Over at ScribeFire they’ve just published the 3rd part of my offline blog tips series (read part 1 and part 2). This one includes 7 tips from some of my Twitter buddies as well as four more of my own.
Over the last few weeks I’ve run a poll here at ProBlogger asking readers what they want to learn most about blogging. I’ve run this to help me put together my editorial calendar over the coming months.
The results were fairly clear – just under a quarter of responses (1450 people voted) asked for more content on finding readers/subscribers (23%). Second was ‘growing advertising revenue’ (16%), third and forth (tied) were ‘writing content’ and ‘how to start a blog’.
The ‘finding readers’ has been the #1 response every time that I’ve run these types of polls.
Here’s how the graph looked.
I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off shortly (we’re awaiting the birth of our 2nd child – due date was last Friday) but once I’m back I’ll be developing a number of series of posts along these lines.
Thanks to everyone for responding to the poll – I appreciate you helping to shape this blog in this way. Don’t forget to vote in our current poll on post frequency.
It’s time for another Reader Poll – this week I want to take a look at your posting frequency.
How Many Posts Did You Publish On Your Main Blog in May?
Pick your main blog and focus upon that. I responded for ProBlogger where I published 88 posts over May – 10 more than my three month average.
Feel free to tell us more in comments below. For example – was your May posting level higher or lower than normal?
But how does one BE interesting?
It’s probably a topic that deserve someone smarter than me to explore but it strikes me that one element of being an interesting blogger (or an interesting person for that matter) is that they are often people who are ‘interested’.
To be interesting you need to be interested
Image by riot jane
This is a concept that I’ve seen many write about over the years (example) but today it hit home for me.
You see I had 10 minutes this afternoon to check my RSS feeds. Regular readers will know that I follow 650+ feeds – so 10 minutes didn’t really cut it so I headed to 4 blogs that I generally find most interesting.
As I quickly read these 4 blogs I wondered to myself why I was drawn to them and realized that what made them interesting was that the bloggers behind them were:
- interested in their topic – you can tell by reading their work that they are obviously fascinated with the topics that they write about. They love researching it, learning about it, talking about it and exploring it even though they write about it every day.
- interested in their readers – they seemed to love the conversations that happened on their blogs but also based much of what they wrote about on real needs of readers and helping them.
Applying this ‘Interesting’ Principle:
There are a number of ways that I think it’s useful to think about this ‘interesting’ principle:
1. Starting a Blog – when starting up a new blog an important question to ask yourself is whether you are genuinely interested in your topic. This comes back to working out what you are about when choosing a topic.
2. Hiring Bloggers – last time I hired bloggers for DPS I had a number of criteria that I judged applicants by – one of which was how much I felt that they loved the topic of photography. Ability to write is important – but unless the person demonstrates a love for the topic they’ll probably not be able to take the blog to the next level.
3. Monitoring Your Interest Levels – perhaps a good question to ask yourself periodically when reviewing your blog is about how your interest levels are going on your blog. I think it’s a fairly natural thing to have your own interest levels for your topic to rise and fall over time – but to monitor this can be useful because it means you can take action when it drops (take a short break, find some guest posts, change your posting routine/rhythm, experiment with some new types of posts etc).
Do you sometimes feel like you couldn’t possibly write another blog post, even if it was a case of life or death? Does the constant grind of writing to a schedule feel like it’s wearing you down? Take heart: it’s perfectly normal! It’s called a Dip.
Many bloggers go through Dips and in this post Mark Dykeman from Broadcasting Brain shares what we need to do to take advantage of this opportunity.
By “Dip”, I’m referring to the term used by Seth Godin in the book The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick).
The Dip, to paraphrase Godin, represents all of the challenges involved from going from apprentice to master: going from OK to good to great to the best in your field. The Dip represents the time, the effort, the obstacles, and the hard parts of becoming a master.
People like Seth Godin and Darren Rowse honed their skills and mastered their fields by:
- trial and error
- making smart decisions based on their results and feedback
- some luck
- putting an enormous amount of effort into being the best that they could be.
Blogging can be very hard work and working through a Dip can seem like climbing a mountain. However, by being smarter and mentally tougher than a lot of people, people like Seth and Darren and many others climbed up their Dips and achieved great things. The same is true for athletes, business leaders, scientists, lawyers, public speakers: you name it.
Godin says that the fastest way to get through a Dip is to push straight through it or “lean into it”. In his view, there is no such thing as a short cut through the work because it either:
a) Doesn’t get you to the right destination
b) Takes more time and effort to get to the right destination rather than “leaning into the Dip”
c) Gets you to the destination without being ready to fully exploit it. We all need time and experience to be ready for the next challenge when we get through a Dip. (Oh yes, there can be more than one)
It’s very likely that I’ll be working through a Dip when you are reading this article. My Dip is the effort involved in growing my blog to be the best it can be and to reach as many people as possible. Perhaps it feels the same to you?
I know the basics of writing good blog posts and the basics of writing in general. I’ve written some good posts and gotten some positive feedback.
However, it’s not enough.
It sounds cheesy, but it’s true: practice makes perfect. There’s a practical experience factor to mastering a craft that can’t be bought with money or with short cuts. My research and my experience to date both tell me that I still have plenty of growing to do as a writer:
- Darren Rowse has said that making a good and successful blog takes years, maybe even five years. I doubt that it take less time for me and it will likely take longer.
- I’ve been blogging since July 2007. I’ve only started to really get an idea of how to write better and more consistently since January 2008.
I’m learning a lot and (hopefully) getting better with each post.
But there’s a long road ahead. It’s well worn from the footsteps of the people who have come before and it’s packed with people today, although the numbers seem to thin out as we continue onward, much like a marathon.
HOW DO I (AND YOU) GET THROUGH THE DIP?
I need to be consistent. I need to continually learn, improve, and innovate. I need to network more with other bloggers. I need to further develop my own distinctive voice.
Most of all, I need to write. I need to write a lot. That’s the way that I’m going to push through the Dip.
- I need to write when I don’t think I’ve got anything new to say.
- I’ve got to write when I’ve got too much to say.
- I’ve got to write when I learn something new so I can share it with my readers.
- I’ve got to write when I find something “old” that’s valuable and convince my readers that it’s worth examining.
- I’ve got to write when I feel confident and relaxed.
- I’ve got to write when every word that comes out seems like crap.
- And I’ve got to write during all of the times in between.
To be a successful blogger (and writer), I need to keep pushing forward. That doesn’t mean I can’t occasionally rest and regain some energy. Sometimes that’s crucial to staying healthy. I just need to get back up afterward and get writing again because the Dip will still be there.
The thing that keeps me going, and might keep you going, is the belief that I can do this; I can communicate successfully to a growing audience of friends and strangers. I can cover new ground and old ground and do both well because I can present my thoughts in a way that no one else can. I think I have enough talent and smarts to make it work.
As for motivation and determination, I’m on a journey of self-actualization. I’m trying to improve myself and see what more I can do in this life. I’d love to make a living by writing, but if I can reach another person and make a positive difference in their life, even if it’s fleeting, then it’s important to me to do so.
Oh, and one other thing: blogging is fun, even during the darkest times!
PUT YOUR SHOULDER INTO IT AND LEAN!
The central idea in this post isn’t new. It’s been restated over and over again in many ways. However, if you can take this image of “the Dip” that Seth Godin created for us and realize that it’s a perfectly natural process, you’ll be better prepared for the long journey ahead that lies between you and achieving a goal.
If you really, really want to achieve that goal, like being the best blogger that you can possibly be, then blog. And keep blogging.
Read other blogs and learn from their strengths and weaknesses. Examine what you are doing and learn from your experiences. Keep going.
Lean into the Dip. As Seth Godin tells us, it’s the shortest path to success. And it feels pretty darned good to get to the top of a mountain. It makes you want to tackle the next one. And the next one. And so on.
Mark Dykeman broadcasts from his brain about communications and social media several times per week at Broadcasting Brain. He enjoys participating in several social media sites, including Twitter and StumbleUpon.
Here’s a question for the weekend that was submitted to me from Twitter friend philbaumann who asks:
if you were permitted only 3 social sites to work with, which ones would you pick?
So it’s over to you for your comments.
Which would you choose (be it social bookmarking sites like Digg, StumbleUpon or Reddit, or social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace or Social Messaging/Micro Blogging sites like Twitter or Plurk) – and WHY do you choose the ones you choose?
In this article Daniel Scocco answers to a question by Jana:
Where does a blogger draw the line between putting up free content versus releasing an eBook? I’m all about an informative blog with great articles…but an eBook seems to be a good revenue point. So, should an eBook have exclusive information in it that you don’t share on your blog? Or is the value of an eBook found in it being an edited and formatted compendium of your blog?
Considering that Jana talks about revenues, in this article we will cover only paid books that are created (mainly) with the purpose of generating money for the author. In other words, we will not cover the cases where someone writes a free eBook to promote his website, to build an email list, to offer a bonus to RSS subscribers and so on.
The first question that one needs to answer is the following: is my blog established as an authority in its niche, or am I established as an expert in this niche?
Notice that the two parts of this question do not walk together necessarily. One can have an authority blog or website without being a well known expert. Consider Sitepoint.com for example, they are one of the most respected resources for webmasters on the Internet, and yet the site is not associated with any particular person (but rather with a group of authors).
The opposite can happen as well. Muhammad Saleem is a social media guru, and yet his personal blog is not very well known. This is because his strategy involves mostly guest appearances on high profile blogs, as well as on the direct interaction with the communities of the various social bookmarking sites on the web.
Now going back to our initial question, if you answer is no, you probably should keep putting free and quality content out there.
Do not think about this free content as money left on the table, but rather as an investment.
Whenever you create free and high quality content, and publish it on your blog (or on other blogs and websites), you are both building your credibility and making prospects enter your sales funnel. That is, they are getting in contact with your material and ideas, and over the time they will become more inclined to take that relationship to another level (by purchasing your eBook, for instance).
If, on the other hand, you think that your blog or your person already have enough credibility to get an eBook on the market, then you have three main possibilities as far as the origin of the content is concerned.
1. Blog into book
The first possibility is to use completely the content that is already published on the blog. As Jana correctly pointed out in her question, there are many people out there willing to spend money into freely available information that comes edited and formatted.
This editing and formating, and the fact that the information will be contained in a single, easily searcheable document, will probably save people time. And time, is money (sorry for the cliché).
The advantage of this method is obvious: the content is already written, so the author will just need to gather, edit and format it. The downside is that you won’t be able to charge a lot (else people would just go to the trouble of finding the information themselves).
Leo Babauta had a good success with this strategy. He turned his most popular articles into an eBook titled “Handbook for Life,” and started selling it for $6.95.
2. Almost unique
The second possibility is to use some of the free content on your blog, and then to build on top of that to create a more complete and appealing eBook. This is the strategy that I used on my eBook.
It was a natural process, and it all started with a single post. The post was titled “The 7 Characteristics of Good Domain Names,” and it attracted a large amount of comments, links and traffic.
The buzz that it generated was a signal that people were interested on the topic. After a small research on the web I discovered that there was no eBook focusing completely on “how to find domain names,” therefore I decided to write it.
That initial post became the first chapter of the eBook. The rest was unique.
3. Completely unique
Finally, you can also write an eBook from scratch. It might even cover points that you wrote about in the past, but you would need to rewrite them under the framework of an actual book and not of a blog post.
The obvious downside of this strategy is that it will take much more time than the other two. The advantage is that all your current readers and prospects are potential buyers. Even the ones that have been reading your blog for a long time will have a reason to the eBook. It comes with fresh content, after all.
There are no rules defining how much content you should give for free, and how much content you should charge for. The first corner-stone is to establish your blog or yourself as an authority in its niche, and from there, depending on your availability of time, you should decide what kind of eBook you want to publish, if at all.
Another interesting question is the following: are ongoing training programs the new eBooks? But this is for another article!