

The most simple thing to do as a blogger is to create a blog post (or a series of them) to test your idea. These could take a couple of forms including:

  • discussion posts – simply putting up a post that is a ‘discussion’ related post designed to get your readers to talk about the topic, their needs, their questions etc. You need not say it’s research for a product if you don’t want to reveal that – but you could even go to them with a ‘tell me what you want to include’ approach which gives your readers a sense of being involved.
  • writing your product as posts – I’ve seen many bloggers create their products in public on their blogs over the years. You might not choose to put the whole eBook/course on your blog for free but it putting your initial ideas onto your blog and then turning that into part of your product can work well. In essence this is what I did with 31DBBB – although I didn’t realise it at the time.

The key with both approaches is to watch the reaction of others to your posts. Are they being read? Are people excited by them? Do the posts actually bring about some kind of benefit to your readers? If there are sparks of energy being created you should follow that energy and keep working.

If there are not – you might want to keep working on the idea.

Note: Of course it takes having some readers to your blog to get these kinds of reactions. If you have a small readership you might want to try some of the other methods below.

Podcasts

Another way to start creating content for a course might be to start a podcast on your topic. You need not to commit to running it indefinitely, rather set out to do a short ‘season’ of episodes to see how people respond to the idea.

Again the benefits of this are:

  1. You’re testing your idea to see if it is of interest to people
  2. You’re creating content that you might be able to repurpose and include in your product
  3. You’re developing an audience that you might be able to sell your product to

Webinars

Similarly you might like to run a webinar (or series of them) on your idea. This potentially has the same benefits as the three mentioned in the podcasts section above but has the added bonus of opening up potential for a live interaction and feedback from those listening in.

The questions and responses you get during a webinar are often incredibly insightful and open up areas that you could develop in your product as well as helping you to see how people react against your ideas (which could be stumbling blocks for the to buy your product).

The other benefit of doing webinars before you create your product is that you get your audience used to attending them which can be useful when it comes time to launch your product. Live webinars often work really well as a selling tool during a launch.

Social Media

Social media is another of my favorite places for testing ideas. In fact it’s often the first step for me as it’s so easy to put an idea out there and get pretty quick reactions.

My first testing ground is usually Twitter where I’ll ask a question, put up a hypothesis or even bluntly ask a ‘would you be interested in….’ question.

The beauty of Twitter is that you don’t tend to get people seeing and being influenced by other people’s responses (unless you dig for them). Having said that – sometimes you want a more communal response so I’d then be heading to Facebook where I have often done exactly the same kinds of updates (asking questions, starting discussions etc).

Of course social is a place you should be sharing the blog posts we’ve already talked about writing – get the ideas in front as many people as you can!

Boost Your Social Posts

One of the challenges of not having an established readership or following on social media is that you can ask questions and start as many discussions as you like but get no response whatsoever.

If this is the case you may wish to try boosting/advertising your social media updates to get more response.

I know not everyone feels comfortable with boosting posts on Facebook but for a relatively small outlay it is a decent way to ensure your posts are seen by exactly the type of people you’re trying to reach. You can specify for your post to be shown to people in certain locations, genders, age groups and with certain interests (and much more) all for just a few dollars.

Set Up a ‘Group’

Another idea that is related to social media that you might like to try is setting up a Facebook Group (or a group on a platform like LinkedIn) on the topic of the product you’re thinking of creating.

I’ve recently been playing with Facebook Groups on a number of fronts (including the FeelGooder group) and it strikes me that a group would be a brilliant place to help you test and develop your idea.

While this isn’t my current goal with the FeeGooder group it wouldn’t be hard to take your idea for a product to such a group to ask them for feedback and even to get their contribution to creating it. The benefits of doing so is that you not only get to test and refine the idea but you could also have your first highly engaged customers and advocates for it!

Surveys/Polls

I love using surveys to test ideas for products. We have used them in two main ways:

  • Long Run Surveys – I’ve written about the main survey that we use on dPS previously. It collects feedback from readers everyday via our autoresponder series. The benefit of this is that we have a steady stream of ideas, questions and interests coming in from our readers which informs what products we create. We also have a question in the survey that specifically asks them what topics they’d buy products on that tests the ideas we have for future products.
  • Product Specific Surveys/Polls – The other type of survey we’ve run a few times is in the lead up to launching a specific product. For example if I were creating an eBook on travel photography I could do a survey that asks readers about the gear they use, the places they travel, the problems and challenges they’ve had, the questions they have etc. These kinds of surveys can also test other things like price points, formats, titles etc depending upon where you’re at with the production of your product. I find this type of survey not only gives you ideas for making the product better but can often highlight potential blocks that people might have in buying which will inform your marketing.

One ore tip with surveys – always be on the look out for a good stat that you can use in your marketing. For example – we ran a survey in the lead up to launching our Photo Nuts and Bolts eBook which revealed ‘73% of digital camera owners wish they had more control over their camera‘. That became the headline for the sales page of that eBook.

Pre Sell Your Product

This is the only technique in this post that I’ve never done but I know of bloggers who have used it with great effect. In essence they create a sales page for their product before they create it and ‘pre-sell’ it to their audience.

In some ways this was almost like a crowd-funding type approach.

In each case I’m thinking of the blogger was upfront in telling their audience that the product was not yet complete and they gave those who pre-bought it a discount for putting their money up.

By pre-selling their product they had proof of concept before or during the product creation. It also gave them more incentive/accountability to actually finish the product (as people had already paid).

In one case the blogger discovered by putting their product up for pre-sale that there was not enough interest for the product and so refunded the few people who bought it and abandoned the idea.

Another blogger involved those who bought the pre-launched product in the creation of it by inviting then to a private VIP Facebook group to discuss what they wanted included and to build some community among buyers. He also gave the access to the product in stages (it was a course so he could release lessons regularly over the weeks after they made the purchase.

The only warning I’d give on pre-selling products is that you need to really be able to follow through and deliver. You could easily destroy your reputation and potentially end up in legal trouble by taking money for a product you didn’t deliver.

How Would You Test Your Product Idea to Assess its profitability?

I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences with this topic.

Have you tried any of the above ideas? Have you got other ideas to add?

Follow These Six Steps to Make Plenty of Time to Write (and Enjoy it Too)

Six Steps to Make Plenty of Time to Write (and Enjoy it Too)  problogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Ali Luke.

Here’s a safe bet:

You’re struggling to find enough time to write.

Virtually every blogger and entrepreneur has the same problem.

Maybe you want to write great content to build your business – but there are so many other things you have to do too.

I know first-hand how much of a challenge this can be. I started out writing around a full-time day job; today, I juggle work around my two year old daughter and baby son.

I don’t know your personal situation. But I can take some guesses:

  • You have a lot on your plate – sometimes you feel overwhelmed.
  • Big writing projects get shunted to the end of your to-do list.
  • When you do have some time to write, you never seem to get far.

Sound familiar?

Here’s how to turn things around, in six straightforward steps:

Step #1: Come Up With a Bunch of Ideas for Your Blog

Since you’re reading ProBlogger, it’s a pretty safe bet that you have a blog (or you’re about to start one). Do you ever find it hard to come up with enough ideas for it? Maybe you’re managing to keep up a regularly posting schedule – but you know you should be doing some guest posting, and you never seem to get round to it.

The easiest way to make faster progress on any writing project is to set aside dedicated brainstorming (or, if you like, daydreaming) time.

Grab a notebook or a bit of scrap paper, and jot down as many ideas as you can in fifteen minutes. Don’t judge your ideas, just write everything down.

Try This:

Schedule 15 minutes, once per week, for brainstorming. You’ll soon have a stockpile of ideas that you can turn to whenever you need one.

Further Reading:

How to Consistently Come Up With Great Post Ideas for Your Blog, Stacey Roberts, ProBlogger

Step #2: Create a Clear Plan Before You Start Writing

When you don’t have much time to write, you don’t want to waste a single minute.

If you find yourself getting stuck and giving up part-way, or if you often have to scrap huge chunks of your blog posts because you went off on a long tangent, then you need to get to grips with planning.

Your plan doesn’t need to be complicated. A few bullet points jotted on the back of an envelope is fine. For maximum effect, though, set aside dedicated time to plan out several posts at once.

Your plan helps you spot any problems before you spend hours writing, and it helps you shape your material into a logical structure: easier for you to write, and easier for your audience to read.

It’s also a great way to blast through any blank page wobbles at the start of a writing session. If you’ve got a plan, you can just copy or type it into your document … and you’re already part-way there.

Try This:

Give different planning methods a go – you don’t have to stick with a linear outline each time. Maybe a mindmap, a set of ideas on index cards, or even a spreadsheet would suit your project better.

Further Reading:

A 5-Step Plan to Improve Every Blog Post You Write, Ali Luke, Copyblogger

Step #3: Use the First Hour of Your Day for Your Main Writing Project

Sometimes, the real problem with finding time to write isn’t that there’s no time at all – it’s that our writing time is scheduled for the wrong part of the day.

If your aim is to “finish the ten things on this list then work on the ebook” … it’s all too easy to let those ten things fill your day. Even if you have a little time left at the end of the day, you’ll probably be creatively frazzled.

The best solution I’ve found is to put writing first. Ideally, set aside an hour – but if that’s just not practical, 15 minutes is fine.

Putting writing first could mean:

  • You use the first hour of your work day for your project … trust me, Twitter and Facebook can wait for an hour.
  • You get up an hour earlier (not my favorite solution – but I did it for eight months when I had a day job, and it let me build my career to the point where I could quit and write full time).
  • You shuffle around some other activities: if you currently head to the gym at 6am, could you go at lunchtime or in the evening instead?

Try This:

For this week only, commit to spending the first 15 minutes of your day (either when you get up or when you start work) on your current writing project. Put a check on the calendar each day you manage it. Next week, aim for 20 minutes per day, and/or more checks.

Further Reading:

Why You Should Get Serious About Your Writing Schedule, Kari, Men with Pens

Step #4: Cut Out or Cut Back

Your time is full already, but at least some of your activities could go in a pinch. This is always going to be a personal decision – something that I might consider essential could be on your list for ditching when life gets hectic, and vice versa.

Here are just a few ideas you might want to consider.

Cut out…

  • Voluntary commitments you don’t enjoy and wish you’d never signed up for. Resign in writing, and don’t leave any room for ambiguity or argument.
  • Time-wasting activities that don’t add much to your life – do you really need to take another Buzzfeed quiz? Try RescueTime to track your computer activity.

Cut down…

  • TV watching. Of course, keep up any must-sees (mine are Game of Thrones and Doctor Who) … but if you’re binging on whole seasons of shows on Netflix, cut back to an hour every evening.
  • Even if money’s tight, can you get a maid service once or twice a month? If that’s not an option, can you delegate to your spouse or kids?

Try This:

Look at your non-writing activities and save some time there too:

  • 10 minutes per day on Twitter and Facebook, instead of 30, could well get you the same results.
  • Template emails will save you time answering common questions, dealing with routine enquiries, and so on.

Further Reading:

Why You Should Flush 90% of Your To-Do List Down the Toilet, Michael Hyatt, MichaelHyatt.com

Step #5: Keep a Time Log

If you’re still struggling, keep a time diary for a week to find out exactly where your time goes.

(If you’ve ever kept a food diary while on a diet, or a spending diary while getting out of debt, you’ll have some idea of how powerful this can be.)

You could use a spreadsheet, a physical notebook, or an app like Toggl. While entering data manually can be a pain, it does make you very aware of how you’re using your time.

Try This:

Be prepared for your time log to throw up some negative emotions – maybe you’re not working as efficiently as you thought. Go easy on yourself, and look for ways to win back just 5 or 10 minutes of productive time each day.

Further Reading:

Why You Really Don’t Have a Time Management Problem, Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing

Step #6: When You’re Writing, Write!

If you’ve set aside 30 minutes to work on a post for your blog, you need to actually write.

That means not stopping after five minutes to check if anything new’s happening on Facebook. It means jotting down any distracting thoughts like “Email John” rather than stopping writing to do them straight away.

When you’re writing (or engaged in any creative activity), you can get into a state of “flow” – you might describe it as “being on a roll” or even “losing track of time”. This is what you’re aiming for, and constantly interrupting yourself will stop you getting there.

Try This:

Work in short bursts. I find that 20 – 45 minutes is about right. If you know you only have to write for another 15 minutes, not for another hour, it’s easier to push yourself to keep going.

Further Reading:

How to Maintain Focus when Writing, Mary Jaksch, Write to Done

You won’t miraculously “find” a few spare hours to write.

You need to make that time – by finding more efficient ways to work and by restructuring other elements of your life to allow your writing to be a priority.

So here’s your first step again: find fifteen minutes, either today or tomorrow, to brainstorm some ideas for one of your current projects.

Get up early, use the ad breaks on TV, write in your notebook on the bus, or whatever it takes. Drop a comment below to tell us what you’ll be doing, and when.

Ali Luke runs Writers’ Huddle, a community / teaching site for all bloggers and writers, with monthly seminars, in-depth ecourses, supportive forums, and more. It’s only open for new members until Friday June 12th, and we’re about to start a new Summer Challenge for accountability (and prizes)! If you think you might be interested, check it out now.

 

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!”