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Find a Sponsor for Your Blog

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Today’s task in the 31 Day Project will appeal more to those who are looking to make money from their blogs. If that’s not you – there are plenty of other daily tasks in previous days of the project that you might like to repeat. This task might also be easier for more established blogs than new ones – although it’s not impossible for a new blog to land a sponsor so give it a go!

Today your task is to go on a hunt for a sponsor for your blog.

You might not think that your blog is big enough to find sponsors (and you might be right) but even if you’re unsuccessful in finding one you will hopefully learn a thing or two about finding sponsors and might even start a relationship that could be fruitful at some point in the future.

Getting a sponsor for your blog (or selling an advertising spot directly without relying upon an ad network like AdSense) is a great thing for numerous reasons – not the least of which is that you cut out the middleman and don’t have to share the revenue with a company like Google!

It’s not always easy to land a sponsor – but it’s a skill that bloggers wanting to make money from their blogs should learn – even in the early days.

A few tips for finding a sponsor:

1. Before you go out and start asking companies to sponsor your blog read these two postsFinding Advertisers for your Blog and 10 Ways to make your Blog more Attractive to Advertisers. A big part of finding an advertiser is to get your blog in order first and to be prepared for what they might ask you.

2. If you have a smaller blog and haven’t had a sponsor before don’t aim for the stars straight away. It might be worth starting out by approaching smaller retailers, websites or companies in your niche and see if they’d be interested in some sort of partnership rather than aiming for the very biggest ones right up front. I did this a couple of months after starting my first digital camera blog and emailed 10 online digital camera sites to see if they’d be interested in advertising. 3 of the 10 bought small ads on my site (I think it was for something around $15-$25 a month). It wasn’t a lot of cash (and I didn’t have a lot of traffic to send to them) but I learned so much and made a little money in the process.

3. Target Potential Advertiser Carefully - before you start approaching potential sponsors think carefully about your blog and the topic that you write about and about who might want to reach your readers. Brainstorm a list of companies and websites that might fit the bill.

4. Wondering who to approach? Why not check out who is advertising on other websites and blogs in your niche. Quite often they’ll also be open to running a similar campaign with you.

5. If a sponsor isn’t sure whether to go with you or not – give them a discounted or free trial. I’ve done this a number of times and found it beneficial on three levels:

  • It gives the sponsor a taste of what your blog can offer
  • It can help get your readers used to the idea of advertising on your blog
  • I’ve found that having one advertiser (even if it’s a free one) can actually attract other advertisers (or at least make selling sponsorships easier)
  • You’ll learn a lot by getting the ad up, finding out how it converts and at a discounted rate you’ll even earn a few dollars

6. Find an Angle and Sell it - don’t just email a potential sponsor asking if they want to advertise with you – sell yourself. If your blog has a loyal community of core readers then sell this, if you get a lot of search engine traffic for certain keywords that the advertiser would want to have, sell it to them on this, if you have an audience who is researching to make purchases – this is a key selling point and if you’ve never had an advertiser before on your blog – turn this into a selling point. You need to give a potential sponsor or advertiser a reason to align their brand with yours.

7. If you can’t attract anyone – run a campaign of your own. Pick a part of your blog that you want to drive traffic to (perhaps a post, or a category, or a subscribe page) and develop a button or banner ads to drive traffic to it. I’m doing this here at the moment in the 468 x 60 banner position here at ProBlogger at the moment (there’s a number of different campaigns running there including some internal ones). The beauty of this is that you can test your conversion rates on different positions. Run a heat map test and you’ll learn a lot.

8. If you do manage to sign up a sponsor give sponsors as much value as possible. Do everything you can to over deliver on the campaign. Announce the sponsorship on the blog with a post, mention it any other newsletters or lists that you have, position it high on the page, consider throwing in a bonus text link in another part of your blog etc. The more traffic you can deliver to your sponsor the more chance of getting them to renew.

MovableType 4 Review

Thinking of giving MovableType 4 a go? There have been plenty of reviews done of it but today Aaron Brazell put together a well balanced one with some of hi impressions at his Movable Type 4 Review.

Another review worth checking out is Mashable’s comparison of MT 4 and WP 2.2. Austin Heller also reviewed it.

I’m interested to hear from any readers who have given MT 4 a go – what are your first impressions now that it has been out a week or so?

10 Blogs That I Read

Earlier today I set the task for readers to link up to other blogs in their niche. I decided to do it too – but immediately hit a snag.

As I scanned through my feed reader i realized that I read hundreds of blogs about blogging (and related topics). Listing them all would be crazy (and take me hours to filter through) – however linking just a few risks offending those that I miss out. Hmmmm.

So I’ve decided to get a little random and pick 10 blogs from my ‘blogging’ folder in my feed reader – selected completely randomly. I used a random number generator to select numbers and then counted down to the blogs listed in that order. If the blog hadn’t updated for at least two weeks I skipped it and chose another one so as to produce a current list.

The list is actually one I’m pretty happy with – some names that I’m sure many of you will be familiar with, some ‘old timers’ and some new comers. Enjoy:

  • Stephan Spencer’s Scatterings – Blog Marketing and SEO
  • Brian Heys Writes – UK based blogger who admits he reads too many tech blogs – but I’m glad he does :-)
  • Rich Minx - another blogger from Downunder (and over east a bit – from New Zealand) – I even met her at the last New York ProBlogger meetup
  • Andy Wibbels – blog training guru (and someone I’ve even produced a course with)
  • ChrisG – insightful and experienced pro blogger
  • 45n5 – Mark’s just announced that he’s ‘off to get married’ but his archives are full of posts and videos on blogging
  • Bloggrrl – a more recent addition to my feed reader. Michelle blogs with humor and insight.
  • SEOmoz blog - a daily read for me – I love their Friday whiteboard Videos
  • The Blog Herald – a classic blog about blogging
  • Daily Blog Tips – Daniel consistently writes quality tips about blogging

Link up to a Competitor

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Earlier in the 31 Day Project that I’m running this month I suggested taking some time out to analyze your Blog’s Competition as an exercise to help you improve your own blogging.

In that post I wrote:

“I use the word ‘competition’ hesitantly because the thing about blogging is that those blogging on the same topics as you are potentially your biggest allies. Connect and work with your competition and everyone improves.”

I’ve previously written more on when competition is good in blogging – but today we’re going to put the theory to the test.

Today’s task in the 31 Day Project is to link to another blog in your niche – a ‘competitor’.

While linking to other blogs in your niche might seem a little bizarre to some I’ve seen it’s power many times in my own blogging and that of others. Outbound links Matter!

So here’s the task – find a way to link up to at least one other blog in your niche.

There are of course many ways to do this. I regularly do it here at ProBlogger in my speedlinking posts (random recent links) and at DPS in a similar format called Digital Photography Tips from Around the Web – but there are other ways to go about it from linking to a post someone else has written, to writing a review of the blog in question etc.

So get linking up – and let us know how it goes in comments below!

Subscribe to Comments Reactivated

Subscribe-To-CommentsJust a short note to let readers know that due to an overwhelming number of requests for the feature to be re-added to this blog that I’ve activated the ‘subscribe to comments’ feature again.

By default it is not activated when you leave a comment – so you need to manually check the box under comments as you leave your comment to be notified of further comments via email.

A Word of Warning – while this feature is very useful at helping people to engage in conversation it is worth stating the obvious warning – ie that some threads here at ProBlogger get a lot of comments (some get hundreds) so subscribing to some threads could quite quickly lead to a full inbox (welcome to my world)! Of course you can unsubscribe from comments at any point – however it might be worth being a little selective!

So to those of you who have been badgering me for this feature – enjoy!

10 Lessons in Blogging Learned on a Shopping Expedition

Shopping-Lessons-BlogEarlier today I suggested that bloggers go shopping as an observational exercise to help them improve their blogs.

While it is a fairly random idea – I did it myself today and as I sat in the food court of my local shopping establishment I jotted down the following 10 lessons and observations on a napkin:

1. Best Seller Lists Work

One of the things I noticed in a number of stores were best seller lists. They ranged from the normal books, CD and DVD ones that most of us will have seen before to a jeans store highlighting best selling jeans, a perfume store highlighting popular fragrances and an consumer electronics store highlighting top MP3 players.

This connects pretty closely with a lesson that I wrote about a while back – How to Dramatically Increase Amazon Affiliate Sales with Bestseller Lists.

2. People Want to Be Acknowledged but Not Overwhelmed

Today I must have gone into 50+ stores and as a result saw a lot of different sales techniques. They ranged from customers being totally ignored (but sales staff surfing the web, reading magazines and talking to friends on the phone) through to customers being almost bullied into making purchases by hyped up sales staff who invaded personal space and basically bombarded them with attention.

Blog readers like to be acknowledged, they like some personal attention, they like to feel listened to – but they don’t want to be bombarded with a hyped up sales pitch.

3. Lines and Waiting in Queues Kill Customer Loyalty

A bank that I went into had a 25 person line in it. I joined watched on from a distance for a few minutes and witnessed just how frustrated the customers were. Some entered the bank, took one a look at the line and turned around. Other grudgingly joined the queue, grumbling to those around them. One customer had a shouting match with a manager. We live in a world where people don’t like waiting and if you make them do so you hurt any relationship or loyalty that you might have built up.

Slow load times on blogs are an issue that many readers get frustrated with. I know I’ve lost my fair share of loyal readers as a result of this (it was one of the main reasons I did my last redesign).

4. Sensory Experiences Make a Difference

One of the things I noticed today was how some shops were really aiming at stimulating the senses of their customers. While most have some sort of music I went into a number of food stores which were giving away tasters/samples of the food they were selling and a confectionary store who is known for spraying the smell of licorice into the air at the front of their store to draw people in.

While I’m not sure how a blogger can stimulate the taste buds make their blog smell I do know that using pictures, video and audio can really add a new dimension to a blog.

5. Surprise People

The shopping center that I visited today had hundreds of stores and after walking through many of them I felt the effects of sensory overload kicking in (must have been the licorice smell). One store began to merge into another as the marketing messages mounted up. However towards the end of my period of observation I walked into a store where the owner greeted me and offered me a free Hot Chocolate. I was so taken aback by it that it stopped me in my tracks – it grabbed my attention and shook me out of the zombie like shopping stupor that I was in.

I guess this technique was a combination of #2 and #4 above – but it also took me by surprise, gave me a story to tell my friends and a memory of an experience that I’m sure will inform my shopping at some point in the future (if I’m ever in the market for a large screen TV – as that was what the store was selling). When it comes to blogging I think there’s a place for surprises also.

Sometimes a blog can become very humdrum and both readers and the blogger themselves can become complacent. Throw in a curve ball occasionally, give something away, write a post in a completely different voice or style to normal etc and you might just find a new energy among your readers.

6. People Make Social Decisions When Buying

On three occasions today I saw customers watching other customers and seemingly making decisions about what they would buy by watching what others were having. ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ is actually a statement I heard uttered today in the food court! This social nature was also evident today when I saw two cafes side by side. One was packed with customers, the other empty. While I’d never been to either before and didn’t know what the quality of the empty one was like you can guess which was I was drawn to for my coffee.

While we all like to be individuals, there’s no doubt that most of us make ‘social decisions’ from time to time – whether it be in deciding what to buy, do with our time, put our focus on etc. The same is true in blogging. Highlight the fact that others are reading your blog by showing feed subscriber numbers, drawing attention to recent comments and involving your readers and you’ll find new people more willing to join in and become loyal readers too.

7. Quiet Times are Opportunities

One lesson that I learned from a resourceful shop assistant was that quiet patches in a shop are not something to bemoan – but are actually opportunities to do other things. I watched this sales person rushed off her feet with customers for a few minutes and then suddenly in an empty store. Instead of slumping down in exhaustion at having a spare moment she took the break in customers to restock shelves.

Most blogs have peaks and troughs when it comes to traffic. I know some bloggers get really down when traffic is down – however perhaps it’d be better to see the quiet patch as an opportunity to ‘restock’ – or do some of the little tasks that we often don’t have time to do that go into making a successful blog (tasks like many that I’ve been talking about in the 31 Day Project).

8. Up Selling Works

“Do you want fries with that?” as an up selling strategy is perhaps one of the most common sales techniques used – and for good reason – it works.

I saw a variety of up selling techniques used today ranging from ‘upsizing’ meals, to sales assistants suggesting accessories that would match clothes, to 2 for 1 deals (just to name a few).

Up selling on a blog is a little different because in most cases the ‘sell’ isn’t an actual product (although more and more bloggers are selling actual products). The application that came to mind as I observed up selling today was selling readers on extra things to read and do on a blog. Suggesting another article to read, a poll to participate in, a feed or newsletter to subscribe to, a video to watch or a conversation to join into are all examples of extra things you can get readers to do that increases the chances of them continuing the relationship with you.

9. Positioning is Everything

In different parts of the shopping centre that I was at today there were two homeware shops that were almost identical to one another. One was in the heart of the complex and the other on the outskirts in a section that was difficult to get to.

You can guess which had the customers and which looked like it was about to go out of business. The one in the middle of the action was thriving.

This is relevant for bloggers on two fronts. Firstly in the positioning of their different design elements. For example if you want to get clicks on ads, you need to position them on parts of your blog that will naturally draw the eye. If you want to get subscribers to your blog – you need to place the subscription methods in the ‘hot spots’ etc.

Secondly the lesson of positioning is highly relevant for the overall marketing of your blog. Learn to place your blog on busy intersections of activity on the web and you can grow your blog quite quickly.

10. Some Shop to Belong

The last thing I noticed today as I saw in the food court reflecting upon the experience was that there were a lot of people wandering around that were not buying anything. Many of them were alone and seemed to just be ‘hanging out’.

At this point I got chatting to an older gentleman on the next table to me who had been watching me writing away on my napkin. I asked him what he was shopping for today and he told me that he didn’t come to the shopping centre to shop – but because he just liked to be around people. He lived alone and came down each day for a ‘bit of a wander’ to see what people were doing.

I suspect that many people use the web in a similar way. We all long to connect, to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and to have community. Build a blog that draws people in and gives people a sense of belonging and I suspect you’ll build something that matters to people.

Go Shopping and Improve Your Blog

ShoppingToday’s task in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project is to go Shopping!

OK – I can hear what you’re probably thinking:

“What? The ProBlogger has lost his mind – what does shopping have to do with blogging?”

Stick with me for a second and let me explain….

The reason I want to encourage you to go shopping is twofold:

A. It’ll get you away from your blog for a bit - I was chatting with another blogger yesterday and we both admitted to each other that we’d been in our PJ’s all day blogging (it was 4pm for me) and needed to get out more – sad but true.

B. It’ll give you a chance to do some observation exercises that could help your - this is the main reason for today’s task and is based upon an experience that I had today at a local shopping centre (or ‘mall’ as many of you non Aussies would call it).

The exercise:

1. Step away from the Computer (come on, you can do it)

2. Grab a notebook and pen (do you remember them? They are the things you used to use before your primary form of communication involved typing)

3. Head to your local shopping centre/mall/CBD shopping area (easier for some than others I realize – apologies to those in rural areas, this may or may not work in your local general store)

4. Once at the ‘mall’ take 30 minutes or so to go ‘wandering’ with no agenda (don’t do your groceries) except to ‘watch’ and ‘observe’ in some of the following ways:

  • Who is there? Who are they with?
  • What are they doing?
  • What are they buying?
  • How do they make their buying decisions?
  • What are the retailers doing to get people’s attention and stand out?
  • What messages are they using in their marketing?
  • What colors are in at the moment?
  • What other things are ‘hot’ or in fashion?
  • What sales techniques are sales staff using?
  • What are retail outlets doing well? What are they doing poorly?

5. As you watch, make some notes. Don’t attempt to find any ‘lessons’ or try to tie it back to your blog yet.

6. Once you’ve spent half an hour or so on ‘observation mode’ find a spot to sit down (a food court perhaps) with a coffee and go over the things that you’ve noticed and see if there’s any lessons there that you might be able to apply to your blogging?

This process might seem a little random and pointless – but it’s something that I’ve done on numerous occassions over the last few years and each time that I’ve done it I’ve come away with at least one new idea that I want to apply in my blogging.

Some of the ideas have come directly from things I’ve seen retailers doing in their marketing (for example, today I saw a store using an attention grabbing technique that I want to try to apply to one of my blogs to draw readers eyes) – while others are more lessons about ‘people’ and how they operate and once or twice I’ve even seen illustrations to use for posts or ideas for new blog topics.

If nothing else it’ll get you out of the house for a bit!

I’d love to hear your experiences of this exercise in comments below!

Update: Here’s what I learned on MY shopping expedition today.

Same Niche, Different Blogs: Why Not?

Sara-OstThis guest post has been submitted by Sara Ost from www.healthbolt.net and www.marksdailyapple.com.

Do you find yourself dreaming about writing posts that aren’t quite the right fit for your current blog?

The dilemma: you have a successful blog with a specific style and you want to depart from it and express yourself in a new way – but without confusing your readers. You can run two (or twenty) blogs in different niches; but there’s another option, as well. Why not start another blog in the same niche, but to suit different tastes and share your thoughts in a different way?

I run two very successful health blogs. They’re in the same niche – health – but the audiences are worlds apart and the purposes are totally different. Though running two popular blogs takes a lot of work, by doing both this year, I’ve also happily been able to invest more of my day in doing what I love – writing – and cut back on some of the drier pay-the-rent work. So, I want to encourage you to think about the possibilities of a second blog – but in your current blog’s niche. Overlap? Over-extension? Run out of material? Not necessarily! Drawing from my personal experience thus far, here’s why you might want to give the same-niche double-blogging a shot:

Experimentation and Learning

There’s no reason you can’t experiment with a new tone or style of post at your existing blog, but if you’ve already established a certain brand and community, it’s risky to serve up a novel post. A few misfires may not be a big deal, and that’s how you learn. But if you’re consistently finding that you have additional post ideas you’re passionate about that you know won’t really suit your existing blog, maybe a second blog in your niche is just the ticket. You can always let your readers know about your second blog, of course, and ask for feedback. The reason I think a second blog might be better in some cases than experimenting on your existing blog is because passion just works. Why reign it in cautiously on your current blog or test it out only occasionally when you could let loose with your spirit? If you’re going to experiment to learn, why not really experiment?

Expression

The more we learn and read and blog, the more the ideas flow, right? Blogging takes the mind in new directions and expands both the depth and breadth of your interests. And sometimes a first good project serves to lay the groundwork for your best work of all. How will you know if you don’t try? At any rate, it’s my opinion that your current blog will improve as a result of doing a second, namely because running two projects helps you to detach a bit and see the bigger picture – you might work a bit less on each, but on the positive side, you’ll make more objective decisions and focus on what’s important. There’s also the good possibility that your second blog may take off unexpectedly now that you’ve got a comfortable grip on blogging. Maybe it’s time to express yourself in a new way and see just how far you can go.

Income

Why not earn more from sharing what you already know and care about? Now that you’ve got the know-how, and the network, and the community, extend your experience and try something new. You might just make some extra cash much more quickly than the first time around. You’ve already sunk all that energy into your first blog; why not get a further return on the investment of your personal equity? There’s nothing wrong with promoting yourself on multiple platforms if you’re investing yourself authentically and providing useful or entertaining content.

Productivity

Running two blogs (or more) forces you to think about what is really important (do I really need to check stats for the tenth time?). Although you might think two blogs in your niche would be harder than one, in my experience, it improves efficiency, focus, and productivity. If you go for a second blog, plan your posting frequency, type, and length before you start, then stick to it as best you can.

Downsides

There are several downsides, as mentioned. One of the so-called “immutable laws” of marketing is not to over-extend (e.g how many new types of Coke do we really need?). But I prefer to think of working on multiple blogs in a similar category as a sensible way to invest your energy: it’s diversification! You have the opportunity to really maximize the value of testing this way (translation: faster learning, better traffic). You will work more, but you’ll learn more, connect more (especially nice if you work from home), and probably earn more income doing what you already like, too. That’s just my experience – but maybe it could work for you, too!

Sara Ost writes and runs www.healthbolt.net (the #1 health blog on the web (as per MedGadget) and edits and contributes to www.marksdailyapple.com (#38 of the top 100 health blogs).

Do a Search Engine Optimization Audit on Your Blog

One of the biggest sources of traffic on the web is Google (and it’s fellow search engines). As a result it makes sense that a blogger interested in building traffic to their blog would take some time to learn how Search Engines Rank sites.

Today’s task in the 31 Day Project your task is to do an SEO Audit of your blog.

I’ve written everything I know on SEO previously in a post called Search Engine Optimization for Blogs so I wont rehash it all in this post and I’d highly recommend you head to that post for a refresher on the topic (or an introduction to it if you’ve not learned much about SEO before).

Invest in Your Knowledge of SEO

Seo-Book-NewIf you have a budget for your education and want to learn from a real expert in SEO I highly recommend checking out Aaron Wall’s SEO Book (aff). It costs $79 and is the best resource I’ve found on the topic with 328 pages of instruction (with free updates – and Aaron does update it) plus a nifty little bonus called 33 Days to Online Profits. It has a 100% Money Back Guarantee if you find that it’s not for you.

A few tips for your SEO Audit

It can be easy to get overwhelmed by Search Engine Optimization so if you’re new to it or need a place to start here are a few basics that you might want to work on today:

A Last word on Balance in Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization can become something of an obsession (as can many aspects of blogging if you concentrate on them to the exclusion of other factors). For a little balance on the topic you might find my Confessions of a Linkaholic and Should Bloggers Write for Humans or Computers? helpful.

Further Reading on SEO

If you want to read more you might like to check out a recent post from Matt Cutts which is a summary of a talk he did on Whitehat SEO for bloggers (or watch the video of the talk below if you’ve got a spare hour – it is really great):