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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.

26 Blogging Mistakes That Are Costing You Time, Money, and Credibility

Are you making these 26 Blogging Mistakes That Are Costing You Time, Money, and Credibility

This is a guest contribution from Iniobong Eyo.

You’re slaving at your blog. You’re working hard. Real hard.

But things are not just going your way. You’re hardly getting any traffic to your blog, let alone comments or shares on your post.

You’ve been around for a while, but you still can’t make money from blogging. Now you’re wondering: does this even work?

You try guest posting. You can’t get published on a blog worse than yours. You can’t help but think: “Are these bloggers always this wicked or is it just me?”

Wait.

You’re not doing it right. You’re wasting precious time. You’re wasting money. And you look amateur – even to your cat.

Because unknowingly you’re sabotaging your blog and your blogging career. You’re making mistakes.

I’m a content strategist, who recently started his blog. Over the past two years, I’ve seen firsthand what works and what doesn’t from client work. Don’t feel intimidated, I still make some of these mistakes on my blog.

You know the best part?

It’s not too late to correct them.

Measure yourself against any of these mistakes below, and see how you fare. And even if you feel you’re making no mistakes, there’s always room for improvement.

Content

1. You write and wait for the audience to come

This has been around for God-knows-how-long.

Just keep posting on your blog and eventually, the world will discover you and your blog. Content is king, right?

Wrong.

It’s simply misleading. Terrific content alone will not make your blog an overnight success. To put things in perspective, tons of blog posts have gone live already today.

You’d be hard-pressed to find and read even 500 posts out of the lot.

If nobody’s reading and sharing your posts, what use is it? Spending your whole time creating content on your blog is folly.

Blogging isn’t just writing epic content. There’s got to be time for other small things too. And they add up.

But more on that later.

2. You believe you know what good content is

No you don’t. Your audience decides if your content is good or worth reading.

It’s the reason why you may spend days on a post, fully expecting it to go viral once you hit publish, but it doesn’t.

Your post hasn’t provoked emotions in your readers, provided a detailed guide to carry out a task, or given insanely useful advice.

When you have lots of eyeballs on your blog and there’s no engagement in the form of comments or social shares on your post (if you allow comments), you need to write terrific content. Your readers’ version of it that is.

Go figure.

3. You fixate on your posts’ lengths

Does it really matter how long your posts are?

It does, and it doesn’t.

You should consider the content of your post. If you can say it in 500 words, you may do so. If you can say it in 5000 words, it’s okay too. Don’t waffle on and on.

But research has shown that longer posts do better on search engines. Longer posts get shared more. Longer posts have stronger keyword potential.

So ideally, aim around 1500 words and above for your posts. In most blogging niches, with some research, you can consistently hit that mark with every post.

But that’s not possible if…

4. You believe you need to post everyday

This isn’t very popular anymore, but it deserves mention.

It takes time to create quality content. Think hours, days, or weeks.

By continually replacing the latest post, you destroy social proof. The longer a post stays on your blog as your latest post, the more exposure and interaction it gets. Few people will spend their time on yesterday’s conversation when there’s a new one today.

When you post everyday, you have less time to promote your posts, less time to plan your posts, and less time to create assets for your online business.

Spend time to plan and create your posts. Don’t post everyday. Well, except if you’re Seth Godin

5. You hold back good stuff on your blog

You feel your ideas are invaluable and you’d rather write an e-book out of them, start a coaching course, or create a flagship product. Right?

Wrong.

If you’re not offering any real value on your blog, you’ll never have the loyal readers you crave. You’ll never be taken seriously. You’ll hold on to your “invaluable” ideas forever.

So how do you give your best?

Write every post as though you’re paid at least $200 for it. When your post is so valuable, people can’t help but talk about it.

You’ll think of what to sell later.

6. You do your best writing only on your blog

It’s true that many influencers do not write guest posts anymore. But some still do.

They use it to market new products, get new readers/subscribers to their blogs, and even get new clients.

If you’re just starting out, or you don’t have enough readers/subscribers yet, posting your best content on your blog is plain silly. 

Jon Morrow calls it “speaking to an empty classroom.” It can be the best article ever written on the topic, but is it any use if nobody sees it?

“Write guest posts for someone else’s audience, impress the hell out of them, and siphon a portion of their readership to your own.”

– Jon Morrow

Many bloggers and online entrepreneurs have built their blogs and businesses through guest blogging. I could write a book about them.

They could never have done it if they reserved their best writing for their blogs.

It still works now, and you should guest post more than you write on your blog.

So maybe if I ever get to write that book, I’ll feature your story too.

7. You believe making empty promises with your headline is a headline hack

It’s sad but true. But not surprising. Generally, humans have and will always love shortcuts.

“Hack” posts are popular for a reason. And that’s the problem. Imagine seeing a post with the headline:

“How to Legally Make $10 000 in Five Minutes or Less.”

To their credit, some people will find the headline outrageous and see it for what it is – a click bait. But the allure is great. That’s why they’ll click on it still.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe it’s easier to read this post in less than five minutes than it is to make $10,000 in less than five minutes. Or I have a higher chance of getting a new client here that pays an hourly rate of $5000 for my services than making $10,000 in less than five minutes.

You get the point.

Please don’t create curiosity in your headline when you can’t deliver on its promise. Don’t use such headlines unless you’re absolutely sure it’s something 95% of your readers can do in five minutes…or less. Or most will never take you seriously again.

Give them real advice they can execute in five minutes, or whatever length of time your headline says. Only then are you delivering on your promise.

8. You try too hard to be funny in your posts

You’re likely familiar with this saying:

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

– William Shakespeare

The big question is: can anyone become funny? To answer the question, let me rephrase Shakespeare’s quote:

“Some are born funny, some achieve funniness, and some have funniness thrust upon them.”

I’ll go ahead and say it.

I don’t believe anyone can become funny.

Similarly, I don’t believe anyone can become a good artist, a good writer, or a good mathematician. Because nature plays a big part.

But I believe everyone can get better at whatever they do. Sounding funny may not be your strength, but you can actually get better at being funny.

Study the works (whatever that is) of funny people you admire, practice it in day to day conversation, where you’ll often get instant feedback. Over time, being witty may come more naturally to you.

It takes a great writer to express sarcasm or wit. If you try too hard, you may be viewed as insensitive, or plain rude.

No matter what, don’t forget you don’t need to be funny to inspire people, to encourage them, or to change their lives with your posts.

9. You think trying to be clever is best

There’s a wide range of actions this applies to. But let’s focus on writing.

If you’re using 20 words to convey ideas that can be conveyed in 10 words, it’s not clever.

If you’re displaying your command of English by using “gargantuan” instead of “big” or “massive”, it’s not clever.

If you’re making empty promises with your headline, its not clever.

Please, always strive for clarity. Don’t let your audience pause to think about the meaning of your words. It’s frustrating.

Daniel Oppenheimer, professor of psychology at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, sums it up best:

“You should use use instead of utilizing utilize.”

10. You believe you’re just a blogger

No. You’re not just a blogger. You’re an expert, a writer, an entrepreneur. Your blog is simply a platform for all that.

Almost all bloggers making good income have books, courses, software, or a writing career. That’s how they make money. Their blog is just a “giveaway” to attract clients or customers.

Darren has got books, courses, paid job listings, is a keynote speaker, etc. I am a content strategist.

What do you have? What do you do?

11. Being an expert means you’re always right or you always have the final say

So you’ve just written “201 Ways of Doing A and B” and you feel there’s no 202nd or probably a 250th way of doing A and B? You’re wrong.

You’ve just written “The Ultimate Guide to Achieving X Results.” A “lowly commenter” adds a step you missed in your guide or adds a completely different way of achieving X. Do you thank him or do you try to discredit him? 

Nobody knows it all. And everyone is entitled to their own opinion. And we’re all humans.

On your blog, you may be the mentor, teacher or expert. Does that make you any more human than anybody else? No.

When you make mistakes, own up to them. When a reader mentions a point you missed or probably didn’t think of, acknowledge it. When you write posts, realize you may not always completely cover every aspect of a topic.

All the above don’t destroy your expert status. It only reaffirms it and bonds you with your readers.

12. You only write when you’re in a good mood

That’s what many think when they start their blog. It is wrong…on many counts.

This has been my biggest hindrance – at least for writing on my blog. But over time, I’ve realized the truth in this lyrics of the Westlife song Angel:

“There’s always some reason to feel not good enough.”

A good mood is relative. You’ll never absolutely feel good. So stop procrastinating writing with this excuse.

Because good writers write. It doesn’t matter if they have a failed relationship. It doesn’t matter if they work long hours. It doesn’t matter if they’re sick. It doesn’t matter if their day job is sucking the creativity right out of them.

Be a good writer.

Write.

13. You believe when you’re writing about a topic you love, you’ll have no writer’s block

It happens to the best of writers.

Maybe you feel it’s not the best time to write. Maybe you’re afraid of putting out your ideas to the world. Maybe you’re a perfectionist and everything must be right before you touch a pen or keyboard.

Or maybe you’re just stuck creatively. No new ideas.

There are many suggestions on overcoming writer’s block or what Darren calls “bloggers’ block” which you can apply personally. And never feel that because you’re writing about something you love, you won’t have writers block.

Keep a notebook where you can write down ideas as they come to you. Or you may use an app on your phone to record ideas. (I use Jotterpad when I don’t have my notes with me). Over time, you’ll have more ideas than you can finish in a lifetime.

Trust me. Or just ask international freelance journalist Mridu Khullar Relph. According to her, she has three notebooks with ideas she can never finish in her lifetime. So her problem isn’t writer’s block, but picking ideas from her massive collection.

If writing ideas on your phone or notebook don’t help, forget it. Just write. After all, writer’s block stops you from writing. Overcome it by writing.

No excuses or justifications. Write.

Blog Promotion

14. You believe promoting your blog is something you do when you have time

For you, once you find time to write a post, the sense of accomplishment you feel is so great you forget something else.

Post promotion.

You’ve likely heard about the 80/20 principle of blog post promotion. That is: spend 20% of your time writing and 80% of your time promoting it.

Literally, it would mean if you use two hours to write a post, use eight hours to promote it. Or if you use two days to write a post, use eight days to promote it.

I’m sorry. It doesn’t always work that way. What if creating a post took you a week, would that literally mean spend 28 days promoting it?

Or what if you run a news blog and publish several posts daily?

There’s no rule set in stone. I believe that if you’re writing a post in 12 hours, you should spend at least 12 hours promoting it.

Bottom line is: If you make time to write, make time for promoting what you write.

15. You need profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google +, LinkedIn to successfully promote your blog

This is tempting.

I know you have just 24 hours in a day. Everybody does. So how do you build your following on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google +, LinkedIn and at the same time churn out great content consistently? It’s not possible.

Social media is important. But you can’t spend time on all of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google +, LinkedIn and expect to do well on any of them. Because concentration is even more important.

Pick one, at most two to three social media networks. Concentrate on them. Don’t divide your attention between all social networks under heaven.

Or you’ll never do well on any of them.

Making Money

16. You need an avalanche of traffic to make money from your blog

False.

The truth?

You don’t need thousands or hundreds of thousands of visitors to make money. With the right promotion and strategy, your very first visitor can mean your first bucks online.

I had a grand total of 122 visitors to my blog when I made my first dollar online.

Making money from a measly visitor count is possible too, except….

17. You think blog ads are the easiest way to make money online

Blog ads pay you peanuts. Earning money through ads is a painfully slow process. Without enough traffic, and I mean hundreds of thousands of visitors to your blog, the amount involved is so small it’s humiliating.

When you’re starting out, the fastest way of making money is by offering services.

Offer a coaching service. Offer consultancy. Offer to write for pay.

That’s the fastest way of making money from your blog. I offered writing services. That’s how I made my first dollar online.

When you do have enough traffic or enough subscribers, you can create and sell your own products, or do affiliate marketing.

Don’t think blog ads. At least not yet. Please.

18. You think making money from blogging is easy

Making money from blogging is everything but easy. Not trying to discourage you, but from these stats, 81% of bloggers never make $100 from blogging, let alone make enough to support themselves or a family.

Even if you’re trying to promote your blog or services on your blog through guest posting, you’ll never know how many rejections you’ll get before you get one post published on a top blog.

And even if your post is accepted and will potentially result in leads for your business, you don’t know how long it will take before it gets to your turn on the host blog’s content schedule.

If you’re using Facebook ads, you don’t know how many hundreds or thousands of dollars you’ll spend before you start getting some traction to your blog.

I could say same or worse about every other promotion strategies out there.

Blogging is not easy. But hardly anything worthwhile is.

19. You think blogging is easier than a 9 – 5 job

It actually depends on you and what kind of person you are.

The truth is: blogging is not for everyone.

With a day job, all you’ve got to do is be nice to your boss and do your work no matter how mind-numbing it is, and you’ll get paid your expected salary.

You’ll be paid the same amount whether you put in 70% effort or 150% effort in your job.

As a blogger, you’ve got to hustle. Hustle hard. The amount of effort you put in especially in the beginning is directly proportional to your ROI.

At a 9 – 5 job, your boss likely decides what you will or will not do.

In blogging, you may consume tons of information on what to do, but it’s solely your choice to decide what you will or will not do. And you won’t always make the right decisions.

I can go on and on.

Blogging is guts and perseverance. Blogging is falling and picking yourself up. Blogging is hard work.

It’s everything but easy.

20. You treat your blog like a hobby

Is blogging something you do because you’re bored to death and can’t think of nothing else?

Blogging is a business. Blogging is a job. Blogging is a profession.

You wake by 4am or earlier to start writing a blog post.

Let’s pretend playing cards is your hobby. I don’t believe you’ll wake by 3am just to play cards.

Your hard work and sacrifices from day to day and night to night is proof that blogging isn’t just a hobby.

So the next time someone asks you:

“What’s your job?”

Hold your head high and say:

“I’m a blogger.”

That’s why you need to start making money to show for it.

21. You think you should have (insert visitor or subscriber count here) before you start selling

You need to start selling from the day you launch your blog. Yes, you saw right.

You see, the earlier you start selling, the earlier you start making money, and the earlier you can hire needed help to handle parts of the business you suck at. Because let’s face it, you can’t do everything.

Money can be a good motivation to keep going even when you’re not getting traction to your blog. It’s easier to quit and give up when you’re making no money.

You may be a very good writer, but you’re terrible at handling technical stuff. The earlier you start making money, the earlier you’ll be able to outsource so you can focus on other parts of your business. And the faster you’ll grow your blog.

Start selling. Just don’t turn your blog into a massive sales pitch. And don’t be pushy. Because if you’re offering something your audience wants and needs, they will purchase it.

22. You don’t invest in your blog and yourself

Blogging isn’t necessarily cheap. You pay for hosting, you pay for email marketing services, you pay for plugins, you pay for software, you pay for custom design. Those costs add up.

As a blogger, it’s a good idea to invest in yourself. When was the last time you bought a book on how to improve your writing or blogging skills? When was the last time you took a blogging course? When was the last time you attended a blogging webinar?

See why you need to make money now?

Miscellaneous

23. You have no blogging goals

Which blogs are you planning to guest post on?

What must you achieve this month to feel you’re making progress with your blog?

Where do you see your blog six months from now?

If you’re scratching your head right now, then you need to start setting goals for your blogging.

Write down specific goals you have for your blogging. Qualify and quantify them.

Don’t settle for your existing conditions.

24. You don’t measure the value of what you do

Facebook ads or guest posting? Twitter and Facebook or Google + and Pinterest? Writing or hiring writers?

Do you know which of the above gives you more ROI? You should.

What’s the point?

If Facebook ads brings you more subscribers or customers as compared with guest posting on other blogs, concentrate on it. It doesn’t mean guest posting is bad or produces poor ROI. Maybe you just suck at it. Hire someone to help you write guest posts then.

Same applies to the other questions above.

Don’t waste time doing stuff you’re just not good at or stuff that bring you low ROI.

It’s best to start measuring your time in this way. Not just for increase in customers or clients, but for subscriber growth and traffic.

25. You don’t measure success financially

How do you define success?

Is it getting a guest post published on ProBlogger? Is it gaining new subscribers or customers? Is it getting emails from readers who have been moved by your post?

“Success” is an ambiguous term. All three questions asked above may define “success” to you. But don’t fail to think of “financial success.”

After all, that’s the dream right? Working full-time as a blogger, and getting paid to change the world.

You can’t do that if you have no financial goals. You can’t do it if you have no money. You can’t do it if you can’t afford to invest in your blog.

So start thinking: what financial goals do you have for your blogging? How much should you earn from your blog to be successful financially?

26. You try too hard to be original

Almost all topics in every blogging niche have been done bazillion times. If you’re insisting on originality, you’ll hardly get anything published.

Find ways to approach tried and tested topics from new angles. You won’t go wrong with that.

Or are you trying to invent an original marketing technique because available ones are not working for you?

Let me tell you the truth.

If they’re not working, you’re doing it wrong. Just keep practicing until you get it right. Then maybe you can add your own “style” to it.

Conclusion

Don’t be disheartened. Making mistakes is not the end of the world. Learn from each mistake you make. I still make some of these mistakes personally.

Seek the story of any popular blogger out there, you’ll find they made mistakes too, again and again and again.

But they learned. Because life is a teacher. The more you live, the more you learn.

And more importantly, the more you practice and put yourself out there, the more you’ll realize what works and what doesn’t.

Falling by making mistakes is part of life. Getting back up is living.And you should live.

Remember those naysayers who ask you jeeringly: “Does anyone make money blogging?” Remember your friends who believe dreaming of a career online is insanity? Remember how frustrated you’ve felt at your blogging efforts that you just let the tears flow?

You’ve come a long way.

You can do it.

Don’t give up.

What blogging mistakes have you made or learnt from? Which has hit you or your blogging hardest? Let me know in the comments section below.

Iniobong Eyo is a content marketing strategist who helps businesses grow by planning, developing and managing their content. He writes at The Refinement Blog.

Build a Better Blog for 2016: Grab 50% Off Our Best Selling eBook This Week Only

31_days_to_build_a_better_blog_offer

Can you believe 2016 is only 24 sleeps away?

If you’ve been following along with the current series of ProBlogger podcasts, you’ll know this past few months for me has been all about getting things off my ‘someday list’ list and putting them onto my ‘today list’.

I’ve realised that there are a number of things in my own blogging here at ProBlogger that need to improve in 2016 and have spent the last couple of months preparing to make some big changes.

As I’ve shared that journey on the podcast I am really excited to see others joining in and getting serious about making similar preparations for a big year next year.

To assist in that journey I decided yesterday to do something that will hopefully help you get your blog in top shape for the new year.

As of today and for the next week only our best selling eBook – 31 Days to Build a Better Blog – is available for 50% off when you use the coupon code GOODBYE2015.

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This eBook (and the free bonus week) is designed to help you get your blogging into gear and to work on some key areas of blogging including writing great content, getting off your blog to find new readers and to build engagement with the readers who come your way.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog Has Helped Tens Thousands of Bloggers

The idea behind 31DBBB is simple. Every day for 31 days I give you a little bit of teaching and a challenge to do something simple that has the potential to improve your blog.

31DBBB started its life back in 2005 as a series of blog posts here on ProBlogger. That first year several thousand bloggers took the challenge. I repeated the series in 2007 with another 5000 bloggers joining in and in 2009 we hit 13,000 participants.

In 2009 I turned the series into an eBook and it quickly became the most popular eBook (or book) I’ve ever written.

Since that time we’ve launched a 2nd edition of the eBook and it’s sold over 21,000 copies, and worked through it as a 31 part podcast series, which has been downloaded just over a quarter of a million times.

I pinch myself that something I’ve created has been used so many times but what excites me most is the feedback from those who use it send me. I’ve lost count of the messages, emails and reviews I’ve seen letting me know how the series of 31 daily challenges and teaching have helped bloggers improve their blogs.

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I love that 31DBBB not only helps beginners but more experienced bloggers to find new energy and direction for their blogs – so it’s my pleasure to make it a little more accessible to more bloggers this week with a 50% discount.

To get the discount simply use the coupon code GOODBYE2015 in the checkout process. It’ll make the price $14.99 USD.

This discount lasts for this week only and will end on Monday 14 December. Get 31 Days to Build a Better Blog here, and don’t forget the coupon code to get your copy at half price!

A 3-Step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

A 3-Step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing: get the best out of affiliate sales with these tips on ProBlogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Anil Agarwal.

Building a blog that gets huge traffic isn’t necessarily hard, but converting that traffic into sales can be.

Most people think they can make a living online by increasing their website traffic. In reality, though, it’s not about any old traffic- it has to be targeted. You have to bring laser-focused audience to your sites to grow your sales and overall monthly income.

There are literally hundreds of genuine ways to make money online but if you want to make money even while you sleep, you need to consider affiliate marketing.

We all know affiliate marketing is a great income source for most successful online marketers. Pat Flynn, John Chow, Zac Johnson are just a few who are using affiliate marketing to make a living from, and doing very well at it.

If you are wondering how to replicate this success for yourself, I’ve outlined a 3-step blueprint that most that could see success for you. Are you ready? Let’s jump into the details.

Step 1: Position yourself as the go-to guy in ONE field

You want to be the EXPERT and be known as the go-to guy in your field. Not just any random marketer or blogger who is looking for ways to make a living by selling affiliate products.

You should become an authority in your field. But here’s the thing: online is heavily crowded and getting past the noise to set you as an expert is really hard.

So how can you be the go-to guy?

Simplify your niche. Pick one topic and become an expert at it. Position yourself as the number-one person in that field. People should think about YOU when they are looking for solutions to the problems relating to your field.

Everything starts with a niche. Truth be told, you are more likely to be successful if you’ve honed in on one topic, and you do it well. If your blog is too broad then you may find a more diluted audience is reading it.

So pick ONE topic and become a pro at it.

Why pick a small field? The number one reason is it is much easier to get noticed as an expert in a small field. You may ask if you can really make more money by serving small audience, but yes, you can. I’m not suggesting you to stick to ONE topic, once you build your expertise at one field, you can broaden your content, but you’ve got a foothold by starting small.

Step 2: Help others, build trust, and increase social proof

Before you start your affiliate marketing journey, make sure to ask yourself “Am I doing this just for the money?”

Whether you know it or not, the money you make online is directly proportional to the people you help. If your blog audience thinks that you are forcing them to click on your products, you won’t succeed.

They won’t buy from people whose intentions are just about making more money. Instead, if you add value and promote products that truly solve their problems; they will become more interested in your offer. That’s what really counts in creating a successful affiliate marketing strategy.

Your affiliate marketing journey should start from helping people and making your audience feel better. The byproduct of doing that is making more money from your efforts. Successful affiliate marketers are the ones who serve first.

Trust is the online currency. If you want to make more money? Start building trust and make others like you. How can you do that?

Building an email list is one of the best ways to directly engage with your audience, and below are three simple yet effective ideas on building a huge email list.

#1. It all starts with amazing content:

Content is king, they say. It’s really true and your primary focus should be on creating epic content for your audience. Your blog readers should have a compelling reason to visit your blog often and there’s no other better way to do that besides creating valuable content that addresses their problems.

And how do you actually create informative content that your readers would love to comment on and share with their friends?

Do extensive research.

Research backed and in-depth articles always perform well in search results. Also too, plenty of readers are now looking for one stop guides to find solutions to their problems in one post.

For instance, if someone is looking for ways to lose 4 kgs in 4 weeks, they would happy to spend their time on reading an in-depth article that covers everything from proper diet to weight loss tips. This not only helps you serve your audience in a better way but you can gain instant trust if they find your content valuable.

Put in more time when creating content. Give priority to quality over quantity. Make sure your content is well researched and backed by data and also includes several images.

Include email opt-in forms in the most visible places on your blog (I highly recommend you to put them in the top of your sidebar and end of your blog posts) to sign up for your email list. If your audience read through all the way to the bottom, they will sign up to you if they find actionable strategies from your content. That’s the way to grow a high quality list without irritating your audience.

And send a newsletter to your email list when your post goes live. Ask them to share with their network, if they really find your content informative, they will bring you more exposure by spreading the word.

#2. Put your email optin forms in the right places:

If you want to boost your email subscribers, find the most converting places on your blog to add your email sign up forms. Here are few of the most visible places on your blog that helps you quickly grow your email list.

Feature box: Derek Halpern introduced the feature box that helps you put a prominent optin form that sits on top of your blog home page. If a visitor lands on your site, they can’t ignore your feature box. If you give them compelling reasons to subscribe, you’ll be amazed with the results.

Sidebar: Your blog’s sidebar is the most visible place, don’t ignore it, grow your email list! Instead of using random ads or articles, use an optin form. If you are giving a free eBook, include a compelling image and it helps you convert more visitors into subscribers. Also use strong call to actions instead of using “sign up”, “subscribe” etc.

Hellobar: Hellobar helped DIYthemes to gain 1180 additional email subscribers just in 30 days. Hellobar sits at the top of your site and no one can ignore it and most probably it’s the first thing everyone will see after landing on your site.

Slideup box: One of the remarkable ways to grow your email list is to use a Slideup box. Buffer uses this amazingly and it performs extremely well for them. Over 30% of their signups come from their Slideup box alone.

Below is a breakdown of a typical month and the sources that help Buffer to grow their email list.

anil

So don’t forget to place your email optin forms in the right places if you want to quickly grow your email list. Just in case, if you are interested in seeing Buffer’s Slidup box, here’s the screenshot:

A 3-step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

#3. Give an incentive:

One of the simplest ways to quickly turn your visitors into email subscribers is by offering something free. Almost every blogger gives away an eBook, video, plugin etc as an incentive to grow their email list. Do you know why? Because it works.

But make sure you are not building a list of freebie seekers. The only problem with a free incentive is that the people who subscribe to your email lists are mostly freebie seekers. If you don’t build awareness about the products you promote, they won’t buy anything you sell. So make sure to carefully use your free incentives while building your list. Educate them about the products you promote and more importantly increase your social proof to turn freebie seekers into loyal customers.

Increasing social proof isn’t easy. But if an authority blogger in your industry says nice things about you or what your site offers, it immediately builds trust.

Everyone including the authority bloggers like Pat Flynn and Neil Patel use social proof really well on their blogs to increase their conversion rates.

A 3-step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

If you are wondering about increasing your overall brand awareness, here’s how to build your social proof so your conversions will go up:

Include visual testimonials. Ask for a testimonial from an authority blogger in your niche. If they share even a nice little sentence about you or your blog, it will help you skyrocket your conversion rates. Make sure to include their image while using them on your blog. This also immediately builds credibility to your landing pages.

Use logos. If you write a guest post for an authority blog or someone mentions you, include them in a logo format and place it on your homepage and landing pages. Neil Patel does this very well; he uses this to increase his conversion rates. Did you know that his conversion rate went down by 10% when he removed all the logos from NeilPatel.com? So add logos that include mentions or the guest posts you’ve written so far, it instantly builds trust among your readers.

Step 3: Find the right products that solve your audience’s problems

This is the key that helps most successful online marketers to make plenty of cash: choose the right product to promote. Don’t promote a product just because it is offering you high commissions. It’s the surefire way to spoil the bond with your audience and email subscribers, unless it truly helps them too.

So how to find the right affiliate products to promote?

There are two simple ways.

  1. Find out what other top bloggers are promoting on their blogs.
  2. Go to affiliate marketplaces and carefully choose the products that are highly related to your blog audience and topic.

I suggest you to filter the affiliate programs like this one on ClickBank in the following way:

A 3-Step Blueprint for Smart Affiliate Marketing

Make sure the Gravity of the products you want to promote is a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 100+ and the average commission are a minimum of $25 and a maximum of $150+.

That can do the trick; it can help you choose the RIGHT products for your audience, also helps you make high commissions for every product you recommend.

You can also check out other marketing places like CJ.com, ShareASale.com etc where you can find great products. 

In a nutshell, you need to pick the products that suit your audience needs and wants. And use your email list and blog as a combination to talk about the products you promote. Don’t forget to network with the influencers in your niche if you want to grow your audience and brand awareness.

So what are you waiting for? One of the top indicators you will become successful at affiliate marketing is how fast you implement the strategies you learn. So don’t wait for the right time and take immediate action. 

Final Thoughts

There’s no magic formula for making a living from affiliate marketing. Every successful online marketer starts with the one thing: they provide incredible value to their audience. They know their readers wants and needs and they promote the right products that help them make more sales even while they sleep.

Let me know your thoughts on the affiliate marketing. Do you have any more strategies that help people to increase their sales? Please share your thoughts 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.

Feeling a Bit Lost? 4 Ways to Boost Productivity and Motivation on Your Blog

Feeling a bit lost? Here are 4 ways to boost productivity and motivation on your blog so you can get back in the game!There are many times in the life of a blogger when you find yourself unsure of where to go or what to do next.

That can be for so many reasons – when it comes to where you spend your time you’re overwhelmed with choice, you don’t know where to start, you want to do a little of everything and sort of all at once, you’re burned out with decision making, you’re not getting any traction, you’re afraidbasically, you’re a bit stuck and you don’t know what to do next.

The problem is, most of us then just end up doing nothing. Or something that isn’t going to propel you in the direction of where you need to go. Maybe you respond to a few insignificant emails, maybe you check someone else’s Facebook feed to be inspired what they’re doing and get stuck there for half an hour, maybe you throw your laptop out the window and play Candy Crush.

You’re not alone. Well, you probably are if you threw your laptop out the window, but just about everyone I’ve talked to has felt this way at some point. The deeper you get into the quagmire of blogging (blogmire?), the harder it is to find all the hours in the day to do all the things you need to do be the Next Big Thing.

And with all the overwhelming choice, to-do lists, articles you need to read, articles you did read that told you 50 things you now need to do – you paddle about doing not much of anything at all.

The best thing I know to do when I don’t know what to do is: anything. Everything. Something.

Just get started

Like last week when I told you it’s ok to just be done and not perfect, you just have to make a start.

When I’m faced with a to-do list that is longer than a two-day hangover, and even after prioritising my list I still don’t know how I’m going to get through it all, I pick one thing and move one step in the direction toward getting it completed.

I open a new post and give it whatever headline I can think of at the time (I can always change it later!). When it comes to writing the post further down the track, at least a post has been created for it and that’s one less thing I have to do.

Sometimes I open a new post and just write whatever is in my head about what I want to say. And then come back to it the following week. I always get a spark of recognition, which reminds me of something else I wanted to say, and then suddenly I’m off.

Sometimes I look up just one article I think will be a useful resource and take a few notes.

I move one step in the direction towards getting it done [tweet that!] Then the next time I think about writing that post/updating that schedule/creating a social media strategy I feel much better knowing it’s already been started and I just have to swoop in and tie up the loose ends. Sometimes those “tying up loose ends” actually means “doing the whole thing” but it’s a relief knowing it’s begun. And “well begun is half done”, as they say (thanks Mary Poppins/Aristotle).

Feeling a bit lost? Here are 4 ways to boost productivity and motivation on your blog so you can get back in the game!

Do a Brain Dump

This is the fastest way for me to lessen the anxiety that can come with a giant to-do list. It’s such a useful tool for getting everything out of your head and onto something permanent that you can keep adding to, and you can get an overview of everything that’s on your task list which gives you a better idea of where you are, what’s a priority, and what you should be spending your time on.

Use a white board, a piece of paper taped to the wall, lots of post-its, a google doc, an Evernote note, etc – whatever you have that’s big enough to contain all the bits floating around in your head that you need to tackle. Don’t be shy, put every little tiny thing on there and finally get it down once and for all.

Separate those tasks into “right now”, “in the next year”, and “long-term goals”. I often use a new sheet of paper for each of these lists and transfer everything across, but you can highlight them in different colours, or stick them on post-its, whatever works for you.

Feeling a bit lost? Here are 4 ways to boost productivity and motivation on your blog so you can get back in the game! Make a Cheat Sheet List

The next thing I like to do is check that master list of things to do, goals I want to achieve, and sundry tasks to be fulfilled and break them down into as many 10-minute tasks as I can. Then, when I’m feeling a bit lost at sea and haven’t got the motivation (or the time) to tackle one giant job, I pick one 10-minute task from my cheat sheet list (you can have one list for everything, or a list each for the short and long-term goals) and just do that one little task. I often then spend more than 10 minutes on it because I end up getting on a bit of a roll and can often get through quite a few of those small tasks – but it’s easier to sit down and do a small job when you’re feeling overwhelmed rather than be facing a massive job that you just can’t get your head around.

It stops me from floating around in that headspace where everything seems so overwhelming that I end up doing nothing (that overwhelm can often be what contributes to hoarding, as well as the pursuit of perfection, and I definitely hoard tasks instead of doing them!), and means I can actually cross a few things off my list because they only take 10 minutes, and that’s great for a feeling of productivity! And feeling productive then motivates you to be more productive and you feel like you’ve spent your time well instead of wasting it.

Feeling a bit lost? Here are 4 ways to boost productivity and motivation on your blog so you can get back in the game!

Be Creative

Get the brain working with less of the writing and logical bits of the task, and focus more on the creative parts that will spark thinking. Brainstorm the visuals for your post or social media, find an image to use or take your own, play around with fonts, give yourself 10 minutes to think of new ways you can promote the post, or devise a community challenge around it. Maybe think of an out-of-the-box way to create an affiliate post, or a different way to showcase a recipe. When you don’t sit down and stare at a blinking cursor trying to figure out what to write, but instead do some more imaginative, visual stuff, you often find that the task ends up in a natural state of flow and you complete more than you thought you would.

The extra bonus of this is that you find new ways to do things, it sparks ideas for more content, and can even motivate you to do the tasks you were dreading half an hour ago.

So remember: just start, even if you don’t finish. You’ll be thanking yourself next time you sit down to tackle that big to-do list!

What do you struggle the most with? Time? Overwhelm? Comparison? Let’s chat!

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

7 Crucial Parts of a Successful Outreach Strategy

7 Crucial Parts of a Successful Outreach Strategy on ProBlogger.netThis is a guest contribution from Jonathan John.

If you’ve been reading how-to blog and content marketing blogs for very long, then you’ve no doubt come across this buzzword: outreach.

Nowadays, all the big guns are talking about outreach and how it’s gonna revolutionize content marketing and take your latest blog posts from 0-100 real quick.

But what exactly is outreach?

Well, in short, outreach is the art of getting others to share or link to your posts. You’re basically leveraging other people’s blogs or social media followings to increase the popularity of your own.

And get this: the people who say that outreach is an effective content promotion strategy are 100% right. Outreach is a very powerful way to quickly get traction to your latest blog posts, an ideal traffic strategy for new bloggers.

That is, when you do it right.

In this post, I’ll discuss seven of the most crucial parts of a successful outreach strategy, and how you can leverage outreach to boost traffic to your blog posts.

1. Begin with the End in Mind

Before you begin your outreach process, you need to plan. You need to begin with the end in mind.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What are my goals?

Outreach is a great strategy to accomplish several things: increased traffic, more connections with influential people, better backlinks from quality sites, etc..

You need to know your goals (always try to write them down as well) before you start the actual process of outreach.

How much time do I have to dedicate to outreach?

Here’s the one pitfall of outreach. The impact from one successful outreach email (e.g. getting one blogger to share or link to your blog post) isn’t particularly high, especially in the short run. So in order to see significant results, you typically have to send out a lot of emails.

Case in point: Brian Dean from Backlinko emailed 160 websites to promote his post on Google ranking factors. Because of the backlinks and visibility he’s gotten as a result, Brian now ranks #1 in the SERPs for “google ranking factors”, which is by no means a low-competition keyword.

Google-Ranking-Factors

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that you need to email 100+ people for every post you write. Due to time restrictions, that’s an unrealistic goal for many of us, particularly me.

But my point is that a successful email outreach strategy will take up a significant amount of time. So when creating a plan for your outreach strategy, you need to budget time appropriately.

2. Pick the Right Bloggers for Outreach

Here’s what doesn’t work in email outreach: randomly sending out emails to 100+ blogs that “seem” to fit your niche.

Picking the blogs you plan to do outreach to is a very delicate (and time-consuming) process. To be successful at outreach, you will need to spend time creating a list of blogs you’ll reach out to before each post is published (ideally before the post is even written).

Here are a couple ways to find the right blogs to reach out to.

Find Blogs that Have Linked to Similar Content

This method calls for Ahrefs Site Explorer, one of my favorite blogging tools. Site Explorer basically crawls the web to discover all the inbound links for a particular website or webpage.

So let’s say that you run a food blog, and your next post topic is on the dangers of excess soft drink consumption. A quick Google search will reveal several popular blogs that have written on a similar topic.

Finding-Blogs

Pick one high-ranking post (I chose this one from Wellness Mama) and run it through Site Explorer to find the sites that have linked to the post.

Finding-Blogs2

You know that these sites have linked to a post on the dangers of soft drinks already in the past. Consequently, they are much more likely to link to your post on the same topic, provided that you ask nicely (more on how to do that later).

Find Influencers Who Have Shared Similar Content

This method works best with Buzzsumo, an incredibly popular content research tool. Buzzsumo allows you to see the exact people who have shared specific posts on your topic.

Let’s say that this time around, you’re on a digital marketing blog, currently writing a post on generating content ideas. You can use Buzzsumo to identify popular posts on this topic.

Finding-Blogs3

Buzzsumo then allows you to drill down and see exactly who has shared this post on Twitter.

Finding-Blogs4

Apply the same concept from the previous method here: since these people have already shared blog posts on content ideation before, they could be quite willing to do it again.

3. Do a Favor for the Influencer Beforehand

Email outreach is all about asking favors. When you send an email to an influencer asking for a tweet, a link, or a Google plus, you’re basically asking them for a favor.

Now, I want you to think back to the last time you did a significant favor for a stranger who’d come to you out of the blue.

No, seriously. Think about it.

Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

If you’re like me, then you probably can’t remember the last time you did so.

And guess what: the influencers you’re reaching out to probably can’t remember the last time they did such a favor, either. So when you ask them for a favor as a total stranger, how likely do you think you are to get the share/link?

Not very.

The key here is to make sure that by the time you send your email, you’ve already performed a favor or two for the blogger beforehand.

For instance, you could comment on 1-2 of the blogger’s latest posts. All bloggers love getting relevant comments on their posts, because comments prove two things to them:

  1. People are reading their content.
  2. People find their content engaging enough for them to take time out of their day to leave their thoughts.

However, DON’T just leave a generic “Great post, thanks for sharing” comment like a hundred others before you have already.

It’s easy for bloggers to see through this sort of comment; they know that it hasn’t taken any sort of real effort on your part.

Instead, leave a thoughtful, detailed remark about what you thought of their post — one that will set you apart from the other commentators to the post author.

Blog-Comment

Questions in particular make great comments because they coax a response from the post author. Besides that, all bloggers (you and I included) get an ego boost when people ask their advice.

A couple other things you could do is to share their post on social media or even link to it from the post that you are writing.

4. Write the Email

Here comes the difficult part: actually writing the email. You can find several email templates on the web for this step, but I recommend testing a few ones of your own to see which works best for you personally. What’s more, the email you send will also typically depend on what you’re asking for in your email: a link, a share, etc..

For instance, asking for a link from a well-known blog requires a very different email than a share request from an influencer with a mid-sized following.

But regardless of the type email you’re sending over, there are a few rules to keep in mind.

Keep it Short

Nobody wants to wade through a 50-sentence email when a five-sentence email would have done just as well. Least of all the busy bloggers who have a hundred-and-one other tasks demanding their attention.

I personally try to keep all my emails no more than five sentences long, although I’m often guilty of forgetting to cut down and instead sending in 6-7+ sentences. I’ve found that shorter = better 99% of the time.

Talk about What You’ve Done for Them

In my email, I typically reserve at one sentence close to the beginning to talk about what I’ve done for them (i.e. I linked to their post, shared it on social media, commented on it, etc.).

Always talk about what you’ve done for them before you discuss what you want them to do for you. Once the blogger realizes that you’ve taken the time to do something for him/her, they’ll be much more receptive to the request that’s about to come.

Be Informal, but Professional

You always want to be professional — especially if you’ve never emailed this person before.

There’s no need to be overly formal (ten dollar words won’t score you any points), but at the same time don’t let your inner-goofiness get too much out of reign.

Also, be sure to use their first name in your opening line (that way they know right off that your email is addressed specifically to them).

5. Contact via Multiple Channels

The biggest mistake I made in my early days of outreach was limiting my contact to one channel only: email.

While email is still the best way to get a response from share/link requests, it’s most effective when used in combination with other contact channels like social media.

Nowadays, whenever I send out an outreach email, I also tweet the blogger beforehand to let him/her know that I’m sending in an email.

This helps to create awareness of your coming email. Most influencers will be getting hundreds of emails per day, so it’s very possible that your email could slip through the cracks. When you reach out to them via social media before sending the email, though, they’ll be keeping an eye out for your email.

So instead of ignoring or overlooking your email when it comes in, they’ll instead think:

Oh yeah, this is the guy/gal who tweeted me about their coming email. I think he/she also commented on XYZ post I published a couple days ago. Hmm. I wonder what he/she is emailing about.

This contact strategy just plain works — I highly recommend that you try your best to get in touch via multiple channels (Google Plus, LinkedIn, or even Facebook can be good options depending on your industry). It’s helped me to nearly double my response rates, and I’m sure it will do the same for yours.

6. Time Your Contact Appropriately

I live in India — but since most of the bloggers I contact live in the US, UK, or Australia, I have to be sure that I’m keeping track of time zones. Otherwise, my email is likely to get lost in the pile of email that accumulates overnight.

I try to get my email in around 8-9 AM in the morning their time. That way, by the time they start their work day, my email is close to the top of their inbox.

I personally use Boomerang to schedule all my emails because I love its simplicity, but SideKickRightInbox, and Streak are popular alternatives.

For tweet-scheduling, I’m a huge fan of Buffer, but HootSuite is another excellent option.

7. Follow Up

The last step in the outreach process is to follow up. If your email doesn’t get a response within a week, I recommend sending either one email or one tweet as a reminder (not both).

I don’t recommend sending any more than one follow up, though; if a blogger hasn’t responded by then, it typically means that he/she isn’t interested in sharing or linking.

And if that happens (which it most certianly will), don’t worry about it. Just shake it off, and move on to the next blogger.

Wrapping Up

Outreach is a powerful content promotion strategy. It has the potential to take your latest blog post from 0-100 in no time.

However, outreach certainly isn’t an easy strategy to implement, and if you don’t do it correctly then you’ll end up spending a lot of time for little result. So the next time you’re promoting a post, remember these 7 crucial steps, and I guarantee your success rate will the better for it.

Do you have any questions about outreach strategy — or any tips of your own you’d like to share? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Jonathan John (@JRJohnWrites) is a freelance writer for hire and a digital marketing enthusiast. He helps business leverage the power of content marketing and blogging to increase traffic and boost brand authority. 

Can Launching a “For Beginners” Blog Still Work?

Can Launching a "For Beginners" Blog Still Work?This is a guest contribution from Karol K.

Here’s the thing. One of the prevailing myths around blogging is that the best way to start a new blog is to find a topic you’re passionate about, and then build a blog targeting a general, beginner audience interested in it.

For example, if your passion is WordPress then a (seemingly) good idea for a blog is something like “Beginner’s Guide to WordPress.”

Well, here’s the kicker … even though it might sound like a good idea, it actually isn’t.

In theory, you should be able to attract beginners and effectively be the first resource they encounter. But in practice, most of your readers will already be familiar with some of the big-name blogs in your niche by the time they even get to yours.

Those big-name blogs have all the power they need to sweep your target audience right from under your nose. They have the reputation, they have the brand and they have the social proof that beginners look for.

So what to do?

Is the “beginners” market so saturated that there’s no place left for you? Should you just abandon the idea of blogging entirely?

In a sentence: Of course not!

Let’s look into the possibilities that are still out there, and the specific things to do if you want to get into blogging.

Fork in the road – three paths to blogging

Taking the problem described above into account, there are basically three paths you can follow:

  • Launch a “for beginners” blog anyway. Hey, it will be difficult, but it’s not impossible, provided you have these two things: (1) a big budget to spend on promotion, SEO and other marketing-related things, or (2) a truly unique angle that has the potential to stick right from the get-go.
  • Launch a blog in a specialized area within the “beginners” niche. Using my previous example, a specialized area in “Beginner’s Guide to WordPress” might be a “Designer’s Guide to WordPress” – exactly what CodeinWP did when launching their blog meant for WordPress enthusiasts and pros.
  • Launch a blog focusing on more advanced aspects of the niche. Here, you’ll be going the completely opposite way and not paying much attention to beginner topics.

All of the above have their pros and cons, so let’s go over each and get a little more in-depth here.

“For beginners” blog

The main advantage of launching a “for beginners” blog is that creating content shouldn’t be very challenging. I mean, I know that bloggers have to be able to provide quality no matter who they’re writing for, but creating beginner content is always … what’s the word … lighter than creating advanced content.

It’s also easier to explain the purpose of your blog and probably convey its brand too.

Moreover, beginner blogs can usually utilize different content types more effectively than advanced blogs. For instance, it’s way easier to conduct an interview with a respected figure in the niche and prepare a list of questions that everyone can benefit from (not only advanced listeners).

On the other hand, the main downside is that making such a blog popular is next to impossible. Okay, maybe I’m a little too harsh, but let’s not forget that only a small part of blogs manage to attract more than 200 visitors a day, and the more competition you have, the more difficult it gets.

In order to grow such a blog, you’ll have to invest not only in good SEO, active social media promotions, massive guest blogging, but also in promotion through other online media channels like YouTube or podcasting.

Specialized “for beginners” blog

Launching a specialized “for beginners” blog shouldn’t be much more difficult than launching a standard one; although creating regular content can be a bit more challenging and will require more time.

However, one of the great things about such sites is that they become somewhat authoritative by default right from day one. For instance, if you title your blog “The Beginner’s Guide to Grilling Steak” then very few people will question your expertise in that space. It’s much more difficult to portray yourself as an expert in “all things cooking,” than it is in “all things grilling steak.” The same thing goes for most other niches too.

For example, this approach was neatly used by Ruben Gamez of Bidsketch when he launched a blog to get more people interested in his main product – project proposal software for freelancers. The main idea of the blog was to focus on topics related to project proposals and working with clients.

Such a strategy has made it easier to get the initial stream of visitors and build a core audience. In comparison, launching and growing a blog that simply talks about marketing or business would have been much more difficult.

Essentially, the more niche you go, the easier it is to find a small group of devoted fans. That being said, the problem you might encounter sooner or later is that building your audience can gradually become more challenging every month. You can simply start running out of audience, so to speak.

What to do when that starts to happen? Pivot. Start writing about other more general topics related to your niche. Your core audience will help you spread the word and reach new readers. Readers who would have never stumbled upon you otherwise.

Good SEO and other promotional methods are still important when growing a specialized niche blog (like they always are). So you will need to devote significant amount of your time to that. On the bright side, your hyper-niche idea is most likely to stick right away and resonate with a targeted visitor who’s actively interested in the topic.

Advanced niche blog

A good way to get a grasp on what an advanced blog should cover is to think about one of your passions and try answering the following question:

What were the things you were interested in once you were already 2 to 3 years into your passion? In most cases, this is the kind of topics that are perfect for an advanced blog.

Nevertheless, an advanced blog is probably the most challenging project to launch successfully from a content creator’s point of view. Advanced content is always the most time-consuming type of writing, and it needs to be 100 percent accurate with no room for mistakes (advanced audiences will quickly catch those).

Thankfully, you don’t have to publish new posts very often. Even once a week or once every other week will do just fine, as long as your content is extremely useful.

Just like with the other two types of blogs described here, good SEO is always the key ingredient. Luckily, the keywords for an advanced blog are usually less competitive and easier to target. Most of them are long tail keywords.

For example, two or three weeks ago I wanted to get some info on creating a grandchild theme in WordPress. The phrase I used in Google was something like “how to create a child theme of a child theme WordPress” … this is what we call long tail.

The greatest power of long tail keyword phrases is that when someone searches using them, they are almost 100 percent certain to visit your page if the title (more or less) matches their search query. Going long tail, as a searcher, is the ultimate desperate move. It simply means that you haven’t been able to find quality information with shorter queries.

One more cool thing is that the big and popular blogs in your niche are more likely to link to a blog that covers advanced topics. That’s because you’re positioning yourself as the “next step up” kind of resource. Comparing this to a scenario where you have yet another “for beginners” blog, there’s just no need for an already established popular “for beginners” blog to link to it.

Taking action

All three types of blogs have their individual challenges and pros and cons to tackle. But in the end, launching a successful blog is always a lot of work. I’m sure you’re familiar with Darren’s story on how he built his blogs.

Every project like this should start with a good plan. I hope that this post will help you craft such a plan and then put it in practice.

Lastly, what’s your opinion about blogging in “for beginners” niches? Does it still make sense to do it?

Karol K. (@carlosinho) is a freelance blogger and writer, published author, and online business figure-outer. His work has been featured all over the web, on sites like: NewInternetOrder.com, MarketingProfs.com, Lifehack.org, About.com, Optimizely.com, Adobe.com, and others. Feel free to contact him to find out how he can help your business grow by writing unique and engaging content for your blog or website.

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).

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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

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.