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A-List Blogging Bootcamp Opens its Doors

bootcamp.pngYesterday I mentioned a free report that Leo Babauta had released on the topic of getting subscribers to a blog (you can get a copy here) and mentioned in the post that Leo was also running a new 10 module training course on the same topic on his new A-List Blogging Bootcamp site.

The ‘Skyrocket Your Subscriber Count’ bootcamp training is now open for enrollment – but only for the next few days as the course actually begins on 18 August.

It runs between 18-27 August and covers these topics:

Day 1: The Psychology of Subscribing
Day 2: How to Use design to Hook Readers
Day 3: Why Usability is the Key to Keeping Visitors on Your Blog
Day 4: Crafting a Killer About Page & Prime Posting Rhythm
Day 5: What Kind of Content Creates Subscribers and How to Write it
Day 6: How to Craft Headlines that Lure Readers to Your Blog
Day 7: What Kind of Images Attract Readers
Day 8: The Art of Guest Posting
Day 9: How to Promote Your Blog: Strategies that Rock
Day 10: How to Leverage Social Media for Super Success

I’ll be involved in the teaching of at least two of the topics as a guest expert. Brian Clark from CopyBlogger will also be involved. Leo will be doing the bulk of the teaching and is someone who definitely has the runs on the board as someone with more subscribers than both Brian and myself here on ProBlogger!

Leo’s included a money back guarantee on the training/

Get full details and enroll here at A-List Blogging Bootcamps.

How To Get Featured By the Press (Repeatedly) Even If Your Blog is New

In this guest post Celestine Chua shares tips on how to get your blog some press coverage.

Getting featured in press and media is probably like a dream come true for many bloggers. If you are thinking that you need to be an accomplished name online like Darren Rowse or John Chow who gets a six-figure annual paycheck before you are in any position to get media coverage, think again.

In 2008 last year, I left my day job at the age of 24 to pursue my fierce passion to help others be their best self and live their best life. I started my personal development blog CelestineChua.com, intending it to be the cornerstone of my business. I had no experience in Web 2.0 web development/internet marketing (The last time I had a proper site was 6-years ago and the landscape had totally changed then) .

In less than 4 months, I got my first media coverage in a popular local newspaper, with circulation of 300,000. My second media coverage came the next month. Then came the third. And the fourth. And more.

To date, I’ve been featured in press and media at least 6 times, which have resulted in a new flock of loyal readers, huge flood of life coaching sign ups, increased awareness levels of my business/blog, heightened credibility, multiple collaboration proposals by interested parties, numerous speaking engagements, just to name a few. So many people who have registered for my services that I have to put up a waiting list, which is stretching till Nov ’09 at the moment (that’s 4 months away). At the rate it is going, the waiting list isn’t showing any signs of shortening. And this is definitely not the last of it.

If I were to look at the trigger point for my results today, it was the first media coverage which helped put me on the map. The amazing thing is, none of these came about due to any personal relationships or media contacts. Media coverage is something that you can get, whether you are a newbie blogger or a seasoned veteran. In this article, I’ll openly share the strategies I used to secure my media coverage.

Benefits of Being Featured in Press

So why should you seek media coverage? Here’s four key benefits:

1. Distinctiveness.

Let’s face it – Online marketing channels are exhausted to death by right about every blogger out there. Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Delicious, forums, commenting, article directories, guest posting, writing list posts, writing pillar articles – You name it, everyone’s doing it.

While these were probably the key success strategies of the past right at the time when Yaro Starak first wrote the Blogging Profits Blueprint, they have since dwindled to become steps to putting yourself at parity level with the rest. I’m not saying that these steps aren’t important – They certainly are, and you should continue putting efforts into them. The question is what, then, sets you apart from the others?

Press isn’t going to be the one thing that sets you apart from the rest, but it is one of the best ways to do that today, especially since getting a press/media feature is totally underutilized by bloggers. Just because you are operating a blog doesn’t mean you should stay clear from traditional marketing vehicles. In fact, you should leverage on as many mediums as you can to gain the maximum exposure. If you get a press coverage, it’s certainly going to put you in a totally different position in your readers’ minds.

When I first started CelestineChua.com in Dec ’08, I realized that there were about thousands of personal development blogs out there, and I had to do something big to set myself apart from all other blogs. Press instantly stood out as one of the ways I could use to do that, and it proved itself to be an immense tool to my results.

2. Exposure to new audience.

The people who check out the press regularly are quite distinct from blog readers, so being featured in press gives you access to a new audience group. The media I’ve been featured in so far have a circulation of about 200k~300k on average. A good number of them have turned into loyal readers on my site; and many have gone on to share my site with their own networks. Within this large base of audience you can reach, there will be a good handful who are interested in what you have to offer and become loyal readers/users of your service. This is going to be especially critical when you are first starting out.

3. New opportunities.

With each media coverage I get, what’s hot on the trails are new readers, new people interested in my coaching services, new collaboration proposals by people in the industry and new speaking engagements. In fact, it was my first media coverage which put me officially on the map – everything just took off by itself afterward.

4. Credibility.

Features in traditional media automatically instill “credibility” in the subject that is featured (I’m not talking about paid advertising, of course). This is unless the article is writing you in a bad light, which isn’t likely to happen if you follow the steps in the 2nd half of the article. Most reporters are really nice people – if you work hand-in-hand with them and help them to your best ability, they will reciprocate this kindness too.

My media features have been incredibly helpful in establishing credibility in what I do. I’m in the personal development/life coaching industry, where age of the person is often used as a measure of his/her skill as a coach even though it isn’t an accurate measure. Prior to starting my blog, I had already spent many years intensely growing and helping others and had amassed a huge array of personal winning strategies and learnings. Not only that, growth is a continuous journey and I’m constantly developing myself to self-improve and better help others. With the multiple media coverages, I was able to get strong endorsement on my credibility and expertise. It has since brought me a whole list of coachees who in their 20s, 30s, 40s and even late 50s, who go on to provide great testimonials. Age is clearly no longer the issue.

So, How Do I Get Featured in Press?

Now the magic question comes – “So how exactly do I get featured in media?” I’ve lined this out into a simple, easy to follow 3 step formula. Let’s explore each step.

1. Create an absolutely enticing news story.

This is the most important step out of the 3 steps. The newsworthiness of your news angle is going to pretty much determine if your story gets featured or not. Newsworthiness means how intriguing your story is to others. Reporters are always on the lookout on what’s the latest and most exciting in the world now. If you can offer them a news story that’s absolutely irresistible and “breakthrough”, they will want to cover it.

To do that, it doesn’t mean that you have to be elected into the White House, win the Oscar or invent the vaccine for H1N1. Coming up with a good news angle just takes some element of creativity. Think about what the readers of the particular press are interested in. Your message should be one that appeals to the readers. Check out the previous editions to get a sense of the kind of stories they like to run. Coming up with an excellent news angle may mean creating a story or a movement out of nothing. (i.e., launching a new book which the world has never been seen before, doing something really viral and unique). Checkout 25 Brainstorming Techniques for 25 different ways to brainstorm for out-of-the-box ideas.

Think about these questions – What is so unique about you and what you are doing? What sets you apart from everyone else in your industry? Why should everyone know about you/your business? These should be related to your Unique Selling Proposition, which is a fundamental strategy for anyone who wants to succeed in their business/blog. (If you don’t have a USP defined yet, spend some time to craft it out first!)

I’ve learned from my media coverage that one of the best ways to create a newsworthy story is to use your personal story. Everyone has their story to tell. What’s unique about yours? My personal story was that I ditched my USD $50K/year Fortune 100 career to pursue my passionto help others live their best life, all at the age of 24. There were 3 big reasons how this was newsworthy:

1) I completely went against all types of social norms in my country (I live in Singapore which has an Asian culture and largely conformist tendencies). The most common values among Asians are financial stability and job security. Many people typically put money first and see the pursuit of passion as a luxury. Yet, I did the compete opposite – I put my passion before money. To many around me, what I did was deemed as bold, courageous, vivacious, somewhat defiant, possibly crazy, or inspiring even. Whatever it was, it was definitely not ordinary.

2) What made the story even more unconventional was I had a highly coveted career in a Fortune 100 company. Companies on the Fortune 100 list are highly prestigious and sought after by employees. I tossed away what society considered to be a conventional, golden path – right when the recession was kicking into full gear, no less! – for my passion.

3) My previous salary of USD $50K/year was considered to be high in my country, especially at my age. The average paycheck of my peers would be around half of that. People typically look upon one’s salary as an indication of one’s worth and have a habit of comparing earnings with others, especially in Asia. By very transparently and openly putting my salary right smack in my press release title, it was a great way to catch the eye of editors.

How about you? What’s your story and what makes it newsworthy? Here are some helpful articles on how to create a newsworthy story:

Get Your Message Out: Pitch Your Story

What Makes Something Newsworthy

How to Find a Newsworthy Story Angle

Spend some time to get your news angle right, and don’t even proceed to the next step unless you are absolutely sure that you have a totally irresistible news angle to pitch.It was after some brainstorming that I finally arrived at my final idea. Before that, I just refused to move to the next step because I didn’t think the ideas were strong enough. If you don’t have a highly newsworthy story to begin with, you will just be wasting your time with the next 2 steps.

Note: As you create a newsworthy story, remember to stay true to the core message and theme of your blog. While the thought of getting coverage is definitely very enticing, don’t become so eager that you lose sight of the original intent of your blog. You can certainly get featured on the press if you do something totally out of the world like running around naked in the middle of the expressway during peak hours, but that isn’t going to get you the kind of coverage you want.

2) Write Your Press Release.

After you have come up with an absolutely enticing news story, the next step is to write the actual press release. If you don’t have the luxury of a PR team (which would include me and probably most bloggers), you need to get down and dirty and write the release yourself. It’s not such a bad thing since you have complete control of how it’s written. Here are some links to check out on how to write a press release, complete with template samples:

How to Write a Press Release (PR Web Direct)

How to Write a Press Release (Publicity Insider)

Be sure that the press release you write is your absolute best and vet it repeatedly for mistakes before you move to the next step.

3) Send it to everyone u can reach

After writing the press release, it’s now time to send it to all the editors. Some people probably prefer to select a few key channels and send to those. My personal motto is to just use the shotgun approach of Ready – Fire – Aim. Since you have already taken some time out to write the release, might as well just send it to as many (relevant) channels as possible and let them decide if they want to run the story. This includes newspapers, magazines, online portals, or even radios and TV if you are interested. You can easily get the contacts from their websites or just by looking through the papers and magazines for the email addresses.

After Sending the Press Release

At this point, there’s nothing you can do but wait. You might want to get the phone number and give a call to just check if they received your press release. Depending on how popular the media channel is, the editors can receive anywhere from tens to even thousands of press releases every day, so a follow-up call might be good just to bring their attention to your release. Personally, I never did any follow-up since I got their repsonses quite promptly.

Usually, if your story has been picked for publishing, you will be notified anywhere from within the day to maximum 1 week. It depends on the type of stories they have planned for their papers and when they are running those stories. Beyond 1 week, it’s safe to assume that your press release has not been picked.

If You Are Called For An Interview

If you are contacted for an interview, congratulations! The reporter will either interview you over the phone or schedule a time/date for a face-to-face interview. If you are getting a decent feature, they will probably arrange for a photo shoot. I had done a series of phone interviews, face-to-face interviews and photo shoots where the photographers come down to my house, since my room is pretty much my ‘office’ where I write my blog.

Throughout the interview, be clear on your message you want to drive home (whether it’s on publicizing your blog/business, establishing your expertise, etc), and articulate it clearly and concisely. You can’t control how the story is being written, but you can increase chances of your message being featured by being singly-focused in your delivery during the interview. Be professional, open and personable as you share your thoughts.

At the end of the interview, check with the reporter on when the feature is coming out and whether they will be featuring the URL. The caveat is most press don’t feature web addresses as it is seen as a form of advertising. Try to rope their help in publishing the URL. Even if it can’t be published, the world doesn’t end there. People are smart – Many people went online to search for my name in Google or Facebook after reading about my coverage and eventually found me and my personal development blog. Bottomline is, if the coverage resonates with the reader, the reader will find ways to find you. ;)

Getting the Coverage!

Of course, things don’t end after the interview is out. Here are some things to do after that:

  • 1 day before the coverage is out, do an mass announcement on your blog and to all your friends. Let them know that your feature is coming out and prep them up. This helps create hype and excitement!
  • Enjoy the new stream of traffic and opportunities you will get on the day of the feature. :D I remember I was getting new emails by the minute when my first feature was out.
  • With the article out, leverage on it. Create a media section and use it as an archive for your media features. Share it with your readers through an announcement. Include it as part of your elevator pitch if you want. I put a reference to my press/media features in a corner of my header, so new visitors can immediately see that.
  • Maintain good connections with the reporters and media houses for future collaborations
  • Continue to create new stories for coverage in the future. Be on the lookout for newsworthy things you can do to get ongoing coverage. The good thing is, once the first coverage is in, subsequent ones will typically get easier. Out of all my coverages, some of them were solicited, and some were initiated by the reporters who read about me either through the existing coverage or other channels.

What to do if you didn’t get any coverage?

If you didn’t get any responses in your first attempt, don’t feel dismayed. Go back and review the 3 steps above. Was your news story enticing? Was your press release well-written? Did you send the release to as many different media as you can find? Check against the stories that have been running in the particular news channel for the past 1-2 weeks and try to spot the differences between those stories and your stories. Why were those stories being run and not yours? How can you create a story that’s more newsworthy than any of those? From there, refine your story. There’s some possible reasons. Sometimes, it might be the theme of your story wasn’t aligned with the type of topics the press wanted to run at the time.

Whatever it is, work on improving your news angle and your press release. You might want to improvise on what you have now, or totally work on a new angle (which might be needed if your original news angle was time-sensitive, which meant it would be outdated in due course). Then, wait for about 2-months before you send your new press release to send to the editors. The reason for 2-months is because you don’t want to overwhelm the editors with your submissions. You don’t want to get to end up having your email blacklisted in their address books.

Don’t give up – as long as you keep trying and doing, you are bound to get better and better. Here’s a favorite quote on mine on success: ìSuccess is not built on success. Itís built on failure. Itís built on frustration. Sometimes itís built on catastrophe.î – Sumner Redstone Chairman. As long as you keep working on it, you will reap the fruits of your labor in time to come.

Hope this article has been helpful to you in getting your press release :D . I’ll love to connect with you, so please let me know what you think!

Celes writes at The Personal Excellence Blog, where she shares her personal stories and insights on how to live your best life. Some of her top reader favorites are 101 Things To Do Before You Die and Are You Sleepwalking Your Life Away?. Add her on Twitter @celestinechua.

Learn How Leo Got 100,000 Subscribers to His Blog

Leos-Report.jpgIt’s been one of those weeks where some great free reports from bloggers have been released.

This one is from Leo Babauta – a blogger who has guest posted on ProBlogger numerous times over the years and who has built for himself a wildly successful blog – Zen Habits – which has 130,000+ subscribers.

Leo has release a great free report – How I got 100,000 subscribers in Two Years which is well worth a read.

What I particularly like about Leo is that he doesn’t shy away from hard work. He’s certainly talented, refreshing and creative but he’s also worked at building an amazing blog over the last couple of years.

I’m also really excited about the program that Leo is launching off the back of this report – A-List Blogging Bootcamp – partly because what I’ve seen of it so far is really good but partly because Leo’s asked me to be involved as a guest expert in some of the live components of the course. The training isn’t available to sign up to quite yet so I’ll leave you to read the report today but stay tuned for more details of his bootcamp training in the coming days.

Get the free report here

Update: the course is now open for people to join with some special free bonuses for those who do so early.

How to Build Compelling Content By Leaving Readers Wanting More

more.jpg

“The other thing that comes to mind about compelling content is that….. it leaves me thirsting for more. There’s something about compelling content that drives me to subscribe, join or bookmark because I’ve had a taste of something I’d like a second helping of.”

This comment was left by Grant* on my recent post asking readers to tell me what compelling content is to them. I think it sums up pretty well what I want to write about today in the continuation of this series on the topic of compelling content…. creating momentum with your content.

As Grant points out above – one of the most common reactions to someone reading something compelling is that they want more of it.

I know this reaction for myself.

  • When I read a book from a new author that I enjoy I immediately look for more information on the author to see what else they’ve written.
  • When I read a column in a newspaper or magazine (yes I still read them) by someone that I find insightful I make a mental note to look out for what they have to say next week.
  • When I find see someone tweet something that grabs my attention or makes me think – I check out their other tweets and usually follow them.
  • When I watch a TV show that entertains me, makes me laugh or gives me something to think about – I tell my wife to remind me to watch it next week (I need a Tivo)
  • When I read a blog post that informs me, teaches me or stretches my mind – I look at other recent posts and will generally I subscribe to the blog.

I do these things because when something is compelling it gives me a thirst for more. Anticipation kicks in, momentum has been built without the person really needing to ask me to become a loyal consumer of their content (although a call to action and suggested next step can be helpful).

Take Home Lessons:

1. On one level the content itself and how good it is creates momentum whether the author of it tries to build momentum or not.

2. Having said that – there are also ways to help to build momentum and anticipation in your blogging even more than just writing good content.

Other savvy media producers do this – that’s why publishers add pictures of the covers of other books by an author to back covers of books, it’s why magazines often dedicate a page to highlighting what’s coming in upcoming issues, it’s why newspapers run ads for features coming in tomorrows paper and why on TV they show snippets of next week’s show at the end of this weeks one.

As a blogger I’ve found that similar techniques can definitely work in creating anticipation in readers.

9 Ways to Build Anticipation on Your Blog

I’ve written about this previously in How to Create a Sense of Anticipation on Your Blog and More on How to Build Anticipation on Your Blog but let me touch on a few methods that I find particularly useful:

  1. Have Your Own Sense of Anticipation – perhaps the most important thing about helping others to have anticipation about your blog is to have it yourself. If YOU don’t have some kind of an idea about where your blog is headed how will you help others to have that? This means knowing what your long term goals are for your blog but also setting aside time to plan your medium an short term next steps. Things like knowing what you’re going to post about in the next week ahead of time mean you’ll be better placed to communicate that to readers and help them get the feeling that you’re not just flying by the seat of your pants but are being intentional about creating a space for them to keep coming back to.
  2. Write Series of Posts – whether its writing a series of 31 daily posts over a month on a similar theme or writing 2 consecutive posts – signaling to your readers that you’re going to explore a topic over a number of days definitely creates anticipation and helps to build momentum in your content.
  3. Polls – I didn’t mention this in my previous posts on anticipation but lately I’ve noticed readers coming back to my blogs to see what the results of polls that they’ve voted in are. If the topic is interesting enough it piques interest and curiosity into what others think on the topic.
  4. Competitions – a good competition can really stimulate excitement in readers and give them a reason to keep coming back.
  5. Sharing your Vision for Your Site – I find that occasionally sharing with your readers information about how your site is going and what your plans are for its future can help to build buzz, good will and anticipation on a site. One way to do this is by having a ‘Town Hall Meeting‘ on your blog.
  6. Highlighting Your Best Archived Content – one of the best ways to show people that you’re going to produce great content in the future is to showcase what you’ve already done. Creating sneeze pages of your best posts, interlinking posts or suggesting relevant reading can help do this.
  7. Ask Questions – it struck me today when I was rereading the comments on my ‘what is compelling content to you?’ post that quite a few of those who commented left comments that included things like ‘Looking forward to your take on this’ and ‘I look forward to reading the posts on this subject’ and ‘Looking forward to reading further!’ That post was nothing more than me asking readers to share their opinion and signaling that I would write more on the topic – yet it seemed to create a thirst for more in many.
  8. Suggest a Next Step – it is one thing to create anticipation and another to convert the person with the anticipation into acting upon it. One important thing to help increase the chances of this is to make it easy for them. Include an invitation to subscribe or become a member, share a link to the next thing that you want them to read and/or give them a strong call to action for the thing you want to them to do. Not all first time readers to your blog will know what to do next so make your calls to action clear, simple and easy to follow.
  9. Don’t be Too Comprehensive – Sometimes a blog post can cover a topic so well and so fully that there’s little more to say on the topic. If you write a definitive guide that answers every single question that a reader might have they might simply go away knowing everything there is to say on the topic. However if you write in a way that shows that you’re still learning, that you’ve got more to share, that you’ll explore other questions or related topics you give your readers a reason to keep tracking with you on the topic. While it’s OK to write in an authoritative and comprehensive tone I find I’m much more likely to subscribe to someone’s blog if they show that they’re human and still learning and still exploring than if they present as a know it all (or is that just me?).

Again – if this is new to you I talk more about these techniques (and others) in my previous posts at How to Create a Sense of Anticipation on Your Blog and More on How to Build Anticipation on Your Blog.

Creating a sense of anticipation in your readers is great for converting them into loyal readers. These techniques show readers that you’re not just a one hit wonder and are seriously interested in the topic and are developing your ideas on it and you can genuinely help your readers to grow and develop on a topic over time.

Your Homework For Today

Take 15 minutes out today to plan your next week of posting. You might not be able to plan every post that you write if your blog is more ‘news’ focused but think about what posts you might be able to write that you can tie together and build into a series (remember a series need not be lots of posts – it can be as simple as two related posts over a few days).

Once you’ve got your plan begin to make it a reality. One thing that can help make it a reality is to publicly commit to it. I find that when I announce a series of posts that I’m much more likely to actually do it than if I simply quietly plan to write it. Announcing it makes you accountable to do what you say you’ll do.

A Word of Warning about Anticipation

Sometimes too much anticipation can be too much of a good thing. I don’t know about you but there are some TV shows where the cliffhanger that they leave viewers on at the end of every single episode leaves me with the kind of anticipation that isn’t necessarily a positive one. There’s nothing wrong with a cliffhanger that leaves you wanting to know what happens next on occasion – but if you do it every single week it can become a bit tired and leave those watching or reading wondering if they’ll ever have the answers.

Take Home Lesson: Build anticipation naturally but don’t over do it. Treat your readers with respect and keep in mind that your content needs to be useful. A post that simply ‘teases’ but which provides no real value in and of itself could do the opposite of what you’re wanting to achieve with some readers.

Stay Tuned….: Of course it would be remiss of me on a post like this not to let you know that I’ll continue this series of posts on creating compelling content in the days ahead (I’ve got 2-3 more posts lined up for next week). Keep an eye on the ProBlogger feed for these updates.

What Do You Have to Say on the Topic?

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this topic – share your thoughts below. Here’s a few reader comments that have been left previously that I think are relevant to get you thinking:

  • “What makes compelling comment? Something that either brings people back or makes a new visitor subscribe.” – Shannon
  • “(it) causes me to want to learn more about a particular subject, perhaps do research, and then take action if there is any to be taken.” – Krissy
  • “Compelling content is content that draws me in and keeps me coming back.” – Celes
  • “It makes me want to come back for more and to follow them.” – Martin

*Grant, if you have a URL I’d love to give you credit for your quote.

SURPRISE! How to Create Compelling Content by Being Playful

blah_blah_blah.pngHave you ever been in a blogging rut?

You start out blogging with loads of fresh ideas and inspiration but after months of creating unique content you hit a wall!

You feel like you’re saying the same stuff over and over and instead of sitting down to blog each day with excitement you stare at that blinking cursor on a blank page and slip into a zombie like trance.

Of course your readers might be in a similar trance-like state – because while the things you say are all valid and make good points your posts have begun to merge into one and have lost some of their freshness…..

If I’m describing your experience of blogging I’ve got two things to say to you:

  1. You’re not alone – most bloggers go through this.
  2. IT’S TIME TO SHAKE THINGS UP!

In our last post in our series on Creating Compelling Content on a blog I talked about experimenting with different voices in your blogging because it helped you to find your ‘blogging mojo’ or voice as a blogger. The other benefit of trying new voices on a blog is that I find it ‘wakes up’ readers and provides them with something fresh and different. It can also ‘wake up’ you as a blogger as it presents you with a new challenge and way of approaching your topic.

In a sense when you experiment with a new ‘voice’ or style of writing you are doing something a little ‘surprising’ with your readers that can grab their attention – particularly those who’ve been reading your blog for a while and who become a little zombie like in their reading.

Surprise Your Readers

Track with most successful blogs for a few weeks and you’ll find that from time to time many of them throw curve balls or surprises at their readers in one way or another. They often have a habit of presenting content that is a little left of center that is attention grabbing and/or refreshing.

Blogging is a medium that has always been a playful medium where creativity is valued so why not go with this and do something a little different in the next day or two with your blogging.

How to Be Surprising?

This might be a bit of a hard question to answer because being surprising is by nature doing something unexpected – but there are many ways to do something that can snap your readers out of a trance. Here’s a few that come to mind:

  1. Write something controversial – if your blog is usually fairly middle of the rode and doesn’t express too many opinions throwing in a strongly worded opinion piece can definitely stir things up a little.
  2. Argue Against Your Normal Opinion – sometimes throwing a post into the mix of your blog that plays devils advocate or that explores a very different point of view can be refreshing. Example: in my post What’s Wrong with Blogging? I asked readers to tell me what they don’t like about blogging. While it’s kind of an odd post to have on a blog that argues the case FOR blogging it was well received by readers.
  3. Use an Eye Catching Image – just adding a striking image to a post can really lift it from ‘blah blah blah’ to ‘compelling’
  4. Using Humor/Satire – I still get readers telling me how my post ‘ProBlogger launches PayPerTweet‘ grabbed their attention back on April fools day in 2008.
  5. Use a Metaphor – Use an unexpected illustration from life to explore a topic on your blog – Examples: Lessons from an Umbrella SalesmanBlogging in Formation (Lessons from a Goose)What McDonalds Taught me about BloggingLessons from Tower Defense on How to Reinvent Your Blog.
  6. Use a Different Medium – throw in a video, a screen cast, a podcast, some pictures – mixing up your mediums can grab attention, connect with readers in a new way and show a different side of you as a blogger
  7. Design – changing your design or even just adding a new logo can give your blog a new ‘look’.
  8. Expanding Topics to Related Areas – most blogs have a fairly well defined niche that they stick to but in most cases there are topics that surround that niche that can be good to dip into at times. For example here at ProBlogger I tend to focus mostly upon techniques to improve a blog – but occasionally dip into the topic of health issues for bloggers like in this week’s post on ‘Nimble Fingers‘. While still on topic it’s a little ‘different’ to normal (as observed by quite a few comments and emails I had in response to the post).

Extra Tip – Coming up with fresh and surprising content on a blog takes work but also is about listening to the crazy little ideas that pop into your head from time to time. For me they usually start as bizarre ideas that come while I’m halfway through doing something else – the key for me is to capture the ideas as they come and then put aside time to make them a reality.

While it takes intentionality and work the benefit of such surprises is that sometimes loyal and long term readers fall into a bit of a trance with a blog – throw something a little out of the blue and surprising once in a while and you can reignite the reader relationship and give them a bit of renewed energy for your blog.

An added bonus of these kinds of ‘surprising moments’ on a blog is that it’s also often these blue things that generate the most buzz on other sites and create incoming links as other bloggers or Twitter users link up to show you what you’re experimenting with on your blog.

Your Homework for Today

mind-map.jpgYour homework today is to set aside 15 minutes to ‘play’. Grab a pen and paper or a market and a whiteboard and spend some time mind mapping. I’ve outlined how to create a mind map previously – but write a word that has something to do with your blog in the middle of your page and then begin to brainstorm other words, topics, ideas that relate to that word.

Nothing is too crazy or left field while you’re doing this exercise. Just let your mind wonder and be creative as you ‘play’ with your topic. You might not come up with any concrete ideas but even in doing this exercise you’re giving your brain a chance to explore your topic in a different way and you might just unlock something that sparks into an idea you can use down the track.

I try to set aside short periods of time for this type of activity each week – sometimes I get lots of ideas, sometimes I get none – but over time it’s injected a lot of creativity and surprises into what I do.

What You Said on the Topic

Before I began this series of posts on compelling content I asked readers to submit their own ideas on what makes content compelling. Here’s what some of them said on related topics to this post:

  • “Content is compelling when it is new. New information, a new perspective, a new way of dealing with something.” – Cathy
  • “Unusual perspectives. I like to read about things that are weird and interesting.” – Elizabeth
  • “Something that takes a new, fresh look at an issue.” – Alisa
  • “A different perspective on a popular topic is compelling.” – hollywoodlvwork
  • “Sometimes compelling content for me is the kind of article that leaves me reeling a little – it leaves me shaking my head and realizing how little I knew about the topic because the author has explored it in a way that I hadn’t considered before. In this way it is ‘shocking’ – not because it’s controversial or bad – but because it’s given me a completely new perspective on a topic I thought I had little more to learn about.” – Grant
  • “To me, “Compelling content” doesn’t need to be new information. Rather, I’d like to gain new perspective on existing ideas and be reminded that I’ve always known those principles.” – Takuya

What do you have to add on the topic? I’d love to hear the ideas that come out of your mind mapping homework above. I’m also keen to hear of your previous experiences with ‘surprising’ things you’ve done on your blog?

This post continues my series of posts on Creating Compelling Content on your Blog. So far we’ve covered being in tune with your readers, creating reader interaction and experimenting with different voices.

A special thanks to Kate from Soy Sauce Carnival for the cartoon at the top of this post!

How to Grow Your Authority – Essential Reading for Bloggers

authority-rules.gif Authority …. some people have it…. some people don’t. But why?

I recently spoke at a small gathering of new bloggers about some of the basics of blogging and at the start of the session asked those in attendance about their motivations for starting their blogs.

Of the 10 or so people there – 8 told me that they were hoping that their blogs would help grow their profile and authority on the topics that they were blogging about.

While not every blogger will share this motivation – I’d bet that for many it’s high on the list of priorities that we have.

So how does one grow Authority?

Brian Clark from CopyBlogger has just release a free report that I think makes essential reading on this topic. It’s called Authority Rules.

It outlines 10 elements (or rules) of creating authority and I think it’s very very good. In many ways what it contains is the framework for building a great blog – please read it.

It’s truly free because you don’t have to sign up for it and he’s not up-selling to anything – it’s just great information that you can access either by downloading the report as a pdf or reading the whole thing on a series of webpages in html.

Check out the table of contents here and take a little time today to read through it.

Do yourself a favor and read Authority Rules.

How I’m Increasing Reader Engagement on my Blog

“What is the main thing that you’re trying to get readers to do when they visit your blog?”

Last week during a conversation with an ad network executive I was asked this question as it pertains to my photography site. It was a good question to be asked because it made me stop and think a little about the priorities that I had for the site.

The first thing that I was tempted to answer with was ‘clicking ads’ or ‘buying affiliate products’ – perhaps it was because I was talking with an ad network representative that my mind automatically went to that conclusion…. however the more I thought about it the more I realized that my focus has changed over the last year or two away from having earnings as the primary focus for that site.

I realized that these days I spend a lot more time focusing my energies upon creating engaged and loyal readers.

The main calls to action on the blog and forum areas these days at DPS are to get people to ‘subscribe’ or ‘join’ rather than to ‘buy’ or ‘click’ ads.

I know this hasn’t always been the case – on previous blogs I was much more interested on making the blogs profitable, but these days while I want the site to earn an income I guess I’ve realized that it will only increase in profitability if I work on other aspects of the site.

So my priorities are these days more about ‘creating engaged and loyal readers’ – how am I doing that?

There are many ways that I’ve tried to do this of late with DPS but the main 3 things have been:

1. Content

I’ve always attempted to make DPS as useful as possible but since redesigning the site earlier in the year and expanding it in terms of topics covered (we added a post production tips area and a cameras and equipment area to our previous photography tips and tutorials section) I’ve attempted to increase both the quality and quantity of content.

Quantity – Instead of one post per day we now have two per day. This has definitely boosted traffic but more importantly it seems to have increased reader engagement a little. It’s hard to track it but I’ve had quite a few readers email me over the last few months commenting that they were a little dubious about the increase in posts when it first happened but that they have come to appreciate us widening our topics to cover the new areas of the site.

Quality – I’ve always wanted to keep quality high but in the last few months I’ve made particular effort to create content that is more interactive. On a weekly basis I now try to include either a poll, a reader discussion question or some kind of ‘challenge‘ for people to go away and do. More often than not there’s two of these types of posts in the week. I’ve found that since doing more of these types of posts that reader engagement has increased, comment levels has been on the rise (in all types of posts, not just the ‘reader engagement’ ones).

2. Building a network on Twitter

I’ve put quite a bit more time into both promoting the site’s Twitter account and using it more effectively. I’m not completely satisfied with how I’m doing it yet but am seeing some real benefits of doing so in two ways.

1. Firstly follower numbers have risen quite a bit of late:

twitter-dps.png

The early rise back in May was when I did a post on the blog promoting the fact that we were on Twitter. I’ve also added a Twitter icon to the ‘subscribe’ area of the site (top right hand corner), have promoted it in weekly newsletters and have mentioned it in numerous articles on the site over the last few months.

2. The second aspect of Twitter has been the amount of traffic that it has been driving to the site’s two main areas, the blog and forum.

The Blog – When I started renewing my efforts with Twitter I spent most of the time promoting new articles on the blog. Here’s a chart of traffic coming from Twitter.com to DPS since the beginning of the year (click to enlarge):

twitter-dps-blog.png

You can see that even back before I started promoting the account more heavily back in May it was driving some traffic to the site. This was because we were tweeting new posts on the blog to those few followers that we had and because occasionally others were sharing links.

However lately (particularly in the last couple of months) I’ve started Tweeting not just the automated posts alerting followers to new posts but also the occasional ‘Earlier on DPS Tweet’ later in the day to catch other time zones but also links to popular archived posts. This has helped bring about a marked increase in blog traffic.

The Forum – I’m not sure why, but until a few weeks ago I had rarely shared a link on Twitter to any page in the DPS forum. Why I’d not done this I have no idea but it struck me a couple of weeks ago just how short sighted I’d been. So I began to Tweet links to ‘hot threads’ and cool photos and latest assignments in the forum area. Here’s what happened:

twitter-dps-forum.png

Do I wish I’d been doing this earlier? You bet I do!

All in all a renewed effort and focus upon Twitter has helped to drive traffic to the blog but also it is giving us an extra point of contact with readers – many of whom had not ever used one of our other subscription methods.

Note: keep in mind that the traffic above is just that traffic coming in from Twitter.com and does not include traffic being driven from Twitter clients like TweetDeck.

3. Building Newsletter Subscribers

This continues to be the ultimate goal for me on the blog. I push people to subscribe to the newsletter wherever I can because I know it’s so powerful at increasing reader engagement, driving significant traffic and as a result increasing earnings.

The guys who operate the servers behind b5media hate the days I send newsletters – it sends as much, if not more, traffic as a front page on Digg. My ad network partners always ask me why revenue increases so much on Thursdays – the earnings are so good.

Another chart – firstly daily direct traffic (ie it doesn’t include referring site traffic or search engine traffic) on the blog over the last month. You can see the days the newsletters go out pretty clearly – direct traffic doubles (at least) those days. Page views go up by even more because visitors from the newsletter typically view multiple pages.

dps-blog-newsletter.png

The forum has similar peaks on newsletter days.

The next chart shows the shape of AdSense earnings on the blog (with the actual numbers removed) over the last month. Again you can see a similar pattern.

adsense.png

If I were to chart affiliate earnings the pattern is even more pronounced as I find my newsletter subscribers respond well to affiliate promotions.

I really can’t stress enough the power of this email newsletter that I’ve been running and promoting heavily – it’s certainly been a cornerstone in everything that I do on that blog of late.

Summing it Up

Three years ago if you’d asked me what strategies I’d been implementing on my blogs it probably would have been more about optimizing advertising and affiliate promotions. While I still do work on these things I guess I’ve realized that making money from a blog tends to look after itself a little more when you have an engaged and growing readership.

What people are saying about the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook

ebook copy.jpgSince launching 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook there have been many reviews written by other bloggers of the resource. I’ve not really linked up to too many of them as I’m naturally a little shy about promoting my own work – but today was challenged by another blogger to step out of my comfort zone a little and share some of the testimonies.

OK – so here’s a sample of what others have written about the workbook!

“If you’re ready to get over the hump and take your blog to the next level, download the 31DBB Workbook and follow it daily. Until it becomes habit.” – Lynn Terry

“I highly recommend that anybody who blogs for business purposes reads this book. You may want to print a hard copy of this electronic book and put it in a three-ring binder for easy reference. And keep a highlighter handy…you’ll need it!” – Write Associate

“If you want to improve your blog but somehow always procrastinate, therefore, I would highly recommend the workbook.” – Daniel Scocco

“Darren’s not known as “ProBlogger” for nothin’. In 31DBBB, Darren teaches you proven methods of improving your blog and engaging your readers. Since completing 31DBBB, I’ve noticed an increase in traffic and it’s helped me hone my blogging mission.” – The Mogul Mom

“The cost of this valuable resource is only $19.95. That makes it almost an impulse purchase. Darren is one of the best known bloggers in the world. All of his works are top notch and his latest offering is no exception. If you want a better blog, you can have it in the next 31 days. Go get it.” – John Chow

“Participants in Darren’s program are reporting great things—increased traffic, deeper reader engagement, broader networking with other bloggers, creative new ideas, getting through bloggers block, and more. And at $19.95 it’s a steal.” – Brian Clark

“Darren knows what he’s talking about, so definitely check out whichever of his books pertains to you.” – Shawn Collins

There’s a lot more been written around the blogosphere on the workbook but these were the reviews that I found at the top of Google’s rankings when I searched. If you’ve got your own review on your blog – feel free to link to it in comments.

Don’t Have a Copy Yet?learn more about the workbook and secure your copy here.

Update on Sales – a few people have asked me how the workbook has been selling. I don’t have exact figures on hand as those sold in a bundle with a book on SitePoint are yet to be tallied up but it’s been a profitable journey so far. My estimate is that once the SitePoint figures are tallied up that over 3500 will have been sold with more sales coming in on a daily basis.

Nimble Fingers – How To Keep A ProBlogger’s Most Important Asset Healthy

Today, Adam Steer from Better’s Better and BodyweightCoach.com offers up some tips to prevent common overuse injuries associated with work in the digital age. Make sure you take advantage of his exclusive free offer for Probloggers at the end of this post.

The myth of the internet lifestyle depicts the easy life. Four hours of work per week will suffice to bring you the riches, entourage and lifestyle you desire. But the reality is quite different isn’t it? All the successful bloggers and internet entrepreneurs that I know spend hours every day bent over their keyboards – at least in the beginning.

If you’ve broken through, and are living the glamorous internet lifestyle, I’d like to congratulate you. But if you are still working on your ten-year overnight success story, you’re going to need to take care of your main asset – your fingertips.

keyboard_2

Carpal tunnel syndrome, compressed joints, postural distortions and all sorts of other nasty conditions can creep up on the ProBlogger. Whatever we do repeatedly, we will adapt to, whether we like that adaptation or not. Just as the sprinter will adapt to training and he’ll become faster, so the ProBlogger will adapt to sitting in front of a computer.

I’ve written previously on several malaise of the Desk Jockey. But to put it bluntly, if you spend enough time in your desk chair, your body will eventually take on the shape of that chair. It’s not a conspiracy authored by your body. It thinks it’s doing you a favor. If you’re shaped like that chair, it should be easier for you to stay in it for long periods of time.

Your body is also going to adapt to all that tap, tap, tapping you do on your keyboard. Which is why it’s important to take care of your number one asset – your nimble fingertips. OK, so your number one asset is probably your head full of ideas, but the only way to get them out to your readers is through those fingertips, right?

Photo by Mark Sadowski

Photo by Mark Sadowski

Why do athletes stretch and partake in other recovery methods? Because their training results in positive performance benefits, but also causes over-specializations that need to be compensated for. So our sprinter might develop super-strong hamstrings, but also need to devote time to the tissue quality of those hammies through stretching and massage to make sure that his body does not become imbalanced.

Bad Stuff That Can Happen To The ProBlogger’s Fingers, Hands & Wrists

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – This is the most well known villain and the bane of many a Desk Jockey. It’s caused by the compression of nerves that pass through the carpal tunnel of the wrist and is thought to be brought on or exacerbated by working with a keyboard (eeks).
  • Compressed joints – If you don’t move your joints through all their potential range of motion, they get compressed, forcing out the nourishing synovial fluid. Joints don’t have blood circulation, so they rely on that fluid to bring in nutrition and wash out toxins. Compressed joints will get dry and brittle over time.
  • The “claw” – If the fingers stay curled in the “keyboard tapping” position for too long without compensation, eventually the tissues will adapt and it will be hard to fully extend the fingers.
  • Writers Cramp – The fancy name for this is dystonia. Involuntary muscle spasms, twisting movements and tension in the fingers are a telltale sign.

Three Exercises To Maintain Your Nimble Fingers

Now that I have you thoroughly terrified –– machinations of total decrepitude roiling through your mind –– I want to reassure you that there is an easy fix. Through years of experimentation, a man named Scott Sonnon hammered out and codified a system of health, wellness and fitness that pre-incorporates recovery and compensation. It’s called the Circular Strength Training® system.

Below, you’ll find three exercises borrowed from the Intu-Flow Joint Health and Mobility ring of the CST Three Ring system. Regular practice of these three exercises will go a long way towards preventing the terrors mentioned above. But daily practice of the full Intu-Flow program will prime your entire idea generating pumps and have you churning out blog content like never before!

So without further ado, here are your three compensatory exercises. Do these daily to keep your fingertips tapping at the speed of a fiber optic pulse.

1. Elbow Circles

Top circles – hold the elbow relatively still out in front of you. Move the fist in an imaginary circle parallel to the floor above your elbow. Notice how the elbow pit rotates around from facing the ceiling to facing slightly inwards or outwards. This gives us the full range of motion in the joint, combining flexion, extension and rotation. The same principles apply for the bottom, inside and outside circles. Make sure you keep your shoulders packed throughout by pulling them down away from the ears.

2. Wrist Circles

Imagine holding the knuckles and the elbow fixed in space. Your goal is to move the wrist itself in space. Start by moving it up and down, moving to your full range of motion. You can hold your knuckles with your other hand to close the chain and make it easier to move just the wrist if you need to. Do the same moving the wrist side to side. Then join all 4 points together – top, side, bottom, side – in a fluid circle

3. Finger Rolls

Hold your hands in front of you, as if hovering over a keyboard, with the fingers extended. Beginning with the thumbs, start making circles one digit at a time. Do four or five circles in one direction with the thumb, then move on to the index fingers, making four or five circles in the same direction. Continue on down the line until you get to the pinkies. The last two fingers may be tough at first, until you develop the coordination to isolate the movement. Once you get to the end, change direction of the circles and work your way back from pinkies to thumbs.

Speed of implementation…

Get up from your keyboard and do these at your desk right now. Then drop a line or two into the comments section below. Tell us how you feel when you’re done. These are just the tip of the iceberg. A full session of Intu-Flow will leave you feeling loose as a goose, and –– done regularly –– can actually turn back the ravages of time and untie the knots made fast by your desk chair and keyboard.

Adam, co-author of Bodyweight Exercise Revolution, is offering a free follow-along joint mobility session to ProBlogger readers. Visit BodyweightCoach.com to access your video download. You can also grab a free copy of the highly acclaimed Bodyweight FUN-damentals workout ebook for free. Adam has been blogging for quite some time at BettersBetter.com where he debunks the mainstream fitness myths and offers improved health, vitality and fitness, one better decision at a time.