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Evolving from a Blog to a Community

Improve-BlogIn this post Deborah Ng from Freelance Writing Jobs gives us and insight into how she improved her blog in 2007.

2007 was a year of changes for Freelance Writing Jobs. Originally, FWJ only offered listing of jobs available to freelance writers. Now it’s a resource for freelance writers and bloggers and features informative tips and articles in addition to gigs.

It’s hard to pinpoint the one thing I did this year to make FWJ such a success, because I made several changes all at once. In 2007 I made the long overdue switch from Blogger to WordPress. I also changed the format from being only job listings to offering informative articles and tips. I moved from sharing a domain with several other writers to hosting FWJ on my own domain and even unveiled a new design. If I had to choose however, I’d say focusing on my community is the one thing I did to make the biggest positive impact in 2007.

Besides featuring a daily listing of freelance writing and blogging jobs, I now post daily “round table” type discussions. I let my readers know I’m not an expert, but I can teach them what I learned and perhaps they can add their two cents to the mix so we could figure it out together. By making it easier for my readers to respond and discuss, Freelance Writing Jobs has evolved from a blog into a community. Instead of receiving a couple of comments a week, I have dozens of comments a day. The members of our community now visit several times a day to participate in the different discussions.

Freelance Writing Jobs is one of the most successful blogs for freelance writers today, not because of me, but because of my community. I owe my success in 2007 to the thousands of people who visit each day.

How Longer Feature Posts Improved My Blog

Improve-BlogToday Leo Babauta from Zen Habits shares what he did in 2007 that improved his blog the most.

Improvement on Zen Habits has come in many small doses this year, but if I had to pick one thing it would be my transition to longer, less-frequent “feature” posts that go into more depth about a topic.

My readers have responded very well to these types of feature posts, and they seem to do pretty well in social media like Digg and delicious too.

The change actually came in a couple of steps: 1) I moved from shorter, more-frequent posts to longer ones; and 2) I more recently moved from a set schedule to a more relaxed schedule of posting when I feel like it.

The first move came when I realized that the shorter posts weren’t doing as well and weren’t as effective. Often the shorter posts (and these were early in the year) would link to another blog’s post and comment on it, but the feature posts are often much, much more useful and definitely have more depth. They seem to move my readers more, to serve them better in their lives, and in my opinion, if you can accomplish that with a post, you’ve found real success.

The second move came when I began to feel forced to write posts. I had been on a weekly schedule, where I wrote about a certain topic on each day of the week. I actually really liked the schedule, and so did my readers. But on some days, the posts felt forced, and I didn’t have much to talk about on that day’s topic. My readers began to feel that forcedness (forced-ocity?) too, so that was a clear sign that change was needed. Now, instead of doing 5 posts a week, I often do 4, and I write about whatever I feel like writing about. That’s really

transformed my writing, because it allows me to follow my passions, to write about my current interest, and the writing is the better for it.

What I’ve done might not work for every blogger, but it’s something I recommend at least trying. If you’re doing shorter posts, try writing some longer ones, exploring the topic more, linking to other resources, giving lists of tips, making the post truly useful. If you post frequently, consider cutting your schedule back a bit — it’ll give you more time to write great posts, and your readers will probably appreciate having fewer posts to read.

One Question Interview Summer Series

Improve-BlogOver the next week I’m taking a little extra time to enjoy the Summer weather here in Aus with my family.

To help provide those of you not taking a break with some inspiration I’ve asked a handful of bloggers that I respect to take part in a one question interview.

I’ve asked each one the same question and their responses will be posted over the next week. That question is:

What one thing did you do on your blog in 2007 that improved it the most?

Some of the responses are very short (Seth Godin takes the cake as you’d expect – succinct as always) where as some are much longer and full posts. Hopefully in this week leading up to 2008 these posts will inspire the rest of us to plan some ways to improve our blogs in the new year.

The bloggers range from A-listers in the eyes of the wider blogging community to A-listers in my eyes. Each post will be tagged with the One Question Interview icon that you see in this post.

PS: if you’d like to answer the question for yourself either as a post or comment I’d love to hear your own response. If you post your answer – please do leave a link to it in comments below.

Wife Advice — a ProBlogger Community Consulting Project

This week’s community consultation is for a very unique blog!

If you’re new to the project, it’s recommended that you read the launch post. This week there’ll be another chance to win an iPod Shuffle and a link to your blog under the winner’s name in the summary post. Not a bad haul for a few minutes work.

In this round of consultation we’ll be looking at Wife Advice. The blog’s owners, The Donkey and Wife, described the blog as follows:

At Wife Advice, The Donkey and The Wife share anecdotes, arguments, and advice based on their own marriage. The Donkey is an expert on what NOT to do (like don’t rate your wife’s looks a 6 out of 10 while you’re still on your honeymoon, and definitely don’t publish her weight on the internet). The Wife offers advice on how to handle a husband who lacks marital skills.

They’ve asked the ProBlogger readership to answer three questions:

1. What’s the best way for Wife Advice to increase its readership?

2. How could the design be improved?

3. What monetization strategies would work best at Wife Advice?

I’ll now open it up to the ProBlogger community to provide your advice, suggestions and constructive critique. The commenter who provides the most useful feedback for the blog will win an iPod shuffle from ProBlogger with a link to the winner’s blog in the prize announcement.

A round-up of the community feedback (with my own commentary) will be posted in 4 – 5 days, so make sure to get your comments in soon.

A screenshot of Wife Advice.

We’d love for comments to be as constructive, helpful and practical as possible, and will be taking all these factors into account when deciding on the winning commenter.

What Was Your Most Popular Post in 2007?

As we draw closer to the end of the year I spent some time this week doing some reviewing of ProBlogger.

One of the things I looked at was to analyze popular posts. It got me wondering what type of posts were most popular on other blogs.

So here’s a reader question:

What Was Your Most Popular Post in 2007?

By ‘popular’ I’m thinking of posts that got a combination of traffic, comments and link love from other blogs. It’s up to you to define it as you wish.

I’ll share mine in an upcoming year in review post – but in the mean time I’d love to see yours. Feel free to leave a link, the title and tell us a little about the post and why it was successful.

Best of ProBlogger – 2007

Happy Christmas – I hope that you’re having a good one. I’ve got a bit day of family fun planned – but wanted to leave something here on the blog for those of you with a little more time on your hands to enjoy.

I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back on the year that was. Sure we’re a few days out from New Years – but I thought I’d bring my end of year review forward a little. This post contains some stats for this blog, highlights from the last 12 months of archives (in terms of popular posts) and a quick look forward at the year ahead.

So grab a cup of coffee (or eggnog as it may be), sit back and lets take a look back on the year that was on ProBlogger.

Best Of Problogger

2007 – Another Year at ProBlogger

As 2007 draws to an end I took a few hours earlier in the week to look back over the archives of this blog and to do an annual review. I do this every year, mostly for my own purposes, but last year also shared some highlights with readers so thought I’d do so again.

The year was a big one. On a personal front we moved house (bought/built and sold houses) and traveled in the US for a month as a family (as well as survived becoming parents of a toddler). In a business sense it’s also been massive with considerable growth in this blog and DPS (which has grown considerably faster than ProBlogger), b5 growing incredibly, redesigning ProBlogger and some wonderful opportunities to travel, write, speak etc coming my way.

Some Stats:

  • Posts: 895 (with a few days to go this will end up being around 300 posts less than last year. This decrease is largely because in 2006 I had a lot more ‘group writing projects’ and other series (like blogging for beginners) which had a lot more ‘bitsy’ posts). It is also because I traveled a little more this year (when I travel post levels drop to about 60% of normal levels).
  • Comments: 40,519 (nothing to compare it to from last year – but it’s way higher). This of course doesn’t include the million or so spam comments.
  • Visitors: 3.02 million (according to Sitemeter – AWstats show it as 4.4M – realistically it’s somewhere between the two figures). It’s around double last year.
  • Page Views: 5.86 million (again according to SM – AWstats shows it as 15.3M)
  • Subscribers: Currently sitting between 36,000 and 38,000 most days. This is up from around 10,000 a day this time last year.

Hot Posts:

Picking the best posts that you’ve written in a year is virtually impossible – so is picking favorite ones. This year instead of listing them by most commented upon and other notable posts I’ll just list 5 or so posts for each of the months that either caused good discussion, got attention on other blogs or that got a lot of page views.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Thanks

Finally I want to thank a few people (or a few million).

b5media – For starters the team at b5media who have enabled me to continue to develop Problogger. When you cofound a company that grows so quickly it can be difficult to know where to put your attention. b5′s been very patient with me and allowed me to keep a high priority on this blog. The tech team at b5 have also done wonders on the back end of this blog while the ad sales team have done a great job of monetizing it.

Guest Writers – This year has seen me rely more heavily upon a very talented group of writers. I’ve introduced new voices to ProBlogger both to help with my work load but also to add variety into the mix here at ProBlogger. Including the periods that I’ve been away there have been over 50 guests write on this blog this year – thanks to all of them. Particularly I’d like to thank Skellie who has become my first staff writer on ProBlogger over the last months. Her posts have been among the most popular on the blog this year.

Readers – This year has been an incredible journey for me here at ProBlogger. I’ve learned so much about blogging, communication, community and life – largely through the wider readership and their comments, emails and other contact points. I’ve met more of you in person this year than ever before (at different meetups) and I have to say that I’m really proud of the caliber of people who read this blog. Thanks for your suggestions, patience, encouragement and support in 2007.

2008 and beyond

Every year my wife and I set a little time aside on New Years Day to reflect upon the last year and to look forward (we write a few goals). Every year since we’ve been married (six years) we’ve said something like ‘maybe next year will be a little quieter’.

As I look at 2008 I immediately shove the thought of a quiet year aside – because I know it is going to be even busier. I already have some new projects in the wings (both personal and blogging related) which I hope to reveal in the coming months (although some of you have stumbled upon one of them already) and I’m sure if the last few years are anything to go by there will be plenty of other opportunities coming up.

What will ProBlogger look like in another 12 months?

I’m not quite in a position to share the next phase of the journey – but there will be continued development of this site in the year ahead. My top priority is to keep adding useful content to our archives (we’ll go past 4000 posts in the next few weeks), to facilitate community among bloggers and to resource them with as many helpful services as possible.

Stay tuned for the next steps in the journey.

Let me finish by wishing you all a happy holiday period.

Winners of this week’s Comments Competition

Over the last week we’ve held a competition here at ProBlogger where five active readers (those leaving comments) win a free copy of the Premium News Theme (for WordPress blogs) – designed by Adii.

375 readers put themselves in the running for the competition by commenting on the initial post with some increasing their chances by commenting on other posts after that (each comment was an entry). I’ve drawn one comment from each day of the competition to be a winner. They are:

Day 1 – Nancy from Swept Away TV

Day 2 – Maya from The New Jew

Day 3 – Craig Mische from CraigMiche.com

Day 4 – Ruchir from TechnoMoney

Day 5 – Dennis Ray Nestor Jr. from Idea GuyTV

Congratulations to each of you on your win. I’m sure you’ll be happy with Adii’s design.

I’ve forwarded each winner’s details onto Adii and he’ll be in touch with you in the coming week (he’s currently taking a few days away on vacation so it’ll probably be after Christmas).

The Secret Motivations that Drive Your Customers

MotivationsThe following post on the motivations of customers is by Dean Rieck from Direct Creative.

Do you understand the motivations of your blog customers?

Hold on. Did I just say, “customers”? If you’re like most bloggers, you talk about “subscribers” or “traffic” or “page views.” The term “customers” may not come naturally to you.

But if you’re selling things, offering services, or even just placing ads on your blog, you’re running a business. And if you’re running a business, you DO have customers. So in order to maximize the income your blog produces, you have to understand what your customers really want

I’ve been studying customer psychology for years. And from my experience, and the experience of thousands of other businesses, I’ve compiled a list of the most powerful motivations that drive buyers.

Understand these motivations and you will understand your customers.

People want what they don’t have.

They are driven to obtain the things they want or feel they deserve, especially when others have them. In modern society, people are trained to expect more and more from their personal lives. People seek to gain:

  • Time
  • Comfort
  • Money
  • Popularity
  • Praise
  • Pride of accomplishment
  • Self-confidence
  • Security
  • Leisure
  • Fun
  • Prestige
  • Enjoyment
  • Health
  • Better appearance
  • Exclusivity
  • Ego gratification
  • Business advancement
  • Social advancement

People want to avoid losing what they have.

Just as they seek to gain what they don’t have, they also seek to avoid losing something once they have it. The potential loss of any item on the previous list is a strong motivator.

People want to avoid unpleasant things.

While they are driven to gain and keep pleasant things, there is an even stronger drive to avoid unpleasant things. People want to avoid:

  • Embarrassment
  • Offense to others
  • Domination by others
  • Loss of reputation
  • Pain
  • Criticism
  • Risk
  • Work
  • Effort
  • Discomfort
  • Worry
  • Doubt
  • Guilt
  • Boredom

People want to act in particular ways.

They usually have specific, emotional reasons for doing things even if they are not aware of those reasons. People act in order to:

  • Express their unique personality
  • Satisfy their curiosity about some subject
  • Feed their appetite for something physical, emotional, or spiritual
  • Act or appear like their heroes
  • Attract the opposite sex
  • Acquire beautiful or rare things that “say” something about them
  • Improve themselves in some way
  • Gain affection from people who are important to them
  • Be accepted into a social circle
  • Get ahead at work
  • Add beauty or elegance to their lives
  • Impress others, build and reinforce their reputation
  • Fulfill their duty
  • Enjoy themselves or just play
  • Create or accomplish something
  • Get rich or make money
  • Reward themselves for something
  • Protect themselves from harm of some kind

People want to be seen in a favorable way.

They like to think of themselves in a positive light. Plus, they are sensitive about what others think of them. So people want to be seen as:

  • Smart or savvy
  • First or best at something
  • Unique, one-of-a-kind
  • Creative, either generally or in a special area
  • Good parents
  • Efficient
  • Recognized authorities
  • Up-to-date, well-educated, or “with it”
  • Gregarious and sociable
  • Influential, able to get things done
  • Independent and individual
  • Popular, well-liked
  • Part of a group, “one of the boys”

This list can be helpful when you’re creating a selling message. However, I caution against choosing a motivation at random and grafting it onto something you’re selling.

Good products or services usually have a built-in appeal. You’ll be far more successful if you identify that natural motivation and then build your message around it, along with a strong offer.

Also, be careful about being too blatant about customer motivation. While people are driven by emotions, they like to think they are logical. Always play to the emotion of your customers while speaking to them as if they make decisions rationally.

Dean Rieck is an internationally respected copywriter and designer. For tips on copywriting, advertising, and direct marketing, sign up for Dean’s FREE Newsletter at www.DirectCreative.com , plus get a FREE 16-page report with 99 Easy Ways to Boost Your Direct Mail Response. Or drop by the Direct Creative Blog at www.DirectCreative.com/blog.

PS from Darren – a good book that picks up on some of the same themes as Dean’s post is Hot Button Marketing: Push the Emotional Buttons That Get People to Buy. It’s a good read and helped me in thinking about motivations of readers quite a bit!

What do YOU Do with Your Blog When You Go on Vacation?

Blog-Vacation
There’s four emails in my inbox today which all ask the same question.

‘What do You Do with Your Blog When You Go on Vacation?’

I’ve written about it previously (links below) but I thought it might make a good reader discussion question (and topical too as many of us are on the cusp of taking time off).

So what do you do with your blog when you travel, take a vacation, need to take extended time away from the blog?

Looking forward to seeing the mix of answers.

Once you’ve left your answers – you might like to check out these previous posts on the topic: