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ProBlogger Streaming Session – Now in Progress

It’s time for another short and impromptu video streaming session.

Feel free to drop by here to say G’day, ask questions and have a little fun.

Update: Thanks to everyone who dropped by – as usual it was fun. I managed to record the second half of the session and it’s available on the link above. Unfortunately the first half seems to have been lost as I got disconnected half way. Not sure how much sense it’ll be for those viewing the recording as I was interacting with questions from those in the chat room – but hopefully it gives a taste of what we covered.

Update 2: Speaking of video streaming – Yahoo have today launched their own video streaming service – Y! Live. I just set up a ProBlogger channel - although it’s got lots of bugs and can’t handle all the bandwidth from their launch at the moment so there’s nothing really to see on my page yet. If you’re thinking of doing video streaming on your blog it might be worth securing your own channel before anyone else does.

More on How to Build Anticipation on Your Blog

Build Anticipation on Your BlogOver the last couple of days I’ve been writing about growing the numbers of people subscribing to your blog.

Lets do a quick recap:

Today I want to share 5 other techniques that I’ve used to build anticipation on my blogs.

1. Write a Series

One of the most obvious methods of convincing someone to come back to your blog tomorrow is to write posts that build upon one another as a series. Not giving everything you’ve got in one post gives readers the need to come back tomorrow to get the full picture. The key to growing subscriber numbers with a series is to make it clear that there are more posts coming together – you might also want to try highlighting your actual feed to give them a way to subscribe.

If you want to explore how to do this check out my post with 10 steps writing a successful series on your blog

2. Plan Your Next Posts

Many bloggers blog very impulsively. They sit down to blog with no idea of what they’ll be focusing upon on a given day – let alone what they’ll be covering next week. Taking a little time out to plan your next few days (or weeks – or even months) can be a very beneficial exercise on many levels – one of which is that you can share your plans with readers and show them what they’ll get if they subscribe. The other benefit is a lot more subtle – if you know where you’re headed with your blog in the future you’ll write in a way that builds momentum – something that I think readers pick up on and are energized by.

3. Competitions

Running a competition on your blog can have many potential benefits – but one (if you run it correctly) is to see an increase in your subscriber count. I learned the power of this last year in running my $54,000 birthday bash where I saw a sizable jump in subscriber numbers. The key with using competitions in this way is to create anticipation by pre-launching the competition and having it run over numerous days and giving readers ways to ‘enter’ over time. My birthday bash did this by running a series of mini competitions over a week, thus creating a need to be on top of when new posts went up on the blog. For more on running blog competitions check out How to Run a Successful Competition on Your Blog.

4. Invitations on ‘Hot Posts’

One of the main ways that I’ve grown my subscriber numbers is simply to include very general invitations to subscribe on ‘hot posts’ on my blogs. This simply involves doing a little analysis of which posts are getting the most traffic and watching for sudden spikes in traffic to key posts. When I find these ‘hot posts’ I simply add a text link that says something like ‘get more tips like this one by subscribing’ or ‘enjoy this post – get more like it by subscribing…’ These invitations in hot posts snap first time visitors out of the ‘now’ and put thrust the possibility of similar ‘future’ goodies from your blog.

Want to see an example? One post that gets significant traffic on ProBlogger is How to Write an About Me page on a blog. You’ll see at the top of the post a section like this:

Subscribe

That section is key for subscribers. Yes I could run it on every page on the blog – but by highlighting the hottest posts I only have to do it on a handful of pages that convert best.

Similarly – if your blog gets a spike of traffic to a particular post from a social media site or a bigger blog you can easily add a similar invitation to subscribe. This means having to be on top of what’s getting traffic on your blog at any given moment – but it pays off.

5. Use ‘Future Oriented’ and ‘Permanent’ Language

The web is a very transitional and temporary space. Sites come and go (and readers come and go to them). However using language that tells your readers that you’ll be around tomorrow (and beyond) can effectively help them consider that your blog could actually be a place that they could return to rather than a place that they visit once.

I’ve experimented with this at DPS a bit lately – talking about upcoming posts, future features, asking readers to submit questions which I’ll base future posts upon etc. I believe that this type of language shows your readers that you’re in it for the long haul and gives them some incentive to keep tracking with you.

I have also been quite conscious in using the word ‘community’. This word is what I describe as a ‘permanent’ word as it siganls that a site is more than just a one off sharing information but that it’s a place that people can ‘belong’. When I talk about the site and have found that quite a few people have subscribed because they didn’t just want information – but a place where they could learn with others.

A word of warning

You can overuse the technique of Building Anticipation on a blog. Do some of the above too often an you run the risk of annoying readers – particularly regular readers who have already subscribed. I’ve been known to unsubscribe from a blog or two that leave virtually every post hanging on a key point or dividing what could easily be covered in a single post into long and unnecessarily drawn out series of posts. By all means use a series of posts – but I’d advise making sure that each post in the series has something worthwhile in it that makes it of value whether read in the context of the full series or not.

On that note – I think I’ll end this mini series and hand over the sharing of tips for building anticipation over to you the community of ProBlogger. How do you build anticipation on your blog?

ProBlogger Server Issues

Just a short note to let readers know that I do know we’re having some server errors at the moment on the site. The tech team at b5media are aware of it too and are working to resolve the issues. In short it’s symptomatic of the massive growth we’ve been experiencing lately as a network.

Apologies for the inconvenience – it’s largely happening around the posting of comments as far as I can see – it might be worth copying your comments before hitting publish. Refreshing will usually resolve the issue.

Do You Call Yourself a Blogger?


This might sound like a strange question for someone behind a site called ProBlogger to be asking – but do use the word ‘blogger’ to describe what you do? In this post I want to explore some reasons why I’m using the term less.
[Read more...]

How to Create a Sense of Anticipation on Your Blog

AnticipationYesterday I shared a theory – that creating a sense of anticipation on a blog is an important element in getting people to subscribe to it.

My logic is that people subscribe to blogs that they think will enhance their lives in some way in the future.

Many bloggers create a sense of anticipation on a blog quite instinctively – but there are numerous things that you can do quite intentionally to create anticipation and increase the chances of someone subscribing.

So how do you convince people that something that you’re yet to create is worth signing up for?

Today I want to share one effective strategy for building anticipation on a blog with some practical ideas on how to implement it. Like yesterday’s post – it’s not rocket science – but it is something that has worked for me.

Highlight Current and Past Quality Content

Probably the most convincing argument to a reader that you’ll write something that they can’t live without in the future is to have already written something that they have connected with.

Your current and past posts are your most effective advertisements for a continued relationship to those arriving on your blog.

As a result – one of the most effective strategies for creating anticipation on a blog is to put your best content in front of those visiting your blog – show them what you can do and let the quality of that work speak for itself.

Think back to to blogs that you’ve subscribed to lately – if you’re anything like me you’ve subscribed in most cases as a result of reading a post you thought was helpful, interesting, entertaining… etc

Most of us click the RSS feed icon or subscribe link based upon the quality of what we already read in the hope of seeing more of it.

So what’s the lesson here?

Actually there are two lessons – one is obvious and the other many fail to do.

1. The obvious one is to write great content and to do it regularly – its got to be your number 1 priority as a blogger.

2. The less obvious one is to put your best content into the view of those who are yet to subscribe to your blog – particularly first time visitors (who are crucial to target if your objective is to build the number of subscribers to your blog). Let me share a few ways you can do this.

How to Highlight Your Best Content

There are numerous ways to highlight your best content so and in doing so give people reason to subscribe to your feed.

DPS Sneeze1. Sneeze Pages – Perhaps the most useful technique that I can show you is to creating Sneeze Pages on your blog. I’ve recently done this on Digital Photography School. Look at the ‘Digital Photography Tips’ section in my sidebar (pictured left) – these links point to ‘sneeze pages’ that highlight my best and most popular content.

In having these sneeze pages I not only increase my page views – but I show new readers to my blog just how much I’ve already covered and hopefully increase the sense of authority and credibility that I have.

The subscription rate from users hitting these sneeze pages is extremely high (note – I have prominent ways to subscribe on these sneeze pages and the pages that they link to).

2. ‘Best of’ Sections – Another is to create sections in your sidebar or front page that highlight your best work. One example of this is the ‘Best of ProBlogger’ section on my front page of this blog. This section is ‘hot’ – quite literally. Check out this heat map (taken a few months back using the CrazyEgg tool) of this section to see how many people click on it.

Heat  Map

The benefits of this are numerous – but ultimately it’s about driving people to previously written quality content. My observations are that it’s these popular pages where many subscribers to my blog come from.

3. Landing Pages – Another strategy is to use a plugin like Landing Sites to sense when a reader is arriving on your blog for the first time and showing them other posts you’ve written on the topic they are searching for.

This works well – particularly if you have a large archive – because someone arriving on your blog not only sees one post on the topic that they’re looking for but numerous (increasing the perception that you’re a comprehensive source of information on that topic).

4. Interlink Posts – You should be regularly linking to your previous best quality posts in new posts. In doing this you constantly drive people to the pages where they see writing of a quality that is likely to convince them that you know what you’re talking about. The more pages that they view that they find useful the more chance of them subscribing.

But Wait There’s More

The key to the above four techniques is to send new readers to your highest quality and most helpful posts and then to present them with opportunity to subscribe on these posts (update: here’s my post with more tips on how to build anticipation on your blog).

However this highlighting content isn’t enough on it’s own.

It will definitely work to some degree but there are numerous other ways to create anticipation on a blog and to these I’ll be turning my attention tomorrow.

Aweber Start Reporting Stats to Feedburner

In my recent First Impression review of Aweber (a newsletter service with some nice features for bloggers) a number of readers mentioned that the thing that was stopping them from using Aweber was that those who subscribe to them using Aweber’s Blog Broadcast option would not be counted in the Feedburner RSS subscriber counter that so many bloggers use.

Aweber have heard this feedback and in the last couple of days have started reporting their numbers to Feedburner. As a result we’ll start seeing bloggers who use the ‘blog broadcast’ service with higher subscriber numbers reported.

This makes the Blog Broadcast option a fairly attractive package now and one that I’m considering moving over to for a number of reasons (note: to this point I only use Aweber for weekly newsletters, and have not use the ‘blog broadcast’ feature).

What I like about it most is that it allows bloggers to have lots of control over how the blog broadcast emails look and are timed.

Most bloggers who offer the ability for readers to subscribe to their RSS feed via email tend to use Feedburner’s own service – a reliable service that I’ve been using for quite some time.

However Aweber adds some great functionality including:

Scheduling – Aweber’s service allows you to not only choose the time of the day that you want to send blog broadcasts to readers but allows you to send them out at certain times of the week or month. So you could choose to send them every morning at 6am so readers have something to read when they get up – or you could make it a once a week service on Fridays as a wrap up of the week) or you could do it at the end of the month. In comparison to Feedburner’s ability to schedule based upon the time of day Aweber’s features win hands down.

Design – Feedburner does give some limited design options with their service. You can add a logo, choose font color, style and size of headings and the body of your emails – but that’s about it. To be honest I quite like the design of their emails – however if you want more control Aweber again offers some great options. They offer 50 premade templates to publishers to choose from (html and text based). These enable you to brand your broadcasts to a much higher degree than just a logo.

Aweber also introduced today the ability to automatically track what links readers are clicking on in Blog Broadcast emails. This was already available but had to be manually activated. You can now set it for every email you send and get the nice reports that Aweber produces after each email to let you know what your readers are clicking on in your posts.

Keep in mind that Aweber charges for their services while Feedburner’s are free. As a result most bloggers will probably stick with Feedburner which offers a reliable service – however I can see Aweber as becoming a more attractive option for many bloggers who are blogging on a more serious level and who want to customize their RSS to email service to a higher degree.

Win a Copy of Web Design for ROI

One of the books that I’ve been enjoying lately is Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads. It might surprise regular readers who know that I’m a self confessed web design dummy to know that I’ve been reading (and enjoying) a book about this topic – but I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of it in the mail a month or so back and it is a topic that I’ve enjoyed learning about.

This isn’t a book about designing sexy sites – it’s a book about designing profitable ones (although sexy can be good too and this book will help with that too). It’s not a book about designing blogs – but a lot of what you read in it will inform decisions that you make about your blog’s layout and design also. Whether you’re designing your own blog or hiring someone else to do it this book is a worthwhile read.

I won’t review the book here (to be honest I’m still only 70% of the way through it) but if there are some good review of it on it’s Amazon page if you’re interested.

What I am happy to announce though is that I’ve been given 5 copies of this book to give away to ProBlogger readers.

How to Enter

To enter this competition you need to do 2 things:

1. In comments below leave us a comment telling us what blog’s design you love the most and why. Feel free to leave a link to the blog but do include some thoughts on what you find attractive about the blog’s design and why you admire it.

2. Your comment needs to have the keyword ‘web design’ in it – this will help us make sure comments don’t get caught up in our spam filters.

On Saturday (at midnight my time) I’ll end this competition and choose 5 of my favorite comments (ie comments that stand out for their value) to win a copy of the book. I’m also keen to see what blog designs you love and hope it’ll help provide many of us with some inspiration on that front.

A Secret to Finding New Subscribers for Your Blog

‘How do I find new subscribers for my blog?’

This question hits my inbox so regularly that I that I’d answer it publicly rather than retyping my answer to each person who asks – it’s a topic that is on the mind of many bloggers these days so lets tackle it head on.

I’ve written an extended entry on this topic with 11 practical suggestions at Ways to Find New RSS Subscribers for Your Blog – however there’s one ‘secret’ that I’m increasingly convinced is a key to increasing subscriber numbers on a blog.

I say ‘secret’ because it eluded me for years – although in the end it was staring me in the face.

This ‘secret’ has helped me build both of my blogs into the 40,000 subscriber range (and beyond) and it’s something I see many other bloggers using to build their blogs – sometimes strategically and sometimes intuitively.

subscribers.png

Today I want to introduce this secret and then over the next few days I want to follow it up with some practical tips on how to use it in practice.

At the hear of what I want to talk about is a simple question:

Why do People Subscribe to Feeds?

I am sure there are numerous reasons that people subscribe to a blogs feed – however in most cases they simple truth is that they subscribe for one obvious yet powerful reason:

they think that the blog might produce content that they’ll want to know about at some point in the future.

As I say – this is a simple (and very obvious) truth – but it is actually a secret to building RSS subscriber numbers and it’s worth repeating.

People will subscribe to your blog if they think that it will enhance their lives in some way in the foreseeable future.

Ponder that for a few moments before reading on…..

Perhaps instead of asking ‘how can I get people to subscribe to my blog’ a better question to ask is:

‘how can I convince people that I will write something tomorrow, next week or next month that they just can’t miss out on.’

This ‘secret’ of building your subscriber numbers to your blog is to create a sense of anticipation in those who visit your blog. Build this and you’ll find people seek out ways to track with you rather than you having to find ways to shove your means of anticipation down their throats.

How to Create Anticipation on a Blog

My hypothesis is that creating a sense of anticipation among your readers increases the chances that they’ll subscribe to it.

But how do you do it?

This is where I create a little anticipation of my own and let you know that I’m going to unpack this further tomorrow when I’ll give you some practical tips on how to create anticipation on your blog. (update: here’s my next two posts in this series -how to build anticipation on your blog and more on how to build anticipation on your blog).

In the mean time – some questions for discussion:

  • How do you build anticipation on your blog?
  • How have you seen others do it effectively?

Feel free to share specific examples if you’ve got them.

Subscribe to my feed to get notified of my next post in this series.

update: Read the next post in this series at How to Create a Sense of Anticipation on Your Blog and a followup post with More On How to Build Anticipation on Your Blog.

Blogging Fatigue – 8 Tips to Get Over Your Blogging Blues

This guest post was written by Mark Seall from TalkClimateChange and EcoWorldly.

blogging-fatigue

Image by Aaron Jacobs

Blogging is often more of a lifestyle choice than a hobby or a business model, and that choice often has its cost. Time spent writing content is the easy part - the total time and energy commitment for researching, tweaking, ferreting out new stories, obsessively checking stats and participating actively in the blogosphere is too often all consuming.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that bloggers often run out of steam as energy levels begin to diminish and the time commitment takes its toll.

So what recovery options are available for the burnt out blogger? Here are some approaches I’ve found useful in the past:

1. Focus on your longer term goals

When my blogging energy level gets low I often start to wonder why I am putting myself through the torture of a full-time job, busy social life and two blogs at the same time. All of us have a reason behind our blog lives, be it business goals, personal goals, or just for pure fun. Taking a few moments to remind yourself of why you started can bring that original motivation back again. Thinking about your blogging goals, and the benefits of reaching them will help you focus on the positive aspects of blogging, not just the negative.

2. Talking about pure fun, try and put the fun back in to blogging.

If you usually write about serious topics then do an odd post with a less serious focus to lighten up your blog days a little. Your readers will often appreciate a change of pace as well.

3. Plan your time

Sounds obvious, but few bloggers plan their time, meaning that few bloggers can plan proper breaks. Often it feels like I’m running from one blog post to the other, continually under pressure to give my readers something new every day. Taking the time to plan a schedule allows me to plan in non-blogging free time to recharge my batteries.

4. Connect and ask for support

Every blogger knows how you feel, and the blogosphere by its very nature is populated with people who like to openly communicate and connect. Talk to your fellow bloggers, tell them how you feel, and you’ll quickly be rewarded with some warm and wise words of encouragement.

5. Reach out to your readers for inspiration

Your readers can be highly inspirational. Openly asking them for some updated feedback on what they like and don’t like, and what they would like to see on your blog in the future can make you feel better integrated into your blog as a community. After all, your readers and you form a close group with a passion for your given subject. Writing the occasional request-for-feedback post to recreate that sense of community always pays off.

6. Exercise

A high intensity blogging lifestyle tends to mean that non-critical activities are pushed aside. Exercise is not a non-critical activity, particularly for the blogger. Regular exercise will not only help to prevent any long term health problems that may occur as a result of extended computer hours, it also helps to reboot the creative process by pushing your brain’s reset switch.

7.Take the pressure off yourself

The lowest point always comes when blogging pressure > blogging energy. But blogging pressure only comes from yourself. Telling the blogosphere that they can do without you for a day or so while you recharge is often better than continuing to drag yourself down and writing weary posts. If your readers like you, they’ll come back when you do.

8. Unshackle yourself from your desk

Many desks and offices are hardly inspiring places, and it could be that it’s your environment that is wearing you down. Using a notebook PC means you can blog in inspirational places, or use time otherwise wasted. If notebook PCs are not an option for you, then paper notebooks are an excellent way to capture ideas and structure or even write posts for later.

Remember that like any endeavor in life, blogging has its highs and lows, but it also has its rewards. You have to put a lot of energy into it, but you get much more than out of it. The most important thing next time you are running low on energy is to try and actively manage the problem, and never give up!

Further Reading:

Still struggling with the Blogging Blues? Here are a few more articles from the ProBlogger archives that might help: