Usefulness – Principles of Successful Blogging #3

usefulness.pngToday we continue my series in principles of successful blogging by looking at something that is at the heart of my own philosophy of blogging (and business) – usefulness.

I’ve said it many times on ProBlogger but if your blog is not solving a problem or fulfilling a need or desire among your readers then you’re unlikely to see them return.

The needs, desires and problems you can be meeting need not be large ones – but if you’re connecting with people on these levels you’re being useful and this goes a long way towards making the type of impression on someone that draws them into a loyal relationship.

Better still – if you’re useful to someone they’re often going to tell others about it which is a big part of the growth of many successful blogs.

Examples of Useful Blogs

Being useful can take on many different forms. Lets looks at some examples of fairly well known blogs:

  • Mashable – gives people the latest news on Social Media but also teaches them how to use it.
  • Boing Boing – a blog that gives a laugh and looks at curious trends in technology
  • Lifehacker – helps people become more productive and be better at different technological pursuits
  • TMZ – feeds people’s desire to know the latest gossip and celeb news
  • Seth Godin – teaches on the topic of Marketing
  • I Can Has Cheezburger – gives people something to giggle about
  • Treehugger – resources people to live green
  • Seeking Alpha – gives financial news and advice
  • Zen Habits – helps people be more productive
  • CopyBlogger – helps bloggers write better

Now you might not read all of these blogs (and there are many thousands more that we could use as examples) and are unlikely to find them all personally useful (I certainly don’t read them all) – but they all have many thousands of devoted fans and daily readers, because they’re producing content that meets some kind of need, fulfils some kind of desire or solves some kind of problem.

The ways a blog can be useful are many – but here are some of the basics (taken partly from ProBlogger the Book):

  • Entertaining – increasingly blogs are being used as entertainment. People are going to them for laughs, for gossip and for fun conversation.
  • Educational – many successful blogs teach people to do or be something
  • Informational/News – these blogs might teach you any practical skills but they keep you up with the latest on a particular topic, location or trend
  • Thoughtful – some readers want a place where they can have their minds open to viewpoints.
  • Debate – some blogs serve as places for people to come together to have dialogue and debate around a topic.
  • Community – many blogs are build more on people having a sense of belonging and feeling that they’re a part of a community than the actual content.

Of course this list could go on and on and will vary from blog to blog with some meeting multiple needs and others just targeting one.

How is Your Blog Useful?

This is a question that I think bloggers would do well ponder before they start blogging as well as during the blogging process (in fact it’s probably a question to ask every day before you publish anything). Strive to meet a need and enhance people’s lives in some way and you’ll be taking a step closer to connecting with people in a way that will hopefully be part of a lasting relationship.

Further Reading

Read the full series on how to build a successful blog.

The #1 Reason My Blogging Grew Into a Business

Have you ever had a moment in your life where everything changed?

You might not have known it at the time - but the moment was defining, it changed the course of some area of your life in a way that turned things upside down.

I had one of those course changing moments early in my blogging. It was a moment that resulted in my blogging moving from being a hobby that generated a nice bit of secondary income into a full time business.

It was a moment that at the time didn't feel life changing - but it was.

The funny thing about this moment is that it wasn't a discovery of some secret way to make money blogging, it wasn't the day I started one of my blogs… in fact it was a moment that didn't immediately lead to any particular change on my blogs - because it was largely something that happened in my mind - a paradigm shifting moment.

It all started with 9 words from my wife - Vanessa


'You've got 6 months to make blogging full time.'

Vanessa then told me that if I didn't get it to this kind of level I'd have to get a 'real job'.

This sounds like a rather harsh kind of ultimatum but it actually emerged from an ongoing conversation we'd been having about my dream of becoming a full time blogger.

Up until this point I'd been talking about how blogging could one day provide us with a full time income. I'd been showing her the growth of the earnings from the blogs so far and projecting forward to what they might be in the future if things kept going.

I'd been on about it for months and things were going OK - the earnings graphs I kept showing her were trending up - I could see the possibility of one day being a full time blogger.

But I'd been talking a lot…. dreaming a lot…. creating a lot of pretty graphs…. and not really DOING a lot.

Vanessa had very graciously supported my dream for quite some time but realised that to achieve it things needed to change.

I didn't really see it (I was too close and too caught up in my dreams) but Vanessa knew it and so she set me the 'ultimatum' - a deadline that changed my thinking and more importantly led to me changing the way I went about my blogging.

In the moments after Vanessa's ultimatum I had a realization that while I dreamed that one day my blogging would become a business that I'd been treating my blogging like a hobby.

I knew that if I were to succeed in going full time in the next six months that that had to change. I needed to start looking at my blogging as a business now - even though it was only earning a day or two a week's income.

That moment changed everything.

That was the day I....

  • started putting serious time aside for blogging
  • became more focused upon my core tasks of creating content
  • wasted less time on distractions
  • became more strategic in my thinking and set myself goals to work towards
  • began to look for new income streams - beyond AdSense
  • started hustling for advertisers - ringing up businesses in my niche and pitching my blog to them
  • began to seek out guest writing opportunities on other blogs and even in main stream media
  • started setting myself deadlines for posting a certain number of posts a day and developed an editorial calendar
  • I started networking more with other bloggers
  • began to invest more time and even money into my learning of different aspects of blogging
  • started to look for a business coach who could teach me how to look at what I do as a business instead of a hobby

That day began the process for me of looking at what I do as a business.

While not a lot changed on my blogs that day - the impact over the last 4-5 years has been significant. I've not looked back and many of the things I changed back then have become patterns and a natural part of my blogging work flow.

The #1 reason my blogging grew into a business was that I began to treat it as one.

How 12 Experts Make Money Through Their Blogs (And How You Can Learn Their Secrets)

A guest post by Jade Craven

Update – The offer in this post has been extended to Monday due to some server issues that Dave had.

I review a lot of information products. Rarely, does one impress me as much as More Buyers Mastermind. Rather than provide a pitch, I thought I’d explain why I believe so strongly in this product.

For the busy people, here’s the rundown:

  • It is becoming hard to directly monetize your blog
  • Dave Navarro has released a seminar, featuring 12 people who are making a LOT from selling products.
  • This is one of the best valued products available online.
  • He has released a LOT of content as part of his pre-launch – including an awesome twitter contest. Read the ‘P.S’ to find out.

Why its getting harder to monetize your own blog.

It is getting harder to monetize your blog via direct methods. There are more people publishing content online and more competition for the advertisers. Additionally, the global financial crisis has also slashed the revenue of many who relied solely on few methods.

Many people are now transitioning and offering more products and services. Just look at Darren – he recently launched a paid forum and an ebook.

Solution: A teleseminar from 12 people who are making A LOT online

David found a solution: 12 people who are making a LOT from selling products and services. The More Buyers Mastermind is a seminar featuring 12 awesome bloggers. Dave interviews top talent including:

  • Chris Garrett
  • Michael Martine
  • Chris Guillebeau
  • Naomi Dunford
  • Brian Clark
  • Laura Roeder

Every person on that list makes their income based on their blog. Lets re-examine that list:

  • Laura Roeder sells information products and consulting services
  • Brian Clark creates and recommends products at Copyblogger
  • Chris Guillebeau makes the majority of his income from his Unconventional Guides
  • Michael Martine sells a SEO ebook and consults at Remarkablogger
  • Chris Garrett offers his freelance services and sells an e-course
  • Naomi sells multiple online products and brainstorming consults

Now, they still make a decent income from advertising banners and affiliate income. The bulk, however, is from the indirect methods.

You need to act fast…

After this Friday, Dave is raising the price to $197. After 30 days, it will almost triple in price. (Update: Dave has extended this offer until Monday due to some server issues).

Some people avoid buying because they assume the product will come on sale eventually. Dave doesn’t offer discounted products. I agree: his products are awesome value as it is. That’s why you should take advantage of the entry level price now – its very rare you get a seminar this valuable.

Who is  Dave Navarro?

dave-navarro2Dave Navarro is the highly successful blogger behind Rock Your Day and The Launch Coach.

He has become a good friend of mine. Ever since I reviewed ‘How to Launch the **** Out Of Your Ebook‘ here on Problogger, he has gone out of his way to help me. At first I thought he was trying to suck up but I quickly learned that he naturally loves helping people.

I am not kidding about this. Anytime I tweet about my posting commitments, he reminds me not to burn myself out. He’s THAT awesome.

Why it is so valuable:

Its less than $10 a call

I’ve bought a lot of products. Anything less than $30 a call is a bargain. Dave is offering you 12 calls for $97.  You also get the additional coaching calls and workbooks. Most of these people charge over $100 for an hour of their time. Their information products are often just as high.

Dave will ask the right questions

I’ve listened to other audio products by Dave and he has the skills to get the exact information you need. You wont be paying for a product targeted to the beginners.

My final Opinion.

I’ve bought a lot of information products. Dave is one of the few people that consistently delivers.

I doubt that there will be another seminar this valuable in this price range. As Dave often says – ‘Price is what you pay. Value is what you get’

Bonus 1: Competition and Content

Dave has released 3 free workbooks as part of his launch cycle. They are accompanied by three of the best blog posts I have read.

Additionally, he has launched a twitter contest with over $2000 worth of prizes.

Call to action: Click here to check out the awesome workbooks and

Bonus 2: An extra goody

Dave knows that you guys may struggle with the cost of the course. He is willing to provide you with extra value by offering one of two Problogger resource. You can choose from:

  • 6 months free membership to the community
  • A free copy of the 31DBBB workbook

Just contact Dave after you’ve purchased. He’ll send you your product after the launch has died down.

Call to action: Click here to take advantage of this limited bonus. 

Disclosure: Dave Navarro is a good friend of mine. I have received review copies of his products. This does not affect my endorsement of this product.

Win Dinner with ProBlogger and Special Guests at Blog World Expo 2009

OK – this is a competition that is only for those attending Blog World Expo (please don’t comment below if you’re not attending). I know that excludes most readers but I hope we can include everyone a little by posting some pictures of the event.

The prize is a free dinner with me and some of my blogging buddies at BWE at the lovely Fiamma Trattoria and Bar** in Vegas.

I’m still confirming which other guests are coming but we have 3 spots open to ProBlogger readers – hence this competition.

Contest Rules

1. You must be attending Blog World Expo 2009 in Las Vegas, NV.
2. You must be available for dinner on Wednesday night, October 14th at 6pm. We cannot change the scheduled time or modify to suit anyone’s schedules.
3. You must provide your own transportation to and from the event.
4. Since we will need to place your name on a guest list, you will need to provide identification at the door upon arrival.
5. To enter, simply leave a comment below – make sure to use your REAL name and your most often checked email address in the name and email fields. Lara will do the draw using on Tuesday at 4pm Eastern Time (NY, USA) and will contact the (3) winners privately via email. Please then confirm receipt of the email before 8pm ET.

*Please don’t leave a comment if you’re NOT available to attend the dinner. Because we’re running on very short notice, we need to keep this process as streamlined as possible, and weeding through comments wouldn’t help! Thanks for understanding!

** Dinner graciously provided by Fiamma Trattoria and Bar at MGM Grand @TasteMGMGrand.

Win a Weekend Pass to Blog World Expo Worth $495

blog-world-expo.pngToday I’m running two competitions here on ProBlogger – both centre around the Blog World and New Media Expo happening in Las Vegas next week. The first (in this post) gives one lucky blogger an opportunity to get a last minute pass to attend – the other (which I’ll post about in a few hours) gives 3 readers the chance to come have dinner with me.

For those of you who’ve not heard about BWE – it’s going to be a great event with thousands of bloggers coming together to talk blogging and social media. I’ll be there and speaking on a number of panels including:

  • Internet Marketing for Smart People – with Chris Brogan, Brian Clark and Sonia Simone.
  • How to Make Money Online – at WordCamp Las Vegas with Jeremy Wright and Chris Garrett (yes I’m finally going to meet me coauthor of the ProBlogger book)
  • Blogging Super Panel (Live Feedback Site Reviews) – with Jim Kukral, John Chow, Zach Johnson and Brian Clark

OK – onto the first competition

The prize is a chance to win a weekend pass to attend. It’s worth $495 (see full details of what it includes here).

Please only enter this if you’re able to get to Vegas for the weekend and cover your own accommodation. This prize only gets you into the conference (and to a couple of the parties).

To enter you have to do two things:

  1. Either write a blog post that links to Blog World Expo saying why you want to attend OR tweet a tweet that says why you want to attend and includes the #bwe09 hashtag (choose one of these options, not both).
  2. Come back to this post and leave a comment with a link to your post or tweet to prove you did it. (Update: Make sure you leave the link to your actual tweet, and NOT just to your twitter account. We won’t have time to hunt down the tweet itself! Your comment here should look something like this:

We’ll close off entries for this competition at midday on Wednesday Vegas time/ (yes you need to get your skates on). There is one entry per person (so don’t set tweets to go off every minute til the closing time).

Thanks to Blog World and New Media Expo for putting up this prize. If you’re coming along I do look forward to seeing you!

*Comments are now closed. Winner shall be notified via email!*

How to Go from 1 to 1,000,000 Users (or Readers)

The gang over at Carsonified has released the following video this week by Kevin Rose talking about taking a web app from 1 to 1 million users.

While the video talks more about web applications and not specifically about blogging – some of the principles that Kevin talks about I think are applicable to blogging.

Taking your Site from One to One Million Users by Kevin Rose from Carsonified on Vimeo.

What are Your Favorite 10 Blogging Tools?

It’s time for a little discussion – lets talk blogging tools.

Over in the forum there’s been a lot of talk about different tools, applications, platforms and plugins that helps to improve blogs. I’m loving the different opinions and experiences and thought it’d be a good question to open up to the wider community – what are your favourite 10 blogging tools?

I suspect most of us will probably include our blogging platform (Blogspot, WordPress, TypePad etc) in the list somewhere but other than that anything goes. Perhaps it’s a comments tool, perhaps a desktop editor, perhaps a plugin or widget – anything goes!

But limit it to 10!

How To Backup Your WordPress Blog In Three Easy Steps

A guest post on backing up your wordpress blog by Jason Tarasi

Do you want to see your blog on the side of a milk carton? No? Then keep reading because…

It is very likely this will be the most important article you read all year. Of course you can choose to skip this article, but you will regret it, especially since I am such a groovy kind of guy. Ok, I hate bellbottoms and green furniture, so maybe I’m not so groovy. However, I am going to show you an easy way to protect your most valuable marketing asset – your WordPress blog.

If you understand the difference between how to backup both your MYSQL database and your standard Word Press files, congratulations! You don’t really win anything, except peace of mind, which I consider invaluable. However, there are literally thousands of WordPress users who are in the dark about the proper way to backup their blogs (yes, I’m probably talking about you).

Unfortunately, even experienced online marketers are making this same mistake. My partner, who makes hundreds of thousands of dollars every year online, was also totally clueless. When I asked him to backup one of our membership site blogs, he sent me a zip file that just included the main WordPress files. When I asked where the database file was, he got a look on his face like he just French kissed Jabba the Hut. Since I couldn’t stand the look on his face for a minute longer, I had to explain why it was so important to have the database file.

Now this is where you should start to pay attention *cough*

Your Word Press blog is powered by a MYSQL database. This database stores all of your content and the settings for your blog. Without this database, your blog would essentially be a black hole lacking any content. Now what most people don’t know is that this database resides on another part of the hosting server. Since the file is in a different location, it needs to be backed up separately from your standard Word Press files.

So here is what all of this means; if your host has a server crash, you will not be able to restore your blog without the MYSQL database. Basically, you will be up a creek without a paddle, a boat, any food, no mapÖ you get the idea, right?

At this point you are probably telling yourself that your hosting company will backup this file for you, right? Not exactly. Many hosting companies are not responsible for backing up your files. I found this out the hard way several years ago, and it could easily happen to you next. So don’t be foolish enough to rely on your Website host to do this for you.

Now here is the good news – you can backup your MYSQL database in three easy steps by following this simple plan:

Step One:

Go and download the “Word Press Database Backup” plugin here.

Step Two:

Install the plugin on your blog.

Step Three:

Set the plugin to your desired specifications. It really is quite straightforward to setup, but you can always refer to the plugin documentation for help.

I personally set the plugin to make either a daily or a weekly backup for each of my blogs. If I post to a blog frequently, I make a daily backup. If I post infrequently, that blog is backed up on a weekly basis. I then have the backup file sent to my email. However you wish for the file to be saved is entirely up to you though. Simply use the method you are most comfortable with.

From start to finish, the entire process takes about 10 minutes per blog. That is of course if you grab a snack to slow you down. So there is absolutely no excuse not to set this up today. I would think ten minutes of your time is well worth the peace of mind you will feel when it’s done.

Now you could be lazy and find out the hard way how much fun it is to have your entire blog wiped out, with no hope of ever seeing it again.

Is ten minutes of your time worth going through that?

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How One Blogger Made $3k a month by Helping People – And How He Can Help You

A Guest post by Jade Craven.

JohnnyBTruantHave you heard of Johnny B Truant? He started writing at ‘The Economy Isn’t Happening’ but recently, he revealed he’s made $10’000 in 3 months. In his Ittybiz column, he told how he made nearly $3’000 in one month. He’s also written a couple of guest posts here on ProBlogger here and here.

What really attracted me to him was that he didn’t earn this money by taking advantage of people or using questionable tactics. He did it by finding out what people wanted and providing them with a solution that benefited them both.

In this post, I’ll talk about how Johnny did it. I’ll provide strategies and case studies so you can apply these tips to your on blog. I’ll even talk about the tactics he used to promote his killer new ecourse, for those who are looking at selling information products from their blog.

Finally, I’ll give you an exclusive discount for that e-course Zero to Business – just skip to the bottom if you want 10% off.

4 Ways To Earn Money By Helping People

Give Free Stuff strategically

strategyImage by Anil Jadhav

How Johnny did this:

  • He released a free instructional ebook about setting up a blog.
  • He did free website setups in return for testimonials

How You Can Do this

  • Barter your services with other skilled bloggers
  • Release an introductory report
  • Do free work in return for references or exposure
  • Do case studies highlighting your skills.

Case studies.

  • Leo Babauta, Skellie and Chris Garret got a lot of exposure because of their guest posting.
  • Neil Creek takes headshots of attendees at twitter meetups for use on their social media sites. He has received a lot of praise over this, both from the local twitter community and international photographers. He has gone on to get many more clients and enquiries.
  • Darren used to do case studies on his blog as an advertisement for his consulting. He no longer offers this service.

Provide calls to action regularly

callImage by kozumel

How Johnny did this:

  • He would frequently have P.S at the end of his post – including a few humorous ones
  • He would simply state “Call to Action”

How you can provide calls to action:

  • In the conclusion of the post, tell the reader what you want them to do
  • Give them an incentive to click through

Case Studies:

  • Ali Hales guest post on Problogger. She talked about the topic of staff blogging before encouraging people to check out her ecourse. As an extra incentive, she gave the readers a discount code.
  • Dave Navarros post on Freelance Folder, where he encouraged the readers to give an example in the comments.

Find your people.


Image by Elvire.R.

How Johnny did this:

  • He got a guest posting slot of Ittybiz, offering himself as a case study
  • He is on the faculty of Project Mojave
  • He has guest posted on the places where his target readership hangs out

How to do this:

  • Find blogs that attract the kind of people you want to target. See if you can guest post on that blog.
  • Seek  work and joint venture opportunities
  • Look for regular writing opportunities

Case studies.

I don’t need to offer any case studies. Look around at your favourite blogs. Do you see the same people being featured? Are the same people interacting? They are the loyal fans.

Are you a loyal fan of anyone? You’ll usually find you tend to hang out in that persons group. You may buy from more than one person. These are the people you want to connect with.

Selling something? Focus on selling solutions.


Image by Doug88888

How Johnny did this

  • He offered wordpress installs at a discounted price. To compensate, he asked that people buy through his affiliate link
  • He sold group coaching to those that couldn’t afford the price of individual coaching..
  • When realizing that people were still needing information, he created a course that was cheaper than getting Johnny to help them through the process.

How you can do this:

  • See if you can offer a service at a discounted rate in exchange for purchasing something through their affiliate link
  • Find creative ways of making your products more affordable without underpricing yourself.
  • Listen to your audiences needs and create products to help them.

Case Studies:

  • Sarah Prout does this in her Twitter Success Blueprint. She realized that businesses needed an affordable way to learn about twitter, so she created an ebook with information catered to professionals, as well as other twitter users.
  • Men with Pens do this with their blog critiques. They offer a discount for ones offered on the blog.

I know many people hate being sold too. Rather than promote his course Zero to Business, I’ll talk about what you can learn from it.

What you can learn from the course

There are three main things I loved about the promotion strategy:

  • He created humorous videos with viral potential.
  • He purposely  avoided hype in his sales page
  • He provided real and useful bonuses

Lets discuss how you can learn from each strategy.

The Humorous videos.

  • He mocked a number of the key sales tactics in the internet marketing niche
  • In his letter to his affiliates, he recommended that people promote the videos rather than the product

So – how can you adopt this to your launch?

  • Offering a quality resource that your affiliates can promote
  • Mock some of the common techniques used in product launches in your niche

Avoiding Hype

  • Johnny repeated several times that this product would provide technical solutions. It not make them rich.
  • He then explained the costs of learning this if you paid his normal consulting fees.

So – how can you adopt this to your launch?

  • Talk about the practical reasons about how your product can help someone
  • Explain to them how your solution is better value than the alternative

Cool Bonuses

  • He provided individual coaching to the first five people that signed up
  • He offered group coaching to those who signed up by a certain date.

So – how can you adopt this to your launch?

  • Offer bonuses that are exclusive and are not freely available to other marketers
  • Offer bonuses that will provide real value to the majority of your buyers

My call to action:

  • If you want 10% off Johnnys e-course, Zero to Business, just use the word ‘problogger‘ as the discount code. Its that easy.
  • If you want to check out Johnnys blog, go on over to his fancy new site.
  • If you want rants about zombies, check out his twitter feed.