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Tips on How to Apply for a Blog Job

24 Hours ago I decided to use my own job board here at ProBlogger for the first time. I’ve used it before to advertise jobs for b5media – but never before to advertise for a blogger on one of the blogs that I manage.

The job I put up is here for a Digital Photography Blogger – someone to take a little of the load of producing posts for DPS off my shoulders to allow me to work on other projects.

The exercise of placing the ad has been quite interesting. While I’ve watched other advertisers use the job boards actually being on the receiving end of job applications has been fascinating.

Here’s some raw observations of and results from the process followed by a few random thoughts for bloggers and advertisers wanting to use the boards:

  • In 24 hours I’ve had 20 applications
  • Applications have largely been from the type of person that I wanted – in fact I’ve been surprised by the number of Professional Photographers that have applied
  • The job ad has actually been picked up by a number of other job syndication services. I’d known that a few other sites were picking up my ads and republishing them but hadn’t realized how many – so far I’ve seen it on 5 other sites – so the reach of these ads is going beyond the thousand subscribers the RSS feed has.
  • Applications themselves have been at a higher quality than I’d expected. I’ve previously written a number of suggestions for those applying for jobs and was pleased to find that most applicants followed instructions in the ad and put together helpful pictures of who they were and what they could bring to the job

Further Advice for Bloggers Applying for Jobs

Much of my advice for bloggers has been in the article that I’ve referred to above – however I’ll reemphasize two points.

  1. Sell Yourself – while the vast majority of applicants did this well, a couple fell well short of presenting themselves well in their application. This is a job you are going for so if you’re serious about getting it you need to give reasons why you’d be good for the position. Highlight your strengths, relevant experience and what makes you unique. Write your application carefully as those reviewing it will be looking at your ability to write well (after all blogging is a written medium and if you can’t demonstrate an ability to communicate clearly in your application it’s a signal that you might not be the person for the job).
  2. Follow Instructions – again this was not an issue for almost all applications but one or two applicants didn’t demonstrate that they could follow instructions and failed to include information that was asked for. While for some it may not have been possible to include everything that I asked for at least an attempt to do so would have demonstrated that they’d read the advertisement beyond the first line or two. Again – this sends a signal to the advertiser about your ability to work with them.

Overall it’s been a great experience for me. My only concern now is how to choose one or two applicants out of a list of 20 amazing people!

Ask ProBlogger a Blogging Question

Blog-QuestionsOver the next few months I’d like to base as many posts as possible here at ProBlogger on real life questions and problems of readers.

As a result I’m opening the ProBlogger ‘question box’.

I can’t guarantee that I’ll answer them all – but I’ll attempt to get through as many as possible or to find others who are better qualified than I am to do so.

Anything related to blogging will have more chance of being answered – although you’re welcome to submit other questions that you think I might have anything to say on.

PS: If you don’t want your name/blog to be linked to your question feel free to ask it anonymously. Please submit the questions in comments below.

How to Write Better Posts, Every Time

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Read more posts like this one at her blog, Skelliewag.org, or subscribe to her RSS feed.

Whether you blog about internet marketing, parenthood, karate or ballpoint pens, there are certain things you can do to make each post better. This week, I want to share several strategies you can use to make your posts more gripping — regardless of their length or topic.

A simple rule for every post

Omit any sentences or paragraphs in your post that don’t fall under the following two categories:

1. Words that persuade visitors to read the article.

2. Words that visitors will want to read.

Your posts should, ideally, flow from one category to the other. The aim of your introduction is to hook visitors in: to give them a reason to read on. The rest of your post should be dedicated to delivering on your earlier promises.

A common mistake I see bloggers make is to forget persuasion: to start with a long anecdote or rambling detail without a hook. If visitors can’t see what they stand to gain from reading your content, they’ll skip it. While their visit will add +1 to your site stats, it won’t grow your blog.

A useful habit — When settling down to write the first paragraph of your post, don’t launch into the content straight away. Instead, dedicate the first paragraph to words that will persuade the visitor to read. While you could achieve this with an intriguing anecdote, a controversial statement, or a knock-out opening sentence, the “tell them what you’re going to tell them” approach has worked well for me. It won’t win the Pulitzer Prize, but being able to say “this article will do this, this and this” is easy and effective. Sometimes the most simple and obvious option is the best one.

Deliver on your promises

Your introduction will have raised certain expectations about what your post is going to deliver. Resist the temptation to provide extensive background detail or otherwise include too much preamble to the real value in your post. Once your introduction is finished, get started with a bang.

A useful habit — Start with your best point first. A reader who was gripped by your introduction may soon lose interest if your content doesn’t make an immediate impact.

Remember to link out

Once you’ve finished your post, go over it and try to spot opportunities to link out to other websites and blogs. It will add more depth and value to what you write. Even top bloggers will follow up a trackback with an interesting title, so linking out can be beneficial from a ‘getting noticed’ perspective, too.

Help longer posts get read

If your post is longish, sign-post your logic with sub-headings. Ideally, a visitor who reads your sub-headings alone should be able to come away with a rough sketch of the ideas in your article.

Readers are excellent at extracting ideas in a minimum amount of time. Even if a reader isn’t interested in your first idea, they might see a sub-heading further into your article that sign-posts an idea or topic they have a lot of interest in. Sub-headings don’t encourage scanning — they encourage reading. If you saw a sub-heading you had intense interest in, it would be silly to pass it by and move on to the next thing. Sub-headings represent extra doorways into your post.

A dog balancing a cup on his head.
Photo by SuperFantastic

Add visual interest

By adding images, color and formatting to your post, you’re making them more enjoyable to read. A text-only post might excite our mind but if it bores our eyes too much, it will never be as effective as it could have been. Emphasizing key sentences in bold is a simple yet powerful way to make your posts more gripping.

A useful habit — Make a pact with yourself to add at least one image to each post you write, even if the post is short (and even if the image is very small). By adding align=”left” or align=”right” to the HTML tags for your image, you can push your image to the left or right of surrounding text. You can use stock photography, take your own photos or, my favorite option, find and use great Flickr images.

Put the ‘I’ in Write

Unless you’re a personal blogger, it’s hard to be unique. Most of us blog in crowded niches and most topics have been covered before (in some form or another). The only unique part of the equation is you. By blogging conversationally, sharing aspects of your personality and presenting ideas in your own way, you’ll differentiate your content with every post.

A useful habit — If you’re writing about news in your niche, ask yourself the following questions: does this affect me or someone I know? What do I think the implications of the news will be?

If you’re sharing advice or tips, ask yourself the following questions: how has this advice helped me, personally? What made me decide to start using these tips or methods? What kind of mistakes was I making beforehand?

When writing any type of post, ask yourself: could I work my own experiences into this, in a relevant way?

Points to review

  • Start your posts with words that help persuade visitors to read them.
  • Once you’ve done that, start delivering on the value you’ve promised.
  • Go over finished posts and add relevant links.
  • Add sub-headings to provide multiple entry points into your posts.
  • Add at least one image or graphic to every post you write.
  • Inject your personality and experiences into your posts to help differentiate your content.

13 Questions to Ask Before Publishing a Post On Your Blog

questions
1. What was the main point of this post? have I made it clearly?

2. What do I want readers of this post to do? have I led them to this action?

3. Have I written something useful?

4. Have I written something unique?

5. Has what I’ve written taken me closer or further away from my blog’s goals?

6. Have I used a title that draws people into my post?

7. Are my spelling and grammar correct?

8. Could I have said it more succinctly?

9. Have I credited sources of quotes and inspiration?

10. Have I written something previously that relates to this post that I could link to? has someone else?

11. Have I left room for my readers to add something to this post? have I invited them to?

12. What keywords will people search Google for on this topic? have I optimized this post for those words?

13. How could I follow this post up with another that extends it?

Image by Elín Elísabet

From 0 to 2000+ Subscribers in 90 Days

This guest post is one that I’m excited to publish – it’s by Tina Su from ThinkSimpleNow.com – a great blog that I’ve been a big fan of. In it Tina will share some of how she’s grow her blog from 0 to 2000 subscribers in just 90 days.

How I Got 2000 Subscribers in 3 Months

Hi, my name is Tina. I started a little blog called Think Simple Now on September 27th, 2007 with zero experience in blogging, internet marketing or writing. By the time Christmas came, 3 months later, I had 2135 subscribers.

Thinksimplenow

I’m new to blogging, in fact, I read very few blogs. I also do not follow any blogs on blogging, with the exception of a couple of articles read from doshdosh and problogger very early on.

I often get asked how I did it, and I decided to compile this article as a record of my experience with hope that others might benefit from what I’ve learned. I want to show you that it is possible to achieve your blogging goals starting from scratch, using my case as a live example. I’ve learned that there are no real secrets to blogging success, all it really takes is a deep desire to do so, along with an urge to action.

I have three important reasons why my blog has been successful:

  1. Concrete Goals & Focus – You can’t get what you want if you don’t know what you want.
  2. Content Creation – Where I spend most of my time. Content and understanding your audience is king.
  3. Getting the Word Out – Actionable tasks I did to market my blog. All are easily reproducible by anyone. But only focus on this after area 2 have been in place. Without content, all your marketing efforts will be ineffective.

Each step builds on the last, so it’s important to follow them in order. Let’s break each step down into details.

1. Concrete Goal & Focus

Why Goals?
It is important to understand why you are starting a blog. What is your motivation?
I had 3 motivations (in order):

  • To share my knowledge and experience through my own personal growth on topics surrounding personal empowerment, mental well-being and finding happiness. These are the topics I spend my free times thinking, reading and talking about.
  • My dream is to work in the self-improvement field. I have many product ideas around ways to improve lives. I wanted to create my own audience, before working on these ideas.
  • Achieve my financial goals such that I can leave my job and commit to my self-improvement ventures full-time.

What?
Defining my target niche and the topics I wanted to cover was tricky, but ultimately vital to the success of any business or project. I originally wanted to start a blog around things I’m interested in: self-improvement, photography, technology and entrepreneurialism. I realized that a messy combination of topics might confuse people. Ultimately, if I wanted more subscribers other than my family and friends, the site cannot be focused around me, but rather focused around what my audience needs and wants. My target niche is health/wellness or personal growth. My topic areas are: creativity, clarity and happiness.

Goals
We cannot get what we want if we do not know what we want. Sure, you can say, I want to be rich or happy. But what does that mean? It is important to set clearly defined goals before you start any new venture. Your goals need to be measurable and dated. I find it helps to regularly come back to evaluate my goals. I do this monthly in a traffic journal recording my progress: unique, page views, subscribers and revenue.

For example, my goal when I started was:

By December 31, 2007, I would have 1000 uniques, 2500 page-views monthly, and 100 RSS subscribers.

This goal was revised on October 22 after reaching the original goal:

By December 31, 2007, I would have 5000 uniques, 20,000 page-views monthly, 400 RSS subscribers, $100 in ad revenue.

The new goal was reached on November 29th. At this point, RSS subscribers had reached over 1500.

Summary & Action Items:
To summarize, the following are the major points for the area of ‘Concrete Goal & Focus’. If might be helpful for you to answer these questions (on paper or type in a doc).

  • Why – What is your motivation? Why are you starting this blog? What are you doing that’s unique from existing blogs?
  • What - Who is in my audience? What topic areas will I cover? Describe my blog using 3 words.
  • Goals – Set a specific and measurable goal with a date. Come back to evaluate this goal and your progress periodically.

2. Content Creation

We all know that content is the most important piece, but how do you generate content such that people will want to read, reference and subscribe to it?

First, recall the last time you subscribed to a blog. What was it about the content that made you want to subscribe? The reasons will likely fall into one or more of the following:

  • Highly value-packed content.
  • It provides practical solutions to a perceived need you have.
  • You enjoyed it. It was highly entertaining.
  • You personally connect with the content and style of writing.
  • You felt inspired and motivated.

Now, put yourself in the position of a reader to your site. You know who they are from exercises above. Ask yourself, which of the above situations can your content satisfy? Keep these points in mind when writing. Always write with the intention to generate value and produce work that will benefit others. If you don’t, it will show in your writing.

I obsess over my content, not only because I feel responsible for my readers and want to give them the best quality that I can produce, but it is the only way a new reader coming to your site will want to stay and come back.

Try different styles and test which your reader responds to the most.

The following are tips related to content creation that’s worked well for my blog:

  • Intention - Set the intention to generate the best and most valuable content possible. Hold nothing back when you’re writing. Your honesty and genuine intentions will shine through in your writing. I like to write as if I’m talking to my best friend, giving them the best I have.
  • Use Personal Examples – People love stories. This allows them to relate with you on a personal level and connect with you as friends.
  • Pictures – Use appropriate and vivid images to go with your article. Whenever possible, always use images, but don’t over-do it. I would use no more than 3 images per article in a typical case.
  • Length - I prefer to post less often and write longer articles that covers depth. I post twice weekly and at length 750-1500 words. The length is out of necessity to cover topics thoroughly. I do try to keep things concise. Make sure all content are relevant. Do not be verbose for the sake of length, it will show if your writing and will turn people away. If you were a reader, would you be able to focus your attention long enough to read the whole article?
  • Lists - Use numbered lists and bullet points whenever it makes sense. Bold key words. These make reading easy and effective for scanning.
  • Short Paragraphs - Be as concise as possible. During editing, see if you get the same point across using less words.

Summary & Action Items:

  • Intentions – Have your reader’s best interest in mind.
  • Needs – What needs are you fulfilling with your articles? Is it a need that people actually have or one that you think others need?
  • Observe & Model – What kinds of articles do you enjoy reading from other blogs? Pick out common characteristics and model after them.

3. Getting the Word Out

Once I was armed with my goal of reaching 100 subscribers and had my content in place, I started to promote my blog. You may have the most valuable site in the world, but no one will benefit if they don’t know it exists.

Offline & Email
I pretty much lived and breathed my one simple goal of reaching 100 subscribers. Everywhere I went, I told people about my goal and my blog, and people were willing to help. This include every physical person I met and anyone who emailed me: co-workers, girlfriends of co-workers, friends of family, person sitting next to me on a plane, new friends I met on facebook, photography clients … everyone.

I added a note about subscribing to my email signature, so it appeared at the foot of every email I sent out. I emailed all of my friends when I launched, asking them to support me by subscribing.

Connecting with People
Connecting with readers and potential readers is an essential part of my blogging success. Not only does it help my blog grow, but I absolutely love it. I have made many good friends this way. When people like you and feel that your content is valuable, they will tell their friends about it. I quickly discovered that many of my readers were emailing links to others, and referring many new subscribers.

I’ve given extra effort to reach out and connect with others. It was a process which I took personally. I made sure every comment was responded to and no emails were left ignored. I no longer respond to every comment due to time limitations, but I still respond to every email. If a comment was especially good, I would email the person to thank them and include a copy of my response to their comments, especially if it contained questions.

I used to email every person who commented with a thank you note and would ask them to consider subscribing. Then I discovered the Comment Relish plug-in that did this automatically.

I also connected with people through facebook, by visiting groups in my niche and befriending individuals. I’ve made some great friendships this way, and was even inspired with new article ideas.

Leaving Your Mark: Comments & Directories
Comment in other people’s blogs, especially ones with related topics. Make sure to leave thoughtful and relevant comments, otherwise, it will be viewed as spam. I found a list of personal development blogs, and made a point to visit every one and leave a comment when appropriate. Again, make sure you are not spamming. Bloggers are often curious of who the commentators are and will visit your site. On popular blogs, you may need to leave comments regularly to be noticed. If your content is good, bloggers will link to you when appropriate, others may even add you to their blogroll.

I’ve submitted articles to article banks, blog carnivals, and rss feed directories. I stopped article bank submissions when I learned about the google penalties for duplicate content. In an effort to save time, I outsourced these three tasks due to their repetitive nature.

Networking with Bloggers
Reach out and meet other bloggers. You never know who you’re going to meet or how you will be able to help each other. I feel that you cannot do it alone, you need a community of friends. “We are stronger together than we are apart“. I recommend keeping a contact list of friends, so it’ll be easy to get in touch with one email. This is also valuable when you need last minute help with social media.

This model helped me tremendously: To get what you want, help others get what they want, first.: In a email reply from Maki, he ended his email with, “Let me know if you need anything,” which left an impression on me. From that point on, I told people about Maki’s site whenever I had the chance.

Since then, I started using it in my emails as well. But it is important to be genuine. Always lend a hand to help other bloggers (within reason) and do not expect anything in return. If they end up helping you, great, if not, I don’t recommend harassing them.

Don’t be shy, people are incredibly kind creatures by nature. Drop them an email to introduce yourself, either make a genuine comment about their site, or ask a simple question. Do not start email conversations with asking to be linked, asking to review your blog, asking too many questions. Avoid philosophical questions, keep emails short, be friendly and honest. Try practicing on me: Feel free to drop me a line to introduce yourself at tina[at]thinksimplenow.com

Linking
I linked to other blogs whenever possible in my articles. It doesn’t cost you anything, and helps someone else out. If you feel uncomfortable with this, ask yourself, would you like to be linked by other blogs? If the answer is yes, then remember my motto: “To get what you want, help others get what they want, first.

Through my linking to other blogs, not only have other bloggers noticed me but I have made many new friends. As a result, I’ve also been linked by larger sites like lifehacker, dumblittleman and lifehack.

Social Media & Networks
In the first few weeks, I was getting like 15 hits a day, mostly from my mom and boyfriend. One day, I was blessed with 150 hits coming from StumbleUpon based on a user submit. I was fascinated and was determined to become a power user. You can check out my profile here. I did well on StumbleUpon using the same motto: “To get what you want, help others get what they want, first.” If you want user reviews, give lots of user reviews to others. If you want others to stumble your pages, stumble other people’s pages. Again, do so without expecting anything in return. And, when you do receive something, treat it like a gift and thank the giver.

Just as I was starting to feel de-motivated, my big break came on November 17th when one of my stories made it on the front page of Digg and subsequently on the front page of Del.icio.us. Digg now had my attention. Using the same motto as all my efforts above, I befriended Digg users and became a loyal contributor of the community. I like to Digg top upcoming stories (close to becoming popular), newly submitted stories and ones submitted or favored by friends. If you want to get a Digg user’s attention, start Digging their submissions regularly.

I like to keep a consistent profile across all social media sites I participate in. Use the same avatar image and use the same username. Your image and username is your face to the network, people will recognize you if they find you in other networks such as Mixx, Propeller or Twitter. But if you use different images, it’ll be difficult to keep track for your online friends. Also, I don’t recommend changing your avatar often. Some users on StumbleUpon will regularly update their image, this is really confusing and forces me to remember them by username only.

Summary & Action Items

  • Tell everybody and ask for help: in person and over email
  • Connect with readers via email
  • Install Comment Relish
  • Comment on other blogs
  • Link to other blogs whenever you can
  • Make 5 new blogger or social media friends weekly
  • Join StumbleUpon and Digg

Parting Words

I often hear people say things like “I just can’t get people to subscribe. What can I do? My advice is to stop repeating this sentence and start focusing on what it is that you want, instead of what you lack.

Develop the mentality of abundance instead of competition. Focus on your readers, obsess over their experience, have a clear goal and go after it with your whole being, without a minute spent on reasons why you will fail. I have seen over and over again that:

When desire is mixed with faith backed by massive action, the probable becomes possible, every time. No exceptions.

I wish you continued success with your blogging and other life ventures. Keep your head up high.

About the Author of This Post:

Help and support Tina by subscribing to her blog at ThinkSimpleNow.com to get motivational and empowering articles like this one delivered twice a week. She’ll love you for it. :) Read more about Tina here.

Entrecard Credit Winners

Last week I ran a little competition to give away 5000 Entrecard credits to ProBlogger readers. I’ve just drawn the winners and they are:

Thanks for everyone’s comments and recommendations. Winners – have already been gifted the points.

StumbleUpon – The Most Popular Social Bookmarking Site for (Pro)Bloggers

In the last ProBlogger reader poll I asked readers about their social bookmarking habits – more specifically to tell us about their favorite social bookmarking site.

Just under 1300 readers have voted to this point and the results look like this:

Social-Bookmarking

StumbleUpon wins quite convincingly with 31% of all responses (or if you subtract the ‘I don’t use any’ responses SU is a 38% slice of the total pie). I’ve included some reasons given by readers as to why they like StumbleUpon below.

Delicious and Digg were closer with 21% and 19% of the total vote.

What did surprise me a little was the 19% of those responding who don’t use social bookmarking. I guess it’s become such a normal and natural part of my own day that I forget that quite a few readers don’t get into it.

Lastly, on the ‘Other’ section of the pie – a few readers told us about their ‘other’ selections but none attracted more than 2 votes so I have not given them any category of their own. Those that did get the 2 votes were BloggingZoom, Sphinn and Sk*rt.

9 Reader Comments on StumbleUpon’s Popularity

Why did StumbleUpon win so convincingly? Here’s just some of the reasons that readers gave on the poll announcement post:

  1. supermom_in_ny – “I use StumbleUpon because I believe the playing field is more level than at digg. Your readers can stumble you and you can get lots of traffic very quickly. You don’t have to be part of an elite crowd like at Digg. StumbleUpon accepts a wider variety of topics as well as photos and videos. Digg users (voters) tend to enjoy more tech related articles and bizarre news stories.”
  2. How to Rule the World – “It seems to be the easiest way to get good traffic. People actually read the articles, sign up to my rss and come back again to visit my site. I also enjoy the ease of networking with other bloggers and the ability to chat and share ideas with others. Its not as secretive as digg…”
  3. Michael Martin – “StumbleUpon is my favorite because it’s the easiest way of finding new content.”
  4. UltraRob – “I really like StumbleUpon. I’ve found all sorts of cool things stumbling and I’ve made some good contacts from it too. I’ve also seen more traffic from it than other sites.”
  5. Ryan Oelke – “we find Stumble Upon generates the most traffic by far, which is one perspective on using bookmarking systems. Digg’s crowd is simply to tech oriented, even if they have multiple categories.”
  6. plonkee – “I love StumbleUpon. I’m a big fan of the randomness of it, especially if you have really disparate categories.”
  7. Michael – “Like many others, I look at most of them. But SU seems to have less junk and more of what I am looking for. And, from a blogger / webmaster’s side, it is the one that seems to work best for getting real traffic to my sites.”
  8. Cory – “I use StumbleUpon b/c it’s easy to use, and I feel like I won something when I get to be the one who discovers a new post.”
  9. Genesis – “I like StumbleUpon for several reasons. It sends me more traffic than any other social site. Many others, like Digg only count if you hit the front page and my blog isn´t really meant for Diggers. SU also has a variety of very useful content and I use it frequently to get ideas for blog posts and articles that I´m writing. It´s a great source of inspiration (and a good time waster, too, if you aren´t careful!).”

Blogger or Mind-Reader? Six Ways to Give Your Audience Exactly What It Wants

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie is a regular writer for ProBlogger. Get more unique blogging tips at her blog, Skelliewag, or subscribe to her feed.

ProBlogger readers are absolutely spoilt when it comes to great articles about coming up with post ideas. But what about thinking up the post topics your audience has been craving?

In this post I’ll be outlining six strategies you can use to determine exactly what kind of posts your audience wants to see on your blog.

1. Listen to comments

One thing you might have noticed is that commenters will sometimes ask you to expand on a section of your post. Either they wanted more information on a specific point, a more thorough exploration of one of your ideas or a clear explanation of something that’s confused them. Instead of answering in comment form, you can turn your answer in a post (and use the answer to drive more traffic back to your original article.)

2. Listen to emails

Part of being a blogger is receiving and answering reader questions by email. These questions can be a great source of ideas for posts your audience is craving.

After receiving the tenth or so email on how I find and use great Flickr images in posts on my own blog, I decided to write a complete guide to the process after sensing it was something a lot of readers were interested in. The resulting post went on to become one of the most popular articles I’ve ever written!

Listening to reader emails can result in some fantastic post ideas.

3. Ask them

A fairly obvious option, but one I don’t see many bloggers explore. Ask your readers to submit ideas for posts they’d like to see on your blog. Do this every couple of months and you’ll have a list of ideas you can turn to when your well of inspiration runs dry. If you notice several ideas on the same topic or area you can bet that it’s something quite a few of your readers would like to see more of.

4. Turn wants and needs into post-topics

Grab a notebook, open to a new page and put a pen in one hand. Write down all the possible niche-related wants and needs of your target audience.

If your target audience is interested in debt elimination, for example, their wants and needs cloud might look like this:

  • To develop a workable budget and stick to it.
  • To spend less without sacrificing quality of life.
  • To find cheaper versions of the things they need.
  • To find new ways to make a bit of extra money.
  • To avoid getting into future debt.
  • To become debt-free as soon as possible.
  • To eliminate unnecessary expenses.

If we give each want/need its own space on the page, we can start to branch out post ideas from each one. Because each of these post ideas is based on something our target audience wants, we can almost guarantee that it will be useful to them.

Two people in silhouette.
Photo by nattu

5. What do you want?

You’d be hard pressed to find a baseball blogger who’s not into baseball, a copywriting blogger who’s not into copywriting, a travel blogger who doesn’t like travel, and so on. You are part of your target audience. The things you’d like to see someone else in your niche write may just be what your target audience is also searching for.

Expanding on this premise, you can use your own niche experiences, problems and triumphs as fodder for blog posts. If you struggle with something related to your niche on a daily basis, maybe your readers are struggling with it too? If you’re worked out a solution to a problem related to your niche — something you were experiencing — maybe your readers would find the solution truly useful themselves?

If there’s a skill you’ve always wanted to learn, a problem you’ve always wanted to solve or a resource list you’ve always hoped to see, stop waiting for someone else to use your good idea, execute it yourself and turn the result into a truly useful blog post.

6. Reverse engineer what worked

Look at your blog’s top ten most popular post. They’re examples of posts that your target audience truly wanted to read. You can build on their success by adapting the same format to new content.

Let’s say one of your most popular posts was a list of ways to make money with eBay. You could capitalize on the success of the first article by creating an updated version (25 More Ways to Make Money With eBay), or invert the format by taking the opposite tack (25 Ways to Guarantee You’ll Lose Money With eBay) and outlining don’ts rather than dos.

Another effective strategy is to apply the same post format and headline formula to a new subject. Your list of 10 Insane Firefox Extensions for Web Designers could be followed by a list of 10 Insane Firefox Extensions for Entrepreneurs, or Journalists, or anything/anyone you can imagine (as long as it’s of interest to your target audience).

The crux of this strategy lies in combining what has worked well previously with something fresh, new and interesting.

Points to review:

  • Find ideas in comments.
  • Find ideas in emails.
  • Ask your readers what they want.
  • Use your audience’s wants and needs as a springboard for post topics.
  • Find inspiration in your own wants and needs.
  • Transfer the best qualities of your most popular posts into something new.

The Perpetual Hunt for the Front Page of Digg OR Blogging for People Who Actually Engage with You?

I wish someone had said something like this to be in the early days of my blogging:

“Many bloggers seem to be on a perpetual hunt for the front page of Digg. Sure, it brings you hordes of eyeballs, but then they turn around and leave. What’s the point of that, really?

I think that are plenty of tips you can follow to optimize your offering for this fickle mass group. But it’s still a crap shoot. Doesn’t it make more sense to incrementally earn the attention of a smaller, less glitzy but far more valuable group of people who actually engage with you? And the best part is, your odds of success are a lot better.”

Source – Seth Godin’s Blog.

I love what Seth’s said in this post. There’s a lot of wisdom in it.

However I’m not sure I’d throw out traffic from a site like Digg completely. I’ve written on this theme in Being ‘Discovered’ vs ‘Slow and Steady’ Blog Growth. In that post I recounted the story of three blogs that I’ve started and how each had a different way of growing (some grew one reader at a time and others on the back of waves from social bookmarking sites).

My conclusion in that post was to look for the opportunities to draw large amounts of traffic into your blog – but not to become obsessed by it and in the process ignore the smaller everyday tasks like building community, writing content that engages the needs of readers and networking with other smaller bloggers in your niche.