Close
Close

BlogMastermind Blog Coaching – 6 Student Reviews

Blog-Mastermind-1It has been two weeks since the launch of the BlogMastermind blog mentoring program and today I thought I’d ask some of those that I referred to the program to review it for me. While I think it’s a great resource I wanted to give actual participants in the program the opportunity to have their say. Last week I emailed all of those that I’ve referred to BM and invited them to submit a short review.

What follows is the mini-reviews of those that responded. All have links, except one who preferred to remain anonymous. I’ve not edited or left out any responses and they’re in the order I received them – so I hope it gives some good insight.

Participant Reviews of BlogMastermind

“I thought that I knew something about blogging. Joining Blogmastermind has shown me I did know something . . . but little of it was useful. Blogmastermind is fantastic and I believe it will be worth every dollar—many times over.” – Mike Davenport

====

“The Blog Mastermind coaching course is a jewel. Yaro Starak has managed to couple solid content with a simple and masterful teaching style in an information packed course that’s moving me step-by-step in a strategic fashion toward my goals as a blogger.

The content alone would’ve made me happy. The icing on the cake is that Yaro’s sincere desire for students to succeed bleeds through in his presentations and business systems.

He’s built a sustainable, highly profitable business, and most importantly, is teaching me to do the same. I’m elated with the program–my success is assured.” – Valerie Love

====

“The first lesson received was on “Let’s Get Blogging” in which it contains a lot of blogging fundamentals. I get to know more on choosing a domain name all the way to setting up a blog. BlogMastermind provides very good video resources on how to optimize your blog’s setup such as the positioning of elements like opt in form. Audios on “Mastering your mindset” let me have a clearer goal in mind and fine tune my mindset with regards to blogging. BlogMastermind Forum is another channel in which I gain a lot of knowledge in both content and technical aspects.” – Wei Liang

====

“I’ve just recently signed up for Yaro’s Blog Mastermind course and have already gotten a lot of value from it.

I’m a financial advisor and personal finance blogger in Atlanta, GA, USA, and I was interested in getting some help/mentoring about how to be a more effective writer while building my audience.

A couple of immediate things I’ve gotten from the course is the need to have a multi-pronged approach — for marketing, monetizing, etc. All too often, I see bloggers who have Google Adsense plastered all over their blog, but don’t have any other monetization strategies working for them. Similarly, I see many bloggers in the personal finance niche constantly commenting on each other’s blogs which in my opinion just creates a big echo chamber. And I’ve been guilty of this myself.

While I don’t plan to attempt to monetize my blog at this time, I do want to build my audience and build a large email list. At Yaro’s suggestion, I’ve begun using AWeber for my email and continue to use Feedburner for RSS. Also, I’m beginning to look outside the Personal Finance blogosphere for other interesting sites (like yours) where I can network and build relationships.

Yes, it’s very early in Yaro’s course, but I’ve already received tremendous value and am eager to get more and more info from Yaro in the coming days and weeks.” – Russ Thornton

=====

“I was tempted to join Blog Mastermind the first time it was offered but I procrastinated while reading the Blog Profits Blueprint. I realized after reading it there was lot’s I could learn and I saw Yaro was very truthful and helpful in his teachings. He never claimed to know everything but was willing to share what he had learned. He relied on others such as yourself, to add value to this course. I’m excited as I begin the lessons and I look forward to learning how to promote my blog and help others as I learn from Blog Mastermind.” – Patsy Stewart

=====

“My first impressions are positive. I already have a WordPress.org blog up and running – but my site is ripe for improvement and I get the impression that as the lessons roll onwards, it’s going to be a steep learning curve. The members-only forum is filled with relevant FAQs and helpful fellow members, and I am already drawing upon this useful resource.” – anonymous

I hope you’ve found these mini-reviews of the course helpful. Read more about BlogMastermind here.

5 Methods to Enhancing Page Load

‘How do I make my page load faster?’ – it’s a question I get a bit so I thought I’d ask Aaron Brazell from Technosailor to tackle the question and offer some suggestions around enhancing page load times.

“The internet is dying.”

This phrase, though probably a bit sensationalist, is also not far from the truth. As we all now understand, thanks to U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, the internet is a series of tubes and the more stuff you put into the tubes, the more it gets clogged. Trust me, the Senator from Alaska was probably more dead on than most give him credit for.

Everyday, internet servers and bandwidth pushes new highs, and even though there are political solutions to such global economic problems, the reality is that bloggers, and really, website owners as a whole, are affected the most.

This site is loading so slow.

I can’t get to the site.

Down for everyone or just me?

1. Avoid images

Everyone likes an aesthetically pleasing site. Many blogs, particularly out on the long tail, tend to get very artsy in their designs. Colorful headers made from pictures of serene prairies, busy metropolitan night scenes taken with a Nikon D3 set at 100 ISO, 61 second shutter speed and a 1.2 Aperture (Oh, sorry. Wrong site).

You get the point, though. Lots of images can increase your site load time. In the event that images are necessary, either in posts or as the site structural elements, consider that images should be optimized for 72 DPI and never be “resized” in the HTML itself. If the image is bigger than the spot you want to put it in, then resize the image itself as opposed to letting the HTML do the work for you.

2. Avoid Third Party Javascript

I realize I’m talking to an audience that is keen on advertising on their blogs, so I may step on some toes. Third party javascript might be the worst culprit when it comes to page load.

The problem is not the javascript itself, though there is certainly that possibility on occasion. More than likely, third part javascript is invoking content, whether advertisements or widgets, from another server that could be running slow at any given time.

It’s generally easy to spot slow loading javascript. Because a page loads, usually, from top down in the order that the HTML is written, when the browser encounters slow loading javascript the page will stop rendering for a period of time. Usually, you can identify the specific part of the page that is loading slowly, and refer to your widgets or source HTML to figure out who exactly is the culprit.

3. Flash Video

I’m fighting a losing battle, it would seem, on Flash but if my observations are correct, Flash has an ongoing memory leak that is most manifest when it comes to online video. Almost all video players are written in Flash and, in most cases, after running a significant amount of video you might notice your browser crash or everything slow to a place where you have to forcibly quit the browser. These symptoms manifest themselves, for me, in Safari 3.x/Mac and Firefox 2 and 3 on Mac. I cannot speak to the lesser browser on the lesser operating system.
Memory Leak

The problem exists when many Flash invocations occur. Flash seems to not give up the memory that a player uses – or at least not all of it. So the more videos viewed, the more videos embedded on a site, the higher the likely for slow browser experiences for readers.

4. 80/20 Rule

The Yahoo UI team released an interesting set of findings a few years ago that brought the concept of 80/20 rules back to the forefront. In geek speak, the 80/20 rules states that 80% of a sites symptoms (slowness) come from 20% of the site features.

I will let you determine how geeky you want to get with your site, but I have found profiling my site useful in determining bottlenecks and best fixes. Firebug may be the easiest profiling tool for average users. It is free, but requires Firefox as it is a Firefox extension. In order to use Firebug, you must have the “Net” panel option enabled in Firebug.

5. Cache, cache, cache

Any site that has some degree of traffic should have basic caching in place, and the larger, more high-trafficked sites should consider multiple levels of caching.

For WordPress users, plugins like WP Super Cache do wonders for load. In essence, WordPress writes pages to the filesystem for quick access by WordPress. Once an hour (or other interval if changed), those cached pages expire and a new version is fetched from the database. By end-rounding the need for repeated trips to the database on every page load, load time is drastically increased.

More aggressive caching can be used in larger contexts, or when multiple servers are in play. For instance, at b5media, we implemented Memcached, which is supported by WordPress as well as core memcache support by Movable Type.

Other alternatives include proxy caching with Squid. MySQL has a query cache that can be explored as well.

Interview with Jack Humphrey

This morning I got on the phone with internet marketer Jack Humphrey as part of his webside chats series of interviews. It was an enjoyable 45 minutes which you can listen into here:

Jack also has some other great interviews in his series – check them out here.

How to Craft a Blog Post – 10 Crucial Points to Pause

It hits you like a TON of BRICKS! It’s an idea for that KILLER blog post that is just bound to bring you all the traffic that you’ve ever dreamed of.

With the idea fresh in your mind you sit down at your keyboard and BANG it out – desperate to hit publish as quickly as you can for fear that someone else will beat you to the PUNCH!

PublishImage by pallotron

As SMOKE rises from your keyboard you complete your post, quickly add a title to it and proudly hit PUBLISH!

Visions of an avalanche of visitors, incoming links and comments swirl before you.

But then…

Reality hits you like a SLAP in the face. There are few visitors, no comments and no links. It’s not a KILLER post – it’s DEAD.

Ever had that experience?

I have – many many times over.

Today I want to start a series of posts that will walk you through an alternative workflow for constructing a blog post – one that takes…. time.

How-To-Craft-A-Blog-Post
Image by Samyra.S

If there’s one lesson that I’ve learnt about writing for the web it’s that a key element to writing successful blog posts is that in most cases they take time to CREATE.

I emphasize ‘create’ because I think too often as bloggers we ‘PUNCH’ out content as though we’re in a race or under some kind of deadline. It’s almost like we’re on a production line at times – unfortunately the posts we write often reflect this.

In this series I want to suggest an alternative approach – the crafting (or creation) of content.

This process is a more thoughtful process that is about crafting words and ideas – shaping posts into content that take readers on a journey.

To kick off this series I want to suggest 10 points to pause at when writing a post on your blog. I’ll include a link to each post that follows in this series as I update them.

Instead of rushing through a post – I find that if I pause at these key moments my post rises to a new level of quality and posts tend to get more traction with readers. They don’t guarantee the perfect post – but they certainly take you a step closer to a good one.

  1. Choosing a Topic – take a little extra time defining your topic and the post will flow better and you’ll develop something that matters to readers.
  2. Crafting Your Post’s Title – perhaps the most crucial part of actually getting readers to start reading your post when they see it in an RSS reader or search engine results page.
  3. The Opening Line – first impressions matter. Once you’ve got someone past your post’s title your opening line draws them deeper into your post.
  4. Your ‘point/s’ (making your posts matter) - a post needs to have a point. If it’s just an intriguing title and opening you’ll get people to read – but if the post doesn’t ‘matter’ to them it’ll never get traction.
  5. Call to Action – driving readers to do something cements a post in their mind and helps them to apply it and helps you to make a deeper connection with them.
  6. Adding Depth – before publishing your post – ask yourself how you could add depth to it and make it even more useful and memorable to readers?
  7. Quality Control and Polishing of Posts – small mistakes can be barriers to engagement for some readers. Spending time fixing errors and making a post ‘look’ good can take it to the next level.
  8. Timing of Publishing Your Post – timing can be everything – strategic timing of posts can ensure the right people see it at the right time.
  9. Post Promotion – having hit publish – don’t just leave it to chance that your post will be read by people. Giving it a few strategic ‘nudges’ can increase the exposure it gets exponentially.
  10. Conversation – often the real action happens once your post is published and being interacted with by readers and other bloggers. Taking time to dialogue can be very fruitful.

Taking extra time at each of these 10 points looks different for me in every post that I do – but I believe that every extra moment spent of these tasks pays off.

Some times the pause I take in one step will be momentary while in others it could take hours or even days to get it just right. Sometimes the above process happens quite automatically and other times I need to force myself to stop and ponder something like a title or the timing of a post.

Each of the 10 points above have much more that could be said about them so over the weeks I’ll be tackling each in turn in the hope that we can have some good discussion and sharing of ideas around them. I’ll link to each of them from within the list above as I release the posts.

For each point I hope to give some insight into how I tackle them and will share a few practical tips and examples of what I’ve done that has worked (and not worked). Don’t expect posts each day on this series – like all good things – this will take us some time!

How to Find your Passion (& What You Should be Blogging About)

In this post Glen Allsopp from Pluginid.com takes a look at passion and how to choose what to write about. I’ve included a few links to other posts on this topic below also. Image by Dario.

Passion

“Don’t do it for the money, do it because you love it!”

Sound familiar? It should do, because almost every blog about blogging has said something along the same lines. No disrespect to them though, I completely agree with the point that bloggers should write about what they love, not just what is making money for others.

Sounds great, right? Well, I’ve actually begun to understand that not everybody knows what their passion is. Not everybody knows what it is they should be blogging about. That is why we see 100 John Chow clones and niche saturation where it is clear bloggers are writing for the money.

Why Money is a Bad Goal

You can be as spiritual or as “un-materialistic” as you want, but in a practical world we all need money to survive. So then why is it bad to blog in a niche where there is a lot of money to be made, just because you have no interest? That’s easy:

  • You don’t have the value or expertise to offer others
  • It’s likely you don’t have relevant personal experiences that readers can relate to
  • You will struggle to find the motivation to write and to come up with post ideas

You can hear the following quote time and time again, but 99 out of 100 people who read it won’t believe it until they experience it themselves.

“It took me 5 brand new cars to realise they weren’t making me happy, as soon as I parked them for the first time I thought ‘what now?’”

- Russell Simmons (Def Jam Records & Phat Farm Clothing)

If there is large financial potential in the niche you are passionate about then that is great. Or, if you are interested in learning to make money online and want to write about your journey then that is fine too. However, don’t get sucked into writing about something because people are making money doing so.

They say that money can’t buy you happiness, but I believe sharing your knowledge on a subject you love certainly can. Just imagine the feeling of helping the world through your expertise, writing about something you love and making money in the process…you get the point.

Finding your Passion

I wrote about a similar topic on my own blog recently so I’m not going to copy that here. What I am going to show you is some quick questions you can ask yourself to reveal what it is you love.

Before I do that, I want to make clear that your passion may change, but don’t wait till you think you know what it is. What I mean is that if you are really passionate about poker right now, your interests may change in the future and you might turn to digital photography. Don’t wait until you are certain you are going to stay passionate about something, the joy of life is our ever-changing interests. The worst case scenario is that you can pay others to keep the blog going if your passion does change or simply sell it and start a new one; not a bad worst case scenario ;).

Note: Read the following questions and actually write down your answers. That way you can get the most out of this exercise.

1. If you could make the same amount of money blogging about any subject, what would it be?

2. Which subjects are you most knowledgeable about?

3. For the subjects in Question 2, would you blog about any of them even for no financial gain?

That is it, those are the three main questions you need to ask yourself, any more and you may miss the point of this exercise. If there was a level playing-field and no income potential yet you still wanted to blog…what would it be about? Your responses to the above questions should help you discover that answer.

Of course, they aren’t really true as any blogging niche has money making potential, but what you have to see is that it is a bonus. If you aren’t writing on a topic you are truly passionate about then despite the potential of financial gain, you still won’t be happy or enjoy it.

Benefits of Blogging Your Passion

If enjoying the topic and sharing your expertise aren’t enough to show you the benefits of blogging about your passion, what else is there to gain? That’s simple. Just the exact opposites of the earlier bullet points:

  • You have value and expertise you can offer to others
  • You can share personal experiences that will help people relate to your content and connect with your words
  • You will be excited to share new thoughts and discoveries with your readers

What you’ll also start to notice is that you become an authority in your niche, and this is highly valuable. With this authority you can release products, offer coaching or set-up a popular paid membership site depending on your industry. This is so much harder to do in saturated markets where there is a lot of competition.

Need more proof there is potential in any niche?

Here are the top 10 blogs in the world according to Technorati:

  1. Huffington Post (General & Politics)
  2. TechCrunch (Web & Startup News)
  3. Gizmodo (Gadgets)
  4. Engadget (Gadgets)
  5. BoingBoing (Random / Weird News)
  6. Lifehacker (Productivity)
  7. Ars Technica (Technology News)
  8. ICanHasCheezburger (LOLCat Pictures)
  9. ReadWriteWeb (Web News & Trends)
  10. Mashable (Social Networking news)

Nothing about marketing, blogging or SEO which are all highly saturated due to people thinking they can make a lot of easy money. All of the websites have some authority status in their niche, whilst making a lot of money in the process. Michael Arrington has worked till 4am for years in order to get news out before anyone else and ensure that TechCrunch is the best source there is. Do you think he could do that if he generally didn’t have a passion for internet and startup related news?

So, what are YOU going to be writing about?

Glen Allsopp writes about finding the real you and expressing it through personal development at PluginID, a site that helps you ‘Plugin to your Identity’. You can help me help you by subscribing to the feed here.

Further Reading from the ProBlogger Archives on Choosing What to Blog About

What to do when a PR Company Pitches to your Blog Badly

What to do when a PR company pitches to you badly

Every day I get 5-10 emails from PR companies trying to pitch me with one of their client’s products or services.

In my estimate – 1 in 10 do it well.

The rest clearly either don’t know how to pitch to bloggers or don’t really care.

Common mistakes in pitching to bloggers include:

  • impersonal emails – emails that are clearly being sent to hundreds if not thousands of people
  • incorrectly addressed emails – emails addressed to the wrong person/blog – I regularly get emails where it’s clear someone forgot to copy and paste my name in and delete another blogger’s name
  • irrelevant pitches – where the product being pitches has nothing to do with the blog being pitched (for example – today ProBlogger got pitched to link to a newly released cufflink!)
  • long press releases – long slabs of text don’t really inspire most bloggers

The list could go on and on.

I know most bloggers simply bin most of these ‘pitch’ emails (or respond with a snarky one telling the person where to go) but I’ve decided to do something a little more constructive and have been replying to the 90% of bad ones with the following email:

Dear XXXX (insert person’s name).

I appreciate you reaching out to bloggers but wonder if you’d have more luck with a different approach.

Please accept my humble suggestions:

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/10/30/how-to-pitch-to-bloggers-21-tips/

I hope you find these helpful in pitching bloggers.

Darren Rowse

OK – some of you are thinking that this is a complete waste of time – and it may well be, although it takes all of 1 seconds using TextExpander – but what I’ve found is that a large percentage of those that I send this to respond with a thank you and in a couple of instances it’s actually led us into a fruitful exchange.

On one occasion the PR person that I sent the above email to re-pitched their product to me with the opportunity to give the product away to readers (the ensuing competition was a big success) and on another occasion the company behind the pitch became a paid sponsor of the blog. Neither of these things would have happened unless I’d responded in the way that I had.

While it might be tempting to simple delete such emails – perhaps responding constructively might actually lead to something positive – for me in these two instances it led to both increased traffic and income for my blogs.

How To Get to the Front Page of Digg – 6 Ingredients of a Successful Digg Campaign

digg-front-page.jpg“How do I increase the chances of getting a blog post to the front page of Digg?”

I’ve had questions about getting to the front page of Digg many times in the last few weeks so thought I’d put together a guide with a process for doing it. By no means is this something that will guarantee you success on Digg – but from my experience it’ll increase your chances to follow some of this advice.

1. The Content

If there’s one factor that can influence the success of a post on Digg it is the actual content that is submitted. This should go without saying but I chat to bloggers all the time who tell me they have no success with Digg and when I look at the posts they’re submitting – they’re just all wrong.

Digg users like a certain type of story and it can be well worth your time doing a little research into what works and doesn’t work by spending some time on Digg:

  • Topics – a large range of topics work on Digg but some are more likely to work than others. For example Tech, Offbeat, some Entertainment stories can work really well – but if you have a craft blog or are blogging about cats you might need to work a little harder. It’s not impossible to do well on digg with some of these less popular topics – but you’ll need to think carefully about how you present it (read on)
  • Voice - one way to rank well for a more obscure topic is to write your post in a style that grabs attention and appeals to the Digg crowd. They’re a bunch that likes humor, irreverence and quirky stuff – so if you’re writing on cats you would do better to do something off the wall like strap a camera to one than to write about something more serious.
  • Titles – sadly, some stories get voted up and down on Digg simply based up their title. Take time to get it right.
  • Page Layout - make sure your blog’s design is well laid out, not stuffed withe ads, professional looking and not cheap and nasty. Pictures can work well.
  • Format – some people say that the best way to get on the front page of Digg is to write ‘list’ posts. I agree – but also find that when you write a more comprehensive and in depth article that this can also appeal.

For more on the type of content that works on Digg I’d highly recommend that you read Maki’s post on how to create Digg-Friendly Content.

2. The Submitter

The person who submits your post to Digg can be a very important factor in how well it does.

From talking to hardcore Diggers there are two theories going around in how to approach who should submit your Diggs (and these theories change depending upon what Digg is doing with their Algorithm:

  • Power Diggers – one approach is to find a power Digger to submit your posts for you. What happens when you have one of these Diggers submits a story is that it gets seen by their friends on Digg and voted up quite quickly. You can expect to see 100 or so Diggs within a few hours of them submitting it. Once the initial rush dies off things tend to slow with Power Diggers – although just having their name on your post can create buzz and additional diggs.
  • Small Time Diggers - another approach is to have posts submitted by lesser known Diggers. The theory here is that it can take these Diggers less votes to get to the front page while a Power Digger can take a lot more.

Whichever method of submission – in the majority of cases on Digg it’s not enough. As a result you might also want to consider some of the following.

3. On Page Digg Cues

One important factor in drumming up some more organic Diggs to go with those that your submitter naturally brings is to add visual cues on your posts inviting people to Digg the story.

  • Digg offers a variety of Digg Badges for you to use
  • The ‘Digg This’ button is also fairly influential
  • Also check out the Digg Widget – this is particularly good because you can get it to show any recent posts from your blog that have been submitted to Digg. Put it in your sidebar and it means people who are on any page on your blog know there’s something climbing up the ranks in Digg (not just those who are on the post itself).

Don’t feel you have to use these buttons on every post. I actually will use them more when there’s a post climbing up Digg.

Lastly – add a text link to an upcoming post inviting readers to submit it. Again – I wouldn’t do this on every post but it can be effective when you’ve got something on the rise.

4. Giving it a ‘Nudge’

So you’ve got some great content that’s been submitted to Digg, you’ve got visual cues in place that will make it easy for readers to Digg it – now it’s time to give your post a nudge.

There are a number of ways to do this. Some are more blatant than others.

  • Ask for Diggs - lets start with the obvious, one way to get Diggs is to ask for them. You can do this in any number of ways and using any number of tools. Some will shoot quick requests to people that they know using instant messaging, others ask on social messaging services like Twitter, others have email lists that they utilize. The key with asking for Diggs is to think about who you ask and how often. Work out who is open to invitations and work with them, but only on your best stuff. If you ask for Diggs on every single post you write you might annoy people more than anything else.
  • Shout It - Digg has a tool on each digg page that enables you to ‘share’ the story – it’s there to help promote stories on Digg so use it. This enables you to email people, blog it or ‘shout’ it with your friends on Digg. Shouting can be a great way to get a story in front of other active Digg users. Once again – don’t shout too often – pick your best stories for this type of thing. Also know that the more you digg your friend’s stories when they shout them to you the more chance there is that they’ll reciprocate. If you’re looking for Digg friends – start with this list.
  • Drive Traffic to Your Post - another technique that is less blatant that asking for Diggs is to work instead (or as well) at driving traffic to the post you’re working to get on the front page of Digg. Here’s the thing – if you have a post with ‘digg this’ buttons and you’re able to get another popular blog or site to link to it you’ll increase the chance for organic diggs. You’ve got 24 hours once a story is submitted to Digg, so if you think you’ve got something that other sites would be interested in make sure you send them links at the start of the 24 hours (or even before it’s submitted).
  • Other Social Bookmarking Sites Help – I quite often notice that the posts that do well for me on Digg will often do well for me on Delicious or StumbleUpon first (although sometimes it happens the other way around). What happens is that when you get on the popular page of Delicious users of that service who also use Digg will bookmark your story in both places. As a result it can be worth working on ‘nudging’ votes in multiple places.

You’ll notice that on this point I said to give your post a ‘nudge’ rather than spam every person you know asking them to vote. Subtle promotion of your posts on Digg is recommended for two reasons – firstly you’ll annoy everyone you know if you’re constantly asking for Diggs and secondly, Digg has measures in place to track people who are manipulating their system and too many people voting up your stories too quickly or from the one source could send warning bells ringing and get your story buried.

5. Educating Readers

Lastly I want to talk about something that has less of an immediate impact upon a specific Digg campaign – but which over time can help.

Educate your readers about social bookmarking.

Many blog readers have never heard of Digg so finding ways to show them what the service is and how they can use it can have a real impact. The more of them who know what it is the more likely it is that they’ll use it – something that will benefit you as you begin to create a Digg Culture on your blog.

6. Organic Diggs

There comes a point in every story’s rise (and fall) on Digg where you have to stand back and let things happen.

What you’ll find is that at some point most successful Digg stories enter the ‘upcoming’ and ‘recommended’ lists and a certain amount of natural and organic digging begins to happen by people who you don’t know. This is where you see if your story has the legs to go all the way or whether it’ll be buried by people.

This is where you realize that it’s not about how many people you can get to Digg a story from your network that matters but whether you’ve actually written something that appeals to Diggers – because if you’ve written something bad you’ll find the story gets buried and all your hard work has gone to waste.

One more thing….

Let me finish with one more piece of advice. Don’t become obsessed with Digg.

I see a lot of bloggers obsessing over climbing the rankings on Digg and while it can bring a lot of traffic to your blog and be worth the effort to promote some of your posts on it when you become obsessed you can fall into these traps:

1. Only ever writing for Digg – I wrote about this earlier in the week but if all you ever write is content aimed at the Digg audience blogging can end up being a bit of an empty experience.

2. Spending All Day on Digg and Not on Your Blog – I’ve come across a lot of people on Digg that could benefit from spending a little less time trying to game Digg and a little more time investing into building a quality blog. The funny thing is that if they actually built a better blog they’d probably end up doing better at succeeding on Digg.

3. Submitting every post to Digg – not every post that you make will be ‘diggable’ – and that’s ok. IF you’re going to use some of the above techniques I would recommend that you only do it with your very very best content. Choose that content that people would want to naturally pass on to a friend or bookmark for later – this is the type of content that will do well on Digg – concentrate on promoting these ones, not your day to day posting.

8 Jobs for Bloggers

If you’re looking for a job as a blogger then the ProBlogger Blog Job Boards have seen 8 new jobs advertised in just the last 3 days. Actually there’s more than that – because some of the ads are for more than one blogger and one has already been filled.

Here’s the latest batch:

There are also quote a few other jobs still open from the last few weeks here. Jobs like these are being filled very fast so to get notified of them within minutes of them being posted subscribe to the blogger job board RSS feed.

If you’re looking for bloggers….

If you’re looking to hire a blogger for your blog the job board is a wonderful place to find them. The RSS feed is subscribed to by thousands of bloggers, jobs appear in the ProBlogger Twitter feed (subscribed to by over 9000 people) as well as appearing on the front page of ProBlogger.net (seen by hundreds of thousands of people every month). Jobs also get picked up on a number of other job sites that track and aggregate our jobs! That’s pretty amazing exposure for your job considering it only costs $50 for 30 days.

24 Things to do When Stuck for a Topic to Blog About

Stuck for something to write about on your blog? Here are a few suggestions of things that might help get the creative juices flowing.

Stuck For A Topic To Blog About

1. Use Mind Mapping

I’ve previously talked about how Mind Mapping can be used to generate hundreds of ideas for blog posts. It can be used both to come up with fresh ideas for posts but also in extending previous posts that you’ve already written.

2. Change Your Blogging Environment

Sometimes simply writing in a different place can release a little creativity in you. If you’re fortunate enough to have a mobile device or laptop – hit a cafe, park, try a different room in your house, go to the beach…. You might be surprised what will come.

3. Answer a Question

The best posts are often those which answer specific questions. Questions tap into people’s needs or problems and can often be greatly appreciated by readers (this adds to reader loyalty).

There are lots of ways of getting relevant questions to answer:

  • Answer one of your own questions
  • Ask your readers to submit a question
  • Ask another blogger for a question
  • Ask your Twitter followers for questions
  • Check your comment section to find questions from readers
  • Visit other blogs and forums to search for questions from their readers
  • Put yourself in the shoes of a beginner in your topic and imagine what their questions might be
  • Look at your blog’s search engine referral statistics to see what people are asking to find your blog

Once you’ve got a question – answer it.

Tip: Start a ‘question journal’ of your own that you note any questions that you come across. Add any reader questions to it as they ask them – this way you’ll always have a question on hand to tackle.

4. Start with a Title

Most bloggers start writing their post first and add a headline later – however sometimes doing it the other way around can be fun. You might not end up using the headline that you start with – but it might be enough to spark a little creativity and get the ball rolling on a blog post.

5. Take a Break

One of the best things that I do to come up with ideas for blog posts is simply to go for a walk. Not a walk to think about blogging, just a walk, usually with my son. It is amazing what a little exercise and a little time thinking about something else can do for your creativity and ability to think clearly.

6. Give Yourself a Deadline

I have an unwritten deadline in my mind that I have to publish a post every night at midnight on both of my blogs (the timing varies a little from day to day but I have to at least have one ready to go by that time). I find that having this deadline in mind motivates me to come up with something. While there’s no one there to enforce the deadline it still seems to work for me.

7. Rid Yourself of Distractions

One of the biggest barriers for me in writing posts is getting distracted. Emails, instant messages, phone calls, family noise, online games, researching my next gadget purchase….. I could go on but even as I’m writing this I’m feeling the urge to do something else!

While there’s nothing wrong with any of these things – clearing time to write and putting barriers in place to keep the distractions at bay is important. For me one of the best ways to stop a lot of the distractions that tempt me away from writing is simply to get offline. Other tips include maximizing your screen so all you see is the document at hand, switching off email and instant messaging clients, using a tool like Writeroom (a mac tool that leaves you with nothing to look at on your screen except what you’re writing) etc.

8. Introduce ‘Random Challenges’

This is a little ‘odd’ thing that I sometimes challenge myself with – but on occasion I’ll challenge myself with writing tasks that are a little left of centre. I think I got this from Edward De Bono who in one of his books has a brainstorming exercise that challenges you to think of 10 ways that XXXX is like a XXXX. The exercise is designed to free up your mind and while most of what you’ll come up with is going to be rubbish it sometimes helps you to come up with new ways of looking at problems.

A recent example of this in my own blogging was a post on what the Mona Lisa Can Teach Portrait Photographers. While the Mona Lisa and portrait photography might not be too random – I actually started out to write a post that was about what Leonardo Da Vinci could teach us about blogging! The thought process that I went on led me to a much better topic.

9. Revisit a Previous Post

Once you’ve been blogging for a while it is easy to feel like you’ve said everything you want to say on a given topic. While you don’t want to be saying the same things every day – it’s OK to revisit previous topics.

The key is to find new ways to say those things you’ve said before, keep information up to date and relevant and to show that you’re developing and growing in your understanding of a topic.

  • What have you written about previously in your archives that is now dated and in need of revisiting?
  • What have you learned about since you first started your blog that you could write a new post on?
  • What have new readers to your blog missed out on in your archives?

10. Speak the Post Out Loud

Sometimes I don’t get stuck with the initial idea of what to post – but the next step of refining it into an actual topic that I can write about.

When you’ve got the start of your topic it can be helpful to actually start talking about it – get it out of your head and explain it (even if it’s just to yourself). Sometimes the act of verbalizing ideas can crystalize them in your mind.

11. Free Writing

Similarly to verbalizing it – sometimes just sitting down and writing can release creativity. Many writers use this technique simply as a ‘warm up’ exercise – they sit down with their writing tool (pen and paper, computer etc) and simply write…. they write anything that comes into their mind. It might be total rubbish – but the exercise is not designed necessarily to come up with any ideas (although you might) but simply to get your brain into gear.

12. Switch ‘Voices’

Most of us as bloggers write the majority of our posts in the one ‘voice’ or ‘personality’. Sometimes forcing yourself to write as someone else would write can be helpful. The best fun I ever had writing a blog post was when I wrote 5 Things You Should Know about My Dad the ProBlogger - in the voice of my 1 year old son (I know – most of you thought it was really him…. but it was me!).

The experience of writing about my topic through the eyes of a family member was not only a lot of fun but it also brought a new perspective to a topic I’d covered many times – it also connected with readers in a different way.

13. Switch Styles

In a similar way – sometimes switching the style of writing can be helpful. By style I mean switching from writing ‘list posts’ to writing ‘rants’ or from writing ‘reviews’ to writing ‘case studies’. I’ve put together 20 types of blog posts here that might help you find a new one to experiment with.

14. Repurpose Other Communications

Many of the tasks that we do in the day to day of life can make excellent blog posts if only we’re on the look out to capture and repurpose them.

In my post 5 Ideas to Come up with Blog Content from Your Daily Life I examine these techniques for coming up with post ideas:

  1. using answers to reader questions
  2. using email communications as blog posts
  3. documenting how you complete tasks
  4. videoing yourself doing things
  5. recording conversations

Sometimes your next blog post is in what you’re doing right now.

15. Achieve Something Else

Sometimes it’s not the coming up with an idea that stops you writing – it’s that you need to be doing something else. There’s a pile of dishes in the sink, your dog needs a walk, the lawn needs mowing and an assignment at work or school is over due…

I find that when other jobs are clouding my mind and stopping me from writing well that if I pick one of them and knock it off that the sense of achieving something can roll over into my writing. So put your writing aside for 15 minutes and go and do those dishes and get it off your mind before sitting down to write.

16. Go Surfing

I don’t mean to grab a surf board and actually go surfing (although that would tap into a few of the ideas I’ve already written about and could work) – but go surfing online for ideas. There are a number of places to head:

  • Other blogs in your niche – what are they writing about? How could you extend what they’ve written? What have they missed? What are their readers asking? DON’T steal their ideas and DO give credit when they stimulate something that you write – but don’t be afraid to bounce off another blogger – that’s what blogging is all about!
  • Forums – one of the richest places that I find for idea generation is forums. It’s actually one of the reasons that I started a photography forum – because every day there is a treasure trove of ideas created in it.
  • Social Media - what is popular on Digg, Delicious or StumbleUpon today? What type of articles go viral and how could you apply the principles you see in posts that do to your own topic?
  • Social Messaging - ask your Twitter and Plurk followers questions, interact with them around their answers – you’ll find that quite often as you interact in these messaging services that ideas will flow.

17. Go Surfing for Ideas Offline

One of my favorite places to go trawling for ideas is a local news stand. Almost every time I go there I come away for ideas for topics after 10-15 minutes of looking through magazines there. Sometimes it’ll be a topic that a magazine writes about that I can adapt for my blog and other times it’s just the titles that I find inspire my writing.

Similarly – libraries or bookshops can also be good sources for inspiration.

18. Play Devil’s Advocate

One of the best ways to come up with a fresh post is to take something that you’ve written about previously where you’ve argued strongly FOR a particular way of thinking – and then write an article taking the opposite view.

You might not completely agree with the post – but can present it in a way that makes this clear. For example – I once wrote a post on why people should consider joining a blog network and then did a followup post looking at why they shouldn’t. While I personally resonated more with the first article the second one actually was well received as it brought balance to the topic.

19. Involve Someone Else

If you’re completely frazzled and incapable of coming up with any ideas for yourself – it might be worth involving someone else.

  • Ask someone to write a guest post for you.
  • Invite someone to come on and be interviewed by you.
  • Swap blogs with another blogger for a day.
  • Ask another blogger if they have any ideas for posts.

Sometimes an outsider’s perspective can give you the lift you need.

20. Identify Your Golden Hours for Writing

My best time of day for writing is mid morning. I regularly block out this time purely for writing.

For other bloggers that I know the evenings or afternoons are best. The key is to identify the time that you work best and then block out time in that window for writing. Don’t let it be crowded by less important tasks but diarize the time for what is most important – content creation.

Having said that – don’t feel you can’t mix it up. Some days when I just can’t get going in the morning I’ll throw in the towel and go do something else until later in the day.

21. Big Picture vs Small Picture Posts

One problem that I see many bloggers struggling with is being overwhelmed by the hugeness of their niche and the topics within it and feeling the need to cover it all in each post. As a result they write these mega posts with 40 points and then find themselves with not much else to say because they’ve just covered their whole topic in one post.

What I encourage them to do is to think about writing a combination of ‘big picture’ posts and ‘smaller picture posts’.

For example – this very post is what I’d consider to be bigger picture. While it is all on one topic it’s covering a fair bit of ground (20+ points). However over the coming months I could follow up some (or all) of the points in this post with more in depth expansions upon each one.

Alternatively I could have chosen to break this actual post down into 20 or so smaller posts – a series.

22. Ask Your Readers a Question

You don’t need to be the one with all the answers on you blog. Come up with a question to ask your readers that relates to your blog’s topic. You could run it as a poll or simply as a discussion starter.

When you ask readers questions there often will arise possibilities for followup posts including:

  • answering the question for yourself
  • compiling reader answers
  • compiling a list of resources on the topic you’ve asked about

Asking questions also gives readers a sense of involvement and develops community on your blog.

23. Set up News Alerts

If your blog has a ‘news’ focus you’ll definitely want to set up alerts using tools like Google Alerts or Technorati’s watch lists. These alerts will email you or notify you via RSS when a news service or blog posts about the keywords that you identify to be ‘watched’.

Such alerts are also useful for non newsy blogs also as they will let you know how other blogs and news sources cover the topics that you’re writing about. It’s often through these sorts of alerts that ideas for new posts will come.

24. Summarize what Others are Writing

One of the most popular posts that I’ve written on my Photography blog lately was 25 Great Photography Tutorials and Links from Around the Web.

The post was simply a compilation post of posts that other bloggers in my niche had written, plus a few from my archives and a few videos.

While the post is simple (it does take some work to pull together but it’s a different kind of work to writing your own tips) it was very popular with readers and did quite well on social media sites.

What I also found as a bonus is that in compiling the list I ended up with quite a few ideas for future posts of my own!

What Do You Do When You’re Stuck for Ideas to Write About

All of us struggle to find things to write about on our blogs from time to time – I’ve shared a few strategies of what I do – but what about you? I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on how you break though those dry patches too – share your thoughts in commetns below.