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3 Successful Bloggers Share their Blog Tips [VIDEO]

Here’s another compilation of blog tips from three prominent bloggers – Jeremy from Shoemoney, Steve Pavlina and Andy Wibbels.

The video was shot at Blog World Expo 08 on a Flip Video Mino Series Camcorder.

See this video at full size on YouTube, Blip.tv and Viddler. See the last video in this series with another 4 bloggers here.

Get more Blog tips from our Blog Tips for Beginners series.

The Importance of Pillar Articles and why Obama and McCain are Idiots

In this post – relatively new blogger CJ from Wise Money Matters shares what they’ve learned about using Pillar Articles (sometimes called evergreen content) to Grow Traffic to Your Blog.

I started blogging only 4 months ago. In the grand scheme of things, this is a very short time and my blog, wisemoneymatters.com, has a long way to go before I can become a “ProBlogger” like Darren. Due to my relative inexperience with blogging, I have spent the last 4 months scouring through various “how to blog” blogs such as Problogger, Copyblogger and have watched all of Yaro Stark’s BecomeABlogger videos. Through my studies I’ve heard about the importance of key core posts, also known as “pillar articles” but only recently have seen the effects of them.

Since my full-time work schedule doesn’t allow me enough time to fully market my blog via commenting on other blogs and engaging heavily in social media, I rely a lot on Google to pick up my posts. I do try to comment on at least 10 blogs per week, but to really jump start my blog, I should be doing closer to 10 per day. In the last month or so, since my blog has started to gain some steam and other bloggers are linking to me, my Google rankings for various search terms have been going up and certain pillar articles have really been the focus of most of my traffic.

In fact, here is a graph of my traffic sources via Google Analytics for the past month:

pillar-articles-traffic.png

In my personal opinion, while you need a good mixture of commenting on other blogs and social media interactivity, I find Search Engine traffic to be the best source of traffic for several reasons.

The primary reason is workload. Commenting on other blogs requires that I frequently visit those blogs to comment. I naturally comment on the blogs I already enjoy reading, but sometimes find myself simply going to various blogs to get my own name out. It’s simply work and not very fun. Frankly, I think it’s also kind of selfish as I’m not really adding much to the other blog but rather just trying to add to my own. Occasionally I make a good relationship with another blogger, such as Mr ToughMoneyLove from ToughMoneyLove.com, but that’s rare.

Social Media is even harder work. It requires constant attention which is something I don’t have. Maybe if I get to a “ProBlogger” status like Darren (he even took the time to add me as a friend on Facebook rather than waiting for me to add him… how cool is that?!?), I could find the time to devote to Social Media but until then, working my day job to pay the bills is more important.

With Search Engine traffic, it’s consistent traffic. As long as you don’t significantly lose your spot on a Google search term, you will get traffic over time. Little extra work is needed aside from making sure your posts are updated as needed. The traffic just keeps flowing.

Secondly, it’s attracting people who actually want your content. Often times when I comment on another personal finance blog, the only return traffic I get is that the owner of that blog comments on mine. While this can be good (see making good relationships above), it’s not really productive overall. The results of such efforts are often minimal. Granted, they do add up over time so I’m not suggesting stop commenting, but they aren’t as solid as someone who is actually searching for the information you are providing and seeing your site listed for the search term.

With things like Digg, you often have to go out of your way to make articles which specifically attract Digg users. Such articles often stray from the original core mission of your blog to get the “shock effect” that Digg users like so much. Worse than that, Digg users are there one day and gone the next. Don’t get me wrong, getting a good Digg has it’s rewards, but it requires so much energy for little consistency. I’m more of a passive blogger type of guy. Write a really good article which gets a good ranking on a popular Google search term and just let the people slowly stream in.

So don’t misunderstand me. You do need a good mixture of techniques to get your blog known but if time is a constraint, getting good solid Pillar Articles listed on Google should be your top priority and do the other stuff when you have extra time. Wait… does anyone actually ever have extra time?

Anyways, on to two types of Pillar Articles…

Seasonal Pillar Articles

Once the United States primaries had been pretty much finalized, I started to look at the two Presidential Candidates. I figured I could do a post comparing the candidates. Since my blog is a personal finance blog, I decided to look specifically at their economic stances. I wrote one blog post about each candidate. To give it a little spice, I titled them “Why Barack Obama is an idiot” and “Why John McCain is an idiot.”

I figured those titles would at least draw the attention of a few people. However, I never thought it would be so beneficial to my blog. Since the election has really become cutthroat, those 2 posts have been 2 of the most viewed posts on my blog.

Here is a list of the top 10 search terms from Google which landed on my site (click to enlarge):

pillar-articles-2.png

As you can see, those two posts make up the entire top 5 search terms for my site.

The keys to seasonal pillar articles

Key #1: Timing. This is the most important. You need to be the first for a particular subject. I wrote these posts when the candidates for both parties were initially decided. I could have written those posts last week, but I would have only had 1 week to get the traffic. On top of that, due to my low overall Google Pagerank, other similar articles were bound to be written and I wouldn’t have been able to get to the top of the Google listings.

For instance, if I type “Obama idiot” into Google, my page is 4th on the list. When I first wrote this article, there was only one other article with a similar title. Now the search is filled with such articles. For “McCain idiot,” I’m ranked 10th. When I first wrote this article there were no other articles with such a title and I was ranked #1. Due to my low PageRank and other factors, I’m now 10 being pushed out by the bigger websites.

So the key is to get in quick and early. The only downside is that when you notice such trends, you need to make sure and stay up to date on the post. For instance, when I initially wrote the McCain article, he had very little information available about his economic policy other than wanting to lower taxes. Now his plan has shaped and the information is now a little outdated. Also, both articles were written before the big decline on Wall Street and all of the bailouts, so neither of those issues were addressed.

Key #2: Good content. Frankly this is almost as important as #1. Timing will initially get you a high spot on Google searches, but good content will keep you there. This is something I struggle with because I’m not naturally a good writer. It’s important to continually check posts that make such a huge effect on your blog and remove any obvious mistakes. I edited the language and grammar of both of those posts at least 3 times after publishing them and realizing their popularity.

Key #3: Think outside the box. Since my blog is a personal finance blog, I was tempted to title the posts “Obama’s economic policies” and “McCain’s economic policies.” While both of those titles may have received some traffic, they most likely would not hold their place against the major media channels who typically cover such topics with similar titles and frankly those titles are just plain boring. They don’t evoke any emotion and would track minor attention. However, due to the strong opinions on both sides regarding the current candidates, the titles I chose were perfect. I did expect them to get some Digg traffic, but I do realize the actual content of the posts aren’t really Digg material so I’m not necessarily disappointed that they didn’t.

So when you combine those keys listed above, you can drive some serious traffic to your site for the course of the event or season. Now I fully expect these posts to fall off the radar after the election, but for the time being, I’m reaping the rewards. Also, I suspect that at least one of these posts will remain popular after the election. Which post will depend on which idiot gets elected.

I will also admit one downside to this particular example. Much of the traffic that comes to the site will be a one time visit (see my comment on Digg at the top). I realize that most people searching for these terms are not looking for personal finance advice. The flip side of that is I am reaching an untapped audience. The blogosphere is cluttered with personal finance blogs. Many people looking for a personal finance blog have already found the one or two (or ten) blogs that they are looking for. This gives me opportunity to reach an audience who may want personal finance advice but didn’t know it yet.

Further Reading from the ProBlogger Archives

All-time Pillar Articles

If you notice on the top 10 search terms in the image above, 4 of the top terms were related to “Top Paying Jobs.” This falls under an All-time Pillar Article. This drives a consistent amount of traffic to my website every single week. It’s currently listed as my most Popular Post on my website according to my site’s popularity plugin.

pillar-articles-popular-posts.png

I actually came across this by accident and wrote 2 posts about it. I did some research because I was interested myself in the top 50 highest paying jobs. I found a good list and basically cross posted it with my own comments. Then I was wondering about the top 50 highest paying jobs which don’t require a career. So I cross posted that as well. The results are great.

Again, this goes back to the passive traffic idea. I consistently receive traffic from these search terms. It’s not the quantity of the Seasonal Pillar Articles because the highest paying jobs is not the hot topic of the month, but it is consistent. That is one thing to remember when stumbling across such Pillar Articles. Don’t expect the masses to flock to your latest genius post. Give it time and let Google run it’s course. Sometimes you hit it and sometimes you miss.

There is however 1 primary key to making Pillar Articles that I learned from this experience. Post about what you want to know or learn. The only reason I have a post about the highest paying jobs is because I was curious. Since I don’t have a college degree myself, I was also interested in the highest paying jobs with no degree. The key is that if I’m curious about that, there has to be other people that are curious as well.

Now realize that Google has it’s preferences. If there is a hundred articles about the very post you are interested in writing, don’t expect to jump to the top. You should still write the article as over time your blog should gain a reputation (and therefore a higher PageRank) and the post will likely rise, but don’t be discouraged if that perfect post goes nowhere. Just keep writing great content and the traffic will follow.

I’d love to hear any other suggestions regarding tips on Pillar Articles as that’s what I really focus on and if you liked this article, please Digg it or Stumble it. I’m sure Darren would appreciate the extra traffic.

Internet Marketing Masterminds – A Course for Small Businesses Wanting to Grow Their Online Presence

Internet Marketing Masterminds
If you’re own or work for a small to medium business and are trying to get your head around how to use the internet, social media, blogging and other emerging online technologies to promote your brand, build income and drive sales then you should check out Internet Marketing Masterminds.

This course will kick off on 12th of November and is being put on by fellow Aussies Alister Cameron and Ben Galt from Australis Media.

Over the last year when I’ve been approached by businesses (large and small) wanting blog consulting I’ve referred them to Alister. The reports coming back from those I’ve referred over have always been really positive. He’s helped numerous businesses take their online presence to the next level. Internet Marketing Masterminds is designed to do the same thing.

There are limited places (150) and the pricing structure is one that goes up as places begin to fill (the earliest in get the cheapest rates).

The course spans over the full year of 2009 and includes monthly webinars, group knowledgebase, discussion forum and mailing list.

The curriculum covers a lot including starting blogs, social networking, internet marketing, developing killer content, SEO, Pay Per Click Advertising, Linkbait, Crowdsourcing, tools like YouTube, Flickr and Facebook and Analytics.

Who is this for?

This course is not really designed for beginner bloggers looking to grow their blogs (although I’m sure they’d learn a lot from it too). No – Internet Marketing Masterminds is a program for businesses owners (and employees) as well as SME marketers wanting to utilize the web to grow their businesses.

Update – Where is this course?

A number of those leaving comments seem to be under the impression that this is a course happening IN Australia. It’s not – it’s a virtual course, all done online. So while it is run by Aussies it’s accessible to anyone.

Update 2 – A ‘discount’

It was just pointed out that this course is being priced in Australian dollars. This means that it’s actually quite cheap at the moment for US people (and those in other parts of the world). The exchange rate at the moment makes it almost half price as the Aussie dollar last time I checked bought 60 cents.

How Bloggers Make Money Online without Blogging [POLL RESULTS]

Last month I ran a poll here at ProBlogger which asked readers if they make money online from sources other than blogging.

The result was almost completely split with 1022 of the 2053 people who responded saying Yes and 1031 saying no.

make-money-non-blogging-sources.png

Some of the comments on the launch post of this poll revealed some of the ways people are making money online from sources other than blogging. They include:

  • Website Design
  • Flipping (selling) Websites
  • Selling ebooks
  • Youtube Partnership program
  • Freelance writing, graphic design
  • Teaching and Consulting
  • Owning other types of websites (directories, forums etc)
  • Business Documentation site
  • Developing web applications
  • Online Surveys
  • Paid to Click Sites
  • Selling Products and Merchandise
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Writing on User Generated Content (Revenue Sharing) Sites
  • Make Online Games
  • Online Store – Selling Products
  • eBay
  • Selling Art
  • Business Referrals
  • Market Research
  • Software Development
  • Working as a Transcriptionist
  • Membership Sites
  • Generating Sales for Off-line Business from Websites

Lots of good ideas there and a nice reminder that there’s plenty to explore outside of blogging.

My own list of online money making sources that are not directly blogging include running a forum (advertising revenue), newsletter lists (affiliate marketing and some advertising), consulting (limited), selling a course, job boards, working at b5media (very part time)… and that’s about all I can think of.

Do You Sell Text Links on Your Blog? [POLL]

Do You Sell Text Links on Your Blog?

Warning – Before answering this question in comments you might want to consider doing so anonymously and without a link to your blog – particularly if your answer is YES. It could hurt you to identify yourself if you say yes publicly.

It is time for another poll here at ProBlogger – this one on the topic of selling text links.

A year or so back selling text links was the #1 income source for many bloggers. The practice was common and all done out in the open. Advertisers wanted to buy text links from blogs and websites that had been around for a while and had established decent page rank in Google. They were doing this to increase their own search engine authority. Bloggers saw the practice as relatively easy money – payments were recurring on a monthly basis and with services like TextLinkAds that emerged there was very little work in finding advertisers or collecting payments.

However the Text Link Ad selling industry came crashing down (to some extent) late in 2007 when Google took the step of penalizing many websites and blogs (some quite high profile ones) for the practice of selling text links. They see selling of text links as people trying to game or manipulate their ranking system and if they find people doing it – issue penalties which can hurt your search engine ranking.

As a result of this action many bloggers stopped selling text links. I had personally stopped selling them before Googles action (although was hit with a page rank penalty for a few days before Google corrected it).

The practice of selling text links continues today – however it’s done a lot less publicly than previously. Services still exist to arrange the buying and selling of links but it seems that it has gone much more underground with many deals being done directly between advertisers and bloggers and with advertisers less interested in site wide text links and more interested in buying them within content on individual pages.

While many bloggers have stopped doing it – quite a few continue to sell them either not aware of the risks or willing to take the risk for the income it provides.

The point of this poll is to find out just how many bloggers still sell text links.

As I mentioned above – if you want to comment on this poll below and you do sell text links you might want to do it anonymously or with a pseudonym as it wouldn’t be hard for Google to hit you with a penalty. Voting yes in the poll without commenting is anonymous however.

So it’s over to you – here’s the poll (it’s also in my sidebar):

Do You Sell Text Links on Your Blog
Total Votes: 1807 Started: 10/27/2008 Back to Vote Screen


I’m looking forward to seeing the results on this one!

Reflections on 48 Hours of Inviting Readers to Comment ‘Spam’ My Blog

OK – so I didn’t ask people to comment ‘spam’ my blog – I asked them to ‘pitch’ us with their blog. Here’s what I learned from the experience….

On the spur of the moment over the weekend I decided to run a little experiment here on ProBlogger where I invited readers to leave a comment giving an ‘elevator pitch’ for their blog.

The experiment ran for 48 hours (it is now closed) and in that time over 1400 bloggers participated – so many that at times it slowed loading that page to a crawl for many. I’m amazed by the response and wanted to make a few comments/reflections about this experiment:

Twitter is Amazing

I put the success for this project largely down to Twitter. As I posted my invitation on ProBlogger I also Tweeted an invitation for my Twitter followers to get in early and pitch their blog. This tweet was retweeted time and time again by readers. I didn’t expect this wildfire of tweets (in fact people retweeted the retweets of others) and lost count at the number of people who ‘sneezed’ my post throughout the Twittersphere. When we hit the 1000 submissions mark I tweeted about it and again the tweet was retweeted many times. An hour before closing it I tweeted and again it was retweeted many times over.

I’ve experienced things going viral online before but this one was explosive. Over 1000 of the submissions came in the first 20 hours – not bad for a weekend.

I Should Have Planned More – But I’m Glad I Didn’t

If I’d put more thought into planning this project I would probably have done it a lot differently. I wouldn’t have done it on a weekend, I probably would have thought strategically about how to spread it wider, I possibly would have put up a prize for participants, I would have put aside time over the 48 hours to spend extra time moderating comments etc.

I didn’t do any of that and in many ways I’m glad that I didn’t. The thing I loved about this was that it just happened. From the time the idea came to the time I posted it took about 15 minutes (if that). I put hardly any time into it (although there was a lot of comment moderation to do) and it was a rewarding experience.

The Benefits of the Project

Someone asked me via email today how much traffic the project drove to ProBlogger. The reality is that this weekends traffic has not been significantly different to any other weekend. Traffic wasn’t the point here.

The ‘point’ (if there was one) is that I wanted to give readers of this blog an opportunity to put themselves out there and connect with each other. That might sound a little selfless but at the time of doing it that was ‘the point’. There have of course been benefits to me from doing it – the main one of which is that there’s been a nice ‘buzz’ about the experiment and a feeling of ‘community’ and/or participation.

I never promised anyone masses of traffic from participating (in fact I said it was likely not to drive traffic) but people have been reflecting back to me that they feel ‘involved’ and that they felt like they were apart of something. I guess people don’t want to just ‘read’ or consume information on blogs – they want to participate.

The other benefit from the project to me was the impact upon my Twitter profile. I had 500 new followers over the weekend – largely from all the Retweets I’d guess.

What a Varied and Rich Community the Blogosphere Is

The thing that has struck (and even moved) me most this weekend is just what an amazing variety of blogs there are. As I read through segments of the list I found myself shaking my head and shouting out to my wife “hey there’s a blog about ……(insert obscure topic here).”

If nothing else this project has inspired me about blogging again. There are some truly creative and remarkable bloggers on in the list of submissions and I would highly recommend you set aside some time today to surf through as many of them as you can.

Link to those you find, spread the word of the hidden gems that you discover, subscribe to their feeds, connect with one another and be inspired by the creativity hidden in the list. The real benefits of this experiment happen now.

Elevator Pitches

Lastly – this project taught me a thing or two about ‘elevator pitches’. I’m not going to write too much about this here as I feel a post on the topic ‘brewing’ but I’ve heard from a number of bloggers who participated that they found the exercise of refining what their blog is about into 140 characters (although some thought it was 140 words) a very rewarding thing.

For those of you who missed the project I’d encourage you to think about how you would have described and pitched your blog in 140 characters – it could be a useful exercise (more on this later).

My Favorite Pitches

I said in my initial post that I’d post a few of my favorite ‘pitches’. At the time I thought there might be a few hundred to wade through not over 1400! I’m going to include a few of those that caught my eye here – but I feel that in doing so I’m doing an injustice to many others who have done a great job also. I would love it if you’d surf the list and highlight your own favorites either in comments below or even on your own blog (if it’s relevant).

Here are 10 (listed in no particular order) that caught my eye over the weekend (for one reason or another):

  • Are your beans for the birds? Learn about eco-friendly, sustainable coffee, and how your morning cup can change the world. – Coffee and Conversation
  • Mom-101. I don’t know what I’m doing either – Mom 101
  • I’m in a band called Linkin Park. For insight into the business and culture of music, plus updates on my band and art, visit me – Mike Shinoda
  • We are the TOP shed blog! Good Looking Sheds – Built To Last. Almost everyone needs a shed! We happen to think so :) – Idaho Wood Sheds Blog
  • You’ve just been sued for statements made on your blog. What do you do? How do you prevent it? Read the California Defamation Law Blog – California Defamation Law Blog
  • About a lioness travelling with a big kangaroo round the world. Right now, we are feeding at a watering hole called Tokyo – Lioness in Japan
  • My readers have called me both a hero and a straight laced prude. You decide – Maw Books
  • A budget fashionista’s hints, tips, tricks and trends for effortless style; because most of us could look better for less. – The Style PA
  • Some chubby math: A Fat man + various meats x bacon – vegetarianism = one funny and entertaining food blog – Eating Cleveland
  • Does this triathlon make my a** look fat? Running, swimming and biking at 51. Why couldn’t I take up knitting, like normal old people?! – Run Mom Run

As I say – these are just 10 of those that for one reason or another caught my attention. There’s 1400 others in the list – which caught your eye most?

How To Build a Successful Email Newsletter

Build-A Successful-NewsletterOver the last week I’ve been talking about Newsletters a little. We’ve covered reasons start a newsletter and how I’ve increased my newsletter subscriber numbers 10 fold.

Today I want to finish this informal mini-series on newsletters off with some tips for actually writing a newsletter.

How to Write an Email Newsletter

Let me say up front that much of what I write below could equally be applied to ‘how to write a successful blog’ (or in fact could be applied to many mediums of communication).

1. Define Your Goals for the Newsletter

This is perhaps the most important thing that I’ll say in this post because virtually everything else flows from this.

What do you want to achieve with this email newsletter? Is it about:

  • driving traffic to your blog?
  • developing community among your readers?
  • building a list to ‘sell’ to?
  • reinforcing your brand?
  • making money from advertising sold in the newsletter?
  • Something else?

When you subscribe to a few different bloggers newsletters it becomes quite evident that different bloggers are taking quite different approaches. For example Chris Brogan’s newsletter is much more about providing his subscribers with lots of new original content (it is well worth subscribing to if you’re into social media and building online communities). He explores a theme each week. On the other hand my photography newsletter is more about highlighting key articles and discussions on my blog and forums from the last week.

The reason our newsletters are so different is that we have different goals.

My main goal is simply to drive traffic back to my blog. I find that many of my readers are not using RSS (quite a few do but there is a sizable proportion of them that have never heard of it) and so my newsletter is a way of hooking these readers into ‘subscribing’ and reminding them to check out fresh content each week.

Chris on the other hand seems to be using his newsletter to give his most committed readers something extra. This builds and reinforces his brand, builds community and gives those of us who subscribe a feeling of being on the inside of what he’s thinking (scary as that might sound).

So work hard on defining what you want to achieve with your newsletter. It can have numerous goals (for example I use mine to drive affiliate sales from time to time and to build a sense of community) but keep your primary goal as the main focus.

2. Communicate What Your Newsletter is About to Potential Subscribers

I subscribed to a newsletter a couple of weeks ago because on the subscription page it said that it gave weekly unique, insider tips from the blogger. However in two weeks I’ve had 6 emails and they’ve all been affiliate promotions (with no insider ‘tips’).

There’s nothing wrong with promoting affiliate products in a newsletter but if you promote it as having original content – provide it. If your newsletter is going to be largely updates form your blog and a way for readers to stay in touch with that don’t hide that fact. It is better to get fewer subscribers who are expecting what you’ll deliver than having people subscribe to find out that you’ve tricked them into joining your list.

3. Establish a Voice and Have Consistency

There are no real ‘rules’ when it comes to how to write a newsletter. In the same way that you can write in almost any ‘voice’ on a blog you can write in almost any style in a newsletter. I personally try to keep my newsletter ‘voice’ pretty similar to my blog (personal, as though I’m speaking to someone) and I find this effective (it means that those who enjoy your blog will enjoy your newsletter).

My main advice with developing your voice in a newsletter is not to chop and change it too much. As with a blog – readers come to expect a certain type of communication from you and so when you change things up a lot it can take away from what you might have already built up in terms of connection with readers.

This doesn’t mean you can experiment and/or evolve your voice over time but it does mean that you should try to have some sort of consistency in what you present to readers. This extends to the design and flow of your newsletter also. I try to stick to the one format over time and find that readers enjoy this consistent approach.

A Comment about ‘Hype’ – One important tip to note when it comes to thinking about your ‘voice’ is to avoid the ‘hyped up’ style that has been used for years by a lot of internet marketers. I’m sure a small number of people still get away with this but I find that most users of the web these days are quite suspicious of this style. Use your newsletter to build relationships and speak to people in a personal way and you’ll build a list that will stick with you (and trust you) over the long haul.

4. Build Value

In the same way that people will not stay subscribed to your blogs RSS feed if it doesn’t provide value to them in some way – people won’t stay subscribed to your newsletter if it isn’t meeting a need that they have.

This ‘value’ and meeting of ‘needs’ can take on many forms. It could be writing original content, giving insider information that you don’t publish on the blog, could be pointing out tools or resources and can even be simply pointing out ‘what’s hot’ on your blog. The key is to watch how users interact with the different parts of your newsletter (see what I write about ‘tracking results’ below) and listening to their feedback. When you do this you’ll soon see what they find useful and what they don’t.

An Important Note about Uniqueness of Content From Your Blog – I see some bloggers say that rehashing what is on your blog in your newsletter is not a good strategy. They argue that if it’s not new and unique content in your newsletter that readers won’t subscribe. While I think this applies in some circumstances it has not always been my experience. My biggest newsletter (my photography one) has 45,000+ subscribers and 90% of it is simply pointing readers to new posts on the blog and forum. Again – this comes down to knowing your blog’s goals. Even rehashing your blog’s content can be ‘useful’ for some readers who don’t have any other way to subscribe to that blog!

5. Scannable Content

It is important to have scannable content in almost every online medium including blogging – but when it comes to email I find it even more important.

If you’re using HTML emails you can do this with color, images, bolding, italics, lists, headings etc – but if you’re using Plain text emails you need to get a little more creative. Consider using symbols and characters, CAPS for headings, line breaks etc to draw the eye down the page.

Again – track different techniques and layouts to see what works best.

6. Track Results

Depending upon the newsletter tool that you use to publish your emails you should have access to be able to track how people are engaging with your newsletter. Aweber (the tool I use) gives a large variety of stats but so do many other quality newsletter tools. Some tools give more advanced reports than others but most will at least allow you to track how many people open your newsletters (this can help you to experiment with subject lines) and what links are being clicked on by how many people in your posts.

Note: Aweber is the tool I use – also check out Get Response – a tool that many bloggers are using with real success.

Paying attention to what links get clicked is a fascinating and productive thing to do. It not only helps you to work out how to write an effective newsletter (and how to improve it) but it gives you incredible insight into what topics your readers are interested in reading more about and what types of language they respond to.

I look forward to analyzing these stats each week and have many times written followup posts on topics that I see a lot of people clicking on in my newsletter.

7. Subject Lines and Opening Lines Matter

When it comes to blogging the most important words that you’ll write are your blog’s title (they can mean the differences between your post being read or not).

When it comes to your email newsletter your subject line really acts as your ‘title’.

I’m still working on what subject lines work best. I find that some readers seem to respond best when the subject line is the same each week (they look for the email each week and like consistency) while others become blind to the same thing each week.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on which is best.

Another thing to note is that what you put at the top of your newsletter will almost always get higher ‘conversion’ than what you put at the bottom. The links you have in your opening paragraph will get clicked more, the affiliate campaigns that you have at the top will convert better, the content that you have first will get read more. It’s the same concept as placing content ‘above the fold’ on a web page – what’s up top gets the most eyeballs!

8. Use a Reliable Newsletter Service

This is a lesson I learned the hard way. In my early days of newsletters I used a free newsletter service called Zookoda. I’m not sure how it performs these days while it worked well at the start it slowly deteriorated in terms of how reliable it was. Emails wouldn’t go out on time and the newsletters that were getting through to those who had subscribed was fewer and fewer every week.

Switching to Aweber saw drastic improvements in how many of my emails were being delivered (and I mean drastic). The ‘cost’ of using a free service may not have been monetary (well not directly) – but it was significant because it meant that I was missing out of connecting with thousands of readers each week.

9. Use Double Opt in Newsletter Services

It is very important to only ever start a newsletter that uses Double Opt in techniques to gather subscribers (ie the person needs to subscribe and then confirm that subscription from an email to them). You can do your brand terrible damage by adding people to your newsletter list without permission or by buying lists of email addresses. Having double opt in systems does decrease your actual subscriber numbers and causes some headaches – but it is important.

Similarly – give people a way to opt out of your newsletter and use a service that includes your postal address in the newsletter. These things are the law in many parts of the world and if you don’t adhere to them you run the risk of not only hurting your reputation with potential readers but suffering the consequences of breaking the law.

3 Bonus Newsletter Tips from Chris Brogan

I used Chris Brogan’s newsletter as an example above so thought I’d drop him a note to see what tips he’d give for budding newsletter developers. Here’s what he replied with:

  • Give useful information more than news. People *say* they like news, but what they really want are actionable items.
  • Chunk the text in the newsletter so that it’s VERY easy to read. Make it very lightweight.
  • Write it personably, because this encourages two way interactions, and if your newsletter has a side intent of helping you do business, every two-way touch is a chance for someone to grant you permission to talk business.

If you have a newsletter/s – what tips would you add?

The Psychology of Blogging

Psychology-Of-BloggingToday Life Coach Tim Brownson from A Daring Adventure explores 6 tips to get your mindset right when approaching blogging.

  • 10 spare hours a week – Check
  • Niche market – Check
  • Basic understanding of SEO – Check
  • Google Adsense account – Check
  • Dummies’ guide to writing great content – Check
  • Burning desire to succeed – Check

There are a lot of great sites, this one included, that can help aspiring writers progress smoothly through the ranks of mere blogging wannabes to the heady heights of ‘A’ listers. To read some articles it would be easy to assume if you follow this A-Z of Blogging success you’ll be basking in the adulation of thousands of subscribers faster than you can say “Really Simple Syndication”.

The reality is that, like people in most industries, few bloggers make a successful transition to the very highest level. Even though they know at a mechanical level what’s needed, they don’t seem to be able to put everything in place. There are a number of obvious reasons such as a lack of focus and/or discipline, inability to write great content and a lack of understanding of the requirements of their target audience, and one less obvious one.

Few newbies take into consideration (or maybe just take for granted) the psychology behind becoming a successful blogger: the ability to roll with the punches and succeed come what may. It’s not enough to just know the technical side of things, you have to be able to stay on track, stay committed and hopefully stay sane. Otherwise you’re likely to burn out quicker than a magnesium candle.

Here are the six tips that, coupled with all the other great advice on offer, will, if not guarantee your success, certainly stack the odds more heavily in your favor.

1. Patience Is A Virtue

If you’re naturally an impatient person you’ll want to curb that tendency when you get into blogging. Otherwise you’re likely to end up very frustrated and very stressed. Wanting to get on with the job in hand is all well and good – but it doesn’t matter how far your veins bulge out of your neck, Alexa won’t be back to your site for a day or two and Google won’t be indexing you on a daily basis to begin with, so let it go.

Do what you need to do to meet your short-term goals and relax in the knowledge that all is good in the world. Be aware of what is within your circle of influence and what is outside it, and then stay focused on the former.

Unless you are very lucky, have lots of spare cash to advertise or have oodles of time on your hands to go on a commenting frenzy, it’s unlikely you’re going to see much of a return inside six months. It can be done, but don’t bank on it

2. Perfectionism Is Pointless

One of the biggest killers of projects is perfectionism in all its various guises. If you are to stand any chance of getting to the stage where all you have to do is switch your computer on to make money, you need to realize that some of your early stuff will be less than stellar.

I thought my early posts were insightful, thought provoking and witty. When I look at them now I roll my eyes and think they were pretentious, self indulgent and forced. It took me over a year to become happy with my writing style and find my niche. Writing is a practice and you’ll improve in the same way as you would if you took up playing the guitar, speaking a foreign lesson or public speaking.

Accept that some of your early stuff will not be perfect and publish it anyway. In fact publish it BECAUSE it’s not perfect. You’ll only really learn and develop as a writer by getting your stuff ‘out there’ and seeing what response you get, or even don’t get.

3. Embrace Failure

I’m sure you have heard the phrase “fail, fail often, and fail quickly”. It makes perfect sense to fail as quickly as you can so that you can learn from those errors and move forward. Ask any ‘A’ lister if they have screwed up at some stage and I’m confident somewhere in the region of 100% will say yes.

That’s life, that is how human beings are wired up to learn and you’re no exception. Of course you should learn as much as you can and avoid the really obvious pitfalls by reading books such as Darren and Chris’s ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income. However there’ll plenty of non-obvious roadblocks specific to your area of expertise that you won’t be expecting and won’t foresee, no matter how much planning and research you do.

Embrace these roadblocks, kiss them and thank each and every one of them for turning up. Each one that you overcome is an opportunity to learn and grow. Not only that, but every one that you deal with successfully separates you from the also-rans that have bailed out at the first sign of trouble.

When (and not if) something goes wrong ask yourself one simple question: “What can I learn from this?” If you can take some valuable experience with you, and know that you won’t repeat the same mistake, then it’s been worth it.

Anybody that has failed spectacularly only to go on to bigger and better things will tell you they wouldn’t have it any other way. We need the agony of short-term failure to ensure delicious long-term and long lasting success.

4. Develop A Thick Skin

Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Unfortunately Benny didn’t have a blog, because if he had the quote would have been “”In this world nothing is certain but death, taxes and if your blog becomes popular people will get jealous and want to see you fail.”

It doesn’t matter how brilliant your blog is, how much you pour your heart and soul into it, how genuine you are and what the quality of the writing is like, some people will still want to see you knocked down a peg or two. In fact, the more successful you are, the more some people will want to see you fail. Twas ever thus I’m afraid.

You’ll probably receive abusive e-mails from time to time as well as commenters who want to make you look foolish and/or criticize you. That’s just life as an ‘A’ list blogger. You need to either deal with it or prepare yourself for the day when you’re asked to put on the jacket with the very long sleeves.

Understand your readers do not know you. Some will think they do and may even start to perceive you as a friend. This is cool as long as they don’t start hanging around outside your house and sending you rabbit paws through the mail, but they still don’t know you. Therefore, any criticism that is aimed at you reveals nothing about you. It says plenty about the person that administers it, but that’s about as far as it goes.

You should deal with criticism the same way as you should deal with compliments: with a pinch of salt. Of course we all prefer to receive compliments, but they’re two sides of the same coin. If you take the good stuff too seriously, you’ll not be able to deal with the bad stuff when it arrives.

Whatever somebody says, simply thank them for their feedback. Then decide whether that feedback is useful and can help you move forward. If it can, great, use it. If it can’t, drop it because you don’t need it.

5. Stay Focused

This leads on from growing a thick skin. If you’re too heavily influenced by what others say you’re going to lose focus. Why did you start the blog? What are your goals? Who are you writing for? Get back to basics and re-connect with your real objectives from time to time. Otherwise you’ll start trying to please everybody and end up pleasing nobody.

Readers will come and readers will go, that’s just how it is. It isn’t about you and it’s pointless to try and work out people’s motives. I have enough trouble trying to work out what is going on inside my own head without trying to second-guess what other people are thinking. Firstly, you’re going to waste a lot of time and emotional energy and secondly you’re probably going to get it wrong, if not horribly wrong. Let it go.

6. Know Your Identity

Your blog is not you; it’s not your identity. If it crashes and burns that doesn’t mean you do too. We all want a successful blog with people lining up to comment and pay us homage (I know I do anyway), but it’s really not life and death.

Keep some perspective. Go all out to achieve your goals (you have got written goals, right?), but don’t stay attached to the results. Not only will that mean you keep a sense of balance, but conversely it will make you more likely to achieve your aims anyway.

Read more from Today Life Coach at A Daring Adventure.

Finding Your Posting Rhythm [Part 2]

Yesterday I suggested 4 tips for helping bloggers to find their posting rhythm:

  1. There is no Right Posting Level
  2. Start out Slow and Work Your Way Up
  3. Monitor Your Readerships Response to Your Posting Levels
  4. Consistency is Important

Today I want to share 4 more tips on posting workflows.

5. Work on Your Posting Workflow – Identify the Blockage Points

One piece of advice that I give new bloggers struggling with this area is to think about their posting workflow.

  • Look at the way that you post – from the idea generation stage through to publishing?
  • Where do the blockages come?
  • How can you put processes in place at those ‘blockage’ points to help free up the flow of posts?

For example I talked with one of our bloggers at b5media recently who was struggling to get posts out. When I asked her to analyze her workflow she identified her main ‘blockage point’ at the idea generation stage. Once she had an idea she could get the post out quite quickly – but was spending a lot of time each day coming up with topics to write on.

Knowing this we were able to develop a simple plan for post idea generation that included getting a notebook for capturing of ideas, setting aside time at the start of each week to brainstorm ideas (rather than doing it just before deadlines), setting out an editorial calendar for the week (so topics were outlined ahead of time) and finding a blog buddy to brainstorm with (two bloggers coming up with ideas for each other).

Another example that comes to mind was a blogger who identified his ‘blockage point’ as what I’d call ‘polishing’ his posts. He loves the writing process but struggled to make his posts look good (finding pictures, coming up with sub headings and the title for his post, spell checking etc). He just found all of this very ‘chore like’. I discovered in talking to him that he had over 50 posts half written in a folder on his desktop!

Once we identified this blockage point the blogger decided that he needed to do two things. Firstly he enrolled himself in a class at an adult education centre – the class was on copy editing. Secondly he gave his wife permission to get on his back about ‘finishing’ posts.

Where are the blockage points in your posting workflow?

Further Reading on blogging workflow:

6. Don’t Post Just for the Sake of Posting

Sometimes as a blogger you face the choice of posting something that is second rate or not posting at all. The temptation is to put a post out there simply to meet a deadline or because you fear your readers reaction if you don’t post something.

The reality is that you can do more harm than good by posting something of lower quality than not posting anything.

Before posting each post ask yourself whether the post will actually enhance your readers lives in some way? Will it help them, entertain them, inform them, educate them, inspire them etc? If the answer is no – strongly consider not hitting publish.

Further Reading on this topicDoes Your Next Post Matter?

7. Batch Writing

One strategy that I find helps me when I need to produce 14 posts a week here at ProBlogger is to set aside time each week to write multiple posts at once. Monday mornings are a a time where I generally camp out in a cafe with my laptop and aim to get 4-5 posts written in one sitting. I also try to do this for a morning later in the week and between the two sessions can usually get one solid post written for each day of the week.

I’ve written more about batch processing previously – it can be applied to many areas of your blogging.

8. You Will Become More Efficient Over Time

Let me finish by giving you a word of encouragement to end on – it gets better! Hang in there.

As I look back on my journey of blogging to when I first started (almost six years ago now) I notice a definite change in my ability to produce content. While it can still be difficult to maintain the posting level that I set myself it has certainly become easier.

One reason for this is that with practice you tend to become a better and more efficient writer. The more you write the better you get at it – particularly if you’re learning from your mistakes and looking to improve.

I suspect also that over time you simply become more proficient with your topic and as you do this are able to draw upon your growing levels of knowledge on the topic.

The other thing that I think I’ve become better at in that time is coming up with topics to write about. I do remember in the early days sitting down at the keyboard and just having a mental blank. However over time you get more used to coming up with ideas – or at least your mind becomes more attuned to capturing the ideas that you get through the day. These days ideas for posts come to me in the most bizarre places (I even recently had an idea while dreaming).