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The 5 C’s of Blogging (What I’ve Learned Over 6 Years at ProBlogger)

6 years ago today I imported a series of posts that I’d written about blogging on my previous blog over to the ProBlogger.net domain – ProBlogger was born. I look back on that time and while I was almost making a full time living from blogging there was so much about the medium that I didn’t yet know. I still feel I have a lot to learn but thought I’d take a few minutes out today to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned about blogging.

I’ve identified 5 things that I’d concentrate (I only started this video with 3 but by the end had 5) on if I were starting out again today. They all begin with ‘C’.

Thanks to everyone for making ProBlogger what it is today – 6 years on from that first day!
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How to Romance Your Readers Like a 5 Star Restaurant

A guest post by Kelly Estes – coauthor of Online Business Elements. Image by Storm Crypt.

romance.pngIf you’re trying to impress a date, nothing does it like a romantic multi-course meal. In the blogosphere, you’re not trying to romance anyone, but you are out to impress — and snare — prospective readers.

Intrigue, Don’t Bore

So impress; don’t bore them. Think of it like serving up a multi-course meal. Don’t freak out~just like you don’t eat that type of meal all at once, you serve up the most fabulous food by planning out a menu, making your grocery list and scheduling the cooking. You work behind the scenes like a fiend, perhaps sweating a bit in the kitchen. And then you present a scrumptious, mouth-watering meal to guests, making it look easy.

Serve Up A Memorable Experience

The reason customers return to a four-star restaurant is not just the quality of the food. It is the attention to detail. It is the personal greeting when you arrive. It is the escort to your table with a beautiful view. The pulling out of a chair so that you can easily sit….you feel the personal attention taking your experience up a notch. With a flourish, the maitre’d places a napkin on your lap. The waiter arrives and gives a polite introduction, inquiring what you would like to drink, acting as if you and your date are the most important customers in the restaurant. Meanwhile, the background music plays on, unobtrusive and elegant.

These actions add up to a beautiful experience. When someone visits your blog, you want them to have and remember a great experience.

Maybe you’re not going for an elegant impression. Perhaps you’re aiming to titillate and showcase your wide writing range and expertise, or to combine hilarity and blog tips. These are bloggers who leave a lasting, good impression on their readers, and have sticky blogs.

How do successful bloggers do it?

1. Whet the appetite with a perfect appetizer.

Set the stage with a creative and professional banner that showcases your brand. It’s the first thing a potential reader sees, and if it looks like an amateur did it, your readers might just click away.

If you go into a restaurant, and the ambiance is that of fine dining, complete with mood lighting, your expectations are set high. When the waiter starts describing the delicious, fresh buffalo mozzarella on heirloom tomatoes with basil chiffonade, drizzled with Italian balsamic vinegar, it ‘fits’ with the branding you’ve experienced to that point. You’re looking forward to eating what the chef whips up.

Just as some restaurants use candlelight with tablecloths and china (not Chinet), creating the right ambiance for a nice dinner, so too should you think about the first impression you give a reader with your banner. Does it reflect your brand well, and is it professional looking?

2. Stand out with a Salad

Hold the not quite ripe tomatoes, and stay your hand on the tasteless bagged carrots. Get out the awesome stuff that is really good.

The headline to your post should not be boring (duh). It should be creative and offer help or information your readers need. Here’s one headline that caught my eye on Yahoo….”Checking Out of the Grocery Store Faster, and With More of Your Paycheck In Hand.

Now that’s definitely a hot headline. Do I want to check out of the grocery store faster? Yes. Do I want to leave the grocery store for less money out of my pocket? Heck yeah! So I click to find out how to accomplish that goal. Voila. The headline did its job.

Remember, the headline that people see on Twitter, Facebook, or Google can determine whether they click on that link to read it. So entice them. Get click savvy. You can get your potential readers to ‘order’ your blog post.

3. Serve a memorable soup, not thin gruel.

What I mean is, make sure your opening paragraph isn’t dry as sawdust. Keep your reader’s interest by being unique, and engaging them with a targeted question. If you’re writing about dieting or nutrition, you could open with ‘Why do some nutritionists advise eating five small meals a day to lose weight? Does this work for you?”

Sometimes, adding just a few choice ingredients makes all the difference between so-so tomato bisque, and the most awesome, creamy, and delightfully different tomato bisque ever. There’s the tomato condensed canned soup made with milk, and then there’s the French chef’s secret recipe to knocking your socks off tomato bisque. If I’m going to order tomato bisque at a restaurant, I don’t want the ordinary. I want the extraordinary.

When people arrive at your blog and read your first paragraph, they’re going to decide whether to keep reading or not. Make sure they keep reading because you’re serving up the knock your socks off tomato bisque topped with crème fraiche.

4. Provide Entrees that Satisfy.

Would you rather have a perfectly grilled steak, baked potato and salad, or a microwave meal? They both fill you up, but one satisfies the senses more than the other.

It’s the creative analogies and cool stories to inform and entertain that people remember, and come back for more. There are so many ways to make boneless, skinless chicken breast into a meal, but there are a ton of ways to prepare and serve it.

Enlighten readers with your unique perspective on your topic of choice, impress them with how much your blog helps them (it’s your content strategy) and you’ll gain their gratitude and readership.

5. Dessert: Sweet Success

As your traffic grows (through your sweat equity online), and you’re getting to know more bloggers through networking, you’ll start to feel like you’re making progress.

Tasting the sweetness of success as a blogger only comes after a lot of hard work and long hours. In the beginning, you might feel like you’re only getting a lick out of the cookie dough bowl.

The first steps on the road to success are paved with small victories. Gaining loyal readers. Racking up Twitter followers and Facebook fans. Guest posting on a bigger blog in your niche. Before you know it, you’re further and further along toward achieving success.

You’ve planned your ‘menu,’ served up successful ‘meals’ (blog posts), and are continuing to network with readers and bloggers alike.

Cyberspace is interesting, though. Even meeting someone online doesn’t quite measure up to the real thing.  Face to face networking still rules.

Why bother networking offline, like at a convention such as the upcoming BlogWorld Expo? Consider what your goals are as a blogger.

Are you going to be able to achieve a huge level of success without meeting and talking with other bloggers in the ‘real’ world? Will you be able to enjoy a decadent helping of success, like a Hawaiian chocolate Kona soufflé, or will you keep sampling the cookie dough as you celebrate little victories?

As you consider your game plan and your goals, map out how you will taste the sweetness of success. Of course, getting there will be its own reward.

Kelly Estes is a food blogger and former print journalist who blogs at Hot Cookin‘ ~ She is also a co-author of Online Business Elements.

Trouble Choosing a Niche? Start a Personal Blog

“I’m having trouble deciding what topic to blog about.”

This was a statement I heard three times at the ProBlogger meet up in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago and is a problem that many PreBloggers face.

I’ve written numerous times about how to choose a niche or topic to write about but it struck me while talking to the Brisbane folk asking the question that the biggest factor in helping me to narrow in on my own niches was having a personal blog.

When I started blogging in 2002 I had no intention of doing it professionally. Instead I, like almost every other blogger at the time, started a blog (pictured below – no longer active) which was quite personal in nature. In many ways it was an extension of my brain and was simply a place to talk publicly about what I was thinking about, learning and experiencing in life.

personal blog

As a result I wrote about many topics including spirituality, culture, photography, starting a church, movies, holidays, family, emerging forms of media and blogging.

It was a bizarre mix of topics and I know that some of my readers struggled to make sense of my somewhat eclectic interests – but as I look at the three blogs that I currently operate today I see the roots of them all in that first personal blog.

I blogged on that first blog for a year and a half before starting any other blogs and before I even began to think about making money from this medium but while that particular blog didn’t make much money (I played a little with AdSense on it but it never really worked) it was probably my most important blog in shaping what I now do.

Why was that personal blog such an important place for me?

A few thoughts come to mind as I look at how important that first personal blog was.

1. A personal blog can be a testing bed for ideas and niches

In many ways that first blog became a testing bed and launch pad for new blogs. ProBlogger is a great example of this. After a couple of years of blogging I began to start other blogs and experiment with making money from blogging. As I did so I also began to journal some of the lessons I was learning about blogging on my personal blog. I started a blog tips category and got to a point where I had 50 or so posts in it.

These posts were quite popular and in time I realised that my blog tips were resonating with and helping more and more people – to the point where they perhaps justified starting a blog on that topic. This led me to registered ProBlogger.net and start this very blog.

The great thing about launching ProBlogger this way was that I’d already worked out that there was an audience for the topic, I already knew that I enjoyed writing about the topic and I already had 50 or so posts that I could transfer over to the new domain.

In many ways when I started ProBlogger I was able to leapfrog over some of those startup headaches that many bloggers face because I’d already tested the idea on my personal blog.

2. A personal blog gives you a place to find your voice

Over the years I blogged on my first blog I experimented with many ways of blogging. Not only did I chop and change that topics I covered – I also wrote in different styles and voices and was quite playful and experimental in working out what types of posts connected most with readers.

3. A personal blog helps you understand blogging

The other great thing about that first blog for me was that it gave me a taste of the technology and culture of blogging. I was very overwhelmed by the technical aspects of blogging in those early days and quite intimidated about putting my ideas on the web. I was also confused about how to find readers and interact with them.

Starting a blog is the best way to learn about blogging – until you experience the process of publishing a post and having people read and interact with it you’re not really a blogger.

The great thing about learning all of this on a personal blog is that people’s expectations may not be quite as high as if you launch a ‘professional’ blog.

Are Personal blogs for everyone?

I’m not convinced that everyone should have a personal blog to help them launch their new blogs. For me it was helpful but some bloggers are much more ready to launch into niche focused blogs without going through that process.

However if you’re convinced that you want a blog but don’t know what topic to focus in on then a personal blog might be a step forward to help you find your voice, identify topics and to learn the ropes of blogging itself.

Join Me at Facebook Success Summit 2010

One of the excellent upcoming conferences that I’m speaking at is the Facebook Success Summit 2010. It’s run by Mike Stelzner of Social Media Examiner. I’ve been involved in Mike’s summits before and they are packed with information.

This conference is a live online conference (so there are no travel costs) that is packed with amazing speakers. All sessions are recorded so you don’t have to be on live calls to participate but can listen to those you miss later.

All up there are 22 experts sharing what they know about how to use Facebook to build their businesses. Speakers include:

  • Brian Solis
  • Mari Smith
  • Michael Stelzner
  • Justin Smith
  • Others from Intel, Xbox and Cisco

Topics are varied and cover everything from the ‘why’ of getting a business on Facebook through to many aspects of how to best do it effectively.

My own session (which I’ll be running with Mike Stelzner) is titled ‘Building Community with Facebook and Blogs’ and the description of the session is:

Are you looking to build a loyal community on Facebook? If so, look no further. In this session, Darren Rowse (founder of Problogger.net) and Michael Stelzner (founder of SocialMediaExaminer.com) reveal how Facebook has enabled them to build a loyal following of tens of thousands of Facebook fans who engage and promote their content and ideas. You’ll learn about the apps, widgets, and blog enhancements they use to keep their readers engaged.

The price for Facebook Success Summit goes up by $200 later this week (on the 22nd) so if you’re thinking of attending make sure you get in at the early bird rate today.

Creating a Blog In a Niche You Know Nothing About

A guest post by Adam from Things To Learn.

I’ve been blogging for over two years now and I will be the first to admit that I haven’t been the best blogger in the world. Far from it. There were several stretches where I didn’t blog regularly or I wrote posts that just didn’t cut the mustard.

The blog that I was maintaining was in the ever crowded personal finance (PF) niche. Frankly, I know a lot about financial planning (I have a master’s in it) and I thought that I would thoroughly enjoy writing about it. Man was I wrong. If you ask any expert in the field, they will tell you that everything PF has already been written. In order to separate yourself from the hundreds of PF blogs out there, you have to put your own spin on the topics or just talk about your personal experiences. Well, I wasn’t that great at putting a spin on the topics and my wife and I don’t really live a fascinating financial life.

So, I slowly continued the blog. I stuck to it for about 2 years and decided that I just wasn’t having fun with it. I still enjoyed writing, but I was just burnt out writing about personal finance. I knew it was time for a change but I just didn’t know what. I don’t really have any hobbies and everything else just seemed so saturated already.

Blogging On Something You Don’t Know

As I was enjoying a nice walk around Washington DC with my wife, something caught my eye. None of the buildings were tall. I wondered what the deal was and figured that plenty of other people may have thought the same thing. I did some quick research at home and found out that there is some crazy law that doesn’t allow the buildings to be tall in the city. Weird.

After I learned about the topic, I had other random questions/things pop into my head and they just kept coming. An endless supply of blog posts! I wrote them down on a piece of paper with the title “Things To Learn”. I knew right then and there that I needed to create a blog on the topic. I was going from writing about things that I knew inside and out to something that I had no clue about. Why would I do that?

Why Should You Blog In a Niche You Know Nothing About

You Have An Almost Endless Supply of Blog Posts

Many great bloggers started writing about things that they wanted to know more about. For example, J.D. from Get Rich Slowly started his site when he was $35,000 in debt. Obviously, personal finance wasn’t his strong point at the time but he started the blog to learn more about the subject and it has now grown to one of the most popular blogs on the web. Heck, even Darren started this blog because he wanted to learn more about making money on the web.

Personally, I have been thinking about my new blog for weeks now. To date, I have approximately 100 “things to learn” in my WordPress drafts. You know what, the ideas keep coming too. Whether I am reading a book or having a conversation with a stranger, the thoughts keep flowing. You can do that with any niche too. Especially if you are constantly trying to learn more about it.

It Never Gets Old

Most new bloggers fizzle out after a few months because they feel like no one is listening. Hey, it happened to me a few months after I started. But, I stuck with it and my blog has made a few bucks here and there.

Believe it or not, I don’t really care if my new site has readers. I mean, there is a small part of me that likes the interaction but I am doing it more for me. I want to learn and blogging about things I am interested in gives me pleasure. The place that I want to get my interaction is from other sites like this one. I am saving some of my better posts for other blogs and I will be interacting with the readers here.

I think that by blogging in niche you know nothing about, it will be difficult run out of things to write. I mean, I bet it may get a little old after a while. If I had to guess, I would say that many of the bloggers that have been around for a long time will tell you that it’s starting to get old. I imagine the thought of quitting has crossed their mind. Even though they started out knowing nothing about the niche, now they do and it would get old. However, they are now probloggers and are making good money. How many small bloggers that burnt out posting about what they know can say that?

* * * * *

How many of you started blogging in a niche you know nothing about? Have you seen the same results that I mentioned? What other positives can you see with blogging in a niche you know nothing about?

Adam spends his time finding out what the closest city to the north pole is or what the largest country is. He enjoys learning new things every day and sharing them with those who are willing to listen.

Weekly Trends + Using Polls

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

Last week, along with the list of the ten most-blogged-about topics of the week, we talked about how to get more comments on your blog. But the truth is, some readers aren’t going to comment, no matter what you do. If you want them to interact, you need to give them another option. Polls are quicker and easier than comments and many readers who won’t take the time to form a fully thought-out comment are more than happy to hit quick button to share their opinion via poll. When used for the right reasons, polls can increase interaction and participation.

Every week, we look at the ten most blogged-about stories of the previous seven days (trends provided, as always, by Regator) and today, in addition to those, we’ll see how some bloggers made use of polls in their posts…

1.  MTV Video Music Awards/VMAs
Example:
Gold Derby’s “Poll: Will Chelsea Handler flourish or flop as MTV VMAs host?
Lesson: Be sure your polls work with your blog’s topic matter. Occasionally, I’ll run across a blog that is hosting a poll on a question unrelated to its subject matter in the sidebar. I assume that questions about political affiliation or age on a parenting blog, for example, are done for either the sake of marketing research or the blogger’s own curiosity, but they are useless because they aren’t fulfilling a need for your reader. In this example, the blog is about awards shows and the poll is on how a particular celebrity will fare as an awards show host. It’s a great fit.

2.  September 11/9-11
Example:
Gallup’s “Nine Years After 9/11, Few See Terrorism as Top U.S. Problem
Lesson: While not a blog, I have included this example from Gallup because the site can be a good resource for poll results and statistics. You need not run your own poll to make use of a poll on your blog. Seek out results from places such as Gallup, which allows you to search for polls on a variety of topics, then deliver commentary or start a discussion around the results.

3.  Tea Party
Example:
Poll Watch’s “Beyond the Primaries: How Much Impact Will the Tea Party Have Now?
Lesson: People love stats. People love stats twice as much when you present them in some sort of infographic, pie chart, or line graph. I can’t really explain why, but you know it’s true. Present your findings (or the findings of the poll you’re referencing) in a visual way for maximum impact, even if it’s just a very simple pie chart like the one seen in this example.

4.  Lady Gaga
Example:
Ministry of Gossip’s “Lady Gaga wears a meat dress — need we say more?
Lesson: Give voters enough options to accurately portray their feelings on the subject. When you’re selecting the options for your poll, think beyond a simple “yes” and “no” system. In this case, the blogger could’ve asked, “Did you like Lady Gaga’s meat dress?” and provided two simple options. Instead, she broadened the choices to: “A cutting-edge political statement,” “A cutting edge-fashion statement,” “Tasty,” and “Pathetic.” Do note, though, that three of the four available options are positive. Try to provide balanced choices so as not to subconsciously guide voters.

5.  Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell/DADT
Example:
Joe.My.God’s “CBS Poll: 75% Support Gays In Military”
Lesson: Hosting polls can give readers an alternate means of interacting with your site, but posting results from polls—either your own or another source’s—can be a way of starting a discussion in the comments. This example provides results with minimal commentary, but it prompts a conversation in the comments.

6.  Google Instant
Example:
Lifehacker’s “Do You Like Instant Search?
Lesson: When you display results, take caution not to look like a ghost town if your blog is still working on building its readership to a good level. In this example, Lifehacker displays not only percentages, but the actual number of votes cast for each option. Their total is 7,857 votes—pretty darned respectable. If you run a poll for several days with only eleven votes cast, you run the risk of showcasing your lack of traffic. Use percentages instead.

7. Mexico
Example:
Immigration Chronicles“Illegal Immigrants or ‘Illegal Aliens’”
Lesson: Use polls to find ways to improve your blog. In this example, a blog focusing on immigration issues is polling its readers to learn about the specific terminology their readers prefer. If you’re not sure what your readers would like to see more (or less) of, how they feel about a particular issue you cover regularly, or if they’re tired of a certain feature, what better way to find out than to ask?

8.  Pope Benedict XVI
Example: Politics Daily’s “Pope Benedict’s Visit to the U.K. May Be a Flop
Lesson: We’ve all heard the “lies, damned lies, and statistics” warning…and for good reason. You can find numbers to support nearly any hypothesis. You can increase your credibility by citing several sources and, most importantly, clearly indicating where your data came from. This example compares results from a British Social Attitudes poll with a Guardian/ICM poll.

9.  Toronto International Film Festival
Example:
IndieWIRE’s “criticWIRE @ Toronto: Grading All The Films”
Lesson: Consider polling a specific group of people rather than the general public if it will lead to more accurate results. In this example, IndieWIRE started a “criticWIRE poll,” asking critics to indicate how they felt about this year’s TIFF selections. By restricting the poll to critics, many will find the results to be more trustworthy, and it’s likely that the results will be shared on other blogs.

10. Oprah Winfrey
Example:
PopSugar Australia’s “Pop Poll: Is Oprah Worth the $3 Million Bill To Aussie Taxpayers?”
Lesson:
Make your polls easy to interact with (don’t require registration) but not easily gamed. This example shows a clearly laid-out, attractive poll that allows easy voting. And unlike many polls, refreshing the page does not allow you to vote again. Obviously, polls in your posts aren’t highly scientific, but do what you can to avoid having results manipulated.

Please share your experiences with using polls in the comments. Have you found polls to be effective on your blog? What tools do you recommend for creating polls?

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.

4 Things to Expect When You Become an A-List Blogger

A Guest Post by Glen Allsopp from ViperChill.

There’s a ton of advice in the blogosphere about how to increase the size of your blog audience and become an A-lister. There is far less advice though on how to deal with such a large readership and the changes that come with it.

While I don’t consider myself an A-lister, my blog is closing in on the 10,000 subscribers mark after less than a year since launch, and quite a few things have changed from when I had a much smaller audience.

Some of these are good, some are bad, and others are completely what you make of them. This is simply my guide on the things to expect and possibly watch out for.

Growth which Snowballs

The first few months with blogging are generally the toughest. If you’re not learning how to tweak your design and implement good on-site SEO you’re trying to establish yourself in your niche and build relationships. Growth at this time can seem slow or even stagnant.

Thankfully, it does get much easier. Once you have built an audience you have more people to naturally share your posts for you, buy your products, and help spread your brand. When I grew my old personal development blog to 500 subscribers it took me 7 months of non-stop hard work.

Yet, in the next 5 months after that, thanks to this snowball growth effect, the blog had over 4,000 subscribers. The bigger you get, the bigger the growth spurts tend to become as well.

Public Criticism

I’m very fortunate to have built a following of people who are very positive and thankful for the effort that I put into my articles. However, as with any project that grows large, I’ve faced public criticism as well. This didn’t seem to happen based on anything I did but came about when my audience hit a certain threshold, resulting in feedback that was seemingly random.

Some people say things like “you’re just trying to be like X blogger”, “you’re scamming people” (even though I have no ads or affiliate links) or they may claim I’m lying when I write about certain figures, even after posting screenshots of everything I do.

At the end of the day, criticism is something you should come not only to expect, but forget. If there’s something negative out there about you that you agree with and can change, then do so. Otherwise, leave the internet trolls to do their thing and continue doing what you do.

It’s not just in the blogosphere where this happens of course, but in all areas of life. Look at the launch of the iPhone 4 as an example. It was Apple’s most popular product launch in their history and has less refunds than any other iPhone by far, yet every tech blog is jumping on the bandwagon about the issues it appears to have.

Whether you believe Apple should be scorned or not, you can’t deny that it seems that the more popular a person or company gets, the more people want to take them down. At certain times I like to remind myself of a quote my Sean Stephenson which is quite relevant to this situation: “What people say about you is none of your business.”

A Rise in Reader Communications

As much as I didn’t want to do this, I’ve had to make it significantly harder to get in touch with me over the last few months. First of all, I stopped returning follows on Twitter and went from following over 3,000 people to less than 100. If you follow someone they can send you a direct message (DM) and I simply couldn’t respond to even half of them. I can’t imagine how other people who have much bigger audiences deal with it.

I then had to create a new Skype account as people were using the ‘find by email’ feature and adding me personally. As I give away my Skype address frequently when buying new websites, I would sometimes be flooded with support requests because I couldn’t tell if someone was a blog reader or they were selling a website I was interested in.

Finally, I made my contact form much less inviting and put my email address right at the bottom of the page. I hate that I had to do this one the most, but I think people would rather find it harder to contact me than spend time writing a request for help that I simply can’t fulfil.

Of course, I still respond to many emails and I try to reply to every single blog comment I receive, which can take hours each week, but I can’t keep up with the other communication channels. Similar to my last point, people can be very vocal on social media platforms if they get in touch with you and you don’t reply — even if it’s just a day or two later.

If you have time to respond to everyone then that’s great but make sure you’re prioritising tasks (writing posts, tweaking your site) and not trying to be everywhere to please everyone. My simply philosophy is that I would rather spend a few hours writing an article which helps thousands of people than spending hours in my inbox helping only a few.

Higher Expectations from your Audience

When I said there would be points which you can view in your own way, this is what I was mostly referring to. This may just be a personal feeling and not something other large bloggers can relate to, but I definitely think people have higher expectations of the information and ideas I share after following my work for a while.

I personally see this as a good thing as I don’t want to stand behind work which I believe to be mediocre so I’m reminded to produce valuable content. You may see it as added pressure to publish only your best articles but realise that your audience just wants the same great value that they’re used to. When asked how he dealt with the pressure of his fans, rapper Lil Wayne simply said:

“I would rather have the pressure of fans wanting me to do well then the pressure of running from police or something like that. Fan pressure is good pressure.”

When you start out you can make “mistakes” you wouldn’t normally do like fill your site with ads, write reviews just for money or publish guest posts which are of a far lower standard to the content you usually put out here. Once you grow though, the reaction to those kinds of mistakes can be a loud voice in the online space.

I love growing my audience for the obvious benefits such as:

  • Having more eyeballs on my content
  • Having more people who can share my content
  • Connecting with a bigger audience
  • Being able to make more money
  • Having a bigger influence

These are all great advantages to becoming a bigger blogger, so definitely don’t just focus on the points that I’ve highlighted above. Just become aware of what you may have to deal with as your site does begin to grow. At the very least, if you do experience these things, now you know you’re not alone.

Glen Allsopp is the author of ViperChill, a blog on Viral marketing. If you’re interested in guest posts like this one here, you may enjoy his guide to guest blogging.

4 Ways to Use Twitter to Support Your Blog

In the race to social media stardom, plenty of bloggers have joined Twitter and are furiously tweeting the titles and openings of every post they publish. When they launch a product or open registration for a seminar, they tweet that.

But surely these can’t be the only ways to support your blog using Twitter?  Your tweets might be limited to 140 characters, but the scope of your tweeting is limited — you guessed it — only by your imagination.

Here are some of the less conventional approaches I’ve seen bloggers employ in using Twitter to support their sites.

1. Tell the story of blog content creation.

This approach can be very intriguing and compelling for your followers. One journalist I know often invites his Twitter followers to contribute ideas for elements of the articles he’s working on. By responding, followers buy in to the story, and become intrigued about the article topic.

Perhaps he’ll follow up that request with tweets mentioning that he’s about to interview a subject for the article, or his research has uncovered something interesting. So by the time he tweets the link to the finished article, at least some portion of his followers — those who have been following his journey to produce the piece — are dying to read it.

2. Tweet interesting comment responses.

Rather than focusing solely on the content you produce for your blog, why not intersperse your article tweets with tweets that point your followers to interesting comments that readers have made in response to your posts?

As well as encouraging regular readers to make considered, valuable comments on your blog, this technique supports your online profile, building your and your blog’s reputation for producing quality content that sparks intelligent, innovative discussion. It also indicates that your blog is a place where thinkers congregate, and a source of information that sparks broader interaction among those within your niche.

3. Run a Twitter competition tie-in.

Trying to plug a new product or service that you’re launching? Perhaps you could add a Twitter competition to your launch strategy. Ask questions that followers can find answers to in one of your recent posts (perhaps one published on the same day), then give away your new product to a winner drawn from the pool of people who answer the question correctly.

This can be a great way to engage readers in a fun, constructive manner, and to take a break from the everyday in terms of Twitter content, and possibly, your promotions. It can also create a few moments of light relief for your readers.

4. Create a Twitter conversation around an event.

If you’re running an event in association with your blog, consider making a Twitter conversation part of your strategy. Watching real-time responses to   events pop up in Twitter streams provides entertainment — and opinion, and education — for countless users every day. A recent festival in my town held some events and discussions entirely on Twitter.

Could you do something like this around your next product launch? Can you invite users to discuss an exclusive post — perhaps one that presents a new take on your niche, or includes an in-depth interview with a niche leader –  at the time you publish it?

These are just a few of the alternative approaches you can use to promote your blog through Twitter. What alternatives have you seen or used yourself?

4 Ways I Compose Posts to Drive Millions of Pageviews to Blogs Through Digg

A Guest Post by Neal Rodriguez.

With the release of the new Digg on August 25th, anybody with the ability to understand how a story, which is promoted to the popular section, is composed, has an edge in attaining viral exposure ranging from tens of thousands to millions of pageviews. Digg’s users constitute a large proportion of bloggers. Thus stories promoted to their popular section, which was previously their homepage and now the Top News page, can attain anywhere from less than 10 to hundreds of links pointing to their websites. Digg also has millions of users; many of whom visit websites that reach the popular section at a rapid rate. My blog went down when I promoted my interview with Ben Huh The Most Popular SFW & NSFW Failblog Pics of the Decade to the popular section and more than 1,000 visitors loaded the page in the first few minutes after reaching the front page.

NSFW/SFW pics

No matter how much of an efficient promotor of content you are, you will not get your blog’s pageview count passed the two people who made you nine months ago without writing content that people are willing to share among their online friends and acquaintances. There are just some stories that people are willing to pass on to their fellow digital networkers through email, Facebook Like action, retweet, pigeon carrier, or Greek messenger. What are some of the elements that increase the chance that a story will spread virally?

1. A Picture is Worth a Hundred Thousand Pageviews

I was surprised to hear that my friend had launched his photo blog and had grown his traffic level to 100,000 monthly pageviews in 3 months. Now together with Digg he is behind one of the biggest viral campaigns on the web in the past few weeks: the dry erase girl. Photos on the web appear to have the hypnotic ability of making people share them upon first encounter. Ben Huh reportedly did nothing but post photos of people failing at everyday tasks on his blog. Last time I spoke with him he was driving 1 billion pageviews to his blog network every 4 months.

On the blog post to which I alluded in the first paragraph, I aggregated the most popular photos posted on Ben’s blog in the last decade and performed some social outreach on the news aggregators. The post made the front page of Digg and drove 26,690 pageviews in the first few hours. It received 36,019 pageviews the following day. The post has received over 77,000 pageviews in total.

You should add photos to every blog post you write. The funnier the picture the better. Even the most serious topics work great with a offbeat picture that can also represent the post’s topic. Stunning pictures such as those posted on PDN Photo of the Day Aftermath (6 photographs) show the story of a woman’s breast cancer treatment in a series of self-portraits. I drove over 200,000 pageviews to this story on the first day of publication. It went popular on Stumbleupon and made the front page of Reddit, a social news aggregator, to drive over 90,000 views over the weekend when traffic is typically slowest. The only reason I didn’t put it on Digg is because nudity was not allowed at the time. I have found I have been able to drive the most traffic when I aim to tell a story through pictures.

Dry Erase Girl Quits

2. Opinionated Stories

My first blog post on the Huffington Post briefly outlined reasons why I thought we as consumers brought the U.S. financial crisis upon ourselves. In short, my argument contended that increases in foreclosures were the product of people buying homes that they could not afford. Whether you think I was wrong or not, this post made the front page of Digg in 2007 and incited a huge response. If any of you have attempted to promote content on Digg, you know that solely stories that receive the most response and support from the community get promoted to its popular page.

I got insulted on this post for my lack of substantiating my arguments with 3rd party facts. However, I did help people close no-paper A loans as a credit repair specialist back in ’03; so, considering the amount of people for which I secured $300,000 loans without showing income documentation, I had a pretty good idea from which to draw an opinion. No excuse, nonetheless, in your iteration, ensure that you back up your content with solid facts, statistics, and other expert opinions to make your argument as credible as possible.

My opinionated piece that called for the arrest of a Bart police officer who shot an unarmed man in 2009 also made the front page of Digg. My thoughts on why the Bart police officer who shot Oscar Grant should be held without bail was the most popular story on the Huffington Post on its day of publication with over 40,000 views through my outreach efforts.

Most Popular Huffington Post

What also made this post popular stand out, is that mainstream media wasn’t giving it the attention that the American people thought it should. Now touching on the subject of race, I received a hundreds of racist insults. Expect to get verbally abused when taking a strong stance on many subjects; especially touchy subjects that cover sensitive issues such as race. Just log out of Foursquare and Facebook Places before hitting the check-in button while you watch your 3-year old impersonate a Oreos commercial eating cookies in your house. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

3. Infographics

Infographics are visual representations of an outline of information. The graphic typically constitutes a skyscraper and rectangular image that is 500 pixels or wider. Inside the infographic, you can see factoids represented by smaller images. The smaller images can constitute pictures, graphs, and/or any other imagery associated with the information its representing.

Infographics can get tough to do if you don’t have a graphic designer. However, beyond the sparkling quality of the color and resolution of the images, the information conveyed in the infographic is what will determine its viral success. I put up a simple infographic on what other items could be bought with the money put into a Super Bowl ad and drove over 50,000 views to the Adfreak blog in a few hours.

Super Bowl Infographic

When creating a infographic keep in mind the following best practices:

  • Research your topic from at least 10 resources.
  • Try timelines and abstract ways to display diagrams, graphs, and charts; a popular way to graph data is by using rows or columns of images associated with the data – e.g. stick figures like those used to identify public mens and womens rooms when providing information on people.
  • Post key information that surprises or intensely interests people upon disclosing it; little-known historical facts and processes work well.
  • Use colors for the fonts, background, and images that relate to the topic being discussed. In this case we used colors in relation to football. We used the two team colors that were playing: the Colts and Saints.
  • The font size should poke readers’ eyes into their throats. Make them big, bold and colorful. Emphasize the words that are most important and experiment with different font sizes and styles.

Add several facts that constitute the ‘WOW factor;’ that your audience can relate to. So in the Super Bowl infographic, we related the factoids to popular memes on Digg since that was the initial channel of promotion. And again, although the graphic quality is important, put more focus on the information you will be embedding in the infographic. Visualize the image and draw a rough sketch outlining how you want it to look on paper or digitally.

4. Rewriting Headlines

The new Digg allows you to edit a headline before submitting it to the community. Your headline is the first thing a user sees when the story is posted on his feed. You should incite the need to click and read what loads upon clicking the title.

Top # Lists

When content is already listed or outlined but the title doesn’t read so, you may increase the chance of promoting a story to popularity using a numbered list title. A Forbes story once listed the most expensive private jets in the world. I rewrote the headline to “The 10 Most Expensive Private Jets on the Planet.” I successfully promoted the story and drove thousands of pageviews to it in a few hours. A good way to structure a list is by using the Cracked.com forumula

“The” + (Number) + “Most” + (Over the top adjective) + (Subject) + Of All Time (Synonyms like “in History” or “Ever” will also be accepted) = Popularity

Cracked Popularity Equation

Topics Important to the Digg Community

Some stories generally cover an event or developing topic. At times you will find a something that is dear to the heart of Digg users. I promoted a story for PBS that was covering a political convention, which had a tent catered for bloggers. Digg was mentioned once as a the sponsor. You probably know what I did better than me. I stated how Digg was sponsoring the event as the title. I successfully promoted the story to the front page and exposed it to its million-person user base.

Percentages

I also take the most important percentage that proves the key fact in the story and have made it as a headline. A story explained how betting pools were operating for the upcoming Super Bowl. The story’s key finding reported that 80% of bets were for the underdog, my NY Giants. I used this stat as the headline – “80% of Super Bowl Bets are on the Giants” – and successfully promoted the story to the front page.

How have you composed posts to drive the most traffic to your blogs?

Neal Rodriguez is a social media marketing operator ready to jog in blizzards this winter to get ripped for the summer in New York City.