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Blogger Proof Workout

BloggproofworkoutcoverRegular readers of ProBlogger know that I’ve been attempting to get back in shape lately.

I’ve been seeing a personal trainer, exercising 3-4 times a week, eating better food, smaller portions and more regularly during the day. It’s only been 4 weeks but I’m beginning to feel lighter, the scales say I’m losing weight (I’m not exactly sure how much but I’ve moved down a size around the waist and lost 2-3kg in the last week and a half), I’ve got more energy and interestingly I’m starting to think a little more clearly.

I’m not buff by any means (and don’t expect to be) but am feeling a lot better for it so far.

So today when a reader emailed me with the suggestion that I check out a new free ebook titled Blogger Proof Workout, A Simple Workout for Bloggers I thought it’d be right up my alley.

OK – so it’s a little unconventional, but the principles are good and encourage bloggers to think about ways that they can add a little movement and exercise into their day – without leaving the room that they blog. While I’m not sure doing 5 pushups every time an email comes in will work for everyone (I’d be doing about 5000 pushups each morning) the principles are good.

Here’s to a fitter and healthier ProBlogger readership in 2008!

PS: I’ve had a few people ask me what my own workout routine is. It’s fairly simple:

  • 1x workout with my trainer per week
  • 1x home ‘workout’ per week (including 2 to 3 sets of pushups, squats, situps, skipping, dips and steps)
  • 2x 30-45 minute brisk walks (I usually stop at the park for some steps and dips on these)

I’m also going to add another group class/workout in the coming week.

In terms of diet I’m trying to eat low GI foods, smaller portions in the evenings and an extra snack or two during the day (and less junk). Nothing too special but plenty of fruit.

Lastly – coincidentally Kim published this mini interview with me today on exactly the same topic!

Blog Tips – Twitter Style [Competition]

Over this weekend I want to run a ‘little’ competition here at ProBlogger. I’m offering a ‘little’ prize (see below) and all you need to do to put yourself in the running for it is to submit a ‘little’ blog tip. Let me explain:

Lately I’ve been getting into Twitter (I’ll write a post in the coming week about what I’ve learned in the process).

The Competition

While there are numerous thinks that I like about Twitter – one is the challenge of getting something written in 140 characters.

While I wouldn’t want to write this way all of the time – it does make your pause before twittering something to think about what you want to communicate and how you can do it succinctly.

This forms the basis of this competition.

How to Enter

Your task is to write a blog tip that will help others blog better in 140 characters or less.

Your entry to this competition needs to be submitted as a comment below. You’re welcome to post it elsewhere also if you wish (Twitter, your Blog or anywhere else) – but only comments below will count for the prize.

Please start your comment with the keyword TwitterBlogTip – this isn’t counted in the 140 characters but will help us to defeat the spam filter which falsely moderates some comments as spam.

So what’s the prize?

This prize is actually a gift that was given to me late last year from Google AdSense. It was given to quite a few AdSense publishers so some of you already have one – but I know many of you missed out – so I’ll giveaway mine (it’s unused).

It’s a 2GB USB Flash Drive (pictured below – image courtesy of FishandClicks):

Google Usb 2007 2-1

I’ll pick one random but genuine entry from those comments submitted to win the prize – and as it’s so small I’m happy to ship it anywhere in the world – so feel free to enter wherever you are.

Entries close on Monday at midday (my time here in Melbourne – which is Sunday evening for many of you). I’ll announce the winner Monday.

UPDATE – this competition is now closed. I’ll announce a winner later today. Thanks to everyone for the amazing response. Some of the tips submitted are quite profound and I’ve learned a lot just from reading your responses.

Skellie Launches Anywired

I don’t announce the launch of too many blogs (I like to see the runs on the board first) but today a blogger who is very dear to ProBlogger launched her second blog.

Anywired Header

Yes Skellie (ProBlogger’s first staff writer) has just launched Anywired.

It’s a blog with the tagline – ‘work online, work anywhere, live free’ and will be a blog for anyone who works through the web (freelancers, entrepreneurs, bloggers, webmasters, telecommuters etc).

Skellie has launched with three great posts that will give you a taste for the blog:

This will be one to add to your RSS feeder – here’s the RSS feed.

When Good Bloggers Go Bad?

Gizmodo has come in for quite a bit of criticism on their own blog today with a post Confessions: The Meanest Thing Gizmodo Did at CES where they posted a video of how they caused havoc at CES by switching many TV’s on and off using an IR clicker.

The prank was done and posted in humor however the comments section is filled with quite a few comments – some that see humor it it others that are quite disgusted.

Other sites now are chiming in with their opinion – some claiming that this ‘prank’ could hurt all bloggers attempting to get access to this type of show.

  • Joe also shares some thoughts on the introduction of bloggers at CES.
  • Valleywag chimes in and points out that Gizmodo attended as press not bloggers (although they are part of Gawker like Gizmodo so you’d expect them to defend it)
  • CNET’s Crave also isn’t too impressed (although they’re competitors with Gizmodo so you wouldn’t expect them to be)

What do you think? Humor? Bad Taste? Does it Hurt Bloggers?

ProBlogger HQ 2.0

A few weeks back I mentioned in passing that I’d show you my new office in a video. I never quite got around to that – so thought I’d show you today.
[Read more...]

How Stressful Do You Find Blogging?

StressThis is a guest post by Lea Woodward from modern nomad.

Some people find blogging relaxing, a release and an outlet; many others don’t. It often depends upon your reason for blogging.

I’m guessing that most of you who read ProBlogger do so because you’d like your blog to become something more than just a personal monologue of your life. If so, then it’s likely that you take your blogging seriously…seriously enough to get stressed about it sometimes.

Before I go any further, I’m going to define “stress” as anything that takes your body of homeostasis (normal, balanced state of functioning). This means then that even when you don’t ‘feel’ stressed, your body might be.

Some of the things I personally find stressful about blogging are…

  1. The pressure to earn something – for me, this is mostly indirectly rather than directly from my blogs
  2. Receiving unpleasant and negative comments
  3. Meeting deadlines for writing posts (my own and others)
  4. Constantly coming up with killer content
  5. An unhealthy obsession with stats and figures

The thing about stress is that you can be stressed and not even know it…

Your body has some subtle and not-so subtle signs to tell you all is not right in its world.

Typical symptoms of acute stress are:

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Rise in temperature
  • Short, shallow breathing

Typical symptoms of chronic stress are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased allergies
  • Depression
  • Weight gain or loss
  • PMS and hormonal disturbances

Unfortunately, you can’t remove all stress from your life – a small amount is good for you – but you can help your body better deal with stress and create strategies to lessen the common blogging stressors that have you reaching for a hammer.

If blogging is causing you more stress than joy at the moment, here are 5 things that can help…

1) Treat blogging like a business not a hobby.

If the pressure to generate an income is the cause of your blogging stress, then make sure that you’re treating your blogging like a proper business and not just a hobby.

This means creating a blog business plan, a marketing strategy and setting financial (and other) targets to achieve.

Get proactive about what’s going on with your blog and rather than sit and hope that that affiliate program wil start generating an income this month, go out and take some action to ensure it will.

Simply working according to a plan can help relieve the stress of not feeling in control; it can help you be proactive rather than reactive and ensure that you remain specifically focused on the end game.

2) Get things in perspective.

Unpleasant and downright nasty comments left on a blog that you pour your heart and soul in to every day, are not only stressful but can be emotionally upsetting. If you want to see my personal experience of this, check out some of the comments on this post – eeek!

If, like Kathy Sierra, the comments are threatening or somehow violate your personal safety, then serious measures should be considered. On the other hand if the comments are merely just others disagreeing with you, expressing their own opinions or sounding off, then a measure of perspective is called for.

If you let them unpleasant comments can knock your confidence, make you question what you’re doing and even put you off blogging for a while.

To help put things into perspective, try removing yourself from cyberspace for a while and taking a look at what’s going on in the outside world. Go play with your kids, meet a friend for coffee or do some exercise and you’ll find it’s amazing how the sting of those comments can fade to nothing.

3) Know when to walk away.

It might sound strange that a post on ProBlogger is advising you to walk away from your blog when it’s all about becoming a better blogger, but there are times when it is best to just walk away….at least from a blog that’s not working in the way you intended it to.

If you are blogging for money but the topic/niche/market you’ve chosen hasn’t yielded any success – despite your best efforts; and if you’re no longer enjoying it and it feels like more hassle than it’s worth, then perhaps sometimes it is and it’s time to move on.

Knowing when to cut your losses is part of exercising good business sense and making the right decision at the time. Greater opportunities will come when you take your learnings and apply them to your next blogging venture.

4) Proactively plan your downtime.

Removing the stress of blogging may sometimes require you to extract yourself from the computer.

If you, like me, are a bit of a laptop addict then this is harder said than done. One of the more successful strategies I’ve found is to not only plan time away from your computer but plan specific activities to do away from your computer.

If you just plan time away from the screen, then more often than not time will run away with itself. Before you know it you’re saying to yourself, “Oh well I may as well just keep going now. There’s no point in stopping”.

The more attractive, fun, compelling, exciting and appealing the activity you plan, the better.

5) Stay off the caffeine and sugar.

Ouch…the last thing many bloggers want to hear, I’m sure. But if you are currently stressed (chronically or acutely), then neither caffeine nor sugar will do you any good at all.

Sugar suppresses the immune system which in turn lowers your resistance to bugs and germs. Combine this with elevated stress levels from the effect that caffeine has on your nervous system (it stimulates it to create a manufactured ‘stress’ response) and your body could simply go on strike, succumbing to an illness which prevents you from blogging even if you want to.

If going cold turkey and cutting out caffeine and sugar isn’t an option for you, then at least consider restricting your consumption – especially when you’re feeling stressed.

I’m sure you’ll all agree…blogging can be great but there are times when it’s not so great and times when it’s downright stressful. You can’t always plan for these times and you can’t always prevent them but you can certainly help yourself cope better when they arrive.

Lea Woodward is a freelance writer, business coach and modern nomad. She is editor of a health and fitness blog with a holistic approach to Get Better Abs.

ShoppingAds and AuctionAds Merge and Combine CPC and CPA ads

ShoppingadsOvernight I had an email from the team at MediaWhiz who have just announced that they have merged two of their ad networks together (AuctionAds and ShoppingAds) under the one name of ShoppingAds.

What I like about the new look ShoppingAds is that it combines both CPA (cost per action) ads AND CPC (cost per click) ads into the one product.

There are two levels of publishers – Standard Publishers and Premium Publishers.

Standard publishers will only have the option for CPA ads while premium publishers get both depending upon where their traffic is from.

If you qualify as a Premium Publisher (from what I can tell they are promoted to Premium status based upon the ‘quality’ of traffic that the site has – not sure exactly what this means) you’ll have CPC ads served to all visitors from the USA and Canada and CPA ads to all other traffic. Here’s how they visualize it:

Picture 8-1

This makes a lot of sense to me. Other programs (like WidgetBucks) serve their normal ads to US traffic but to ‘international’ traffic they serve banner ads which pay out at CPM rates (per 1000 impressions). From what I’ve heard these CPM payouts are tiny and some of the banner ads are completely irrelevant to most sites and can be quite ugly.

ShoppingAds on the other hand continue to serve relevant ads whether they are showing CPC or CPA ads and they all have a consistent look about them. This will definitely be an option to experiment with if you have traffic from outside of the US.

I’m yet to test these on my sites – but will be doing so shortly. They have performed reasonably well for me previously though – particularly they’ve done quite well on sites with product related content.

For those of you already running AuctionAds on your blog – you don’t need to do anything to change to ShoppingAds. Your ads will continue to run as normal and the only real change is that there will be an ‘Ads by ShoppingAds’ link on your ads now.

Affiliate Bonus - The other thing I like about these ads is that if someone clicks the ‘Ads by ShoppingAds’ link on your ad unit and signs up as a publisher – you earn 5% of what they earn for the next 6 months.

Give ShoppingAds a go by signing up here

IZEA Launches RealRank – Will You Opt In?

Real-RankIZEA today have launched what it’s been promising for a while – IZEARanks.com where it measures ‘RealRank’ of blogs (their announcement is here).

What is RealRank? – “a blog ranking system that uses real data to calculate which blogs are getting the most traffic and have the most influence on the web. IZEARanks ranks the top blogs in the blogosphere via actual site statistics, not an extrapolation of estimates.”

The Reason for RealRank? – in short the reasoning for RealRank that they are selling it with is that non of the other ‘ranking’ systems for websites really do a good enough job or give a realistic measure of how a blog is going. They talk about Google PR, Alexa, ComScore etc.

So IZEA is suggesting that their RealRank is a better measure and will give bloggers and advertisers a better idea of how a blog is going and how it compares to others.

They’re ranking blogs based upon three factors:

  • 70% weighted towards visitors per day
  • 20% weighted towards amount of ACTIVE inbound links per day
  • 10% weighted towards pageviews per day

Sounds Good… But….

OK – so the above measures all sound fairly good in terms of measuring a blog’s rank (although we could probably come up with another 10-20 factors that could be included – depending upon our definition of what a successful blog is) – HOWEVER there is one major deficiency with RealRank that in my mind brings it back into the realm of all of the other ranking systems that they set themselves up against….

IZEA only tracks blogs who opt in and who are willing to allow IZEA to put a tracking script on their blog. While this might lead to accurate measurements of how your blog is going – it’s not ever going to be a true ranking tool for the blogosphere as I really can’t see the majority of bloggers using is.

The advantage that other ranking tools have is that you don’t need to opt in. While this might lead to less accurate measurements at least they do measure all blogs (and all websites).

Another issue that is worth considering is why you’d want to be included in a blog only ranking system. My own opinion is that bloggers need to stop looking at themselves in such an insular manner and just comparing themselves to other blogs as I think this can actually limit yourself.

Your blog doesn’t just compete with blogs – it’s competing with sites of all types.

As Paul Glazowski at Mashable writes:

“But if you look at it from another vantage, you might find it too selective and limited. Site ranks are, after all, typically determined against an unvarnished view of the whole canvas of the Web. Why? Because the Web, on the whole, is the grand venue targeted by most ambitious sites – be they e-commerce institutions or respected publications operating via the RSS protocol.

Bloggers of course do wish to see their publications grow and eventually live as well-known entities on the open plain of the Internet. So to distinguish blogs from all other publications then wouldn’t be of any use, right?”

Another Hurdle for IZEA…

One of the main hurdles that I think IZEA will have with RealRank is that everything that they launch now is being associated with something in their rocky past – PayPerPost (IZEA is the parent company for PPP).

I’ve already heard 3-4 bloggers tell me that they’re not going to participate in this because they don’t want a company like PPP to have access to their blog’s metrics.

Others have expressed concern over it as they think it’ll be a signal to Google that you’re selling links.

It’s interesting to hear these comments and I wonder if it will be a feeling that stops many from participating. I’m personally not that sure if this is a fair criticism. After all most bloggers have some sort of script running on their blogs (whether it be Google Analytis, AdSense or some other advertising system or metrics tool). At times I wonder whether I should be putting my blog’s data in the hands of Google too!

What do You Think?

My overall feeling is that this is a tool that has some merit and gives bloggers a fresh way of looking at their performance – however in terms of being a comparative tool that ranks the blogosphere I’m not it’s going to get enough blogs involved to warrant it being useful. As a statistical tool it might be useful for bloggers – but then again you could get all the same information on how your blog is performing by using another metrics tool.

The above are just some of my own initial thoughts on BlogRank – but I’m just one blogger (one who has chosen not to use it). Ultimately the success or failure of RealRank doesn’t rest on my shoulders – it rests on whether it’ll be picked up and used by the wider blogging community.

So will you use it?

Interview with Entrecard’s Graham Langdon

MeEntrecard is a blogging service that has quickly emerged (or exploded) onto the scene over the last couple of months. Entrecard widgets are popping up on thousands of blogs around the blogosphere – including here at ProBlogger since they became a ProBlogger sponsor.

I get a lot of questions about Entrecard and how to use it most effectively to promote your blog – so I thought I’d approach Entrecard’s Graham Langdon with some of the more common questions. Please note that while Entrecard is a sponsor of ProBlogger this is not a paid post. It emerges out of your questions of a service that I know many of you are curious about and using.

One of the first questions that I get from readers most about Entrecard is – ‘what is it?’ – From what I can tell Entrecard has a number of features that bloggers love – how do you describe it?

Put simply, Entrecard is a free social advertising network for bloggers. Everyone knows that the 125×125 has become this semi-official “ad of the blogosphere.” What Entrecard allows you to do is :

  • Advertise your 125×125, for free, on any blog in our network
  • Pay with Entrecard Credits instead of real money
  • Earn Credits by visiting other blogs, and leaving your card for the owner (through the widget) much in the same way you would hand someone your regular business card
  • See 3D statistics of traffic from ad campaigns and from our site, as well as stats for cards given and received
  • The whole service is incredibly easy to use and intuitive once you give it a try

So far, Entrecard has been quite effective at sending traffic to members’ blogs. Imagine a user that has a free ad right here on ProBlogger for a day, as well as ads running on 10 small to medium sized blogs. The traffic benefits can be significant. And on top of the advertising network there is an active social network, complete with a forum, messaging system, and more, that our members are actively taking part in. Bloggers have great information to share with each other, and we’re happy that so many are choosing Entrecard as an outlet.

When you place a free ad on someone else’s blog, how long does it run for? Are there other ads in rotation?

When you place an ad one someone’s blog with Entrecard, it runs for a full 24 hours, solid, with no other ads in rotation.

Following is a screenshot of the Entrecard Dashboard:

Regdashboard

Where did the idea for Entrecard come from?

I’d have to say the gears started turning when I witnessed the massive launch of BlogRush. The take home message for me was that bloggers everywhere were craving a widget that could bring free traffic. My ensuing thought process went something like this: First, I thought of those fish-bowls in restaurants where you drop off your business card to win a free lunch. So I started thinking of a system where bloggers could drop their digital business cards to each other to earn some sort of reward. Then, I thought about how some “brick and mortar” businesses actually let other small businesses around town advertise their business card on their cashier counter, or on a window sill.

Once I translated this thought process to the world of blogging, I knew what I needed was a widget that could simultaneously serve as a way to not only exchange cards, but advertise other members cards. A Credit system, with varying cost to advertise based on the size and popularity of one’s blog, was the final piece of the puzzle, and thus, Entrecard was born!

You launched two months ago – how’s it been going so far? What milestones have you hit? Can you give us some insight into how many bloggers are using it and what benefits it’s bringing them?

Our launch has been nothing short of amazing so far. We’ve hit the following milestones:

  • Over 2,000 free ads are now placed daily through Entrecard.
  • Since launching, our members have exchanged over half a million cards with each other.
  • As of writing this, Entrecard proudly offers free advertising on 1700 unique blogs.
  • We’re now consistently ranking under under 2000 on Alexa (I hate to use the ‘”A” word) daily.
  • In the last 30 days, we’ve done over a million page views on our website.

In terms of benefits, reports are abound on Technorati and Google Blogsearch that bloggers are not just receiving significant traffic, but also an increase in comments, a boost in Alexa rank, and more RSS subscribers. Not bad for a free widget that takes up just a little more space than a 125×125! However, I will say that results vary depending on your level of involvement in the program.

What type of blogger will benefit most from it?

Without a doubt, the small to medium size blogger will see the most benefit from Entrecard. It is an excellent system especially for bloggers trying to attain their first 2000 RSS subscribers. It’s not the only system these bloggers should be using of course, but it will absolutely help. Most of our users report traffic of around 20 visits per day, and as many as 150 to 200 per day with particularly effective ad campaigning. While this amount of traffic may not be significant to some of the top bloggers, many bloggers would find themselves greatly benefited from this source of traffic.

Are there any restrictions, limitations, or guidelines for joining the Entrecard network?

Yes, we have a number of basic guidelines for Entrecard membership. We only allow blogs of reasonable quality into the network, so if you only have one post, or if your site is considered “spam” it will not be allowed in the network. We also only allow blogs written in English, though we hope to expand to facilitate all languages as soon as possible. Finally, you cannot have adult content on your blog.

We rely heavily on a flagging system, where users can flag any blog in the network that appear to be spam, offensive, or of poor quality. All these flags are reviewed promptly and proper action is always taken to keep Entrecard a high quality network. So far, this system has served us wonderfully, and has given an equal voice to everyone as to what they do and do not want to see in the Entrecard network.

What tips would you give bloggers who want to get the most out of Entrecard?

With Entrecard, you get out what you put in. So you’ll want to spend some time leaving your card for bloggers in your niche and in related niches to get them visiting your site. You can start buying as many ads as possible on related blogs. Finally, you can hold a contest on your blog and give away Entrecard Credits. This is becoming a very popular trend for our members, and provides a terrific incentive to get others commenting on your blog posts.

Another fairly large element that plays a role in your success with Entrecard is your blog’s content. Members with quality content, well written and useful articles with images, will find that Entrecard enhances their statistics more so than blogs with lesser quality content. And of course, blogs with terrible content simply get removed from our network. But if your content is good, simply participate as much as possible, and I can guarantee you’ll be happy with your results.

You’ve just opened a ‘marketplace’ (pictured below) – what’s this?

The blogger marketplace, which we call the Entrecard Shop, is the next step forward with the Credit economy we’re establishing. Cumulatively, our members are earning thousands of Credits every day, and while it’s nice that you can spend your Credits to advertise on over 1700 blogs, we have a bit of a larger vision.

So we’ve opened a shop where bloggers can buy and sell blogging related products and services for Credits. We have people selling exclusive WordPress themes, Blog reviews, SEO consultations, Blog makeovers, unused domain names, and more. The benefit for the seller is that it dramatically increases the amount of credits you earn, thus increasing your purchasing power as well. The benefit for the buyer is that now you can buy much, much more than network advertising with your Credits.

Ecshop

What is the most unique item available in the shop? What is the most useful?

I’d have to say that the most unique item in the shop is a Shakespearean Sonnet. A blogger, who recently enjoyed a class in Shakespeare, will write a sonnet about your blog for 50 credits, and post it on her blog. As for the most useful item, someone is selling a complete hosting package for your WordPress blog. This gives bloggers the opportunity to finally move off Blogspot or WordPress.com and onto their own hosted account, and pay with credits instead of money. I find it really satisfying to see such unique and useful items being sold in the Shop, which is only just a week old.

Are there any criticisms of Entrecard you would like to address?

Well the system isn’t perfect, and although we’d like everyone to read a full post and leave a comment before dropping their card, some people simply don’t. Some users will stop by your blog just to drop off their card, and then go off to the next one to rack up credits. Now this doesn’t include everyone; we have a lot of quality readers out there on Entrecard. In fact we’ve found that the majority of our users have reported discovering new blogs they now read regularly. But you could very well find, because of some chain droppers, that across all your Entrecard traffic, the average time spent on your site is slightly lower and the bounce rate slightly higher when compared to the rest of your traffic. Regardless, this is still real traffic and you still have the opportunity to command their attention when they stop by. And finally, even for the Entrecard members that do stay only just long enough to drop their card, you still earn a credit for each one of these “chain droppers,” which you can put towards advertising, graphic design for your blog, blog reviews, SEO consultations, hosting, and much much more in the Entrecard Shop.

The best thing our members can do to minimize the chain dropping, is to understand that this is not Entrecard’s intended use, and to really make an effort to read a post and leave a comment on blogs they visit while dropping cards.

Where do you hope to take Entrecard in the coming year? Do you have any more features planned that you can tell us about?
Over the next year, we’re going to expand the social networking features to include favorites, a news feed, and even more bells and whistles. We’re going to enhance the advertising network by adding greater control and analytics. Finally, we’re hoping to expand the marketplace to hundreds, if not thousands of items, and roll out a seller feedback system similar to eBay’s. By the end of the year, I plan on securing either an angel investment or venture capital. I’ve already had some interest from a few angel investors, but I’m looking for an investor who is well connected in an industry that would be of benefit. From the looks of things so far, Entrecard could become big. Very big.

Note from Darren: As a little companion post to this interview in the next day or two I’m going to do a little competition to give away my own Entrecard credits (there’s over 3000 of them). Stay tuned for how to win some of them for yourself to help promote your blog.