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How to Blog for a Transient Audience

This post is by Tim Tyrell-Smith, founder of Tim’s Strategy.

We all have a free flow of readers who pop in, consume our content and move along. And while we have them, we hope to convert them: to have them purchase a product, sign up for our feed, or perhaps join our community for good.

Image by Tim Tyrell-Smith

But what if your core audience is transient? Not just a small percentage of them, but the bulk of your readers. They might be in a life stage that requires new knowledge or a key advisor—a life stage that may end before you, the blogger, are ready.

Is your core audience transient?

My primary audience is the active job seeker—a segment of the population that’s highly engaged in my subject. And they’ll stay engaged for the next eight months, on average.

But what happens when they succeed in their job search? Or when the larger macro-economic situation turns around? It’s great news for them, but what about the bloggers looking to build a community in this space?

Of course there are other transient audiences out there. If you write a blog about the following categories, you likely have a transient core audience:

  • pregnant or new mothers
  • beginning photography
  • home buying or selling
  • wedding planning
  • political campaigns

These topics have audiences that are heavily engaged with you today, but may pick up and go tomorrow.

For some of these categories, readers may come back every two or three years (pregnancy) or every five to ten years (home buying). Some needs are unpredictable and can occur at any time (job search). Finally, some are natural progressions (the beginning photographer shifts to intermediate and advanced photography).

My blog has an unpredictable entry point (lay off) and a natural progression (new job) as an exit.

How do you write effectively for a transient audience? How do you keep them satisfied while you have them, and give them a solid reason to become a long-term reader even if your core content becomes less relevant as their lives change? Here are my tips.

1. Know and reflect their experience.

Either on a landing page or about page, you have to connect with new readers. You need to show them that you’re someone who has the life or category experience to lead them through the content successfully.

That first impression really matters. After all, you have to give them a reason to join in the first place, right? A great way to do this is to tell your story (buying your first house, or having your first baby, perhaps). And do so in a way that reaches the emotional or richly practical core of your subject. Whether your story is based on a real-life success, or a failure, the connection to your story is critical in the beginning.

The ideal reader reaction? “He knows me.” “She’s felt my pain.” “They did it right.”

Next, you have to maintain that credibility throughout the first months of their readership. One thing I hear a lot from my readers is: “How did you get in my head? How did you know that was important to me?” The answer has two parts. First, I was there: I was a job seeker for four months in 2007. Second, I meet with ten or 12 job seekers a week, and I ask them lots of questions, so I can stay as relevant and engaged as I can.

2. Know who they are and what they want.

At Blog World, I sat and watched Darren illustrate the importance of creating reader profiles. And I heard him speak about the value of writing posts directly to each profile. He gave each profile a name and a photo, to make them more personal.

As a consumer marketer, I’d done this for years—but I’d never done it for my blog readers. I’m knee-deep in it now.

Ask yourself, “What’s the core content that my readers are looking for? How does it compare (in terms of voice and complexity) to other sources of content in my category?“

While I don’t want to re-hash the same content that’s already out there for job seekers, I know I need to have a base source of content about resumes, interviewing skills, and career networking. Once I do, I can deliver it uniquely. For example, instead of just writing another “how to write a resume” post, I wrote about writing a bare-knuckled resume and cover letter.

I also provide a lot of free content (templates, tools, and ebooks) because I know “practical, easy-to-use, and affordable” is important to anyone looking for work.

While I’m in the process of creating fee-based products and services, I continue to create free content—and will always do that.

2. Know where they’re going next.

While I stay on my primary topic, I try to sprinkle in some more broadly based content.

This allows me to stay highly relevant, but also to begin introducing my role as more than just a job search expert. I also have a perspective and growing expertise on career strategy and work/life issues. For example, I wrote about the importance of building a stable career and life platform. so that if they were ever laid off again, their lives may not be so dependent on a single job.

To support that breadth, a few months ago I renamed the site with the following tagline: job search, career and life. It used to be solely a job search blog.

I am also developing a career strategy newsletter as a way to join my readers, arm in arm, as they transition into their new job, and are looking for content that will support their successful entry into the new company. This is content that will help keep them in a job, and out of the job search market.

I’m also beginning building my database. This is a must, I now realize—especially for bloggers with a transient audience. I figure this is much better than complaining about their departure.

This way, I can celebrate their success and be a part of their new world in a very natural way. But if they ever need me again for job search, I’m here for that too.

Do you target a transient audience? How do you keep them coming back?

Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim’s Strategy, a blog that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimsStrategy and share his 30 Ideas E-Book with job seeking friends!

How Personal Experience Helps Me Blog Better

This guest post is by Kiesha of WeBlogBetter.

Have you ever wondered how some bloggers never seem to run out of post ideas? They always manage to escape the dreaded writer’s block unscathed; they’re always full of inspiration. Ideas overflow and pour onto the page as they type feverishly. They’ve tapped into a mystical stream of never-ending stories.

What if I told you that you could tap into the same power?

Everything you’ve already learned and experienced can be used to create infinite and original ideas for your blog. If you can turn on the analytical and creative juices in your brain, you’ll never run out of ideas.

Almost anything you’ve learned in school, on the job—even life’s lessons in general—can be turned into useful analogies or comparisons. Music, television shows, movies, or videos can also be used as fuel for unique and engaging blog posts.

There are almost no limits to this technique. In fact, the more unlikely and unusual the comparisons you make, the better.

Using my personal experience to blog better

Whenever something evokes an “Aha!” moment for me, I immediately think about how I can use that principle for blogging.

For example, late one night, I was watching The Karate Kid. At the point when young Dre finally realizes that all those days and weeks spent picking up his jacket had really been preparing and strengthening him, my mind immediately connected that experience to blogging.

When Mr. Han said, “Kung Fu lives in everything we do … Everything is Kung Fu”, I jumped up like a hot coal had landed in my lap. I grabbed a pen and wrote:

“Blogging lives in everything we do … Everything is blogging! Every experience is potential blogging material!”

My husband thought I was going mad as I frantically scribbled this on an already over-filled piece of paper. It was a major “Aha!” moment!

Yes, everything in my life — even those experiences that I thought were useless wastes of time — had been preparing me for blogging.

You might not be able to see the similarities between blogging and manicuring nails, but what I learned years ago as a nail technician helps me blog better today. I was known for my creative airbrush designs and 3D nail art. I had more customers than I had time. It sounds like I should be rich by now, right?

Here’s the problem: I loved the design/art part of the process, but I hated the chemical aspects of the job. I also hate feet, which wasn’t the best of news for customers who wanted their toes to match their fingers. I suffer from the exact opposite of a “foot fetish.” Would that be a foot phobia? What I learned is that no amount of money justifies doing (or smelling) things you hate.

How does that translate to blogging?

Nothing, not even money, should be the reason for blogging about something you’re not passionate about.

I can see many parallels between applying acrylic nails and blogging.

They both require preparation

When applying acrylic nails, the surface must be adequately prepared. Skimping on this step creates the prime condition for the growth of fungus or other harmful pathogens that, if left untreated, could create medical problems for the customer.

With blogging, if you don’t take adequate time to prepare with research and fact checking, you could potentially steer a reader in the wrong direction. They may not be physically harmed, but advice you offer on your blog could harm a person’s business or their blogging efforts—and maybe even adversely impact their finances.

They Both Require Good Design

If I tried to put a beautiful design on a malformed nail, it only made the malformation more apparent. On the other hand, a well-formed nail with an ugly or bland design would be a waste of sculpting efforts. In other words, the nail had to be both well formed and display a beautiful design.

The same is true for a blog. You can have the most beautiful blog design, but if your site lacks valuable content, no one’s going to want to return. You need both good design and great content.

So you see, yes there is much to learn about blogging from doing nails. There is much to learn about blogging from everything—from all of your experiences.

Over to you

Have you ever thought about how your own abundance of personal experiences relates to your own niche? And how you can use that to create a blog unlike any other?

  1. Start by listing some of the most vivid experiences you’ve had, or lessons you’ve learned over the years.
  2. Then instead of thinking about how different they are from blogging, think about how similar they are.
  3. Use those points of intersection to highlight those similarities.
  4. Then mesh those ideas together to create something new.

What you’ll get is something totally unpredictable and extremely insightful.

Which pieces of your personal experience and life lessons could you use to create an interesting analogy or comparison in a blog post? Which could you use to help you improve your blogging in general?

Kiesha blogs at WeBlogBetter, offering blogging tips and tricks. She’s a technical writer, writing instructor, and blog consultant for small business owners. Connect with her on Twitter @weblogbetter.

Google Feedburner Delivers Real-time Traffic Stats

This week, Google unveiled an upgraded Feedburner stats package that provides real-time data on clicks, views, and podcast downloads.

For the social media fanatics, the Feedburner team add that, “if you use the FeedBurner Socialize service, and your platform uses PubSubHubbub or you ping us when you post, you can for the first time get stats on how much traffic your feed items are receiving from Twitter, as well as feed reading platforms like Google Reader in one place.”

Looks like those Refresh buttons are set to get a workout… Have you tried the new stats? What are your thoughts?

The Goal Post: Why Goals Matter More than Ever

goals.pngImage by Iguana Jo.

Overheard in Vegas at BlogWorld Expo:

“I just started a blog and I’m excited to see where it will lead me.”

Have you ever said something like that? When I started out, it was certainly something I remember telling a friend. Nobody really knew where the medium of blogging would lead—we were all quite happy to let thing evolve and see where we ended up.

There was actually some sense in this approach: blogging was still evolving, and because the space wasn’t overly crowded or competitive, many bloggers were swept almost accidentally into amazing opportunities.

The problem that today’s beginning bloggers face is that the see-where-it-will-lead approach doesn’t always work. There are many millions of blogs, mainstream media is investing serious cash into the space, and some of the everybody-wins style of collaboration that used to go on in the blogosphere has disappeared.

While good things still come when you let your blog evolve, and luck still plays a part, many of the more successful bloggers that I meet today are strategic about what they’re doing.

One of the themes I taught at BlogWorld Expo this year focused on goals.

Knowing what you want to achieve and where you want to end up will make you more likely to end up achieving those things.

Conversely, setting out on a path with no idea of what you want to achieve leaves your destination purely up to chance. It could end up being good—or it could end up quite the opposite.

“If you don’t know where you are going, how can you expect to get there?” – Basil S Walsh

The blogger who didn’t set goals

I told this story at BWE last week.

A number of years ago, a young blogger burst onto the scene in one of the niches I wrote in. They got noticed faster than almost any blogger I’d seen before: within weeks, their blog was getting hundreds of comments and being talked about on many other blogs.

The reason they were noticed so quickly was that almost every post they wrote took a pot-shot at another blogger in their niche. Posts on the blog were critiques, rants, and personal attacks on other key people in the niche (including me). And as a result, the blogger got noticed very, very quickly.

The blog grew over the coming months, largely based upon this snarky philosophy. Other bloggers saw the strategy working and new snarky blogs sprung up. The niche wasn’t a particularly pleasant one to be a part of for a while there.

I always thought it was a pity—the blogger was actually a smart person and when they wanted to, they had good things to say. But the blog always seemed to be seasoned with a toxic edge which detracted from what I thought could have been achieved.

One day, the blog that started it all stopped publishing. The blog went silent.

A few months later, the blog disappeared altogether. All traces of it vanished (although I’m sure it still lives in those Internet archiving sites).

I always wondered what happened to the blogger, until a few months ago, I found myself in a chat room listening to a webinar and recognized their name as one of the other participants.

I managed to get the blogger to jump on Skype with me and asked what had happened. Why had they stopped blogging?

The story the person told me was that they’d started blogging with one very vague goal: to get noticed. Beyond getting noticed, they didn’t really know what they wanted to achieve. It was only after they’d gotten noticed that they realized their ultimate goal was to be an authoritative voice in the niche. The blogger wanted to be someone that people looked to with respect. They wanted to be someone who’d be asked to speak and write books on the topic.

The problem was that the way they’d initially gone about their blogging had actually taken them away from their belatedly identified goals. They’d burned bridges and become known as the snarky blogger, rather than the authority blogger.

“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” – Fitzhugh Dodson

I don’t have goals!?

I’m very aware that many bloggers start blogs without hard and fast goals. They take the I’ll-see-where-it-leads approach. This was my approach, too—and good things did come from it.

However, the reality is that as vague as they were, I did have goals even back when I started eight years back.

They certainly weren’t long-term or far-reaching grand goals about where I’d be today. Rather, they were goals about the next steps—where I’d be in the coming days and weeks.

Over time, I achieved some of what I set out to do. I abandoned other goals and set new ones—some of them for the longer term. The key was to identify a direction to head in, and start moving.

You don’t always need the ultimate destination in mind, but if you can identify some next steps to work towards, at least you’ll be heading somewhere with intention.

“Progress has little to do with speed, but much to do with direction” – Unknown

Do you have goals for your blogging or are you seeing where blogging will lead you?

Further reading

Thanks to @pushingsocial and @kennyhyder for help on Twitter with the title of this post.

The 5 Foundations of Social Media Success that No One Talks About

This post is by Clare Lancaster, of WomenInBusiness.com.au.

As I was sitting down to write my first social media column for ProBlogger I was thinking about the best place to start. Should I do a run through of the basics or jump right into reporting on my latest experiment?

My sense of flow and logic won over and here we are at the beginning, a very good place to start.

The rave, by leocub

I could talk about the things we’ve all heard before. Such as how important it is to observe the etiquette on social networking platforms—to behave like you’re at a friend’s cocktail party, not a sales conference.

Or the fact that you should build your network slowly, with focus, and engage people in conversation—not drill out your sales message and expect people to pay attention.

Or that networking platforms like Twitter are a communication tool—not a marketing tactic.

But that’s not very exciting, is it? Instead, here are 5 foundations of social media success that no one talks about.

1. Nice guys finish first.

Just as building your blog business is a marathon, not a sprint, so is your path to social media success. Resist the urge at all times to automate your network building. People want to do business with people they like. Be a nice guy and help people out. Answer questions generously. Connect people who would benefit from knowing each other.

2. People like people who like them.

This one’s all about ego (theirs, not yours). The first thing businesses want to know when they come to me for advice is, “How can I get the attention of my audience? No one is talking to me.”

I say: talk to audience; don’t wait for them to talk to you. Notice individuals and what they’re doing before you expect anyone to notice you and what you’re doing. Don’t just notice them, promote them.

3. Transparency isn’t everything.

There’s a lot to be said about transparency. Again, something we’re told all the time is that transparency and authenticity are key to social media success. Yes, people like to see behind the scenes of your business and what you’re creating. Yes, they like to know the human side of your brand. No, they don’t want to know what you had for breakfast. Or that you’re broke. Above all, don’t be boring.

4. Position yourself.

We’ve established that people do business with people they like. So does your network know what you do? You want to position yourself to be top of mind for a topic, and the easiest way to do this is to live and breathe it. If you’re blogging about your passion, this will come naturally.

5. Pay special attention to your fans.

Do you know who your fans are? Now before you get all Rock Star on me, I mean the people who comment on your blog and your Facebook page, retweet your posts and always open your emails. Know them, connect with them, and make them feel special.

So how did I go? Are there any questions you have about the basics of social media? Are there any topics you’d like me to talk about in more depth? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Clare Lancaster offers blog reviews to help improve the business performance of your blog. She is passionate about helping people make their own path in work and life and can be found on Twitter most days (@clarelancaster).

The 7 Harsh Realities of Blogging for Bucks

At this year’s Blog World Expo, Darren joined with Brian and Sonia from Copyblogger for the keynote presentation, entitled The 7 Harsh Realities of Blogging for Bucks.

As Sonia explained, these seven “crying babies” of blog monetization are worth noting and understanding. But as the keynote speakers address each of these, they discuss the blogger’s alternative options: what you can do instead of making these mistakes. They also discuss the many great things about blogging.

The keynote presentation begins in the 33rd minute of this video. Let us know your reactions and thoughts below!

Inside the Life of the Other Kind of ProBlogger

This guest post is by Paul Cunningham, blogger, internet marketer, and author of How to Become a Successful Freelance Blogger,

I bet that you could easily name at least a dozen blogs that dispense blogging tips to other bloggers. The so-called “blogging blogs” vary in many different ways, but they all tend to give out the same basic advice: start a blog, build your audience, monetize, and maybe one day you’ll reach that six-figure income that defines you as a “problogger”.

But what about the other kind of problogger, the one who gets paid simply to write blog posts? You might think of them as freelance bloggers, or staff writers, or maybe you’ve never actually thought about them at all.

Consider this: while you work hard to build up your own blog, writing post after post and trying to find the traffic and monetization strategies that will work for you, those freelance bloggers are out there getting paid for every blog post they write.

So, is it really that easy for freelance bloggers to make money while most other bloggers make nothing? Let’s take a look inside the life of these other probloggers.

Skills and experience

A freelance blogger isn’t all that different from someone who publishes their own blog. The freelancer is a regular person who knows how to use WordPress to write and edit blog posts, just like any of you reading this that have used WordPress before.

They certainly don’t need to be a WordPress expert, because someone else is responsible for all of the technical stuff that goes on behind the scenes of the blogs they write for. Installing plugins, dealing with comment spam, and performing upgrades are things that don’t eat up the freelancer’s time and energy. They’re free to concentrate on the writing.

The freelancer also either has strong experience in the topic they’re writing about, or uses simple research techniques to write with authority on almost any topic they wish.

This is more common than most people realize. After all, the biggest audience for most blogs is the beginner level, so freelance bloggers only need to be at intermediate level—or be able to fill in their knowledge gaps with research—to be able to write about the topic.

Discipline and time management

Make no mistake: that image you have in your head of a freelance blogger sitting in their pyjamas at home or relaxing at the local coffee shop while they work is true in a lot of cases. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t professionals too.

Freelancer blogging is a business, and has to be treated as one. The clients that you write for depend on quality blog posts being submitted on time. A freelancer can’t just spontaneously take the day off when they’ve got a deadline to meet. If they did, their reputation would take a hit, and reputation is one of the biggest assets a freelance blogger has.

Because most freelancers work from home, there are numerous distractions throughout the day that can easily harm their productivity. Successful freelance bloggers develop excellent time management skills and create routines that have them writing at their most productive times of day.

Money, money, money!

By now you might be wondering just how much money a freelance blogger makes, compared to the typical problogger. Naturally, this depends on a few different factors.

The ability to find and win good paying work is the first challenge. Freelance blogging opportunities are in plentiful supply at the moment (just take a look at the action on the ProBlogger job board as one example), and the trend seems to be towards more work rather than less.

Now that blogging has become mainstream, it plays a big part in the web strategies of a huge variety of media companies. The top blogs in the world tend to be high-volume, multi-author sites using a mix of staff writers and freelance bloggers to turn out the amount of content they need to compete in their niche.

All of this means that freelancers who are able to present a good portfolio of work, and have the discipline and professionalism to do the job, can virtually pick and choose exactly how much work they want to do each week. This puts the earning potential of a freelance blogger almost entirely within their own control.

It’s no surprise, then, to find that freelance bloggers can be anything from hobbyists who do it one or two nights a week for a bit of side income, all the way to full-time freelancers running their own six-figure business writing for multiple clients.

My experience in freelance blogging

I’ve spent the last two years freelance blogging. For me it was a side income — some extra money that I could reinvest into my own blogs as I was building them. It meant that I didn’t need to dip into our family savings to pay for the WordPress themes, plugins, ebooks, and other products that have helped me along the way.

While I was blogging, I met numerous bloggers who spend most of their time doing paid freelance work. A lot of them also run their own blogs for fun, and some make good money from those blogs too, but for most of them the attraction of freelance blogging is that it gives them a steadier income and almost instant return for their effort.

What about you? As you work to build your own profitable blogs, would a freelance blogging income help you get there faster?

Paul Cunningham is a blogger, internet marketer, and the author of How to Become a Successful Freelance Blogger, the ebook that teaches you how to turn your knowledge and passion into a real income stream. Follow Paul on Twitter.

Slow and Steady vs the Quick Knock-out: Marketing Fight Night

This guest post is by Barb Sawyers, of Sticky Communication.

In one corner of the ring, we have me,  a new online marketer who has bought into the content marketing philosophy of trust. I hope I can go the distance! In the other corner is the nimble Ninja, who swings fast and furious to end the match quickly.

Who’s your money on?

Experience, backed by the many limited-time offers I receive every day, suggests that Ninja is your best bet.

But let me explain why I think you should place your wager on people like me.

I keep reading advice from people like the Web Marketing Ninja who, in this recent post, applies the traditional marketing principle of urgency. He even advised online marketers to threaten to double the price. At least he didn’t tell them to try the fake scarcity punch, as many hard-liners do.

But what if you’re selling something that’s neither urgent nor scarce? What if you don’t feel comfortable raising and lowering your prices or pulling products off and on the shelves to whip up buyer frenzy? What if you don’t want to look like a late-night infomercial huckster? What happened to all those books and blogs about building online trust?

Maybe the answer lies in the middle. Maybe urgency—and scarcity—can be deployed to provide a little nudge, as long as they are grounded in reality. No knockout punches, please.

What to do if you’re new

So I thought about how I could apply authentic urgency and scarcity without eroding trust to boost sales of my ebook, Write like you talk—only better.

I’m thrilled when somebody visits my site and immediately buys the book. But I think people are more likely to purchase if they’ve read a few of my posts, and maybe scanned the reviews. When they’re in a panic about that white paper or whatever their boss has told them to write, they’ll be back, brandishing their credit cards. I’ve kept the price low enough that people don’t need to wait for a fire sale.

How I fixed my pitch

Still, my approach wasn’t an overnight success. So I went back to my pitch page, ready to apply some advice from the masters.

People who don’t buy my book today will not die a horrible death. But they could get in trouble with the boss for not finishing that white paper on time or with their loved ones for being stressed and cranky. If their problem is urgent, the solution must be quick.

So my authentic urgency is based on the buyer’s immediate need and my fast-acting solution.

I revised the page to explain that they could expect to start seeing results—in terms of easier, faster, and friendlier writing—as soon as they started applying the three steps from the book. To be catchy, I added that they needed to buy it “before another sentence falls flat.”

Scarcity was more challenging, as I’m not going to yank an ebook that I just started selling. But what if, like urgency, I consider scarcity from the buyer’s point of view?

Products are authentically scarce if they are unique.

My product is scarce because it’s the only one that bases writing advice on something people are already comfortable with: talking. Instead of forcing them to relive high-school English, or memorize and apply 173 tips, as some other books do, it focuses on the big common writing pitfalls to avoid and the most powerful memory-enhancing steroids.

In addition to my concern that extreme urgency and scarcity tactics will erode trust, I don’t think this old bag of marketing tricks always works.

Like many shoppers, I love to find a bargain. But I won’t buy a new dishwasher simply because there’s a good deal this week, unless mine has died. If I need a dishwasher, I will scan the flyers for a sale.

On the other hand, I will respond to a limited-time offer if I’m looking for an excuse to buy those cute shoes or if I’m already looking for an online course like yours. I also go for the specials when I’m grocery shopping—a big expense with two teenagers to feed—but only on items we eat regularly or might like to try.

The limited-time offer, or urgency, gives me a little push. That’s all.

Let me stress that I will not buy your ebook or SEO software because you are threatening to double the price next week or soon as I leave the seminar room or site. I’m too smart for the nimble Ninja. I think my buyers are too.

Like me, I hope they would rather buy one thing they really want than ten things they were pressured into buying.

What’s more, I believe manipulative tactics are for commodities where cheaper is always better, rather than for intellectual property that smart people will talk about around water coolers and on Twitter.

And let’s not forget the ancient wisdom of Aesop and his fable about the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins.

Sustain the success

So maybe the Ninja is going to rack up a few quick knock-outs. If the money is on only one match, I’d place my wager with him.

But if we’re betting on who’s going the distance to maintain the champion title, I think people like me stand a better chance. Then again, I’m not yet a proven online marketing success.

Are you? If so, please weigh in. I have teenagers to feed.

Barb Sawyers believes that business writing should be friendlier, easier and more fun. She blogs at http://www.stickycommunication.ca/blog and summarizes her wisdom in her ebook “Write like you talk—only better, 3 steps to turn good talkers into great writers.”

5 Ways to Monetize Your Blog Without Selling Out

Last week at Blog World Expo, I had conversations with literally hundreds of bloggers about their blogging.

It was interesting to see some of the themes that emerged as bloggers shared their challenges, problems and fears.

One of the recurring conversations that I had revolved around bloggers’ fear of being seen as sell-outs by readers when they started to monetize their blogs.

On numerous occasions this past week I’ve chatted with bloggers who’ve been so scared of the potential reader reaction that it stopped them from adding any form of monetization to their blogs. In some cases, this meant the bloggers were no longer able to sustain what they do financially.

Here’s a summary of some of the reflections I had to those expressing this fear.

1. Be clear about your goals and values.

Perhaps one of the best things a blogger can do in this area is to know where it is they’re headed—or at least where they want to move to with their blogs. Just as important is to have a clear understanding of your values.

Give some thought to these factors, and you’ll be in a strong position to make some good decisions about the strategies and methods you’ll use to reach your goals. You’ll also be in a good place to do some self-monitoring to keep yourself from selling out.

Filter people’s reactions through the framework of your own values and goals, and you’ll hopefully be able to tell whether there’s truth in what they’re saying.

2. Provide value to readers.

I remember the first time I released an ebook on Digital Photography School. I was very nervous about launching it, because I didn’t know how readers would react. I remember hitting the Publish button on the launch post, and expecting a backlash from readers emailing to express how insulted that they were that I’d try to sell them anything.

But the backlash didn’t come.

Instead, I started receiving emails from readers thanking me for the ebook. The lesson I learned was that if you provide something of value to people—something that will matter to them, and help them overcome a problem—they’re often only too happy to buy it.

Not only should your product be valuable, but the interaction you have with your readers in the lead-up to its launch should be valuable too. Among the emails I received that day were messages from readers saying that they’d never bought anything online before. Yet, based on the past interactions that I’d had with them and helped them, they’d felt compelled to buy my ebook.

3. Communicate your reasoning for the charge.

I hope I’m not sounding like I’ve never had negative feedback about releasing a product. At times there have been readers who’ve expressed feelings of resentment or disappointment when I’ve released products.

In these instances, my main approach is to attempt to share my backstory of the product’s release. For example, I remember the first time I put ads on my first blog. By no means was this a play to become rich; I was just trying to make my blog break even.

One particular reader started a campaign against me, and accused me of selling out. My response was simply to email him with my story. I communicated how my blog was costing me money each month and that as a newly married guy working numerous part time jobs and trying to provide free valuable information to readers, I needed to find a way for the site to break even. On hearing the story the reader’s attitude was turned around.

Similarly, when I launched the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog ebook, I told the story of how my readers had pretty much demanded that I turn the original series of blog posts into a PDF, and indicated that they’d pay for the content in that format. In doing so I was able to communicate how the idea wasn’t even mine—in fact, it came from reader need.

I also think sometimes people need to be reminded that behind a blog is a real person who needs to find a way to sustain it. In most cases, when you share that information, I think people understand your need to monetize your blog.

4. Monitor your own motivations.

Being in any kind of business will undoubtedly lead you into situations where you’re presented with opportunities to sell out. The reality is that it can be tempting at times.

I remember an instance two years back where I was offered a five-figure sum for a series of tweets promoting a product—a product I’d never used and never would have recommended myself. The catch was that the tweets had to be positive, they’d be written by someone else, and I couldn’t include a disclaimer stating that I was being paid to tweet them.

The situation was certainly tempting on some levels: over $10,000 for a few Tweets!? I could have paid for a new car, or a year or two of my kids’ education with those tweets. But ultimately I knew that it was just a quick cash grab. I wasn’t willing to go there because it didn’t fit with my values, and the motivations I felt for doing it weren’t healthy ones.

5. Be accountable to others.

The last thing I’d add on this topic is that it can be worthwhile to have others who you can bounce these issues off. Sometimes, as  individuals, we can lose a little perspective on the realities of monetization, and the voices of others can draw us back to good decisions.

I regularly bounce the opportunities that I’m offered off a small group of people—family, friends, and fellow bloggers. In a sense it’s a little advisory board (although it’s certainly not that formal!) that I give permission to ask me tough questions, and help me stay on course to achieving the goals and values I mentioned above.

There have been a number of instances over the years when these people have pulled me back from making decisions that, upon reflection, would have seen me sell out.

In a similar way. I think it’s also wise to listen to what a wider group of people are saying to you. And that wider group is your readers. While there will almost always be someone who has a negative reaction to your approach (you can’t please everyone), there’ll be times when there’s a wider feeling among your readers that you really need to hear. At these times, it’s worth going back to your core motivations, and seeing if the wisdom of the crowd is something you need to pay attention to.

How do you stop yourself from selling out on your blog?