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Becoming a Self Centered Blogger – How to Let Your Blog Go #3

Let-Your-Blog-GoAnother way that some bloggers let their blogs go is to let their blog become more about them and their own needs and less about the needs of their readers.

A blog will only ever be successful if it fulfills a need for readers in some way. This need might be for information, tips, inspiration, entertainment, community etc.

I’ve seen a number of blogs over the years rise to popularity only to fall in a heap when the blogger took their readers for granted. This can happy in many ways – bloggers whose posts become stuffed with affiliate programs/paid reviews, bloggers who become too big for their boots (arrogance), bloggers who just promote their own work and don’t acknowledge their readers or other blogs in their niche.

Let me say that I understand how easy it is to let your blog slip in this area. Sometimes the temptation to make your blog self serving rather than reader serving is great – however you need to keep the balance right (and it is a balancing act because a blog needs to serve you too).

Solution

:
The solution is to know your readers and why they come to your blog and to work towards being a useful blog that fulfills their needs.

Tips for Having a Blog that Serves You AND Your Reader:

Every now and again it is worth doing an audit or review of your blog in numerous areas. One of these should be around how useful your blog is and how much you focus upon your readers. So do a review in this area by asking some of the following questions:

  • How many of my posts have practically helped people lately?
  • What percentage of my posts contain affiliate links or paid reviews?
  • Have I heard any recurring reader complaints lately?
  • How much reader interaction do I have (in email and comments)?
  • Do I answer reader questions?
  • What have I given to my readers?

If you are out of balance with your blogging here are a few suggestions that I’d make to right things (based upon previous posts here at ProBlogger):

Ultimately, when you find that your blog is starting to serve you more than readers its about refocussing your blog. Draw a line in the sand today and make it the start to a more useful experience for your readers.

Remember – it’s about Balance

Do keep in mind that for a blog to be sustainable in the long term it can’t be ALL about your readers. Yes they need to be front and center in your mind – but YOU need to get something out of your blog too. This might simply be personal satisfaction, building your profile, earning some money or something else – but unless you gain something from it you’re likely to burn out from your blog.

Get the balance right and you’ll be well positioned to have a blog that not only helps do something for you but that helps others along the way.

Technorati launches blog ad network

Technorati has been beta testing a new CPM ad network, Technorati Media, featuring adverts from big-name companies like Honda, Sandisk, Microsoft, and Universal Pictures.

Right now, they’ve been working with larger blogs, but say that they plan to open up the network to anyone (yes, even the “little guy”) in a few months.

Read more at TechCrunch.

10 Network Blogging Survival Tips

Do you blog at a blog network? If so this post from Deborah Ng from Freelance Writing Jobs might be worthwhile checking out.

While the income from blogs I own is rising steadily, the bulk of the money I earn blogging comes from maintaining blogs for other networks and individuals. It’s the network blogging thing I’d like to talk to you about today.

Many people balk at the idea of writing for a network because they feel there are too many rules or the pay is too low. I’m here to tell you this doesn’t have to be the case. Network blogging can be a great career boost – and very lucrative if you give it your all.

What follows are a few network survival tips.

1. Don’t balk at the base – Don’t let a low base pay keep you from blogging for a network. For most networks that’s just a starting point. The key to making money for a network are the traffic bonuses. With blogging, you get what you give. If you work hard to promote your blog and bring in traffic, those bonus bucks will add up. Trust me, I know. I’ve made four figures a month with my network blogs – mostly due to good traffic.

2. Don’t Choose a Topic You Know Nothing About – Because you’ll be blogging every day, you really do need to be passionate about your topic. If you choose a topic you don’t really know or enjoy it will soon be clear to you – and your readers. The most unhappy bloggers are the ones who aren’t blogging their passion. People who enjoy their topics never run out of things to write about.

3. Be a team player – When I worked in a corporate office I hated all mentions of teamwork. With network blogging it’s a different story. When I worked with a team in an office, someone else took credit for my work and very rarely was I rewarded for my efforts. With blogging, you want to work with other bloggers to promote each other and raise awareness and bring traffic to your blogs. Do take advantage of channel wide promotions and be free with your link love. Other bloggers will appreciate your efforts and do the same. You’ll also find yourself making some wonderful friends.

4. Stick to a schedule – The best way to meet your monthly quotas is to create a schedule and stick to it as best your can. When you’re blogging for a network it’s all about meeting your monthly quota. If you’re juggling multiple blogs, this isn’t so easy. I had a couple of bad months when I strayed from my routine. When you don’t post on a regular basis, and meet your weekly or monthly obligations, your pay and traffic suffers.

5. Establish a relationship with other network bloggers – With blogging, it’s definitely who you know. As mentioned above, successful bloggers scratch each others’ backs. If you find yourself unable to meet your obligations due to illness or emergency, your fellow network bloggers are always happy to help out.

6. Take advantage of channel and network-wide promotions – Many networks or channels have particular theme days or promotions. Do take part. They’re a lot of fun and can be a great way to introduce others to your blog. Usually those participating in the promotion will post links to all participating blogs.

7. Don’t be afraid to take on a co blogger – If you constantly find yourself behind but don’t want to give up your blog(s) consider taking on a co-blogger. I recently did so and found it to be a very positive experience. It brings a new voice to the blog and relieves some of the pressure of posting daily.

8. Take advantage of network training sessions and chats – If your network has regular chats or training sessions do yourself a favor and attend. They’re a goldmine of information! You’ll learn traffic tips, SEO tips, tips for writing content and more. Attendance isn’t usually mandatory, but where else can you get free training from experts in the field?

9. Don’t be afraid to have fun and inject a little personality – Many times bloggers feel that because they’re an authority, they should sound…well…clinical. This is fine if you want to put your readers to sleep. By all means, be factual, but use your real voice to keep people interested. And don’t be afraid to use humor, videos, cartoons, polls and quizzes to make things a little more interesting.

10. Speaking of video – Use it! I recently invested in a little Flip camera and use it to show product reviews and DIY updates. My readers respond to this because they get to hear my voice and also, I get to show them as well as tell them. I especially like video for product reviews as the reader can see what the product looks like, judge its size and also have a more honest review.

Are you a network blogger? If so, what survival tips would you like to add? If you’re not a network blogger, are there any questions you’d like to ask regarding blogging for a network?

You might know Deborah Ng from her blogs Freelance Writing Jobs, which is the number one freelance writing community online, and Network Blogging Tips . For a peek at jus a few of her network blogs visit Deb at Simply Thrifty, The List Maven and News from the Glamorati.

Getting Off Topic – How to Let Your Blog Go #2

Let-Your-Blog-GoOne way that I see some bloggers ‘letting their blog go‘ is to become distracted and move off topic more and more. When I asked readers why they unsubscribed from a blog’s RSS feed they told me that the forth highest reason was when blogs change focus or go off topic.

There’s nothing wrong with a personal blog that covers many aspects of your life – but IF you’ve decided to start a blog with a niche focus that sets out to cover a particular topic – it can be quite frustrating for readers to suddenly be hearing about other aspects of your life in every second post.

The problem isn’t that you post about a wide array of topics – but instead it’s about setting up reader expectations that you’re going to talk about one thing and then that you go off topic and keep talking about other things.

This can happen for numerous reasons.

  • For some it’s just that you get sick of writing on your chosen topic
  • for others you run out of things to say on that topic while other interests come up
  • for others it is tempting to write off topic content because it might bring in more traffic or make you more money (eg I saw one blog recently that was on business start writing about Britney Spears in every second post because they saw it as a fast way to get traffic).

Solution:

The ‘solution’ really is to identify what you want to write about, to name it so your readers know what to expect and then to stick to that topic.

Tips To Help Your Blog Stay ‘On Topic’:

Implementing this solution can be more challenging than it sounds of course – but here are a few thoughts that come to mind on how to do it:

Define Your Niche – it’s pretty hard to stay on topic if you don’t know what your topic is. I’m presuming that most ProBlogger readers have already done this stage so I won’t go over how to do it again (if you havn’t yet chosen a niche check out my post on choosing niche topics for your blog).

Redefine Your Niche – most blogs start out targeting one niche and then at some point in their life need to make adjustments to it. This is perfectly natural as blogs are quite evolutionary. It may be that you need to change niches completely – but in most cases this will involve simply broadening or narrowing your focus.

Some bloggers make the mistake of starting out with a niche that is so broad that they can’t keep up with it without burning out – in these cases I’d advise focusing down on one aspect of the topic. Some bloggers choose a niche that is so narrow that they can’t find enough to say on the topic – these bloggers need to broaden their focus.

Occasionally I’ve seen bloggers successfully completely change their blog’s topic from one niche to another. This is possible – but if you have an established readership it’s going to mean you need to manage the process as readers can become very loyal to a blog and it’s focus.

Communicate and Manage any Changes - making adjustments to the focus of your blog is fine – however some bloggers get into trouble with it in communicating it to their readers. It’s amazing how much ownership a blog reader takes over a blog.

Readers invest time into reading a blog and participating in the conversations that go on in it – as a result when you make a change in something as fundamental as the topic of your blog they can find that process challenging and push back. If you are making a change you might like to:

  • involve readers in the process (ask for their feedback and suggestions)
  • share reasons for changes that you are making
  • ask for their involvement in the transition (people are more likely to accept a change that they are actively participating in)

Going Off Topic - once you have a niche defined you then need to make some decisions about if, when and how you will ever go ‘off topic’.

Thinking about this before you do will help you to know if you’re doing it too much. Some might say you should never go off topic – but I think there are ways to do it that can add something to your blog. The question I always try to ask though is ‘does publishing this post add or take value from my blog’.

Going off topic can help to show a different side of you, draw new readers to your blog, add interest to a blog and more… but it can also prove to be a distraction and the difference between people perceiving you as an expert in your field or not.

Have Your Say

Do you go off topic on your blog? What have you learned about how and when to do it? How tight is your niche? Do you mind when other blogs go off topic?

5 Influential Books All Bloggers Should Know

Today Chris Garrett (my co-author from the ProBlogger Book) shares 5 influential books that bloggers will find useful – all of which heavily influenced me (Darren) in my blogging).

Blogging is relatively new in the scheme of things, but even so, there are some conventions and ideas that are already well embedded in blog “culture”.

For example, how many times have you heard the phrase “content is king”? It’s pretty clear where that idea is meant to lead, for some other phrases some more context is required. The following five books have become not just best sellers and famous, but actually launched whole new ways of thinking about what we do and their titles have become mainstays of blogging conversation.

I am not saying you should go run out and buy these books right away, but knowing about the books and the concepts they put forward can help you understand better when someone tells you that “your blog needs to be a Purple Cow and leverage the Long Tail”!

1. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

Seth Godin could have appeared on this list quite a few times. He is the bloggers blogger, the guru of gurus and the master of the short, strangely titled, mind expanding best-seller.

Whenever you hear someone talking about being unique, saying you should aim to be “remarkable”, you can almost guarantee they have read and absorbed this book.

Seth’s advice is to stand out, be noticed and memorable, make being remarkable the core of what you do. That’s basically it, the book is pretty much a long essay to get that point across. While I have summed up the entire book in not many words, reading the book helps you understand and inspires you to take the idea and run with it.

2. The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

Before Tim Ferris there was the E-Myth. You hear about “passive income”, “outsourcing”, “working on your business and not in it”, and you can bet at some point E-Myth (the Entrepreneur Myth) will pop up. He says that many people considered entrepreneurs are really technicians and craftspeople creating their own “jobs”.

In some ways Michael E Gerber, Mr E-Myth, is the anti-Seth. Rather than saying you should be remarkable and hire remarkable people, he says real success comes from creating systems that remove the need for you to be present and working 24/7.

People try to do everything, achieve their goals through their own efforts. Equate success with “hard work”. Great systems mean you maintain quality and can take vacations.

The E-Myth books basically teach you that you don’t have to work yourself into an early grave. That with good systems and shared load you can achieve more by working less.

3. The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual

“Markets are conversations”

“It’s all about the conversation”
“join the conversation”

You can blame the Cluetrain for these sayings. I actually asked if Cluetrain was still relevant and got some interesting answers (http://www.chrisg.com/cluetrain-social-media/). It seems most fondly remembered by old-timers (those who started blogging in the 90′s) but you still see the phrases used over and over.

Unlike the others you can actually read Cluetrain online and for free so you have no excuse for not at least dipping in and seeing what you are missing.

4.The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More

This phrase turns up everywhere now. At one time I only heard it in SEO circles, now I hear it on TV business bulletins. Chris Anderson has created a monster!

He says that we are increasingly turning away from the mainstream and instead going further and further into our own niches. The Long Tail is used to justify and champion the cult-favorite book that isn’t going to be a best-seller, the band that never charts but does OK live, and the blog about obscure 1960′s pulp science fiction with ten readers. Unfortunately the premise can be stretched further than was likely intended. Don’t give up your day job for that blog about walrus polishing just yet.

The idea for is that you can make money from many seldom searched for phrases or rarely purchased items. In aggregate these long tail pages or products match or beat blockbusters and best sellers. So Amazon, with their million-strong inventory, can make real money from selling a lot of items a few times, as much as selling Harry Potter over and over. A blogger can have one or two super-performing pages that bring in hundreds of thousands of page views, or millions of visitors by having thousands of pages that bring in fewer visitors each.

5. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

We use the phrase “Tipping Point” to indicate when our fortunes seemed to transform, that instant when everything changes for the better (or worse). The book is about how tiny changes, sometimes seemingly unrelated, can have big knock on effects.

Malcolm Gladwell basically wrote the book on Memes that everyone could follow. He talks about other subjects you might recognize, such as “Mavens”, “Connectors” and “Stickiness”. If you ever wanted to read more about why “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” is important, this is the book for you.

Summary

As I say above, the main point of this article was to show where some popular and much-used blogging sayings came from. Understanding how the ideas originated helps you work out when and if they apply to your situation. Some phrases are thrown around just because “everyone knows it’s true”, which is as you know something we should always be wary of online!

Should you read these books? While they are absolutely not “essential” purchases, I think any one of these books would both give you some fresh ideas and perspectives, and be entertaining light reading.

Have you got any suggestions for influential books I have missed? Please share in the comments.

Lack of Posting – How to Let Your Blog Go #1

Let-Your-Blog-GoPerhaps the fastest way to let your blog go is to stop posting to it. It can happen for many reasons whether it be your life getting busy, suffering from a bout of bloggers block or becoming distracted by another project.

Most bloggers go through one or all of these issues at one point or another and as a result posting frequency can drop, if not stall completely.

Solution:

The solution is pretty obvious – if you want a vibrant blog – you do need to post to it.

While your archives might contain a lot of great content and people will find them via search engines – if you’re wanting to grow your blog you will only be able to do that if you add fresh content on a regular basis.

I know it’s not easy – all successful bloggers go through patches where it’s challenging to keep things rolling – however if you put your mind to it you can definitely get things back on track. It is never too late to get your blog rolling again!

9 Tips to Get Posting Frequency Higher On Your Blog:

1. Set Goals and Deadlines – If you’ve let your blog go through lack of posting – set yourself some goals this week to pull yourself out of your rut. Don’t be too ambitious – but set yourself some achievable goals to get yourself going again. Perhaps your goal will be simply to post once this next week. The week after ramp it up to twice, the week after aim for three times….

2. Try Something New – one of the tactics that I find most helpful in getting my posting frequency back up is to try something new on my blog. Whether it be tackling a topic I’ve not looked at before, starting some kind of project or competition, starting a series of posts or writing in a different style or voice – sometimes doing something ‘new’ can not only give you energy but your readers also.

3. If you’re suffering from Bloggers Block – I’ve written a series of posts on how to battle bloggers block and have compiled it all into one page here. One of the tips in that series is to try a new blogging environment. I regularly get out of the house to do some blogging (cafes are my favorite place) but really any change can be helpful. If you’re not able to actually take your computer out of the house (you don’t have a laptop) then grab a notebook and head out with that to brainstorm topics, write or do some planning of your blog.

4. If you’re simply feeling apathy towards Blogging – I’ve written a post on Declaring War on Blogger Apathy which has a few practical suggestions on how to get through that challenge. One thing that I mention in that post is to try writing shorter posts. I find that sometimes I get quite uninspired if I set myself the task to write a long post. It all can seem a little overwhelming and a little too much like hard work. So why not break down the topic into something more bite sized? I find that when I do this I can get a post written quite quickly and also find that readers sometimes appreciate something a little more focused and able to be read quickly.

5. Develop a Points System – Last year I posted about a points system that one blogger developed to keep their blogging moving along. While it might not be perfect for you – I like the idea of it and it can easily be adapted to suit your situation.

6. Set Rewards – some people respond well to rewards and incentives (I know I do). Once you’ve set some goals or made your points system – set yourself a few rewards that you’ll give yourself when you reach certain milestones.

7. Find a Blog Buddy – I mention in a couple of the links above about how I find it motivating to work with another person in my blogging. Share your goals with another blogger (or non blogger if you want) and ask them to keep you accountable to them. If you’re looking for a blog buddy you might even like to ‘advertise’ for one in the comments below this post. Pair up with another ProBlogger reader for a week or two and see what you could achieve together.

8. Repurpose Something from Your Daily Life as a Post - a few weeks ago I shared how one great way to come up with new content is to look at something you already do in your daily life and work out how to capture it and repurpose it as a post. Video yourself doing something, record a conversation, use an email interaction etc. So many things that you do each day are potential content for your blog – the key is to be aware of them and find a way to collect and use them.

9. Start Blogging

OK – I could talk about how to get yourself going for paragraphs and paragraphs – but in doing so I’m probably just distracting you from the task at hand. So now it’s time to go and do it. Step away from the distractions that might be stopping you from blogging and go and do it. Go on – I know you can!!!

10 Ways to Let Your Blog Go and What to Do About It

Let-Your-Blog-GoHave you let your blog go? It’s easy enough to do – this series of posts explores 10 ways that bloggers ‘let their blogs go’ and what they can do about it.

The season here in Melbourne is changing (some say it changes every day) and we’re slowly moving into Winter. This is the season that many of us ‘let ourselves go’ physically – less exercise, more comfort food, wearing clothes that cover up the flabby bits…..

It happens almost without you noticing and then suddenly summer hits and you go to put on that T-Shirt and shorts and BAAAM – it hits you in the face – you’ve let yourself go!

The same thing can easily happen with a blog. No one plans for it to happen – but gradually over time you let things slip, become a little complacent and then fall into a lazy free falling downward spiral.

Over the next 10 days I’m going to look at 10 common ways that I see bloggers ‘let their blogs go’.

My hope in doing so is not to induce guilt but to shine the light on some common problems that bloggers face and make some constructive suggestions on how to overcome them.

Stay tuned for the first post in this series in the next hour or so and bookmark this page because as I add new posts to the series I’ll link to them here.

  1. Lack of Posting
  2. Getting Off Topic
  3. Becoming a Self Centered Blogger
  4. Great Content… Bad Titles
  5. Letting Comment Spam Take Over Your Blog
  6. Excuse Posts
  7. Becoming a Negative Blogger
  8. Having a Lack of Original Content
  9. Becoming Obsessed with Any One Aspect of Your Blog
  10. Stretching Yourself Too Thinly

Build Your Network Before You Need It

Last week I was speaking to a business owner who was in the process of doing some ‘preliminary research’ (his words) into blogging and social media.

The reason that he was thinking about getting into blogging and social networking was that later in the year he was going to be launching a new product with his business and to help create some buzz he wanted to leverage social media and blogging.

My first reaction was that it was a great idea… but it quickly hit me that his ‘preliminary research’ phase was probably 6-12 months too late (if not more) if he really wanted to be effective with blogging and social media in promoting his new product.

Jeremiah Owyang said it great today in a post that he’s written – Build Your Network Before You Need Them:

“Unfortunately, networking doesn’t work this way, relationships take time, getting to know folks requires patience, and people are generally cautious –if not fearful– of Johnny come lately that is asking, rather than giving.”

Jeremiah’s advice to ‘build your network before you need them’ makes a lot of sense. I see a lot of people jumping into Twitter because they have an urgent need to get a message ‘out there’ – however a much better approach is to build your online presence for the day that you need it. I’ve seen the power of this time and time again – perhaps most recently with the launch of the ProBlogger Book.

When I began to interact on Twitter I had no plans to use it as a medium for book promotion – however when launch day came I had 6000 people just a 140 character message away.

Another example was recently using LinkedIn. I’ve never really found a way to use LinkedIn effectively before but have promoted my profile on it (in my blog’s footer) because I knew that there would come a time when it would be worthwhile having connections there. Last week it paid off as I used my network of 600 connections to get introductions to a number of key people that I’d have had no way to contact previously.

In both situations the network came before the need to use it.

It’s a Boy!

I’m excited to announce that at 2am this morning V gave birth to our second son – Henri.

He’s 7 pounds 14 ounces (3.59kg) and so far is a very content little guy. Here are a couple of pictures from this morning and last night.

Henri

Both mother and baby are doing well after a long day – and dad’s not doing too badly either!

Henri-1

I’m Taking Some Paternity Leave

I will be taking a couple of weeks off now however I’ve pre-prepared two great weeks of content here at ProBlogger for you. It will include a guest post each day from some great bloggers, a series of 10 posts from me on ‘how to let your blog go’ and a few other random posts from me that I’ve written earlier.

Lara will also be moderating comments and will make posts if any breaking news happens that she thinks is relevant to you.

PS: Thanks to everyone for your well wishes. I hadn’t realized that today in many parts of the world it’s Father’s Day! Here in Australia we celebrate it in September – but I’m more than happy to claim it as being Father’s Day here today too (although I think V’s much more deserving of a special day of recognition after 20 hours of labor)! Thanks again all!