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12 Ways to Make Your Blog Posts more Credible

Today’s educated readers want information from a credible, trusted source, says researcher and writer Michael Low. When you convince them you are that source, they will believe and read what you have to say.

Here are twelve ways to make your blog posts more credible:

1. Use rich, vivid detail.

When you use rich, vivid language, words that paint vivid pictures in your reader’s mind, she tends to believe what you are saying because she can see it for herself. After all, seeing, as they say, is believing!

2. Use scientific or technical language.

I know this goes against the grain of what most people suggest. But depending on the type of article you are writing, it might be appropriate to use scientific or technical terminology that demonstrates (without over doing it) your grasp — and thus, your authority — on the topic.

3. Use sequencing or process description.

In some cases, it may be appropriate to describe the steps involved in achieving an outcome. A list of numbered steps would be a good example of this. Or even a simple description in a single paragraph such as:

After taking your new computer monitor out of the box the first thing you will notice is a small bag containing three cords. One cord is blue, one is red, and the other black. Take the blue cord and plug the USB end into your computer, plug the other end (color coded orange) into the left side of the monitor in the port labeled “audio in”. And so on.

4. Use charts, diagrams and graphs.

There’s a saying in selling (where credibility is paramount) that “nothing sells like a demonstration”. The saying holds true in building the credibility for your article content too. If the content of your article lends itself to demonstration via a chart, graph or diagram you should use it.

5. Use a photograph depicting the article topic in action.

This may not always be possible. But have you noticed how the news media use intriguing photos to pull you into the article by attracting your attention? Photos can be as equally powerful when used in your articles to add credibility to your message.

6. Use awards, certificates or qualifications.

Have you any special certificates or awards for achievement that support your credibility as an author or that support the message you are writing about? If so, use them in your articles. The majority of the masses still regard qualifications as a measure of a persons knowledge and trustworthy-ness.

7. Use testimonials and endorsements.

If you say it it’s hearsay. If someone else says it it’s probably true. So use testimonials or endorsements in your articles, especially from a recognized source. If it’s written about in the New York Times or if someone famous backs it up, mention it in your article.

8. Use a logical flow of information, especially logical argument.

Start your article with a strong point your reader will agree with, then carefully walk the reader through a series of “facts” or flow of information that leads them to the conclusion you want them to accept. In this way, you can build a bridge from the things your reader already believes to the things you want them to accept and trust.

9. Use personal stories or anecdotes.

It’s pretty hard to argue with a true story about something that happened to you or someone you know (or even someone famous). If you have stories or anecdotes relevant to the point you want to make in your article, use them.

10. Use case studies — especially examples from the lives of people your reader can relate to.

If there’s a good documented case study of the point you want to make, use it in your article. Bring out the detail of the people and places involved and your argument becomes even stronger.

11. Use meaningful specifics, not vague generalities.

There’s a certain attractive quality in the specific. The more specific facts and details you use the more people feel what you’re saying is accurate. For example, avoid using phrases like: “Many years ago”. Instead say, “On the 26th May, 2005, a week after my Dad’s birthday …”

12. Use examples to illustrate your point.

Even in conversation it helps if you give your listener examples of what you are saying to help him or her understand your message. It’s no different in writing articles. If you want to see the true power of examples as a “communication improver,” try deliberately explaining yourself through examples in the next conversation you have with someone at home or at the office.

Michael Low is a writer, researcher and entrepreneur. He’s also the writer of a free ebook titled How To Write Articles People Want to Read

Blogosphere Trends + Writing Great ‘How To’ Posts

This column is written by Kimberly Turner from Regator (a great tool that gathers and organizes the world’s best blog posts). – Darren

Hello and thanks for stopping in again for a list of this week’s ten most blogged-about stories! As always, Regator has provided the list, and we’ll use posts about these hot topics to illustrate this week’s tips. In the past, we’ve discussed some formats you can use to add interest and variety to your blog and, more recently, we looked specifically at list posts. Carrying on with that theme, we’ll focus this week on how-to posts. Because they solve a problem and guarantee a benefit, how-to posts tend to be popular with readers. And they can be used for virtually any niche (if the examples below aren’t enough to prove that point, check out “The Biggest List of ‘How To’ Blog Posts Ever Assembled” from one of the older ProBlogger Group Writing Projects). Let’s take a look at how bloggers used how-to posts to address this week’s hot stories:

  1. Gulf of Mexico – Sometimes, a how-to post is not a tutorial that readers will follow themselves but rather an explanation of how a larger problem can or will be solved. Cosmic Log’s “How to suck up all that oil” is an example of this sort of post.
  2. World Cup – If there is a particular problem or issue that your niche’s readers are concerned about, a how-to post is the ideal way to handle it. World Cup viewers, for example, seem universally irritated by the ubiquitous vuvuzela horns at the games, prompting a large number of sports and tech bloggers to offer solutions in the form of how-to posts. Asylum’s “How to Filter Out Those Annoying Vuvuzelas” is just one of many.
  3. Tony AwardsJaunted’s post on “How To Get Tickets To The Tony Awards” is a classic how-to. It clearly states the benefit of reading the post in its title then delivers on its promise in a succinct and straightforward way. It’s not always necessary to be extremely clever with how-to posts. Giving your readership the information they need is enough.
  4. Bob Etheridge – Representative Bob Etheridge, who lost the plot and had a physical confrontation with a student on film this week, must not have read Marshall Goldsmith’s “How to Keep Your Temper at Work (And Everywhere Else).” This post not only gives solid advice, it also establishes authority on the subject matter in a way that is subtle yet effective (the author discusses processes he has used to deal with negative emotions “for more than 20 years”). There’s a good chance you’ve established this authority and trust simply by blogging on your subject matter, but it’s worth taking a moment, as you write that how-to, to ask yourself how new readers know that your advice is worth heeding. It’s possible, through a short bio or brief comment such as the “20 years” line above, to strengthen your authority without tooting your own horn to an obnoxious degree.
  5. True Blood – Though Gawker.tv’s  “How to Date a Vampire” is clearly tongue-in-cheek, it has characteristics common to many good tutorials: It lists the materials that will be needed, it presents the process in clear numbered steps, and it keeps the readers’ interest through humor and interesting related tips. Consider these factors when writing your own posts.
  6. Helen ThomasDumb Little Man’s “How to Recover From a (Big) Mistake at Work” is an example of a how-to idea that was generated by the blogger’s own personal mistakes. Sharing the lessons you’ve learned from your mistakes is valuable and may prevent your readers from making the same errors or, in the worst case scenario, may help them deal with the aftermath of a similar faux pas.
  7. Nintendo 3DSOpposable Thumbs“What Nintendo must do to make the 3DS a must-have” uses the how-to format (directed at giving advice to Nintendo rather than readers) to provide commentary and opinion then ends with a solid call to action for readers to share their own opinions.
  8. Michael Jackson – When it was announced that the new Michael Jackson video game will teach players how to move like the King of Pop, Gawker.tv gave their readers a head start with “How to Moonwalk,” a video tutorial. There may be tasks, such as moonwalking or knitting, that are better explained via video. Consider whether video, audio, or photos would make your how-to post more effective and easier to understand.
  9. Al Gore – Al Gore’s divorce and subsequent rumors of infidelity may have him wishing for a post such as Divine Caroline’s “How to Rebuild Your Life After a Divorce,” which uses subtitles and short well-written paragraphs to clearly outline the post’s advice. Subheadings such as these can help readers skim for the information they’ll find most beneficial.
  10. Apple“How to Pre-Order an iPhone 4 With Minimal Hassle and Headache” from Switched provides continued usefulness to its readers by updating the post as information changes. If you’ve written a how-to that will change with time, the added effort required to go back and update the post will be appreciated by readers.

Do how-to posts work well on your blog? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

One more thing: I’ve received emails from some of you indicating that you’d like to have your blog reviewed for possible inclusion on Regator, but nominations were closed while we finished our relaunch. I’m happy to announce here that nominations are now open and ProBlogger readers are the first to find out. Feel free to submit your blog.

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator.com and Regator for iPhone as well as an award-winning print journalist. You can find her on Twitter @kimber_regator.

8 Habits of Highly Excellent Bloggers

A Guest post by Celestine Chua from The Personal Excellence Blog.

Ever wondered what are the traits of the top, successful and excellent bloggers?

I have. Since I started my blog, The Personal Excellence Blog, in 2008, I have studied top bloggers extensively. I read many articles on how to build a great blog. I listened to different bloggers say their piece. Through personal experimentation, I learned what works and what doesn’t work, and integrated them as blogging habits. It has given me great results. After a lot of hard work in the past 1.5 years, The Personal Excellence Blog has grown into an well trusted and established resource on how to achieve excellence in life.  It has 3,500 subscribers, 5,000 readers a day, 110,000 page views a month, over 160 articles, a bundle of free ebooks and has been featured on CNN and AsiaOne.

While there’s still quite a way before my blog reaches the ranks of A-List blogs like ProBlogger, Zen Habits and Seth Godin’s blog, somehow I’m not daunted by what’s ahead. If the past 1.5 years have taught me anything, it’s that the top bloggers of excellence have 8 consistent habits – 8 habits, which, when we practice duly, are guaranteed to bring you results. It’s not a miracle, it’s not luck, nor is it an abnormality. By living in line with these 8 habits, you become a highly excellent blogger as well.

1) Deliver their best value in every article

As a highly excellent blogger, you don’t write articles with a little value or some value. No, you aim to deliver your utmost value every time you write. Never do you write for the sake of writing or post for the sake of updating.  You make sure every word counts for something.

When I write my articles, whether it’s for my blog or it’s a guest post like this one, I put my best foot forward. My previous guest posts on Problogger took me a few days to write (with breaks in between). One of the commenters said I was “taking this guest post thing too seriously”, probably referring to the effort that was put in. That guest post in question was 3,000 words long (longer than most guest posts at Problogger), filled with step-by-step tips, links out to relevant resources and deep personal sharing. (Actually, this guest post is 3,000+ words long as well.)

I beg to differ. Have you ever thought about why you blog? Like really. Beyond reasons like to earn money or to have an alternate career. Why do you blog over the 1,001 possible things you can be doing? What do you strive to achieve? I blog because I see it as the fastest and most effective way to reach out to millions out there and help them achieve their highest potential. It’s more than just blogging to me – it is my life purpose and personal mission. For every article written, there is someone who is genuinely looking for it to solve a problem he/she is facing. Every article I write is an opportunity to touch others’ lives. If it takes X number of words to deliver a message, I’ll write X number of words. If it takes X number of hours, I’ll spend X number of hours. There is no compromising on the quality.

Of course, not every blogger sees blogging as their “calling”, and you certainly don’t have to see blogging as a calling to succeed. There is no right or wrong reason. You just need to be absolutely clear of why you blog. Then live true to it. Make every article you write delivers top value to your readers.

There is no fixed format that dictates valuable content. It can be long or short; it can be in list, essay or story form; it can have text, images, video or a combination of them; it can be entertainment value, educational value or both. I’ve read articles of different permutations that deliver value all the same. If your article improves someone’s life after he/she reads it, then it has value.

Some questions to ask yourself as you write are:

  • What is the specific reader group I’m writing to?
  • Why would they need help in this?
  • What’s keeping them in this situation?
  • What and how can I write to help them?
  • How can I write in a manner that’s relevant no matter when and where they are reading?

If I don’t have anything substantial to say or add to the topic (sometimes it happens), then I don’t write about it. The internet has enough junk; it doesn’t need us to contribute to it. What the internet really needs is real content with real value. And doing so pays off. Readers recognize you as the “real deal” and they go to you for advice on your niche. Because I set such a strict quality filter, my readers can expect a certain standard in what I write at my blog and my guest posts. They quickly become loyal readers, even though there are hundreds of personal development blogs out there.

How about you? Do you write value-laden content? Who is the reader you are writing the next article for? What is the problem you are solving for him/her? If someone with this problem is reading your article, will it help them out of their situation? How is it going to benefit them?

More resources to help you write top value:

2) Work harder than anyone else

Do you drive? Great if you do; if you don’t, just imagine for the next 5 minutes that you do drive. Let’s say you are driving on a normal, flat road. You press the accelerator for a few seconds, then as you reach a good speed, you stop accelerating. There’s no need to since the car is already moving at a steady pace. All you need to do is steer.

Now, let’s say you are at the bottom of a very, very steep and long mountain slope. What do you do? Do you accelerate for a few seconds then stop accelerating? No! You’re just going to stay stuck at the bottom of the mountain. Maybe you’ll move up a few centimeters, then you’ll immediately go back down when you stop accelerating. What do you do then to get up the slope? You keep pressing the accelerator, adding more power each second. Even though you may be stuck at first, it’s a matter of time before you overcome friction and gravity and drive up the slope. And as you add more power, you will move further up.

Turning your blog into a top blog is just like driving up a steep slope. You don’t just create the blog and expect others to come flocking in. You have to work hard to write powerful content, to earn readers’ trust and to get readership. I’m a big believer of hard work – Results don’t come if you don’t work hard. If you read The Dip (by Seth Godin) before, you would know there’s always a dip that comes with achieving big goals. To get past the dip and get what you want, you have to persevere and work harder (and of course, smarter) than anyone else to earn it. All top bloggers today worked extremely hard when they first started, and even when they achieve success, they continue to work hard to achieve greater heights.

3) Practice what they preach

“Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way to teach” – Albert Einstein

When you are a highly excellent blogger, you lead by example. As a blogger, you are (indirectly or directly) a role model to your readers, and what you say or do influences people, more so than you imagine. Your readers look up to you for advice and guidance. It’s important you don’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the talk as well.There is nothing more powerful than being living proof of your results.

Running a blog called The Personal Excellence Blog is more than just writing articles about how to achieve excellence. It’s about living in excellence every moment. I’m extremely passionate about achieving excellence. From striving to be the best in what I do, to understanding what it takes to be the best and live our best life, to helping others achieve excellence for themselves. Our readers look toward us as a testament of what’s possible for themselves – possibilities of what can be achieved, boundaries that can be removed, limits that can be broken. Hence, while I normally push hard toward my goals, I push even harder for my readers. I don’t try to teach my readers how to solve a particular problem until I have resolved it in my life, first and foremost, just like I don’t try to advice them how to achieve a certain result if I have not first achieved it. If we want others to listen to us, we need to practice what we preach first and be living proof that what we preach works.

4) Don’t write to please

“So you have some enemies… good, that means you stood up for something!” – Winston Churchill

You blog to drive a message. You don’t write to please the world. You know that no matter what you write, there will always be people who will disagree with what you say. As Timothy Ferris puts it, “10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it.” If you stand for something, you will have haters.

Average bloggers try to please people with their writings. They over-analyze what readers will want to hear and they write to be accepted. But as a highly excellent blogger, you don’t do that. You don’t shy away from writing controversial topics, but you don’t write about controversial stuff for the sake of stirring controversy either. You write about what you believe in. You stand by what you say even when others disagree. At the same time, you are also not afraid to admit when you are wrong.

I have written stuff before which others disagree. Things like life philosophies, relationships, specific advice, etc. I listen and I take the feedback accordingly when there is merit, but I don’t change for the sake of conformance. Every reader is different – if you change yourself to fit every reader who disagrees, you become just an average and you lose your voice amongst the masses. There’s enough sheep in the world – we don’t need more sheep, we need more leaders.

Find your voice by discovering your inner self. Deal to deal with critics (Read: 8 Helpful Ways To Deal With Critical People). Don’t change your views or what/how you write to please others. Try to please everyone, and you end up standing for nothing.

5) Keep things real

I see 2 types of bloggers out there – there are the bloggers who are genuine. They keep their writings real and are down-to-earth. These are the bloggers like Darren Rowse and Leo Babauta. I have deep respect and admiration for them. Then there are the hyped-up bloggers who have a penchant for portraying themselves as bigger than they are, overhype what they write and make over-exaggerated claims about what they are selling. I don’t know how you feel about them, but I avoid them like the plague.

Readers are smart. Perhaps you might entice them with big claims and bold words at the beginning. However, just like motivational seminars that fail to deliver results beyond the short-term, readers will realize in the long-term you have nothing real to offer. They see past the marketing fluff and turn to the bloggers who keep things real and deliver what they promise on.

As a highly excellent blogger, you don’t exaggerate, you don’t lie, you don’t overclaim nor overpromise. I see this as respecting your readers. You say things the way they appear; you portray facts as they are and let the facts speak for themselves. You are truthful and honest. You keep things real. Your readers appreciate this honesty, and they stick with you as a result.

6) Not afraid to be vulnerable

As a highly excellent blogger, you are not afraid to share things about yourself – things you may not be proud of. You are not interested in creating a veneered image of yourself. It’s about what benefits the readers. If sharing an unglamorous side of you will help improve readers’ lives, you will gladly do so. You open parts of your life as case studies, so others can learn where you may have erred.

The average blogger on the other hand, is concerned about how others think about him/her, and refuses to write about anything that can be seen as an disadvantage to him/her. His/her obsession with safeguarding his/her personal image stops him/her from going all the way to become a highly excellent blogger.

In my blog, I openly share about myself and my life – the upsides and especially the downsides. For example, I have written about times when I was down and out, my past experiences of disappointment (and how I overcame it), heartbreak (and how I moved on) and woes of being single in the modern society. Most people are adverse against sharing their shames, thinking it’ll make them vulnerable and look “weak”. I’m not afraid to write about them because being vulnerable is part of what makes us human. I believe everyone has that side in them – it’s just a matter who is more honest and upfront about it. If you are confident about who you are and what you stand for, there’s nothing to be fearful of.

Subsequently, it is the times when I share my worst experiences that my readers gain the most insights for themselves. Readers take the time to write personal comments and emails sharing in detail how the articles have opened their eyes to similar situations they are going through. If showing my vulnerabilities can help improve even just one person’s life, I say it’s well worth it.

Of course, it’s not about being vulnerable for the sake of being vulnerable. There has to be a point behind writing it. Every time I write about such experiences, I share how I overcame that episode and steps readers can take to work on it too. This way, there are actionable outputs and it doesn’t become just a nice-to-read story. You are more than just a story teller. You weave a message in what you write too.

When you open up more about yourself, that’s when you bond with your readers. People will benefit from your sharing and your real readers appreciate what you do. Mutual respect and trust is built. Whenever I open up about a part of my life, my readers would similarly open up to me too, sharing their personal stories, parts of them which even they admit they don’t share with others.

7) Keep upgrading themselves

As a highly excellent blogger, you don’t rest on your laurels even if you are an authority figure in your niche. You keep upgrading yourself to maintain your expertise. This helps you to continuously innovate and provide expert opinions so you remain as the authority. Problogger is a great example. While Darren runs the biggest blog on blogging, he doesn’t take his success for granted. He’s always seeking readers feedback, improvising on those feedback and writing new content on how to create better blogs.

Upgrading yourself is not just a one-time act – it needs to be an ongoing aspect of your life. How can you do that? My personal tips:

  • Subscribe to the feeds of top players in your niche. I subscribe to all A-List personal development blogs so I can learn from the best.
  • Set aside time every morning/night to read their new articles. Learn from how they write and what they write about. Get top insights.
  • Read the best books out there (in your niche). I borrow mine from the libraries.
  • Network with top bloggers (in your niche).
  • Openly ask for feedback from readers and fellow bloggers on how you can improve
  • Work on those feedback to become better

8) Transform lives with their writing

This is an extension of Habit #1 (Deliver their best value with every article) but it is important and distinct enough to be an individual habit by itself. As the top, excellent blogger, you write content that has the power to change readers’ lives.

How do you know if your content is changing lives? When your readers start telling you so. Majority of blog comments hover around “Great post! I especially like point XX about YY…” or “Thanks for writing this, it’s very useful”. These are great comments no doubt, but I see them more as courtesy comments. Yes your writings are helpful, yes they are informative, but are the readers going to apply any of the things that are written? Most of the time, probably not. Many forget what they just read and nodded to as soon as they click away.

Powerful content on the other hand, has the ability to change lives and trigger readers to take action immediately. When you get comments from readers on how your writings have transformed them and triggered them to make life changing decisions, that’s saying something. I’ve readers who told me how reading my articles has made them quit jobs they dislike, (re)discover their purpose in life and (re)ignited them to take action on their dreams. Some of the most powerful feedback I’ve ever received includes a reader who found hope from reading my articles (after his brother passed away), and readers who broke up with their partners and/or friends (who are bad matches) after reading my article on “How to know it’s time to move on from a relationship”.

When your content is triggering others to make life-changing decisions, that’s when you evolve to more than just a blogger. You are now a leader and beacon of inspiration and hope to your readers.

So how do you transform lives with writing? There is no hard and fast rule, but here are some of my tips:

  • Write from your heart
  • Start with your readers in mind. Put your readers’ needs before all else.
  • Do not afraid to share your vulnerabilities (Habit #6)
  • Understand the real problems people are facing. Make sure your writing solves the problems.
  • Tap into a relevant insight from your life. Share how you overcome a similar problem.

What do you think?

What do you feel is the top habit of an excellent blogger? Do you have other habits to add to the list? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments area :)

About The Author

Celestine Chua writes at The Personal Excellence Blog, where she shares her best advice on how to achieve personal excellence and live your best life. Get her 113-page ebook The Book of Personal Excellence in your email now by signing up for her newsletter (100% free, unsubscribe whenever you want). Get her RSS feed directly and add her on Twitter @celestinechua.

Become the Blogging Expert in Your Own Niche by Running a Blogging Course

One of the most exciting things to happen to me in the last couple of months is to see a group of bloggers come together to do the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook together.

In this post I’d like to share the story of how one blogger got a group of bloggers collaborating together using the workbook and in doing so grew in his leadership within the niche.

A few months back I was approached by Paul Steinbrueck from Ourchurch.com with an interesting request. He wanted to take a group of bloggers from within his niche (Church/Christian bloggers) through the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook. They were going to tackle it over 6 weeks rather than just 31 days (to give people weekends off) and had set up a forum area for bloggers participating to interact. They were also offering some rewards for those participating, held some reviews of blogs taking part etc.

I was really excited by the idea – while I’ve run live versions of 31DBBB here on ProBlogger before this was one of the first times I’d seen a group of bloggers from a single niche work through it together. The potential for collaboration and encouragement from a group of bloggers all working in the same niche was powerful so I gave it my blessing and offered all those participating 25% off the workbook.

What happened over the next 6 weeks was great to watch. You can see Paul’s announcement post calling people to join here. I’m not sure of the exact numbers of those who participated (I heard early on that it was at least 23 but know that another network of bloggers joined in so there were more than that – and based on those who bought the eBook with the discount code it was around 40).

Over the coming weeks I had emails from quite a few participants feeding back how much they had gotten out of it. Most commented on how much more powerful it was doing it as a group. Not everyone made it to the end (6 weeks is a long time to commit) but it seems that those who did saw some tangible benefit. Paul surveyed bloggers at the start and end of the project to measure the results and here’s what he reported:

For those who read at least half the lessons and did at least half the assignments the results were stunning:

  • Pageviews increased 97%
  • Visits increased 48%
  • Unique visitors increased 67%
  • Comments increased 152%
  • RSS subscribers increased 13%

Paul went on to report:

“While some of this growth is probably a temporary bump due to the project itself, the most remarkable improvement came in an area that is certain to have a long lasting impact – how participants rated themselves as bloggers.

Those who read at least half the lessons and did at least half the assignments prior to the 31DBBB project rated themselves on average at 3.0 out of a possible 10.  After completing the project, they gave themselves a 6.9 rating, almost a 4 point jump. Wow!

Clearly these folks feel they learned a lot and gained a lot of confidence through their participation in this project.”

You can read more about the results of the project in Paul’s post here.

Run Your Own Niche focused 31DBBB Challenge

In the coming months you’ll see another live version of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog here on ProBlogger. It’s going to be bigger and better than ever before – however it strikes me that what Paul did in this niche focused project could be beneficial to others too.

The idea of joining with other bloggers within your niche is a powerful thing. Not only did Paul’s challenge help bloggers improve their blogs in isolation, it helped them come together and network, collaborate and strengthen their whole niche.

Paul was already fairly established in his niche but in pulling them together Paul also build credibility, trust and authority as a leader within his niche. The project really helped grow his own blog as well as genuinely helping others in his niche.

So while I prepare to release the next live version of 31DBBB later in the year here on ProBlogger – if you’d like to lead a group of bloggers in your own niche through 31DBBB I’d love to hear from you.

As most of you know – the 31DBBB workbook is a process of 31 sets of teaching combined with 31 action items to help any blog improve. It covers a variety of topics which will apply in almost any niche – but they work best when you’re sharing the journey with others (particularly others in a similar niche).

For any group of more than 5 bloggers wanting to work through the workbook together I’m happy to set up a 25% off discount code to help you get started and I’d be happy to tweet out to my own network that you’re running a group and are looking for other bloggers in whatever niche it is that you’re running it for.

You’ll need to coordinate and manage the project yourself by gathering people together and setting up some way for everyone to collaborate (perhaps setting up a private WordPress.com blog or using a social networking tool like Ning) but I’m happy to help out with a discount and by giving it some Tweet-Love.

If you’re interested in this – try to gather together 5 bloggers and then shoot me an email via the contact form here at ProBlogger with your details and the niche you’re running it for and I’ll get it set up for you.

4 Tips for Increasing Conversions on Your Blog

Yesterday I asked readers about their #1 Desired Conversion on their blog and suggested that identifying it can be a powerful thing. Today I want to share a few tips on moving beyond identifying what you want your readers to do and actually making it a reality.

1. Call Readers to Action

Unless you call people to do what you’re wanting them to do you’re unlikely to get them to take that action. Many bloggers worry about being too aggressive with their calls to action, some to the point of not ever issuing them or doing them in just subtle ways that they’re ineffective.

While it’s possible to be too aggressive in your calls to action I think bloggers could do well to be a little bolder in many cases.

Calling your readers to your desired action can happen in numerous places on your blog including in blog posts (which is where they are often most effective), in your navigation menu, in your sidebar, on internal banner ads etc.

The key is to keep experimenting with different ways to call your readers to do what you’re wanting them to do and to track which methods work best. Read more on Calls to Actions within Blog Posts.

2. Positioning

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about getting people to take action is that it is often largely about ‘positioning’.

I discovered this in the early days of optimising the ads on my early blogs. Putting an AdSense ad over in the sidebar initially seemed like a logical spot for them – but the night I put them inside my content and wrapped the content around them I saw the click through rate skyrocket (I found it hard to sleep that night I was so excited).

Why did it work? The answer is simply that I started putting the ads where readers would see them.

A few other positioning lessons:

  • Above the Fold is Gold – the segment of your site that is on the screen when someone arrives on your site and is seen without them having to scroll down is called ‘above the fold’. Your #1 desired conversion should be visible above the fold.
  • The Power of Pause Points – anywhere on your blog where people ‘pause’ and are looking for something to do can convert well too. For example under your post and around the comments section can be a spot where readers have stopped reading and are wondering what to do next.
  • In Content Rules – whether it’s AdSense ads, an affiliate promotion or selling your own product – putting your call to action inside a post tends to work best in my experience. People come to your blog to read your content (not to scan your sidebar). A relevant blog post to your call to action will always convert better than a random ad sitting on your sidebar.
  • Make Your First Link Count – I’ve tracked hundreds of email promotions and blog post promotions to see how readers interact with what I send them and in almost every single case readers click the first link in a post/email at a higher rate than any other link further down the page.

The key is to experiment with different positioning again and again and to put tracking methods into place that enable you to work out what is and isn’t working so that you can optimise your results.

3. Secondary Conversions

Many bloggers will find it difficult to identify their #1 desired conversion because they have more than just one important thing that they’d like readers to do. They want people to:

  • click their ads
  • subscribe to their RSS feed
  • follow them on Twitter
  • join their forum
  • buy their eBook
  • buy an affiliate product
  • Digg and Stumble their articles
  • Like their posts on Facebook
  • Join their Facebook page
  • email a friend with a link to the blog

And that’s just for starters…..

The problem with too many desired actions is that you can end up issuing so many calls to action that your blog becomes cluttered and nobody ever does anything.

Having said that – if you do have secondary conversion points, think about prioritising them and also think about how you can lead your readers through a process of doing all of the things you might like them to do.

One way that I’ve done this on my photography blog is to make my #1 conversion point to get people to sign up for my email newsletter. I find that if I can get them to do this then I have a way to access readers over time and to lead them through a series of other conversion moments – but also build a relationship with them.

In the weeks after they signup to the newsletter they get emails that all have opportunity to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, that promote our eBooks (including one with a discount and strong call to action), that point them to some of our best content where they’ll also see ads, that invite them to pass on the newsletters to friends, that have calls to action to join our forum…. etc

Some of these calls to action are subtle and are just buttons in our email while others are stronger, but over time I find that the typical newsletter subscriber actually will probably take anywhere from 3-10 of our secondary conversion objectives.

The key is to get people’s permission to stay in touch and then to gently lead them through a variety of conversion activities, all the time also providing real value and building relationship/trust with your readers.

4. Rethink your Priorities over Time

Blogs evolve, mature and change over time. As a result the priorities in your objectives and desired conversions will probably change also.

I’ve seen this numerous times in my own blogging as my situation has changed.

In the early days of making money from blogs my #1 objective was getting people to click my AdSense ads. I needed to get my earnings up in order to stop other jobs so that I could dedicate more time to blogging. AdSense was also converting really well so I spent a lot of time working on ad optimisation.

In time I began to see the power of hooking readers into coming back to my blogs again and again rather than just sending them away to advertisers. I began to promote my RSS feed more prominently. This of course led to me experimenting with different types of subscribing and getting readers to connect with us in different ways – ultimately email newsletters.

More recently as I’ve begun to release my own products my priorities have begun to shift a little more towards generating sales. I still want people to subscribe to my newsletters as the #1 objective but higher up on the list now is for people to hear about our products.

In future I’m sure the list of priorities will continue to evolve and change and as a result the calls to action I issue will reflect this. The key is to keep asking yourself about your objectives.

What is a Conversion for Your Blog?

What is the #1 thing that you want people to do when they arrive on your blog?

Last week at an event about blogging that I attended I asked the above question to 10 bloggers and jotted down their responses:

  • 2 said ‘click on an ad’
  • 2 said ‘buy my product’
  • 1 said ‘subscribe to my RSS feed’
  • 1 said ‘subscribe to my newsletter’
  • 4 said they didn’t know

There’s no wrong or right answer to the question – every blog will have a different ‘conversion point’ to it – but it’s a great question to ask yourself from time to time.

Your answer will inform numerous aspects of your blogging including:

  • How you design your blog – your call to the conversion you’re after should be prominent, above the fold and eye catching
  • What you blog about – your blog posts should, at the very least, relate to your conversion goals and, at best, should lead people to wanting to take the action you’re after.
  • Your promotional activities – knowing what you want people to do when they arrive on your blog can inform your decisions on where and how to promote your blog.

So what is the number 1 thing that you want people to DO when they arrive on your blog?

PS: tomorrow I’m going to flesh this out a little more and share a few tips on getting people to take the action you want them to do.

And The Typos Just Keep On Comin’

a guest post by Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com

I hate being a hater.  I try to minimize the roster of things that I truly hate, and I try to keep human beings off it completely.

Not easy sometimes.  Just sayin’.

But it’s okay to hate some things.  Like injustice.  Prejudice.  Lying politicians with hookers.  Broccoli.

High on that list are typos

They’re like head lice.  They’re like tax audits.  Poppy seeds between your front teeth.  They’re like calling your bank or cable company and having 16 levels of automated options to wade through before they hang up on you.

Typos come with the writing territory.  Painters have to clean up drips, lawyers have to clean up divorce agreements, and the guy at Wal-Mart has to clean up that spill on Aisle 5.  Such is life.

The battle rages on.  If you’re a writer, you need a proof-reading plan.  To not assume typos, to not be ready for typos, is to allow them to water down your brand.

Might as well hang out a sign that says, We Used to Be Professional But Now We’re Not.

Beware the Late Night Post

This one just bite me where it counts.

I was already a day late in posting the next article in an on-going series.  Life was raining diversions and it was close to midnight before I realized I hadn’t written it yet.  My wife, who normally proofs my stuff, had long since gone to bed with a headache, probably caused by that same rainstorm.

I had a headache of my own.  And I’d already taken my beloved Ambien.   A recipe for typo disaster.  A self-fulfilling misspelled, grammatically-crappy prophecy in the making.

So I wrote the thing through sagging eyelids.  I rushed, cut corners, barely proofed.  Hit the Publish button and stumbled off to bed.

And was horrified the next morning when I read my own email Feed.  Within an hour I received an email from a regular reader dressing me down for dropping the ball.  At first I thought it was my old English teacher – she loved the dressing down part – but then I realized several thousand people had just seen me at my worst.

The content, still good.  Equity (read: slack) built from prior posts and value delivered, check.  But this one was over the line.  It was as embarrassing as it was alarming. 

Typos are like harsh tone in a primary relationship. 

Which is to say, they’re worse than poppy seeds between your teeth.

We can get away with a few.  But when you string them together in a single blast of bullet-riddled communication, it smacks of disrespect.  It’s a meltdown.  An abusive, in-your-face tirade.

It leaves wounds.  And wounds leave scars.  It takes time to live the moment down.  You can compensate, but you can’t put that toothpaste back into the tube.

My plan had failed me.

My backstop for typo-prevention is my wife.  In the absence of that lovely comfort zone – backstops get sick, tired, busy and bored sometimes – you need a Plan B.

Self-generated proofreading is like doing surgery on your own appendix. 

Don’t try this at home.  But if backed into that corner, there is one technique that will allow you to rise above your incompetent proofing self and stand a chance at catching all the mistakes.

Read your draft out-loud. 

Literally.  It will force you into a different context, which will allow you to be more precise.  It will slow you down.  It will prevent the hazards of a wandering, Ambien-clouded mind.

Like we all do after such a brush with near blogging death, I said never again.  But like in that primary relationship, or perhaps addiction, never again is a commitment reinforced by consequences.

Part of my repentance was to post a short blog article acknowledging my lameness, asking forgiveness and committing to an escalation of my proofreading plans.

So far nobody has bailed.  Including my wife, who is the one attaching consequences to that never again commitment.  And if you’ve never been proofed by your significant other, let me tell you, it’s a steamy-hot exercise in intimacy right up there with hot oil and blindfolds.

Which, if you don’t have a plan, is what you might as well wear when you’re writing. 

Larry Brooks is the creator of Storyfix.com, an instructional site for fiction writers and those who proof them.

Interview with Carleen Coulter – ProBlogger.com Small Victories Series

_wp-content_uploads_2008_09_n728640378_1497.jpgToday we have another ‘Small Victories’ interviwe with blogger Carleen Coulter, of Beauty and Fashion Tech.

These small victories interviews are with members of ProBlogger.com and are all about highlighting some of the small wins that real bloggers have – our hope is that they’ll inspire other bloggers at similar stages to not only celebrate the ‘big wins’ and those that have already gone pro – but to focus upon the smaller things that take us forward as bloggers.

Transcription of Interview with Carleen Coulter

For those of you who prefer to read than listen – here’s a transcription of the video by The Transcription People.

Lara: Hi everybody, this is Lara Kulpa from ProBlogger.com and as part of our new series on small victories I have with me today Carleen Coulter. Hi Carleen.

Carleen: Hi. How are you?

Lara: I’m wonderful. How are you?

Carleen: I am doing very well.

Lara: Good. So how about you give our listeners a little bit of a background?

Carleen: Okay. My name is Carleen Coulter. I’m the author of multiple blogs but my primary one is beautyandfashiontech, the words beauty and fashion followed by T-E-C-H .com.

Lara: Okay.

Carleen: I also have a blog, girl gloss and run some affiliate sites and I also run a little non profit blog for my dog.

Lara: Oh.

Carleen: Yeah, he doesn’t try to make any money.

Lara: So …

Carleen: Oh, go ahead.

Lara: No, no, no, you go, go ahead.

Carleen: I basically started blogging, I’d say it was about three and a half, four years ago now. Kind of did it on a whim. I just one day started reading some other blogs and said, hey, I’d kind of like to try that and started doing it. I’m actually an attorney by profession.

Lara: Oh, wow, nice. Very nice.

Carleen: So it’s … yeah, you know, it makes for a nice combination. I kind of like writing about things that aren’t legal topics from time to time.

Lara: I can’t blame you there.

Carleen: Yeah. The legal stuff gets kind of dry.

Lara: Yeah. So when you put your … put in your application to be featured in the series, what was the small victory that you were talking about?

Carleen: Well actually I had kind of a small victory and then more of a medium victory. The small victory was when I first started doing this, my, my now husband, he was then my boyfriend, was really kind of teasing me about it. He, you know, he would go, “So you’re writing about makeup, you think you’re going to make some money from this.” Because I told him, well, you know, I’d kind of like to make a little money, extra money on the side.

Lara: Right.

Carleen: And, you know, he said, “You’re never going to make money on that. You’re falling for some make money online thing.” And I said, “Well, you know, I’ll try and see what happens.” So after maybe, I don’t know, a month or two, you know, I start showing him, “Oh, here, look. I’m at least making, you know, a buck a day on AdSense.” He’s like, “That’s not money. That doesn’t count.” And so I think I was about three months in and two things happened. First, I got my first AdSense cheque. So I actually, you know, made enough to get to that hundred dollar mark.

Lara: Absolutely.

Carleen: And then I also sold a $1500 ad contract for a six month ad contract.

Lara: Wow.

Carleen: And so he comes home and, you know, I proudly show him this $1500 and that pretty much shut him up after that. And he simply said, “Yeah, you can do more of this.”

Lara: Yeah, sure, absolutely. That’s awesome.

Carleen: Yeah. So that was … that was the small victory. The medium victory was really from there it kept growing and … when I first … I was … I’m originally from Nebraska and I moved out to Illinois to be with my husband and I took a cut in pay. I lost a part-time teaching job that was extra income from that and the cost of living out here is kind of ridiculous.

Lara: Yeah.

Carleen: So, yeah, I moved out here, I really kind of needed extra money and was looking to replace my teaching income and what happened was by about the one year mark I had done that. So that’s kind of my medium victory is that, you know, things grew. I replaced all that lost income, actually increased it quite a bit and in the end last year my husband was laid off of his job and that actually probably saved us. I mean …

Lara: Wow.

Carleen: My income at that point covered the mortgage and we got by okay. And, fortunately, he’s re-employed now.

Lara: Right. That’s fantastic. You know, a lot of people talk about how they think that everybody is trying to get into the blogging thing and the making money online thing because of the way the economy is of course in the United States and things are getting rough around here and we’ve been battling this whole thing for a couple of years now and it’s really nice to hear that within such a relatively short period of time, if you look at the grand scheme of things, I mean, a year, but that’s not asking a lot, to be able to put in the effort for a year’s time. And …

Carleen: Yeah, you know, yeah, I think it … the key is putting in the effort.

Lara: Right.

Carleen: I mean, it’s definitely work.

Lara: Oh, yeah, absolutely. It’s … there’s nothing … Darren recently had a post about how unsexy it is and …

Carleen: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it.

Lara: Yeah. You know, there’s nothing … there’s nothing out there saying that this is one of those like set it and forget it kind of Ronco rotisserie things, you have to really put in the effort, and that’s fantastic. So let me ask you this, being a member of ProBlogger.com and coming to the site and everything, what are some things that you think have helped you along the way?

Carleen: Well, first off, I have to say that ProBlogger, ProBlogger.net, the actual blog, was instrumental from the get go for me. When I first started blogging and started realising, oh, I could actually make some money from this, I think I read every single thing on there. I mean, yeah, I mean, Darren was like … he was a God to me. I was like, “Wow, this is just amazing. It’s a great site.”

Lara: Yep.

Carleen: So when ProBlogger.com the forum and everything started, I immediately wanted to be part of that. And I think it’s a very useful place, especially … I think it’s particularly probably good for new bloggers and then there’s some established bloggers in there who are quite active.

Lara: Yep.

Carleen: So it’s a nice mix of people. You get new people in there with fresh ideas and questions. I mean, I’ve learnt from people’s questions.

Lara: Yeah.

Carleen: You know, people ask questions that I never thought of and I thought, okay, that’s interesting. And then I also learnt from the answers.

Lara: Right.

Carleen: And then, like I said, there’s experienced people in there too who bring their own wealth of knowledge.

Lara: Right, right. One of the things that I hear a lot from people, now that we’ve been sending out the weekly newsletters and kind of pointing people in certain directions each week, one of the responses I keep getting is that people are feeling almost like wallflower-ish. You know, they go in there and they’re kind of like, you know, “There’s so many people with such great information I feel like I have nothing to add,” you know. To which my answer is always, “Well, you know, your learning process can be somebody else’s learning process as well,” which kind of goes along with what you just said.

Carleen: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I mean, I can’t, I can’t say how many times I’ve seen somebody either in, in the ProBlogger forum or another forum ask a question where I just … it might be a very basic question and it’s something I’ve never thought of before.

Lara: Right.

Carleen: And I get something out of that and I say, hey, I really learned something from that. Also you can’t … you can’t discount the, just the social interactions and getting to know people.

Lara: Right.

Carleen: I’m always one that’s always loved forums because I’m just pretty social and, you know, if you’re kind of a wallflower you really can, you know, get to know people just by going in forums, asking a few questions, throwing in your thoughts and, you know, don’t worry about being new or maybe not having been blogging that long or anything. You know, I think everybody has something valid to add.

Lara: Fantastic. Well, Carleen, thank you so much for talking to us today. And go ahead and tell everybody what your URL is again.

Carleen: The primary site is beautyandfashiontech.com. The first part is easy, beauty and fashion T-E-C-H .com.

Lara: Okay, great. Well thanks so much and we’ll see you in the forums.

Carleen: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Lara: Absolutely. Bye bye.

Carleen: Bye.

What I do….

Earlier in the week on my personal blog (infrequently updated) I wrote a post entitled – What do I do?

The idea of the post was to try to explain to friends and family members what it is I do in my business. It came out of a conversation with an old friend recently who admitted that while he knew I was a blogger that he had no real idea what that meant and what blogs I worked on – so after explaining it to him I wrote it up as a post as well.

As I guess it relates to my blogging and perhaps gives a little insight to readers of this blog what it is that I do – I thought I’d link to it here. You can read it at What do I do?

PS: how do you explain what you do to your friends and family? I’m not sure I’ve really done it justice in that post – but would be interested to hear how you go about it in comments below.