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Thesis WordPress Updates and Offers a Weekend Bonus

Thesis WordPress ThemeI’ve been behind checking my email this week and it could have cost you a great deal….

Apparently the fantastic Thesis WordPress theme (see my first impressions of Thesis here) is running a special this weekend. They’ve just updated the theme with some great new features (see below) but if you buy it before the end of 31 August you get another theme from DIYthemes ‘Cosmo’ (a magazine style theme) for free.

The update of Thesis includes:

  • A new ‘design options’ panel which gives you the ability to customize fonts and font sizes. This will help set your blog apart from others using this theme.
  • Also in the design options it the ability to change the layout of your blog by selecting different number of columns and column width.

There’s more new stuff too – see it all at Thesis WordPress theme.

PS: sorry I didn’t post this earlier – I hope it doesn’t mean any of you miss out, it’s been one of those weeks in the Rowse house with sick little guys everywhere!

8 Reasons Why Your Blog Might Not Be Accepted Into an Ad Network

Mitch from Technipages.com shot me an email this week asking me for advice on getting accepted into CPM banner ad networks like ValueClick, TribalFusion and others. He commented that while he has decent traffic (around 140,000 page views a month) he hadn’t had much luck with being accepted and asked for advice.

This is a question I’ve had numerous times so I thought I’d post my response (I have slightly edited from my original answer).

  1. Design Matters – the more professional a site looks the better impression it will make and the increased likelihood of acceptance.
  2. Content – some advertising networks will judge your suitability based upon both the topic and also the type of posts (including length, editorial style etc). Some will also check to see if the content is original and or appearing elsewhere online. Topic plays a big part for some ad networks as they will sometimes have specific focuses and be looking for content partners with relevant content to their advertisers. I also know of at least one ad network who looks at the ‘quality’ of content – particularly looking at how well it is written, whether it is up to date, looking at whether there is an active user base interacting with it etc. They do this because they have a premium advertising base who don’t just want to align themselves with any old blog but only those that they perceive as premium. Each network also has its own standards on adult content, use of language (swearing) and other topics that they may or may not cover.
  3. Hosting and Personal sites – some ad networks don’t accept sites that they perceives to be ‘personal’ and don’t accept sites that are hosted on free services or on services where you don’t own your domain (for example blogspot blogs).
  4. Type of Site – some networks don’t accept sites that are primarily forums as they tend not to perform as well with advertising due to the high amount of page views per visitor and the ad blindness that quickly happens.
  5. Other advertising – if a site already has lots of ads on it this can be off putting for some ad networks.
  6. Traffic sources – if you have lots of non US traffic some ad networks will mark you down for that as they only have ad networks for that market.
  7. Language – many ad networks will not accept non English written sites. Again – this is about their advertisers (largely US based in many cases) not wanting to target ‘international’ audiences.
  8. Traffic numbers – this is the killer, many will reject unless you’re doing big traffic – they will check sources like comscore, Alexa to double check whether the numbers you are giving them are accurate.

Most ad networks have fairly good pages for publishers outlining what they do and don’t accept. Here you can see requirements from ValueClick and TribalFushion (although I’ve heard a lot of people say that they feel they fit into TribalFushion and don’t get in).

Some of the above reasons are frustrating. As someone who has built blogs for non US audiences I know some of the pain of not being accepted. However the main advice I gave Mitch was to keep building traffic and making the site look as professional as possible. Traffic numbers speak very loudly so to keep traffic trending up will mean that he finds it is easier and easier to get accepted into these programs. Also – keep hunting around for options, experiment with different ways to make money from your blog and be patient.

10 Ways to Make Money BECAUSE of Your Blog

What if I told you that there’s a way to make money as a result of your blog where you don’t need to have a single ad on your blog, where you don’t have to run any affiliate programs and where you don’t have to write any paid reviews?

Would you be interested?

Make-Money-Because-Of-Your-BlogImage by iDream_in_Infrared

Much is written about how bloggers make money through selling advertising space or running affiliate programs on their blogs. However there’s a second, somewhat hidden, group of bloggers who make a great living not directly from their blogs – but indirectly as a result of them.

Instead of using their traffic to sell advertising or promote products to earn commissions from – they leverage the traffic to their blog in another way – usually to sell themselves.

Today I want to highlight 10 ways of making money BECAUSE of your blog – as opposed to making money directly from it via advertising, paid reviews or affiliate programs.

1. Consulting

The blogger consultant model is simple. You give away information generously on your given topic and then sell your services to help people apply your teaching to their personal situation with some personal attention from you.

Bloggers who also act as consultants generally charge for their time by the hour, but I’ve also come across some who have landed ongoing consulting work in their field of expertise and have been signed up on retainer by companies.

Some might think that it’s just bloggers who blog about blogging who pick up consulting work (I’ve done my fair share) but it’s not the case. I’ve met dating bloggers, marketing bloggers, photography bloggers, craft bloggers and more who all offer their services in coaching, mentoring and training their readers one on one.

2. Book Authorship

It is becoming more and more common for bloggers to be approached by book publishers to write books. Chris and I were approached to write ProBlogger the Book by Wiley, Gina from Lifehacker landed a 2 book deal, Frank from Post Secret has done numerous books, Steve Pavlina has one coming out soon…. the list goes on and on. Sometimes book are heavily based upon the blog itself – other times the book is completely new.

3. Speaking

Bloggers spend day in and day out writing content for their blogs and so for many it is not too much of a stretch to translate the principles that they are writing about into verbal sessions at conferences or other public speaking opportunities.

Often these sorts of speaking engagements are not for any kind of payment but once you build your profile in a niche the paid opportunities do come along for many – particularly when you’re asked to speak in-house for companies or organizations.

4. Training

There’s some overlap here with ‘speaking’ as in many instances speakers are engaged in a training capacity – but some bloggers also take the ‘training’ that they do in another direction and run their own training courses for readers. They leverage the traffic that they have do direct people to training either online (membership sites) or even offline into real life training events.

One blogger who I’ve seen do this really well is David Hobby from Strobist who has successfully run a variety of real life training events on his niche (photography lighting). He’s also done spin off DVDs of the training which he sells.

5. Freelance Writing

I’ve had many approaches for this myself and see quite a few other bloggers land this type of work. Their profile and expertise on a blog leads other websites, blogs, magazines, newspapers etc to ask them to contribute in a paid capacity.

This might be a newspaper column, a regular staff writer role or even a one off paid contribution.

6. Selling Services

Once you establish a readership on a topic other opportunities can arise to sell a variety of services from your blog. Here at ProBlogger I added a job board (something many blogs have done), Blogger Timothy Sykes makes tens of thousands a month with an ‘stock market alerts’ service, Shoemoney is introducing ‘Shoemoney Tools‘ (a great resource for bloggers actually – I’ve been playing with it the last few days).

Another example is Kevin from Real Lawyers have blogs who offers lawyers and law firms a blogging solution.

7. Selling E-Resources

Again – there’s some cross over here with some of the above but it’s something that we’ve seen a lot of bloggers doing (or attempting to do) of late with the creation of ebooks, membership sites, tools and software that relate to their niche.

8. Landing ‘Real’ Jobs

One of the great things about starting a blog that builds your profile and perceived expertise in an industry is that others in that industry begin to see you as an attractive addition to their staff.

I’ve seen a number of bloggers write about this over the years – Steve Rubel is one that comes to mind as someone who became very well known in the PR industry and was head hunted by a PR firm as a result of his blogging.

9. Finding Business Customers and Clients

Another indirect income earner that many bloggers tap into is leveraging their blog’s profile to send find new clients and send new business to their offline companies.

In a sense their blog becomes like an advertisement to their company’s products and services.

There are literally thousands of ‘business blogs’ who do this. The key is not to make the blog purely a sales pitch or marketing device but to make it a destination of value to readers and to let this sell you and your business.

What’s Number 10?

Every week I ‘meet’ (virtually) bloggers who are making money from their blogs in ways that I’d never considered before. There are certainly some creative people out there coming up with some innovative ways to build blogs into income streams.

So I’m leaving #10 in this list up to you. What other ‘indirect’ ways of making money from blogs do you do or see others doing? I’d love to see examples of any of the methods above or any other that I might have missed. Can’t wait to read your number 10s!

Killer Titles Project is Over – And the Winner Is…

What a week it has been here at ProBlogger with the Killer Titles Group Writing Project!

I’ve just updated our submissions page with the final batch of 77 submissions for the project. This brings us to a total of 343 entries.

Please head over and surf through some of the posts submitted – bookmark, comment, subscribe to and link up to those that you like the most.

The Winner Is…

This project has been generously sponsored by Logo Designer David Airey who has put up a $2000 logo design for one random participant. Thanks to David – I can’t wait to see the logo that you come up with for our winner.

I’ve just drawn the winner of this prize using a random number generator.

The prize goes to Mjuboy for their title Sacrificing Goats and Eating Brains – congratulations, I’ll email you with details of how to get your prize (update: Mjuboy’s thank you post is here).

Thanks again to everyone for participating – I hope more than just Mjuboy feels a winner and benefited from this project. To be notified of future Group Writing Projects and competitions at ProBlogger make sure you’re subscribed to our feed.

Just 3 (Now 1) Days Left to Get My Bonus Offers with Blog Mastermind

There are 3 days left of my personal coaching bonuses for the Blog Mastermind Blog Mentoring program. UPDATE: My bonuses are now closed. You can still enroll for Blog Mastermind – but the bonuses that I mention below are no longer valid.

To recapBlog Mastermind is a fantastic blogger mentoring program with some great teaching from successful Blogger Yaro Starak and his team. BlogMastermind is a six month program which you can either sign up for month by month or for the full six months at once (at a discounted rate). I’ve written about my impressions of Blog Mastermind here and have also shared some student mini reviews here (I’m getting more positive emails about the course from readers every day or two).

For those who are still thinking about it – here’s what I’m offering for those who sign up here at ProBlogger:

  1. For all those who sign up whether it be for one month or six I’m putting you in the draw to win one of 3 ProBlogger books which I think would make a great accompanying text book for the course. I’ll draw this on 1 September.
  2. For each student who signs up for the full six month package I’m offering a free one on one hour long consultation with me to unpack what you’ve been learning in Blog Mastermind. You can use the hour in a variety of ways. Get full details of my personal hour coaching bonus offer here.

These offers run out at the end of August and I won’t be repeating them any time soon because I’m going to be very busy with the 1 hour coaching sessions that I already owe students who’ve signed up for the six month course (there are already 25 of these)!

To be eligible for these bonuses sign up through this Blog Mastermind link.

Whether you invest in BlogMastermind for a 1 month taster or the full 6 months to get my bonus coaching – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The feedback I continue to get from students is that they are finding the intentional training and personal interaction with other students an teachers refreshing, inspiring and an experience that is practically helping them to improve their blogs.

UPDATE: My bonuses are now closed. You can still enroll for Blog Mastermind – but the bonuses that I mention above are no longer valid.

Calls to Action – 12 Tips To SNAP Readers Out of Passivity

The vast majority of visitors to your blog are paralyzed by passivity.

They never comment, they don’t vote in polls, they won’t subscribe to your feed or newsletters, they won’t buy the affiliate products that you recommend, they won’t email a friend about your blog, they won’t vote for you in social bookmarking sites and most of them will never come back.

Call-To-ActionImage by Aaron Jacobs

Depressed? You’re not alone.

Some days it gets me down that readers can be so passive too.

In this post (a part of our crafting blog posts series) I’m going to share how using Calls to Action can significantly increase the interactivity on your blog. I’d also love to hear what you have to say on the topic.

The Problem of Passivity on Blogs

I still remember early in my blogging expressing my frustration to another blogger. At the time my main concern was that while I was getting a lot of visitors, so few of them left a comment.

He responded to me with a question that was like a SMACK to the side of the head with a BRICK – it was so simple yet stupidly I’d never thought of it. He said:

“Do you ever ask for comments?”

He went on to explain to me a ‘secret’ that copywriters have known for ages – ‘Call to Action‘ – if you don’t call your readers to action they are far less likely to take it:

  • If you want people to comment, invite them to do it.
  • If you want people to subscribe, don’t assume that they’ll think to do it themselves, ask them to. If
  • If you want people to buy something – give them a way to do it.
  • If you want people to come back tomorrow, give them some motivation to do so and show them how to remind themselves.
  • If you want a vote on Digg or StumbleUpon – ask.

Call me ‘Captain Obvious’ – but so few of us bloggers have mastered the ‘Call to Action’ in their blogging that it is no wonder that so many of us struggle with passive audiences.

Why Calls to Action are Important

After my friend gave me the above advice I began to experiment with inviting readers to comment on my posts. Here’s what I found:

  • Some People Respond to Invitations - When I invited comments and didn’t assume that people would leave them I noticed a marked increase in comments. While the majority of my readers still ‘lurked’ I’d estimate comments were up by between 50-100% on posts.
  • Action grows Reader Engagement - I began to notice that when people commented once it would open a floodgate of comments from them over future days. When I questioned a few of these readers I found that some had been ‘lurking’ a while, too scared to comment but once they had they felt more ‘ownership’ and ‘confidence’ to do it again.
  • Action brings loyalty – I noticed that first time readers would become loyal readers – they’d often come back to the blog in the days after their comment to see how other people responded to it.
  • Action breeds Action - When you grow the interactivity on your blog it draws others to be interactive. When a first time visitor to your blog sees that you have thousands of subscribers and hundreds of comments they take notice and many will be drawn to do likewise (it is called social proof).

In time I saw similar things as I ‘asked’ readers to do other things (vote in polls, subscribing to feeds etc). I learned that as obvious as it might seem to us as bloggers to do these things – many readers don’t think to do these things unless asked to.

12 Tips for Calls to Action:

So how do you effectively use Calls to Action on your blog?

Let me say that the following Call to Action Tips come out of my own experience of experimenting with this type of thing. I’m by no means a copy writing expert (although am about to start some training in it) and would love to learn from your own experiences of Calls to Action so please do feel free to share you own experience in comments below.

1. Know what Action you want Readers to take

Sounds almost too basic to include in these tips but I think it’s really important to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve with your blog post. This really builds on the last post in this series which talked about making your posts matter and identifying purposes for posts. What’s the purpose of your post? What do you want readers to do as a result of reading the post? Answer these questions before writing your call to action and you’ll be in a great position to write an effective one.

2. One Call to Action Per Post

Early in my own experiments with Calls to Action I wrote a post that was linked to by the uber blog Slashdot. It sent more traffic to my blog than I’d ever seen before and so I decided to update the post with some calls to action. Problem was that I stuffed so many of them into the post that no one did any of them. I asked for comments, pointed to my RSS feed and newsletter, asked for people to link to the post… etc. I find that I have a lot more luck with just one call to action per post – it gives people a simple next step rather than overwhelming them with choices.

3. Make it a Win/Win Call to Action

There’s nothing wrong with benefiting from the actions that your readers take on your blog. Don’t be afraid to ask things of them – but do make sure that what you ask of them will have an upside not only for you but for them.

4. Make the Action Simple and Achievable

I was recently asked by a reader to look at a competition that they were running on their blog and to give my opinion on why no one had entered it. Upon looking at the competition it became clear that while the prize was great and the blog did have readers – that the requirements to entry were too complicated. The blogger was asking readers to leave a 500 word comment, write a post on their own blog linking to their competition AND subscribe to his RSS feed (and to prove it take a screen shot of the subscription confirmation page). Ask your readers to jump through too many hoops to do the thing you want them to do and you’ll get significantly less of them to take that action.

5. In Post Calls to Action Work Best

Positioning is everything in many aspects of your blog and calls to action are no exception. In the same way that click through on ads increase when you put ads near or in content – responses to calls to action will work significantly better for you within posts than if you slap them on your sidebar. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an invitation to action in your sidebar (almost every blog I know does this with RSS subscription invitations for example) however in post invitations will generally work best.

6. Express Clearly what you Want People to do

This really builds upon the ‘simple and achievable action’ point that I’ve made above but comes down to the way you communicate the desired action to readers. In the same way that I’ve suggested taking extra time to craft post titles and opening lines it is important to pause and consider the words that you use in your call to action. If your call to action isn’t a simple thing (and sometimes it is unavoidable) consider outlining what you want readers to do in ‘steps’ or a list of points. This is what I do on my Group Writing Projects and I find it works quite well.

7. Multiple Calls to the Same Action Can Work

While it’s best if you keep the number of actions you call for to a minimum (preferably 1 per post) this doesn’t mean you can’t invite readers to take that action more than once in the post. The most logical place for a call to action is at the end of the post – after all it is where readers stop reading and start thinking about what to do next. However I find that adding a call to action earlier in the post can increase the likelihood that people will take the action. This works for two main reasons – firstly you are sowing the seed of the action in their mind early and secondly some people will never make it to the end of your post but may actually take the action early on. For example – in this post I’ve already invited comments twice – and I’ll do it once more at the end of the post.

8. Draw the Eye to Calls to Action

Why do we make titles bigger and more eye catching on blog posts but leave our invitations to action as plain text languishing at the bottom of our posts? As with any important part to a post it is important that your readers see calls to action. You can ensure this happens in a number of ways including putting a heading above them, using an image near them, making the call to action a striking image itself, using text formatting (bold, italics, capitals), using colored backgrounds and borders around the calls to action etc.

9. Lead your readers to the Action

Your post itself needs to lead people to the action. The call and the topic of the post should strongly relate to one another and you should give reasons why the action would benefit readers. One technique that is worth using with some calls to action (particularly bigger ones) is to paint a picture of what life would be like after the action is taken (or what it’d be like if it is not taken).

10. Give an Incentive

Some calls to action will have an incentive to the reader built into them – but at times you might want to add extra incentive. This can be especially effective if you’re promoting an affiliate product and want to give your readers extra value by offering a bonus.

11. Mix Up Calls to Action from Post to Post

Readers can become a little blind (or numb) to calls to action over time if your calls are always the same (either given in the same way or asking them to do the same thing). Mix things up from post to post. Also don’t feel you need to have a call to action in every post. If you’re constantly asking your readers to do things you could burn them out.

12. Don’t Hard Sell But Call with Confidence

Using Calls to Action can be a bit of a balancing act at times. In talking to bloggers I find that they usually struggle with them in one of two ways. Either they feel awkward asking readers to do anything OR they SELL SELL SELL and lack subtlety. Somewhere between these two extremes is the place you need to dwell. The place you position yourself along the spectrum will differ from blog to blog and probably based upon your personality. Some bloggers get away with the hard sell better than others – the key is to experiment, listen to your readership and how they respond and to try to strike a balance between the two extremes.

What Was Your Most Effective Call to Action?

What I’ve shared above is my experience of Calls to Action but as I’ve said above – I’m still on a learning journey on this topic and would love to hear what you have leaned on the topic? Feel free to give an example of what you’ve done with a link and share your lessons in comments below so we can all improve our call to action technique!

Read the Full Series

This post is part of a series on how to craft blog posts. It will be all the more powerful if taken in context of the full series which looks at 10 points in the posting process to pause and put extra effort. Start reading this series here.

Day 3 of Killer Titles Project are Live

Just a short note to let readers know that I’ve just added another 103 reader submissions to the Killer Titles Group Writing project submissions page. Those still wanting to participate need to get their skates on – there’s less than 24 hours and I’ll be closing this off and picking the prize winner. See how to enter here.

A Downside of Getting to the Front Page of Digg

The Holy Grail of incoming links for many bloggers is an appearance on the front page of Digg. It has the potential to send tens of thousands of visitors and bring about a lot of secondary links from other sites who see it.

However the downside of a site the power of Digg linking to one of your articles is that it is an authoritative site in the eyes of Google.

Yesterday one of my posts – 15 Stunning Lightning Images – got to the front page of Digg. It was actually an old post that I’d recently updated and moved back onto the front page and it already had done pretty well on social media sites so had some link equity already.

The front page appearance on Digg brought a fresh influx of visitors which was fantastic but here’s what I saw in Google’s search results when I searched for Lightning Images this morning:

lightning-images-seprs.png

Yep – Digg out ranks the post it links to.

I fully expect this to change at some point as Google’s rankings are in constant states of change and even the link to my post above will give it a little extra authority but it is an issue that many bloggers face and should be aware of when submitting their posts to social media sites, or other sites and forums with established authority on Google. update: the DPS article now outranks the Digg one.

I’ve seen this same thing happen again and again on Digg but also when a site gets linked to like a site like Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Engadget etc who link back to the source of their story but use a similar title for their post to the post they’re linking to.

I don’t think this is the problem of the sites linking to posts – it’s probably more an issue for Google to work on – but post this as a little warning for bloggers active in promoting their blog posts on other sites.

It is still a good thing to get on the front page of Digg, just one consequence of doing so to keep in mind.

TIP: One quick tip for those of you who suffer from this problem. If you have any control for how your posts are submitted to Digg, try to get the title to be something different to the title of your blog post. For example, if the title of the Digg submission above had been ‘Lightning Pictures’ or something completely different like ‘Flash, Bang – 15 Images of Storms that Will Rock Your World’ then it wouldn’t rank as high for ‘lightning images’ as my own post.

Of course not everyone has control over how their posts are linked to – but if you do, it’s worth keeping in mind.

Update: OK – some have seen this post as me saying that this is a disaster, that people should avoid Digg, me overacting. Perhaps the way I wrote this conveyed that I thought it was a massive problem – it’s not massive, it’s not a disaster, it’s not the worst thing that could happen to a blogger – it’s simply one downside. I’ve commented on this more deeply below here.

All I attempted to do with this post was to point out one thing that people might be interested in when they have their posts on Digg. It’s not the be all and end all, getting on the front page of Digg is still a good thing, it’s just one of the consequences of it.

b5 Blogger Summit at Blog World Expo – Free Extra Day of Training for BWE Attendees

If you’re going to Blog World Expo and can be there the day before the official program starts – b5media is running a training day for our bloggers that we are opening up to any BWE registrants that would like to attend.

It is running on 19 September at the Las Vegas Convention center and all we ask if you’re attending is to RSVP before hand so that we can make sure we’re set up adequately for those who are coming.

The day is designed to help our bloggers improve their blogging but will be relevant to bloggers who are not a part of the network also. It will include sessions with different members of our management team, channel editors and partners as well as a Q and A session with Board of Advisors (Robert Scoble, Doc Searls, Hugh McLeod, Renee Blodgett and Stowe Boyd).

There will only be one session that is ‘closed’ and jut for b5 bloggers so if you’d like to attend we’d love to have you. We’re not expecting hundreds or thousands of people to attend which will allow for more Q & A and personal interaction between presenters and attendees.

The sessions planned (and we’re still tweaking and locking in the times and topics) are:

b5-blogger-summit-1.png

I am planning to stuff my session as full as possible with tips on finding readers for your blog and hope to have time for Q & A and a little brainstorming together.

To Register…

If you are a registered attendee of Blog World Expo (sign up here) all you need to do to attend is RSVP to Rachel Segal at rachel AT b5media DOT com – just include your name. She can then give you details of where it’ll be (room numbers etc) and any other details as well as give you the most up to date schedule for the day as it comes to hand.

PS: the only other thing to note is that lunch isn’t provided. You’ll need to bring something or buy something at or around the venue.