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How 24 Hours of Work Will Send Millions of Readers to My Blog

I have written numerous times about how I use weekly email newsletters to drive significant traffic to my photography site (here’s why newsletters are good and here’s how to use newsletters).

However lately I have started using a second type of newsletter that in time has the potential to send even more traffic. In fact initial testing shows me that it’ll literally send millions of readers over time.

The way I use my normal weekly newsletters is to send an email to my list every Thursday that updates them on the latest posts on the blog and ‘hot threads of conversation’ in the forum.

The second type of newsletter (I’ll call it a ‘special feature‘ newsletter from now on) is quite different.

The idea behind this ‘special feature’ type of newsletter is that it is much more automated than the weekly emails that I send. It takes a little work to set it up – but once you’ve done that you just sit back and watch it do it’s ‘magic’.

Here’s how it works. There are two ways that these special feature emails are different from the weekly updates that I send.

1. The first difference is Topic

These newsletters are not updates of new posts on the blog – but they are much more focused upon a ‘theme’ and point readers to old posts in our archives.

For example – the first of these newsletters focused upon the theme of ‘portrait photography’ (you can view what it is like here). In it I pointed readers to 18 of our best portrait photography posts from the last two years on the blog. I also pointed people to the portrait section of our forum as well as some recommended reading (books) at Amazon. There’s also a ‘recommend to a friend’ invitation – interestingly I have seen it’s been used a few times already).

You can see a what my newsletter looks like here (click to enlarge):

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The idea behind this email is that it brings alive our archives – which are often hidden to new readers of the blog.

2. The second difference is HOW I send the Emails

OK – the real magic of these special feature emails is not the content – but the way that the emails are sent. While weekly emails go out to my list all at once and the benefits from them dies off after a day or two – these special feature emails just keep on giving and giving for months and even years to come. Here’s how:

I use Aweber to send my emails (here’s why I use Aweber). Aweber gives you the ability to send a variety of types of emails. I use their ‘broadcast’ type email for my weekly updates – but for these special feature newsletters I use the ‘autoresponder’ (Aweber also call it a ‘Follow Up’ email) type of email.

Note: Other bloggers that I respect use Get Response to deliver their emails – I’m yet to use it but by all reports it is a feature rich and very reliable option.

An autoresponder is a tool that allows you to send out emails at certain predetermined intervals to people on your list. Let me explain by going back to my portrait photography example:

I set my email not to go out immediately to my list – but for it to go out 2 weeks after subscribers sign up to receive newsletters. This means that if you sign up for my photography newsletter today – that you’ll get the portrait tips newsletter in 14 days time. It also means that anyone who has signed up for my newsletter at any point in the past before 14 days ago got the email immediately.

What this means is that everyone on my list gets the email – but unlike my weekly newsletters which only go out to anyone currently signed up – these special feature newsletters go out to anyone that signs up for my newsletter at any point in the future.

As I’m getting 300 new signups to my newsletter a day at present – this means that my portraits newsletter goes out to my 57,000 current subscribers but will go out to the 110,000 subscribers who sign up in the next 12 months (300 a day)… and hundreds of thousands of others in the years that follow.

The initial tracking that I’ve done is that 86% of those who get these emails are opening them and clicking on at least one link.

But Wait There’s More – Here’s How to Extend the Idea

OK – so I’ve set up this portraits newsletter and the 2 hours that it took me to build it are going to pay off for years to come. But how can I extend this idea further?

My plan is to develop a new special feature newsletter every month. So 30 days after readers receive their Portrait Photography special feature they’ll receive another one – on Travel Photography. 30 days after they get the travel photography one they’ll get one on Exposure/Settings, 30 days later they’ll get one on Composition….. etc

Over a year I’ll have 12 special feature newsletters in place.

Do the sums on this and when they are all in place the amount of people getting special feature emails on a daily basis will be 3600. Add to this the current 57,000 people on my list and over the next few years millions of people will get these newsletters.

If I can achieve the 86% open rate with them – that’ll drive millions of visitors to the blog and forum.

I’d estimate that each of these emails will take me 2 hours to put together – so 12 of them will take me 24 hours. Considering that they’ll continue to drive traffic to the site for years to come – I’d say that this is a pretty good use of time.

Of course this is not just about driving traffic to the blog – it’s also about giving readers value and a service (which builds loyalty and brand) as well as promoting affiliate products in the newsletters (and I could potentially sell advertising in them also). I think this type of newsletter has real potential with affiliate programs as each newsletter is focused upon a single topic and if you can match a good product with that topic in terms of relevancy I suspect conversion will be quite good.

Note: of course the results I’m getting with these newsletters have been the result of me building up a blog for 2 years. I already have a large list of subscribers and a lot of traffic coming to the blog. However the same principles can be applied to a blog with smaller traffic also. If you can sign up 10 new people to your list every day and have 12 monthly newsletters in place – at the end of the year you’ll have a list of 3650 and you’ll be sending out tens of thousands of emails a year.

The key is to start building and communicating with a newsletter list now.

Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging?

Every now and again I get an email from a ProBlogger reader excitedly telling me that they’re about quit their jobs to become full time bloggers. More often than not they are new bloggers who for one reason or another have it in their minds that blogging for money is a quick and easy thing to do.

This post is yet another attempt (I’ve done this 2-3 times a year since 2004) to help bloggers thinking about blogging for money to get a realistic picture of what is possible.

I always struggle a little with responding to these emails. On the one hand I love the enthusiasm that new bloggers often have and don’t want to be responsible for squashing it and leaving them despondent.

Blogging is an exciting medium, it is filled with many possibilities (one of which is profit), it is a lot of fun and it is possible to make a full time living from doing it. In fact it’s possible to go beyond making a living from blogging – (stories like this one about a 1 man blog being sold for $15 million illustrate this).

HOWEVER…..

The reality is that most bloggers never sell their blog for millions…. in fact most bloggers don’t even come close to a full time living from blogging. Every time I’ve surveyed my readers on how much they earn the majority report that they’re earning less than $100 a month with most of those earning less than $10 a month.

Can you REALLY Make Money Blogging?

The simple answer to this question is – yes.

It is possible to make money blogging. In fact it’s quite likely that if you try to make money blogging and stick with it for the long haul that you will make at least some money blogging – however ‘some’ money is different to ‘much’ money.

Can you Make MUCH Money Blogging?

Again – the simple answer is yes. You can make a lot of money blogging. The example of the $15m blogger above is one example. My own experience is less spectacular but is another story of a blogger making a good living from the medium (I’ve been earning well into the ‘six figures’ range for a number of years now.

It is possible – but every statistic I’ve ever read shows that it’s not likely, at least for the majority of bloggers, to make ALOT of money blogging.

As mentioned above – I’ve surveyed my readers a number of times on their earnings. One of these surveys was back in May 2006 (I did one with very similar results in November 2007 and things seem similar in the current poll I’m running on this same topic) where I found that my readers were earning a large spread of income levels from blogging:

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While 7% reported earning over $15,000 a month (I suspect this is a little inflated – some people tend to pick extreme results in polls just because) 57% report earning less than $100 a month. 30% reported earning less than 30 cents a day.

I don’t know about you – but that chart is both sobering and inspiring all in one. It shows quite clearly that most bloggers are not making much – but does also seem to indicate that there are some bloggers out there who are at least making at least a part time supplementary income from blogging.

Getting Your Expectations about Earning Money from Blogging Right

OK – some of you are possibly quite depressed by this stage. Should you give up on your dreams of making a living from blogging? Is it all too hard? Is it worth it?

Don’t give up but be Realistic.

My encouragement to all bloggers with the dream of building a blog that makes money is simple. Get into the game – but do so with realistic expectations. A few thoughts and tips to help you get those expectations right:

Aim for the sky but set your sights on the next step

There’s nothing wrong with having big dreams. Very early on in my own blogging for money story I began to see the possibilities of earning a good living from blogs. Dreams are great for motivating and inspiring you – but they can also be a distraction and set you up for disappointment. Allow yourself time to think about ‘what could be’ but then get yourself focused upon the next step you need to take to take yourself in the direction you want to end up.

For me this was about setting realistic goals of what I could achieve in the next month. Each month I had the goal of increasing monthly traffic to my blogs by 10% on the previous month. This meant that over time I would see exponential growth to my blogs. With a goal of 10% growth in mind I then set myself ‘tasks’ – concrete things that I could do to achieve the goal (writing certain amounts of posts, networking with other bloggers etc).

Don’t give up your day job

There may one day come a time when you can give up that job and focus upon blogging full time – but that time is not likely to be now for most people reading this. My own experience of this (I share an extended version of my story of taking blogging from a hobby to a full time thing in the ProBlogger book by the way) was that I worked a number of part time jobs and was studying part time in my early days of blogging. As my blog income grew I slowly decreased the time I was working other jobs.

I actually was working a part time job even after I was earning a full time income from blogging. I wanted to have a backup in case things went pear shaped (in fact this was smart because at one point Google reindexed my blogs and my blogging income largely disappeared for a couple of months).

It’s really important to be responsible with cutting off other income sources in order to ‘go Pro’ as a blogger – particularly if you have a family relying upon your as the main income earner. I’ve seen a number of very sad stories of people taking this drastic action only to leave their family without income.

I’ve previously written about this in a post about Monkey Bar Blogging.

Take a Long Term View

Most successful blogs take years to build to their potential. It takes up time to:

  • build a large enough archive of posts
  • to build up loyal readers and subscriber numbers
  • to become known in your niche, to ‘get blogging’
  • to find your voice
  • to get authority in the eyes of the search engines…. etc

None of this just happens. It takes years to grow a blog.

It’s NOT Passive Income

Another common misconception about blogging for money is that it becomes ‘passive income’ – that you can sit back and let your blog earn you big dollars while you enjoy your lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong – there are a few ‘passive’ elements to the income that a blog can generate. For example:

  • I could go away for a week today and not post anything on my blog and it would still earn me money
  • posts that I wrote 4 years ago continue to generate income for me

Yes it could be argued on these fronts that the income is somewhat passive. However blogging for money is a lot of hard work. Most bloggers whose blogs make it big time put a lot of time and energy into building their blogs. Most that I’ve met have worked beyond full time hours on their blogs over years.

This isn’t to say that it’s not fun – one of the things I’ve discovered in the last few years is that hard work can be a lot of fun (who would have thought) – but there are days when it is very time consuming and challenging work.

Not all Blogs are Created Equal

I am often asked – ‘how many visitors a month do I need to earn $XXX?’

While I’d love to be able to give people a formula for working out the answer to this question the reality is that every blog is so different from every other blog. I’ve worked with hundreds of bloggers over the years and each time I do I relearn the lesson that no two blogs are alike.

Blogs vary from niche to niche (ie a finance blog will earn differently to a craft blog which will earn differently to a tech blog) – but even within niches they will perform very differently (I’ve had two photography blogs over the years and they couldn’t be more different).

I bring this up because quite often I come across bloggers who model their blogs after other blogs – sometimes to the point of copying every aspect of them. Unfortunately this isn’t a great way forward. Most successful blogs cut new ground, have their own voice, blog in their own style and tackle a topic with their own perspective. As a result they grow differently, attract their own audience and monetize differently.

Do learn from other blogs and bloggers – but also attempt to find your own way.

Further Reading:

I’ve talked about these issues numerous times in the past here at ProBlogger. One post that you might want to look at if you’d like a few tips on how to build a blog is a post I wrote some time ago outlining 18 Lessons I’ve learned about Blogging.

Beginner Blogger? Download this Free Report

If you’re a new blogger or one that’s been at it for a while but need a ‘boost’ you need to grab this free ‘Roadmap Report’ from the team at Become a Blogger – Yaro Starak and Gideon Shalwick.

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Yaro is the guy behind the very successful BlogMastermind blog coaching and mentoring program and has been working with Gideon on this new resource. Together they’ve produced a great series of free videos for those starting out in blogging at Become a Blogger. These videos have been watched tens of thousands of times and have helped many bloggers.

In the new Roadmap to Become a Blogger reports there’s some great information. Much of it centers around the idea of the X-factor – techniques that can help you stand from the crowd out as a blogger.

update: for those of you who don’t like to read – Yaro and Gideon have just released an audio version of it to those who have signed up.

What does it cost you?

The Roadmap report and videos are all free.

There is a paid program being launched in a couple of days that extends the ideas in the report but having read the report a few days ago I think there’s value in there whether you signup for the full paid program or not.

The actual course will be priced at a very affordable level from what I hear and looks like being something that will fit with many ProBlogger readers – but you can get a taste for if you are interested in that with this report and videos.

Characteristics of Traffic Generating Posts

When I set TwiTip up look after itself over the weekend (I set up a few posts to go live at specific times) I wasn’t expecting it to be a huge weekend of traffic. The posts were good – but there were less than during the week and past history shows weekends are quiet (particularly those after big holidays like Thanksgiving).

On Sunday night I logged into the blog to moderate comments and was surprised to see that on Saturday the blog had had it’s highest day of traffic since it was launched a few weeks back and Sunday was looking good to be a pretty decent day too.

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What happened?

As I reflect upon the reasons for this traffic – it all comes down to content. Over the weekend I had two particular posts that drove the vast majority of traffic to the blog.

In this post I want to take a look at these two posts and reflect upon some of their characteristics that I think were responsible for the traffic.

1. Ten People All Twitter Beginners Should Be Following - this is the post that started it all. It was a guest post by Mark Hayward that I really should have known had the potential to go viral (I guess when I posted it on the Friday I was a little tired after a big week).

Why did the post draw in a lot of traffic? A number of reasons come to mind:

  • Controversy – while I don’t believe Mark intended it to be controversial – it was. There was quite a bit of talk around Twitter about those included in this list of Twitter users and whether they should have been included, who was missed out, whether the list should have been written…. etc. Of course every time it was discussed the link was passed on which of course drew people to have a look.
  • List – the ‘list’ format of post is a classic way of getting a post to go viral. Find out why in my post – 8 Reasons Why Lists are Good for Getting Traffic to Your Blog.
  • People Focus – there’s something about writing about other people that seems to draw a crowd. I’m not sure why it is – but I can think of numerous occasions that I’ve published posts about ‘people’ where the posts went viral. One of the reasons for this is that the people being written about (and their fans) often pass on these lists to others (a few retweeted it themselves).
  • Fulfilled a Need - whether you agree with the list or not – it actually seemed to connect with a lot of readers simply because they were beginner users of Twitter and didn’t know who to follow. This post gave people with this need an answer to this problem and a practical way to fix it.
  • Social Media - of course one of the advantages that a blog about Twitter has is that it tends to be read by fairly active Twitter users who are used to spreading links around as part of their normal web surfing. This post (and the next one) got linked to quite a bit on Twitter.
  • Repeat Tweets - one of the weaknesses with Twitter as a way of spreading news of a post on your blog is that when you tweet your links the impact of those tweets can be quite temporary because they tend to only be seen by people for a short period of time before your tweet is pushed down the list of tweets that they are following. I find that reweeting your own tweets every now and again can give fresh momentum to those who didnt’ see your first one (I only do it on my best posts and a maximum of 2-3 times a day.

2. Construct your own ‘Top 10 Must Follow’ List as it Relates to Your Own Niche – this next post was not planned and was written on the fly on Sunday morning after I logged in and saw some of the buzz around the first post above.

As I began to read some of the comments on the first post (both those that didn’t like the list and those that did) I realized that there was an opportunity to take the ‘buzz’ further.

Actually – if I am honest, the idea the idea actually came to me as I did damage control and as I wrote a comment on the first post answering some of the concerns that readers had with it. I didn’t really want things to blow up and was trying to find a way to turn some of the negativity into something more positive.

One of the recurring comments about the first post was that it was too narrow – that the list just focused upon those into social media as a topic. It struck me that while this was a valid critique that on another level it actually made the list more valuable to those with that interest.

A light bulb went on and in the comment I suggested people create more lists that focused upon specific niches/topics/industries. Within 20 minutes of making that suggestion people began to take up my idea and post comments. I quickly realized that the idea had energy and decided to make the idea into an actual post.

Once I did this – the post really took off. A number of reasons come to mind as to why it did:

  • Momentum – the first post fed the second (and the second fed the first). I find that when I write posts one after the other that build upon each other that it can have a powerful impact upon a blog’s traffic. This is a perfect example of what I talk about in a previous post – How to Keep Momentum Going by Building on Previous Posts. One of the take home lessons from this is that it’s important to monitor how people are responding to your posts because in those responses could be a seed for future ones.
  • Reader participation – this post gave readers a specific invitation to do something very practical and relevant to their own interests. People respond well to invitations to answer questions or do little challenges (as long as they are not too hard) and that is part of the reason for the success of this post. Interestingly, many of the people who constructed lists then went on to tweet links to their comments because they were proud of their submissions and they were relevant to what they used Twitter for.
  • Positive/Constructive Focus – while there was a slight negativity about some of the comments in the first post’s ‘controversy’ – there was a very different vibe in the comments on the second. People seemed to appreciate and respond well to the positive and constructive challenge.
  • Invitation to Blog about it – in this post I gave people the opportunity to leave their lists either in comments or on their own blogs. Most left comments but a number blogged about it – most of those that did linked back to my post to give their list context (even though I didn’t require or even ask for this).

Concluding Remarks

The lists of characteristics in these posts above are things that I think are some great starting points for writing popular posts. They don’t guarantee them – and you certainly couldn’t use them all in every post that you write – but as I look over them I see that many of them have worked for me in previous posts.

It also strikes me as I read through them that while I was quite strategic about my second post – that the first one was a little more accidental (at least from my perspective). Sometimes posts have a life of their own take off for reasons you didn’t anticipate. The key in these times is to be watching out for opportunities to extend the life of these traffic events.

PS: to further build the momentum on these two posts I’m going to take some of the reader submitted lists and turn them into posts themselves (see the update on the second post).

How Much Money Did You Earn from Blogging in October 2008?

It’s time for another annual poll here at ProBlogger – this one asking readers how much they earned in October 2008? I’ve run this poll a number of times over the last couple of years and the results are always interesting.

Just to qualify it – I’m asking about ALL blogging revenue that you can tie to your actual blog. Advertising, affiliate revenue, revenue that your blog might have brought in in terms of consulting etc. As long as you feel your blog drew the money in then I’m happy for it to be included.

In October, How Much Did You Earn from Blogging?
View Results


Looking forward to seeing your results.

Ten Tips for Stats Addicts

Today Dr. Nicole from Kitchen Table Medicine shares her story of overcoming her Stats Addiction and gives some tips on what to do with your time to build your blog instead of checking stats.

Do you obsessively check your blog traffic stats throughout the day? Do you optimistically expect your Alexa ranking to drop every four hours? Do you frequently fret over your Google Page Rank? Do you watch your Adsense account like a hawk throughout the day? Well as much as these statistical markers may be helpful in understanding the success of your blog, they may also be interfering with the long term growth of your website.

Not only is checking stats a total time kill, but it can be a real buzz kill too when it doesn’t turn out the way we want.

In a month’s time, I stopped checking my stats only to return and find that my page views had doubled if not tripled, and my Alexa ranking had dropped from it’s consistent 252K to 151K! WOW!

So what happened? Had I actually changed anything I was doing…no not really I had just freed up a few extra hours to spend doing something more productive for my blog then obsessing over my stats.

First of all as a recovering stats addict I can’t stand before you all pure and pristine that I actually decided to give up stats all on my own, I never stopped obsessing over my stats intentionally. Actually, I was locked out of my stats program when my website crashed from hitting the front page of Digg! When I upgraded to a better host, their stats program was down for maintenance.

I WAS LOCKED OUT OF CHECKING MY STATS! OH THE TRAUMA!!!

Do you feel my pain?

For the entire month of October I was unable to check my stats! Only those of you obsessed with the constant joyful reassurance that checking stats brings can even begin to understand the frustration!!!

In an attempt to just “go with the flow” I decided to give up worrying about stats and start spending my time on marketing, writing, and building my readership….you know those things I should have been doing all day instead of wondering about my readers in Zimbabwe and if more people read my blog through IE7 or FF?

So you can only imagine my extreme paranoia when I finally could log back in to my site statistics and see if I was meeting my goals. You can only imagine my shock when I logged back in to see 10,000 page views a day!

Previously I would freak out if I hadn’t hit my goal of 3500 page views daily. Previously I liked considered 3500 pv’s my “fighting weight”.

So I was SHOCKED to find in just one month’s time that my baseline was bumped up to 7000-10,000 page views a day!

WOW! Maybe there really is something to this…

For most of us bloggers checking stats is the immediate reward we need for our day. However, checking stats can also be discouraging when we log in to find that a post was not as successful as we hoped.

So can you do it? Can you stop checking your stats? Are you fit for the challenge to completely give up obsessing over your stats for an entire month? Can you stop doing it every day and sit down for an hour once a week to go over it all? In hindsight the following ten traffic building tips are what I unintentionally ended up doing to build up traffic, and for just 20-30 freed up minutes a day, you can likely double your traffic flow in a month as well:

1. Stop checking your stats and stop writing for stats!

Write from your heart. I know we hear this over and over and OVER again, but readers really don’t “care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Keep it fresh, keep it live, and let it flow right through you. Say what is on your mind and be passionate about your beliefs. You may lose a few readers occasionally with some extreme viewpoints, but it ensures everyone else that you are at least always giving your honest opinion. When I couldn’t check in to my stats after a while I suddenly found myself not writing for stats but instead remembering all the things I always wanted to write about…and then writing about them.

2. Instead of checking stats, help out a fellow blogger!

Offering newbie bloggers in your field guidance and feedback for instance is a great POSITIVE way to spend a bit of free time. One day out of severe boredom while my site was down I started a forum thread offering help to people about their blog. It was a fun project for me and a valuable learning opportunity for those brand new to blogging. Pay it forward instead of obsessing on your latest stats. People quickly pick up on your kindness and will link to you like crazy. Please don’t go about this with the intention to gain backlinks. Don’t be fake, just sincerely make an effort to help out those folks you see with a great deal of potential, because it feels really good and truly is SO much more rewarding than checking stats. Honestly I think this is what helped my traffic out the most. The fact that I found myself a bit bored from not checking stats and so started just checking in on other bloggers.

3. Interview other bloggers.

In just FIVE MINUTES you can put together a fantastic set of FIVE interview questions that will not only promote another blogger, but will hopefully bring along some of their following. Find someone that specializes in a niche within your niche and you instantly have a free SEO friendly page perfectly made for your website….by an expert! Don’t forget to ask them for all their favorite links to add as resources, readers love it, and it easily connects you to other like minded bloggers.

4. Participate in discussion forums.

I always participate in the threads that catch my interest and the threads that are within my niche. Participating in your community is a million times more beneficial than obsessively obsessing over you your stats.

5. Check in on your readers instead of your stats!

Pay a visit to your latest commenter’s, thank them for stopping by your blog and read their latest article. Being a successful blogger means being part of a community. Are there any top bloggers that are an island within themselves on the internet? Not that I know of. Chances are if you have the time to fritter away checking stats, you are better off using that precious time to build your community.

6. Sign up for a new social network each day instead of obsessing over stats.

The more websites your blog is featured on, the more enmeshed in the internet you become. It only takes a few minutes to get signed up. I just copy and paste my info from Blog Catalog consistently in to each new site. If you are seriously obsessed with stats you may need to be prescribed two to three social networks a day to fill the void!

7. Write a scintillating guest post such as this one (well hopefully).

Translate those moments obsessing over stats into something productive like guest posting. Ask to be interviewed. A great guest post can be done in a matter of minutes. Many bloggers are just looking for a quick basic bit on your area of expertise. Write up a list of tips and tricks that reference longer posts on your site to generate new interest to old content. A great guest post can typically be done in a matter of twenty minutes. You know the basics about your field. Don’t waste your research time on a guest post. Talk about the stuff that constantly rattles out of you. You will sound more like an expert that way anyways. Save writing longer articles for your own site, and then write guest post “press releases” using them as a reference. Whatever you do, just keep writing, you got in to this business because you love to write—right?

8. Reach out to new friends at Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit, and Mixx.

These social news sites are fantastic places for promoting your news and the more friends you have the better. I spend about 15 minutes on intentional time per day per social network and it is plenty. You don’t have to be on the front page, don’t digg your life away. Remember the best way to have a friend is to BE a friend. Spend a few minutes each day voting for your favorite articles and finding like minded authors and readers in your field. Now write some articles intended for the front pages of these sites. I know I know…Ignore my previous recommendation to write from your heart. Suck it up and write some REAL newsworthy piece of journalism for your niche. Spend some time on the front pages of Digg and Stumbleupon in your category to see what becomes popular. When you learn to consistently craft posts that are eye catching and intriguing they will inevitably hit the front pages. For Digg and Mixx I write brief journalistic newsworthy features on the latest in alternative medicine research, and for stumbleupon it is all about the simple numbered lists of tips and tricks, quizzes, and photos. I’m sure right at this moment you can easily go through your categories and find a theme for some numbered posts such as my article “21 Free Preventative Medicine Tips” .

I actually now create categories for certain tips and do a post a month on this topic until I have enough for a great viral link post.

9. Keep a stats journal.

Instead of obsessing about your stats on your computer make a stats journal. Write a log of the post title’s for each day, the time you posted them, what you did to promote them, if they became popular on any social media sites, etc. Then sit down with your stats journal for a couple hours at a time once a week and try to make REAL sense over your page traffic instead of just obsessing over numbers and feeling destroyed if today wasn’t as popular as yesterday. Looking at the big picture is the best way to address stats. Is it really worth all your time to spend your day on Digg when 90% of your socialnetworking traffic comes from Stumbleupon? Hmmm…Maybe not.

10. Read Problogger.net!

Ha…you all know that Darren did not edit this in because I made it the last tip and not the very first ;) But really we always save the best tip for last and the most important thing you can do to improve your page traffic is become a better blogger. You are far better off reading Problogger or your other favorite blog improvement blog 15 minutes four times a day then you are obsessing over stats. I remember a post a while back here on ProBlogger on how to be a “Meta” blogger. Some people hated the post, but I took it to heart and the advice has rung true on many frustrating occasions. The message behind “meta” is that you don’t have to be the very best each and every day. You just have to be a little bit better than we were yesterday. That is why Meta is bettah.

In all honesty, if you are on the internet to write, if you are passionate about blogging, I hope you will be inspired by my little stats success story to focus on your readers and your writing, and not use stats to determine the success of your blogging endeavor. Instead of obsessing over your traffic, obsess over ways to improve it.

Could you give up checking your stats for an entire month? A week? One day? Two hours?

What else would you recommend to increase traffic instead of checking stats?

An Open Letter to the Amazon Associates Program

Dear Amazon.

I have been using your Associates program for quite a few years now – from the early days when I earned just a few dollars a month to today when I send you tens of thousands of dollars of business each month. I’ve written about why I believe in your program and have no doubt sent you hundreds (if not thousands of affiliates in my time).

By my calculations I’ve sent you around $1,500,000 of sales over the last five years.

I’m very grateful for the $70,000+ you’ve sent me in affiliate payments and am by no means am I your biggest affiliate but I hope that having reached the million dollars in sales mark you’ll forgive me this note to express a concern that I have in the hope that it might help improve your program.

I am increasingly frustrated by your payment system.

While you offer direct debit payments to those situated in the USA – I live in Australia and so have two options for payment – gift certificates and check. Lets take a look at both methods:

1. Gift Certificates – as someone who earns $2000-$3000 in commissions each month from Amazon it is simply not feasible for me to take my payments in certificates. For starters I’d run out of things to buy pretty quickly – particularly because most of your high ticket items cannot be shipped outside of the USA.

This leaves me with the option of either just buying books, DVDs and CDs ($2-$3k worth a month….) or buying things, shipping them to US friends and having them repost them to Australia. It also means having to pay for international shipping on everything I buy – not cheap. Lets just say that all of this rules out the gift certificate option (although I take it once a year if I’m doing a trip to the US).

2. Check – this leaves me with only one option – receiving a check. Let me say that your checks do come quickly. I get them within a couple of weeks of the end of the month – a lot faster than others (nice work) – however a check of over $2000 in Australia needs to be processed and sent by my bank back to the USA before it can be cleared. This takes six weeks from the day I bank it.

This means that money I make from Amazon on the 1st of a month can take six weeks before I get the check and then another six weeks before I can see the money. That’s 3 months!

All in all this is one of the slowest and antiquated payment systems that I have to use. Every other affiliate program or ad network that I use (and I use a few) gives either the option for an international direct deposit or a PayPal transfer, particularly to affiliates who earn over a certain threshold.

The only other affiliate program that insists upon me receiving checks gives me the option to have them split into smaller amounts (so I get 2-3 of them each month) so that the check can be processed locally without the six week delay.

I love the Amazon affiliate program but the payment system is increasingly frustrating me. I’d love to see you do something about it for myself and my fellow non US affiliates and in doing so improve your already great program.

I know you must be kind of busy with your big Black Friday sale – but I’d appreciate your consideration to this.

Darren Rowse – ProBlogger.net

PS: having just added up how much business I’ve sent you ($1.5M made me have to sit down) it strikes me that you’re the largest affiliate program or ad network that I deal with that I’ve never had any personal contact with. Again – I’m sure I’m a small fish in comparison to some of your other affiliates – but other affiliate programs and ad networks give their medium to large affiliates quite a bit more personal attention.

Some assign account managers, others call every now and again to see how we’re going, quite a few offer special premium commissions for larger publishers, quite a few send a gift…. or even a card at Christmas time to say thanks for the business. Amazon…. well you send me checks that take 6 weeks to clear.

Don’t get me wrong – checks are nice and you’ve more than helped me make a dent in my mortgage…. but when web publishers are making the choice of which affiliate program to use on their websites, sometimes the little things count.

Is Your Blog Search Lijit [REVIEW]

Lijit Logo

Search on blogs is a relatively simple concept. You type in a few keywords related to a post and results are presented to you that are local to that blog. However, what if you could extend the functionality of the search function to go beyond your blog to cover the videos you have published on YouTube, your Twitter account, bookmarks, network of friends, and the blogs you read in your RSS reader? That’s exactly what  Lijit enables you to do.

Company Info:

Lijit is based out of Boulder, CO which is a surprise to many considering silicon valley is typically the home for most Internet based businesses. Using the power of people, their content, and their connections, Lijit aims to enhance the way your readers search for and discover information on the Internet. You serve as a filter for all of the results your readers could possibly receive, ensuring they only receive the most relevant results from the source they trust. That source being you.

Signing Up And Configuration:

Before we get things underway, be prepared to spend 15-30 minutes to not only create an account but also to configure the search widget. The first thing you’ll need to do is submit your blogs URL. Once you provide the URL, the next configuration page has a list of services that are grouped by purpose. For each site/service that you have an account with, you’ll need to tell Lijit what your user name is for that service. If you have an account with a site that is not listed, Lijit does provide an option for you to provide a link to a URL, RSS, or OPML feed which will be added into the search results.

Lijit Network

Once that is done, the next page is all about adding your network to your  account. This network consists of your MyBlogLog account, the blogs you read, your blogroll, del.icio.us, Lijit users etc. This extended network is also added to your Lijit search engine.

The third configuration page is where you get to create your user account. After you create your account, Lijit will take all of the information you provided and mash it all together into a personalized search engine. After your search engine is created, you’ll have a chance to configure the look and feel of the search widget so it looks good within your blog theme. Customization options include choosing widget styles, color palettes, logo colors, choosing what is displayed such as content icons or popular searches within a cloud and re-search.

Re-search is described by Lijit as:

When a search brings someone to your blog, Lijit’s Re-Search feature takes the query they used, re-performs that search through your Lijit search engine (hence the name “Re-Search”), and shows the top few results in a special display on your blog. You can pick the display location — either at the top of your blog or just above your Lijit Search Wijit.

On your stats page, Lijit shows the number of times Re-Search has been displayed in the “Number of Searches” bar graph and in the “Stats Summary” box. (Note that if you have Re-Search disabled, we’ll still show the data, but label it as “potential Re-Searches” so you can see what you missed!)

Installing The Widget:

Lijit supports TypePad and WordsPress out of the box. For sites such as Tumblr, LiveJournal, etc, there is a piece of javascript that can be used to install the widget on your blog. Considering my personal blog is WordPress based, you know which I one I chose. Lijit provides a WordPress plugin which is installed like any other plugin. Simply unzip the file, upload it to your WordPress plugin directory and activate it. Then guess what. You have to log into your WordPress administration panel and perform some more configuration options.

Lijit Plugin Settings

Thankfully, configuring the widget is a pretty simple process. One of the cool features of the plugin is that, you can choose to either use the standard Lijit Widget which appears in your blogs sidebar or you can substitute the WordPress search function with the Lijit search.

Service In Use:

After all is said and done, take a look at your blogs front page and perform a search via the Lijit search box. A Light-box style window should pop up which displays the results. It’s pretty easy to see how Lijit is monetizing the service as they have ads served by Google on the right hand side as well as above the search results.

Lijit Search

The search result window provides at least four different tabs from which to perform a search query. By default, the blog url is searched. However, users can choose to search via your content, network, or the web itself. Of course, if people were going to search the web, I’d think they would do that from the Google Homepage.

After performing a few test search queries, I found the search results to be pretty accurate. One of the cooler features found within the search results is that, there is a link underneath each result that is labeled “What’s The Connection“. Upon clicking on the link, you’ll see how the result is connected to the search engine. A great feature to have, especially when visitors are performing searches through the Content or Network tabs.

If you feel unsatisfied with the results that Lijit provides, there is a link at the bottom of the page which takes you to the their feedback page. The topic is automatically filled in with what you were searching for enabling the team to focus their efforts on that specific search query for your domain.

Stats:

One nice thing about Lijit that the default WordPress search bar doesn’t do is give you statistics. Lijit provides an entire area for statistics that is tied to your account. You can track how many searches are performed on your blog, the keywords that were searched, total searches, geographical location, page views, your exposure and much more.

Lijit Stats

In fact, the exposure tab actually notified me of people that were linking to me that I didn’t know about previous to using the service. Although in at least one case, Lijit picked up on some links that were old and when clicking on the pages that supposedly had a link to my blog, I received a 404 error.

Conclusion:

I’ve seen a number of big name blogs using Lijit for quite some time now, including this one. In my opinion, Lijit has two killer features wrapped in one. The first being control. End users are in control of what appears in their search engine which leads me to feature number two. The ability to create a personalized search engine that only taps into your blog content, but can be customized to search all of the content you have produced on other sites/services across the web. On top of that, you can then add blogs that you read and or trust to your search engine which is then used by your readers. Hopefully, other people have added your own blog to their personalized Lijit search as this all means there is a possibility of receiving traffic not only from Google, but from personalized Lijit search engines as well.

If there was one thing I don’t like about the service it would be the way in which search results are displayed. Instead of the search result shown in a window that seems like a popup, I would much rather have the results displayed as if they were natural to my blog. For instance, I’d love it if they provided a way for me to add a bit of code to my WordPress themes search result template page. Not sure how difficult that would be, but at least the results would look natural. Other than that, I can easily see why some of the biggest names in blogging are using Lijit.

Things To Look Forward To:

During the course of this review, I was able to get in touch with Micah Baldwin who is VP of Business Development and he gave me the lowdown on some things that Lijit is working on behind the scenes.

  • additional content sources (that can be added to a publisher’s results);
  • further control over look and feel of results (providing publishers more ways to integrate Lijit search results into their publications);
  • some new “bling” to the results themselves (meaning more information attached to individual results, like thumbnails, etc);
  • more ways for publishers to derive revenue from their search results;
  • greater opportunities for advertisers to create relationships with the right publishers;
  • continued measurement of the influence of publishers, and the ability to present that measurement to readers.

Basically, we are focused on: constantly making Lijit search results unique and representative of the publisher; increasing publisher pageviews and reader engagement; and optimizing the ability of publishers to generate revenue from a forgotten or under- monetized area of their publication.

The future looks bright for Lijit. Be sure to let me know in the comments if you currently use Lijit on your own blog and if you prefer it over the default search engine that comes with your publishing software of choice.

Thesis WordPress Theme – 20% off Black Friday Sale Now On

If you’re looking to upgrade the design of your blog and are interested in a premium blog design then Thesis is a theme that theme that today you can get a pretty good special price on.

For the first 150 people to take up the offer there’s a 20% discount – IF you use this code in the signup process – 20D03977D0.

update: this has been extended beyond the first 150 people due to large demand. The discount runs out at the end of the day on Friday.

This means that the personal license is $69.60, the developer license (unlimited use of the theme on multiple blogs) is $131.20 and the developer upgrade (if you already have a personal license) is $61.60.

I’ve been using the Thesis theme over at TwiTip and while I’d previously giving it a pretty positive review I am now an even bigger fan. The configurability of this theme is really great. It allows you to set it up in many different formats and by default is configured well for SEO (I started getting search traffic within days).

I’m also pretty impressed by the way that Chris Pearson has been developing the theme over time (it’s up to version 1.3 and 1.4 is coming soon – you get all the upgrades for free) and by the forums that you get access to as a theme owner (I’ve found a few great ideas there).

This price is only available to those using this promotional code – 20D03977D0. Get your theme at the Thesis Page.