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How to Brand Your Blog’s YouTube Channel

This guest post is by Jenny Dean of Business Blog Writers.

Whether you run a business with a YouTube channel, you’re a blogger whose blog has a complementary YouTube channel, or you’re someone with a blog who’s thinking of setting up a YouTube channel, you may be interested in knowing how to brand a YouTube channel.

Why is branding important?  The most famous brands in the world are identified by their logos. In fact, a college kid can be wearing a red shirt with white lettering in the font of the Coke brand, but the message on the shirt doesn’t even have to read “Coke” in order for us to know what brand it is.

Your brand gives people a way to easily identify you. Because images are so powerful, your brand becomes a way for them to emotionally connect with you as well.  Whether if they find your blog by seeing one of your videos on YouTube, or if they end up on YouTube through a link from your site, you want them to know they’re still with you.

Although social networking has brought a lot of advantages to bloggers and companies, it also limits the ways you can control your brand. YouTube has made this a little easier by allowing you to include your branding within your account.

There are two options when it comes to branding your YouTube channel:

  • A background branding option, which is available to everyone.
  • A banner and call-to-action branding option that’s available only YouTube partner.

That’s right: only YouTube partners can add banners to their channels. If you want to add a banner and you’re not a YouTube partner, you might want to become one.  Of course, being a YouTube partner also gives you the opportunity to earn extra cash because YouTube shares ad revenue with its partners.

In order to qualify as a YouTube partner, your videos need to attract a certain number of views, and you need to post rather regularly. Unfortunately, the exact number of hits you need, and the post frequency requirements aren’t defined numbers. You can learn more about YouTube Partner qualifications on the YouTube website.  As a guide, my own application for my YouTube channel took over four months, and I think I applied twice. If you’ve had experience with becoming a YouTube partner, please tell us about it in the comments.

To give you a quick visual idea of the difference between a branded YouTube channel and one that is not branded, check out the image below:

You can immediately see the brand advantage of having my Floppycats.com domain name staring you in the face. My Antioxidant-fruits.com page is hardly recognizable—all it has is a dinky little image next to my username for that channel. As you can guess, I am not a YouTube partner on my Antioxidant-fruits.com channel (the application is pending)—otherwise I’d switch it up immediately.

Adding your website’s banner to your YouTube channel

If you’re already a YouTube partner, these are the steps you’ll need to follow to add your website’s banner to your YouTube channel.

  1. Sign into YouTube.
  2. Select My Channel from the drop-down menu under your username at the top-left of the YouTube page.
  3. Click on Branding Options.
  4. Upload your banner.  You may need to resize your banner to the maximum width and height at which your banner can appear on YouTube, which is 960px by 150px.  Of course, it can be smaller than 960px by 150px, but no larger than that.  Note that your banner can only be an image—either a .gif, .jpeg, or .png. You can’t use a Flash banner, for example.
  5. Fill in the Channel Banner Height.
  6. Fill in the Channel Banner Link. This is where the user will be redirected if s/he clicks on the banner.  If you would like your banner to link to several different areas, you will need to add in an Image Map Code, which will allow you to attach certain links to certain parts of the banner.
  7. Click Save Changes.
  8. Refresh your page and see how it looks.

How does all this look in the end?  Here’s how my Floppycats.com YouTube channel banner turned out:

Adding your blog’s call to action to your YouTube channel

In addition to adding your website’s banner, you can also add your website’s call to action or CTA to your YouTube channel.  This is advantageous because it can become another source of traffic for your website (and in my case, another way to generate free content for my blog). Here’s how to do it.

  1. Sign into YouTube.
  2. Select My Channel from the drop-down menu under your username at the top-left of the YouTube page.
  3. Click on Branding Options.
  4. Below the Channel Banner there is a section called Channel Side Column Image. This image will display in the left column above the “Connect with” box (maximum 300px by 250px).
  5. Upload the image.
  6. Add your“Side Column Image Link, CTA landing page, or, again, you can set up an Image Map Code.
  7. Click Save Changes.
  8. Refresh your channel to see if you like how it looks.

Here’s how my Floppycats.com YouTube channel side column image turned out:

As I mentioned, I waited about four months to find out that I was a YouTube Partner for my Floppycats.com site.  I went in and added the channel banner and the channel side column image. I also added video page branding, which is an image that’s substituted for your channel name.

Adding your brand to individual video pages

  1. Sign into YouTube.
  2. Select My Channel from the drop-down menu under your username at the top-left of the YouTube page.
  3. Click on Branding Options.
  4. Click on Video Page Branding.
  5. Upload an image that’s 25px in height and up to 170px in width (width can be flexible, but no more than 170px wide).  The image will display at the upper left corner of the Watch page on all your video pages.
  6. Click Save Changes.
  7. Go to one of your videos to see if you like how it looks.

Here’s how my Floppycats.com YouTube Video Page Branding looks now:

If your YouTube channel is one of your main sources of traffic and is at the core of what you’re all about, then you might consider updating it when major holidays are around the corner to be a little more festive.

Or if you are running a promotion, a special giveaway, or some other promotion, you could definitely exchange your website banner, CTA image, or your video branding image for a more time-sensitive one, and replace the promotional image with the original after your event has ended.

Another option: grab a background

In doing additional research for this post, I came across another great blog post about creating a free YouTube background to make your YouTube channel more stylish. This option is especially helpful for people that aren’t yet YouTube partners.

What ideas or tips do you have for branding your YouTube Channel?  I’d be interested in hearing any creative marketing strategies you’ve come up with!

Jenny Dean is a 31-year-old-business owner and entrepreneur from Kansas City. Jenny is currently working on Business Blog Writers, a company that supplies blog content specifically for company’s blogs, Floppycats.com, an informational website about Ragdoll cats and Antioxidant-fruits.com, an informational website about the antioxidant powers of fruit. Follow Business Blog Writers on Twitter or on Facebook.

Two Six-figure Strategies to Help You with Your Next Product Launch

Earlier in the week I wrote a post about two factors that played a significant part in the growing of my own blogging business over the last two years.

  1. making a mind shift away from just relying upon advertising and affiliate revenue to starting to build my own products
  2. investing in training and starting to learn from others who had experience in marketing and launching products online.

I mentioned Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula (PLF) in that previous post and recommended you check out some videos that he’s recently released (as well as a free report that gives a great blueprint overview of how to release products).

Today I want to share a couple of strategies that I learned from Jeff’s PLF, and which have been a part of my own recent success. I’d estimate that together they’ve been well over six-figure lessons.

1. Using events to launch products

One of the key elements of Jeff’s teaching is that he gets you to think about the launches of your products as events. This concepts has become increasingly important to me in my own product launches, as well as in some of the affiliate marketing that I’ve done.

One of the best examples of this from my own last 12 months as the 12 Days of Christmas promotion we ran on my photography blog. Simply thinking about it as a 12-day event helped a lot, both in terms of my own planning and execution of the event, but also in terms of how it was received by readers.

I was very nervous at the start of the promotion that readers would become sick of it, but framing it as a 12-day event connected with people. We even had readers emailing us asking where our daily promotional emails were if we ran a little behind schedule.

Effectively what we try to do now with our ebook launches is take people on a journey, rather than send them a series of “buy my ebook” type emails.

2. Perpetual product launches

Launching a product (whether it’s an ebook, a course, a piece of software, or something else) is a big effort. Typically now when we release an ebook at dPS, we do so over a two- to three-week period (one week of prelaunch stuff, then two weeks for the launch event).

However, once the initial launch is over, many bloggers then move onto developing their next product and preparing for that launch. Business tends to revolve around a series of events, spiking revenue along the way.

This is how things were for me for a while, but in the Product Launch Formula teaching I came across the idea of the Perpetual Product Launch. This is where you effectively launch a product to a segment of your readers every single day.

An example of this is my first photography ebook, The Essential Guide to Portrait Photography, which I initially launched almost two years ago with a big launch.

After that initial launch, sales dried up to a trickle. So I decided to experiment with a perpetual launch and added to the auto responder sequence that I’d already developed for the site a new email. It would mail to new subscribers about seven days after they subscribed, and offer them the same discount that we offered during the initial launch of the ebook.

The email is not very salsey—it simply thanks the person for subscribing, introduces the ebook and tells the story of its initial launch at 25% discount. It then passes that same discount on to readers with a limited-time offer.

Every day this email goes out to a segment of new readers automatically, and every day it generates sales. While the daily sales are nothing like our initial product launch, over time they’ll exceed that product launch’s total sales many times over.

So without the concept of perpetual product launches, I’d have been leaving significant money on the table.

Grab the Product Launch Formula Blueprint today

These are just two of many strategies that Jeff teaches. There are many more (so many that I’ve not even implementing them all yet).

To get an overview of his launch strategy Jeff’s put together the Product Launch Blueprint—a PDF report accompanied by a 45-minute video that walks you through the material. It walks you through many of the strategies that Jeff teaches in the full PLF course and, whether you go on to do the course or not, it’s going to give you ideas that will translate into increased success for your own product launches.

The cost of this report is simply your email address, which will put you onto Jeff’s list to receive further teaching videos (and which you can unsubscribe from an any time). Grab the report today.

Accepting the Blogger’s Social Responsibility

This is a guest post by Bryan Cassidy of Endless Bucket List.

On a daily basis we bloggers are bombarded posts about so-called unique methods of making money, getting new advertisement opportunities, and how to increase revenue streams. It becomes so deeply ingrained in our minds that the end goal, if we care about monetizing our blog, is to become the next millionaire blogger. For some of us, blogging is our job so we truly need the revenue. But based on the inherent characteristic that bloggers enjoy helping each other, shouldn’t we bloggers have a social responsibility to give back to society?

Darren mentions the five “Cs” of blogging include content, community, points of connection, cash, and contributing something of value to the world and the blogosphere. As blogging allows us to easily share ideas and connect with individuals around the world, we shouldn’t be relying on corporations and philanthropists to help those in need.

Proactive or passive?

Bloggers can be classified in two groups when it comes to giving back to society: we’re either proactive or passive. A proactive blogger will more than likely actively assist charities by offering direct assistance. An example would be Darren’s travels in Tanzania with a charity to assist with a project and capture the story.

A passive blogger is more likely to place a widget on their blog sidebar, enabling a reader to navigate to a third-party site to make a donation if they feel inclined.

It truly doesn’t matter what group you fall into, as both provide human or monetary resources to a specific cause. I personally feel that bloggers should try to move into the proactive group, as the conversion rate for a charity or non-profit button will most likely be lower than what you can achieve by proactively giving back to society.

Six ways you can give back, starting today

I’m not talking about posting helpful information on a blog as being your gift to society. I personally can’t recall anyone in world history who has mentioned helpful information that has changed society without specific action by someone else.

What I’m talking about here is donating monetary resources to a charity in desperate need, donating your own time to personally help a charity, donating technical skills to help promote a charity, or helping educate those who cannot attend a place of learning.

While ideas and information may spur innovation to help in the long run, sometimes direct contribution can be the better solution for immediate impact. Here are a few ideas on how you can start to give back on your blog;

1. Donate a percentage of revenue (e.g. affiliate revenue, ebook sales, etc.) to a specific cause.
2. Place a widget or PayPal button on your blog.
3. Partner with other bloggers for a specific purposes (e.g. PassportsWithPurpose).
4. Organize a specific day to meet with your readers to participate in a community service project.
5. Find charities in your local community that need help advertising, and use your technical abilities to help build a blog for them.
6. Start a scholarship for your community to help pay education costs for under-privileged children.

Finding a correlation between your niche and a charity

Now don’t get me wrong: I personally feel that a donation to any charity, even if it doesn’t directly tie to your blog, is a good thing for society. But we are taught to keep our blog ideas tied tightly together, and a blogger should be able to look at the overall mission of their blog and identify a possible opportunity to “pay it forward” to society. Once you start looking, it’s not difficult to find a cause that aligns with your blog’s niche. Here are a few examples.

A couple that blog about renovating their house at Young House Love donate surplus children’s toys and clothes to Goodwill and almost every piece of furniture, lighting, cabinetry, door, window, and fan to the Habitat For Humanity ReStore.

Matador Network, an international travel magazine blog, is a member of the 1% Of The Planet charity, which asks its members to donate 1% of their sales revenue to the natural environment.

My own site, where my partner and I blog about our bucket list journey and inspire others to start their own list, donates a percentage of affiliate revenue to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

Can my actions make a difference?

It’s a fair question. We can feel that our individual actions cannot move an obstacle. Just like any other animal on this planet, our strength comes in large groups. We bloggers have done this before by uniting together after the devastating Haiti earthquakes in January 2010 and asking readers to donate to international charities.

But don’t be tricked into thinking that change can only be brought by massive groups, our individual actions carry weight too. The well-known butterfly effect theory states that, “…a small action can have large effects elsewhere.” When we, as individuals, give back to society, we are essentially throwing a pebble into a large calm lake, causing a ripple that will be felt on the opposite shore. Those ripples are the good deeds that we’ve passed back to society, and which will ultimately have an effect on someone less fortunate.

What are the benefits?

  • You’ll enjoy the great satisfaction of returning a favor to society.
  • You may build trust with new readers and a strong foundation with existing readers by showing your personal effort to pay it forward.
  • Your blog may experience a boost of traffic from other blogs or media coverage.

So now I challenge you: how can or does your blog contribute back to society?

Bryan Cassidy runs Endless Bucket List with his soon-to-be-wife Lauren, a blog that captures their stories on accomplishing the joint bucket list items and inspiring readers to start their own bucket list. You can subscribe to their RSS feed.

Eliminate 21 Reputation-Crushing Writing Mistakes from Your Blog

This is a guest post by Stefanie Flaxman of Revision Fairy® Small Business Proofreading Services

Writing mistakes happen.

Unfortunately for you and your readers, writing mistakes are like speed bumps on the blog post open highway. They slow down the reader and remove her from your world—the created reality that you share through your text.

Since you only have a few seconds to impress new readers, it’s critical to make all facets of your content flawless. If your writing confuses readers or hinders their experience because of a glaring error, you’ve failed.

Here are 21 common writing mistakes that turn off new readers. Eliminate them to demonstrate that you are an authority on your subject and get new subscribers.

1. You have no proverbial welcome mat

Display your personality on your Home, About, and Contact pages to attract and retain readers. Avoid generic descriptions.

Your content is hardly the only item on a reader’s to-do list. Immediately entice viewers and offer them something of value if they stay.

Let’s use ProBlogger as an example. Darren has a brief bio at the bottom of every page on his site, as well as a current video on the Home page. New readers quickly know the person behind ProBlogger.

Darren looks happy in his bio photograph because he makes money blogging. He also wears glasses. Perhaps a new reader wears glasses and likes that he and Darren have something in common. The bespectacled reader decides to read Darren’s blog instead of another blog advice site. (You get the point.)

Inviting tag lines and snazzy logos can also work well. What makes you different from the other bloggers in your niche?

2. Your posts look like Wikipedia articles

Content can reveal your individuality and remain professional. Don’t mindlessly spit out facts.

3. You don’t answer “W? W? W? W? W? H?”

Give your readers a complete story that they’ll want to share.

Answer “Who? What? When? Why? Where? How?” in your content.

The art of effective blogging strikes a balance between traditional journalism concepts and the casual, interactive tone that is characteristic of new media.

4. Your posts don’t include images

People like visuals. They go to the movies, watch television, and look at art in museums. Photos complement your text and improve a reader’s experience.

Think 360 degrees of SEO. Use the main keyword that you’re promoting in your post for the name of a photo file and its alt text (title tag). You may also provide a descriptive caption with the photo to offer the reader a synopsis of your post.

All effective writing isn’t necessarily in the headline and body text.

5. Your paragraphs break the four-line rule

Avoid redundancies and edit paragraphs to four lines or less. Structure your posts for short attention spans.

6. Your headlines break the goldilocks rule

If Goldilocks was on a search for the best headline (not a perfect bed to sleep in), she’d choose one that is not too short, not too long, but “just right.”

Do you want people to retweet your headlines? Keep them succinct and juicy.

7. Each post does not have a byline

Post bylines give readers information about you if they haven’t first viewed your bio or About page. They introduce you and build trust with a potential new subscriber.

Use the space at the bottom of every post to connect with readers.

Bylines are an excellent opportunity to link to products or services that you offer.

8. You use too many incomplete sentences

Incomplete sentences, abrupt tangents, and parenthetical thoughts can be disruptive. Use them sparingly.

9. Your posts include obvious factual blunders

Make sure that your links correspond to the proper, active URLs. Check the spellings of names/titles. Is “Wednesday, March 9” really a “Wednesday?”

Inaccuracies in simple elements of your posts are only a result of laziness.

10. You make “actual word” typos

Many pubic relations firms (oops, I mean, “public” relations firms) are familiar with this type of error. Spell check won’t alert you when you type an incorrect word that is spelled correctly.

There’s no prize for proofreading fast. Examine your text so that each word is the word that you intend to write.

The occasional “actual word” typo even appears on ProBlogger. (In the fourth paragraph of the ProBlogger guest post, the word “A” should be “At.”)

11. You use incorrect or excessive punctuation

You can express your voice and tone without distracting eyesores, such as “?!?!”, every time that you’re flabbergasted. Simply end sentences with periods, instead of transitioning with ellipses.

Learn the specific functions of each type of dash: hyphens, en-dashes, and em-dashes. If you’re not sure how to use a certain punctuation mark, look it up.

12. Your blog has inconsistencies

It’s easier to spot inconsistencies when you follow the four-line rule for paragraphs. Be careful with:

  • Name references. If you mention the name “Darren Rowse,” refer to him as “Darren” or “Rowse” in the remainder of the text. Don’t alternate between the two.
  • Hyphenated words. If you use the word “copy-editor,” don’t write it elsewhere in your post as “copy editor” or “copyeditor.”
  • Spelling. If you write the name “Stefanie,” don’t also spell it “Stephanie” when you refer to the same individual again.
  • Numbered items. If you promise “Five Tips” in your headline, list five distinct tips in your post.
  • Paragraph breaks. Make sure that paragraphs don’t accidently run together after your publish.

13. You use vague words

Edit words from your first draft until they are refined and specific. Each sentence should be crisp and clear.

14. You confuse plurals and possessives

I’ve even written “letter’s” in first draft copy when I intended to write “letters.” Pay attention to apostrophes and plural words when proofreading to double-check that they are used correctly.

15. You include too many links in posts

Limit links to relevant, useful articles that supplement your writing. Set links to open in new browser tabs or windows, so that readers don’t navigate away from your post.

16. You misuse double and single quotation marks

Use single quotation marks for quotes within double quotation marks.

17. You smother direct quotes

Give direct quotes space, rather than cluttering them within a paragraph. Use block quotes to highlight important information or quotes that you analyze.

18. You make word choice errors

Do you know the difference between the words “compliment” and “complement?” “Premier” and “premiere?” “Stationary” and “stationery?”

Unlike “actual word” typos, you may be unaware that you continually make these writing mistakes. Regardless of your niche, if you don’t use the proper words, you’re going to look like an amateur writer.

19. You use too many bold, italicized, and upper-case letters

They’re unattractive, at best, and look like spam, at worst (similar to excessive punctuation).

20. Your blog’s font is too small, big, or fancy

When I get too aesthetically ambitious, I remind myself of the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

I’m launching a new blog soon and recently had fun browsing Genesis Framework themes for WordPress. (No affiliate link here. Just good stuff!)

There’s a style for every taste, yet all design aspects are simple and straightforward—which ultimately enhance your writing.

21. You publish first-draft copy

A sloppy rant may have been appropriate on your LiveJournal in 2003, but first-draft copy does not always communicate your message effectively.

All blog content is an opportunity to demonstrate your superb writing ability. Perform every step of the writing process: writing, editing, proofreading, and more proofreading. Treat your blog like a professional publication, not a hobby.

How do you keep your blog and your reputation spotless? Share your techniques with me in the comments below.

Stefanie Flaxman is an online proofreader who corrects business, marketing, and educational documents in 24 hours. Check out Stefanie’s free report, Business Proofreading Tips Other Proofreaders Don’t Want You to Know, and connect with her on Twitter.

Why My Accountant Thinks I Robbed a Bank

My accountant just called and asked me if I’d robbed a bank.

She just saw the figures from the last few months of blogging and, as I mentioned back in my December earnings update, we’ve had some very good months lately.

December was my biggest month ever, but January and February are shaping up to be great, too.

There are two main reasons for the improvement in revenue:

  1. Christmas Promotion: In December, I ran a 12 Days of Christmas promotion on my photography blog. This rolling series of promotions saw a massive spike in affiliate sales, but also a big increase in ebook sales over that two week period.
  2. Ebook Launches: Towards the end of January and into February I launched a new ebook on my photography blog. It was our biggest launch yet and the new ebook sold faster on launch than I’ve seen before. In fact, ebook sales for the last three months have totaled just under 13,000 units.

Today, when my accountant rang to check whether the reports I’d sent were real, I tried to explain what had happened. She understood the above two reasons, but dug a little deeper and wanted to know why.

Her reflection was that about 18-24 months ago something changed in my business that seemed to tip earnings up a notch. Understandably, she wanted to explore the cause of that change.

I struggled to answer her at first, but in the end I put it down to two things:

1. I made a mind shift

A couple of years back, I switched my business focus away from relying purely upon advertising and affiliate revenue and decided to get serious about creating some products of my own.

2. Invested in Learning

Two years ago was also the point at which I decided to get serious about learning how to market and launch these products that I’d begun to develop. I knew that simply deciding to have my own products wasn’t enough—I needed to invest in my knowledge of marketing them.

It was at this time that I started to do two things:

  1. I began to seek out others who had experience in online marketing. I began to be more intentional in developing relationships with, and collaborating with, smart marketers. These people have taught me a lot!
  2. I purchased a variety of online training programs to learn some good principles for marketing products online. I enrolled in the programs, the most helpful of which I’ll tell you about below.

Overnight success?

I wish I could say that this switch in thinking and gaining of knowledge flicked a switch and helped me gain overnight success—but of course it didn’t.

The increase in revenue didn’t happen straight away after making the mind shift or getting the training, although there have been some great spikes in revenue over the last two years. But that marked the beginning of something that seems to be snowballing for me now, some two years later.

Make the mind shift and get the training for yourself

Over the next couple of weeks, you’re going to hear a lot about Jeff Walker and his Product Launch Formula.

Can I suggest you take some notice of what Jeff’s got to say?

I know some will be put off by some of the hype surrounding this launch—sometimes the affiliates promoting these launches build them up into a frenzy. But Jeff’s one of the guys who has helped me make the mind shift I mention above. His course was the main one that worked for me, and is something I’ve come back to numerous times.

Some of the principles he teaches in PLF have really connected for me, and have been instrumental in skyrocketing my own product launches. I’ve also applied some of them in promoting other people’s products—the Christmas launch I mentioned above used the classic launch strategy that Jeff teaches, and led to my biggest month so far.

Jeff is currently releasing a series of videos in the lead up to re-opening the doors of PLF. While some people’s pre-launch strategy is simply to build buzz before a launch, the great thing about Jeff’s strategy is to provide value in the launch process. Whether you buy PLF in the end or not, his videos will help you make the transition I talk about above.

They’re both inspiring and educational. If you do buy PLF, you’ll get some great teaching, but do yourself a favor and at the least watch the videos over the coming days by getting on the list. You can register for the first video here; the second is here. Update: you can also download his full blueprint for launches here (it’s got amazing teaching).

Nine Ways to Spice Up Any Blog Post—Fast

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Did your latest post get all the readers, comments and tweets that it deserved?

Probably not. You wrote a great piece, but somehow, it seemed bland. Your ideas were good, but the post lacks a little something. What you need is more spice.

Here are nine ways to add some heat to your post, and grab readers’ attention.

#1: Add a snappy title and subtitles

You know that posts need great headlines. Often, the headline is all that a potential reader can see before clicking through to read the whole post—on Twitter, for instance, or in a CommentLuv link.

When you’ve got a post ready to go, though, it’s easy to just hit the Publish button, leaving it with whatever title first came to mind. Don’t do that. Give yourself time to pause and rethink. Is every word in the headline pulling its weight?

Further reading: How to Craft Post Titles that Draw Readers Into Your Blog

#2: Introduce powerful images

You might think images don’t really matter. After all, you’ve written great content—surely no-one cares whether or not there’s a pretty picture with it?

The thing is, images are eye-catching. They can make your posts look more polished and professional. And a great image can even set up the mood or tone of a post.

You’ll want to include at least one image per post—probably at the top. But if you’ve got a longer piece, it’s often worth adding several images to help break up the text. You can see how I did this in a huge post, Freelance Writing: Ten Steps, Tons of Resources, with ten images, one for each step.

Further reading: Blogosphere Trends + Choosing and Using Images

#3: Tap into readers’ concerns

Your readers don’t just want interesting information. They want posts which solve a problem. That could be something simple and basic (“How do I hold my camera?”) or something huge, like “How do I get out of debt?”

If you know your readers well, you’ll know what their common worries and struggles are. You can use these in your post, by empathizing with how they feel and by showing them the way forwards.

Further reading: How to Create Reader Profiles/Personas to Inspire and Inform Your Blogging

#4: Add a personal anecdote

This isn’t a technique which you’ll want to use in every single post, but it’s very powerful when used sparingly.

Readers love stories, and they love to feel a sense of connection with another person. By telling a brief story from your own life, you hook the reader on an emotional level, not just an intellectual one.

My favourite example wasn’t originally a blog post at all. It was live, from Darren speaking on stage at BlogWorld Expo. He retells the story in the video post What My 4-Year-Old Son Taught Me About Successful Blogging.

Further reading: The Power of Being Personal on Your Blog (which also includes an anecdote!)

#5: Offer “take home” or “action” points

Sometimes, you’ll have a great post packed with useful content—but without anything for the reader to really grab hold of.

To help your reader engage, offer “take home” points, summing up the post, or “action” points: something that gets the reader thinking or some next step they can take. I’ve noticed that when I do this with posts, I get more comments and retweets than otherwise.

This is particularly crucial if you’ve written a post which is heavy on theory. There’s a great example here in Charlie Gilkey’s The Four Key Dimensions of Business, where he ends with four straightforward questions to help people start using what they’ve just read.

Further reading: How to Create Compelling Content by Inspiring Action

#6: Get readers to react

Sometimes, bloggers aim to use the power of reaction in quite a cynical way. They post rants—angry pieces which are just intended to start an argument or to get attention.

But when you encourage thoughtful reactions, you help readers to share their ideas—and to share your content. You turn them from passive consumers of your content into active engagers with it.

Getting readers to react might be as simple as asking “What do you think?” In most cases, though, you’ll want to pose a question or ask their opinion on something specific.

Further reading: 7 Questions to Ask On Your Blog to Get More Reader Engagement

#7: Include quotes from other bloggers

When you’re reading blogs, you might come across a great quote—a sentence or a paragraph which really resonates. Why not share it with your readers?

Including quotes from other bloggers can help you to back up your own opinions and facts: it proves that other experts in your field are saying the same thing as you.

Plus, quotes help break up a long blog post. They allow you to introduce a different voice into your piece, and can provide a starting point for discussion.

Further reading: Blogosphere Trends + Effectively Using Quotes

#8: Use an analogy

Maybe you’ve written a great post that explains exactly how something works, in painstaking detail. The problem is, your readers aren’t engaging with it—they’re not even reading it.

Can you come up with an analogy that helps the reader to understand?

A good analogy gives your reader a picture in their head, based on something familiar. It can give them that “Aha, I get it!” moment. It can help them look at something in a fresh way, like Starting a Successful Blog is Like Planning an Invasion. You can keep the analogy going as a running metaphor using language that relates to it (like “allies” and “skirmishes” in that post).

Further reading: Blogging is like…

#9: Make your language punchier

You’re a blogger—which means you’re a writer. You need to make every sentence and word work for you.

By “punchier”, I don’t mean you should be aggressive. I mean that your words need to be strong and engaging.

Cut out unnecessary words and phrases, like “it may be the case that” or “In my opinion” or “it’s quite probably true that”. You don’t need these wishy-washy qualifiers, and your sentences will reader more strongly without them.

Use everyday language. Short, simple words can convey your points far more effectively than grandiose, convoluted ones.

Further reading: Blogging is About Writing

I’ve given you nine ways to spice up your posts. Now it’s your turn! What’s your number 10?

Ali Luke is a writer, blogger and writing coach. She’s just launched The Blogger’s Guide to Freelancing, a fully updated and expanded version of her popular Staff Blogging Course. Grab your copy today for $29, and start using your blogging skills to make serious money.

Outsourcing: the Secret to Blogging Success

This guest post is by Mark Collier is the author of Link Building Mastery.

As an Internet entrepreneur, it’s easy to develop this sense of single mindedness—the if-I-can’t-do-it-no-one-can attitude. I call it RTODIY (refuse to outsource; do it yourself). Although the name does need a bit of work. Maybe I should outsource it…

The symptoms are: excessive DIY, penny pinching when you could outsource for little or nothing, and learning the basics of advanced theories in a vain attempt to save money.

RTODIY is also the major obstacle between your self-created job and a successful business that runs independent of you. As Keith Cunningham puts it, job is just an abbreviation for Just Over Broke.

Overcoming RTODIY

I have certainly done my fair share of RTODIYing, most recently with my experience in launching my relatively new website and writing and launching a new ebook.

I wrote all the content for my website myself and learned all I needed to know to create a website myself. While this is pretty common, this was only the beginning. I decided to write an ebook, and once it was finished, I knew I needed to create a sales landing page for my product.

Now for those who don’t know about landing pages, let me fill you in. Landing pages are designed to make all your ebook sales. Sure, promotion is crucial, and you need a great product, but without a great landing page, you’re wasting your time.

I recognized the value of a landing page and went about buying a template and customizing it, after, of course, I learned the basics of CSS.

This is what my landing page looked like:

That’s exactly what I expected would sell my $47 ebook! And I actually believed it would sell.

That was until I received the best business advice I have ever received from Glen Allsopp. I sent out an email to the 15 people I interviewed for the ebook, informing them of the new sales page. Glen said, “I hope you don’t take offence, but I really don’t think you’ll get a single sale with that landing page.”

And he was right. Not a single sale came from the first 300 people who visited the page.

So I decided to go and outsource—yes, I said outsource—the sales page design to a professional and the results were and are absolutely incredible:

What a turnaround! I certainly would be more likely to buy from a sales page that looked like this.

The results

When I talk about results, I mean money. While the orders certainly haven’t been unbelievable, they are far better than nothing, which is what my original page generated.

In the month since I launched the ebook—and I have no reputation or marketing budget—I have made seven sales. Okay, that’s not a mind blowing amount, but it’s $327 in sales, and the email sign up box has captured 120 email addresses.

I am more than happy with these results, having had no experience in launching a product, and no email subscriber list that I could promote the launch to. In fact, I didn’t even bother having a launch.

I expect sales to continue to grow, and my initial investment in that web designer to continue to pay off.

My learnings, your learnings

My reluctance to outsource to a professional web designer for $150 would have cost me $327 today, and what could be thousands in future earnings. I’ve learned that spending that extra bit up front distinguishes you from the competition, and is well worth the investment.

But I understand that not everyone will launch an eBook or create a sales page. So how can these learnings be applied to your blog, especially if you are a solo blogger?

If you find yourself doing all the work—and I literally mean all of it—you’re a class one RTODIYer, and you may need help. You need to learn the art of delegation and to commit to investing that extra bit into your blog that will come back and reward you many times over.

You need to stop acting like a one-person blog and starting acting like ProBlogger. After all, that’s how ProBlogger has been so successful: outsourcing and hiring (for free or otherwise) the best to do the work for them. Guest posts are just one example of that.

You wouldn’t have seen W.K Kelloggs out in the field growing the corn for his Corn Flakes, you wouldn’t see Michael Dell personally handling customer complaints against Dell, and you wouldn’t see Richard Branson micro-managing the 200 companies he has controlling stakes in.

All these great business people have committed to outsourcing. They have committed to investing in and trusting others, and ultimately they have overcome a human’s natural instinct to Refuse To Outsource and Do It Yourself.
That’s what your blog is, right? A business?

As a blogger, you should give up you RTODIY ways and move forward with your business in a more profitable direction. Trust in others and be prepared to invest in your blog, and you will reap the rewards. Here are a couple of ideas I know you’ll like:

  • Open your site up for guest posts. It’s a great, free way to take the writing pressures off you, while retaining full editorial rights.
  • Get a custom design made by a designer, or at least have a blog brand with logo and color scheme that’s consistent throughout your blog, Twitter, and Facebook page.
  • If you really want to step up to the next level and be an outsourcing master, why not hire a part-time writer or regular columnist? You can pitch their work to the big names in your industry and get a lot of exposure from them.

The general rule of thumb is to try to outsource your weaknesses (my big one is design), and give yourself more time to focus on your strengths. To control of your RTODIY and your blog will only go from strength to strength.

Have you outsourced any part of your blog, or are you a RTODIYer? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Mark Collier is the author of Link Building Mastery, the best ethical guide to link building available on the web. With 86 powerful link building strategies and 15 interviews with link building interviews, including an interview with Yaro Starak. You can join the ethical link building revolution now.

My 6 Favorite Blogging Locations

Where do you blog from?

One of the most attractive parts about blogging as a profession for me is the independence and flexibility that it brings.

I can work from anywhere that I can find an Internet connection. In fact, I don’t even need that at all times—I just need some kind of device to capture the content that I produce (something to type on, a camera, and/or a microphone).

This flexibility, and the opportunity to be location-independent, are wonderful things. They’ve meant I’m able to travel and work from the road; they’ve enabled me to be quite hands-on with my family (particularly useful when your kids are toddlers!), and they’ve also cut down the dreaded commute that I used to have to do when I worked a “real” job.

The other great thing about this type of work—combined with the ever-increasing array of portable computing gadgets that are around—is that from day to day, I’m able to work in all kinds of locations. This variety can be both fun and make life a little more interesting, but it can also help stimulate all kinds of creativity.

Someone asked recently what were my favorite places to blog from. Here’s what I said (and I’d love to hear your favorites below):

1. Cafes

cafes.jpeg

The combination of coffee, a computer, and the white noise of those around me is a very productive mix for me. I spend at least four mornings a week in my local cafe, just a short stroll from our front door. The staff greet me with ‘Blogger dude!” and bring me my drink of choice (a skinny latte with one sugar) without needing to be asked (and a second one 30 minutes later, or on the nod of the head—whichever comes first!). They even installed WiFi just for me.

Other patrons ask how I ever get anything done with all the noise, but for me it’s a strangely productive place where I find myself getting lost in my work. I also enjoy the fact that there are others around—snippets of overheard conversation or interactions with others in the cafe often produce ideas, stimulate blog posts, and even generate product ideas.

2. Shopping centers (the mall)

A variation on the cafe approach has been a semi-regular visit to a local shopping center or mall. The one I go to is among the biggest in Melbourne, and has a great range of cafes, a food court, and several hundred shops—including an Apple store. I enjoy working there partly for similar reasons to those mentioned above (white noise, coffee, etc.), but also because I find the environment quite stimulating for ideas.

I have a little routine that I use: an hour in one cafe; a 15-minute stroll through the shops, where I get all kinds of marketing ideas; an hour in a second cafe; another stroll through shops; then I settle down in the food court or a resautrant for lunch. The combination of all this is surprisingly productive (and I keep the Apple store in business with my regular stop-offs there).

3. The library

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I don’t get there as much as I used to since we moved further away from the city, but I always found the big library in the center of Melbourne to be an inspiring place to work, and I used to head there at least once a month. I found just being in a place where others were working and reading used to help me still myself and focus.

Having a vast array of books, magazines, and newspapers on hand for little breaks was also quite stimulating, but the real treat for me is the reading room pictured above, which is just an inspiring place to hang out.

4. Flying

One of the most memorable work sessions that I’ve ever had was on a recent flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles. While I never used to enjoy that flight (14 hours cramped up next to a stranger with not much to do? Not fun!), the last few times I’ve flown, I’ve found myself being particularly productive

Perhaps it’s the altitude or the oxygen they pump around the plane (do they do that?) but I often get a lot done flying. This could also partly be because this is one of the few times in my life that I’m disconnected from the Web (those international flights don’t have WiFi yet). It might also be because I’m traveling to and from conferences that I find to be stimulating experiences.

5. On the couch

couch.jpeg

Most weeknights you can find me sitting in our lounge room, next to my wife, on the couch, in front of the TV, blogging. I’m not sure how much of the TV I actually watch, but I find the experience to be a good way to wind down at the end of a day.

There are times where my wife needs to tell me to put the computer down so we can connect (although she often sits there surfing too), but all in all it’s usually a reasonably productive time. I tend to use it mainly for admin-type tasks—email, social media, comment moderation, etc.—rather than creative ones, but occasionally I’ll find that something from the TV also stimulates ideas for my work.

6. My desk and office

This is where I do the bulk of my blogging. While I like to get out of the house in the morning to write (mornings are generally more about writing content and creative tasks), I spend the bulk of my afternoons in my home office. This is where I create multi-media content, do interviews, take calls, and do most of the admin and editing tasks that I do.

I did a tour of my office a few years back—not a lot has changed in terms of layout, although I now mainly work from a laptop rather than the desktop computer.

What about you?

Where do you spend most of your time blogging? Which places do you enjoy blogging the most? Do you find different places are better for certain tasks more than others? Interested in your thoughts.

Make Your Facebook Fan Page a Party

This guest post is by Caz Makepeace of y Travel Blog.

Facebook Fan pages are swiftly becoming a standard extension to blogs’ brands and messages. This is a highly effective form of engaging with your target market and building a community around your brand.

If you focus on making your Fan page your homepage for the social web, you can create a page that serves as your mini-hub. Then use it as your platform to connect on a deeper level.

Today’s currency is engagement

People like to socialize with, and ultimately do business with, people they like and trust. So it’s very important that you’re actively engaging with your followers and they are engaging with you—hence the word “social”. That’s how you build strong and rewarding relationships.

From personal experience, by building an engaged and interactive community through our own travel blog’s fan page, our community member numbers grow every day. And although ours may not have as many fans as some other Fan pages, it does have a great deal more engagement, which is not only important to us, but important to Facebook.

Facebook rewards you for building relationships. The degree to which you engage with your fans, and how much they interact with you, determines whether your status updates show in your fans’ news feeds.

Strive for social success first, not marketing success

There are five critical errors most people make when they start using social media for business.

The secret to our success has been very simple. We made the intention for our Fan page to build an engaged community and start conversations. We wanted to create a place where those within our travel community can meet for some socializing and fun, not just get travel tips and information. Our intention is not to use our Fan page purely as a marketing tool.

Although we know it’s a highly effective tool, we do not build our fan page community based on this. If your intention is just to use your page as a tool to promote your products, that will clearly come through, and your success with Facebook will be limited.

Think of those who are most successful in your niche. I bet most of them began blogging by building their brand and a community first, and any monetization came later. First, build a passionate community based around social interaction and sharing. Any monetary rewards will come naturally later on.

Make your Fan page a party

We approach our Fan page strategy as if we were hosting guests at a party. For us to remove all thoughts of the page being a marketing tool, we had to think of it as the type of place we’d like to hang out. So our intention was to make our fan page more like a party. We love to socialize, and have never been shy in hosting parties in real life in any of the countries we’ve lived in. After all, isn’t that what the “social” part of social media is all about?

We invite and welcome

First of all, we invite and we welcome visitors. No one will come to your party if you don’t first invite them. We have clear invitations set up on our blog and all our other online platforms. And when our new guests arrive, we warmly welcome them in. We tag and give a shout out by video to every 100th guest. And we also have a “Fan of the Month,” which is the person who has contributed the most to the community in that time.

We interact and respond

This is our biggest recommendation for keeping social media “social.” How long would your party last if you didn’t talk to your guests? Or worse still, if they spoke to you and you ignored them? We do not ignore our guests. We respond to every comment left on our Fan page. Yes, it takes work, but we value our community members and suggest you value yours. Fostering a community involves a strong leader who supports, encourages, recognizes, and inspires.

Managing fan comments has become much easier since we started using a great free app called Hyper Alerts.

We ask questions and share

To be interesting, you must be interested. The best way to get to know new people is to ask questions. Remember, people like to talk about themselves, so let them. Don’t make the conversation all about you, what you’re doing, and your opinion.

Ask questions as a way to get your fans to share, to stimulate conversation, and to give advice. A lot of people won’t open up initially if they don’t feel like someone wants to listen or will respond. Be the listener and when your guests do answer the question and share, be the responder. Continue to ask questions throughout the conversation to encourage a more in-depth discussion.

At least once a month, we have a status update that runs something like this:

“Go ahead and introduce yourself:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. Where are you currently?
  3. What is your favorite travel destination?
  4. Can we help you with anything?”

This gets people to open up and feel welcomed. Sharing helps others to make new connections and form bonds. Simply through this particular update, community members become aware of others’ geographical locations and special interests, and can connect more directly. Sharing also shows that you are interested in and care about your fans. We also make an effort to share other people’s articles, videos, and blog sites through our Fan page.

Every Friday we have “Post Your URL Day,” when we encourage other travel bloggers to post their URLs and a three-line description under their status updates. From the URLs posted, we randomly choose a winner to do a featured interview on.

We say it with photos

Pictures really do tell a thousand words. Being in the travel industry, we find there’s no better way to inspire others and stir emotion than through travel photos. So we post a daily travel photo of a destination we have personally visited.

We also post random photos from our day-to-day lives. That way, our community members get a behind-the-scenes look into our life that creates a deeper connection.

People love to look at others’ personal photos, and Facebook is great for that. And did you know that using photos to stand out in the Facebook news feed carries more weight than text updates when it comes to your Facebook EdgeRank Score?

We play games

Everybody loves a good game—especially if they’re at a party and there are a few beers involved! There won’t be beers at your Fan page party, but you can still have a good time. We run a “Where in the World” game, where we upload a travel photo from somewhere in the world, and our fans have to guess the location. This stirs interaction and creates a fun vibe.

We also have “Happy Hour” once a week, where we encourage our fans to post a link to their favorite blog, website, or resource on the Web. Take some time to think of games you can play on your Fan page that relate to your niche and encourage participation.

We run competitions

Once you have enough fans engaged and interacting at your party, consider introducing competitions with prizes to let them know you appreciate them. We run photo contests every second month with a different photo theme which relates in some way to our prize. Last month’s prize was a backpack sponsored by Kelty, and the photo theme was National Parks. Fans get to vote on the best photo, and the top five are then sent to the sponsoring company, which selects the ultimate winner. Competitions like this are a win-win for you and your sponsor, who gets exposure to a new audience.

New ideas for a fantastic fan page party

Keep thinking of new ways to make your Fan page—and party—better. Don’t initially approach Facebook asking, “How am I going to use this as a monetization tool?” Instead, ask “How am I going to make this the fun place to hang out?” That’s the way to create an engaged community.

Don’t just create a Fan page, create an experience. Get this right, and the rest will naturally follow.

How much of a community are you building around your brand on Facebook?

Caz Makepeace has been travelling and living around the world since 1997. Along with her husband Craig they are the founders of y Travel Blog. You can visit her Facebook Fan Page or sign up for herRSS Feed.