Punctuation, Spelling and Grammar – Quality Control for Bloggers

In our series on crafting blog content we’re at stage 7 (of 10) and having chosen our topic, crafted a title, written an engaging opening line, written a meaningful post, added a call to action and added depth – we’re finally ready to hit ‘publish’!

Or are we?

Image by geminicollisionworks

Today I want to talk about Quality Control – one of the last tasks that I recommend before hitting publish on your blog posts.

Having put so much time and effort into getting the content of your post into tiptop shape it can be tempting to put your post ‘out there’ for readers to engage with as soon as possible.

However, taking just few extra minutes to check for ‘errors’ can take a post to the next level.

This is an area that I admit I need to improve.

On a daily basis I find spelling and grammatical errors on my posts and embarrassingly, so do my readers.

I put it down to excitement and wanting to get posts out quickly – but if I’m honest with myself I’m sure it’s also partly laziness.

While some of your readers will gloss over these kinds of errors and won’t let it impact how they engage with the content – some will not be so forgiving and will be distracted by your mistakes.

Every spelling error that you correct and every awkward sentence structure that you improve removes a barrier to readers engaging with your content.

The solutions are simple (yet a struggle for so many of us):

  • Take your time in writing posts
  • Take time to look at spell check in your writing tool of choice.
  • Reread your posts to see how they flow (sometimes reading them out loud will help).
  • Have someone else look your posts over (I know of at least two bloggers who do this for one another – they have logins to each other’s blogs and edit the post that the other one writes on a daily basis).
  • Test to see if links in your posts work.

Yes – this is an area that those of us who don’t like to pay attention to detail and those who blog in a language that isn’t their first language can struggle with, but it does pay off to work on.

As mentioned above – I’m not the guy to teach you how to improve on this aspect of blogging. As a result I’d like to point you to some others who are!

Resources for Bloggers

Posts to Read:

Blogs to Subscribe To:

Books to Buy:

Feel free to add resources, blog posts and blogs that you’ve found helpful in comments below.

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.

How to Make Money With Affiliate Programs on Your Blog – More Thoughts

Yesterday I shared 5 lessons on making money with affiliate programs on your blog.

As I read through the comments on that post and pondered it some more thoughts came to mind that I think are worth adding:

Test and Track Results

I’ve written numerous times on ProBlogger about testing and tweaking advertising on your blog (for example – this post on how to run Split Testing).

The same principle is true for running affiliate campaigns on a number of levels.

1. Split Testing Banner ads

If you do run banner ads to promote your affiliate campaign (do remember yesterday I said that they don’t tend to work as well as in post promotions) you can run some split testing in a similar way to the one mentioned in the Split Testing article. Instead of showing two different versions of AdSense ads – just show two different types of banner ads that promote the product you’re promoting. You just need to make sure you have a method of tracking which banner ad is converting best (many affiliate programs will either give different tracking ids or will track different banners for you).

2. Track What Your Readers Respond to

Yesterday I mentioned that instead of just promoting an affiliate product once that it can be worth running a series of different types of posts to promote it over time. The beauty in doing this is that you begin to see what your readership responds to. You might find that few people sign up for a product when you first announce it but when you write a review that sales increase. Alternatively you might find that when you offer a bonus they sign up more or even that they respond to you doing an interview with the person behind the product. The key is to try different things but then to watch how they convert.

Testing the conversions on affiliate programs seems so basic – but it amazes me just how many bloggers I see using affiliate programs who just seem to slap up a quick post saying to ‘buy this product’ and don’t seem to get creative in trying new methods of promotion.

3. Test different programs and their conversions

In yesterdays post Omar asked for a list of best affiliate programs. It’s a common question but one that is really impossible to answer because there are literally thousands of options open to bloggers and different programs will convert differently for different blogs. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, this partly depends upon the relevancy of products to your content and audience – but it also depends upon other factors including the sales copy of the landing page that you send traffic to (some pages will appeal to some audiences more than others), the profile and brand of the site you send traffic to, the price of the product etc.

The key when you’re in the affiliate marketing game is to experiment with different affiliate programs and products within them. You might find that a program like Amazon’s Associates program fits best for your audience (despite it’s lower commission rates than some others) because your audience is familiar with it, or you might find a program like PepperJam (which has a lot of great affiliates in the one network) is better suited to you or you might even establish a relationship with a smaller company who has their own private affiliate program because their product just ‘fits’ with your audience.

The key is to look for relevant products that fit your audience’s needs and then to track the conversions.

One more thing about Choosing Affiliate Programs

There are some great comments in the previous post about choosing affiliate programs – particularly from Lex G and Linda. They both pick up that it’s not always the highest paying affiliate program that is best. While it’s great to find a high priced program that pays out a high percentage commission – you might find that the price is out of the reach of the type of audience that you have and that another program that pays less commission and that is lower priced could actually earn you more.

A lot of people write off programs like Amazon’s Associates program because of their lower commissions and price points on items like books – however I’ve found that Amazon can work very well for me (it remains in my top ways to make money blogging at #4 on the list. While I don’t see the spectacular sales that some other programs can earn – the hundreds of smaller sales that I can see on any given day can certainly add up.

How Much Traffic Do You Need?

Dainis asked in the comments of the previous post how much traffic would be needed before starting to promote affiliate programs.

This is another good (and common) question – and as with many aspects of making money from blogs it is a question that different people will answer differently.

My personal approach is to start promoting these types of programs early. I’ve written a long post on when to put advertising on a blog previously and much of what I say there is also relevant to affiliate programs but my main reasons for starting early are:

  • While you might not make much with just a little traffic you could make some.
  • Starting early gets your readers used to the idea that you make money from your blog. Adding it later could put some offside.
  • Learn how to monetize your blog before you have readers so you can make your mistakes in front of just a few rather than a lot of people.

5 Lessons on Making Money with Affiliate Programs

In the last 24 hours I’ve been interviewed 3 times and on each occassion I was questioned about affiliate marketing and how to make money from it.

Here are 5 lessons that I found myself touching on in each interview.

Image by foundphotolj

1. Relevancy between Audience, Product and Content

One key to high conversion when promoting affiliate products is to align as much as possible the needs of your audience, with the product that you are promoting and the content being produced on your blog.

For example if my readers are all beginner digital photographers, I’m producing a blog with content that teaches basic principles of photography and I was to promote to them a book or course on beginner to intermediate photography tips – I’d have a pretty good chance of generating some sales and therefore commissions.

However if I was to promote the same course here on ProBlogger the campaign would fall on it’s face and I’d probably do my reputation more harm than good.

2. Trust is Crucial

I find that affiliate promotions tend to work best on a blog that has been around for a while where the readership has been journeying with the blogger for a while.

When you read someone’s solid advice on a daily basis over a couple of years you’re much more likely to buy something that they recommend than buying something off a complete stranger. It’s all about establishing credibility and trust.

3. Traffic is Key

There’s no getting around this one – you increase the chances of a conversion with the number of people who see your invitation to purchase a product.

Of course it partly depends upon the audience – not all traffic is equal.

For example I could hit the front page of Digg with my post promoting a product and get 100 times the traffic that a normal post would have and the conversions would not be 100 times higher (simply because Digg readers don’t tend to take much note of affiliate products and because I have no established relationship with them).

However as your loyal readership grows in numbers you do tend to increase conversion possibilities.

4. Reinforcing the Message

I wrote about this in my ProBlogger Newsletter a few weeks back – but I find that rather than just posting once about a product that you’re promoting – it can be much more effective to find ways to reinforce a message over time. You might start off with an announcement post that tells your readers about what you’re promoting, you might follow up a few days later with a review of it, then follow up a week later with a reader testamonial, then follow up with an interview of someone behind the product….

The key is to find useful ways to talk about the product without annoying your readership (not always easy). In doing this you remind and reinforce the ‘pitch’ for you reader to buy.

5. Positioning

Affiliate promotions tend not to work very well if all they are is a banner ad in your sidebar. They will still convert – but nowhere near as well as if you position your promotion inside a post itself as the topic of the post.

Write about the product you’re talking about, talk about how you’ve used it and make it personal.

Get more tips like these at 10 Tips for Using Affiliate Programs on Your Blog

Joel Comm Releases Book – ‘Click Here to Order’

Click Here to OrderA couple of weeks ago I received a package in the mail from internet marketer Joel Comm. The package contained his new book – Click Here to Order.

With a new baby in the house it’s been difficult to find time to read the whole book but having got halfway through it I’m happy to say that there’s a lot to like about the book so far.

It features the stories and techniques of some of the most successful internet marketers going around and while the topic isn’t ‘blogging’ and focuses more upon internet marketing – what I’ve been enjoying about the book is simply hearing the stories of some of these pioneering marketers and how they have made livings (no, make that millions of dollars) online. As someone who came to online business relatively late (I’ve only been at this 5-6 years) it’s fascinating to read about the ‘early’ days and to see both the progression in online marketing but also some of the timeless truths that remain to this day.

The book includes stories from people like Mark Joyner, Mike Filsaime, Yanik Silver, Perry Marshall, Rosalind Gardner, Eclan Dunn (plus quite a few more) – all people that have many years in this game. In reading the book I’ve both ‘discovered’ the stories of people I’ve never heard of as well as hearing the history of people I’ve admired for a long while (and a few that I’ve been lucky enough to meet in person).

In the chapters I’ve read so far I’ve appreciated just how normal the people are that are featured in this book. This is something that reminds me of the time I met Joel himself at Yanik Silver’s Underground seminar a couple of years back. Both Joel and Yanik are brilliant at what they do – but they’re just normal people like me – but people who’ve tried a lot of things and who have persisted at this online marketing game for the long haul.

Will you use EVERYTHING in this book? I highly doubt it – as I read I saw techniques that both resonated with me and others that I shied away from – I saw techniques that I immediately began to use (one or two that have begun to convert already) and others that I’ll leave for others to do – but all in all it’s a great introduction and back story to the internet marketing game.

Joel’s offering a $1 bonus pack deal at the moment.

You simply order the book on Amazon (make sure you get a ProBlogger book while there) and then add the order number that Amazon gives you to get a download of two chapters of the book (so you can start reading it while you wait for delivery), a ‘missing’ chapter (Joe’s personal story), seven audio interviews with people featured in the book and a set of pdf notes. Get full details here.

Whether you go for the bonuses or just get the book – I hope you enjoy the read and come away more knowledgeable about and resourced to tackle the online marketing game.

Update: Thanks to those who noticed the broken links – They’ve been corrected now. :) – Lara

13 Ways to Add New Dimensions to Your Next Post

What do you see when you look at this image?

bubble blowingImage by Lord V

OK – so it’s two flies right? Yes it is…. but look a little harder.

Have you ever used one of those crazy eye cross eye 3D multidimensional pictures? This is one of them. Relax, cross your eyes a little and stare (for a more details version of how to see the 3D impact read here). Do it right and the the ‘flies’ become one very 3 dimensional ‘fly’. If you like the effect I’ll show you some more in a link at the bottom of this post.

What does a 3D image have to do with Blogging?

In this post I want to share 13 ways to make your blogs go deeper and become more multi dimensional.

  • How deep do your blog posts go?
  • Do you bang out a post that covers the basics of your topic and then hit publish?
  • What would happen if you just took a few extra minutes once your next post was finished to ask yourself – how could I make this post more useful to readers?

Over the last few weeks we’ve been exploring 10 points in the writing of a blog post where it is important to ‘pause’ and take a little extra time in crafting the blog post.

Today I want to explore a question that you can ask yourself after writing a blog post (and before hitting publish) that I have found can exponentially increase the impact and effectiveness of a the post.

It is a question that I think can help good posts great and help it to stand out from the clutter of millions of posts going around the blogosphere at any given time.

The question is simple:

“How can I add more depth to this post?”

A theme that I continually go on about here at ProBlogger is ‘creating useful content‘ for readers. The question about ‘adding depth’ is all about making your post more useful. An alternative way of asking it would be:

“How can I make this post more useful?”

13 Ways to Add Depth to Your Next Blog Post

Following are 13 of simple techniques that can add a new dimension to your post – techniques to make good posts great:

1. Use Examples

Too many bloggers simply talk in theoretical terms and don’t ground what they are talking about in reality. There’s nothing wrong with ‘theory’ but you can do your reader a real service with two simple words – ‘for example’. Show how the theory can be applied in an actual situation and you’ll make your post much more effective. Readers will not only come away with an idea of how to do something – they’ll have seen it in action – something which takes them a step closer to actually implementing it in their own lives.

Adding examples to posts is something I’ve been doing for years without really thinking about it. I just searched on Google for “for example” on ProBlogger and found it used over 1000 times.

For example (I had to add one here didn’t I) – check out my post on how to find new RSS subscribers to a blog where I give give examples on every 2nd point that I make.

2. Add an Analogy, Story or Metaphor

An example need not just be a ‘link’ – it can be some kind of story or analogy that helps readers to unpack what you’re writing about.

As I’ve discussed earlier in this series – stories are particularly effective ways of opening blog posts – however they are also useful within and at the end of posts. They engage the imaginations of readers, help to reinforce what you’re saying and can be very persuasive tools.

As Brian Clark of CopyBlogger writes – “Stories allow people to persuade themselves, and that’s what it’s really all about.”

Personal stories can also be very effective at establishing common ground between you and your readers – something that makes people be able to relate to you.

Read more on using different types of stories on a blog.

3. Add Your Opinion

If you’re writing about ‘news’ or linking up to something another blogger is saying – don’t just report the news or tell your readers to go read something because ‘it’s good’ – tell your readers what YOU think about what you’re linking to.

Giving your opinion takes your post to a new depth, it stimulates readers to think about their reaction to what they are reading, creates conversation, adds value and helps to make your post unique. Don’t just echo the news around the blogosphere – inject something of yourself into it.

4. Suggest Further Reading

One of the simplest ways to add value to a blog post is to recommend other reading that a reader could do on your topic. This can be done formally at the end of a post with a ‘recommended reading’ type list of links – or informally during a post when you hyperlink relevant articles on key ideas that you write about.

Further reading can be both internal links to other things you’ve written on your topic and/or external links to what others have written previously on the topic you’ve covered. Only do either of these if they do add value and are on topic.

5. Add Quotes

An effective way of adding authority to a blog post is to add the voice of another person using a short quote. Most students know the power of using quotes in the writing of essays (they show you’ve researched and read widely and grasp a topic) – the same thing is try with blog posts.

There are two main ways of using quotes in blog posts:

  1. quote someone talking about your topic (I did this above in the ‘stories’ point with a quote from Brian Clark).
  2. quote someone talking about something unrelated, but still relevant to your topic (something I did in my post – What Thomas Edison Can Teach You about Blogging).

6. Interview Someone

If you can’t find an existing quote to use from someone – create one by approaching them for a quick comment or interview on your topic.

Identify another person who has expertise on the topic you’re covering and then asking them a specific question (or more than one) on that topic so that you can use their answers within your post. Effectively this is what journalists do when they’re working up a story.

While this might sound like a long process – with instant messaging, skype and email it can actually be very quick to get comment from others.

7. Add Reader Comments/Tweets

Another way of adding other ‘voices’ to your blog posts is to actually use the words of those reading your blog by elevating their comments into the post itself.

I’ll share some ways to do this below but first let me say how powerful this is as a technique as it shows your readers that you notice what they say, that you care about them and gives them a moment in the spotlight which can make a lasting impression. It all comes down to making your readers famous.

  • Use Comments from Previous Posts – if you’ve written on the topic you are blogging about before check out the comments section on that post. Hidden away there you might find gems of wisdom that you can pull out an include in future posts.
  • Ask Readers in a Post – this takes a little thinking ahead but if you know you’re going to be writing on a topic a day or two ahead of time – post a question on your blog asking for readers to give feedback on that topic. Then use some of their comments in your next post. For example – I asked readers about how they’d promote a blog here and then used their responses as a post later in the week here.
  • Do a Call for Comments on Social Messaging Sites – I do this regularly on Twitter and Plurk. All it involves is to ask your followers/friends a question as you write your post and then to include some of the best ones within your post. To see this in action – I did this recently in my review of the iPhone as a blogging tool and when I wrote about the benefits of Twitter.
  • LinkedIn Q&ALinkedIn has a great Question and Answer feature that is fantastic for gathering the opinions and ideas of those within your network. I’ve used it on occasions to generate some great discussions which could then be used to add depth to blog posts.
  • Email readers – if you don’t have enough Twitter followers or LinkedIn contacts – why not email a few of your most loyal readers and ask them if they have any thoughts on a topic you’re writing about.

I can’t express to you how much of an impact that using readers comments in blog posts can have. When I do it I get a lot of emails of thanks from those that I use the comments of and also find that it adds a lot of wisdom to my posts.

8. Set Homework

If your post is a ‘teaching’ or ‘how to’ type blog post an effective way of adding depth to your post is to actually set your readers homework or some kind of ‘assignment’.

By finishing a post with a task to go away and do you help your readers to immediately apply what they’ve just learned (most of us learn better by ‘doing’ than just consuming information) and you increase the ‘participation’ levels on your blog (it takes readers out of ‘lurking’ mode).

I discovered the power of homework on my photography site a couple of years back. Our readers there loved the idea so much that we now have a weekly assignment in the forum. Heaven forbid if we miss a week – our readers love it so much that if we do miss one they certainly let us know! Read more on setting readers homework

9. Offer Points of Participation

I’ve touched on this earlier in this series also but it is amazing how much value can be added to a blog post simply by inviting readers to respond and participate in the post. Ask for comments, add a poll, invite readers to blog about the topic on their own blog…. again this is about giving readers an opportunity to bed down what they’re learning and reinforce it in their minds by ‘doing’ something.

Many readers learn best not just by listening to others but by putting their thoughts into their own words.

10. Add Illustrations or Charts

I will talk more about this in the next post in this series of ‘crafting blog posts’ – but it is amazing what a simple image or chart can do to illustrate a point. I’m not just talking about eye catching title images – but those that actually add value to your posts.

This will of course relate more to some types of posts than others but when you do it it is like adding a visual example to your posts. I find this is most effective either when doing a ‘how to’ or tutorial type post (I do it on photoshop tutorials on DPS) or any posts that you quote any kind of statistics in).

11. Look at the Flip Side

A simple technique to add depth to any kind of post that shares an opinion is to explore not only one side of an argument but two. I find it quite amazing how many bloggers write posts that are one dimensional and that argue strongly for one perspective but fail to show that there might be another point of view.

You don’t need to sit on the fence with your posts and can still express your preference strongly for your argument – but at least show that you’re aware of other arguments as it’ll show your readers that you have thought through an issue fully in coming to your point of view. You’ll also find that it doesn’t alienate as many readers who don’t share your opinion and gives a better foundation for constructive dialogue.

12. Look Forward and Create Momentum

One very effective way of adding depth to your post is by telling readers that you’re not done yet and are going to write a followup post in the coming days.

While this doesn’t actually give immediate extra value to a post it creates a sense of momentum and signals to readers that the topic you’re writing about means something to you and is worthy of further exploration.

So before you hit publish on a post consider whether there is any areas within it still not explored that could be the subject of a followup post. A great way to do this is to use mindmapping to plan your next blog posts.

13. Make an Honest Appraisal of Your Post

Before hitting publish on your post ask yourself again – does this post matter?

Is your post useful to readers in some way? Does it inform, entertain, inspire, educate, provide community, motivate or do something else that will enhance the lives of your reader?

Not every post you write will set the world on fire (and that’s ok) but every post should add value to your reader and take you closer to your blogging goals.

If it doesn’t – don’t publish it. Go back to your post and keep adding value.

9 More Thoughts on Adding Depth to Posts from my Twitter Friends

As I was writing this post I decided to put my advice into action by asking my Twitter followers for their experiences on the topic. Here’s just a few of the responses (you’ll see a few new ideas and recurring themese):

  1. @ruraldoctoring – add personal experiences, quotes, open up possibilities for opposing views–>depth. I hope.
  2. @Jonathan_Gunson – How? Try reading your draft posts out loud to someone who cares. Their reaction can produce deep insights you never imagined.
  3. @mark_hayward – give the post some thought while running, write a rough post or outline, do research, and continue to refine over several days.
  4. @ashishmohta – adding some real time example, case studies about 1 hour ago
  5. @DanBlank – To add depth, I add images, and take time between writing sessions, often using ideas that germinated in my head for days.
  6. @johnwroachiii – I have my wife read it and give me her unanwered questions.
  7. @tynansanger – leave it until the morning then look over it again. see if any new news has added to or taken away from the story
  8. @cornerscribe – I let a post “rest” for a while. That helps me see where I need to add detail and depth.
  9. @Arbenting – I usually let a post sit for a day or so before going back to it. Once I re-read it I’ll usually find things that need expanded.

How Have You Added Depth to Your Blog Posts?

There’s lots to digest in this post I know – but I’m certain that among the ProBlogger readership there’s a lot of wisdom and experience that could be added – so what have you tried to add depth and new dimensions to your blog posts?

PS: If you want to see some more 3D Crazy Cross Eye Images – check out 9 more here.

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.

How to Get Noticed [the Art of Positioning]

Jeremiah Owyang has written a good post today on how to get noticed.

Getting noticed is a major problem for most bloggers starting out (and most who have been going for years also). Jeremiah’s suggestions are great:

  • Have a goal, Develop a unique brand, Get personal, Attend local events, Lead events, Be interesting and Archive your achievements.

He writes great thoughts on each of the above points – well worth the read.

One other thought comes to mind as I read what Jeremiah had to say:

Positioning Yourself is Key

I think a key to getting noticed is to think carefully about how you position yourself.

I remember seeing a study a few years ago that found that in offices, people whose desks were positioned near where there was a lot of passing traffic (water coolers, near elevators etc) were among the most connected and known in the office. Those whose desks were off in corners of the building where few people ever went were often the most socially isolated and invisible in the office.

The take home lesson from this is that if you want to be noticed – you need to position yourself where the people whose attention you want to grab gather.

Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV is a guy who I think embodies this brilliantly.

I’ve not met him in person or even seen him in action live (this will change soon as he’s keynoting at Blog World Expo – but from watching from a far – Gary has positioned himself very cleverly at tech events and in social networks recently and in doing so he’s been noticed big time.

It might seem odd for a Wine Expert to position himself at Tech Conferences but in doing it he’s got himself (and his book – 101 Wines: Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World (one that I own and recommend – particularly good for those who love wine but who, like me, know nothing about it) blog and company) on the radar of key influencers who have spread the Gary Vaynerchuck virus throughout the world.

The principle of positioning is there for all to see. Gary has decided who he wants to notice him and he’s positioned himself in the paces that they gather en masse (and from what I can see he’s done this prolifically).

This doesn’t mean Gary ignores the little guy – he’s someone who is dedicated to interacting with as many people as possible (see 1st video below) – but he’s also someone who I think has really mastered the art of positioning himself brilliantly also.

Let me leave you with some Gary Vaynerchuk teaching and inspiration via a couple of videos:

First – one on his mission in life, to meet every person on earth:

Here’s another video where Gary talks a little about some of the philosophies that he’s grown his business by – including a little on what I talk about above:

Check out the Gary Vaynerchuk blog for more videos on how Gary goes about his business – and if you’re a wine lover but need some help – check out his book book – 101 Wines: Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World.

66% of Bloggers Don’t Run RSS Ads On Their Blog [POLL RESULTS]

In our last ProBlogger Poll I asked readers whether they run RSS ads on their main blog. The results are in – 66% of you don’t run RSS ads on your blog.


What I find interesting is that 18 months ago I ran this same poll. The results were that 75% of readers didn’t run RSS ads on their blog. While there’s still a significant number of bloggers not doing RSS ads there’s been a definite shift.

PS: Don’t forget to vote in our new poll.

Do you Make Money Online from non Blogging Sources? [POLL]

Time for another ProBlogger poll – looking forward to hearing what you’ve got to say on this question:

Do you Make Money Online from non Blogging Sources?
View Results

If your answer is yes – tell us what the source is in comments below.