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24 Hours Left in Affiliate Ninja Discount

update: The discount offer is over. You can still buy the Affiliate Ninja product though – while the discount was great I do think it’s a tool worth investing in if you do affiliate marketing.

ninja-affiliate.pngQuite a few ProBlogger readers have signed up for the 30% discount on the Ninja Affiliate WordPress Plugin this week (see our previous announcement post).

The plugin allows you to manage affiliate links on your blog in a way that I’ve not seen done in any other tool in the back end of your WP blog.

If you’ve been meaning to check it out – you’ve got around 24 hours to do so (as of the time this post goes live).

Get full details and get it for yourself here.

8 Tips for Building Community on Your Blog

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Another challenge that faces a lot of bloggers who’ve reached a point of getting their blog past the ‘launch phase’ and where they have regular readers is forming those readers into a ‘community’.

What I noticed in the growth of my photography site was that in the first 6 months most of my readers seemed to be in ‘consumption’ mode (there just to consume and not really interact or participate) and that in the next 6 to 12 months a community began to emerge with readers interacting more with me and one another. In the next 6 months readers have begun to really take more ownership of the site and are more regularly contributing not just in comments but in writing content, volunteering in the forum etc.

This seems to naturally happen over time to some extent – but was also something that I have been quite intentional about fostering within the readership.

Here are a few tips on how to do it.

1. Start with Comments

Perhaps the most natural place to start to build ‘community’ on a blog is within its comments section. This is a good place because in our day and age it is a place that most web users are ‘wired’ to look for interactivity in. The keys in building community within your comments section include:

  • Ask Questions in posts (this will draw comments out of readers)
  • Interact with Readers (if you’re not willing to comment why would others – this gets the ball rolling)
  • Model the type of comments and tone you want (if you want people to feel safe and at home you need to police and moderate the trolls and spammers)
  • Followup Questions (answer questions whether they be in comments or via email)

Further Reading: How to Get More Comments on Your Blog and 7 Ways to Turn a Blog Post Upside Down and Get More Comments

2. Reader Centered Posts

Show readers that you value them by regularly publishing posts that are ALL about them. There are lots of ways of doing this including:

  • Answering Reader Questions
  • Inviting Questions from Readers
  • Posting a Question for discussion
  • Highlighting a reader and their blog, comment, site

The key is to regularly build into the rhythm of your blog moments where your readers take centre stage and have an opportunity to contribute and be valued.

Further Reading: The Power of Making Readers Famous

3. Interactive Tools and Projects

Whether it be running weekly polls, using quizzes, running a competition in your comments section or some other interactive tool or project – the more you get your readers to ‘do’ something the more ownership that they’ll feel over your site. I find that even the anonymous voting in a poll has the power to make a reader feel connected.

4. Invite Reader Generated Content

I’ve talked about reader generated content in an earlier post in this series with regards to how it can help you keep fresh content on your site – but the other benefit of it is that it can help readers grow in their connection to your blog.

The way I grew reader generated content on my photography site was simply to start a photography tutorials area of the forum there. In that area I invited readers to submit their tips. The idea was that the area would help identify readers from within the community who had a talent and passion for teaching others. I’ve since used some of the best tutorials on the main blog and one or two of the authors have become regular writers.

5. Become a Cheer Leader

Look for any opportunity that you can to cheer your community along. I regularly attempt to give feedback to DPS readers on how well ‘we’ are doing as a community. When ‘we’ hit a new milestone in terms of forum members or traffic numbers I talk about it in our newsletter, when ‘we’ get mentioned in a mainstream publication I make note of that….

My approach with this feedback to readers isn’t to highlight how good ‘I’ am as a blogger – but to show the community what ‘we’ have achieved. I find that each time I do this that the feedback has been excellent and that it spurs readers on to help us grow and become even better.

6. Give Readers Jobs

I wrote about this a couple of years ago now but one of the best ways to build a sense of engagement and ownership within your readership is to give readers jobs. You can’t do this with everyone of your readers but it is amazing how many people don’t want to just read and consume – they want to be a part of building something that matters. ‘Jobs’ can be anything from getting them to help you moderate comments, to being a forum moderator, to coming up with poll topics, to judging competitions, to writing guest posts etc

7. Set Reader Homework

Another great way to get a little more interactivity and buy in from readers is to set them homework in your posts. This is particularly effective when you have a ‘tips’ or ‘how to’ type blog where you’re teaching people and it is a natural way to finish a post to say ‘go and do this’.

Again at DPS we have a photography assignment area in our forum where we have a weekly assignment for readers to go away and complete before reporting back with an image that they’ve taken. Heaven forbid if we miss a weekly assignment – our readers would be up in arms!

You don’t need a forum area dedicated to this to set homework. Just end a post with an invitation to go and do something and to report back on how they did and you’ll find a percentage of your readers will complete the task and in doing so will feel more loyalty to you and your blog.

Further Reading: Building Blog Community by Setting Homework for Readers

8. Give multiple avenues to ‘join’ or be a ‘member’

I’ve mentioned a few times above the forum at DPS. I can’t express to you just how powerful that area of the site has become. While it doesn’t have as many unique visitors each month as the blog segment of the site – it is visited by a growing number of hardcore DPS fans who are visiting on a daily basis and really creating an amazing community there.

Similarly – adding a weekly newsletter to the site has created another ‘connecting point’ with readers and a gentle reminder each week to stop by the blog and or forum to interact. I’ve found that having a blog, forum and newsletter to be a lot of work but a fantastic way to engage with different readers in ways that appeal to their learning style. Many readers have connected in 2 and even 3 of these ways – each time they access a new part of the site they ‘buy in’ just a little more.

One last tip

Above all, the best way of building a community on your blog is to lead the way and start to BE the community that you want to form. This is something that will bring the 8 tips above to life…. or…. if you don’t do it is likely to ensure that you fail in building community on your blog. Readers will take your lead but are unlikely to want to join a community if you as the leader of it seems ambivalent about the whole thing.

How do You Build Community on Your Blog?

That’s enough of me talking – what have you found to be useful in building a sense of community on your blogs?

Further Reading: 3 High-Powered Reader Engagement Tactics and Secrets to Google Community and Conversation on Your Blog.

This post is part of a series on taking blogs to the next level. Next in the series we’ll be looking at shaping the brand of your blog.

How to Grow Your Blog to the Next Level With SEO

In this series we’re looking at 9 things that bloggers need to work on once their blog moves out of ‘launch phase’ and into maturity.

Today I want to focus upon the topic of SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

While SEO is something that is well worth while focusing upon right from the start of your blog – I’ve found that it becomes particularly important once your blog is at least a few months old. In my experience it is not until a blog is 6 to 12 months old that it really begins to grow in its authority in Google.

I will not rehash everything I know about SEO here (I’ll link to some resources at the bottom of this post) but here are just two tasks that I think established bloggers will particularly want to focus upon (I’m assuming that you’ve got some of the basics like getting titles set up right):

1. Optimizing Successful Pages on Your Blog

I mentioned this earlier in this series of posts but one of the first things to do is to identify and analyze the pages that people are arriving to your blog on from Search Engines. If you’re like most blogs you’ll find that a handful of your old posts generate a significant percentage of your search engine traffic. Identify these pages and you can then go about increasing the ranking of those pages even further in Google by doing some of the following:

  • increasing keyword density of these pages – don’t add the keywords that people are searching for too many more times, but it can help to add them 1-2 times more, bold the keywords, add them to heading tags, add them to image tags etc.
  • increase the internal links to these pages – if you find a page that is getting a lot of search traffic, any extra links to the page that you can generate (from both within your blog and outside it) can help its authority. You might want to even highlight some of these pages in your sidebar or navigation – or to link to them within other posts on your blog on a similar topic.

2. Create More Content on Related Search Terms

Once you start getting a handle on what type of information that people are searching for you should begin to make a list of other related topics that you might want to write about. You can get ideas from this by looking at keywords that people use to arrive on your blog and thinking about synonyms for those words but also by looking at online services like Google Trends which maps what people are searching the web for.

Another good tool for analyzing search traffic and coming up with new topics to write about it 103bees which gives some metrics on the questions people are asking to find your blog. These questions are topics your readers are actually asking which shows you what they’re typing into Google. Another great tool to try is Lijit which is a search tool you can use on your blog (see it in my sidebar). This tracks what terms people are searching your blog for. The useful thing about it is that they also show you what terms people searched for that there was no search results on your blog for – very handy information.

There is A LOT more that you can do to increase the search engine authority of your blog. Part of it just comes down to writing great quality content over the long haul (which over time increases the number of doorways into your blog and grows the number of links from other sites to it) but below I’ve listed some other resources from both within ProBlogger and from SEO experts that will hopefully give you plenty of things to work on.

Further Reading:

Also – here are three helpful videos (particularly for WordPress Users) with some great tips from Matt Cutts (Google Engineer), Joost de Valk and Stephan Spencer.


WordPress SEO & Optimisation Strategies a4uexpo London 2008 from existem on Vimeo.

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7 Ways to Keep Fresh Content Flowing On Your Blog

This is the third post in a series on taking your blog to the next level.

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“How do I keep posts flowing on my blog?”

This is a question that most bloggers face at one point or another – particularly bloggers who have been blogging for 6-12 months.

The reality is that there comes a point where most bloggers feel either uninspired, unmotivated, that they’ve got ‘bloggers block’ or that they’ve said everything that there is to say on their chosen topic. This is something that we’ve all felt at one time or another – so what does a blogger do about it?

The first thing that I want to encourage you with is that all is not lost. Every blogger has this challenge at one point or another (in fact most of us face it regularly) and it is possible to break through it. They key is to persist through the tough times – something that many bloggers do not do.

At this point it is important to sit down and work out how you will generate content going forward. There are a number of strategies that come to mind for doing so – all of these I’ve used at different points and I hope that some will give you inspiration and a way forward:

1. Mind Mapping

My favorite technique for coming up with new topics is using mind maps. I outline my mind mapping technique here but in short the technique is that you take one post idea (one from your archives perhaps) and then brainstorm ways that that topic can be expanded upon into numerous new topics. You then take some of those new ideas and think about ways that they too can be expanded upon into new posts. This technique can literally help you identify hundreds of new topics to write about.

Whether you use Mind mapping or some other kind of brainstorming technique the key is to set time aside to do it. I try to do this at the start of each week and find that if I do that the writing task for the week ahead is a lot smoother – sometimes just coming up with the ideas is as hard as the writing of posts.

2. Involve Readers

One of the resources that a blog who has an established readership has (remember we’re writing this series for these types of blogs) is that it has a knowledge based within it’s readership that can be drawn upon in a variety of creative ways to help create content for your blog. There are a lot of ways to do this – but here are a few:

  • Guest Posts – in every 100 or so readers there is bound to be 1 that has the knowledge, expertise, motivation and skill to contribute posts to your blog. The key is to identify them and give them the confidence to contribute a post to your blog. Pay particular attention to those leaving comments on your blog. You’ll find that some comments just go the extra mile and contain wisdom and depth that are not far off being the standard of actual blog posts. Also don’t be afraid to invite contributions by writing post asking for guest posts or having a page linked in your navigation inviting contributions.
  • Reader Questions - stuck for a topic to write about? Ask your readers to ask questions. A post inviting reader questions can draw out some great ideas to write about.
  • Community Written Posts – one of the things that I’m loving about Digital Photography School at the moment is that some of our best posts are actually ones that our readers provide the majority of the content and teaching for. My role is not to ‘write’ the content for these posts – but to ask a question and set some boundaries for a discussion – and then open it up for readers to add their suggestions. Examples: How do I take band promotional photos?, How Would You Photograph a Funeral? and How to Photograph Grandma?

3. Explore new ‘Voices’

One way to break out of a rut as a blogger is to experiment with new types and styles of posts. Sometimes doing so can unleash creativity and new ideas. So if the majority of your posts are ‘tips’ posts – try an opinion piece. If you always write ‘news’ type posts – why not try something with a bit of humor or controversy.

Further Reading: I’ve outlined 20 types of blog posts for bloggers battling bloggers block here to give you a little inspiration.

4. Update Previous Posts and Topics

Even after a few months of blogging you can hit a point where you feel like you’ve covered most topics in your niche. Many bloggers get to this point and simply give up the blog – however I’ve found that most posts that I’ve written in the past can be expanded upon, updated, improved or rewritten with fresh insight.

Also keep in mind that many of your old posts will only have been read by long term readers and your new readers will not have seen these posts.

Further Reading: The Why and How of Updating old Blog Posts.

5. Guest Posts

The decision to allow guest posters onto your blog has both good arguments for and against it – but it is certainly one way to keep the flow of content going on a blog when you’re a little low on inspiration or don’t have enough time on your hands to be writing content (see also Why Guest Bloggers are Great for a Blog).

Getting people to submit guest posts on a blog is not always achievable when a blog is very young and the blog has little profile – but once you gather a readership and build your reputation as a growing community it becomes easier to attract contributions from other bloggers and freelance writers looking to grow their own profile.

If you’re new to the idea of finding guest posters for a blog – start with your own readers (as described above – look in the comments section of your blog) and then also look at other blogs in your niche or even forums that are on a similar topic to your blog. I’ve also had some real success lately with finding guest posts for Digital Photography School from non bloggers, particularly pro photographers who are looking for a little extra exposure to their business sites.

Further Reading: How to Find a Guest Blogger for Your Blog

6. Hiring Writers

Another way to approach bringing others onto your blog as writers is to look at hiring a blogger (or team of bloggers) to help you create content for your blog. This has some cost associated with it – but can (if you do it right) increase the quality and frequency of posts as well as decreasing some of the admin of relying upon guest posts.

I’ve hired a small team of writers for DPS who I pay on a per post basis (as well as giving them exposure in the posts that they write) and have found this experience to be well worthwhile. For a start it has attracted a good caliber of writer to the blog, increased the knowledge base and expertise of the writing, added to the variety of topics we can cover and increased the frequency with which we can post.

When it comes to hiring writers – I’d advise starting with your current reader base – you might find that some of your regular readers would take on a regular writing job for a little financial reward. Another approach is to look at other bloggers on your topic or to even advertise on a job board like the ProBlogger Job board. I advertised for my team of writers almost 18 months ago and had so many great applicants that I couldn’t use them all and most of them still write weekly posts for me today.

Another quick tip on hiring writers – you can also hire them for short periods. As long as you’re up front about the length of the period that you’re hiring for I’ve found that bringing on a staff writer for a couple of months when you know you’re going to be away or have your attention on another project can be well worthwhile doing.

Further Reading: How to Advertise for a Blogger

7. Develop an editorial calendar

One technique that can help a blog grow beyond its infancy is to begin to think longer term about the content that you produce. I personally find that when I only think a day ahead about the content for my blog that it can be difficult to build momentum in the content that I’m writing. It’s also difficult to keep coming up with topics.

A way to help overcome this is to set aside time either on a weekly or even a monthly basis to map out the direction for your content in the period ahead.

This enables you to do some brainstorming/mindmapping (see point #1 above) and set the course for your blog. Doing this takes some discipline and can feel like a chore when you sit down to do it but the result is that it gives you a lot of freedom and can take the burden of having to come up with topics from your shoulders.

I find that the months I set out a plan for the content on my blogs are much better than the months that I do not. I usually find on these months that I end up writing a series of posts and that readers really respond well to the momentum that I build.

Another spin on the idea of an editorial calendar that I know some bloggers have a lot of success with is to set different ‘styles’ of posts for each day of the week. For example:

  • Monday might be ‘tips’ day where you write a ‘how to’ or ‘tip’ related post
  • Tuesday might be ‘review’ day where you review a product related to your topic
  • Wednesday might be ‘news’ day where you summarize the latest news in your niche
  • Thursday might be ‘link’ day where you link up to another blog in your niche
  • Friday might be ‘opinion’ day where you express your opinion on a topic
  • Saturday might be ‘reader discussion’ day where you post a question or poll for readers to interact with
  • Sunday might be ‘from our archives’ day where you highlight an old post on your blog

The sky is the limit in terms of the types of posts that you write (look at the 20 types of blog posts list that I mention above for other types to consider) – the key is to find types of posts that are relevant to your topic and that readers respond well to. This might feel a little contrived or structured for some bloggers, but I find that many bloggers find it to be a freeing experience, particularly to get them through a tough period.

What Would You Add?

I have literally scratched the surface with this post on how to keep fresh content flowing on your blog. I’m certain that among the readership of ProBlogger that there are a lot more ideas – if you’ve got one, please add it to the comments below. Together we can break though this ‘bloggers block’!

Further Reading: Battling Bloggers Block – a compilation of a series of 25 strategies that are designed to help you get through bloggers block.

Converting First Time Visitors to Loyal Readers

This week we’re looking at a variety of tips for helping medium sized and somewhat established blogs to grow to the next level. Yesterday we looked at building upon your strengths and successes – today I want to look at the topic of turning first time readers into loyal ones.

This issue is particularly relevant for blogs who’ve achieved a certain level of authority in search engines and who get a steady flow of traffic as a result of this ranking (although it is relevant to blogs getting traffic from any source).

It is always an exciting thing to get this first search engine traffic to a blog.

A Case Study

I recently felt this excitement on my Twitter Tips blog TwiTip which after a few months of life has seen some steady growth when it comes to traffic from search engines.

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While this graph is encouraging as the owner of a relatively new blog the reality is that getting the search engine traffic is only half of the job – the REAL challenge is converting these 1000 or so daily visitors into repeat visitors. Unfortunately unless you do this second step the majority of your search engine visitors will simply never return to your blog.

This is a task that I’m setting myself for the next month and it means a shift of gears from what I’ve been focussing upon in the first few months of the life of this blog. Up until now I’ve been focusing upon building a core readership (we’ve hit around 5000 visitors a day and 5500 RSS subscribers) and building the content archives up (we’ve hit 170 posts published).

Now that the blog has achieved in those areas and the search traffic is coming in it is time to shift gears a little. I’ll continue to work on both of those tasks – but now it is time to work on ‘stickiness’ (or capturing first time visitors) a little more.

I’ve previously written a fairly extensive post on how to make a blog sticky (with 21 tips that I recommend you read) so I won’t regurgitate all of that information here…..But I did want to mention three things that I’m planning to do on TwiTip to make it more sticky:

1. Redesign

The theme that I’ve been using to this point (Thesis) has been fantastic. In fact the way it is set up is probably one of the reasons search traffic has grown relatively quickly for the blog – however in the coming month I plan to give the blog an overhaul (I’ve already engaged a designer). The main reason for this is that I’ve largely used Thesis in its default mode and want to enhance it to make it more sticky.

The redesign will include a custom logo (branding), a distinct look (differentiating it from other blog), more prominent subscription options (designed to grab attention and connect with new readers), a variety of tools to integrate it more with Twitter (increase reader interaction and connection with its primary audience – twitter users) etc.

2. Highlighting of Best Posts

One of the challenges of blogs once they have more than 100 or so posts in their archives is that it gets difficult for readers to find the ‘best’ and most ‘helpful’ content for their needs. One of the techniques that I have on my agenda for TwiTip is to develop a number of ‘sneeze pages’ that will be linked to prominently that will target new readers specifically. One such page will be a page for beginner twitter users – highlighting some starting points for them as twitter users (and linking to a number of posts for beginners). These sneeze pages are fantastic at converting first time readers into loyal readers.

3. New Subscription Methods

To this point I’ve only really offered RSS as a way to subscribe to Twitip. I will definitely include in the new design an option to subscribe via email – and I’m also considering a weekly email newsletter.

As mentioned above – there are a lot of other ways to make a blog sticky and convert readers. These three methods might be relevant for your blog – but so might some of the others covered in my how to make a blog sticky post.

What have you done to convert first time visitors to your blog?

Build Upon Your Strengths as a Blogger

This post belongs to the ‘taking your blog to the next level‘ series which looks at tips for bloggers whose blogs have got a start but want to take it up a notch. Read the intro here.

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Analyze why Readers Come to your Blog….. and then Build on It

The first thing that I’d highly recommend medium sized bloggers do when I speak with them is to set aside some time to analyze the current performance of their blog and particularly to focus upon the successes and strengths that the blog has.

While there’s a lot to be said for identifying a blogs weaknesses in order to improve I think many bloggers spend so much time working on improving the negatives (patching holes and fixing problems) that they fail to build upon their successes.

Here’s a ‘secret’ of success that I’ve observed in quite a few successful bloggers…

They don’t do everything well, but what they do do well they keep doing it over and over again.

3 Examples of Blogs that Build Upon their Successes

Many successful blogs illustrate this principle. Let’s take a quick look at three:

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  • I Can Has Cheezburger – these guys are geniuses, I don’t know when they discovered that putting captions on pictures of cats would draw hundreds of thousands of readers to a blog – but when they did they focused upon that. Their blog design might not be the sexiest and they rarely write a post with more than a handful of words – but they worked out what their readers wanted and kept giving it to them. In fact they’ve taken the LOLcat formula and have rolled it out for Dogs, Celebrities, News and Politics etc.
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  • Post Secret - in some ways this is a similar story to I can has Cheezburger – Frank discovered that the idea of posting people’s ‘secrets’ on postcards captured people’s imagination. Again – I’m not sure where the idea came from but Frank latched onto it and has continued to keep his blog focused upon what works. In fact he’s expanded the idea into books and traveling exhibitions – all focusing upon the same thing – postcard secrets.
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  • Smashing Magazine – this blog has seen incredible growth in the last year or two and a lot of it is by building upon what works. If you analyze their posts you see certain types of posts that are repeated again and again. Check out their post 35 examples of animals photography for example – a post filled with great images on a theme. They do these weekly and they always generate lots of interest on social media sites. In fact this ‘list’ type post isn’t just photographic – they do lists of tips, resources etc. They’ve worked out what types of posts work with their readers and they continue to apply it again and again.

I could go on with most successful blogs. They identify something that works and repeat it over and over again. This doesn’t mean that they simply repeat the same content – the key to their success is to find new ways to apply the same formulae.

So what has worked on your blog? How can you do it again and even improve upon it?

Let’s Get to Work and Do Some Analysis

Here are some questions to ponder to help you to identify these points of energy on your blog that could be worth expanding upon:

Questions about Content

  • What posts have had the most traffic to them?
  • What posts have had the most comments?
  • What posts got the most links from other blogs?
  • What posts did better than others on social media sites?

When you’ve compiled a list of these posts that did better than others – do some analysis of WHY they did well.

  • Was it the topic?
  • Was it the style of post?
  • Was it the title that you used?
  • Was it the use of an image?
  • Was it the posts length?
  • Was it the use of humor?

There could be any number of factors that contributed to a post’s success – but there’s usually one or two that stand out. Do this analysis on a number of successful posts and you might just discover that the same things come into play in each case. Identify what these factors are and you’re in a great position to develop more of this type of content.

Questions about Traffic

Another type of analysis to do is asking questions around the ‘source’ of current traffic to your blog.

  • What are the top sources of traffic to your blog?
  • What other blogs or sites are linking to your content?
  • What social media sites seem to be liking your content?
  • What search engines send you traffic?
  • What keywords are people arriving on your site as a result of searching for

Looking at the source of traffic coming to your blog is a powerful technique to help you grow your blog further.

I’ve found that when you see a significant source of traffic to a blog that there are almost always ways to build that traffic further. For example:

  • When you notice a lot of traffic coming to certain posts from Google it can be helpful to optimize those pages for the keywords people are searching for to increase the traffic (looking at keyword density, linking to the page from other parts of your blog with good anchor text, tweaking titles etc).
  • When you notice another blog linking up to yours there’s an opportunity to build a relationship with that blog. Get to know the blogger, thank them for the link, submit other posts that they might find useful, link up to them etc
  • When you notice a social media site has been sending traffic it is a signal for you to get involved in that site. You might want to do some analysis on the type of content that does well on that site, you could educate your current readers on how to use the site, it might be worth adding a ‘voting’ button from that site to encourage readers to vote for you etc.
  • When you get a lot of traffic for certain keywords from search engines it can be a hint to write more content on that topic. Pay particular attention to ‘questions’ that people are typing into search engines as these can be ready made post titles and topics to write about.

Identify Your Blogs Successes and Strengths

In this post I’ve only unpacked two types of strengths and successes that a blog might build upon (ie traffic sources and types of posts) – but there are of course a lot more. The same principles apply – once you identify something that you’re good at or something that people are responding to on your blog – keep doing it. It doesn’t mean that you can’t explore other things or improve upon weaknesses – but spend as much time building upon your success as you do in fixing weaknesses and I think you’re probably onto a good thing.

Tomorrow we’ll continue this series of posts on taking your blog to the next level by looking at converting first time readers into loyal ones.

How To Take Your Blog to the Next Level… Once You’ve Got a Start

Help! People are reading my blog, what do I do next?

I get a lot of emails from people asking for advice how to get people to read their blog and have written a number of series of posts with tips on how to find readers – but lately I’ve had conversations with a few bloggers who are at the next level – they have readers but are unsure what to do next.

While it is a problem that many bloggers would love to have – when you actually DO get readers other challenges face a blogger including:

  • keeping momentum going in terms of writing content
  • converting one off visitors into ongoing readers
  • monetization of the traffic
  • building community

Over the next two weeks I want to write a series of 9 tips for bloggers facing some of these problems – those who have had some success in attracting traffic (whether it be from search engines or loyal readers) and who are looking to take their blogging to the next level.

Note for Beginners: The topics I cover are relevant to bloggers of all sizes – but I’ve found them to be particularly relevant for those adolescent blogs who have moved beyond their launch stage and are finding their feet.

Here are the topics we’ll be covering over the next couple of weeks:

  1. Building Upon Your Strengths
  2. Converting First Time Readers to Loyal Readers
  3. Keeping Fresh Content Flowing
  4. Growing Traffic to the Next Level With Search Engine Optimization
  5. Building Community a sense of Community on Your Blog
  6. Shaping Your Brand
  7. Expanding Connecting Points With Readers
  8. Extending Your Blog Audience Beyond Your Current Network
  9. Making Money – Moving Beyond AdSense

To follow along with this series make sure you subscribe to our RSS feed or bookmark and come back to this page where I’ll be linking to each new post as it is published on the blog.

Stay tuned later today for the next post in this series.

10 Tips for Blogging Your Way to Small Business Success

This is a guest post from Mark Hayward, you can follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward. The article focuses on helping business folk, both big and small, who would like to start blogging.

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Do you own a business? Have you noticed a dramatic decrease in sales because of the current economy?

Here’s the thing: For people like Darren, Brian Clark, and Leo Babauta blogging is a full-time job, a primary source of income, and most importantly, a real and profitable business model.

But, what if you find yourself in a different camp?

Perhaps, if you’re like me, you own business that provides a service, manufactures goods or sells consumer products. Blogging is NOT your business, but you use (or would like to use) it as a tool to market and promote your venture.

When I was just getting started as a small business blogger one of the smartest observations I heard on the subject came from Shana Albert (a.k.a The Nanny612). She stated, quite simply: ‘I don’t make money from my blog, but I make money because of my blog.’

In essence, Shana uses her blog to strategically drive traffic to her business website where she sells pre-school curriculum. Her words of wisdom have stuck with me and I think any business, whether large or small, can really succeed in doing the same thing.

Further reading: check out Darren’s previous posts on ways of making money BECAUSE of your blog.

Blogging is for pimply-faced kids!

Surprisingly, a lot of business owners that I meet on a daily basis have a sentiment similar to the one above. In fact, most think;

Sure blogging and social media are great if you enjoy spending your days ‘cyberloafing’, but they certainly can’t help me to promote my business.

Quite honestly, I find it shocking and awfully hard to believe that MANY business owners still have this general view of blogging and social media.

A Personal Case Study

For those of you who might not know, I own a small business in the Caribbean. When I was first getting started I really had no budget to pay for advertising and marketing. As such, I have utilized nothing but blogging and social media for the past couple of years to promote my business. More specifically, when I took over this B&B venture there were no reservations, no customers, and no prospects. In a short period of time I have been able to go from a no cash or customer flow to maintaining a 70-100% occupancy rate depending on the month. (Yes, even in this economy!)

My business provides me with an opportunity to meet incredible people from all over the world. Most recently, I had a guest visiting from a neighboring Caribbean island and, he too, runs a small hotel.

During one discussion the gentleman told me that his business was down a whopping 75% over the past year. According to him, the lack of customers and drop in business could all be attributed to the state of the economy. Truly, I felt awful for him.

While I wholeheartedly agree that the collective global economy is in terrible shape, I asked him what type of promotion and marketing he was doing so that his customers could find him and to help keep his business in the public eye.

His answer (and I think this explains a lot):

‘We are doing what we have always done.’

Upon further investigation, I found out that ‘What we have always done‘ equated to a fairly decent website if it was the year 2000 and a U.S. based reservation service that is paid a percentage to make bookings for him. That’s it.

To be fair, my guest was a bit older and I think he was afraid to embrace new technology and marketing methods. But it tends to boggle my mind that even in this hyper-technical age he and many other business owners are missing a HUGE opportunity to promote their business in an extremely cost effective manner.

Unfortunately, the conversation with my guest ended and I did not have the time that morning to discuss the issue further. However, if I had the time, and or, if you know a business owner in a similar situation, the following is what I would have passed on to him;

Ten Tips to Help You Blog Your Way to Small Business Success

Tip One: Define your goals

Whether you are a plumber, bike retailer, or cafe owner start by assessing your business goals and how you would like your blog to help you achieve them – e.g. Do you want customers to find you? Do you want to be on the front page of Google? Are you all about selling more services and product?

Tip Two: Research keywords

Before you begin blogging have a look at some of the keyword tools like the one found on SEO Book and determine what your potential customers and clients are actually searching for. If your business is active in a mostly local market, or generally for clients in a small town, then include the town’s name in your research. The information gathered from running a couple of keyword searches is extremely valuable when it comes to writing posts that are targeted and meant to highlight specific information.

Tip Three: Use free tools

I think many small business folk are turned off by blogging and social media because they are under the illusion that marketing online costs a tremendous amount of money. My chosen platform for my business website and blogging is WordPress, which, I am sure most of you know, is free to use and has some amazing free themes. (Note: If you want to spend a couple of dollars you can get Thesis theme.)

Tip Four: Educate the consumer

When starting a blog that revolves around your small business the general tendency is to want to publish a bunch of SPAM posts that extol your virtues. While it is okay to do this once and a while, I have found that educating the consumer works tremendously well and is highly effective. Also, please remember that there is a big difference between using your business blog to tell your story (How you came to own the business, defining your passion, etc.) and just telling people to buy your product or service because you are the best.

Tip Five: Allow 3 to 6 months for return on investment (ROI)

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to measuring ROI for business blogs. We all, myself included, are searching for that magic bullet that is going to draw in more customers. However, from my own experience and in discussion with other business owners who blog, three to six months seems to allow enough time to put up an adequate amount of posts (even if you only publish once a week) and to also obtain a quantifiable and measurable amount of customer data.

Tip Six: Research the competition

Small business owners sometimes feel funny inquiring about what their competition is up to. Keep in mind, this is business, I highly recommend having a search around the web to discern what your competitors are up to. In most cases I think you will be pleasantly surprised to find out that they do not have a strong web presence. And if they do, you will now know that you need to step your game up a bit more.

Tip Seven: Keep it simple

Business blog posts do not have to be extravagant Pulitzer Prize worthy affairs. If you should find yourself stuck for topics, or are facing blogger’s block, have a look at this post I recently did, 31 Blog Post Ideas For Small Businesses.

Tip Eight: Forums are your friend

One of the most common complaints I hear from business bloggers who are getting started is ‘Nobody is coming to my site.’ Is that so? I don’t care if you trade in rare eighteenth century chess pieces or high-end designer shoes; chances are a niche forum exists for your specific business. Do a simple Google search to find out where your customers are hanging out online and make a visit to those sites. Promoting your small business within a forum works best when you approach it in the same manner as step four. You need to educate the consumer and gain member trust before you can start endorsing yourself (otherwise you will be seen as a troll).

Tip Nine: Be consistent

Quite possibly the most important piece of advice for any small business blogger – You NEED to be consistent in your efforts.

Tip Ten: Once you are blogging regularly branch out into other social media

Starting a comprehensive social media and marketing plan can really help to give a traffic boost to your business blog. Social media does not have to be intimidating and you can easily start by uploading a few well tagged and described photos to FLICKR and then possibly move on to YouTube, FaceBook, and Twitter.

If you are a business owner who is struggling in this economy, or if you know of someone who is hesitant to embrace the power of blogging for business promotion, here are a few of additional resources that might help.

Are you a ProBlogger, or business owner who blogs? What are some tips that you might offer?

Mark Hayward owns a business and lives in the Caribbean. He is co-founder of the nonprofit, Train for Humanity, and you can follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward.

Smart Article Marketing For Fast AND Long Term Blog Traffic

I’m regularly asked by readers whether they should use Article Marketing as a way to build their blogs traffic. My answer is always the same – ‘I’ve never done it, but I’ve heard that others have had some success with article marketing.’ So today when Andrew Hansen offered to write this guest post of his experience of article marketing I thought it’d make an interesting read.

Article marketing for traffic is by no means a new concept, but as old as it is there are still great misconceptions about the best way to use it as a tool in creating new targetted visitors to your blog.

I was inspired to make this post after I recently checked the traffic stats for an old niche blog that I hadn’t worked on for a number of months.

It was a blog that we launched almost solely on the back of article submissions and article traffic and now despite server changes, half the site getting lost, total reindexing and other drama, the traffic to this site from the search engines continues to flow, see below diagram:

article-marketing-blog-traffic.png

And primarily from the search engines…

article-marketing-blog-traffic-1.png

Not an enormous amount, but for a site that hasn’t been touched in months and survived all the mentioned havoc, it’s not bad.

The big benefit of article marketing is that it allows you to generate both quick traffic and traffic that lasts when done properly. Furthermore it allows you to generate traffic in 3 separate ways that I’ll illustrate in this post.

Before we begin, let me clarify that by article marketing, I mean the submission of articles to directories, blogs and websites in order to gain exposure to your website through your author biography links.

Article Marketing Traffic Generation Part 1:

Just by submitting your article to a directory, you give it the potential to be found by other people interested in your topic, who are searching through that directory.

It’s not a lot of traffic but it’s fast and it’s relatively targetted.

When we started this site we went on a steady article marketing campaign, submitting a few articles each day to some of the big article directories like ezinearticles.com.

I couldn’t get a screenshot for you, but in the first month or two of this site, ezinearticles.com was the number one source of traffic to the blog (where Google now is in the second shot above) pushing more than a thousand visitors a month to the blog, just from that single directory.

That’s one of the fast traffic elements. Again it’s not enormous traffic but is is fast and targetted. Just having your articles in the directories can bring you traffic. The point to note though is that this is not the MAIN source of traffic that article submissions can bring…

Article Marketing Traffic Part 2:

This next kind of traffic is the one that a lot of new blog and online marketers got stuck focusing solely on and that’s “bum marketing” – just another word for submitting an article to a popular directory and trying to have it rank for a long tail keyword.

Because article directories like ezinearticles.com are old, strong, authoritative domain names, the content you place on them can outrank content optimized for similar terms that you put up on your own (new) website. So when you submit an article that is keyword optimized for some long tail keyword, that article on the directory can get quickly ranked in the search engines, and the author link can be followed to your website.

But this traffic is also only temporary. For more reasons than there are time to list, these pages tend to rank well quickly but drop off quickly too, meaning you see an increase in traffic from the search engines, but it doesn’t last if that’s your only strategy.

This happened with the site above too. In the next couple of months we started to see our search traffic creep up to the same level of traffic the article directories were bringing in.

Most article marketers will stop there and wonder why their traffic dries up within a month or two. That’s part 2 of getting quick traffic from your article submissions but the 3rd and most important part is yet to come.

Article Marketing Traffic Part 3:

This is what ensured that I locked in traffic from Google, used article marketing to create an authoritative blog and claim traffic that won’t dry up even if I want it to.

From the beginning, with each article we submitted to a directory, we left two links in the author biography. One link was to a post of content on my blog that was related to the article but contained more detail than the article. So I submit an on “exercise balls for fitness” and put a link in the author bio to a post on my site at the URL: http://myblog.com/exercise-ball-workout-tips with the anchor text “exercise ball workout” or some keyword that I want to rank for with that post.

The other link in the author biography always went to my blog home page but with a different keyword as the anchor text with every submission. We followed the same submission frequency and guidelines for about 4 months and you can imagine what happened.

Our search engine traffic didn’t dry up, but continued to increase. The only thing to note is that it didn’t increase from the articles at ezinearticles.com that were getting found in the search engines, it increased from our own blog posts getting found in the search engines, in many cases outranking the ezinearticle.com submission we made on the very same keyword!

From there it took off. The extra search engine exposure caused other bloggers to find us and link to us, all that incoming link value made our domain more authoritative so that all the new content we added was getting indexed and ranked at light speed and pretty soon our traffic had tripled.

Another thing to note is that with enough work, our own site now became the big authoritative, strong domain. We didn’t need to submit as many articles to the article directories anymore because it could rank just as well being up on our site.

It’s these factors that ensured that we still see traffic despite all the drama that happened with this site and that keeps that traffic flowing today.

I hope this gives you an insight into the power of this kind of “triple whammy” article marketing and that it’ll inspire you to start an article marketing campaign of your own.

Andrew Hansen has helped thousands of bloggers and aspiring online business owners to discover profitable niche markets, drive quality traffic to their blogs, and turn their traffic streams into cash through his blog at AndrewHansen.name, and his blogging and traffic generation software Firepow. Subscribe to receive updates and learn more about how Andrew can help you make more money online.