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The Beauty of Imperfection

Today Chris Brogan shares with us one of the secrets of his blogging.

I’m not sure what it is about Darren’s blog that makes me confess my blogging secrets. I did it once before when I discussed how I promote my blog using Twitter, and here I am back to give away another of my secrets to what powers my blog: imperfection.

ImperfectionImage by quinn anya

I Can’t Add to That

One way people accidentally cut down on active commenting on their blogs is by writing a post so complete and thorough in its presentation that the audience doesn’t really know what to add, or how to contribute. Comments like, “Great post,” and “Couldn’t have said it better myself,” aren’t really what most of us want to leave, so instead, we’ll choose not to engage. It’s the old instant cake mix story.

The story goes that instant cake mix went from requiring the cook to add a few eggs, some milk, some water, and a little butter, to just adding water. Sales dropped immediately. But why? Wouldn’t it be even easier on the homemaker to just add water to make a cake? It turned out that our man or woman of the house wanted the sense that they were contributing to the act of making the cake. And thus, producers of such mix have backed it out to allow for adding in the eggs, and some of the other simpler ingredients.

Make Your Blog Posts Imperfect

It’s tricky, because you can’t exactly make them horrible and unreadable, but the point is that maybe you can write them in such a way as to allow your audience and community to add in their level of expertise. I do this all the time over at my site. I end posts with questions. I thread the blog post with the sense that YOU are the expert on several points, and that maybe you can help me better understand things in the comments section. Linking works this way, too. If someone else has said it better, cite it with a nice link.

The things you do to build a little bit of participation into your blog posts is what will bring more community experience together, and give people a sense that they matter. Helping that sentiment grow builds a robust commenting community, which in turn, gives you a great reason to pour more time and attention into the care and feeding of a community that you’re hoping will help sustain you in one way or another.

Did I Miss Anything?

Most of you in Darren’s community are experts at creating excellent content that drives passionate relationships. Some of you do this to become Six Figure Bloggers yourselves. Others just like learning how to make your blog more sticky as a destination site. What do you think I’m missing on this idea? Have you tried it already? Does it work for you?

Chris Brogan advises businesses about emerging technologies and social media tools at ChrisBrogan.com.

10 Ways to Optimize a Popular Post on Your Blog

Over at the ProBlogger Room on FriendFeed Keith asks a good question that has stimulated a whole stream of thought for me. He asks:

“If you have a blog post that clearly outperforms all other posts (more than double the traffic in my case) do you capitalize on it by writing more posts on the same topic?”

When a post on your blog does better than others there are numerous things that I’d encourage you to consider doing – only one of which is writing more posts on that topic.

KEY LESSON – The first thing to realize is that ‘hot’ or popular posts on your blog are not only important because of the traffic that they are currently bringing in – but they’re actually more important because of what they could potentially do to improve and grow your whole blog. Most of what follows is about leveraging a hot post to grow your blog.

10 ways to Optimize a Popular Post on Your Blog

1. Analyze the Source of Traffic

The first thing that I’d highly recommend you do when you realize that one post on your blog is attracting more traffic than others is to spend some time analyzing the source of the traffic. Where it’s coming from will determine what actions you need to take next.

  • Is the traffic coming from search engines? If so, you’ll want to do some SEO on the post. You should also do some analysis of what keywords people are searching for that drives them to the post.
  • Is the traffic coming from social media? If so, it’ll be more temporary so you’ll want to act fast and concentrate on converting visitors to subscribers.
  • Is the traffic coming from another blog or site? If so you’ll need to act quickly, concentrate on getting subscribers but also build a relationship with the other site.
  • Why does the post work? – this is an important question to ask yourself, particularly if you’re looking to write more posts like it. Is it the title of the post, is it the topic, is it the voice you wrote it in?

The more information you have on where the traffic is from and why it’s landing on your post the better equipped you’ll be to decide which of the following strategies you should take next.

2. On Page SEO

If point #1 shows you that traffic is coming to the post from search engines you are in luck. Search engine traffic is wonderful because it has the potential to send your post traffic every day for years to come. However don’t just sit back and feel good about yourself – ask yourself how you can take the traffic to the next level and drive even more search engine traffic to it!

One of the things you will want to do is optimize the post for search engines even more than it already is. Obviously you’ve done something right in terms of SEO – but how can you improve it even more?

Knowing the keywords that the post is doing well for in SE’s is important here. Once you know this you can highlight them to the search engine bots by bolding them, adding them to your post to increase keyword density, adding images that have those words as their name and in alt tags, adding them in headings etc. Don’t ‘stuff’ your post with the words – but finding ways to naturally build them into your post can help it rank even higher for those words.

Again – don’t over do this. You’re already ranking well so just tweak the post a little.

Read more about on page SEO at Search Engine Optimization for Bloggers.

3. Off Page SEO

The other thing you can do to attempt to boost the search engine ranking of the post is to build a few incoming links to the post. Search engines see incoming links to a page as like a ‘vote’ – the more votes the higher it’ll rank (in general).

Note: The best type of incoming links are ‘relevant’ ones (ie from sites on a similar topic) and ones with the keywords that you’re trying to rank for in the link.

The first way to get some extra incoming links to the post is to link to it from your own blog/s. Find other posts on similar topics and link to this post from them. You don’t need to link to the post from every page on your blog – but do find at least a few other posts to link up to it from.

The second way to get extra incoming links is to submit the link to other bloggers. You might do this by pulling a few favors with other bloggers or by emailing them to suggest the post might be relevant to their readers. Don’t spam people and do keep the links relevant to the sites that you’re submitting them to – but any links you get can help give the post an extra boost.

Lastly – another source of links can be social media sites that you are active on. Even just tweeting the link in a relevant way to readers can add a little Google Juice. I’ll write more on social media sites in my next point.

4. Submit it to Social Media Sites

If the traffic to your post is coming from a social media site like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit or Delicious you’ll need to act a little faster to optimize the post. I’ll suggest some ways to do this below – but first you might want to see if there are some ways that you can ‘help’ the post become even more viral on social media sites.

For example – if the post is on the front page of Digg there’s a chance that it could also be growing on StumbleUpon or Delicious. Check this out and vote up the post on those services. Send the links over to others to give it their vote too.

You might also like to add a link or button to the post itself if it’s doing well on social media. For example – if I notice a post is starting to build momentum on Digg I’ll add a Digg button to it. This can often be enough to tip it over the edge and onto the front page.

5. Add Options to Subscribe

This one is important whether the source of traffic is search engines, another site or social media as it focusses upon converting your new visitors to the page into ongoing readers of your blog.

When I have a ‘hot post’ I’ll often add a link to the post that says something like ‘enjoying this post – get more like it via our newsletter’ and link to a page giving the blog’s subscriptions options. These links can do very well at the end of posts.

6. Add links to the post to other pages on your blog

Drive people deeper into your blog by adding links to other pages on your site. You can do this within the content of the post itself or at the end of the post as ‘further reading’.

The key is to make the link to your best posts and to posts that are relevant in terms of content to the hot post.

7. Optimize Page Loading

Hopefully you won’t need to do this because your page will already be well optimized – but if you’re getting ALOT of traffic (for example from Digg or some other large site) your loading times might slow down – particularly if you have a lot of large files that need to load.

I learned this the first time I got on the front page of Digg on a photography related post where I had 20 large images that needed to load. The page didn’t crash but I burned through a heap of bandwidth that day and probably lost a lot of readers who got frustrated with the slow loading images.

8. Monetize the Post

Personally this is not something I do straight away as I like to work first upon converting readers into subscribers – however if you have one post with a lot of traffic it could be wise to add monetization streams to that post.

For example – if the post is doing a lot of impressions you might want to add some CPM ads to the page.

Another technique is to add relevant affiliate products to such ‘hot posts’.

I would avoid adding too many of these to hot posts as you could end up putting readers off. My personal approach is to monetize sites by converting people into regular readers and letting their continued visits to my blog make money over a longer period. Sure you might be able to earn a few extra dollars by stuffing such pages with CPM ads – but those visitors will be less likely to return in future.

9. Improve the Post

Some bloggers resist updating their blog posts – but I think it makes a lot of sense to not only add new posts to a blog but to improve old ones. I’m not just talking about editing posts for SEO benefits – but editing and adding to posts so that they become more valuable to readers.

Here’s the thing – if you’ve got a post that is attracting thousands of readers to it but it’s and ‘average’ quality post – you’ll have a lot better chance of converting readers to be loyal if the post is of an ‘excellent’ standard. So look over such hot posts and see if there are ways you can improve them.

10. Write More Posts Like it

Finally – we’re onto Keith’s question and the idea of writing more posts like the one that is ‘hot’.

I think that this is a good idea – on a number of levels.

  • Extend Ideas - write an update to the post, or another one that takes the ideas to a new level.
  • Related Topics – if there are other topics of a similar nature write posts on these.
  • Target Other Related Keywords - write posts that target related keywords to those being searched for to find the first one.
  • Similar Voice – sometimes it’s not the topic that you write that attracts people but the way you write it. For example I chatted to a blogger recently who had an avalanche of traffic to a humorous post that they’d written (the first time they’d ever written in that style). They began to write more of these types of posts and saw continued success with it.

If you write a followup or related post to the first – make sure you add a link to it on your hot post.

What Have I Missed?

In this post I’ve shared 10 things that I do to popular posts (I should say that I rarely do all of them to the one post – each will be more important in different situations) but what have I missed? What else do you to to popular posts on your blog?

Google Affiliate Network Launches New Interface

Today the recently announced Google Affiliate Network (formerly DoubleClick) launched a new interface to publishers. You can access it at Connect Commerce.

The look and feel of the site is very ‘Googlesque’ and at a first look it all seems fairly straight forward to use.

google-affiliate-network.jpg

Ultimately the interface is secondary to performance so we’ll see how it goes in the coming weeks.

Are you promoting any products from the Google Affiliate Network?

6 Types of Business Entities to Consider for Your Blogging Business

This guest post is part of a two part series (see part 1 here) written by Kelly Phillips Erb, a tax attorney who blogs for b5media at taxgirl.com. You can find out more about Kelly here. For more information about tax and blogging, check out her handy list of prior articles on the subject including Problogger articles!

Once you’ve made the decision to treat your business as a business, you’ll need to choose an entity. Follows is a brief rundown of the most popular forms of business entities for freelancers and bloggers:

1. Sole Proprietorship

The sole proprietorship is the most simple form of business entity. There is no formal procedure to form a sole proprietorship and there are few formal accounting requirements. There are no separate tax forms; you file taxes on your own personal income tax return. You can easily exchange personal and business assets. This is how most bloggers and freelancers operate.

The downside of these “loose” requirements is that sole proprietors are personally liable for debts, obligations and the like of the business, including lawsuits. Personal assets are essentially treated, for liability purposes, as assets of the business.

Additionally, since your business income is reported on your personal return, deductions expenses like medical insurance are limited to the caps and restrictions for individuals. In most cases, these deductions are less favorable to take as personal expenses than as business expenses.

2. Partnership

A partnership (sometimes called a “general partnership”) is also a simple form of business entity.

A partnership operates from a tax perspective as a “pass through” entity which means that all items of income and deductions pass through the partnership to the partners according to percentage of ownership or partnership agreement. Those items are then reported on each partner’s respective personal tax return. No income tax is paid at the partnership level (though a partnership may be subject to other state and local taxes).

As a result, personal and business assets are not separate and personal assets can be subject to the liabilities and obligations of the partnership. Additionally, just like with a sole proprietorship, the availability of certain types of deductions are limited to the tax floors and ceilings on your personal income tax return.

3. Limited Liability Partnership

A Limited Liability Partnership (“LLP”) is similar to a general partnership. There is one significant difference: in most states, an LLP may register with the Department of State. The benefit of registration is that each partner is not liable for obligations and liabilities arising from the “negligence, omissions, malpractice, wrongful acts or misconduct” of the other partners. In other words, so long as you observe the proper rules, liability is largely limited to your own actions.

The LLP, like a regular partnership, is treated as pass through entity for federal and state tax purposes. Again, income and losses pass through to the partners either in proportion to ownership or according to your partnership agreement.

An LLP does not offer complete liability protection. Although an LLP has limited liability for “negligence, malpractice, omissions, etc.” there is unlimited personal liability for contractual obligations of the partnership such as, for example, promissory notes.

4. Limited Liability Company

The Limited Liability Company (“LLC”) is probably the best known corporate entity other than a regular corporation. It’s a hybrid entity that offers the liability protection of a C corporation with the tax option to be treated as a partnership or a corporation.

An LLC can be structured to provide for added flexibility, including unlimited members. An LLC also provides ease of operation and possibilities for expansion which makes it attractive for a number of freelancers.

An LLC is govened by an Operating Agreement, which outlines plans for business management. Banks, mortgage companies and other institutions will want to see your agreement when making loans or setting up accounts. The Operating Agreement also allows you to set up the “control” of the corporation and limit the transfer of interests.

Even though the LLC offers pass through tax treatment, liability is limited in much the same way as with a C corporation. This means that so long as you follow the corporate formalities, as well as keep your personal assets separate from your business assets, your liability will largely be limited to your business assets.

5. S corporation

The S corporation is another special form of corporation that operates like a C corporation but is taxed like a partnership. There are strict limitations on the structure of an S corporation including the number and types of shareholders.

The S corporation is considered a good vehicle for small, closely-held corporations. One of the most attractive features of the S corporation is the ability to “slice up” distributions to shareholders and reclassify those distributions. Traditionally, compensation to shareholders who also served as owners was taxable as ordinary income. As compensation for services, it was also subject to self-employment tax, which is the self-employed person’s version of FICA (Social Security and Medicare contributions). The rate for self-employment tax is 15.3% of wages (the equivalent of the employer and employee portion of FICA). This tax is on top of the actual income tax on those wages. The result is a painful hit – the same as operating as a sole proprietor.

Since 1984, there have been a number of tax packages passed that have made the notion of dividends more appealing, especially the legislation passed under President Bush’s first term, which lowered those rates. So practitioners started thinking: what if you paid yourself a dividend instead of a salary? Under the old tax laws, that wouldn’t be a good thing. But under the new tax laws, it may result in tax savings. This is the feature that is most attractive to freelancers; however, you will want to make sure that this is set up properly so that you don’t create a tax, legal or Social Security problem. And oh yeah, it’s definitely worth mentioning that the IRS doesn’t like it…

The S corporation also has a number of restrictions relating to ownership – be sure and check out these ahead of time. If you lose S status due to a reporting or management violation, the time period is generally ten years before you can regain your status. The default is that you would be treated as a C corporation, which likely not a good thing from a tax perspective.

6. C corporation

A C corporation is what most people generally think of when they think of corporations – C corporations are the companies usually followed by “Inc” in their names, as in Coca Cola, Inc.

The advantages of a C corporation are continuous life, clear divisibility of assets between personal and corporate, limited liability among shareholders, freely transferable shares of stock, virtually unlimited options on structuring stock ownership, and favorable tax treatment for certain expenses. All good, right?

The disadvantages of a corporation are increased administrative expenses, compliance formalities and the potential for “double taxation.” Increased administrative expenses are due to more complicated accounting and tax compliance (i.e. filing corporate returns). “Double taxation” is the result of a C corporation being a separate taxable entity and not a pass through. This means that the C corporation pays a tax on its income for the corporate year and the shareholders pay tax on dividends received from the corporation. Additionally, money that is paid out as salary is reported as ordinary income and is subject to FICA (Social Security and Medicare taxes) on the employer and employee sides; in a one person corporation, this is largely the same result as paying self-employment taxes since it’s the same pot of money.

In most cases, a C corporation is “overkill” for a freelancer with no immediate plans for expansion, hiring of employees, etc.

The Bottom Line

Be informed. Research. Know enough to know the direction that you generally want to go. But don’t assume that information that you glean from friends or the internet (even if it comes from a reliable source) is sufficient to make a business decision.

Laws vary from state to state as to how various entities are structured, so check with your tax or legal professional for specifics: I can’t stress this enough. While it feels cheap and easy to simply incorporate online, you may be creating a bigger monster – some states charge annual fees for incorporated entities which can add significantly to your tax bill. Additionally, creating an incorporated entity may subject you to local taxes that you would not have been required to pay if you remained unincorporated.

If you don’t get proper advice, you can also make elections or fail to make elections that can result in serious tax consequences. We often joke that our office is like that Midas commercial: you can pay us now or you can pay us later. Don’t forego important advice to save a few dollars in advance: you may find that you’re really paying for it later.

For more information about tax and blogging, check out my handy list of prior articles on the subject including Problogger articles!

Like any good lawyer, I need to add a disclaimer: Unfortunately, it is impossible to give comprehensive tax advice over the internet, no matter how well researched or written. Before relying on any information given on this site, contact a tax professional to discuss your particular situation. If you have a question, ask the taxgirl.

Plurk 1 Month In – Small Can be Good

plurk.jpgI’ve just celebrated a month of playing with Plurk (join here if you’re not already a Plurker) over this last weekend so I thought it might be a good opportunity to spend a little time analyzing my experience with this new(ish) social messaging tool.

Summary of My Experience

Let me cut to the chase – While Plurk is smaller… for me it has been more effective at driving traffic to my blogs, the numbers and quality of interactions has been high, there is real opportunity to build profile and it’s becoming quite feature rich. Read on to learn more.

The decrease in performance and lack of new features at Twitter has caused many of it’s users to explore different social messaging tools like FriendFeed a smaller group have run to Plurk. The weight of numbers using the service is considerably smaller from what I can see – but it’s an enthusiastic community and I’ve been enjoying engaging with them a great deal.

Traffic

I am always asked about how much traffic these sorts of sites send to my blogs so lets start with this one. Over the last 30 days here is how many unique visitors Twitter and Plurk have sent to ProBlogger.

plurk-traffic.jpg

I should make a few of observations to give these stats a little more power.

1. The Twitter figure will be actually higher than this as it only measures people arriving from twitter.com and not any of the many Twitter clients that are out there.

2. On Twitter I have over 7600 people following me – on Plurk I have 865 ‘friends’ (meaning we mutually follow each other) and 579 ‘fans’ (meaning they follow me). So in total Plurk has 1444 followers (less than a fifth of Twitter).

3. I’ve included ALOT less links to ProBlogger on Plurk than Twitter. Every single post I do automatically goes up on Twitter – probably about a tenth of these go up on Plurk.

So all in all I’d say that Plurk probably does better at driving traffic.

The community there seem to love the sharing of links. The cool thing is that when you share links discussions often pop up around your links also. For example – this plurk had almost as many comments on it as the post it linked to here on the blog!

Interaction/Conversation

Social Messaging sites area all about networking and conversation. So how does Plurk do on that front?

I’ve written previously (and given an actual example) of how Plurk differs from Twitter in it’s conversations (ie that Plurk tends to be more interactive between one persona and a group of people on Plurk as followers interact with each other as well as the Plurker). I still find this to be true.

On average I’d say that when i post a question Plurk AND Twitter that I get more responses on Plurk despite having less than a fifth the followers. This is because conversations on Plurk tend to stay alive longer as they are put on your followers timelines not only when you write them but when people respond to them (a feature called ‘new responses’). This means people tend to reply or comment not only once on your initial plurk but later on as others comment.

I have to say that having each plurk and it’s responses contained into the one thread of conversation is gold when it comes to referring back to previous conversations.

Size and Key Influencers

I have heard a few people critique Plurk for not having ‘key influencers’ and for being ‘too Small’. Twitter and FriendFeed have their Scoble’s while on Plurk Robert Scoble has a lot of fans and friends but has only plurked twice since June 10.

While it’s true that there might be a few less ‘cool Web 2.0 kids’ on Plurk there are still some amazing people. I actually find that the quality of conversation, wisdom and expertise on Plurk is as high as it is on any other social media site. People are people and while there are fewer numbers I actually enjoy the intimacy of Plurk – something that perhaps would not be achieved if all the cool kids brought a huge influx of numbers over.

That’s not to say that some bigger personalities wouldn’t be welcomed on Plurk – but just because they are not active doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.

Update – The lack of ‘key influencers’ and smallness on Plurk also leaves more room for others to fill their shoes. I’ve seen a number of Plurkers really take on leadership in that community over the last few weeks. The Pond might not be quite as big but they’ve made a name for themselves and are leveraging that profile really well. I suspect that on Twitter they may have become a little lost.

Features

I’m enjoying the development of Plurk in terms of features being rolled out. With Twitter the emphasis seems to be on keeping it running rather than breaking new ground. There is some great development happening around Twitter by developers (I’ve recently loved playing with TweetDeck for instance) but Twitter itself has had few new features added to it. Plurk on the other hand has had new features being added every week (if not every day or two). It’s not perfect and still has bugs from time to time (and I wish it’d release an API to let developers build tools for it) but there’s an energy and feeling of excitement about it that I really enjoy.

Conclusion

Plurk has not replaced Twitter for me and I don’t foresee that it ever will. However for me it’s been a rich source of ideas, community, connections and conversation. I’m finding new ways of using each social media tool that I interact on every day and see real potential in my continued use of Plurk. Yes it’s smaller than some other social messaging options – but size doesn’t always matter….

SignUp for the ProBlogger Newsletter Or You’ll Miss Edition 1

Have you subscribed to the ProBlogger Newsletter that I relaunched last week? If not – you’ve only got 24 hours or so to sign up if you want to get the first one.

I’ve almost finished writing it and in this first edition you’ll get:

  • Free 1 hour Podcast – (you get this on signup but I’ll include another link to it in the newsletter in case you missed it)
  • Hot Posts – a top 10 list of the ‘hottest’ posts on ProBlogger at the moment
  • ‘Do This Now’ Task – in this section I’ll be giving you a small homework task each week that you can go away and apply immediately to improve your blog
  • Book Update – an update on the ProBlogger Book
  • Reader Question – I’m taking a reader question and answering it exclusively for the newsletter

In future editions of the email I’ll be pre-announcing ProBlogger news and will have a few preview invites for new products and tools for bloggers.

To Subscribe Add Your Email Address Here to Subscribe


Best WordPress Template Designs

Every week I’m asked by readers to recommend a WordPress template.

I thought it’d make an interesting discussion – which WordPress templates are your favorites?

I know it always varies from blog to blog when you’re choosing the best template for the job but I’d love to see some of your favorites.

Feel free to nominate both Free and Paid ones.

Should You Incorporate

This guest post is part of a two part series written by Kelly Phillips Erb, a tax attorney who blogs for b5media at taxgirl.com. You can find out more about Kelly here. For more information about tax and blogging, check out her handy list of prior articles on the subject including Problogger articles!

“Should I incorporate to save taxes?”

I get this question a lot over at taxgirl.com – and most of the time, it comes from bloggers and freelancers. It’s understandable. We hear all of the time how corporate tax rates are ridiculously low and individual taxpayers pay at higher rates – this tends to be true in most countries. And, in the US, the self-employed are also hit with a self-employed tax of about 15% on top of income tax. Add in penalties for not making estimated payments and tax time can be quite painful for the self-employed.

It would follow, then, that incorporating just to save on taxes makes sense, right?

Unfortunately, no. What often gets left out of these discussions is that the corporate tax is a tax on corporate profits – but that doesn’t replace an individual tax. Money that you take out of the corporation in the form of dividends and/or salary will be taxed on your personal income tax return. Translation? You’re likely not saving money in most cases.

That doesn’t mean that there are no advantages to incorporating as a freelancer – there are. It just means that the tax advantages, with few exceptions, tend to be rather insignificant for folks who are self-employed.

You don’t want the “tax tail to wag the dog” when making this important decision. Put the tax consequences aside for a moment and consider exactly what you hope to accomplish and what your individual needs are. What is it that you want to get out of incorporation? We’ve already established that, with respect to blogging and freelancing as an individual, incorporation may not save you tax dollars. Is there something else that you’re looking for?

Here are some quick reasons to consider incorporation:

1. Credibility

Yeah, it sounds weird but it’s true. Some corporations will take you more seriously when you’re “Crazy Dog Productions, LLC” than when you are “Kelly Phillips Erb, tax blogger.” This may not be the case for networks – like my own b5media – since networks tend to hire a writer, not a company. But it can be true when working with affiliate programs and other companies. One big ISP that I know of, for example, will not, as a policy, issue a 1099 to an individual; they only hire incorporated entities.

2. Health Insurance

Here’s a fact that many people don’t know: for most insurance companies, individual rates are more expensive than corporate rates. Additionally, corporate groups are not generally subject to individual physicals for the purpose of determining coverage. As a bona fide corporation (you will have to produce documentation), you may be entitled to receive a corporate rate so long as you have a “group” – with most insurance companies, two or more employees constitute a group. This is why writing co-ops are so popular.

3. Liability Protection

The idea of protecting personal assets from liability is an increasingly important issue for bloggers. Don’t be fooled: incorporating doesn’t mean that you can do, promore or write anything that you want and escape liability. But incorporation – again, as a bona fide corporation – can protect your personal assets from attachment from some kinds of judgments. The amount of protection afforded and the level of protection vary from state to state according to the type of entity. As a general rule, however, most corporations allow for some protection from liability so long as you follow corporate formalities.

4. Because it looks good

Oh come on, you were thinking that, right? Having your own company kind of announces to the world that you’ve arrived. It says that you’re serious, that writing is not your hobby, but your career. You are your business. And it looks good on a business card… There’s nothing wrong with that!

There are other reasons that incorporation might make sense – savings on self-employment taxes comes to mind and are referenced in part two of this series. However, some of those reasons require a level of scrutiny into your finances, your current tax situation and your plans for the future that can’t be had on a blog post. I would highly encourage you to have this conversation with your legal or tax professional to get the best advice for your personal situation.

But keep things in perspective. Evaluate the reasons why you might want to incorporate your business – and make sure that you’re ready to treat it as a business. Arm yourself with the facts and consult with the right folks. While it’s easy enough to incorporate, most corporate entities fold within the first two years of business – don’t become one of those statistics.

Check back tomorrow for part two of the series to find out more about popular forms of business entities.

Like any good lawyer, I need to add a disclaimer: Unfortunately, it is impossible to give comprehensive tax advice over the internet, no matter how well researched or written. Before relying on any information given on this site, contact a tax professional to discuss your particular situation. If you have a question, ask the taxgirl.

Taking your Blog to a Community

Today Community Strategist Connie Bensen shares some tips on taking your blog to a community.

Every blogger wants more readers. I’ve always appreciated how Problogger regularly features ideas for improving your blog & writing techniques. As people happen upon your blog they may decide to join your community of readers. But what if you could take your blog to a community?

Choose the new Community

Let’s step back & take a few minutes & think about your niche(s) & focus area. At this point there are two directions. Do you want to bring in more readers in your subject area? Or do you want to reach out to a related niche? The latter will require some creative thinking and be a bigger challenge, but don’t be afraid to go beyond the obvious! Decide on your keywords & spend some time with Google & search engines & find out where your new communities are at. Do this quarterly or so because new sites are always springing up.

When I was a librarian we called it outreach. I would go out & speak to groups & my challenge was highlight resources of interest to that group (whether it was a community service group or quilting club).

Two ways to Extend Yourself

There are a number of ways to do this online. Some are automated & others will require action on your part. Building community takes a bit of effort (although you’ve maybe noticed this just in blogging). But this will be fun. (It has to be otherwise it won’t work!)

Automate your Outreach

Where can you put rss feeds for your blog so that it automatically streams at other places?

  • Social networking sites such as Facebook (use notes), LinkedIn
  • Aggregators such as Friendfeed, Tumblr, etc
  • Forums when it’s appropriate – it’s a bit hard to tell but ask the admin
  • Related Communities – ex: scroll down on the left to see an example of my blog streaming
  • Sites that aggregate RSS feeds:
    • You feed your rss in & editors choose which to publish -ex: 1067 views on my post on Twitter that Social Media Today picked up
  • Make it easy for your readers to ‘forward to a friend’ on your blog
  • Join social voting sites such as StumbleUpon, Digg, Sphinn, Mixx, etc
    • Be generous in helping your friends. They will help back. Most have groups by topic areas.

    Set up google alerts & Tweetscan for your new keywords. For example I have an ongoing search for ‘community manager’. My goal is to connect with Community Managers on Twitter & keep up to date on the latest news. It makes growing my connections effortless.

    Send out a regular newsletter with links to your blog. Less than 10% use blog readers, so they may prefer getting a compilation of your links & news in their inbox on a regular basis. (Make sure that people opt-in for the newsletter & can unsubscribe).

    Engage with the new Community

    The next steps require more effort but once you get started you’ll enjoy getting off your blog. The purpose is to meet new people and introduce them to you and in turn your blog. It’s not like flipping a switch & it will take some time. Please don’t go out & spam blogs or forums with links as that won’t be appreciated! You really need to be sincere. And remember this is fun. Do some Googling or set up Google alerts for keywords describing the new community that you’d like to embrace.

    Join Communities & Participate

    Provide something free that represents your niche (whitepaper, ebook, podcast, etc) & link others to it

    • Comment on other’s blog posts & add links to your relevant blog posts & free resources
    • Join forums and get involved in the conversations (make sure that linking is allowed)
      • If you’re shy about this, I have some suggestions.
      • tip – use a tool like Trailfire to keep track of the forums, social bookmarking sites work also
    • Write for a group blog – there’s no pay on this but it’s a different niche than my blog & there’s a community with it that many new people I’ve never met (yet!)
    • Join group projects – this book project that I’m participating in has 275 authors (meaning lots of back links as we all blog about it! LiveWriter allowed me to copy/paste them as a whole) – I see traffic coming from many new readers as they browse the list posted at the 275 authors’ blogs
    • Can’t find a project like this? Why not start one then?
    • Memes are powerful & you never know how far ranging they’ll be - this one went on & on (and people started making lists of the people who had replied & evaluating that = more links!)
      • participate when your friends call you out
      • If you see something meme-like, just do it! Ex: Top 10 Social Media Tools/Platforms
      • Start one – they’re fun! Usually it’s a list

      Don’t forget about groups at social networking sites such as Facebook & LinkedIn

      Include links to the new community in your blog posts

      As you spend time in the new community you’ll start to identify the influencers

      • Invite them to guest write for you.
      • Offer to do guest posts for them.

      Signs that you’re making progress

      Watch where your traffic is coming from & what searches are hitting your blog/site

      *use Feedburner or Google Analytics

      An increased network – if you’re doing the second part then it will grow

      If you found this intriguing then you will enjoy my list of Resources on community building.

      I’m sure that you have ideas that I haven’t thought of… What are your suggestions for taking your blog to a community? What has worked for you?