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I’ve Joined the Photrade Advisory Board

Andrew and Darrenj

I’m really excited today to announce that I have joined the advisory board of Photrade (picture is by Renee Blodgett and is Andrew Paradies, CEO of Photrade). You can read the press release here – but in short, Photrade is a company that excites me on numerous fronts and crosses two of my passions – photography and blogging.

Let me break it down into those two areas:

Photrade for Photographers

Store, Share, Protect and Make Money From Their Photos

Photrade offers photographers of all levels a number of services. At it’s heart is the ability to upload images to online photo albums where you can store and share your shots with the world – however added to this online albumn space is the option to sell copies of your images and to license them to other websites.

In short the vision is to provide a space for both pro and amateur photographers to Store, Share, Protect and Make Money From Their Photos.

I won’t go through the full feature list here and now (I’m obviously a bit biased and have therefore asked one of my DPS moderators to write up a review for DPS) but I’m excited by what I see Photrade developing for photographers. In the mean time you can check out a first impression review of Photrade at Read Write Web and see what TechCrunch had to say about it here.

Photrade for Publishers

Free Copyright Protected Images for Your Blog

Most bloggers and web publishers know the power of a good image to lift our articles and posts. They can set content apart from the rest – but issues of copyright can be something of a minefield to navigate. I know at b5media we’ve really gone through many options for working out how to license photos legally and it can become very time consuming and expensive to get the images we need.

Photrade has a system that awards photographers yet also protects publishers while giving them the photos that they need – for free. Here’s how it works (from their FAQ):

“Photrade’s adcosystem allows photographers to get paid for every view of their photos while providing free content to online publications. A photographer posts a beautiful photo of New York on Photrade.com to share within the adcosystem. A blogger, who is writing about New York searches for photos of New York and finds the perfect photo to fit the post.

The blogger grabs the sharing code from Photrade and posts the photo in their blog. When the blogger grabbed the code photrade put a small advertisement at the bottom of the photo, and also added text attributing the photo to the photographer (note: any/all watermarking remains on the photo).

Every time the photo is viewed the photographer earns a portion of the ad revenue generated by that image. So, the photographer gets attribution and payment for the use of their photo, advertisers get contextual in-content ads and publications get beautiful free images.”

Here is a little diagram of how it works.

photradeshot.png

Photrade is in beta so what you see over there isn’t the end product – however even in the few short months that I’ve been tracking with them I’ve seen some amazing advances in their technology and am so excited by what I see coming next.

Further Reading on Photrade

Check out what other bloggers and media sources are saying about Photrade:

Lastly – let me share a video from Photrade who explains a little more of what it is and how it can be useful to both publishers and photographers.


Site Tour from photrade on Vimeo.

I hope this serves both as a disclosure of my involvement with Phototrade but also a helpful introduction to the company and services that they offer.

13 Gary Vaynerchuk Tips on Building a Profitable Blog

One of the sessions that I enjoyed most at Blog World Expo (actually it was one of the few sessions I actually was able to get to) was a keynote by Gary Vaynerchuck.

While I’m sure he rubs some up the wrong way his tips on building a successful blog (and business) were refreshingly honest, entertaining and inspiring. Here are 13 snippets/quotes of his keynote that I thought were ‘tweet worthy’.

  • “answer every single email and every single comment on your blog’ for the rest of your FREAKING life.”
  • “content is king but marketing is queen and the queen runs the household”
  • “you have to go to every meetup you can possible go to”
  • “pump out content – if you don’t produce something every day you’ll be out hustled”
  • “‘Hustle – you have to work your face off.”
  • “you need eyeballs – the easiest way to do this is to become part of the community”
  • “induce conversation at every turn for the rest of your life”
  • “your job is to create a connection”
  • “be you and be every flaw”
  • “it’s about putting up good content, creating conversation and spend 10% of your time working out how to make money”
  • “if you’re not good at monetizing, get a bus partner that can.” do what u do & bring in others who can do the other stuff.”
  • “if you’re a shy guy – become the greatest shy guy on earth”
  • “don’t drink hatorade”

PS: here’s some video of the session courtesy of David Peralty (note: it does contain some language so proceed with caution if you’re easily offended or are in a work environment).


Gary Vaynerchuk Blog World Expo Keynote Speech from David Peralty on Vimeo.

How Blogging Changes Lives

I just viewed this great video on how WordPress (and blogging) changed one person’s life. Inspiring stuff from Glenda Watson Hyatt (follow her on Twitter here).

Beyond a Blog – Running a Full Website Using WordPress

Amir Helzer is a business owner, blogger, and webmaster, who runs ICanLocalize, a human and technology-based translation service for small businesses who want to move their product or services into multilingual markets.

Some businesses start blogging to expand their website. Some start with a blog. For the strongest online presence, business websites need both static content and dynamic news, a.k.a a blog. The blog builds traffic and establishes authority. The static pages helps convert that interest into business.

Essential Content for Static Pages

When planning static pages for a business site, this content is essential to serve a local audience anywhere in the world.

  • Information about what you’re offering – this could be your consultancy services, an e-book, affiliate deals, courses or anything else you’re selling.
  • Benefits – how what you’re offering serves to make someone’s life better. Features lead to benefits, but the benefits are what really matters.
  • Examples, testimonials and case studies.
  • Support information – let people see answers to common questions
  • Contact and ordering information (along with a firm satisfaction guarantee)

Using WordPress as a CMS

WordPress has everything you’ll need to build a complete website, without installing any plugins or changing anything. In fact, it’s already the most popular content management system being used today, competing with established CMS such as Joomla! and Drupal.

In WordPress, use ‘pages’ as your static contents and ‘posts’ as blog entries. Pages can have sub-pages allowing to create a complete hierarchy of contents. Using WordPress, you can also select a specific page to be your home page. Categories and tags make it easy to jump between related pages.

Choose or build a theme that displays posts and pages properly for both human visitors and search engines and you’re ready to open for business.

Building usable Websites

A effective website is critical to business anywhere in the world. Points to consider:

  • Navigation - good navigation will make it clear where I am, what to expect on this page and where to go to get what I need. It should include the top tab for main sections and drop-down menus (or the equivalent) for sub-sections. Context, knowing where I am within the bigger picture, is important at all times.
  • Page layout – A good website follows conventions. Don’t make me learn your rules. Visitors who need to learn how to use a website from scratch, often leave before they do.

Whether you’re just starting out or already have a pretty large website, you can get great ideas from Steve Krug‘s “Don’t Make Me Think“.

Search Engine Friendliness

A few years back, people considered search engine optimization (SEO) as a sort of witchcraft. Today, search engine spiders can find their way around a website and analyze page contents efficiently. Follow basic principles, you’ll be fine.

WordPress takes care of most SEO concerns for you by rendering valid HTML and using a correct hierarchy of headings. You can help (a lot) by writing short, topical pages, which search engines can easily understand. You’ll find it’s very helpful for humans, too, especially those you want to find your business and become your customers.

Launching Your Next Venture Using Social Media – 5 Lessons Learned

Today Mark Hayward shares some lessons on how to use social media to launch an online venture.

Are you getting ready to launch a new project? Have you worked for months, or possibly even years trying to complete your vision and make it ready for the big launch day?

Train-For-Humanity

If you find yourself in a similar predicament to the one that I was recently in, your final, self-imposed project deadline is looming on the horizon and you really hope to spread the message about your new venture to as many people as possible. However, you lack the proper funds to finance a press release campaign, which would get the word out to the world that your ‘baby’ is now active, ready, and online.

Surely, you don’t want to fall short now, do you?

Recently, in collaboration with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and some other bloggers, I launched Train for Humanity, which is a new humanitarian non-profit organization.

Everyone who participated in the project either donated their time or worked at greatly reduced rates. Yet, when it came to the launch day we didn’t have a budget to pay for newswire services. Press release submissions are quite expensive and can cost up to $400.00.

Additionally, paying for press coverage sort of goes against part of our mission, which is to use the tools that are available to us online for free and to show people that with a little creativity and innovation you can create projects that will help to address global crises.

Thus, our best option for launching Train for Humanity was to use various social media networks that we had at our disposal.

The question then becomes, what social media sites should you target?

During phase one of our pilot project we are really keen to spread the message of what ‘we’ are about and we also want to build a community of like minded people who support this new concept of getting fit (exercising) and using blogging and the internet to raise awareness and funds for humanitarian issues.

In order to help us spread the word on launch day we decided to focus our efforts on Twitter, StumbleUpon, Plurk, and triiibes. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go into the process blind, as we were able to refer to the following ProBlogger resources for assistance:

Launch Day

Our launch day was September 9, 2008 and although it went pretty well I learned quite a few lessons along the way that either supported what I already believed, or that I will be certain to implement next time I have a new business or website to promote.

Five Social Media Launch Lessons I Learned

1. Timing is key - the hour of day (and even the day) that you choose to announce your launch is critical. Particularly with sites like Twitter and Plurk. Because Leo lives in Guam we wanted to accommodate his workday, which meant that we launched at 7:00am U.S. east coast time. This time worked out really well in the Australian and European markets, but most of the American workforce was still at home. In hindsight it probably would have been better to have the flurry of ‘tweets’ and plurks start at around 10:00am.

Brogantweet

2. Utilize community influencers – have well regarded ‘trust agents’ within the various communities help to get your story out. We were fortunate to have StumbleUpon power user theNanny612 submit our site to SU. Likewise, Chris Brogan was kind enough to ‘tweet’ the launch announcement on Twitter. If you follow this ‘trust agent’ strategy, I don’t think emailing them out of the blue (if you have never interacted before) and asking for a tweet or stumble works very well. Spend the time and get to know people before you ask for a favor. Actually, it is probably best to follow Jeff Pulver’s social media model of giving 95% of the time and asking for assistance 5% of the time.

3. Make your time count – during the weeks leading up to the launch I was really busy running my full time business here in the Caribbean, as well as, putting the final touches on Train for Humanity. Unfortunately, my participation and interaction in both the Plurk and triiibes communities just about ceased. When I posted the launch announcement on both sites, neither garnered much attention. Think about it, you wouldn’t just show up to a bar or other social spot that you have visited a couple of times and start asking people to help promote your new business would you? Certainly, it’s my fault that the launch announcements in both locations did poorly as I had not invested enough time. Whatever sites you decide to target make sure you are an active participant.

4. Prepare your message - people are busy so when it comes to launch day have your message ready and make it easy for people talk about you. We created a special page called, “Spread the Word” which contained a link to an informative sample blog post about what Train for Humanity is and we also had written a “tweet” and plurk that supporters could easily copy and paste to get our message out.

5. Have redundancy in place – you might not think that reliable internet service would be an issue in this day and age. Please, when getting ready to launch, make sure your internet provider isn’t going to bail on you and also try to have a backup plan ready. This might sound easy or even elementary, but I live on a small 10×3 mile island and when a thunder and lightening storm passed over us at 4:00p.m. on launch day, I was suddenly without internet and would only have intermittent service for the next three days. Not really a great strategy when you are relying on the net and social media for your launch.

I always like to think that key to social media , whether you looking to use it as a springboard for your next launch or just be an active participant, is “being human” and that the most important aspect is to interact in a constructive, non-confrontational manner just like you would in any other day-to-day social situation.

Next time your ready to launch a website or new business and don’t have the proper budget for a press release, why don’t you consider using social media.

Have you launched any of your ventures using only social media? If yes, what were some of the lessons that you learned?

Mark Hayward, along with Dan Clements, Leo Babauta, and Andrew Flusche, is the creator and co-founder of the recently launched Train for Humanity. Their mission is simple: getting fit + social media + blogging = social good. During the pilot project they are hoping to raise awareness and funds for orphans and refugees in Darfur.

Shoemoney Tools – Get 80% Off Your First Month

Shoemoney-ToolsOver the last few weeks I’ve been playing around in ShoeMoney Tools. I was lucky enough to receive a free account from Jeremy when he first launched but at the time didn’t have a chance to do much more than take a quick look over the tools that he includes.

Just before I left for Blog World Expo I started hearing from a number of ProBlogger readers that they had signed up for ShoeMoney Tools and were loving it – I thought I’d better check it out in more depth for myself – I’m glad that I did.

In short – ShoeMoney Toolss is a collection of tools for people with websites. There are currently 14 tools included in three overall sections – SEO Tools, PPC Tools (pay per click) and Link Building Tools.

80% off Offer to ProBlogger Readers

I was just chatting to Jeremy about Shoemoney Tools and letting him know how useful I was finding them. I told him that I was going to post about it and he said that he’d like to extend a special offer to ProBlogger readers who want to check them out for themselves – 80% off for your first month!

All you have to do when signing up is to use the code – ‘problogger’ (all lowercase) and you’ll get access to all of the tools for $19.95 for the first month. This will enable you to decide if you want to continue using the tools in coming months and to get some useful information in the mean time even if you don’t continue with it.

The tools in ShoeMoney Tools are:

SEO Tools:

  • Backlink Analyzer – this does an analysis on the backlinks pointing at a domain (yours or a competitors) including who is linking to you, how many times they link, keywords used etc
  • Domain MarketPlace – a tool for finding domains that are available and which already have links pointing at them.
  • Find Backlinks – allows you to type in a keyword for a niche and then see the top 10 results in Google and then where they are getting their backlinks from complete with pr, alexa and other data.
  • Keyword Density Tool – allows you to check 1 keyword and domain against its top 10 competitors in Google. It checks the keyword density of onpage context, if the keyword is in the title tag, meta tags and even heading tags.
  • Keyword Tracker – use this tool to keep tabs on your keyword rankings per domain.
  • Most Linked – shows you the top 10 most linked pages within a specified domain.

PPC Tools:

  • Ad Generator – Give this tool a keyword and it will give you ad copy from every major search engine from people bidding on that keyword. You can then save those ads into your account to be later used to create campaigns.
  • Ad Manager – where you can create, edit, delete your saved ad copy. You can also export the ad copy for Google Adwords or Microsoft Adcenter
  • Keyword Generator – Here you can type in a niche keyword and generate a list of keywords.
  • Keyword Grabber – This tool allows you to pull all the keywords being bid on for a domain. Import these into the campaign generator to automatically build a PPC campaign.
  • Keyword Manager – Here is where you can create, edit, delete your saved keywords.
  • Local Keyword Generator – Use this tool to add cities and zipcodes for a surrounding area per keyword. Very useful tool for local PPC marketing.
  • Local Trademark Bidding Tool – Find local compeditors to add to your keyword list.

Link Building Tools

  • Backlink Analyzer – as above
  • Find Backlinks – as above
  • Most Linked – as above
  • Related Blog Posts – Use this tool to find blog posts related to your niche topic. Be careful though and don’t go crazy or wordpress will ban you.

Different tools will be more useful for some webmasters than others.

For instance – I don’t do a lot of PPC (in fact I’ve not done any for 9 months or more) so I don’t use those tools in the list above (although I’ve played with them and they look incredibly powerful and am tempted to use some of them) but the SEO tools are really useful and today I’ve already used them to make a number of important finds which I believe will help improve my blogs rankings.

Verdict

At Blog World Expo I spent a little time with Jeremy – I sat next to him at dinner one night particularly. One of the things that I admire about him in the way he builds online sites is that he’s very analytical and pays a lot of attention to detail in building sites. Instead of just starting a blog and slapping on content, he’s a guy who always seems to be testing and tweaking his sites. This attention to detail and constant experimentation gets results.

What we have in Shoemoney tools is a collection of the main tools that Jeremy and his team have built to do his analysis. They have personally helped to landing him many many hundreds of thousands of dollars in his own web sites and I’m sure they’ll be useful for many.

Shoemoney tools normally costs $99 per month ($19.95 for your first month if you use the ‘problogger’ promotional code) so it probably won’t be something all beginners will probably want to use – however if you are a more serious blogger, already have some income from your blog and want to improve your SEO and or explore the world of PPC then these tools could be useful for you.

My only hope with ShoeMoney Tools is that Jeremy continue to add more resources that help users to understand and apply the data that they get in the tools. There are some very powerful tools included but some will want help in translating the results.

Jeremy has started to produce videos that take people through how to use the tools (see below for the first one) and I think that this is a great addition to the site. Perhaps a private forum area would also be useful for support and tips on how to use the tools more effectively. Knowing Jeremy – he’ll probably add more tools and support features in coming months.

Test it for Yourself

If you think you might find ShoeMoney Tools to be useful sign up today and use the promotional code of ‘problogger’ to access it for a full month at $19.95. You’ll need to opt out at the end of the month if you don’t want to continue at the full price – but this will give you ample time to test out whether the tools are going to suit you in your current situation.

Video Tutorial

You can see below the first of Jeremy’s ‘how to’ video tutorials for the PayPerClick tools included in ShoeMoney Tools:

Blogging With Audacity

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.This is Skellie’s last post before Darren gets back from Blog World Expo. You can continue reading her blogging, online entrepreneurship and social media articles at Skelliewag.

Audacity is one of my favorite words, as I believe it encapsulates one of the best ways to approach blogging, and in my humble opinion, a wonderful attitude to life. Here’s a simple definition:

  1. Fearless daring; intrepidity.
  2. Bold or insolent heedlessness of restraints, as of those imposed by prudence, propriety, or convention.
  3. An act or instance of intrepidity or insolent heedlessness: warned the students than any audacities committed during the graduation ceremony would be punished.

As you can see, the word suggests an approach that is willing to circumvent ‘the done thing’ in favor of gaining what is most important to you. It’s a unique word in that it has both positive and negative meanings!

As you’ll know, people are often criticized for being audacious, which is a good way to stop people being audacious. Humans generally feel uncomfortable when people act outside the norm. Of course, most successful people make a habit of doing just that. And the same goes for successful bloggers.

It’s conventional that people:

  • Don’t ask for more than is offered to them
  • Don’t try to talk with people who are better known or higher status than they are
  • Don’t admit their failings and mistakes
  • Don’t celebrate success publicly
  • Don’t try things that could fail badly
  • Don’t change their mind once it has been made up
  • Don’t give up, no matter whether circumstances and goals change
  • Don’t question what everybody else does
  • Don’t ask others for help (just think about how often we begin such a request with a pre-emptive apology)

With the above in mind, let’s look at the behavioral patterns of most successful bloggers. Of course, the same could be said about successful entrepreneurs, sportspeople, scientists, musicians or anyone else who excels at what they do. Audacity links them all together.

They DO negotiate higher rates and better deals. They DO say no. They DO understand that they have a lot of value to offer, and that the value they provide is worth something. That’s why audacious people earn more and can sell more expensive products and services: because they are confident that what they provide is worth it and don’t sell themselves short.

They DO communicate with experts and learn from them. If their first efforts to open a dialogue fail, they try new and creative ways to get the conversation started. They realize the best way to learn how to do something is talk to people who’ve done it before. They also know that, because most people assume that experts will be impossible to get a hold of that very few people actually try, making the chances of success much better than they seem. (If I assumed Seth Godin or Darren Rowse or Brian Clark or Leo Babauta would be unwilling to talk, I never would have talked with all of them, nor would you be reading this blog post!).

They DO come to terms with their weaknesses, admit when they have made mistakes and failed to follow their own advice. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable in this way, but you can’t work around your weaknesses until you openly acknowledge them. Best of all, readers feel more strongly connected to you because you become a more relateable figure.


Photo by .Luc.

The DO make their successes public. So many bloggers trying to be ‘authorities’ are afraid to clearly outline the reasons why they know their stuff, usually afraid that it will be seen as boastful. In fact, people really want to know whether they’re receiving advice from a reliable source. How often have you come across a ‘make money online’ blog only to wonder whether the blogger behind it was making any money at all?

Too many would-be experts with amazing successes never achieve the recognition they deserve because they are confined to omission and under-statement because we are encouraged from a young age never to toot our own horn. Of course, ‘toot your own horn’ eventually comes to encompass any good we might speak about ourselves and our achievements, often leaving readers in the dark. There’s a difference between saying “I’ve done this and you never will” and “I’ve done this and I would love to help you do it to, with what I learned along the way.”

They DO try things that might well fail. Because what if they don’t? And if they do, will it really be so bad? Few great successes come without risk. In fact, the amount of possible risk and possible gain usually travel hand in hand. Successful bloggers are always experimenting and most of them have failed spectacularly more than a few times but these aren’t the things we focus on because that failure has been accompanied by wonderful successes.

They DO discard ideas that they once believed but now doubt. They DO have changes of heart and changes of mind. They don’t stick with one method or opinion doggedly because it is now theirs. They try to avoid assumptions as much as is possible.

They DO give up. They don’t stick with obviously failing models until they’re driven into the ground. They don’t doggedly pursue the same goals even when new goals seem more important or attractive. They don’t let the cultural imperative to ‘finish what you start’ trap them in unrewarding pursuits.

They DO question what everyone else is doing. They never assume that anything popular must be good. They don’t assume (without thought) that popular beliefs are correct, or that popular courses of action are the best ones. They temper the wisdom of the crowd with their own observations and research.

They DO ask others for help. They DO admit to others when they have no idea. They’d rather take five minutes to email someone who is bound to know the answer to a question than spend six days searching for the right information on their own, just to have to avoid admitting a gap in their knowledge. They ask dumb questions and aren’t afraid to seem stupid once in a while.

Does the above list resonate with who you are, who you’d like to become, or who you feel you’re steadily becoming? To be a successful blogger and entrepreneur (if you’re making money with a blog, that’s what you are), to seize opportunities and make your own opportunities, you need to start living and blogging with audacity. It’s not a dirty word. In fact, it’s an excellent guiding star for any entrepreneurial blogger.

***

I want to take a moment to welcome Darren back from Blog World Expo and to thank him for letting me take care of ProBlogger this week. It’s always a joy to write here. Thanks for having me!

The Truth About Creating a High-traffic Blog

Keeping You Posted by Skellie.Skellie wrote this post. For more, you can follow her on Twitter.

Did you know that some blogs receive over one million visitors each month?

Have you ever wondered how they do it?

This kind of traffic isn’t easy to attain, but the pay-off for a high traffic blog with hundreds of thousands of page views each month (or more) are considerable. With that kind of traffic it’s hard not to make good money!

Most blogs with huge amounts of traffic are in fact run by a dedicated staff of writers who can churn out content much faster than a single blogger could ever hope to manage. Part of the reason these blogs are so highly trafficked is because a repeat visitor knows there’s likely to be something new every few hours or so. They have reason to visit multiple times during the day. Examples of blogs like this are the Gawker Media blogs, such as Lifehacker and Kotaku.

Most of us don’t have the money or the desire to take on a large contingent of writers to keep our blogs updated every few hours. The good news is that huge traffic is still possible at a single-author blog. Look to StevePavlina.com, Zen Habits, Entrepreneur’s Journey, even ProBlogger itself (I pick these examples because you’re likely to be familiar with them, but there are so many others). These are just a few examples where a single-author blog is receiving hundreds of thousands of page views each month, and in some cases, over a million.

Can we do the same?

These are the kind of stats we dream of for our own blogs, but most of us doubt that this would be possible for us. This is probably because the steps involved in getting there seem very blurry. You’re producing great content, growing in size slowly but surely, gathering new loyal readers and increasing your traffic, but you’re still miles away from the kind of huge audience those blogs experience. What are the factors that separate the average blog from these super high traffic blogs?

This is the point where you expect a cop-out — for me to say that it is, of course, great content that separates those blogs from the average. Unfortunately, your expectations won’t be met here. I’m not interested in content right now. At least, not directly. In fact, your content may be just as good, or better, than any one of the blogs I’ve mentioned, or any other successful single-author blogs you can think of.

What I am interested in, and I hope you will be too, is to know where that traffic is coming from.

On a multi-author blog producing reams of content it’s likely to receive many of its ‘visits’ from single visitors who make multiple return visits each day, in addition to high search traffic due to the vast amount of content archived at the blog, and social media traffic, because multi-author blogs generally have the resources to break important stories. When we look at single-author blogs, however, traffic sources are going to be coming from very different places.

Instead of producing dozens of posts each day a blog run by one person is probably going to be producing, at most, a handful of posts per day. The average level will probably be one post per day. For this reason, single-author blogs probably can’t expect visitors to return five or ten times a day to check for new updates. So, we knock out that traffic source.

I want to suggest that very highly trafficked single-author blogs are knocking the ball out of the park in at least two of the following three core areas:

  • Search
  • Social media
  • Evangelism

The last one is a must. Waves of social media traffic come and go and search engine traffic can disappear with the next Google algorithm update. If readers evangelize your content, as they do for Steve Pavlina, Leo Babauta, Yaro Starak, and you have probably done for Darren Rowse (by recommending him to a friend, or linking to one of his articles with a glowing recommandation) you will find it difficult to receive anything but huge traffic.

Performing exceptionally with at least one of the others is also very important, and it’s particularly useful if you can master both.

SEO

Most single-author blogs with huge traffic are getting a lot of that from search (sometimes as high as 20%). Some blogs, however, will never receive exceptional search traffic, no matter how popular they get or how much SEO work is done on them. After all, most people use search to solve a problem. They want to know how to do such and such thing, and the problem is that they don’t. So they search. However, some blogs are not so much about providing answers as they are about asking questions. Others might provide answers to questions you didn’t know you had. If you’re seeking to be entertained, they might entertain you in a way you never would have searched for on your own.

One of the best blog posts I’ve read in recent memory was Errol Morris’s dissection of two pieces of war-time photography in an effort to decide whether one of the pictures was faked. It was called ‘Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?’ and generated over 900 comments. Were people searching for this content before they found it? Very unlikely. Even putting the photographer’s name in the headline probably wouldn’t have improved the SEO situation very much, but it still didn’t hurt the story any. In fact, it went on to become a viral sensation.


Photo by victoriapeckham.

Social media

I relate the above example to show that some topics suit high levels of search traffic much better than others. If you feel you’re in the latter camp it’s still very possible to receive high levels of traffic, but you’ll find it much easier to so with the help of social media. If you’re not setting StumbleUpon on fire with your posts you should aim to get some love from Digg or Reddit. If you don’t know how to do that, hire someone who does and get them to write for you once a week. There are plenty of talented writers out there, looking for work, who really ‘get’ social media. Look for for an excellent front-page story on Digg that relates to your blog topic and then find out who wrote it. If you’re lucky, that person may be looking for more work.

Once you’ve produced a great post, get a top user to submit the content before anyone else. You’d be surprised at how easy this is if they think the content is good. Once it’s done, let their network take over. With a talented writer and a bit of audacity it’s surprisingly easy to go popular on social media pretty much, well, whenever you want to. But that’s material for another post, another time.

Case studies

Let’s examine three blogs that I’ve mentioned above. First, this one, ProBlogger. I’m pretty certain most of Darren’s traffic comes from direct links (evangelism), search (a high percent, due to practical topics and clever SEO), and StumbleUpon (a whole lot of it). While most of us are receiving traffic from these sources, high-traffic blogs take this to another level. The importance of evangelism from the reader base is the driving force behind all these things. ProBlogger wouldn’t rank as high in search if thousands of people hadn’t linked to it using juicy keywords. It wouldn’t receive loads of StumbleUpon traffic if its readers weren’t motivated to vote for it.

Next, let’s think about where Zen Habits is getting its traffic from. I’m not sure about the level of search traffic it gets, but I know it receives an exceptional amount of social media traffic from StumbleUpon and Digg. I also know the reader base is highly evangelical and links to Leo’s articles regularly. The blog is also spread through word of mouth networks. Once again, the success on social media probably wouldn’t have progressed as far as it has without an evangelical reader base. That factor is essential for the other factors to exist.

Evangelism

By now you will have noticed I’ve been throwing the word ‘evagelical’ around a whole lot without really explaining what I mean by it. The word comes from religious evangelicals, so it’s best to start there. While the word has been appropriated to describe a particular group of religious people, it has also been absorbed into the language of marketing.

To evangelize something really just means that you are passionate about it and try to get others to be passionate about it too (in a religious context, this would be a particular understanding of God). In fact, I want to suggest that you’ve done some evangelizing whether you are religious or not. If you’ve forced a tattered copy of your favorite book into the hands of a friend, you’re evangelizing it. If you told someone their next laptop should be a MacBook Pro because you love yours, you’re evangelizing the product. When you tell an aspiring blogger that they really should be reading ProBlogger, you evangelize this blog. When you link to it, vote for it or recommend it via word of mouth, you are evangelizing it, and the same goes for any blog you enjoy and try to share with others.

The key difference between the average blog and a high traffic blog is that the high traffic blog has an evangelical following: people who think, “My God, more people have to see this!”

Someone who only skims your posts will register on your stat counter but they are not going to spread the ‘gospel’ of your blog to others, so to speak. An evangelical reader might stumble every post they read and link to you every week. They do the kind of things that allow you to rank highly in search, and to get torrents of traffic from social media. In other words, to build a high traffic blog you need to create a highly evangelical audience.

What makes someone passionate and evangelical about a blog?

It’s not fluff. It’s not controversy for its own sake. It’s not self-indulgence. It’s not stale formulas. It’s knowing deeply the kind of individuals your audience is made up of, what their needs and wants and dreams are, how you fit into that, and how much you can make their lives better, whether it’s by making them smile, laugh, cry, go ‘Ah-ha!’, feel empowered, feel informed, entertained or more skillful.

The amount of improvement you make in the lives of your readers will be in proportion to the amount of effort they put into evangelizing your blog and helping it become more popular than you may ever have imagined.

ProBlogger Turns 4 Today!

Today is ProBlogger’s 4th birthday and I’m not actually going to ‘see’ it.

ProBlogger as a blog was born on 23rd September 2004 when I imported a series of 40 or so blog tips that I’d been writing over the last couple of years on my old personal blog to ProBlogger.net

At the time I had a feeling that people would find it useful to see these tips on a blog dedicated to the topic rather than on a blog that also covered photography, spirituality, culture and more. I’m so glad I made that move!

The reason I won’t actually see ProBlogger’s birthday this year is that I am about to board a plane to Los Angeles (from Vegas) and then after a 7 hour layover will board another plane to Melbourne. I leave LA at 11.00pm on 22nd September and arrive in Melbourne at 7am on 24th September – we cross the international date line and miss a day in the process.

It’s already the 23rd in Australia (where the time stamp of this blog is generated).

My Birthday Speech

I don’t have a lot of time to reflect upon the last four years as my plane will soon start boarding – but I did want to mark the occasion and say thank you to a few people.

Firstly and fore-mostly I want to thank you the community around ProBlogger. You inspire me, inform me, teach me and drive me to produce content each day that helps bloggers improve their blogs and find ways to monetize them.

Secondly I want to acknowledge the hard work of the ‘techy’ people that have kept this blog running over the years. Rachel and Regan in the early days were involved with the blog’s design and hosting and more recently the tech team at b5media (we launched a new home page design over the weekend and celebrated our 3rd birthday at Blog World Expo) have been wonderful. Thanks to to Ben for designing the last version of ProBlogger.

Also a thank you to Lara who looks after the never ending task of comment moderation and other administrative tasks here at ProBlogger.

There have also been a lot of others who’ve helped with design, support, hosting advice along the way. There have also literally been hundreds of guest posters, many thousands of commenters (there have been 114,620 coments on 4,637 posts to this point) and many thousands of participants in competitions and projects over those years – thanks to you all!

Looking Forward – Things are about to Get Fun!

4 years feels both like a long time but has also flown by. I’ve had a lot of fun on the journey so far and learned so much.

While looking back at the past is fun – it is what is ahead that excites me the most. Over the last few days at BWE I’ve let slip a few times that there are a few things in the pipeline that will hopefully be launched in the coming months that will see ProBlogger expand quite a bit. While I’m not ready to announce them fully I will say that it involves the ProBlogger.com domain (at present it forwards to ProBlogger.net) and will be something new and something (actually a number of things) that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’ll share more in the lead up to launch and will probably give my newsletter list a sneak peak and chance to beta test it before going public with it.

Other than the new expansions ProBlogger will continue to go along as it has in producing the best content that I can on grow, develop and monetize blogs. I look forward to sharing that journey with you!

Thanks everyone again for making ProBlogger what it is. While I won’t see the birthday myself – have a celebratory drink and cake for me if you can!

My flight is being called – must run. I’ll update you on Blog World Expo next week when home and recovered.