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3 Mind Power Techniques to Become A Better Blogger

A Guest Post by Steve Martile from Freedom Education.

It’s normal to have a bad day, right? Well sure. But what if you have a bad week or a bad month?

I’ve been blogging for just over a year. And if there is one thing that I’ve learned is that you’ve got to be consistent. You’ve got to be consistently putting in an effort to build your blog. It won’t build itself.

So what about those bad days?

I’ve had them and they’re no good. You want to bounce back quickly. Get out of that rut. The quicker the better. So you can get back to blogging, life and other things.

And it all begins with the proper mindset. Here are 3 Mind Power Techniques to Become a Better Blogger:

Mind Power Technique #1: Overcome Writers Block With A Physical Change

When you’re writing and you get stuck, do this. Get up, walk around and sit in a different spot. See your screen from a different point of view. Sit in a different location and gain a new perspective.

Sound to hokey?

You see one thing that’s true for anyone is that a change in your mindset will change your physiology – your body posture, facial expressions, etc. When you think new thoughts, the chemicals in your brain change. But what many people don’t know is that the opposite is also true. A change in your physiology will also change the chemistry in your mind.

This the same reason why some writers will use exercise as a way to gain new insights and spark their creativity. A change in there physical state creates a change in their internal state. Body movement is an effective brain stimulator.

So get your body moving. Get up and go for a walk, get some exercise or just change locations to trigger that inner change – the place where you get all of those great ideas.

Mind Power Technique #2: Track Your Progress

I think over the past 3 months, 70% of the blog carnivals I submit to have either quit or stopped publishing. Which tells me one thing, that more than 7 out of 10 people will quit blogging within 3 months of starting. Don’t let that be you.

Keep your momentum going by using this mind power technique #2: track your progress.

Let me explain.

Recently, I spoke to a sales representative from iperceptions – a survey company that provides statistics and data for websites. What they do is survey people who navigate your website or blog. As part of their surveying process they tested different methods and found something really interesting.

What they did was add a status bar at the bottom of each survey page. That way users could see their progress as they went through the survey. When they did this, the survey completion rates increased by an astounding 67%!

Basically, this is what happened. When users new how well they were doing, they kept going. But if they didn’t have any signs of progress, they quit the survey altogether.

How can you use this technique with your blog?

Start tracking the traffic of your blog by creating a blog traffic diary. I learned this technique from Yaro Starak @ Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

A blog diary is basically a way to track the unique visitors and pageviews for your blog. I thought it would be a good idea to track my Newsletter subscribers as well. Here’s a snap shot of my traffic and newsletter subscribers each month from November 08 to May 09.

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What I found from following this process is that I instinctively became more proactive. I started to think ahead about how I could improve my traffic. If I saw that my unique visitors were down one month, then I would brainstorm ways to improve my performance: either by creating better content or putting more effort into my marketing.

I’ve been pretty active with my blog diary. I still keep it up to date because it’s such a great tool. I’ve pretty much shared what has worked for me and what has not worked over the past year. You can see my blog traffic diary here.

Mind Power Technique #3: Use Comparison To Give Yourself A Boost

Here’s a mistake I made from the very beginning. When I was surfing and commenting on other blogs I would compare myself to those A-List Bloggers:

ProBlogger, StevePavlina, Zenhabits and a few others.

This seemed harmless in the beginning. It started with subtle comments to myself like:

  • “Oh, he has more RSS subscribers than me,”
  • “She has third party ads on her site and I don’t,”
  • “He writes way better than I do!”

Then after a while this self-talk started to grow like weeds in my mind. As time went by I found more and more weeds taking up the space in my head. Which put me in a real bad mood, to the point where I didn’t feel like doing anything anymore – not even blogging.

The important thing here is to catch this internal dialogue quickly. You never want to compare yourself to someone who is better than you (unless you’re looking for ways to improve).

If you’re going to compare, then compare yourself to someone who is worse than you. You can always find someone who is down a notch from your current position.

As you start to compare yourself to someone who is worse off, you’ll start to realize how good things are. You’ll start to feel better about yourself and your position. You’ll start to feel more confident. And when you feel more confident, you’ll start to take action.

If you’re going to compare, compare yourself against someone who is worse than you. At least that way you can bounce back quickly and get back to what you do best.

Steve is a Mind Power Coach and the creator of Freedom Education - Mind Power for Your Personal Growth.  He is also the author of the ebook, The Genius Within YOU.  You can download his ebook here.

How to Boost your Business by Developing Bulletproof Trust

A Guest Post by Johnny B. Truant writes from Learn to Be Your Own V.A

The other day, while we were on the phone, a client sent me $500 via PayPal for a series of tech consultations. Toward the end of the call, I noticed that I hadn’t received the money. She thought for sure that she had sent it, but offered straightaway to make the payment again.

I said, “Maybe you want to wait. I mean, what if you’re paying me twice?”

And she said, “Oh, I trust you.”

Which was a really interesting thing to say, given that this was the first time I was speaking to this woman. We had never met in person; she didn’t have my address or phone number; I hadn’t exchanged more than three or four random emails with her. For all intents and purposes, neither of us knew who the other was. But the more I thought about it, this kind of thing happens all the time. Most of my clients never hear my voice. Few have the slightest idea where I live or what my background is, and I’ve only been truly visible online for maybe six months. Yet over and over and over again, people pay me in advance for work they’d like me to do.

It kind of destroys the paradigm of the internet being a skeptical place.

So I thought about it: Why, in a realm where Verisign has to vouch for the security of a website, will customers pay some merchants in full, in advance, without question? Why are some people trusted while others are not? If a man can pose as a woman online, if an adult can pose as a child, if a scam artist can pose as a legit businessperson — then what does it take to make customers feel that a person is true to his or her word?

If you want to conduct business online — if you want to turn passive readers into active customers — you need to find a way to build that kind of bulletproof trust. Here’s how.

1. Be human

If you’re on Twitter and Facebook as “Thermodyne Systems, Inc.,” knock it off and start interacting as yourself. Talk to people online person-to-person rather than business-to-customer. Be funny if you’re funny. Be deep if you’re deep. If it strikes you to write somewhere about your dog or kids, do so. Personally, I write a humor blog that has nothing to do with my area of business. Through that site, people see how I am when I’m not being a tech guy. They see that I’m a person, just like they are.

2. Admit when you don’t know something

People seem to feel a need to appear infallible in business. If a client wants to know X and you know nothing about X, the rule is to tell him about X in as much double-talk as it takes to make it sound plausible. But here’s the thing: Nobody is perfect, so infallibility always comes across as phony. But if you buck that trend — if you’re truthful when you don’t know an answer — readers will begin to trust your honesty. Put succinctly: If you’re honest when you don’t know the answer, people will believe that you’re being honest you when you do.

3. Interact with readers in public

When readers comment on your blog, respond to those comments. Get the “Subscribe to Comments” plug-in so that commenters will know when someone (like you) comments after them. When readers ask questions of you anywhere in public, answer them as fully as you’re able. Interact on Twitter, forums, other blogs, or wherever your readers hang out. You want them to see you as one of the group, not as an untouchable speaker on a high podium.

4. Be responsive in private

It’s amazing how many people thank me for simply responding to emails. One or two people have even given me permission to “blow them off” if I didn’t have the time. You don’t have to send detailed, lengthy replies to everyone who contacts you, but it’s amazing how much goodwill you can engender by being one of the (apparently) few businesspeople who respond to inquiries quickly, thoroughly, and personably.

5. Give away a ton of free information

Writing your blog is a great way to give away your knowledge, but think even deeper. Should you publish a newsletter? Can you answer more personal questions from readers? This may feel like a time drain, and you may even be tempted to charge for time spent giving answers, but tough it out. What you gain in favor and trust from answering gratis will net you far more more than a shortsighted hourly billing mentality. The $500 consulting client I mentioned in the intro? She came to me because months ago, I helped someone she liked, without billing that person a dime.

6. Tell customers what’s in it for you

There’s a big debate around whether you should disclose affiliate links on your blog. Personally, I love disclosing them. I love any opportunity to open my books, to show readers exactly where my money is coming from. Why? Because many of my services are inexpensive, and can remain so because part of “what’s in it for me” is an affiliate commission. I could hide that, but then customers would wonder how I could set up a blog for only $39. Are the blogs of poor quality? What’s the catch? By revealing my sources of income, I remove those suspicions and show customers that I have no hidden motives.

7. Genuinely, honestly, truthfully look for the win-win

Be careful on this one. Everyone gives lip service to the idea of a “win-win,” but most people are really trying only to benefit themselves. I never, never, never steer clients toward something I feel they don’t need. I will actually steer them away from a sale I think won’t benefit them. But — and here’s the rub — I can’t count the number of times one of those people have come back, given me more business, and told their friends about me because we both “won” in our interaction.

8. Establish social proof

Buyers want to know that other people have purchased before them and have been satisfied. Your goal should be to create raving fans — customers who can’t say enough good things about you. Solicit testimonials. Ask satisfied customers to refer their friends. And if you can swing it, try to write for (or otherwise associate with) well-trusted websites and personalities. You’re judged by the company you keep, and association with trusted people allows some of that trust to rub off on you. My business ratcheted up when I started writing for IttyBiz.com, and again after I had a few posts on sites like Problogger and Copyblogger. Intentionally or not, authority sites give at least a little bit of tacit approval to everyone who appears on them.

If you want to do business online, you have to know your stuff. You have to be credible. You have to be good at what you do. But without trust, you’ll never make it. So, how trustworthy are you? The answer may well make or break your business.

About the Author: Johnny B. Truant writes Learn to Be Your Own V.A. and is the creator of Zero to Business: A Ridiculously Simple Guide to Turning Your Online Business from Tech Headache to Profit Center. You can follow him on Twitter at @johnnybtruant.

How I Offended Former Australian Cricket Captain Allan Border… and Why that Makes me a Better Blogger Today

A Guest Post by Pamela Wilson from WriteSmart.

When I was a second-year cadet journalist on an Australian newspaper, my chief-of-staff gave me a coveted assignment. ‘I need you to interview Australian cricket captain Allan Border for a story about daylight savings,’ he said.
 
I grabbed my pen and notebook (both sporting L-plates) and reached for the phone, but in my heart I knew the esteemed Allan Border would never speak to a cub reporter about daylight savings.
 
I made a few phone calls anyway and discovered he was playing in the Sheffield Match in South Australia at the time. I was convinced now; there was no way he was going to interrupt a cricket match to talk to me.
 
Like a dog with a month-old bone, however, I called the Adelaide Oval and was put through to a young guy in the change-rooms. ‘Sure, you can talk to Allan. Here he comes now, he’s just finished batting,’ he said.
 
Picking myself up off the floor and stifling a swear word I promised my Grade 10 teacher I would never repeat, I racked my brain for what to say. You see, I had been so convinced I wouldn’t get to speak to Allan Border that I hadn’t done a scrap of research, nor prepared a single question.
 
Had I done the research I would have known that he was 3-1/2 years into what would be a four-year Test century drought for him, and I would never, ever, ever have said what I said next. (In my defence, though, I could never have known he had literally, 30 seconds prior to taking my call, got out for a duck.)
 
Before I had time to collect my thoughts he was on the other end of the phone, ‘Hello, Allan speaking.’ My brain went numb. I said the first thing that came to my mind. “Ummmmm, how’s your batting going?”
 
The silence was spine-chilling. Finally he said, “Are you taking the p&%* out of me?” So, I had committed an atrocious faux pas and had offended the esteemed Allan Border. But he was so gracious and, in the end, I got the page three lead anyway.
 
But in that moment when one of the world’s greatest all-time cricketers swore at me, I resolved to change my work ethic and my attitude. (But let’s face it, I don’t regret it; it gave me a darn good story that I intend to repeat to anyone who’ll listen until my dying day.)
 
From that one exchange I learned the true value of preparation and planning. These days, as a writer and very eager blogger, I strictly follow the formula touted in the popular business mantra, The Five Ps. There are a number of versions of this mantra, but I like the one that says Preparation, Planning and Practice = Perfect Performance. (I also chuck in a sixth p – passion.)
 
We cannot hope to succeed in any new venture that we attempt if we are don’t plan, prepare and put in the effort to practice our new-found skills. When I first started the WriteSmart blog I was very tempted to just begin scratching away at my computer keyboard on some half-baked post idea. But Allan Border’s dismayed question popped into my head and I took a step back. I began searching respected blog sites; I read for hours about the keys to writing compelling blog content; and I trawled through successful blogs to see how those authors did it.
 
I had been a journalist for 18 years, but I wrote for newspapers, magazines and online news sites. Blogs were a whole new genre with a completely new readership. So I munched on a slice of humble pie and sought the advice and experience of those who had helped blogging evolve into a respected genre all of its own.
 
To that end, these are the top P tips I employ in my endeavours as a blogger:
 

1. Prepare

If you are new to blogging, don’t start sprinting until you have learned how to crawl, toddle and walk-without-falling-down first. Learn all that you can about how to blog well by those who are doing it successfully. You will save yourself a lot of time and, ultimately, create a better quality product from the outset. With respect to writing posts, research the topic if you are not already an expert. Google, go to a library, interview the experts.

2. Plan

Who are you blogging for? Who is your target audience? What sort of posts do you intend to write? If you don’t plan, you may soon discover there is no central theme connecting your posts. Without a central theme, your posts may be relevant to your readers only some of the time. You want your posts to be relevant to your readers all of the time so that they don’t tune out.

3. Practice

Write, write, write. It is no secret that with practice, everyone’s skills improve. As a blogger, your main tool (yes, besides YouTube) is your ability to succinctly string words together to form engaging, creative, funny, informative sentences. So, start writing, keep writing, practice writing.

Passion

If you take to the computer like a kid takes to brussel sprouts, something has to change. You need to inject into your blogging whatever it is that you do love. Perhaps you have started a blog that centres on a topic you don’t particularly like. If so, don’t chuck it in, just change it to something that will excite and engage you. Consider changing the look of your blog to a design that is more appealing to you. Set some goals you can aim for as motivators. You have got to enjoy what you are doing. If you don’t, think about ways to change it so you do.
 
So, when you next sit down to write your blog think ‘Preparation, Planning, Practice and Passion = Perfect Performance’. If you do, you greatly reduce the risk of world-class sportsmen uttering obscenities at you.

Aussies! Join Me at MarketingNow Conference in Melbourne [Now FREE]

If you’re in Melbourne Australia (or can get here) on 22-23 September you should check out the Marketing Now conference. I’ve mentioned it previously but since doing so there have been some changes.

Previously this conference was $1000+ to attend – the organizers were going to donate the profits to charity. However they’ve rethought things and have decided to go with a new approach. It’s now FREE – on the condition that you make a $100 donation to charity.

The speaker list is pretty cool and the agenda is one that I think many will find useful.

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I think it’s going to be a great couple of days and am really looking forward to being a part of it. I’m also excited that it’s now much more accessible pricing wise and that from what I can see on Twitter the numbers are going to be quite large as a result.

I also think that it’s great that this conference is all about raising money for charity – I’m donating my time to speak and am excited to see the local blogosphere and social media networks joining together to make a difference – whilst also learning from one another.

I hope you can join me!

Attracting “Money Traffic” To Your Blog

A guest post by Andrew Hansen from http://1000NewVisitors.com

If you’re a new blogger, particularly one who’s looking to make money from your blog you’ll know that generating traffic to your blog is, at least initially, priority number one.

But something that gets talked about much less is generating the right kind of traffic to your blog. When I say the “right kind” of traffic, I mean, the kind of traffic that is going to generate revenue. This is one step above “targeted traffic”, this is “money traffic”.

For many bloggers, the thought of trying hard to bring the kind of visitors to your blog that are going to be the most likely to make you money, is a little too “marketer-like”. But as we’re going to see in this post, it’s easy to attract the kind of visitors that are going to make you money while at the same time providing the high quality and value in your blog posts that you always do.

First, let’s answer the question:

What Are “Money Visitors”?

Regardless of the niche your blog is in, it’s likely that it has certain little sects or groups of people that are more likely to buy things than others. (Note that the reason I say this is that whether you’re monetizing your blog with ads or affiliate offers, it’s the people who buy things that are, at the end of the day, going to make your blog profitable.) Identifying those little sects within your niche and occasionally writing something to suit them can unlock hidden profit potential within your blog.

For example, say you have a photography blog. Let’s say some people found your blog online somewhere as they were searching or browsing for pictures of pretty sunsets. Another group of people found your blog while they were searching for a particular model of camera that they were thinking of buying.

In a monetary sense, while both groups represent traffic to your blog, the latter group is more likely to result in income for you, if you know how to leverage it. Those are “money visitors”.

Finding YOUR “Money Visitors”

More or less every niche has it’s “money visitors”. Your job is to locate the sects in your niche, to which you feel like you could provide quality information. It’s by providing information to those money sects, that your blog will become more profitable.

So how do you find your “Money Visitors”?

It starts with a little brainstorming and it helps if the niche you’re in is something you’re interested in personally. Start by asking questions like:

“What do people in this niche spend money on?”, or…
“What do I, as someone interested in this subject, spend money on?”

It’s easier than it sounds. If your niche is dog lovers, they spend money on dog collars, dog toys, dog food, dog beds, dog insurance… and the list goes on.

If the niche is photography, they spend money on cameras, lenses, holidays on which they take photos, and of course plenty more…

Once you have some ideas, you can get into some good old fashion search analytics (not complicated, don’t worry!)

You can take one of the terms you found above (let’s say it’s dog collars) and type it into the search tool at:

https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

And see what you find. This tells us that people are out there on the Internet looking for information about these dog collars. And in some ways this is representative of the Internet as a whole. I mean if there are 10 000 people searching for “leather dog collar” in Google, we can safely assume that there are at least some people on social networks, dog lover forums, or other blogs that have a similar interest or intent.

So you scan the list of “dog collar” type terms that people are looking for.

If there’s something there that you think you know about or at least, could know about with a little research, you’re in luck. There’s no limit to the number of these little sects that you can find and capitalize on to make your blog more profitable.

Turning Visitors Into Profit

Now that you’ve found these sects of people that are looking to spend money in your niche market, how do you:

1. Bring them to your site; and
2. Provide them value and perhaps make money from them.

First you scan your list of dog collar “sects”.

Is there anything here that you can write about? Is there any existing content you have on your blog where you could include some info on any of these collar terms and provide an affiliate offer? (searching for a relevant affiliate offer is a little outside the scope of this post). If so, you’re in luck again!

Next, you need to go about doing some search optimization around these terms to attract visitors who might be looking for that particular dog collar or some variation of it.

This can be as simple as making a couple of mentions of the keyword in your post, or as full on as writing a new blog post targeted just to that keyword (this might involve having the keyword in the blog post title, using a wordpress plugin like All in One SEO to make sure the keyword is in the description and keyword tags of that post, and so on). You can even make mention of that post in another blog post of yours, linking to the post with the anchor text “leather dog collar” (or whatever the keyword is you’re trying to target) to build internal links to that post with the keyword you’re trying to rank for.

Then it’s just a matter of finding an affiliate program for a shop that sells some leather dog collars, and slot in a text link or a banner to it, and you’ve increased your profit potential significantly.

Scaling It Up

The great thing about this as a blog profit strategy is that it’s very scalable. Once you’ve found some money sects and worked out how to tailor some content to them and have it rank in the engines (like anything good, it’ll take some time and effort) you can do the same thing for new “money sects” as often as you have time.

If you wrote about dog collars one week, you can write about dog food the next week, dog training guides the next week and so on.

You don’t have to be a big salesman on your blog to increase it’s revenue. By throwing a bit of content out every now and then for your “money visitors” you’ll make sizable increases in the profitability of your blog and increase your readers happiness while doing it.

Andrew Hansen is a blogging an affiliate marketing strategist, CEO of Dreamlife Softwares and blogger at AndrewHansen.name. His free report at http://1000NewVisitors.com shows bloggers how to generate 1000′s of new “money visitors” to their blogs every month without spending a fortune in the process.

How to find Readers for a Business Blog

Later today I’m speaking to a couple of groups of business people about the power of blogging and social media to help market a business.

One of the question I’ve already been told to prepare a question for is – How do you find Readers for a blog?

The question is of course one of the most common ones that I get and the answer is far more complex than I could possibly answer while on a 45 minute panel – there are a myriad of techniques for growing a blog’s readership (I’ll link to some posts I’ve written on that topic below). But I did today want to share the main points I plan to make in my answer today.

By no means is the following comprehensive or applicable to every single blog – but it’s where I’d start in tackling the challenge of finding readers:

How do you find Readers for a Business Blog?

Start With Your Current Network

Keeping in mind that I’m talking to businesses about blogging here – I think the best place to start with finding readers for a blog is to start with those that your business is already in contact with.

Any business will already have some kind of network which will include:

  • Employees
  • Previous and Current Customers/Clients
  • Industry Groups
  • Suppliers
  • Mailing Lists

This is where I’d start if I were a business starting a blog. Get those you’re already in relationship aware of your blog. These are the people who know you (and hopefully like and trust you) – they can help get the ball rolling in terms of generating some subscribers, comments – this will hopefully help create some social proof to help hook others.

Leverage Other Places Where you Have a Presence

Most businesses will also have other points that they can highlight their blog including

  • business cards
  • email signatures
  • signage
  • letterhead
  • advertising
  • websites
  • social media pages

There will of course be others – but the key is to find appropriate places to highlight your new blog and drive traffic from those who might be outside of your network but who you come into some kind of contact with.

Content as a Foundation

The content appearing on your blog will be one of the most important factors in getting those who stumble upon your blog to come back again (and spread the word of it to others).

Your blog posts need to meet a need of readers in some way. Readers of business blogs needs will vary but could include a need for news about your industry, a need to learn how to use your products, a need to get updates on developments/news about your company that relates to them, a need to see how others are using your products.

Once again – this list of needs could go on and on and will vary greatly from business blog to business blog. The key is to work out what your customers (and potential customers) needs are and to develop content that will help those people solve their problems and enhance their lives in some way.

Content also needs to be well written, clearly communicated, of a good standard and compelling.

Go to Potential Readers

A ‘Build it and they will come’ mentality does not apply to blogging. The reality is that your potential readers are unlikely to find your blog unless you get a little (or a lot) proactive.

One of the keys to finding readers is to identify what type of reader you’re looking to attract and then to identify where those types of people are gathering (online or offline).

Do some thinking about the type of person who you want to connect with – this might be a certain demographic, a person with a certain hobby or interest, someone in a certain type of job etc. Once you’ve got them pictured begin to brainstorm where they gather. It might be online on another blog or forum, it could be on a social media site, it could be reading an offline publication like a magazine or it could be in some kind of real life networking group.

Once you’ve started to identify your potential reader’s gathering points you need to begin to find ways to build a presence in those places. If it’s an online blog, forum, social networking site it might be as simple as joining the community and being a useful and social member. It could also include creating content for these sites. If it’s an offline networking group it could mean becoming a member, attending, presenting etc. If it’s an offline publication there may be opportunities to contribute or advertise.

Build Relationships with Others in Your Niche

Other bloggers and website owners in your niche may well be ‘competition’ in some ways – but they also could be collaborators. Blogging is a medium that has been built on bloggers within a niche having conversations, linking to each other and collaboration – don’t treat other bloggers as the enemy – reach out and see what opportunities for working together there may be.

Experiment, Track and Evolve

In the early days of a blog (and beyond the early days) it’s important to try new things on your blog. Try new types of posts, experiment with different voices and mediums (think video, podcasts, images etc) etc. In time you’ll begin to find that some types of posts get more reaction and attention from readers than others. It could be topic related or perhaps the style of posts.

Track what works and what falls flat on its face. Build upon the positives, repeat what works and learn from your mistakes. If you keep doing the types of things that have worked in the past you’ll often find you become known for a certain type of blogging and momentum will grow.

Build Community

Many people online don’t just want to consume content – they want to belong, contribute, participate and interact.

I’ve found that the more I concentrate on creative spaces for interaction with and between readers and the more permission I give readers to be active – the more my blogs and business grows. This can happen on many levels but at the most basic level it can start by simply asking readers questions and interacting with their replies.

Don’t just be a content creator – be a community builder!

Add Your Tips for Building Traffic to Business Blogs

As I’ve mentioned above – there are many many ways to build traffic to a blog. I’ve got some further reading listed below – but I’m also keen to hear your suggestions – particularly from those who have ‘business blogs’ (ie blogs attached to an existing business). What would you add?

Further Reading on Finding Readers for Blogs

Get 20% off Blog World Expo 2009

Join the top bloggers and new media experts in the world at BlogWorld Expo 2009 Are you coming to Blog World and New Media Expo 2009?

I’m really looking forward to being involved again this year. I’m booked to be on two panels already and am looking forward to a load of great teaching but also some amazing networking with other bloggers.

If you’re interested – you can get 20% discount by using the ‘PROBLOGVIP’ coupon code (that 20% discount is on top of any other discount offered on the BWE site).

Last year was my first year off attendance and it was well worth the 24 hours of transiting each way for me to be there. For me the highlight was simply the people I met – suddenly blogging wasn’t an insular experience of me sitting alone in the front room of my house dressed in my PJs (sounds a little more depressing than it is) – blogging suddenly became a whole lot more social and ‘real life’.

The caliber of the speakers presenting this year is again very high – the list includes:

  • Chris Brogan
  • Steve Rubel
  • Brian Clark
  • Mari Smith
  • Louis Gray
  • Dave Taylor
  • Chris Pirillo
  • Shawn Collins
  • Jeremy Owyang
  • Jeremy Shoemaker
  • Robert Scoble

The list goes on and on (I’ve literally just scratched the surface) and the expertise covers a wide array of topics on many aspects of both blogging and social media.

Speaking of topics – you can see a full 2009 schedule here including speaker names (looks like they still have to add a few of the keynote names).

Again – if you’re attending use the PROBLOGVIP coupon code and you’ll get a 20% discount on whatever BWE have the price currently advertised at on their site.

Let me Show You Inside a Secret Blogging Alliance

In this post I want to take you inside a secret blogging alliance. A small group of bloggers who’ve committed to work together in secret for the mutual benefit of all members of the alliance.

blog-alliance.jpgImage by and[w]

Last week I was talking with a successful blogger about factors that had helped us improve our blogs the most and in a comment that I think he regretted making shortly after he mentioned that he was in a ‘blogging alliance’ with a group of other bloggers.

I immediately honed in on the term blogging alliance and began to push him a little on it. What was it? What did it do? What impact did it have?

At first he was hesitant to share but once I promised not to reveal who he was or indicate what niche he was blogging in he began to loosen up and shared some details on the understanding that I’d be writing it up as a post here on ProBlogger (he actually checked with other members of the alliance before he told me any details). Here’s what I learned:

What is the Blogging Alliance?

From what I can piece together the alliance started, as many good ideas do, over a beer between two bloggers. They had both been building their blogs for a couple of years in the same niche and had been meeting up occasionally to share stories and swap ideas on how each other could improve their blogs.

The meetings had been informal, irregular and usually disintegrated into more of a social catchup than much else – but they were reflecting on this one occasion that despite this they’d both really benefited from the relationship. As they drank their draughts they began to wonder out loud what more they could do together to benefit them both.

They tossed around a number of ideas including a formal partnership (a blog network of sorts) but shied away from that as they began to realize the legal ramifications of starting a partnership and company together. Instead they began to wonder what would happen if they pulled together a small group of bloggers on related topics to work together rather than competing with one another.

One of them suggested that they form an ‘alliance’ – the idea caught on.

Each of the bloggers sounded out 3 other bloggers to see if they were interested. 5 of those that they sounded out responded positively – the 6th didn’t (and interestingly is the only one of the original group not blogging today).

The 7 bloggers who founded the alliance all came from the same niche. The niche was a very wide one though and each had different approaches, skills, strengths and focuses. None really were competing with each other directly but all were on related topics.

They decided to ‘meet’ at the same time each week on a conference call (they were scattered geographically so a face to face meeting wasn’t possible). On their first meeting they didn’t really know what they were going to DO together but they committed to keep meeting, keep sharing what they were doing, keep talking about their niche and keep looking for opportunities to help each other.

They committed to keep the group secret and to keep all activities of the group to be for the mutual benefit of one another.

This all took place two years ago.

Since that time each of the 7 bloggers have seen drastic improvements in their blogs. None are what one might consider to be ‘A-lister’ blogs but of the initial group 5 are now full time bloggers and the other 2 could be if they wished to be but have decided to keep working other jobs.

They have talked about inviting other bloggers into the alliance numerous times but have decided to keep things small.

What Does the Blogging Alliance DO?

OK – so at this point I was intrigued by the idea of a blogging alliance. I didn’t know who was involved (and still don’t) but I did know the blogger telling me the story and he’s a credible guy with a great blog who makes a good living from his blog.

So my next question was to ask what the blogging alliance actually looked like? What did they do? How had it worked?

We talked for a good 45 minutes about this but here’s a summary of the notes I took (with a few of my own thoughts) on the different activities that they engaged in to help one another grow their blogs:

1. Commenting on each others blogs

I’ll admit, when he shared this one first I was a little disappointed. I was envisaging a secret group gathering in robes practicing dynamic new tactics to grow one another’s blogs…. and he tells me that they comment on each others blogs!

However this was where they started and he tells me that it actually had a big impact. They decided as a group that rather than starting with anything too big that they’d simple each subscribe and read one another’s blogs and leave at least one comment on each others blogs once every weekday.

The idea came out of the fact that each reported on their first meeting that one of their biggest frustrations was that while they spent hours each week writing their blogs that they always struggled to get comments – it was depressing. So they started commenting on each other’s posts.

So instead of each post they wrote getting 0 comments – they each started getting 7. The impact was interesting because not only did the comments stimulate great conversations between them – but they started to notice others leaving comments too. The idea of ‘social proof’ came into effect – people coming to a blog with comments are just more likely to leave comments.

Interestingly the blogger I spoke with told me of another impact on his own blogging – he started writing better posts. He reflected to me that knowing that these other 7 bloggers from his niche were going to be reading his posts spurred him on to write better and better articles. Not only that – the comments being left were not just ‘great post’ comments but each had committed to adding useful comments – so quite often he got great ideas for new posts as well – his blog improved almost overnight simply by having other bloggers leave comments on his blog.

2. Linking to One Another

The next thing they did was again simple but effective (in fact everything they did was simple) – they began to link to one another. Actually this didn’t really start as a formal strategy as such – they did it naturally as a result of each subscribing to one another because they began to see posts on one another’s blogs that related to their audience.

However they did end up getting a little more formal with it and devised a bit of a system (they ended up using Basecamp to keep track of a lot of this type of thing) where they could each suggest a single post that they’d written each week that they’d like one another to consider linking to.

They decided not to force one another to link in this way because they wanted posts to be relevant to the blog linking to them but over time what started happening was that each of the blogs in the alliance started getting linked to by at least 2-3 of the other blogs each week.

They also committed to add blogrolls to their sidebars which linked to one another (as well as a few other blogs in their niche).

The result of this simple strategy over time was that they started sharing readers with one another and that their search engine rankings started to grow.

3. Social Bookmarking and Tweeting

An extension of the linking to one another’s posts was that the bloggers also started to help one another out in social media by promoting each others links on Twitter as well as bookmarking each other’s posts on sites like Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon.

While this didn’t have a massive impact as they were such a small group of bloggers it did drive some traffic (it drove more over time as each of their social media presences grew) and also generated links for posts.

They didn’t do this for every post each of them wrote – but again were selective and did it with a single post a week each (I think this grew to a minimum of 2-3 posts a week later on).

Some of the bloggers now not only automatically tweet when they post a new post on their own blog but have got things set up to automatically tweet when other blogs in the alliance tweet.

4. Guest Posts

Another thing that they regularly do is write for one another.

This started out simply as a way to help each other out when one of them was going on vacation (the other bloggers would fill in) but they found that it ended up benefiting everyone because it helped each of them to grow their profile with each other’s readers.

Now they each commit to write at least one guest post per month on at least one of the other blogs in the alliance. In reality most of them do guest posts as much as once a week. They mix it up so everyone gets and writes guest posts and so that the one person isn’t doing the guest posts on just one blog.

5. Joint Promotions/Competitions

A couple of times now they’ve run promotions together. I won’t go into too much detail of what they did for fear of revealing who they are but they have centered around competitions with bigger prizes open to readers from each of their blogs. The results were great as they were able to attract sponsors to donate great prizes with the guarantee that the sponsor wouldn’t just get exposure on a single blog but 7.

6. Monetization Leads

This is a more recent development but has had some real success. They realized after a while that each of them were spending time each month trying to find advertisers as well as testing affiliate programs on their blogs. They were duplicating a lot of their efforts and actually competing with one another on occasions to sign up advertisers.

They talked about pooling their efforts completely and setting up an ad network to run across all 7 blogs but pulled away from that idea for the time being as it was a little complicated and they didn’t want to formalize partnerships or have to write up contracts.

Instead what they’ve done is commit to share with one another when they sign up new advertisers, to share how much they’re getting, to introduce one another to advertisers etc. The result has been great so far – a number of the advertisers have signed up for multiple blogs where they’d previously have signed up for just one.

They each still handle their negotiations with advertisers but the introductions alone have helped all improve their revenue.

They also share information with each other on what affiliate programs are working for them and what techniques they’re using to increase sales.

7. Spot Promotions

Another technique that they’ve used a few times is to run what they call ‘spot promotions’ of each others blogs. I’m not sure how they came up with that name for what they do but in effect it involves them doing a promotion for another blog in the alliance by giving a strong call to action to readers of one blog to become subscribers to the newsletter list or RSS feed of another.

This is usually done in a blog post (ie Blog A writes a post talking about how much they love Blog B and highlighting it’s newsletter and/or feed).

The results of these promotions have apparently been fantastic.

8. Thank You Page Promotions

Another similar thing that they’ve recently been trying is to add promotions to each others newsletters and feeds to the thank you pages of their own newsletter signups (ie when you sign up for the newsletter for Blog A you’re taken to a thank you page that suggests 6 other blogs that you should subscribe to with links to each of their newsletters/feeds).

This is a technique that many internet marketers use to ‘up sell’ people to products – but this group have committed to ‘up sell’ each other’s lists on their thank you pages (a great idea).

9. Remnant Ad Promotions

Another technique that they’ve done a little with is to serve ads for each other’s blogs when they have spare ad spots on their blogs. So if Blog A has a spare 125 x 125 ad slot on their blog they rotate buttons for each of the other blogs in that position – driving traffic from one blog to another.

10. Product Promotion

More recently a couple of the bloggers in the alliance have released products (ebooks/membership sites). The group have committed to promote one another’s products heavily.

They have also committed to give each other ‘super-affiliate’ status of each other’s products where the affiliate commissions that they pay to affiliates are significantly higher on each other’s products (so it’s not just those who release products who benefit more from the alliance but those promoting them).

11. Joint Products

They’ve also recently just started about talking about joint collaborations on products. The ‘alliance’ itself will release a product next year which they’ll all contribute content to as well as receive a share of the profits from.

12. Networking

Another thing that this group of bloggers has done really well is to help one another to expand and deepen one another’s networks. Of course a great deal of networking has gone on amongst the bloggers themselves but there have been many occasions where bloggers have made introductions for one another to other bloggers, journalists, developers, designers etc etc etc.

Collectively these 7 bloggers know a lot of people and they’re more than willing to help one another expand their networks.

13. In Person Meet Up

In the last few months the group met up for the first time in person. They all booked rooms in the one hotel and got themselves a meeting room and spent a weekend together.

The weekend involved a lot of socializing but also some intentional times together where they did

  • some training (each had to present for 30 minutes on something that they’d learned and had success with)
  • brainstorming (they spent time brainstorming what they could do together – this is where the idea for a joint product came from)
  • blog reviews (they spent an hour workshopping each of the 7 blogs – each blogger came away with a long list of things that they could do to improve their blogs, topics that they could write on, ideas on how to better monetize etc)

A few Concluding Insights on Blog Alliances

I found this conversation to be a fascinating one. Much of what this blogger told me is similar to things I’ve been suggesting bloggers do together for years in posts that I’ve written about finding ‘blogging buddies’ (in fact this group took on some of the ideas in my posts and implemented them in their alliance) however this group has taken things to a whole new level and formalized many of them (in an informal way as there’s no contracts or legal agreements).

In chatting to the blogger I got the sense that the group has worked well because each of the bloggers had (and still have) similar sized blogs, that each of the bloggers has an attitude of being humble and committed to the idea of mutual benefit and because they have never forced anyone to promote anything that they didn’t feel was a natural or organic fit with their blog.

There have been times where a blogger (or more than one) have opted out of things that others were doing because of their own commitments or because it didn’t ‘fit’ with their blogs – but each of the bloggers has invested time and energy into the greater good of the alliance.

The Results

Lastly by all reports this alliance has helped a great deal. As I mentioned above – 5 of the 7 bloggers are now full time bloggers and the other 2 are doing pretty well with blogging as their 2nd job.

One of the side benefits that the blogger I talked with talked about was that the he didn’t think that he’d still be blogging if it wasn’t for the alliance. He’d been through a couple of times in the last two years where he’d wanted to give up blogging – but the alliance pulled him through. Other bloggers covered for him through tough circumstances and on other occasions other bloggers gave him a kick up the pants and told him to get his act together when he was slacking off. The combination of accountability and encouragement really helped him a lot.

Thanks to this alliance for allowing us to see some of what they’ve done – I’m fascinated by this glimpse into this alliance – I think it could (and should) spark ideas for other bloggers who I think could benefit a lot from similar approaches.

Get These Free Goodies at Teaching Sells

Brian Clark over at TeachingSells is at it again – giving away some great free teaching.

The TeachingSells program has been closed to new participants for quite a few months now but in the coming weeks they plan to open the doors again. In the lead up to it Brian’s put together some great free content that even if you don’t signup for the full course you’ll benefit from.

For starters there’s a cool (and quite funny) new video to introduce you to the ‘teaching sells philosophy’. See it here:

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Once you’ve watched it sign up for the free goodies including:

  • A Free 22 Page PDF report – Forget Everything You Know About Making Money Online (And Start Making Some)
  • An audio version of the same report
  • The outline of a 20 Step Process Map to build an online training business
  • A great instructional video on ‘traffic’ (an excellent watch)
  • 3 case studies (audio and transcripts) that illustrate how 3 online entrepreneurs have used Teaching to build successful businesses online.

I’ve just gone through all the free stuff and have come away freshly inspired even though I’ve previously taken the full Teaching Sells course in the first time they ran it.

The reason I particularly like Brian’s teaching is that many bloggers get stuck in a rut of thinking that the only way to make money from blogs is by running ads or promoting affiliate programs. While some bloggers make it with this approach many choose to blog about topics where this model is really tough. Brian present another model of making money online that I think many bloggers could use to monetize previously un-monetizable niches.

To me what he teaches is a common sense next step for many blogs that seem to ‘get stuck’.

Yes – you do need to give an email address to get the free stuff but if you know Brian’s approach you know he’s not one of those guys who goes over the top once he’s got you on his list. Yes you’ll get information on the Teaching Sells course but subscribers to Brian’s lists know that he also gives extra stuff (articles, videos etc) along the way and he’s someone who completely respects unsubscribe requests.

I hope you’ll find this great free content worthwhile! Grab it here.