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Scribe 3.0 Launched Today

SEO Copywriting Made SimpleOne of the popular premium plugins that I know many ProBlogger readers use is Scribe. This plugin (for WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal) is designed to help your posts rank well in search engines—without compromising the quality of your posts.

Developed by the team at CopyBlogger, Scribe has gone through a number of updates that have added new features and functionality.

Today it has been updated to version 3.0, and it now covers pretty much all of the fundamentals of SEO—not just some of them.

Search engine-optimized posts—without compromised readability

The great thing about previous versions (and the new one) is that Scribe doesn’t just create search engine-optimized content: it works with your own content, written for your readers. It works to optimize your unique posts.

This leaves you with compelling and useful content that has been optimized for search engines, rather than search engine-optimized content that doesn’t really help anyone.

In the update, we now have:

  • an integrated keyword research tool (meaning you no longer have to use a separate tool)
  • a new link-building tool.

These features help you get a little more strategic about your relationship building with other bloggers, and cross-linking your content within your own blog.

Get full details on what Scribe is about here and view a video demo here.

Try it free

Scribe is a great tool with many features, but in the end you’ll only really understand it once you try it for yourself. The good thing about Scribe is that while it’s a premium/paid plugin, you can try it free by signing up and then, if you decide it’s not for you, canceling your subscription within the first 30 days and asking for a refund (something they honor every time).

They also have a great limited-time ‘STEPUP’ promotion going on. This lets you increase the number of monthly content evaluations you can access. Details of the offer are on this page.

Are these Mindsets Holding You Back from Achieving Blogging Success?

“What’s the biggest mistake you see aspiring bloggers making?”

This is a question I’m asked a fair bit on panels or in interviews, and it’s one that I suspect the people asking the question would like a technical answer to.

The reality is that the biggest mistakes I see bloggers making are usually things that are going on in their minds, rather than on their blogs.

A blogger’s mindset and attitude is as important more important than which blog platform they choose, their blog’s design, or how many posts they make a day.

There are two very common mindsets that I see in many bloggers (and prebloggers), and which I think hold them back.

1. I’m gonna…

One of the things that frustrates me about blogging conferences is that many of the conversations I hear in the hallways and networking meetups involve bloggers talking about the amazing dreams that they’ve concocted … but never seem to act on.

Dreams and grand plans are great — but unless they move beyond the dreaming stage, they’re pretty much worthless.

The “I’m gonna…” statements that I hear range from those at the beginning of their blogging careers (I’m gonna start a blog), through to more established bloggers (I’m gonna write a book/develop my own product/start a new project).

While there’s nothing wrong with brainstorming and dreaming and then later rejecting the idea because it isn’t feasible, some bloggers are serial “ideapreneurs” who never put anything into action.

For some, the ideas never leave their minds; others are so addicted to the creative process of dreaming up new things that they start lots of projects but never see them through. These types are always looking for the adrenaline hit of the new idea, but can’t bring themselves to face the hard work of seeing the ideas through to reality.

2. I’m not … enough

  • I’m not creative enough.
  • I don’t have the technical ability.
  • I’m too late to have an impact.
  • I’m not old enough.
  • I’m not young enough.
  • I live in the wrong part of the world.
  • My writing isn’t good enough.
  • I don’t have the budget.
  • I’m just not smart enough.

The list of excuses for not taking action on some aspect of blogging — whether it be starting out, or developing an established blog — is endless.

Sometimes they come as we compare ourselves to the great things that others are doing; sometimes they’re related to our own feelings of inadequacy and self doubt.

Either way, the end result is usually inaction. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking we’ll take action “one day” — after we get better, smarter, older, or improve whatever it is that we’re not good enough at — but the reality is that we’re never going to do it.

The secret of many bloggers’ success

So what is it that sets some bloggers apart?

It’s simple really: they get things done. They don’t allow what’s going on in their minds to distract them from actually blogging and completing the things they set out to do.

  • They still have ideas and dreams, but they put action items around them that take them to reality.
  • They still have doubts and insecurities, but they don’t allow that to hold them back.

I look at my own experience of blogging over the last eight years, and I see times where I’ve suffered from both these mindsets.

I have notebooks full of ideas that never amounted to anything. But I realized a few years back that unless I actioned some of them, my business would never reach its potential.

I also had periods, particularly when I started out, where I had so much self doubt about the things I was writing, and my lack of ability in some aspects of blogging, that I was almost paralyzed by fear. However, I managed to put that aside and blog on, only to discover that the more I did it, the better I got.

All of this reminds me of a great video I saw last week from Seth Godin. It runs for 18 minutes and I think much of what Godin says applies to bloggers. Many of us are paralyzed by our “Lizard Brains”, which often stop us from taking action, and actively sabotage us.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you overcome these mindsets. I know so many of us do struggle with them. How do you snap yourself out of the “I’m gonna…” or the “I’m not … enough” ways of thinking?

8 Reasons to Add an Ecourse to Your Blog

This is a guest post by Kelly Kingman of StickyEbooks.com and the co-creator of Engaging eCourses.

A great ecourse can make a huge difference to your blog and your business. In fact, I can name eight fantastic reasons why you should add an ecourse to your blog.

But first of all, what exactly do I mean when I say “ecourse”?

Ecourses can be anything from a simple, free auto-responder educational series to year-long, in-depth membership programs with live calls and personalized coaching. They could involve text, audio, video — and every combination of those.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll define an ecourse as instruction delivered over time, and delivered virtually, with the intention of helping the consumer achieve a result.

As I watched Darren’s 5Cs of Blogging video the other day, I realized that well-designed ecourses can deliver all five of these critical elements:

  1. incredibly useful content
  2. a basis for community
  3. points of connection with your audience
  4. cash in your pocket
  5. a contribution to your readers’ lives.

Not too shabby.

Pace Smith and I recently asked six bloggers who have mastered the art and science of creating great ecourses for their advice on inspiring people and helping them get results from ecourses. Our collected interviews make up Engaging eCourses: How to Motivate People to Get the Results they Want, which is available this week for the first time.

As we learned from our conversations with these bloggers, teachers, coaches, and authors, there are lots of great reasons to explore the arena of delivering educational content, and concrete benefits to be gained by setting the consumers of this material up for success.

Here are eight reasons we found why an effective, well-designed ecourse is good for your blog.

1. It inspires your readers to action.

In the Internet age, we have no shortage of information. Information is great. Information is important. And as bloggers, we thrive on delivering information — but it’s only part of the picture.

What people are hungry for now is inspiration. A great ecourse inspires people to implement the information they’re receiving.

Your readers’ results are the best way to build your business, according to Pam Slim, of Escape From Cubicle Nation. “[Results are] always, always is a stronger foundation for your company —rather than focusing all this time and energy on getting the perfect brand, or the perfect tagline, or the right people to be re-tweeting your stuff on Twitter,” she told us.

Not only do people like to feel inspired, but if you help someone solve a problem, they are likely to share their good results. This could take the form of social media buzz, testimonials and just good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

“People become sort of raving fans if they use the whole thing and complete it,” said Scott Stratten of Un-marketing.com. “Don’t be afraid of the conversation [in social media]. People are going to ask, ‘what are you talking about? What is UnBootcamp?’ and then people can go check it out.”

2. It helps focus and refine your niche.

Teaching people shows you not only which chunks of information are the most useful, but who really “gets” what you’re saying. Sonia Simone, from Remarkable Communication, told us she didn’t really, really understand her niche until she launched her ecourse, the Remarkable Marketing Blueprint.

“When I launched the Blueprint I saw the people who stayed and got excited about it and those that drifted away or didn’t get it. It was really seeing that that helped me create Third Tribe, because I could say ‘this is the kind of person who gets it.’”

Instead of trying to figure out the nuances of your niche in advance, see who responds to the content and style of your instruction and then work with them in mind. “Always look to your students to see who you’re most able to help,” Sonia said. “Sometimes you don’t know until you try some stuff and see what people respond to … who is picking it up and running with it?”

3.  It deepens your relationship with readers.

It’s one thing to give someone ten tips on mountain climbing; it’s another to walk someone step by step through choosing the best path and preparing for the trip, then listening to how their progress is going along the way. Depending on the level of interactivity, creating and delivering an ecourse can give you crystal-clear feedback on what works and what doesn’t about your information and your approach.

“Ecourses represent a certain level of commitment,” Charlie Gilkey of Productive Flourishing told us in his interview. “The more that you set the ecourse up so it reaches that peak level of commitment, the better the results [your participants] are going to have, and the more feedback you’re going to get.”

Designing an ecourse also means tuning into which problems your readers are really facing and what they want. “What’s going to make you feel really good is when you’re focused on the learner. What is that they’re trying to do? Be really curious about it, dig in,” Pam Slim told us. Pam co-created the $100 Business Forum with Chris Guillebeau.

4. It helps you monetize your offering.

Who doesn’t love money? The great thing about an ecourse is that if you offer it at a reduced cost to an initial “test group,” you essentially are being paid to create most of it.

Sonia Simone offered a “beta group” price to the first members of the Blueprint and made it clear that the content would evolve based on their feedback. She told us how this was the model Brian Clark used when starting out with Teaching Sells, essentially creating income from the ecourse before it was totally polished and done. This also lets you adapt the material on the fly to the needs of the group.

Even if you feel like you’re relatively new to your niche, you’re a few steps ahead of a total beginner. “The biggest market in all topics is the beginner market. That’s when people are looking for something to help them over the hurdle. If you’re an intermediate, you know of the basic advice that’s out there which is really key,” said Sonia.

5. It helps you grow a strong tribe.

Participants in an ecourse can form the core of a tight knit community. “If you let people know you care about them, they will have loyalty to you and that loyalty will help them get moving,” said Sonia.

Don’t spend too much time trying to convert those who don’t vibe with your approach. Sonia said that “people sign up because they resonate with your values — your point of view — and that gives everyone something in common and makes everything go more smoothly.”

A tribe gets stronger through the connections that are built within it. Students given a space to interact online often find enormous value in helping each other.

“It’s not been an uncommon phenomenon for people to come out of our courses and start a mastermind group or continue to have significant contact with some of their buddies from the courses one, two, three years later,” said Mark Silver, from Heart of Business. “Building those relationships, and really being able to trust and get support from your peers, are some of the most important parts of the learning experience.”

6. It helps you build expertise by teaching.

“As you help people solve problems, you tend to get the reputation for being an expert,” said Pam. But she also warned against getting too hung up on the word “expert.” “All that I care about is: are you really able to help people solve a problem?”

The best way to build confidence in your skills is to use them. “If you can really listen to and respond to what feels like it’s lacking with your folks … and be very responsive to that feedback, this is going to increase your confidence at such a deep level,” said Pam.

7. It helps you gain a competitive edge.

An ecourse can provide a way to help people cut through the noise, to figure out which information is key for their situation, and this will set you apart. “The entrepreneur who delivers a better experience to her right people, wins. It’s the experience — not the content, not the information,” said Charlie. “[Experience] can be the level of engagement, it can be the ease with which they get results that you promised, it can be the results themselves.”

Instead of striving to be original, Charlie said, focus on being effective. “The point is not to come up with something novel and new, though it’s great when you do,” he said. “The point is to explain, synthesize — do what you have to so people take the information that’s already there and use it.”

8. It helps you give back to your readers.

Ultimately, helping readers get results impacts their lives for the better. “When your focus is really, ‘how can I help my ideal client do what they need to do?’ that’s going to be driving excellence. That’s going to be driving results and impact,” said Pam.

She added: “That is what our work is about: it’s about the impact of your gifts on people that you care about that’s solving problems you want solved in the world.”

Kelly writes about creating compelling eBooks at StickyEbooks.com. To learn more about how to deliver ecourses that engage and inspire, visit Engaging eCourses.

11 Ways to Convince Readers to Buy Your eBook

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja — a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

eBooks are a great monetization channel for your blog. Unlike methods such as advertising and affiliate programs, your own products allow you to keep the lion’s share of the profit. But with this great power comes great responsibility. Unlike other monetization methods, with ebooks, it’s up to you to turn your readers from fans into real customers.

In this post I’ll explain 11 ways you can convince readers that your ebook justifies them pulling out their credit cards.

1. Don’t leave them wondering.

If a reader has to think twice about how to buy your ebook, that’s one time to many. Your readers shouldn’t have any doubts in their minds about how they can order your product. Now this doesn’t mean you should turn your sales page into one gigantic Order button (believe me, I’ve tried), but it does mean you should have clear and identifiable order buttons at the top, middle, and bottom of your page.

2. Give them safety in numbers.

People don’t like missing out, nor are they comfortable with feeling as though their friends, competitors, or colleagues have the jump on them. If 10,000 people have read your ebook and they all love it, make sure you let everyone know. Give your readers safety in numbers, and they’ll give you their credit card numbers!

3. Connect them with advocates.

Anyone can write testimonials, including testimonials that never actually happened — and your readers know that. But what you can do is provide advocates. If there are real people in the real world who love your ebook, ask them if they’d be prepared to openly share that with others who might be interested in the product. A testimonial from someone who includes their social media profiles and encourages readers to get in contact with them is going to pay much better dividends than a testimonial that you made up yourself.

4. Give them a guarantee.

Buying any product requires some sort of leap of faith on the part of your readers. You’re asking them to spend their money on something that, even with the world’s best sales copy, is an unknown. You can reduce the size of that leap by guaranteeing your ebook: “If this doesn’t deliver all that you hoped for, we’ll refund your money – so you’ve got nothing to lose.” The smaller you can make that leap of faith, the more sales you’ll make.

5. Give them a sense of urgency.

Perhaps an unfortunate reality is that we’re often lazy, or easily distracted in our daily lives, so you need to create a sense of urgency to ensure your readers stay the course and complete the entire purchase process. An easy method to achieve this is to threaten a price increase after a certain number of days. If they don’t act now, they’ll pay twice the price.

6. Tell them your story.

Whether yours is a technical book or a novel, readers will value being able to connect with you as the author. If you book involves the completion of a journey that a potential reader is about to embark on, and you can help them avoid all the mistakes you made, they are much more likely to order.

7. Don’t bore them to death.

If your ebook’s sales page contains as many words as your first chapter, you’re going to do nothing but bore them away from your page, and your key sales messages will be lost. Write your sales page as concisely as you can, then strip out 50% of the words — and you’ll just about be there.

8. Make it easy for them.

You’ve only won half the battle once you’ve got your reader to click that Order button. What happens next is perhaps even more important. If you ask them to jump through four more clicks and fill out 20 fields with information, chances are you’re going to lose them. Ask your potential customers only to do the minimum required to make your sale, and get the money in your bank account. If you want extra information, do that after the sale is made.

9. Cater for their preference.

eBooks these days are more than just PDFs. iPads and Kindles have changed the expectations of ebook purchasers. If you can, make sure your product is available in the maximum possible number of formats (ePUB and Mobi). This can be a great point of difference in a competitive ebook market.

10. Know your audience members’ problem and tell them how you’ll solve it.

You probably should have figured this out before you wrote the ebook, but you need to still convey what problem your ebook solves for a reader, and make sure this message dominates your sales copy. Your friends will buy any book you write, but the mass market will buy books that solve their problems.

11. Give them one thing to do on your sales page.

It’s very easy to hedge your bets when it comes to creating a call to action on your sales page. There should be your clear Order button, but you might be tempted to add a Tweet This button, or an alternative product, or even someone else’s ad! Unless you stand to make as much money from someone tweeting your book page, or clicking your ad, as you will through an ebook sale, then ensure your page asks visitors to do one thing and one thing only: buy your ebook.

Selling ten ebooks is easy; selling 10,000 can be a little more challenging. I hope these tips help get you going.

Stay tuned from most posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja — a professional online marketer for a major web brand, who’s sharing more of his tips undercover here at ProBlogger over the coming weeks.

How to Make Everybody Happy

A Guest post by Stanford from Pushing Social. Image by superbomba.

happy.png

Your blog is like the popular kid at school.

It needs to look great, be funny, smart, and remember everybody’s name. It’s a tough job.

But the hardest part of the job is keeping everyone happy.

You are probably figuring out that your readers are not all cut from the same cloth. Although they may share a common interest, each has his or her own reason for visiting your blog. Some are casual readers, while others are hardcore fanatics that devour every word.

It’s easy to believe that every reader will be satisfied with your 300-700-word post. Not so. In fact, your standard post may only satisfy a fraction of your readers and leave the rest wondering, “Where’s the beef?”

If you want your blog to grow, get passed around, and inspire an engaged community, you’ll need to write content that makes everyone happy.

Wait, you can’t make everybody happy … right?

I know that blog readers — myself included — can be a fickle crowd. There’s a handful of blogs that I read daily and I have impossible standards. They need to write exactly the type of posts I like, publish them regularly, and never, ever, disappoint me. I’m a tyrant and so are your blog’s readers.

The problem is that you can’t write multiple types of posts every day to satisfy every reader.

But can you make all of your readers happy?

Crowd -> community -> core

Yes you can … by being smart about the content you produce and where you place that content.

It’s useful to think about your audience as overlapping circles of readers. At the center are the core readers. A little further out is your community of regular readers. Furthest out is the crowd, who occasionally visit. All together, these folks form the ecosystem for your blog.

Every day, people read your content and naturally settle into one of these circles. Your goal is to move the crowd to the core.

Let’s take a look at each group and some techniques for keeping them happy.

The core

These folks are dedicated to you. They visit your blog every day and are the first to comment, retweet, and mention your posts. You may even know these fans by name. Core readers are the first to sign up for email courses, pre-order products, and join your affiliate program.

Your goal as a “tribal leader” is to find and connect with your core as quickly as possible.

Core readers are disproportionately influential. Don’t be fooled by their small followings — their enthusiasm is infectious and they can rally a crowd through sheer persistence.

How to make core readers happy

Core readers hunger for more than your usual posts. They want to dive deeper into each of your posts and are starving for more detail. These folks have devoured your archive post and relate to you on a visceral level. You need to kick it up a notch to keep them satisfied. Here’s how to do it:

  • Go deep: Use email courses, private forums, and ebooks to give the core a deep dive into your content. My own Spectacular Posts email course is designed to give my core readers new information that I haven’t covered in a post. I don’t hold anything back because my core reader has an insatiable appetite for more information. So does yours.
  • Keep your eye on them: Create a list of your core readers in Twitter and bookmark their Facebook pages. Friend them, follow them, and regularly visit their blogs. Make sure they know that you are cheerleading for them.

The Community

Community readers are regular visitors to your blog. They are infrequent commenters but frequent retweeters. The community makes up the bulk of your blog’s traffic. They appreciate a consistent message and hate surprises.

How to make the community happy

  • Be reliable: Your community wants a steady supply of information that serves their needs. They share your goals and interests and want to hear more from you. Consistent posting encourages them to visit your blog often. Over time, you earn their trust and convince them that you have a resource worth sharing.
  • Use “edutainment”: Community readers plow through a lot of blogs every week. Dry, me-too posts are easily drowned out. To raise above the clutter, you need to combine entertaining and interesting viewpoints with your topic. These mashups can combine Lady Gaga and Blogging Tips or Ant Swarm Behavior and Project Management. This is guaranteed way to stand out in the RSS reader, and catch the eye of super-influencers too.
  • Be relevant: Community readers have a low tolerance for loosy-goosy, feel-good content that isn’t practical. They were attracted to your blog because you helped them solve a problem. They keep coming back because you are interesting and have a viewpoint that fits them like a glove. Don’t disappoint them. Keep an editorial calendar that continually delivers on-point content.

The Crowd

Outside of the community lies the crowd. Crowd readers are usually referred by another source. They are not regular readers and may only spend a few seconds on your blog. Your topic is likely to be complementary to the crowd reader’s main interest, but not a tight fit.

It’s tempting to dismiss the crowd since they aren’t your bread-and-butter readers. But smart bloggers work to satisfy the crowd because they bring fresh perspectives to the community. Your goal should be to turn the occasional crowd reader into a regular community or core reader.

How to make the crowd happy

  • Guest post: As you know, I’m a huge fan of guest posting as a way to reach readers that lurk outside your community. Guest posts allow other more influential blogger to vouch for you, giving you enough credibility to attract a larger audience. It’s not a mistake that many up-and-coming bloggers spend a large chunk of time guest posting to reach the crowd.
  • Build outposts: Outposts are social networking sites where you maintain a profile and special content. Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are popular outposts that represent online watercoolers for millions of users. Pick one outpost to start with, and invest some time to build a presence there. Link your outpost to your blog and regularly post content there. Over time, your outpost will get on the crowd’s radar screen and start escorting new readers to your blog.
  • Be a peacock Don’t be shy. Every once in a while, write a post that grabs attention. Your post can be provocative, epic, or piggy-back on a popular topic in the news. These “peacock posts” get noticed by influencers and passed along to their network. Even though it’s hard to tell if your post will be a barn burner, you can increase your chances by regularly writing them!

What do you think?

Can you make all of your readers happy? Which technique will you try first?

Stanford obsesses about how to get passionate people’s blogs noticed and promoted at Pushing Socialexcept when he’s fishing with his boys. Follow him to get the latest about his new ebook “Get Noticed.”

Blogosphere Trends + Humour

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

Once again, we’re taking a look at the stories bloggers have been writing about the most during the last seven days (list provided by Regator). This week, we’ll be using posts about those hot stories to look at one of the toughest forms of writing: humour. It’s difficult because senses of humour vary so much. What you find hilarious, might barely elicit a smirk from me or vice versa. Plus, there’s the added challenge of determining when it’s appropriate to take the amusing route and when a serious approach is best. It’s a challenge, but adding a bit of LOL keeps readers engaged and, in many cases, encourages more sharing. Fortunately, despite the challenges, there are a few tried and true tips to upping the funny factor on your blog. Let’s see how some bloggers have covered this week’s hot topics with humor…

1.  Christine O’Donnell
Example:
Huffington Post’s “The War on Lust Must Be Won
Tip:
They say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but sometimes they are wrong. Sarcasm can be an effective form of humour, as shown in this example. It can often come across as sour grapes, so proceed with caution.

2.  Lady Gaga
Example:
Cracked.com’s “Why It’s Time to Stop Paying Attention to Lady Gaga
Tip:
Sarcasm—humour at someone else’s expense—can be funny, but adding a touch of self-deprecating humour can make it doubly so. In this example, the author writes, “I showed up to the office with shoes that didn’t match. For 11 straight days. One of them was a flip flop and the other was a woman’s hat. I know nothing about fashion, is my point, which is why I’m uniquely qualified to talk about Lady Gaga’s wardrobe choices, because she doesn’t either.” By making fun of yourself, you seem less bitter and judgmental and more…well, funny.

3.  American Idol
Example:
ROFL Razzi’s “ROFLash: Steven Tyler is Probs the New ‘American Idol’ Judge”
Tip:
Some words are intrinsically funny. “Moolah,” used here is a funnier word than “money.” Onomatopoeic amusing words, like “splat” are often amusing. Other words are funnier than their counterparts for reasons that aren’t immediately apparent (but you’ll know them when you see them). For example, what’s funnier, “underpants” or “underwear”? “Spooks” or “phantoms”? “Canoodling” or “hugging”? There’s a theory that words that start with plosive consonants such as b, p, t, d, or k are intrinsically funnier. I’m not convinced this has been confirmed by science, but it seems plausible. Either way, use the funniest words you can find.

4.  Pope Benedict XVI
Example:
Friendly Atheist’s “Dear Benny…
Tip:
The inappropriate can be hilarious. There’s a reason stand-up comics often write jokes about things that make people a bit uncomfortable, such as the Catholic sexual abuse cases. If you’re not inclined to be overly politically correct, approaching an inappropriate or sensitive topic with a healthy dose of humour can be very effective, as shown in this musical example.

5.  Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert
Example:
Indecision Blog’s “Here Are the “Rally to Restore Sanity” and “March to Keep Fear Alive” Hastags You Ordered
Tip:
A conversational, informal tone that connects with readers directly is almost always funnier than formal language. This example addresses the readers directly, saying, “Oh my God, America, you were so annoying! Can’t you talk about anything else?!”

6. Katy Perry
Example:
Ministry of Gossip’s “In the Katy Perry ‘Sesame Street’ scandal, is Elmo the real villain?
Tip:
The unexpected is funny. While everyone else was analyzing Katy Perry’s culpability in the scandalous Katy/Elmo video, this example focused on Elmo. “That Elmo character was totally naked.” Outrageous! … And hilarious.

7.  Joaquin Phoenix
Example:
Cracked.com’s “Will Joaquin Phoenix Become The Craziest Celebrity Ever?
Tip:
Find creative alternatives to standard approaches. In this example, Cracked puts its own spin on the omnipresent five-star rating system and determines that Phoenix was (at the time this was written, which was before it came out that the whole insanity thing was a ruse) “officially as crazy as…” three Tom Cruises, six Octomoms, half a Charles Manson, and four point eight barrels of flaming monkey poo. Taking a standard cliché and giving it a unique spin is often funny or, at the very least, interesting.

8.  Blockbuster
Example:
The Onion’s “Struggling Blockbuster Eliminates Rental Fees
Tip:
Pick a joke and stick with it. This faux news example focuses on the ridiculous lengths the failing video rental chain will go through to draw customers. The joke is the same throughout, but is exaggerated to a greater and greater extent until, toward the end of the piece, fake Blockbuster says, “as a special introductory offer, cancel your membership with Netflix anytime in the next three months and we’ll do literally anything you ask of us.” The exaggeration paired with the commitment to the single joke throughout really works here.

9.  OK Go
Example:
The Awesomer’s “OK Go vs. The Muppets
Tip:
If you don’t laugh, don’t expect others to laugh. Before you use a video in your post, like the one in this example, or hit publish on a comical (or supposedly comical) post, watch the video or read the post aloud. Sure, your sense of humour is unique, but you shouldn’t expect others to laugh if you don’t even find it funny. The humour in this video relies heavily on good comedic timing—and Muppets. Muppets almost always help.

10. The Social Network
Example:
Funny or Die’s “How Did We Spend The Facebook Outage?”
Tip:
Actual behaviours and situations are often funnier than anything you can make up. You don’t always need to be overly clever. Next time you’re in an absurd situation, make a note of it. Remember that details often make a story, so be specific. You may be able to incorporate those humourous observations into a post somewhere down the line.

If you use humour on your blog, please share your tips in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. On a side note, the weekly trends will be changing to monthly trends after this post. I’ve had an amazing time connecting with ProBlogger readers and writing this column every week, but busy days are ahead so Darren has been kind enough to let me switch to the less frequent posting schedule to accommodate. Talk to you again soon!

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.

How to Deeply Connect with Your Readers

This week we published a moving story on ProBlogger from Naomi Dunford from IttyBiz.

When Naomi sent me the post a few days before we published it I immediately knew that it was going to be one that would do well and it was. 100+ comments within 4 hours of publishing – and not just any comments – they were comments that were heart felt (I’ve never seen so many readers admitting being moved to tears by a post), in depth and engaging.

Read them for yourself – the comments section is as compelling as the post itself.

These posts don’t happen every day and I feel honored to have witness it first hand here on ProBlogger and wanted to take a moment or two to reflect on what I saw.

So what was it about the post that connected with readers so deeply?

Here’s a few reflections on why I had a hunch it would hit the mark (feel free to add your own):

It was a Story – almost every ‘story’ post that I’ve published here on ProBlogger has connected with readers. Read more on Why stories are so effective on blogs.

It was Relevant – right from the opening line (‘I’ve sat where you sit.’) Naomi strove to connect the situation that the readers of ProBlogger are in with her story. She showed an awareness of one of the needs of readers and the empathetic way she told her story showed an understanding that just connected with people.

It was Relatable – one of the things that I felt reading the post myself was that parts of it reminded me of my own story. The comments section shows I’m not alone – many of those who read it seemed to just find it comforting to know someone else had experienced the things Naomi shared. It’s powerful to know that you’re not alone.

It was Honest – this story is raw and honest. She shared an experience from one of the hardest times of her life in a way that many of those leaving comments admired and related to.

It was Inspirational – the story was honest about the tough times but also about the good ones. Naomi shared some of what hanging in there through the tough times brought her to – personal success but also being able to do some inspirational things for the world. She gave those reading the story hope for their own situation which many needed to hear as they face their own tough times.

As a result of that above we see a comments section that is filled with honest, engaging, raw and heartfelt stories.

Some felt compelled to comment for the first time, others were moved to tears, and others felt moved to share some of their own stories.

The post ‘connected’.

Why do you think it was so powerful?

Please Welcome Georgina – ProBlogger’s New Content Manager

georgina.jpgI’m really excited today to announce that I’ve just hired Georgina Laidlaw to help with content development and strategy here at ProBlogger. Her official title is Content Manager.

The backstory

Over the last year, I’ve become increasingly aware that I need to begin to expand my team to cope with the load of running my business.

ProBlogger itself can be a handful to run at times, but add into the mix my biggest blog — Digital Photography School — and other projects (TwiTip, ProBlogger.com, Third Tribe, a Book), plus the other bits and pieces that I do, and I’m increasingly finding myself up against it to get everything done to the level of quality that I wanted.

As a result I’ve begun to look at making a couple of strategic hires to enable me to increase the quality of what I do and also to free up some time for other projects that are coming.

I’d already moved some way down the path of hiring people to help carry the load previously (although I haven’t really written much about it):

  • Lara Kulpa will be familiar to some of you as she’s helped with some of the admin tasks here on ProBlogger (comment moderation and other admin), and has managed the ProBlogger.com forums and edited Twitip.
  • I also have Simon Pollock (my brother-in-law) managing the community at dPS.

Both are part-time and work remotely (Lara’s in the US and Simon in the UK).

Why a hire a Content Manager?

As mentioned in yesterday’s video, content is of primary importance to me and it’s something that I obsess over. It has been central in whatever success I’ve had, and I see it as extremely important going forward.

For the first four years of ProBlogger’s existence, I wrote almost every post. The only times I really handed over posting to others was when I took vacations. However, in time I began to accept guest posts and have even hired semi-regular writers.

I did this partly to lighten the load a little (to allow me to focus upon other aspects of the business), but also because I found that by including the voices, views, skills and experiences of others, the site became more useful to more people. I can take one approach to blogging and have certain skills, but I lack other areas of expertise.

As a result of this increased featuring of others on ProBlogger, a number of things happened:

  1. I started getting more submissions for guest posts. When you feature one guest, post you can open a floodgate for others to approach you about writing. There have been weeks when I’ve fielded 20-30 guest post submissions (and I usually only feature two or three).
  2. I found myself working more on editing than writing. This shift has happened on all of my blogs. While having others write for you takes a load off your writing work,  it means you spend more time editing their work, talking to authors about topics, liaising with authors about post formatting, and so on.

All in all, I’ve increasingly felt sidetracked by these tasks. They’ve taken me away from my own writing, but also from more strategic tasks (such as developing a more thought-through editorial calendar, building my community, and developing other projects).

Managing writers is important, but editing and managing writers isn’t my strength and it has become increasingly apparent that it would be logical to get some help in this area.

Hiring Georgina

Georgina Laidlaw has come recommended to me from a number of people that I respect. She’s worked for some great sites such as Melbourne’s SitePoint (who I’m increasingly working with) and WebWorkerDaily.

As part of the process of this hire, Georgina has also written a number of posts here on ProBlogger. Her work received a lot of positive feedback and it demonstrated to me that she “gets” what I’m on about here, and has the ability to connect with the ProBlogger audience. She’s also fast, efficient, and just in the process of sorting out this position has given me some great ideas.

Georgina is also local to me. While I’ve worked with remote workers before there’s something that appeals to me about hiring someone local. Georgina and I won’t spend a lot of time in person, but having the ability to get together and knowing she’s in my timezone will be great.

What does a Content Manager do?

To be honest we’ve ummmed and aaahed about the title Content Manager quite a bit. I’m not sure it is completely accurate, but for now, it’ll do.

Georgina will be taking on a number of rolls here at ProBlogger including overseeing, editing and managing writers (guest posters and regular writers), writing some posts of her own, editing my posts (I know that will please some of my more spelling-obsessed readers), and working on some other projects (for example ebooks, newsletters, and others).

One of the goals that we also have with this new position is to widen the topics that we write about. There are some categories and topics that haven’t been touched on a lot lately here on ProBlogger. Having Georgina on the team will enable us reengage with some of those topics. This will also mean a slight increase in the number of posts each week (don’t worry we’re not going to go over the top).

What about Darren?

A number of people on Twitter yesterday asked me whether this means I won’t be blogging as much on ProBlogger. The answer to that is I’ll still be here as normal. This is my blog and you’ll continue to get regular posts from me.

You might see a slight increase in posts by others, but I intend to maintain my own posting levels (currently around four or five posts a week).

All in all I’m really excited about this development and hope you’ll join me in welcoming Georgina into the ProBlogger family.

The Power of Not Giving Up – One Blogger’s Story

A guest post by Naomi Dunford from IttyBiz who emailed last week to remind me (Darren) that today is ProBlogger’s 6th Birthday and asked if she could write a birthday post. Here it is!.

I’ve sat where you sit.

I’ve devoured the articles and the blog posts and the link roundups. I’ve agonized over whether I could afford that video camera or that conference or that membership program. I’ve felt like a fool for even hoping this blogging thing could ever work.

I’ve sat right there and I know how scary it is.

Maybe I should introduce myself. My name is Naomi Dunford, and I was just like you.

I was desperate, scared and pregnant. My doctor had put me on bed-rest. I had to leave work because I was fainting all the time. Even before he was born, we knew our baby boy would have health problems.

We had intermittent web access because I could only intermittently afford to pay the bill. My husband was making very little money in a job working nights and it was going nowhere. Things did not look good.

Then I found Problogger.

I read all the archives. (All the archives.) Read some Copyblogger. Read some Chris Brogan. Slept. Drank a lot of tea. Had some panic attacks and spent a lot of time thinking about how cool it would be to be a problogger one day.

You’re waiting for the bit where I say it got better, right? Where I say I dove right in and created a blog and hustled my way to fame and fortune? Sadly, no.

I did nothing. Nothing. For a year.

I had my son. Went back to my job. Left work in the middle of my shift on my fourth day back. Went down to one (sub-poverty line) income. Flirted with the idea of starting a business. Got one half-hearted client. Put our son to bed by myself. Ate a lot of rice.

But I kept reading Problogger.

One day, Darren mentioned he needed businesses to sponsor his third birthday giveaway. Sitting there, nursing my son in the middle of the night, I had a crazy idea. I could be a sponsor. I had no idea what I was going to give, but the deadline of Problogger’s birthday was enough to get me going and get my blog launched.

I decided to give some marketing coaching. I had to fill out a form to say who I was and what I was offering, and I wrote that IttyBiz was the “offshoot blog of IttyBitty Marketing”. IttyBitty Marketing? Please. We’d had the sum total of one client and to this day, they haven’t paid me. But I had to put something in there. I sent it off, and then all I could do was wait.

(The actual story of how I went from not even having a domain name to launching my site on a Technorati Top 100 blog in four days is pretty uninteresting, although there are some juicy behind the scenes highlights and an adorable picture of Xavier here.)

I launched the blog. I wanted to email the people who commented to enter the contest and invite them to IttyBiz, but I didn’t have their email addresses. (I ended up clicking on all their links and personally emailing them via their contact pages, a process that took two full days. We worked straight through the night.) I did the same with the other sponsors.

I got some readers. Not a lot, but some. I got a little bit of traffic. A few other bloggers said some nice things about what I wrote. My goal was to get a thousand subscribers before Christmas. I didn’t make it.

But I kept reading Problogger.

Let’s flash forward three years.

My blog now employs six people. We have over 20,000 readers. We’ve helped more than 1000 people quit their job. As an affiliate, we sold enough copies of Teaching Sells to fund a school in Cambodia.

My husband quit his job. We’re unschooling our son. We moved to England for a while. We bought a little house. We finally got a car. We went to Cuba and Ireland and SXSW and Blogworld a few times. I threw a party in Austin and Darren came.

We’ve had ups and downs. I got pregnant again and lost the baby. Burned out. Missed some deadlines. Had a few site crashes. Got hacked a couple times. Did some stuff I’m not proud of. Did some stuff I’m very proud of.

And we’re home. My husband kisses my little boy goodnight seven days a week.

But here’s the really crazy part.

Nothing special happened.

I didn’t just happen to get a column in the New York Times. Nobody invited me to be on Oprah. I didn’t conveniently score a book deal. Despite my repeated attempts, I’m still not married to Brian Clark. I didn’t do anything special. The gods did not smile on me.

I just kept reading Problogger.

The point of all of this?

Please don’t give up. I know it’s terrifying. I know you are under indescribable pressure to do something serious with your life and grow up and forget your crazy blogging dreams. I know that some days, this is the hardest thing you’ve ever done.

I know your family thinks you’re crazy. I know you feel completely alone. I know you feel like it’s never, ever going to work.

But what you’re reading here? It works. I promise. Please don’t lose heart.

Happy birthday, Problogger. And thank you, Darren. I am blessed to have you as my mentor and honoured to have you as my friend.

Naomi Dunford writes at IttyBiz.