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Google Add Socialize Feature to Feedburner – Tweet Your New Blog Posts from Feedburner

Google today announced a new feature that impacts bloggers – a new URL shortener that integrates with Feedburner and a new ‘socialize’ feature on Feedburner.

This allows bloggers to use Feedburner to send Tweets out automatically via Feedburner.

Of course most bloggers already have tweets going out to promote new blog posts by using either a plugin or a service like TwitterFeed.

Feedburner give you a number of options – including the ability to tweet out just the title or include some of the body (or only the body), adding hashtags (based upon your category), adding something before or after the title, filtering (to stop some new posts going out) – and limiting how many tweets go out.

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Get more help and details on setting up your Feedburner account here.

In many ways it is pretty similar to what a lot of the other alternatives give you for this type of thing – but it is good to be able to have it all managed from one account. I’ll also be interested to see how Google/Feedburner integrate this into their Analysis/metrics (ie to see if they can measure clicks on their URL shortened links accurate – I’m not seeing any mention of this but it would seem like a logical extension).

My REAL Secret to Growing Traffic to a Blog

“Tell us how you ‘really‘ get traffic to your blog?”

After presenting to a group of bloggers at an event recently I was surprised to be asked this question by someone in the audience.

I wasn’t surprised that people would want to know about how to get traffic to a blog – it’s something most bloggers want to know about – I was surprised to be asked it at THIS event because i’d just finished speaking for 30 minutes on the topic of ‘getting traffic to your blog‘.

After 30 minutes of sharing how I generate traffic to my blogs – I was asked to share what ‘really’ works. Hmmmm – was my presentation that bad… or was there something else going on here?

I sat down for a coffee with the person who asked me the question to dig a little deeper and as the conversation unfolded it became clear to me that the blogger was after a ‘silver bullet’.

He wanted some secret method of generating traffic that would flood his blog with new readers, some new technique that most bloggers had not cottoned onto yet that would lift him above the rest and propel him to blogging super-stardom.

He told me that he’d tried all the normal tips on how to get traffic – some had worked and had found him new readers and others had not – but now he wanted something new. What advice could I give?

I decided to share my ‘real’ secret to big blogging traffic.

Identify What Works…. and Do it Again…. and Again….. Improving it Each Time

Here’s the thing – there’s no one technique that is going to bring every blog new traffic.

But if you try lots of different approaches and identify what does work – even if it only works a little – you’re on the way.

Find something that works for your blog, your niche, your demographic and then build upon that.

Here’s an example of how this worked for me:

  • A couple of months after starting my photography site (a few years back now) I started a Group on Flickr which allowed readers to share their best shots – to show them off, get some critique on their work and see what others on the site were doing with their photography.
  • Readers LOVED sharing their shots. We soon started a forum with a specific area for sharing of shots – (ingeniously called the ‘Share Your Shots‘ section).
  • This section of the site became so popular that we expanded it and started a ‘Critique‘ area where people could not only share a shot but get feedback on it.
  • This section was so popular that we started multiple critique areas – for different types of photography (eg: Landscape photography, Portrait photography etc).
  • Also early in the life of the forum we started doing Weekly Assignments to let readers all go out and take shots on the same theme each week and then come back and share their best one.
  • To this point all the sharing of shots happened in the forum – but I began to realize that not all of the blog readers visited the forum so on a whim one day I asked readers on the blog to share their best shot ever. We had 300 comments left – most with links to their favourite shot on Flickr or a photoblog.
  • I continued to invite readers to occasionally share a favorite shot on the blog in comments – usually when we posted a tutorial on a specific type of photography. Each time I did this we had heaps of comments left.
  • Earlier in the year I decided to give readers a ‘photographic challenge’ – to photograph something within 10 meters of them. People really responded to the idea of a challenge.
  • As a result I decided to start ‘Weekend photography Challenges’ on the blog – similar to weekly assignments on the forum but for those who either didn’t become forum members or those who wanted two challenges a week. At first they were only every few weekends (the first was a Landscape one) but as readers responded so well to them we made them weekly.
  • The challenges continued to become popular so we added a plugin to the blog that allowed people to share photos IN the posts (see this in action in our Pet Photography Challenge) – not everyone uses this feature but it increased participation a lot. We also improved the challenges by getting people to tag their photos on Flickr with a common tag and link to the challenges.

What started as a fairly simply idea (giving readers a place to share their shots – not even on my own site but using Flickr – evolved into multiple ideas that built upon that initial idea. Each time we evolved the idea we created buzz, reader engagement, traffic and site stickiness.

Keep in mind that this process has taken us over 3 years. The changes have been gradual, we’ve made mistakes along the way, but instead of spending all our time trying to find a ‘silver bullet’ that we could just drop into the site to bring heaps of traffic – we improved something that showed promise in the early days.

A further example of this would be the site’s email newsletter list. In the early days when we first tried it I remember wondering if it was worth the effort of sending a weekly newsletter out to 100 people… but I saw some potential in it and each week it grew, each week I learned something new about improving the newsletters and each week it became more worth the effort. Today it drives hundreds of thousands of visitors to the site each week.

Some questions to help identify what is working (or what might work) with your readers and niche:

  • What topics generate most comments on your blog?
  • What topics generate most comments on other blogs in your niche?
  • What other sites do your readers visit a lot? What activities are they doing there?
  • What features are readers asking for?
  • What was your biggest traffic day – what brought it about?
  • Which of your posts seem to get Retweeted most on Twitter and passed around most on other social media sites?
  • Which of your posts are getting linked to most from other blogs/sites?
  • What other sites send you most traffic? How can you build relationships with these sites?

This list could go on and on – really it is about looking for points of life on your site (even small ones) where there’s some kind of energy or positive outcome happening – and then repeating them in some way – looking for opportunities to build upon and improve what you previously did.

Got any examples to share of where you’ve done this on your own blog?

The Parable of the Lemonade Stand: Is AdSense Costing you Money?

A guest post by Kevin from BeginnerBloggerTips.com (with some comments from me below too). Image by Shawnson.

My journey into affiliate marketing.

Before I start, I’d like to make two disclaimers:

  1. I don’t hate google or AdSense—this article isn’t a rant against either.
  2. I recognize that every blog is different—what I’m about to say may not apply to your blog. Regardless, I think you should ask yourself the question I’m presenting here.

Disclaimers finished; let’s get to the point:

The Parable of the Lemonade Stand

42549598_b0780fcbfe.jpgImagine a lemonade stand. The entrepreneurs get the ingredients, start up their business, and have dozens of customers per day. It earns twenty dollars a day. Not bad for a humble lemonade stand, right?

Now, let me throw in a twist: imagine the before-mentioned entrepreneurs are in their 30’s. They own the lot on which the lemonade stand is located. The lot is located along a major highway in a rapidly growing suburban area. All adjacent lots have businesses making thousands of dollars per day. Suddenly our lemonade stand seems rather silly.

This concept is called opportunity cost—the economic consequences of choosing one thing over another. I’m learning about this the hard way — I’ve been making pennies per click when I could have been making dollars per click.

Let me explain in a little more detail. As I’ve mentioned before, strongandfit.net is the first profitable blog I’ve ever had. As my traffic increased, so did my AdSense earnings. A few dollars a day ads up, so I was finally seeing checks come in at the end of every month (I’m new to making money online, so I’m easily amused).

But I started noticing something: a few products in particular kept showing up over and over on my blog (in the AdSense widget). “Wait a minute,” I thought to myself, “these products obviously convert well if someone is willing to spend money promoting them.” I realized I had inadvertently put myself at the bottom of the economic food chain: I was getting paid a few cents per click while someone else was earning commissions on sales produced by these clicks.

I did a little research and started directly advertising these products with affiliate marketing. So far it seems to be paying off—my blog is making more money.

But there’s another benefit: I have complete control over what gets advertised on my blog. It’s turning into a win-win situation: my readers are referred to high quality products, and I earn more in commissions.

I still use AdSense, but I’m devoting more of my prime “real estate” on my blog to affiliate marketing. Maybe you should also consider doing this.

A Note from Darren

Like Kevin says, I don’t have anything against AdSense either. In fact I find that it works quite well on some of my sites. For me the idea of ‘Opportunity Cost’ is a powerful one. For every decision you make to use ANY type ad unit on your blog (whether it is AdSense, some other ad network, an Affiliate product, an ad sold directly to an advertiser, an ad for a product of your own there is a potential opportunity cost of that decision.

The key is to test different options. Kevin has had success in substituting affiliate ads in the place of AdSense, for others affiliate products might not work, but an ad for your own product might. For others it might be about swapping ads to Chitika or another ad network. For others it could monetize better by selling ads directly. For others still it could be better to not have ads at all but to sell yourself on your blog as a consultant.

The key is to test and experiment with different models.

WIN a Book By Commenting on This Post

win one of these booksUPDATE: This competition is now closed and I have closed comments on this post. Thanks to everyone for entering – it’s been amazing to see so many entries! I’ll notify winners of their win shortly!

OK – I have a pile of books that is growing beside my desk (and on my desk… and on my bookshelf) made up of books that I’ve either finished with or that I have multiple copies of.  

I’d like to do a bit of a giveaway today of a few of them and all you need to do is leave a comment saying which one you’d like.

Below I’m listing 5 6 books (I’ll link to them on Amazon so you can read more about them) and I’m asking you to nominate ONE (not more than one…. just one) that you’d like to be in the running for.

This Wednesday I’ll randomly choose a winner for each book, contact you to get your mailing details and pop them in the mail for you (I’ll pay for the shipping).

Here are the 5 books:

  1. Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive
  2. Search Engine Optimization: Your Visual Blueprint for effective Internet Marketing
  3. Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success
  4. Blog Blazers: 40 Top Bloggers Share their Secrets to Creating a High-Profile High-Traffic and High Profit Blog
  5. Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What it’s Becoming and Why it Matters

Oh and for a little extra I’ll throw in a copy of ProBlogger the Book as a 6th Alternative.

Remember – you can only choose 1 – just use the name of the book in the comment – (this way I’ll know you’re getting a book you don’t have) so choose carefully!

UPDATE: This competition is now closed and I have closed comments on this post. Thanks to everyone for entering – it’s been amazing to see so many entries! I’ll notify winners of their win shortly!

3 Steps to Help You Choose a Topic for an E-Book

In my recent post on the importance of having your own product to sell I was asked in comments by Todd for advice on choosing the best topic to create an ebook on.

Here are a few quick thoughts on some starting points for choosing a topic for an e-book – mainly for people who already have a blog:

Todd – Good question. For me it was partly just about blogging for a number of years in my niche and starting to just get a hunch for what would work. I guess in that time I began to see patterns in what was working and what was not working in my niche. I also began to get to know my readers more and saw the challenges and problems that they faced.

Of course saying ‘go with your hunches’ isn’t probably the answer you were after – so below I’ve identified a few steps to work through in choosing a topic for an E-book.

Step 1: Ask Some Questions about Your Readers and Their Needs

here are some questions I’d suggest you consider to help you identify and sort through those hunches.

  • what questions do you keep getting asked repeatedly by readers (via email, in comments etc)?
  • what are readers asking you to make recommendations on?
  • what posts on your blog are getting the most visitors?
  • what posts on your blog are getting most comments/discussion?
  • what trends are emerging on your topic in your niche?
  • what’s the biggest problem or challenge for people in your niche – particularly for beginners?
  • what terms are people searching for to arrive on your blog?
  • what words are people searching for on your blogs search tool?

Answering these types of questions should point you in the direction of some topics that could be suitable for an e-book.

Step 2: Ask Some some More Probing Questions to Narrow in on the Topic

Once you’ve identified some of these topics you will probably want to narrow the field a little by asking some of these questions:

  • what topics have you written a lot about already that you could pull together as the basis for an e-book? (see a note on this below)
  • what do you know enough about to write something useful? Do you have the authority and expertise to write it yourself or should you outsource the writing?
  • are you interested in or passionate about the topic? I’m sure that not all authors are passionate about their topics but it sure helps because there is a lot of work involved!
  • is the topic you’re thinking of writing about something that really needs more than a single post – can you write enough to justify it being an e-book and something people pay money for?
  • are there many other resources already available on the topic – how will yours be different?
  • is the topic you’re thinking about too wide or narrow? Sometimes topics are too big and could end up being a series of e-books. ON the other hand some topics are too narrow to really justify being an e-book and perhaps it’d be best to widen it and look at a larger topic.

Step 3: Test Your Topics

Once you’ve narrowed Your Field – test the topics that you’ve come up with. I’ve seen a number of bloggers come up with ideas for big projects that they think are great which in reality are not. If only they’d tested their ideas before investing significant time into them!

You might want to bounce them off a fellow blogger, perhaps test them with a small group of trusted readers, ask some questions on Twitter etc. If you’ve not covered the topic much on your blog before you might also want to test the idea on your blog with a post on the topic to gauge reader interest. Alternatively you might run some kind of poll to see if your suspicions about your readers needs are confirmed.

The key is to try to find out if the topics you’re thinking of writing about are the types of things people are REALLY interested in and willing to pay for. Note: This might be an ideal time for a survey.

Three last thoughts:

1. ‘How To’ Topics – My suspicion is that ‘teaching’ or ‘how to’ type e-books are going to be more attractive to potential buyers than other types. I’m sure there will be exceptions but most of the e-books that I’ve seen do well either lead people through a process, explain something, solve a problem or give them skills and understanding over a particular topic.

2. Start with a Problem – when it comes to selling an e-book you’ve got a lot better chance of convincing someone to buy it if you can tell them that it’ll solve a problem that they have. In my e-books I took the problems/challenges of ‘building a better blog’ and ‘taking better portraits’ and centered everything in the e-book around them. These problems were reflected both in the writing and the marketing of the books. Once you’ve identified a problem you’re on the right track.

3. Repurposing Old Posts – I mentioned above that you might like to consider what topics you’ve written about a lot already that you might be able to base an e-book on. All I’d want to qualify this with is that you’ll probably want to add some solid extra content to these types of e-books. I’ve proved (twice) that people are willing to pay for stuff you’ve published before but in each case I worked hard on adding extra material to make it more valuable.

A Screamingly Effective Blog Disclosure Policy: How (and Why) To Get One

What does the recent FTC announcement mean for a humble, professional, freebie-accepting, affiliate-pimping, mostly-broke blogger eking out pennies or flats of free soda per post?

It means you need to write a blog disclosure policy.

What if you have nothing to disclose? (Pity the fool who has nothing to disclose.)

No matter. Write one anyways. A blog disclosure policy is an opportunity to demonstrate your character. It is an opportunity to sell your character and even your soul.

Because what else have you got to offer, really?

Your blog disclosure policy is a vehicle for soul-selling, storyselling, storytelling, and maybe even making some cold hard cash – even if you’re not there yet.

You’re A Blogger. Act Like One and Sell Us a Story.

If you’re a problogger, or you want to be, then you’re probably in the business of “content marketing.”

This might mean that you pimp out your online products with landing pages and direct-mail-ish sales letters that “hammers the reader with red headlines, yellow highlighting, and aggressive copy that grips the reader like a terrier shaking a squirrel“.

Sonia Simone calls this marketing with a harpoon. It is targeted, deadly-effective, and you’ve only got one shot at it.

Still, since you’re a blogger, you’re probably doing something different (at least most of the time). As Sonia Simone goes on to say, you’re probably marketing with a net. A friendly, supportive net:

Great content creates a high level of trust and rapport, and educates your potential client about all the benefits of doing business with you.

You might hold onto that prospect for three days or three years before he decides to buy. It doesn’t really matter. As long as you keep delivering value, that person will stick with you and stay tuned in to your message. And when he’s ready to buy, he’s yours.

Did you catch that? Trust, rapport, value, your message…those are some pretty revealing and high-bar keywords.
If you are blogging, you really are selling yourself. Your soul. You’re not just storytelling. You’re storyselling.

Your disclosure policy is one more page – one more place for your reader to get to know and like you – in your online diary.

You know, your weblog.

Storytelling. The narrative. The narrator. Who are you? Are you likeable?

That was my case for blogging as storyselling. Now, let’s kick it ol’ skool and return to plain jane storytelling.

In a sense, your blog persona is a character. I’m braver in text than I am in person. So, apparently, is the unapologetically contrarian Penelope Trunk. Online, Darren Rowse is our problogging, how-to-make-money guru and offline he has been a “real” minister – sometimes unpaid.

Who we are in our blogs are real, but our blogs are just one part of us, sometimes amplified.  Every page on your blog, right down to the most seemingly boring and mundane and possibly lawsuit-averting – like, ahem, a disclosure policy – is an opportunity to develop your character and tell your story.

Elizabeth Wurtzel, for example, is famous at least in part for the “Acknowledgements” sections of her books, in which her brilliantly broken, heart-breaking, fallen-writer-angel character continues her story-beside-the-story.

You can – and should! – do the same thing and advance your story in your static pages, including your disclosure policy.

The Five Elements of Your Storyselling, Storytelling Disclosure Policy. Vroom Vroom.

That’s the case for writing a screamingly effective blog disclosure policy. Now, how do you do that?

Dearest Reader, I’m so glad you asked.

There are five basic elements to a blog disclosure policy:

  1. Speak to the occasion (the FTC, your recent conviction for moneylaundering, what have you)
  2. Say a little something about your blog and how you make money (credibility)
  3. Say a little something about your ethics (trust, lawsuit-avoidance)
  4. Explain the consequences thereof for you (likeability, trust, message)
  5. Explain the consequences for the reader (likeability, advancing your story)

Those are the mechanics of a blog disclosure policy. Once it is gassed up and motoring, it looks like this. Or this, this, and this, too.

Did you read them? See what I mean? Even if you have never read these writers before, the style and content of their blog disclosure policies tells you who they are and what you can expect, and you’ve already decided if you’re coming back.

That’s storytelling and storyselling. That’s opportunity. Get on it.

Beyond the Gentle Chi of Blog Disclosures. Let’s Go Ninja Moneymaker.

Your disclosure policy is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to tell (and sell) your story, build trust and likeability. It might be legally required (if you’re American) and possibly it is the right thing to do. It can also make you money.

Seriously, it can.

John Chow did it. His disclosure policy, in my humble opinion, is blogging genius:

  • He speaks to the occasion (#1).
  • He reinforces his message and credibility (#2). What is his blog and his business about? Making money. His blog disclosure statement lines up with that perfectly. He knows how to make money online. He can probably teach you, too.
  • He builds trust – especially since he is Canadian and not bound by the rules of the FTC and therefore isn’t worried about avoiding lawsuits (#3).
  • He advances his story (#4). The story is this: I’m John Chow! I make money online by teaching people how to make money online! I don’t RSVP to BlogExpo parties*, I just show up and tell the bouncer, “I’m John Chow!”.
  • He then transcends my tai-chi storytelling/storyselling rules and goes ninja moneymaker.  John Chow recruited sponsors for his blog disclosure policy.
  • Yes he did. He really did. Moneymaking genius, he is.

*Note: John Chow, I live in Vancouver and you live in Vancouver so we’re practically neighbours and you are hereby invited to all my parties.

See how a great blog disclosure policy can get you traffic and cash and even things even money can’t buy? That’s just good blog ROI.

Get One With Your Inner John Chow and Sell Your Blog Disclosure Policy

After you’ve followed my five golden rules and constructed a blog disclosure policy that tells and sells your story, the next step is to get one with your inner John Chow and promote your policy strategically and shamelessly.

Your blog disclosure policy is new content. That means it is gold. Mine it.

Don’t simply disappear your hot new ethical statement into a permanent page. Instead, post it as a regular piece – with all the regular fanfare (horns, a string section, twitter) – and then migrate it to your disclosure page.

Kiss up to your muse. Find a way to get your disclosure statement – your personal beacon of hope, intelligence and ethics-in-action – a little attention.

Like, you know, writing about it for ProBlogger.

Kelly Diels is a writer and the creator of Cleavage, a blog about the three things everyone wants more of: sex, money, and meaning.

Make Fast Money Blogging Products – My Reaction

make-money-blogging-fast.jpgToday a new ‘make money blogging fast‘ product is being launched into the blogosphere that promises those who buy it that they can make big money blogging – fast.

As this thing is launching and I’m already getting emails about it from readers asking if they should buy it – let me give you a few quick reactions to it and other products I’ve seen like it.

Do keep in mind, I’ve not bought the product so I’m making these calls based solely upon what I’ve seen in the sales material and what I’ve heard from charter members. Much of what I have written below applies to most of these kinds of products (and there are many).

Note: I’m not naming the product here (and I’m certainly not going to try to make a quick buck with an affiliate promotion), I just don’t feel good about promoting it in any way – for reasons that I guess will become clear below.

Make Fast Money Blogging?

Here’s the main thing – making money from blogging instantlyimmediatelyquicklyfast isn’t something I’ve seen too many people achieve (I’m actually yet to meet any). I have seen bloggers make A LOT of money blogging – millions of dollars in fact. It’s certainly possible to do – however in every case that I’ve seen the blogger has worked their butts off blogging for a long time, building their authority, credibility and by writing content that is original and useful – well before their blog started making money.

If you think you can flick a switch or change to a new system and instantly make a lot of money fast – you’re in for a fall. Don’t fall for that line – to make money in this game you’re going to have to work really hard and have a long term view of things.

Lots of Blogs Each Earning Little Bits of Money

OK – the methodology of this program is that you need to start a blog network – multiple blogs that each earn a relatively small amount of money, that mounts up to be a significant amount.

Sounds like a reasonable way to approach things and there is actually some truth to the methodology. I know a number of bloggers who have made some money this way, a few that even make a full time living from it.

I’m not going to knock people for taking on this model – it can work and I guess people do need to make a living. I even did it for a little while myself. However keep in mind that there is a cost of this method – something that I learned for myself the hard way.

The problem with maintaining lots of blogs is that while they each might make a little money that adds up to a reasonable amount – you end up with lots of blogs that don’t really amount to anything in and of themselves on any other level than that they earn a little money.

Perhaps that’s all your dream is (to make a little money from lots of blogs that no one has ever heard of) but what I love about blogs is the way that they open up other opportunities for a blogger. A blog can build your brand and profile to the point that it opens up doors for new jobs, partnerships, book deals, speaking engagements, friendships, business ideas…. etc. The problem is that most bloggers who have experienced these opportunities have worked hard to build a small number of blogs (usually a single one) which they’ve worked hard at – rather than spreading themselves thinly across multiple blogs.

My experience of a small network of blogs was that it while I was able to sustain 10-20 blogs (20-30 posts a day) that the quality of what I was producing was pretty low. I did get a little traffic to each from Google – but never really generated any regular readers, never had anyone comment, never had any opportunities open up as a result of those blogs.

It was only when I switched to having 1-2 blogs with quality, useful and original content that things opened up. As a result I slowly started to make real money blogging and more importantly started to see opportunities to leverage the profile of my blogs to bigger and better opportunities.

Using Other People’s Content

One of the main methods taught by many make money blogging products is to use other people’s content on your blog for the bulk of your posts. This one teaches that you should use other people’s content for the bulk of your posts and throw in some original stuff from time to time. They even give you tools to find and import other people’s content quickly (remember you need lots of blogs to make this work – so you need to do it quickly).

Again – this is something I dabbled in for a while. I did it all manually and tried to use the content in a way that added value rather than just copying and pasting in content (I also did it with the blessing of those whose content I aggregated and always acknowledge sources) – but in the end I dropped it as a method for a couple of reasons.

Firstly it was the most boring thing I had ever done (and I’ve worked on conveyor belts on production lines for 12 hour shifts – so I know boring). Blogging can be an amazingly uplifting experience – but copying and pasting in content is not fun.

Secondly it’s only marginally useful – there are ways of aggregating content from other sites that can be useful, but it always takes work and extra effort for this to happen. The method demonstrated in the product I’m referring to just mashes up a load of content from other sites in a way that doesn’t really help anyone. As a result a blog that does this as the bulk of its content isn’t really useful to anyone, except the blogger making a few dollars from it. The demonstrator describes the post as quality content – it’s not really. It’s on topic, it might do ok in Google, but it doesn’t really help anyone.

Thirdly – you end up a blog that isn’t really unique or original. This comes back to my points above about creating blogs that actually help build a brand or profile for you. If all you do with the bulk of your content is rehash and mashup other people’s content you’ll never get a name for being anything much more than someone who reads, quotes and links to other people’s content. Perhaps I’m crazy – but I’d rather be known for someone who has original, interesting and useful ideas than someone who whips up mashups of other people’s stuff all day every day. But maybe that’s just me?

Fourthly – while search engines unfortunately do rank this kind of content, I’m finding that they’re getting better and better at identifying truly useful content and junky content like this that is created purely to get search traffic. Sites like this can and do rank well but often they fall out of the rankings and in the long term don’t tend to rank well.

Note: at least the teaching offered in today’s course acknowledges sources of content with links and only uses short quotes from those sources – I don’t think it’s anywhere near as bad as some tools that scrape content, strip links and acknowledgements and automatically produce very spammy content.

Final Thoughts

In the end people will believe that they can make fast money blogging if they want to. Some people just want to believe the dream and nothing I can say will convince them. They’ll happily pay their $67 a month, create a few of these ‘blogs’ and a few months later realise that this isn’t a ‘fast’ or particularly ‘easy’ game.

If you’re tempted then please just pause for a moment and think about your objectives for blogging. If you’re looking to purely make money and you don’t want any real personal satisfaction or have any goals of building a brand or profile – then this type of model may actually work for you.

But if your dream is to build something that grows your profile as someone with authority in your niche, or to land a job or book deal, or to get invited to speak at an industry event, or to be quoted in mainstream media about your topic, or it’s just to build a blog that has loyal readers who keep coming back because you’re helping them…. then perhaps this isn’t the type of blogging model for you.

Your Thoughts?

PS: Interestingly the sales page of this new product highlights some successful blogs that make a lot of money blogging. They include Dooce and Mashable. I would argue that these blogs pretty much prove my point. They’re all about original and useful content. They are not about creating lots of blogs that each a little money – they’re about putting in a lot of work to produce useful and original content over a long period of time and don’t resemble anything I’ve seen about the actual product being promoted on the page.

Survey Your Readers and Discover Who They Are and How You can Be More Useful to Them

Two weeks ago I re-launched the ProBlogger weekly newsletter. The first email I sent out to subscribers was a story of how I’ve been changing my approach to blogging over the last year. The reaction to the email was huge – literally hundreds of readers responded with emails telling their own stories, asking questions and simply reacting to what I’d written.

I’ve never had that kind of response from a newsletter before – I’m not sure why it happened this time, perhaps it was that it was a story (of sorts), perhaps it was because I shared how about how little I know and that I’m still learning….. or perhaps it was just a day that people felt like reacting.

Whatever it was – it reminded me of the fact that email newsletters can be interactive.

Bloggers with newsletter lists sometimes get trapped into thinking that their blogs are the interactive component in what they do (they have the ability to collect comments after all) and that a newsletter is more of a ‘broadcasting’ tool.

Perhaps there’s some truth in that – email is useful for broadcasting and at their best blogs are great for conversation – but my first email illustrated that email can be interactive too.

Building on the Interaction – with a Survey

I decided to build on the interaction of the first email with a second one that was ALL about interaction. A few days later I sent out an email to my subscribers that simply invited them to participate in a 4 minute survey.

The idea came as I read the reactions to my first email. As I read I realised how little I knew about those who were subscribing to my newsletter and why they subscribed.

I decided to put together a survey to help me do 2 things:

  1. Tell me about my subscribers and their blogs – including some basic demographics (age, gender) as well as some about their blogs (how many they have, platforms that they use, topics that they blog on etc
  2. Inform me of what people want out of my newsletter – including questions asking subscribers to identify the challenges/problems that they face as well as inviting them to write about what they’d like me to cover in future newsletters.

The survey contained 16 questions which were mainly multiple choice questions that could be completed in 3-4 minutes. There were also options on some questions to write more and two optional open ended questions inviting people to write as much as they wanted.

I created the survey using Survey Monkey (I went for the paid option as it lets you download results and do more than 100 responses).

I sent out the newsletter (unfortunately my timing was terrible as it went out just as Aweber were doing an upgrade so those who got the email in the next few hours were unable to open the survey link – which meant I had to send out an other email…. it was a real mess up) and in the 3-4 days that followed have had 1989 responses from subscribers.

The email went out to about 20,000 people so the response rate has been around 10% – more than I expected considering the mess up with the email and the fact that my list has gone a little cold as I’ve not sent much to my list in a while.

Within an hour or so of people starting to complete the survey I realised it was one of the smartest things I’ve done for a long time. It was producing incredibly useful data in each of the areas identified above.

I’m still working through the responses (the open ended questions are rich with powerful feedback but will take me some time to crunch through) but am already feeling as though I have a much better understanding of:

  • who my subscribers are
  • why they’re subscribing
  • what their needs are
  • how I might be able to help them.

I will share some of the results from the survey with subscribers in an upcoming newsletter but one of the bonuses that also came out of the survey is that from the 1000 people who took the extra time to respond to the open ended questions I have literally hundreds of questions and ideas for blog posts. Any time I’m stuck for something to write about in the next year I can just dip into those questions and I’m certain to come up with something to write about.

Take Home Tips

  • Whether your blog is big or small – a survey can help you improve your blog on numerous fronts. Even in the first hour after I got results in and only had a handful of responses I was already learning valuable lessons about my readers that would improve my blog. Having lots of responses is great – but even a small number would be useful.
  • A survey is a great way to ‘warm up’ your cold newsletter list – I’ve not really sent out too many ProBlogger newsletters for over a year – as a result my list wasn’t overly responsive or feeling connected to me. This survey has really ‘warmed things up’ and already I’ve had a few readers responding with feedback that they feel valued and more connected.
  • Ask mainly closed ended questions – think carefully about what you want to find out and try to make the bulk of your questions as easy to answer as checking a box in a multiple answer question. This makes doing your survey quick (respecting the time of those who do it) but it also makes collating your data easier.
  • Ask a couple of open ended questions – the multi-choice questions have produced some interesting data for me, but its the open ended ones that have produced the real Gold. I asked one that asked readers for questions or suggestions on what they wanted me to cover and another that simply asked for feedback on any aspect of my site. Both questions have been fantastic and both seem to also have given respondents a chance to feel as though they’ve been heard (and they have been).
  • Survey Your Readers and/or Subscribers – in this case I’ve chosen simply to survey those who subscribe to the newsletter of my blog and not all readers and RSS subscribers. I partly did this because I wanted to be informed about how to improve the newsletter but also to help me manage the amount of responses – however valuable information could also be gleaned by surveying everyone or by targeting other specific sub groups within my network. Perhaps for you it makes more sense to survey your readers, your Twitter followers, your facebook fans, those who’ve bought your products etc – really it comes down to your objectives of your survey and how big your network is.

Have you ever run a survey with your blog readers (or some other subset of your readers)? What did you learn? What tips would you add?

Ask These Successful Bloggers a Question

Over the coming weeks I have lined up to record audio interviews with a number of bloggers who have been making a living from their blogging and related activities.

bloggers

The first 3 are:

Each has had success in their own niches and each has expertise in different areas of blogging and I’m really looking forward to exploring some practical tips with each.

Ask a Question Here

I have a lot of questions already lined up to ask them but would love to also include a few questions from readers in the interviews. This post is simply an invitation for you to submit a question to one or all of the bloggers.

If you have a question you’d like me to ask please leave it (with the name of the blogger you want me to ask it to) in comments below.

PS: I can’t guarantee to ask every question you submit – but I will try to get as many as I can included!