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How to Promote a Blog with Social Media


Last year I wrote a post exploring how I use Social Media to promote my blogs – the post looked at the idea of creating Home bases and Outposts (a metaphor that I picked up from Chris Brogan).

In this video I extend the idea a little and talk about the importance of not only develping a presence on social media sites but also making connections with and developing a presence on other people’s home bases. You can see the full sized version of this video at How I Use Social Media to Promote My Blogs.
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5 Ways to Get Your Blog Indexed by Google in 24 Hours

This is a guest-post from AdesBlog.com. Follow Ades on twitter @ades.

We all know that content is king and that if you keep blogging… if you keep doing what you love… the traffic and the money will follow suit. While that’s partially true, there is also things that you can do to:

  • Index your newly launched blog fast by major Search Engines

  • Increase traffic to your blog
  • Improve your SERPs (Search Engine Result Positions)

Why wait right? Content can be king but waiting around for traffic to come by itself is not a good way to start blogging. So let’s start…

Getting Indexed

Let’s say you launched a blog today and want it on Google’s results tomorrow. Can this be done? Yes.

Easiest way to get indexed by major Search Engines is to get mentioned by established blogs. This usually will get your blog indexed within 24 hours. But since we are new (i.e the newly launched blog of ours) I don’t think any blogger want to mention it. So instead of begging other bloggers to notice your newly launched blog, you just have to figure out other ways of getting indexed by Google fast. Can it be done? Absolutely! (All it takes a little effort on your side).

1. Blog Communities

There are few blog related community portals that have a very good rankings in Google and other Major Search Engines Results, they are: MyBlogLog, BlogCatalog, Blogged and NetworkedBlogs, particularly MyBlogLog. This means that if you get your blog on these blog communities, Google will have no other choice but to index your blog. So, go ahead and register for an account on these communities and list your blog on it. Once you are done you will have a page like this, this and this.

What to pay attention: Your blog’s description (have a proper write-up), keywords & tags (add related keywords and tags to your listing, this will be used by other members to find your blog), branding (put your logo, avatars, screenshots etc. have a consistent branding everywhere), and list your blog in the correct category.

2. Site Valuation & Stats Sites

Some of those How Much Your Site Worth? sites have a good ranking in Search Engines. All you need to do is to go there and check how much your site worth. This would create a special page for your blog (like this) and consecutively it would be indexed by Google. Here is a list of worthy sites: WebsiteOutlook, StatBrain, CubeStat, WebTrafficAgents, BuiltWith, WhoIs, QuarkBase, URLfan and AboutTheDomain.

3. Feed Aggregators

List your blog’s feed in these feed aggregators Feed-Squirrel, OctoFinder, FeedAdage. Once you have submitted your feed to these sites, they will keep track of your newly published posts and index them in their site. Whenever someone clicks on the blog post title, he/she will be redirected to your original blog post sending you free traffic and getting your latest posts indexed by Google.

4. Social Sites

Registering account on Social Sites with the same username as your blog’s URL is very effective in getting your blog indexed by Search Engines. Especially for those targeted keywords.

For example, if your blog’s name is WhiteElephant, it’s a good practice to register the same username at twitter as @WhiteElephant, and to create a page in Facebook at www.facebook.com/WhiteElephant. Having a consistent keyword-username on all major Social Sites will help get your blog indexed faster, and at a later stage it will also help build a “brand” for your blog.

So, get account on major Social Sites for your newly launched blog, namely: Twitter, Facebook (create a page for your blog), Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious etc. By the way, it’s a good pratice to create a separate Social Sites account for each of your projects. This way you can stay focused and post messages that are related to your project. In the long run, this will help build a community that are like-minded around your project.

Note from Darren: it’s worth nothing that many social media sites (like Twitter) use no follow tags on links which means the links don’t really help with SEO. Having said this – it’s still worth getting pages for your keywords/brand as these pages can rank in and of themselves in Google and can help you to have control over numerous search results for the same keyword.

5. Misc Sites

Squidoo is a community website that allows people to create pages (called “lenses”) on various topics. Creating a topic that is related to your blog and then including your feed in that page would help your blog get indexed by Search Engines. Squidoo used to have a really good ranking in Google results, but not so much today. But it’s still ranks well and it shouldn’t be neglected.

ChangeDetection is a website that monitors sites for changes. When you monitor a particular site using ChangeDetection, it will ask you whether you want the notices to be public or private. If you say public, it will be published in their news section. For example; AdesBlog.com got an update today, type of update: text additions etc. This of course will get picked up by Search Engines and Search Engines in return will index your blog.

Technorati is a search engine for searching blogs. According to Wikipedia, as of June 2008, Technorati was indexing 112.8 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. It’s a dying breed, but not just dead yet. You have to definitely register for an account and get your blog listed on Technorati.

That’s it. Once you are done with creating accounts and submitting your newly launched blog in the above mentioned sites, you should see your blog in Google’s Search Results within 24 hours. Most of the time it will appear within the next few hours only.

Lastly, getting indexed is one thing but sustaining that traffic is another. And this is where the Content is King phrase should truly be emphasized. Because, without a good and valuable content, all your effort will be just wasted.

I hope you have found this post useful.

Abdylas Tynyshov (Ades) is a full-time blogger based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He blogs at http://www.adesblog.com and is the creator of a great freeware color picker tool. You can follow him on twitter at @ades.

Blogging to Learn

A friend who knows I’m a blogger recently asked me for my blog address so she could take a look. We were chatting with instant messaging, so I sent her the link. A few minutes later, she asked me how long I’d been blogging, whether I enjoyed it, and how much I earned. I responded with the details and then asked her the obvious question: “are you considering starting a blog?”. “I want to” she replied, “but I’m not an expert on anything. I don’t know what I would blog about”.

There’s no shortage of great advice on choosing a blog topic. Among all that advice about finding a topic with sufficient audience, income opportunities, a growing market, not too much competition and enough to write about, it never says that you need to be an expert on your chosen topic. And you don’t. At least not when you start. The most important ingredient is passion. You can learn enough about your topic to become an expert, but you can’t learn passion. And without passion, you won’t be able to sustain motivation for blogging over a long period.

Sharing what you learn

I started my first blog on Microstock photography – an open market where anyone can sell photos online. I knew I wasn’t an expert, but I was already researching all the techniques, styles, agencies and superstars of the topic. I figured I might as well start sharing what I was learning anyway. With the helps of blogs like ProBlogger, the ‘learning to blog’ part was easy.

I carefully crafted my About Me page as my first line of defense. I wrote in detail about my ‘beginner’ status and that my background was in another industry. I wanted people to know that I wasn’t an expert so they didn’t think I was pretending to be one. My first few posts were about the very basics of microstock. They were my lessons as I was learning them, shared for anyone who started later than I did.

Being there for opportunities to find you

After I’d been blogging for just six months I got very lucky. I received a message via my blog’s contact page from Photo District News (PDN) asking me to call them to discuss “an opportunity”. Doing my best to sound cool and collected, I phoned immediately. They were planning a session about microstock for their annual PhotoPlus Expo, the largest photography conference & expo in the world. And they wanted me to speak!

Didn’t they realize I wasn’t an expert?? My About page was super-clear, and my blog posts were still mostly about very basic topics. But as they pointed out, nobody else was blogging specifically about microstock at the time. Even just six months of sharing what I’d learned and comparing the agencies put my level of knowledge ahead of a lot of people in the industry.

Learn from the experts and leaders in your topic

Conference speaking can help bloggers make valuable contacts

Speaking at that conference did a lot more for me than just boost my ego and give me something to boast about. It was where I met the leaders of the microstock and broader stock photo industry. I suppressed my desire to request autographs and did my best to make as many contacts as I could. I asked lots of questions and listened carefully to the answers. I knew what these people could do for my knowledge and my blogging.

Over the following year these industry leaders helped me with my education through countless emails, online chats and comments correcting my blog posts. They introduced me to other people with specialist knowledge and sent me lots of industry news. Each time I learned something new or got news, I blogged about it. I didn’t always understand what they were teaching me or recognize the company names in the news, so I had to research. The need to understand my topic in order to blog about it was forwarding my education. I was blogging to learn.

Never stop learning

It’s now two years since that conference. I still don’t refer to myself as a topic expert, but my about page no longer uses the word “beginner”. I’ve continued to blog my lessons as bigger and better opportunities keep flowing into my inbox. My network is also thriving, providing me with a broader education and access to amazing resources.

Sharing this experience with my friend completely opened up the range of topics she is considering for her blog. She is now looking at her interests rather than her expertise. She knows she doesn’t have to be an expert. At least not at the beginning.

Lee Torrens is a true fan of the blogging model and its strength as a platform for attracting and launching all sorts of entrepreneurial projects. He shares his experiences selling photos online with microstock at his blog, Microstock Diaries. He’s been blogging to learn since early 2007 and is still passionate about his topic.

I Came, I Saw, I Commented: Was It Worth It?

A Guest post by Josh Hanagarne – World’s Strongest Librarian

Two quotes:

From Jane Austen: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a blogger in possession of a good domain must be in want of some worthwhile comments.”

The second is the undisputed, best comment I ever received. It didn’t even matter that it was spam: “So so good. Your grd information blog is so wondrous and impotent. So so good.”

Of course, my first thought was, I’m not wondrous!

But seriously, it’s great to get comments. Don’t forget, though…someone out there has to do the commenting. So why do they do it?

Is it worthwhile to leave comments on other blogs?

I was a reader, but not a commenter

I’d never tried commenting as a traffic-building strategy, mainly because I’m not smart or patient enough to strategize. My brother once checkmated me in four moves during an unfortunate chess game I should have turned down.

For the record, I read a ton of blogs. It’s just rare that I comment.

But then in a recent interview someone asked me my opinion on blog commenting as a traffic builder. I froze and sputtered and dodged the question because I didn’t have an answer.

I knew that I might get this question again, so I tried an experiment to find out for myself.

The Experiment

I spent one week leaving as many comments as possible.

Now, a common question is “how do I find blogs to comment on?” First and foremost: I believe that real peace of mind comes from staying out of conversations you aren’t ready for. Meaning, if your idea of masterful penmanship is doodling with a crayon in your mouth, you might look out of place trying to jump into a conversation with a bunch of bloggers discussing calligraphy.

So where did I find blogs to comment on?

I had a perfect audience to test with. Smart, literate, blog-savvy people.

You, in other words.

After my most recent Problogger post, “I Heard Blogging Was Dead. I’m Glad I Didn’t Listen,” I spent a week commenting on as many blogs as possible.

Here was the criterion for the authors whose blogs I commented on:

  • They had a blog (duh)
  • They commented on my Problogger post with a “real” comment
  • I could actually add something to the conversation. I only commented on blogs that I could engage with
  • The blogs were in English

I left over 30 comments on other blogs that week.

The Measurable Results

Now, I can’t prove with scientific certainty that the comments led to these results. A guest post on Problogger leads to spikes across the board, so it’s possible that comments were not the primary cause. But after I left the comments, the numbers went up again, far beyond the typical spikes following a Problogger guest post.

The numbers after commenting:

  • A 100% increase on RSS subscribers (160-320)
  • Over 40 newsletter subscriptions
  • A second traffic spike due to people returning to answer my comment on their own blogs

The Intangible Results

More important has been the goodwill and relationships generated by some simple, sincere comments. I was stunned at how many of responses I got that just said “thank you for the comment on my blog.”

The most rewarding thing has been that my comments led to me meeting some great people. I possibly never would have known them otherwise.

Real Relationships

Broken record time: my favorite part of blogging is meeting people. I reject the idea that you can’t form real and meaningful relationships online. Many of the people who commented on that Problogger post are now my friends.

Like me, like you (maybe it was you), they are real people with real ideas and emotions and our ability to interact is not diminished much by the fact that we may never meet in person.

There are people on the other side of the screen. They are more than links to click on. More than blog stats to crow about. More than usernames. More than traffic and numbers.

So – Is Commenting Worthwhile?

The answer is different for each blogger. In my case, the modest boost in my modest traffic has been worth it, because every little bit helps.

As we’ve been told again and again by the master bloggers:

  • Good, substantial, conversational comments are worthwhile.
  • Self-serving, spammy, falsely flattering comments are almost always going to be a dead end.

It would not be worth my time to leave this comment thirty times on thirty blogs:

Grt post. Love your blog. Love how good it looks. This came at the perfect time for me. I was just talking about this today on ToplessJoshHanagarneTellsAllSuperHot.com

I wouldn’t blame you for deleting that comment.

Bloggers, Not Blogs

Focus on interacting with bloggers as peers and friends, not interacting with blogs for profit and links.

I now comment because it’s proven to be a great way to meet people. And I will continue commenting because for me, relationships are the best part of life. The more the merrier, online or off.

And for the record, I’m not a Jane Austen fan and will never quote her again.

Whatever you do, and whatever your reasons are–keep it fun or you won’t keep it.

Josh Hanagarne writes World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog to help you get stronger, get smarter, and live better… every day. For bonus articles, videos, and original music, please subscribe to the Stronger, Smarter, Better Newsletter. If you know someone with Tourette’s Syndrome, please let them know about the blog. They need to know that someone out there “gets it.”

Duncan Riley of The Inquisitr Shares a Popular Post Case Study

This week I’m featuring a short series of interviews with successful bloggers looking at a popular post on their blog and why they think it went viral. Today Duncan Riley from The Inquisitr has agreed to dissect the popularity of one of his site’s most popular posts.

Screen shot 2009-09-10 at 1.30.40 PM.png What is the post on your blog that has had the most traffic in the last 12 months?

Is American Idol’s Adam Lambert Gay? Is there really any question? (656,254 page views)

Where did the traffic mainly come from?

Approx 85% came from Google. Interestingly after that was AOL and direct (as opposed to Yahoo or a social site)

Did you do anything extra to market or promote this post or did it just happen organically?

Initially it was organic. We’d picked up in the semi-finals of American Idol that there was this great singer, and people were asking whether he was gay or not. We led with the question people were asking, a tactic I know other sites advocate, but we don’t do that often, because it doesn’t always make for a good solid headline.

First day traffic was 611 page views, then 10,164…then it bubbled along: 1,000 one day, 2,000 the next, with a couple of 10,000 days as well.

It wasn’t huge for us on a daily sense for over 2 months, but it kept appearing in our stats. We did follow up posts (none which did the same level of page views, but some around the 50,000 to 100,000 page view mark) and we kept linking back to the original post each time. Two months later, and Adam Lambert was heading towards the final of American Idol, and more people kept asking the question. 2 months and 1 week after the post went up, it did a 107,834 day; we were the top result in Google for “Is Adam Lambert gay.”

The success was a combination of two things: timing and link strategy. We were early, if not the first site of size to write about the topic. After that, we not only linked back ourselves, but the post received a good number of external links as well (being first helped a lot), pushing us to the top of Google

What can we as bloggers learn from the success of this post?

1. Timing isn’t everything, but there is still strong opportunities for first to market. If you can offer a post that contains information (or commentary) that is unique, first (or close to first), and topical, that post can sometimes become a big post for you.

2. Sometimes long term pays A lot of what we do is short term when it comes to news, but some stories can wag not only for days, but weeks and (as in this case) months. Marque content has the ability to provide for you over a longer period; our post here didn’t start that way, but it had longevity.

For example this post I wrote back in June; it’s done just over 55,000 page views as I write this, but every day it gets page views, one day 500, next 1000, then 150 etc, and I have every reason to believe that in 3 months time it will probably still be wagging along and will eventually pass 100,000 pageviews. Not spectacular I know, but likewise if you’ve got a sizeable number of posts doing the same thing, they all add up.

It doesn’t matter what the vertical: both my examples here are entertainment related, but it could be just as easily be applied to a good advice post, or internet marketing post, or more. You need look no further that bloggers who post about WordPress templates and plugins for example to know that a good post can wag for not only months, but sometimes years.

How a Flip Camera and My Blog Got My Business Over $20,000 of FREE Publicity

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mark Hayward. You can follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward.

Do you ever feel like you want to pull your hair out over the lack of return (you feel like) you’re getting from your small business blogging and social media efforts?

Man, sometimes using social media for small business promotion can be frustrating!

In my two most recent ProBlogger guest posts I discussed, How to Go Beyond Your Small Business Blog and Create a Social Media Footprint and 10 Tips for Blogging Your Way to Small Business Success.

But you should know, I was not always a proponent of blogging or social media.

As a small business owner I completely understand your aggravation, and perhaps disappointment, with blogging.

In fact, a couple of years ago I was right there with you.

To be sure, when I pursued my dream and opened a small business in the Caribbean I lacked any semblance of a marketing plan, so I thought I would do what everyone else was doing, and turn to the Internet.

I had heard about the power of blogging and social media and using them as tools to help promote small business. Sadly, perhaps like you or someone you know, I envisioned that I would put up a few blog posts and offer some tips in forums and customers would come rushing.

In fact, for the first few months that I owned my business I thought I was doing everything right, such as, posting helpful information to my blog, visiting forums that were relevant to my niche, and even sneaking in a little bit of reputation management.

However, after about six months (what I thought was a long time) of consistent effort I felt like the return on my time and effort was just not happening.

In essence, I was done with social media and blogging!!

My Social Media Awakening

On the very day I told my wife that I was finished with this blogging, FLICKR, and YouTube stuff I found an email in my inbox that would change the course of my small business and my view towards social media forever. (I am not making this up for poetic license.)

Serendipitously, on the very same day that I was supposedly done with blogging forever, I received an email from a writer for Islands Magazine and she wanted to feature the story of how I opened my business in the Caribbean.

What was so amazing you ask?

In my opinion, my initial social media and blogging efforts had finally paid off. The writer had found my business from video that I had uploaded to YouTube and then posted as part of a story on my small niche blog.

Unfortunately, I am not sure what the exact search term was that the writer used, but four key results from my initial blogging and social media goals had happened:

  1. While seeking some video the writer discovered my niche blog through a Google search.
  2. The niche blog led the writer to my small business website.
  3. From the website the writer learned about my story.
  4. The writer contacted me for the feature.

Or, stated more simply:

One $100 FLIP Camera + Niche Blog Post = $20,000 plus of FREE publicity

You have to understand, I had NO advertising budget for my business and along comes this amazing $20,000 marketing opportunity at no cost. Even better, the Islands Magazine article has led to numerous other (free) publicity opportunities for my small business, including a quarter page write up in Conde Nast Travel and mentions on various travel websites.

Yes, it was then that I became a TRUE blogging and social media convert!

Major Lessons Learned

The above experience taught me many lessons about using blogging and social media for small business marketing. The following are but a few:

  • Goals – Set your goals early. My primary reason for having a niche blog and posting video, photos, and text was to ensure that I had a presence that ranked well in Google so that potential customers (and magazine writers) could find me.
  • Consistent – Be patient and consistent in your small business blogging efforts. I know sometimes it is awfully hard not to compare what you are doing to others, but stay focused and committed.
  • Measurement – Find out which blog posts and social media sites provide the best return for your time and effort. (When you first get started this is mostly done through trial and error.) Also, don’t look at number of visitors to your blog, look at WHO is visiting your blog and how they are finding you.
  • Results – The truth of the matter is, we are all still at the infancy stage when it comes to using social media, and perhaps to a lesser extent blogging, for small business marketing. You just never know when the hard work that you are doing on a daily basis now might pay off later!

Strangely enough, with thanks to a FLIP camera and a blog post, some interesting intangibles have also arisen from the Islands Magazine article.

  • The Islands Magazine article set me up as an expert in pursuing the dream of moving to the Caribbean and opening a business. On a weekly basis I receive emails from people who are seeking assistance with trying to do what I have done. Not only do I enjoy helping them, but it’s a great way to keep my business in their thoughts.
  • Islands Magazine gave me a powerful backlink. According to Matt Cutts, and the most recent WordCamp talk he gave Straight from Google – What You Need to Know, when it comes to search rankings and the power of backlinks, the Google algorithm is affected by the authority and the relevancy of the site that is linking to you. Thus, a travel magazine with a PR5 linking to my travel related business site, provides me with a solid link and some added Google juice.
  • Almost a year on and the Islands Magazine article is still consistently the number two or three referring site for my business, and with the current economic downturn any extra website traffic is always welcome.

As a final takeaway message, I would just like to say that even if you do not have the subscriber count of Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, or Chris Brogan … DONîT GIVE UP! Your small business blogging and social media efforts will pay off.

Mark Hayward lives in the Caribbean and built up a clientele for his small business using nothing but social media. He tries to help beginners make sense of social media and how they can use it for business promotion. You can follow him on Twitter @mark_hayward.

Thirteen Steps to Write and Publish a Free Ebook In Thirteen Hours

Have you ever considered producing an ebook for your blog readers? In this comprehensive post Ali Hale breaks down the process of how to do it.

There’s never enough time. In an ideal world, you’d be posting to your blog frequently, writing great guest posts, building relationships with other bloggers, and responding to every single comment … and all that’s more than you can manage. You might have considered writing an ebook as a companion to your blog, but you just can’t find the time or the energy for it.

You already know all the reasons to do it: you’ve downloaded your share of free ebooks from other blogs, and you’ve seen that:

  • Free ebooks can be used as what Sonia Simone calls “cookie content”, to entice newsletter sign-ups
  • Free ebooks can be a great traffic draw: they get twittered about and linked to
  • Just having a free ebook available on your site will subtly shift readers’ perceptions: they’ll see you as one of the “big guys” of the blogging world

But, of course, an ebook is harder to create than a blog post. A 25-page ebook is 4,000 words or more; you have to edit and proof-read carefully (once people are emailing that ebook to one another, you can’t fix that embarrassing typo or broken link); you’ll need PDF and ebook cover software if you want it to look professional; you have to launch it with a bang…

Writing an ebook isn’t an easy undertaking, and it’s something a lot of bloggers never do. That’s why, if you do write a high-quality free ebook, you’re going to stand out.

Here’s how I wrote, published and launched my free ebook in just thirteen hours and how you could do the same. My time broke down like this:

  • Writing an outline: 30 minutes
  • First draft of content: 4 hours
  • Adding some graphics: 1 hour 30 mins (mostly my boyfriend’s work!)
  • Redrafting and editing, inserting all links: 3 hours
  • Appendix of resources: 1 hour
  • Creating a cover: 1 hour 30 mins
  • Converting to pdf: almost instant!
  • Final proof-read and link-checking: 15 minutes
  • Launching and spreading the word: 1 hour 15 minutes

I spread the tasks above across four days: I’m a freelancer so my schedule’s quite flexible, but I do have to do a bit of paying work once in a while!

And here’s your 13-step guide to doing the same:

Step 1: Get an Idea

You need a clear concept for your ebook. An ebook isn’t a blog post – but it’s not a blog either: don’t make it a general overview of your niche (especially if it’s quite broad). Pick one category from your blog, or a topic which would make a series of blog posts.

I’d wanted to create a free ebook for a while, but it was one of those things I thought I’d get around to “when I have a bit more time”. Then I came up with an idea for a mini-series of two linked posts (Reframing Work #1: Ditching Drudgery and the Conventional View of “Work” and Reframing Work #2: Min Hours, Max Cash – or Do What You Love?) which would lead very naturally to the ebook (Quit Your Day Job). I decided I was going to go ahead and launch it, a week after the first post in the series. This led to…

  

Step 2: Tell Your Readers

Tell your readers that you’ll be bringing out a free ebook in a week or two weeks’ time. It’s amazing how a deadline – and public accountability – can motivate you!

You might want to make the announcement in a post, on Twitter, or to your newsletter list. Communicate a sense of excitement: tell readers you have a “treat” or “goodies” coming up. This is part of the pre-launch process of getting a buzz going. I personally find the word “freebie” can have a bit of a connotation of something cheap and rubbishy – but you might think differently!

 

Step 3: Write the Outline

If you write long blog posts, you might already be in the habit of outlining before you begin. With an ebook, this is crucial: you don’t want to write for hours only to find you’ve wandered far off-topic. Neither do you want to sit staring at a blank screen, wondering what you’re going to say next.

Open up a blank document or sit down with a piece of paper and write an outline before you go any further with your ebook. Everyone has different ways of doing this, but one which works well for me is:

  • Spend five minutes mind-mapping: write down your ebook’s title or theme in the centre of a piece of paper, then jot down all the points that come to mind
  • Eliminate any points which are too broad for the ebook’s scope. Order the rest in a logical sequence (I just jot a number next to each)
  • Type or write out the list in order. These are your subsections or chapters in the ebook.
  • Jot down at least two bullet points for each section, or a couple of sentences: these are the main points you’re going to make. Sometimes, you’ll want subheadings within each section.
  • If you think of a great idea for a graphic, or a resource (book, blog, etc) to recommend, write that down here too.

 

It might sound complicated, but if you sit down for an uninterrupted half-hour, you can easily get a complete outline written.

Once you’ve got a list of sections and subsections, think about roughly how long each will need to be. Aim for a total of around 4,000 words: this is about right for a 25-page ebook set in a large font: I like 14 pt Calibri (Word 2007) or 11 pt Verdana.

 

Step 4: Draft the Content

This step is the one which many bloggers find daunting – writing enough words to fill an ebook. If it seems overwhelming, try thinking about your ebook as a series of linked blog posts (with each subheading starting off a new post). Your outline really helps here, because it breaks writing your ebook into manageable chunks.

And these four tips should help too:

First: Get Rid of Distractions

It’s crucial that you avoid distractions while you’re writing. That means keeping away from emails, Twitter and Facebook till you’re done. You don’t need to write the whole ebook in one go – but try to give yourself a block of at least two hours to work on it, or set yourself the goal of drafting a certain number of sections.

If your family or housemates are likely to interrupt you, try heading off to a coffee shop or library for a few hours.

If you find it hard to concentrate, try using a full screen text program (I like Dark Room), or switch off your internet connection!

Second: Don’t Edit As You Write

This is your first draft, so forget any worries about the quality of your writing. Don’t keep editing sentences to try to make them perfect – just move on. You can come back and rewrite later: your current task is simply to get a complete draft down.

Third: Don’t Stop to Look Things Up

Don’t stop to look up links, quotes or statistics that you want to include. Just make a note to yourself in the body of the text. I tend to enclose these in square brackets [like this]. Stopping part-way through a paragraph or sentence breaks your flow … and it’s very easy to start looking up one quote and get distracted!

Fourth: Don’t Format While Drafting

Your finished ebook is going to be a visual masterpiece, with a cover page, section headings, subsection headings, bold text, italic text, lists, maybe tables and specially-formatted blockquotes…

Your first draft, however, should have few or none of these. It’s easy to get distracted with formatting, and it’s also inefficient to format before all the text’s written – you’ll find yourself changing a lot of things around.

Keep your formatting to a bare minimum while you’re drafting. You might find it useful to format headers and subheaders (make sure you know how to use styles in Word – don’t edit each header separately) – but the rest can wait.

 

Step 5: Add Any Graphics

Once the draft is complete, add any graphics that you want to include in your ebook. The type of graphics you use will depend on the topic of your ebook, but you might want to consider:

  • Charts to show statistics in a visual, instant way
  • Diagrams to explain complex concepts
  • Illustrations or photographs to complement the text
  • Small graphics to highlight tips, warnings or quotes

 

Don’t make the mistake of just using pictures to break up the text. If you use a large font size and use design elements well (just as you would in a blog post), then you don’t need to stuff your ebook with pictures. Graphics used for the sake of it don’t add much to the reading experience, and finding or creating suitable images can use up a lot of your time.

When you’re looking for graphics, be mindful of copyright laws. If you’re using images from Flickr licensed under Creative Commons, make sure you credit and link to the owner in the ebook. If you have a small budget for the ebook, you might consider buying stock photos from istockphoto or fotolia.

You should get your graphics in place at this stage because you may want to change around some of the text to explain or to tie in with the images you’ve chosen.

 

Step 6: Redraft and Edit Your Text

You’ve got your first draft done – the hardest part’s over. Now it’s time to revise, edit and polish your ebook until it shines!

As with the first draft, you need to find some uninterrupted time and space for this: it’s all too easy to make mistakes or forget to remove those “[notes to self]” when you’re getting interrupted.

It also helps if you follow a step-by-step method, working on one aspect of the redrafting and editing throughout the whole document, rather than trying to perfect each page as you go along.

My process for redrafting and editing is as follows:

  • Edit for Structure
  • Edit to Add Quotes, Examples and Links
  • Edit for Flow and Tone

First: Edit for Structure

Your first round of edits deal with the “big picture”: making sure that your chapters or sections are in the right order and cover all the points you wanted to make. Start at page one and read, fairly quickly, through the whole ebook. Look out for:

  • Sections which would work better in a different order
  • Places where you’ve repeated yourself in two different sections
  • Sections which are too short (you may need to expand and give more detail)
  • Sections which are too long (cut any waffle!)

 

Second: Edit to Add Quotes, Examples and Links

Once you’ve got the broad structure right, you can decide where best to enter quotes and examples. This will depend on the format of your ebook, but some things you may want to consider are:

  • Using an example, quote, tips box or case study to break up a long section of text
  • Creating a pattern: eg. opening or ending each section with a quote or case study
  • Putting all the links at the end of each sections for easy reference (even if you also link in the body of the text)

 

You may find that you need to move around a few sentences or paragraphs in order to make the quote, example or case study work well.

Third: Edit for Flow and Tone

Rewrite any sentences which sound clumsy or which are ambiguous. You might like to try reading your ebook aloud: this often highlights any over-long or complicated sentences!

This is also a good point to check that you’ve used a consistent tone of voice throughout your ebook. Did you start off chatty but then drop into a more formal style? If you’re not a naturally humorous writer, make sure that any jokes or puns you’ve included really are funny.

Step 7: Format Your Ebook

Now that the text is complete, go through and get everything into the right format. Set all your headers and subheaders, making sure that you use the “Styles and Formatting” feature of Word (or your chosen word processing program). Don’t set the font size and style each heading manually. It’s not only inefficient, it stops you making an automatic table of contents – more on that in a moment!

(You might want to read up on Styles and Formatting, if you’re not sure how to use this feature.)

Choose a modern, easy-to-read font for your text and for your headings. Make both text and headings quite large – bigger than you’d use in a document for work or school. As I mentioned in Step 3, I like 14 pt Calibri (Word 2007) or 11 pt Verdana.

As well as formatting your section headings, you’ll also want to use some of the formatting options that you’re familiar with from blogging. This might include:

  • Using bold to emphasise key points, and italics for emphasised words
  • Setting out quotes in a different style (eg. indented, or in a box) from the main text
  • Using a magazine-style “pull box” for quick tips
  • Breaking some paragraphs into lists, to help keep the reader’s attention

 

You’ll also want to put a header or footer on each page with, at the very least, the page number. Consider including the title of the ebook in the header/footer on each page (in case readers print it out). You could also put your name, your copyright notice, or the URL of your blog.

Note that if you’re including a cover (and I recommend that you do), you can tell Word to use a different header and footer on the first page.

 

Step 8: Add a Table of Contents and Appendix

An easy way to make your ebook instantly stand out from the crowd is to add a table of contents and/or an appendix. Professional ebooks (and paper books!) have these – so why shouldn’t yours?

Table of Contents

If you’ve used Word’s Styles and Formatting feature to set up your headers, it’s really easy to add a table of contents. Just insert a new page at the start of your ebook, and (in Word 2007), go to the “References” tab, then click “Table of Contents” on the far left.

Word will automatically lay out the table with the headings, subheadings and page numbers. If you change the ebook after creating the table of contents, simply right-click on it and “update”. This is the table of contents from my ebook:

table-of-contents.jpg

Appendix

In my ebook, I wanted to supply some ideas for further reading at the end. These didn’t fit with the body of the text, so I created an appendix.

Depending on your ebook’s subject, your appendix could be:

  • A quick tutorial on something which some of your readers will understand but others won’t (you don’t want to put this in the middle of your ebook as those who “get it” will start skipping)
  • A list of recommended resources, like websites, blogs, books, products, services…
  • A “cheat sheet” for readers to print out – popular in technical fields
  • A list of notes and references for each section – often in more scientific books

 

Creating an appendix is simply a matter of starting a new page and putting the header “Appendix” (or, if you want multiple appendices, “Appendix 1”, “Appendix 2” etc.)

Step 9: Create Your Front Cover – And a Graphic

All the hard work of writing and formatting the text is done: here’s the fun part – creating your ebook cover!

I’d recommend spending a couple of dollars when creating your cover. Look through istockphoto or fotolia for a great, eye-catching image. Ideally, you want something without too much detail (as you’ll be using a thumbnail of the cover pic on your blog, to advertise the ebook).

I’m no designer, and it took me some time to make a cover that didn’t look hopelessly amateur! You might want to enlist a friend with a good eye for design, though some quick tips are:

  • Use a big, clear font for the title of your ebook
  • Consider having a subtitle or strapline in a smaller font
  • Stick to just two or three colours
  • Come up with a few designs or layouts and pick the one you like best

 

Once you’ve put your cover in as the first page as your ebook, take a screenshot and save it as a .jpg. If you can afford to spend a bit more (currently $27), I highly recommend a piece of software called eCover Software Pro, which I’ve reviewed here. It allows you to “drop” that image onto a book-shaped template, so that it looks something like this:

front-cover.jpg

It’s very straightforward and intuitive to use, and it’s a powerful way to send readers the signal that you’re a serious problogger.

Step 10: Convert Your Ebook to a PDF

When I first started creating ebooks, I tried out a lot of different free options for turning Word documents into PDF files. The problem was, they didn’t keep links unless the links were written out as a full URL – so www.aliventures.com would remain as a link, but Aliventures wouldn’t! This also meant that they didn’t keep in the links that “jump” the reader from the contents page to the entry that they’ve clicked on.

A few months ago, I bought version 8 of Adobe’s Acrobat software – which cost over $100. I realised that spending hours trying to put the links back in manually each time would cost me a lot more, in the long term. It is a big outlay when you’re starting out as a ProBlogger, so I’d recommend doing what I did – look on ebay for a slightly older version of Adobe (as I write this, 9 is the current version, so look for 8 or 7). This will be just as good for your purposes, and will cost a bit less than the latest.

You could also see if your workplace or college has Adobe Acrobat. Or ask on Twitter to see if a willing friend can convert it for you! (You’re welcome to send me a Tweet if I can lend a hand.)

The best free option I’ve used was pdf995, so if all else fails, give that a try!

Note: If you have Word 2007, you can use the “Publish as PDF” feature. I’ve not used this myself (since I have Adobe Acrobat) so I can’t vouch for how good it is or whether it will include all links. If anyone knows, do tell us in the comments!

Step 11: Final Proof-Read and Link Check

Once you’ve got your PDF file, go through and do one last check for typos. Try not to get tempted to do much editing at this stage … you could carry on tweaking for ever. Just check for anything that’s obviously wrong.

This is a good point to double-check that all the links are working – just in case anything hasn’t converted properly, or in case you put a link in wrong.

Step 12: Publish and Publicise

Publishing the ebook on your blog is easy, compared with all the work of creating it! You can either upload it using your blog software’s “upload” function (go to Media->Add New in WordPress), or you can use an FTP program to do so.

Create a new post telling people about your ebook, using the cover image that you created (either with eCover Software Pro or as a “flat” looking image).

Then get the word out! Tweet about it, ask for retweets, send emails to blogger friends – though do make sure your ebook will be on-topic for their blog. You might even consider writing a press release to send to your local paper.

I decided to run a competition in connection with the free ebook launch, which helped to gather retweets and a bit of a “buzz”.

 

Step 13: Relax!

Finally, give yourself a well-earned break! Your ebook’s out there, and your blog’s getting a lot of new visitors. Get yourself a glass of wine, a beer or a mug of great coffee … and start thinking about your next ebook.

As well as writing ebooks, Ali Hale writes a blog on “getting more from life” at www.aliventures.com: you can get her twice-weekly posts straight to your feed reader.

Vitaly Friedman of Smashing Magazine Shares a Popular Post Case Study

This week I’m featuring a short series of interviews with successful bloggers looking at a popular post on their blog and why they think it went viral. Today Vitaly Friedman from Smashing Magazine has agreed to dissect the popularity of one of their most popular posts.

popular-post-smashing-magazine.png1. What is the post on your blog that has had the most traffic in the last 12 months?

The most popular post in our magazine was the article “Adobe Photoshop Tutorials – Best Of” which was published in October 2008. It is one of the many tutorials round-ups that we’ve done then. Overall, the post has now almost a 1,000,000 unique visits.

2. Where did the traffic mainly come from?

Most traffic came from Google, followed by social media, in particular via StumbleUpon, Twitter, Digg and Reddit (in this order). Since we are paying a huge amount of attention and time investment into preparing well-researched, high-quality posts, it is very likely that stories published on SM are going fairly well in social media. After all, almost every story needs over 25 hours to be completed. Another reason for our popularity in social media is the simple fact that we don’t post too often – at most 2 articles per day appear on Smashing Magazine.

About a couple of months after the post was published the organic traffic via Google etc. started to catch up, so at the moment we (on average) have much more traffic from search engines than from social media. All the social media together are still only a small portion of the traffic coming from Google.

3. Did you do anything extra to market or promote this post or did it just happen organically?

We never push a story hard to reach some critical mass of diggs, votes or tweets. The post did well, because many designers found it useful and bookmarked it or recommended it. That’s the basis and the requirements for a good, successful, popular post.

4. What can we as bloggers learn from the success of this post?

The quality of the content defines the nature of post’s popularity over months and years. The more time you invest into preparing a post, the more quality it will deliver to the reader and the more appreciative your readers will be. The latter will deliver your blog organic growth, traffic and solid readership. That’s as simple as that. Deliver quality and you’ll be rewarded with good reputation and good traffic.

5. I notice you’ve got a book coming out soon – how did it come to be? Got any tips for aspiring bloggers wanting to do a book?

Yes, we are currently in the final stage of publishing our “Smashing Book” – a printed book about best practices in modern Web design and development. Books are still valuable, because they are more solid and permanent compared to bits and bytes. The idea to create a book came because we wanted to explore how we can strengthen Smashing branding in further traditional media. We decided to create the community book, a book that is based upon ideas and suggestions of our readers, involving them in basically every step of the process.

Publishing a book is easy these days is easy – with digital printing and numerous layout applications one can create an e-book in hours. The process is also fast and relatively cheap. But this is not what we decided to do. The Smashing Book is printed the traditional way. We aim to the masses. This is possible because we have a huge audience and we are selling to them directly, bypassing common bookstores and shops. To do this we need plenty of money to pay for paper, layout and printing. But there is a traditional solution to go around this, the pre-sale phase. We have started the pre-sale to gather money and estimate the circulation (yes, it’s a secret). In exchange for customer’s trust, we are offering a big discount of 20%.

Since we wanted everybody to be able to afford the Smashing Book, we have decided to introduce something that we call “social shipping”. The idea here is that we offer customers from US and Germany free shipping, but since shipping costs are extremely high to some parts of the world, they can voluntarily pay more for the shipping of their copy. And, of course, selling around the world needs some serious logistics. There are literally tons to move. An e-book would be more much more comfortable, but we hope that our readers will appreciate our efforts to create a physical piece that can be put on the shelf. The printed Smashing Book will appear in the end of this year.

Check out the Smashing Magazin upcoming book (it is available for pre-order) here.

How Passion Can Transform Your Blog

By Leo Babauta from Zen Habits.

Many of the problems that many bloggers face — not drawing enough readers, not knowing what to write about, not writing well enough, not finding the time to blog — can all be solved with one solution.

And that solution’s name is Passion.

All of the problems mentioned above, and more, arise from forcing things. When you write about something you don’t care much about, you’re forcing it. When you sit down to write but have nothing to say, you’re forcing it. The blogger who has no time to blog, to make his blog better and really produce the great content needed to attract a larger readership, is forcing it as well.

Forcing things makes them worse. It’ll show up in your writing. Readers aren’t interested in reading something you’ve forced, and they’ll go elsewhere.

Passion is the exact opposite: it will infuse your writing with excitement, make it more interesting, compel people to read. They’ll share your posts and the passionate content will draw others.

It’s not the answer to all problems — you still need to be a decent writer, and share really useful information, and help people solve problems, and write great headlines. But focusing on passion can really transform everything about your blog and you as a blogger.

Here are a few ways:

1. Write what you’re passionate about

What do you really care about right now? What have you been reading online, passionately, and what changes have you been making recently in your life? These are good indicators of what you’re most exited about at the moment. And if you write about these things, you’ll write well, and won’t need motivation to write.

2. Find something to be passionate about

If you don’t already have this passion, you’ll need to find it. Don’t live a passion-less life — not only is it boring, but bloggers who don’t lead interesting lives (in one way or another) are boring. To have something to say worth listening to, you need to care about something, deeply. Seek out this passion by opening your mind to it, by looking for things that are interesting to you, by reading about interesting people and emulating them, by trying new things and being willing to make mistakes, by getting good at something through intense practice, by allowing yourself to get excited! You might not find this passion on your first try, but by looking, you’ll start the process and eventually find it.

3. Write when you’re excited, not on a schedule

There’s something to be said about writing at the same time, every day, but when it’s forced, it’ll show up in your writing. You need to notice when you’re getting excited about something, and take that opportunity to sit down and write, right then. Close off the distractions of the Internet, and just write. Let the excitement of the moment pour out into the writing. Seize the moment, wherever you are, to write.

4. Pump up the jams

The right music can get you excited, and help motivate you to write with passion. I like anything with a good beat, from heavy metal to rap to punk. Avoid the mellow stuff — while it’s incredibly beautiful and soothing, it doesn’t induce passion.

5. Coffee

Lots of it. Gets the passion flowing like nothing else. Interestingly, the worse the coffee, the better it works.

6. Write passionately, become a better writer

When you write with passion, not only does it show in your writing and help motivate you, it actually makes you better. You’ll falter at first, but the strength that this passion gives you will pound at your writing and pound at it until the writing has no choice but to be better. This happens over time, but it’s inevitable — the writing becomes transformed. It’s not a magical quality — it’s basically just the idea that the more you do something, with intensity, the better you’ll be at it.

7. Read others who are passionate

The best writers and bloggers have passion, and reading them will inspire you to do the same. I like the inspired rants of Aaron Swartz, the poetry of Idle Words, the lyricism of Textism, the humor of Dooce, and many others. Find your own muses, and let them fire you up.

You can read more from Leo Babauta on Zen Habits or on his new blog on minimalism, mnmlist.com, where he is offering a new free minimalist WordPress theme called mnmlist. Follow Leo on Twitter.