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Write an Opinion Post on Your Blog [Day 19 31DBBB]

This post is an excerpt from the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook

Your task today is another writing oriented challenge and is all about expressing an opinion.

There are many factors that set great bloggers apart from the rest but one that I’ve seen continually cropping up over the last few years of interacting with successful bloggers is that they often have and are not afraid to express strong opinions.

While other bloggers in their niche ‘report’ news it is those who express opinions about the news and current events in their industry that tend to be the blogs that get linked to by others, that generate more comments and that people look to as thought leaders in a niche.

Your task today is to write a blog post that expresses an opinion.

This might seem easier for some niches/topics than others but I think it probably applies to most of us.

  • If your blog is about politics – share your own personal thoughts on what a politician is saying
  • If your blog is about cameras – don’t just report that a new camera has come out – tell your readers what you think of its features and who you think it’ll be useful for
  • If your blog is about Britney Spears - don’t just show us her latest haircut and outfit – tell us what you think about it.
  • If your blog is about food – don’t just share a recipe – tell your readers what you love about it and what occasion you’d eat it at.

Your post need not be a highly emotional one that rants and raves about your topic – to express your opinion all you need to do is add your own thoughts and feelings about the topic you’re covering.

Why Opinions Matter

You probably won’t find it suitable to share opinions on every post (although on some blogs this may be appropriate) – but when you regularly add your opinion on your blog you’ll find that it can have a significant impact.

  • When you share an opinion it often draws out others to share theirs (in comments or on other blogs). Often opinion posts draw out interaction and productive conversations.
  • When you share an opinion you help your readers to translate news and to understand information and how it applies to them. This makes your content more useful.
  • When you share an opinion you show your readers that you’re going beyond just reporting news but are yourself engaging with and interested in the topic you’re writing about. This is infectious and will draw your readers in too.

Expressing opinions on your blog is like adding seasoning to food. Without it your blog could end up being quite bland and blend into the crowd. However when you add it you will find that it helps to give your blog unique flavor.

Your task today is to write a blog post that expresses an opinion about something related to your blog topic. Once you’ve written it come back, share a link to it and tell us about the experience.

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

Get Your Free Membership Site Masterplan Report

Click here to watch The Conversion Blogging VideoRegular readers of ProBlogger will be familiar with Yaro Starak. He’s been a guest blogger here and I’ve linked up to his work many times. Many hundreds (it could be thousands by now actually) of you have also have also been a part of Blog Mastermind (a fantastic course for bloggers) and Become a Blogger (closed to new members).

In the coming days Yaro is releasing another free resource – this one for those of you looking to start a membership site. It’s called

Membership Site Mastermind and it is a 72 page report that teaches you how to create successful membership sites from the planning stage and right through the launch and growth stages and even on to selling your site when you’re ready to do something else.

As usual with Yaro’s work – this report is well worth the read. Yaro makes a six figure income from membership sites (he made $250,000 of just one of them) so he has authority, credibility and a wealth of experience to share.

The report is free and will be released on Monday but you can signup to get your copy on release today here.

If you’re thinking of launching a membership site or have always wondered whether it’s a good model to make money online then this report is well worth the read.

PS: if you’re not looking at membership sites check out one of Yaro’s previously published free reports – The Blog Profits Blueprint which has also been helpful to many thousands of bloggers over the last couple of years.

Create a Sneeze Page for Your Blog [Day 18 - 31DBBB]

Today’s task is to create a Sneeze Page for your blog.

What is a Sneeze Page?

The term ‘sneeze page’ is one that I came up with for the 2007 version of the 31 Days to Build a Better blog and is a concept that I’ve been using as a key strategy in my blogs for quite a few years.

The idea is simple – to create a page that propels people in different directions deep within your blog by highlighting a variety of posts that you’ve previously written.

Why a Sneeze Page?

The challenge that many bloggers face is that over time the archives of their blogs fill up with hundreds and then thousands of posts. The problem is that by default a blog generally only highlights the most recent posts that you’ve written on the front page while the majority of your posts go largely unnoticed once they drop off the front page.

A sneeze page is all about showing off those archives.

Benefits of Sneeze Pages

There are a variety of reasons that a sneeze page can be powerful:

1. It shows off your archives - I don’t know about you but when I spend hours (if not days) crafting a blog post, I want people to read it! Sneeze pages lengthen the time that people interact with your older posts.

2. It’s great for SEO - search engines not only look at the links that other people make to your posts in order to give them ranking but the internal links on your blog. Linking to old posts can help them grow their search engine ranking.

3. It can help create a ‘Sticky’ Blog - I’ve not seen stats on this but it is my suspicion that a person arriving on your blog for the first time increases the chances of coming back to it the more great posts that they view on it. Get someone to read 10 great posts that you’ve written previously instead of 1 and you’ll exponentially increase the likelihood that they’ll subscribe and become a regular reader.

Types of Sneeze Pages (with Examples)

There are many ways of creating a ‘sneeze page (or post)’ for your blog. Lets explore some:

Themed Sneeze Pages - these are posts or pages on your blog or site that revolve around a single theme. For example here on ProBlogger I have created sneeze pages around some of the main themes for this blog such as:

These sneeze pages (and others) are linked to prominently around my blog – including the ‘best of ProBlogger’ section of my front page.

Similarly – on DPS I’ve created pages for key topics (like Composition Tips, Digital Photography Techniques, Portrait Photography Tips, How to Photograph and Digital Photography Tips for Beginners) and link to them from navigation areas. I find these pages generate a lot of page views both themselves and the pages that they link to.

One more example that steps away from some of the posts that are purely lists of links is 21 Settings, Techniques and Rules all New Camera Owners Should Know – this post is still a list of links but it is written more as a post with pictures and descriptions of the points made in each of the posts linked to. While the examples above are all ‘pages’ in WordPress and didn’t ever appear as posts this last example just appeared as a normal post on my blog.

Time Related Sneeze Pages – these pages are based around a defined period of time. They are usually a ‘best of’ post that highlight your key posts from that period to either remind readers of previous posts that they might want to revisit or to highlight posts that they might have missed.

The period of time that you choose can really be anything from a year (here’s my best of 2006 at ProBlogger post) through to a month, week or even a weekend (ie a post that summarizes the posts from a weekend that those readers who don’t read your blog on a weekend might have missed). Blogs that have a particularly high frequency of posting often use these quite regularly (for example Lifehacker would often do one at the end of each week to highlight key posts for that week out of the many that they’d published.

Retro Sneeze Pages – Another variation of this ‘time related’ sneeze page is to do one that unashamedly shows off a number of posts from your blog from a particular point in its history. The most common way to do this is to do a post highlighting posts from the blog from a year ago. LifeHacker was another blog that did (and still occasionally does) this (example).

Series Sneeze Pages – many bloggers use the technique of writing a series of blog posts that allow them to explore a topic over a period of time with lots of interlinked posts.

One key with writing a series of posts is to make sure that readers have a trail of links between posts so that they’ll not only read one but the full series.

A great way to help readers discover a full series is to develop a sneeze page. All of the posts in the series should link back to it and it links to them.

Series Sneeze pages can become key pages on your blog. For example here on ProBlogger one of my most popular pages is Blogging for Beginners which started out simply as a list of posts from a series I was writing specifically for beginners.

Promote Your Sneeze Page

Sneeze pages can be an effective way of driving people deep within your blog – but they’ll only do that for as long as you’re able to drive people to the sneeze page itself.

As a result – a sneeze page is something that you’ll want to promote and position prominently on your blog in a place that people will continue to see it. Do this by linking to your sneeze page from navigation menus, sidebars or other ‘hot zones’ on your blog.

Create a Sneeze Page and Share it With Us

OK – it’s time to go create a sneeze page for your blog. Once you’ve done it please do come back and share a link to it in the comments below as I’m sure there are a lot of creative ways to use these types of pages that we could all learn from by sharing them.

Check out what others are doing with today’s task in our thread for Day 18 in our 31 Day Forum.

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

AdSense Developing ‘Category Filtering’ Feature

AdSense today announced at Adspace and on their blog that they’re developing a much requested feature for publishes – category filtering.

“Category filtering will give publishers the ability to block ads that fall into specific categories such as dating, religion, and politics. Regardless of how ads are targeted, they’ll be filtered if they’re within one of the selected categories. We’ll also show the percentage of recent revenue that ads in each category generate, so publishers can predict how filtering selections will impact their revenue.”

The feature is being launched as a beta test to a small group of publishers so don’t expect to see it too soon unless you’re in the test group.

Here’s a screenshot of what the feature currently looks like (click to enlarge):

Category Filtering Beta

Looks like a useful feature – particularly for those who regularly get irrelevant ads on their blog.

More Full Time Bloggers than Computer Programers? – Thoughts on Making Money Blogging

I’ve had a lot of people email and tweet me today asking for my opinion on a Wall Street Journal article – America’s Newest Profession: Blogging.

In it the journalist writes about how there are almost more people in America making their living from blogging than as lawyers and that bloggers outnumber computer programmers and firefighters.

I’ll let you read and give your feedback on the article but here are a couple of reactions of my own:

Full Time Blogger Numbers Are on the Up

While the stats can be debated (and they are being around the blogosphere) there’s certainly an increase in the numbers of people for whom blogging is their primary source of income.

I’m not sure that the number is as high as the 2% of blogs that the article quotes – but I know that I’m coming across new bloggers that I’d not come across before carving out a full time living from blogging every week.

Most Bloggers Continue to Earn Peanuts

The reality is that while this article is full of impressive figures about what bloggers can earn that most bloggers earn nothing or very little from their blogs.

Note: this is certainly covered in the article – however most of the commentary I’ve seen about the article seems to be focusing upon how much bloggers make and how there are more full time bloggers than computer programers.

Even here on ProBlogger where most of our readers are attempting to earn money from their blogs every time I ask readers about their earnings the vast majority don’t earn much.

Last time I did such a survey 39% of respondents said they didn’t earn anything from their blogs.

Of the 61% who did make money 54% reported making less than $100 a day.

While the same survey also revealed quite a few of or readers are making good money from blogging the take home message is that it’s not a reality for the majority.

It’s not just an advertising game

There’s a sense in the article that online advertising is the main way that blogs earn income. While most bloggers I talk to do focus upon this model many blogs are also exploring a variety of other models.

Of course there is also the affiliate/commission type model that many bloggers also do quite well from but a trend I’ve been noticing for a year or so now is to see bloggers releasing their own information products for sale and increasingly leveraging the profile that a blog brings them personally to make an income indirectly from their blogs. Even smaller bloggers are finding success as a result of releasing e-books which they sell from their blogs.

READ THIS:

I’d like to finish this post with a link to another where I answer the question – Can You REALLY Make Money Blogging?

In that post I attempt to give a realistic picture of blogging for money and getting your expectations right as you enter into the field of making money from blogs.

Other Reading:

Update: Penelope Trunk has published a good read in the last day or two – Reality Check: You’re Not Going to Make Money from Your Blog.

Penelope’s put it perhaps a little more bluntly than I would (I actually think that there’s a little more hope than she says) but makes some great points. I particularly think point #3 (supporting yourself with a blog is crazy hard) and point #7 (Blog for better reasons than money) are good.

It is possible to make money from blogs without a background in media (I was working as a minister and putting myself through a Theology degree when I started) or without a background in design or with a web developer partner (My first blog’s design was like an explosion went off in a candy store and I remember one day taking 3 hours to work out how to align an image to the left) and I did get a book deal and a fair bit of speaking work purely from my blog – but it is a lot of work and takes a long time.

Watch a First Time Reader Use Your Blog [DAY 17 31DBBB]

This post is an excerpt from the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook

New readers to your blog are making decisions within seconds of arriving at your blog that will determine how (and if) they’ll use your blog.

In the same way that first impressions can be vital in real life interactions – online they are just as important.

Today’s task in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog challenge is to do some analysis of what first impressions people have of your blog by doing a First Time Reader Audit on your blog. Here’s how to do it:

What you’ll need:

1. A friend, family member, work colleague or even a blogger that you’ve not had much to do with before. The key is that the person has not seen your blog before. The person will need 10 or so minutes with you so bribe them with a coffee or something else to get their time.

2. A computer in front of your friend. Ideally you’ll be in the same room with the person but you can adapt this and still have a valuable time by doing it ‘virtually’ with someone.

The Process

Load your blog up and let your friend surf it. Get them to spend 4-5 minutes just wondering around your blog.

Don’t talk to them as they do – but watch carefully how they use your blog.

  • How do they navigate?
  • Where do they click?
  • What do they pause to read?
  • What do they skip over?
  • What areas of the blog do they seem most drawn to

Once they’ve surfed your blog ask them some questions about the experience.

  • What were their first impressions?
  • What did they first think your blog was about when they arrived at it?
  • Did they find it easy to read/navigate/understand?
  • What did they ‘feel’ when they first arrived at your blog?
  • What suggestions do they have on how you could improve your blog?
  • What questions do they have having surfed your blog?
  • What words would they use to describe the design?
  • What are the main things that they remember about your blog 10 minutes later?
  • What suggestions do they have from a user perspective?

It’s amazing to see what you’ll learn by watching someone use your blog.

Once you’ve done your First Time Reader Audit come back to this post and let us know what you learned.

PS: Last time I went through this process I actually got 4 people to do it for me. I chose people of different web savviness (ie from someone who doesn’t use the web much at all through to another experienced blogger). I found getting feedback from across a small group of people to be very valuable.

Update – There are lots of people who joined the challenge that are working together on this 31 DBBB Daily Task over at the forum, you should check it out! Day 17 – First Time Reader Audit

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

Seven Essential Applications For Bloggers Using Windows

Looking for some cool blog tools and applications to help you be a more productive? Today Shankar Ganesh from Killer Tech Tips shares 7 to check out if you’re a Windows based blogger.

If you’re a blogger, you’ll be using a variety of applications that aid you in your daily chores. Most of them will be web based, but I bet you’ll find the following desktop apps indispensable once you install and start using them. Darren has already covered essential Mac applications previously, so I’ll cover only Windows applications in this post.

1. Windows Live Writer

Windows-Livewriter

Windows Live Writer is, by a majority, the best desktop blogging client to date. Although initial releases were buggy, the latest edition of Windows Live Writer is much more stable and packs few features that might be really useful for all kinds of bloggers.

Besides letting you crop images, add watermarks and other effects, Windows Live Writer also allows you to add and upload videos to YouTube directly. The power of Windows Live Writer lies in its plugins that can be used to add extra functions to the app – for instance, there’s a plugin called Twitter Notify that can be used to post your blog post links to Twitter once they’ve been published via Live Writer.

All-in-all, Windows Live Writer is a must have application for any blogger using Windows. The reason: it makes everything easier that blogging just appears like double clicking on an icon, writing and hitting the publish button. No messing with anything else.

2. Evernote

Evernote
Blogging is about pushing content frequently and consistently to your readers. Writing down ideas as you get them is very important for any blogger. Evernote is a cross platform application that lets you take notes. The best part of Evernote is that your notes are accessible from virtually everywhere – your PC, your Mac, your iPhone, your Windows Mobile and even from the web.

You can clip web pages to your notes and save them for later reference. You can take screen captures and put them in your notes. You can even scan your blogger buddies’ business cards and put them up on Evernote. All of them will be searchable.

The free version gives you a space of 40 MB/month where as upgrading to a premium account for $45/year or $5/month will give you 500 MB monthly upload allowance for your notes. Try it, and you won’t regret using it.

3. FeedDemon RSS Reader

Feeddemon
Although a lot of people use Google Reader these days, FeedDemon is a very feature-rich RSS reader that deserves to be written about here. Once your really start using its most powerful features, you’ll never want to be without it. When everything’s cloud these days, why use it you ask?

FeedDemon is powerful: Because it can show you the most popular posts from the feeds you’ve just subscribed (like a mini techmeme); you can create ‘watches’ to monitor keywords – for instance, you can create a watch for ‘iPhone Apps’ and see all blog posts that mention it separately; desktop alerts for unread items; integration with aforementioned Windows Live Writer and a plethora of other features.

The upcoming release of FeedDemon will sync with Google Reader, meaning that you can use both of them simultaneously. An item that you opened in Google Reader will also be marked as read in FeedDemon. So you get the best of both worlds, why not switch?

4. Q10

Q10
I’ve mentioned Windows Live Writer above, but why this, you ask? Well, being on the internet means getting carried around site by site. You realise you’ve wasted all your time only when none’s left.

Q10 aims at making your writing tasks distraction free and it does that. What you get is a barebones writer like Windows Notepad that operates in full screen mode. It offers no big features, but can just count the number of words you write and spell check. Besides that, it’s portable.

It overlaps everything else on your screen – just type all that you have to and quit. Then start playing all that you wanted to on your computer. Some people have told me that it has really improved their productivity – they write 2-3 extra articles than they usually do in a stipulated time period.

5. FileZilla

Filezilla

An FTP client is indispensable tool for bloggers. Be it tinkering with your blogging platform or troubleshooting hosting woes, you’ll have to use an FTP client sometime or the other during your blogging endeavours. There are a number of good FTP clients available in the market, and FileZilla is just one of them. It’s my pick.

I suggest FileZilla because it’s free and open source. There’s a site manager to store all your connection details, so that you need not have to enter them everytime you use FileZilla. You can of course give raw FTP commands. There’s not just the GUI in it.

There’s a portable version as well and you can carry it in your USB Stick. It’s a must-have app for any blogger with a self-hosted blog.

6. FastStone Capture

Faststone
A screen capture tool is essential for bloggers, especially tech bloggers. FastStone Capture does the task for you. Just hit the Print Screen key after you install the program and then you can save your image in the desired format in a folder of your choice, or copy it to the clipboard. Just what you’d expect from a normal screen capture program.

Of course, you can either perform full screen captures or only a specific window and save it in any of the six specified formats. Overall, it’s a nice and little app that just does what it says.

I’ll also recommend FastStone Capture for its good image editing capabilities but you have to shell out around thirty bucks after the trial period is over. SnagIt is another software, but it’s a bit costlier.

If you already use Evernote, you can easily capture your screen by hitting the PrintScreen key – it already has a minimal screen capture tool built-in.

7. TweetDeck

Tweet-Deck
Twitter is the craze these days and everyone’s on it. As a blogger, it’s important that you start using twitter to leverage your online connections. Lots of people Twitter to help people, join the conversation with their readers, get feedback and do a lot more.

A Twitter client that lets you manage conversations and people on Twitter is a necessity and you won’t find a better one than TweetDeck for that purpose. In TweetDeck, you can create what are called ‘groups’ and track messages from a particular group of people. For instance, I can create a group named ‘most loyal readers’ and give their tweets some special attention.

There’s multicolumn view on TweetDeck, which you can customize to your needs. TweetDeck also supports Facebook and you can view updates from your friends on Facebook as well. If you’re a minimalist, you can try twhirl that comes without the big bells and whistles.

What other desktop apps do you think are a must-have for bloggers using Windows? You can share what you know in the comments.

Guest Blogger Shankar Ganesh writes on Killer Tech Tips. Check out his blog to read tech tips ranging from essential windows utilities to how to fix iTunes.

Solve a Problem – 7 Ways to Identify Reader Problems [Day 16 - 31DBBB]

Solve-Problem
Today’s task in the 31 Days to build a better blog project is a ‘writing’ oriented task and it is all about solving problems.

Your task is to write a post that solves a problem that your readers (or potential readers) have.

This is a task that most successful bloggers build into every single day of their blogging. Here’s their motivation:

If you’ve solving problems:

  1. you’ll make an impression upon people
  2. those people are more likely to return to your blog
  3. those people are more likely to tell others about your blog

How to Identify Problems to Solve:

For some bloggers identifying a problem that their readers will have is easy – they have a lot of readers and have their finger on the pulse of their needs. However it isn’t that easy for many newer bloggers with smaller and less vocal readers.

7 Methods for Identifying Problems to Solve on Your Blog

1. Solve Your Own Problems

My favorite way to identify needs and problems of others is to take note of my own. In my experience, when I have a problem I’m not likely to be alone. So instead of just solving your problems for yourself and moving on – why not capture the solution and add it to your blog so that others can benefit from it.

I was recently asked by a Twitter follower how she should start her blog. She was a little apprehensive of getting going and not sure how to start out. My answer was to write about a problem that she’d had and how she solved it. I can’t think of a much better way to get a blog going – right from day 1 it signals to readers that you’re interested in solving problems.

A great exercise to do to identify your own previous problems is to sit down with a notepad and pen or a laptop and text document and simply brainstorm all of the things you’ve learnt, overcome, discovered or solved when it comes to the topic that you cover on your list. Also list questions that you remember asking others about or problems that you might have researched yourself privately.

Having done this you should end up with a good list of potential posts to write on your blog.

2. Look for Questions in Search Referrals

Once your blog has been going for a while there are ways to tap into your readership and discover the problems that they have. One of these that is particularly useful when readers don’t verbalize to you their needs and problems is to look at how and why they access your blog (and what they do when they arrive).

One way to do this is to look at the terms that people are typing into search engines to arrive on your site. Sometimes the most common keywords can illuminate a topic that people have a need or problem in.

For example on my Twitter Tips blog I have the WP stats plugin installed. While not as advanced as some stats packages it does show me the most commonly used keywords that people arrive on my site having typed into search engines. Here’s a screenshot of part of the list of keywords:

Solve-Problem-Twitip

These are just 7 of many hundreds of terms that people have typed into Google to and there are a few potential problems that people obviously have. Some way to know how to make a background image for Twitter, others want to know about twitter badges, others are looking for suggestions on who to follow on Twitter while others are tossing up between Twitter and Facebook while others are looking for information on how to customize Twitter.

From those 7 search terms I’ve identified 5 problems that people have on Twitter!

The same information can be gleaned from most web statistics packages such as Google Analytics.

Another great tool for identifying such terms and honing in particularly on ‘questions’ that people are asking when they arrive on your site is 103bees. To use it you need to be able to add a little javascript code to your blog’s footer or header – but once you’ve done that it’ll show you what keywords people are typing into search engines but also particularly highlight the questions people are asking.

So here on ProBlogger people have arrived on this site in the last few minutes asking:

Solve-Problems-103Bees

Again – there are some real life ‘needs’ and problems that people have.

Keep in mind that with both of the above techniques you’re relying on your site ranking well for certain keywords that you’ve already used. So the reason I have people arriving on my blog searching for ‘how to be lucky‘ is because I’ve already written about that exact topic (so I probably don’t need to write another post on that exact topic). However you will find in the mix that people ask questions that you’ve not written specifically about.

3. Analyze Internal Searches

Another related way to find information on what your current readers problems and needs are is to watch what they search for when they are on your blog. This will show you what those arriving on your blog are still searching for once they’ve arrived. This is great because it shows you questions that they’re asking that you’ve often not already written about.

There are a few tools that show you internal search keywords. One I’ve is:

Lijit – Lijit is a search box that you put on your sidebar or in your navigation area instead of your normal search box. In many ways it performs the same functions as far as your readers are concerned in that it allows them to search your blog – however it also gives publishers a large array of useful information on what those searches are for. For example Lijit shows me that people on ProBlogger have searched for:

Solve-Problems-Lijit-1

Not only that – it also produces a list of searches that people have done on your blog that you have NO RESULTS for:

Solve-Problems-Lijit-2

While that list includes some rather ‘odd’ results it also produces some very useful information at times also and gives a snapshot into what readers are looking for information about!

4. Ask Readers for Questions

Another method that can be well worthwhile is to directly ask readers for their questions or about the needs and challenges that they face.

This of course assumes that you have some readers (it might not be for those just starting out) and assumes that they are comfortable in giving you a response.

There are a variety of ways of doing this:

  • Write a post asking for questions
  • Email a handful of most recent comment leavers asking if they have anything they need help with
  • Set up a contact form that acts as a ‘question box’
  • Run a Survey for readers
  • Set up a sidebar and/or in post poll that gives people a set of options to show you their most pressing needs (this allows some anonymity)

I’ve done each of these and all can be well worth your time to do.

5. Look for Problems on other Sites

This one can be particularly good for those just starting out who don’t have current readers to ask. It simply involves finding a forum, blog or social networking site that is relevant to your niche and surfing through threads of conversation looking for the type of questions that people ask.

You’ll probably want to concentrate on doing this in larger sites that get the amount of comments needed for this but once you spend some time on most good sized forums you’ll see a range of questions that are asked over and over again.

6. Use Social Media to Gather Questions

A place that I personally am getting more and more inspiration for posts is Twitter and other social networking sites.

Twitter is a great place for collecting questions from real people with real needs and problems. I mainly do this in two ways:

  1. Asking for Questions – every now and again I simply tweet that I’m looking for a few questions to base posts on.
  2. Watch lists – I have a few keywords that I particularly look to track and monitor the use of on Twitter (I do this through my Twitter Client TweetDeck). I’ve written more about setting up watch lists earlier in 31DBBB but many of the times I see keywords used I see questions being asked. I try to answer these questions on Twitter but also often use them as inspiration for longer blog posts.

7. Ask ‘real life’ Friends and Family

Lastly – don’t forget your real life friends, family and work colleagues. Many of the conversations you have in day to day conversation reveal the types of struggles and challenges that people face. While you’ll want to keep private conversations private they could be a great source of inspiration for posts.

I actually find that family gatherings with extended family are a great time for me to tap into what people think about the topics that I write about. For example at one family gathering a family member asked me if he was holding his digital camera right. He was almost a little embarrassed to ask it as it was such a basic thing but as I was answering I realized that other beginners in using cameras would have the same question – hence How to Hold a Digital Camera came into being.

Update! Join the discussion and share ideas over at the forum, at Day 16 – Solve a Problem [Writing Challenge]

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

Join me at Social Media Success Summit 2009

I wanted to take a few minutes today to let you know about an event that I’m excited to be participating in that is fast approaching.

The event is the Social Media Success Summit 2009.

The event is a live online event (although you have access to recordings if you can’t make the live components) and it is being organized by Michael A. Stelzner from White Paper Source. As the name suggests – this event is all about social media and discovering how to use tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to grow your business.

Social-Media-Summit

Speakers are all experts in different aspects of social media and include:

  • Gary Vaynerchuck (Wine Library TV)
  • Mari Smith (Facebook Expert)
  • Jason Alba (Linked In Expert)
  • Ann Handley (chief content officer from MarketingProfs)
  • Brian Clark (CopyBlogger)
  • Chris Garrett (Co Author of ProBlogger the Book)
  • Denise Wakeman (BlogSquad)
  • Michael A. Stelzner (White Paper Guru)

The sessions start on May 26 and happen over a number of days to give you time to digest it all.

I’m doing a panel discussion on 3rd June with Brian Clark on ‘The Future of Social Media: What’s Going to be Hot and What’s Not).

The Social Media Success Summit 2009 is based around live calls where you get to interact with those presenting but also gives you access to recordings and transcripts of the calls if you want to review them later or can’t make the live calls.

There is currently a $200 early bird discount. I hope that this is something that will interest you and hope to see you in class!