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Is “Ooh, Shiny!” Destroying Your Blog?

This is the story of a blogger. He started his blog, taught himself about copywriting, and figured out who the one person he was writing for really was. He worked his tail off creating content.

But his blog was a ghost town. There were no visitors, no comments … nothing.

In a mad rush to find traffic, he created a Twitter account and followed every blogger he could think of. He tweeted and tweeted, but didn’t get much traffic.

A week later, he realized that Facebook might be a better way to go. He created a Fan page, added a Like button to his blog, and messaged all of his Facebook friends about his latest post.

It didn’t go viral, so he moved on to SEO. He bought a couple of courses, got himself listed in a bunch of directories, and created a linkwheel or two.

This went on, and on, and on—to commenting, social bookmarking, PPC, email marketing, and back to content. And still, no traffic. Even worse, when anyone would search for him, they would find a dozen different half-finished social media profiles and pages.

And this could all have been avoided…

Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS)

This fictional but archetypal blogger suffered from Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS).

SOS is a serious problem, particularly for online entrepreneurs. Here’s the general definition from Karen Greenstreet: “It’s not quite ADD/ADHD. It’s more that a new idea captures your imagination and attention in such a way that you get distracted from the bigger picture and go off in tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal.”

Why is this so common for new bloggers? It’s a combination of two things:

  1. You care about your blog, and really want it to succeed. You want to make the very best use of limited time and resources, provide for your family, travel around the world and live the exciting Internet lifestyle, and your attitude is that you just need to be shown what steps to take, and you’ll take them.
  2. You’re inexperienced, and don’t really know what works and what doesn’t. Everything you know is by observation and hearsay—you believe it’s true because you heard it from this authority blogger or that Internet marketing guru.

That second item is a huge problem. They say that the person in an argument who has the strongest frame wins, and whenever it comes to traffic or blogging, no matter which authority blogger or guru you’re reading, their frame will always be stronger, because they’re farther than you are. The only problem is that their advice all seems so contradictory!

What’s the best strategy?

There are tons of strategies out there for growing a blog audience. Here are some of the big umbrella strategies:

  1. Content is king. You’ve heard this before—very simply, it means that your strategy starts and ends with creating truly awesome content, which Corbett Barr calls “epic.” To implement this sort of strategy, you need to understand your readers, and learn how to write really, really well.
  2. Community is king. This strategy is all about being a part of a community—finding the communities that you want to be a part of, and getting involved in the conversation until you’re a fixture there. To do this you have to build relationships with larger and smaller bloggers, eventually leading to content exchanges and guest posts.
  3. Social media is king. This strategy is all about being on Twitter, Facebook, and using all of the latest apps and solutions like Buffer and Triberr to make the most of them.
  4. SEO is king. This strategy is all about writing content that will get ranked on search engines, so that your traffic will ultimately come from there. To do this you have to steer clear of sleazy “black hat” tactics in favor of honest and effective strategies, and maybe find some good SEO software to help.

Of course, each of these strategies comes complete with a host of different tactical options for you to choose from as well, and they aren’t mutually exclusive (for example, even if you aren’t a “Content is King” purist, you probably agree that great content has to go with whatever strategy you choose).

Now, I do have my own favorite blog growth strategy, which is a combination of some of the above, but the most important thing is to avoid the worst strategy…

What’s the worst strategy?

I like some strategies more than others, but the absolute worst strategy is to keep on jumping from strategy to strategy and tactic to tactic.

Whether your strategy of choice is content, community, social media, or SEO, it will take time, respectively, for your writing to get really good and in tune with your audience, the community to get to know who you are and what you’re about, your social networks to notice what you’re doing, or Google to realize that your content is good and you aren’t a fly-by-night operation trying to game their algorithms.

Whatever strategy you choose, you’ve got to give it the time to really start getting some traction, and gurus proclaiming astronomical overnight results notwithstanding, these things really do take time. Just as a for example, I’ve written over 20 guest posts since the beginning of the year, and only now am I starting to feel the benefits of a tiny bit of name recognition on the Internet.

These things take time, particularly in an environment that is so shell-shocked from scams and empty promises bandied about by self-proclaimed gurus.

What’s your strategy?

You’ve got to pick a strategy, and stick with it—for two to three months of intense work, at the very least. But which strategy should you choose?

Here is a checklist that you can use to evaluate whether a strategy is right for you:

  1. Does it make sense? Marketing hype aside, does it really make sense that this strategy will work, based on your understanding of how the internet and your audience function?
  2. Is it compelling to the audience? Imagine that you’re on the receiving end of the strategy—would it be compelling to you? Would it drive you to subscribe, engage in a conversation, or become a customer? Or would it just annoy you?
  3. Do you understand what is involved in making it work? Is everything clear to you, or are there questions that you still need answers to?
  4. Is the time commitment realistic? Different strategies require different investments of time—do you have the time to invest that this strategy will require?
  5. Is this strategy consistent with your skills and temperament? Will you have to do things that you either don’t know how to do, or don’t like to do, in order for this strategy to work?
  6. Is it consistent with your brand? This is important—if it will give people the wrong idea, then it doesn’t really matter if it drives traffic, does it?
  7. Will this strategy have a broad enough reach? If everything goes well (or not so well, because no plan works out perfectly), will it reach enough people in a compelling way to get you to your objectives (or at least to the next step towards those objectives)?

Is it time to find a new strategy?

Having chosen a strategy to focus on, it is absolutely critical that you stick with it long enough for it to make a difference and get some traction, and that usually takes longer than you think. Here are some questions that can guide you in deciding whether it’s time to move on to a new strategy:

  1. Have you given your current strategy two to three months of hard work? An hour or two per week doesn’t count—however you’re measuring your effort, you should have put a lot of it into the strategy for a significant amount of time before bailing on it.
  2. How is this new strategy different from the old strategy? What are the fundamental assumptions that suggest the new one will work when the old did not?
  3. If you’re planning on adding the new one to the old one, instead of replacing the old one, is that really practical? Will you be able to spend the time that both strategies need to be effective?
  4. Have you asked for help to make the old strategy work before jumping to a new one? There are lots of talented, generous, and very capable people out there who would be more than happy to give you a pointer in the right direction when you need it.

Okay, over to you. Can you think back on a strategy that you might have abandoned too soon, or that you never should have tried in the first place? What motivated you to do it? What strategies are working for you now? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Danny Iny is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the definitive marketing training program for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-marketers. Visit his site today for a free cheat sheet about Why Guru Strategies for Blog Growth DON’T WORK… and What Does!

How to Get Your Guest Posts Accepted Every Time

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Maybe you’ve written guest posts, but they’ve been turned down.

Maybe you don’t feel brave enough to target a big blog, because you’re afraid of rejection.

You might see names popping up around the blogosphere with guest posts everywhere: I remember Glen Allsopp doing this a year or two back. And you might feel a little bit envious. How come they can get their posts on sites like ProBlogger and Copyblogger?

Guest posting

Copyright Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

Well, it’s not black magic. It’s not about twisting arms, or offering bribes. It’s not even about name recognition—I was getting guest posts published when I was a total newbie in the blogosphere.

It’s about writing a great, targeted post that stands a very high chance of acceptance.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to teach you to do here.

Step #1: Get into the right frame of mind

A great guest post doesn’t start with the words you type. It starts with your attitude.

Some bloggers see guest posts as an opportunity to get a link from a high-PR site. I get pitches from these types of bloggers regularly, and I always turn them down. Their posts are uninteresting, regurgitated content—the sort of thing I’d expect to find in a huge content mill. Theirs certainly isn’t the vibrant, engaging writing which I want on my blog.

A guest post is so much more than just a link back to your site. It’s:

  • an opportunity to reach a huge audience of readers
  • a chance to establish a connection with a powerful blogger
  • a learning experience—especially if you rarely or never get comments on your own blog
  • a way to get your name known in the blogosphere.

Your guest posts should be your best work. That way, they’ll be much more likely to get accepted—and they’ll bring you an awful lot of benefits.

Step #2: Choose your target blog carefully

I know this is obvious, but I’ve had pitches from bloggers who clearly don’t quite get it.

Only target blogs that actually run guest posts.

Many smaller blogs don’t ever have guest posts, or very rarely accept them. Those bloggers might be keen to build up their own audience with their own voice—especially if they’re blogging to promote their businesses.

Look for a page aimed at guest posters, or look through the individual posts for any that say “This is a guest post from…”, or that have a bio for someone other than the blog’s owner.

Of course, you’ll probably know of plenty of blogs that accept guest posts. The tough part is deciding which blog to target. I’d suggest:

  • Don’t go after the A-list straight away. If a blog has 100,000 readers and you’ve never guest posted before, you might want to aim a little lower.
  • Look for bloggers who’d welcome some help. If a blogger mentions an upcoming vacation (or house move, for example), then they’d probably be very grateful for a guest post.
  • Choose a blog which is in your niche. Not only will this get you better results, it’ll make your post more likely to succeed because you’ll have a great grasp of your subject matter.

Step #3: Read the guest post guidelines

Not all blogs have submission guidelines for guest posts, but many big ones do. Look for a page called “Submission Guidelines,” “Guest Post Guidelines,” “Write for Us,” or similar.

The guidelines will usually let you know:

  • How long your post should be. Many blogs will want at least 500 words.
  • Whether you should pitch an idea or the completed post. Some bloggers prefer you to approach them with an idea in the first instance, though many others will be happy to receive completed posts.
  • What you’re allowed to do. Are affiliate links okay? Can you link to your own blog in the body of your post?
  • How to submit your post. This may include the file format, who to send it to, and other details.

Here are a few examples:

Step #4: Study your target blog

If the blog doesn’t have any submission guidelines, then you’re going to need to do a bit of homework. And even if you do have a page of guidelines, it’s still worth taking this step to maximize your chances of getting your guest post accepted.

Go through the most recent five or ten posts on the blog. Find out:

  • How long are the posts, on average? What’s the shortest? What’s the longest? This will give you an idea of what word count to aim for, and will indicate how much leeway you have.
  • What stylistic features are there? For instance, Copyblogger tends to have a lot of short, punchy sentences and paragraphs.
  • Which topics have been covered recently? You’ll want to avoid writing anything too similar.

You can take this analysis even further, and look for anything which seems to be missing: perhaps you’ve got an idea for a post which would be on-topic and which fills a gap in the blog’s content.

Studying your target blog also means finding out any unwritten rules. For instance, do guest posters tend to pitch their own products, or is that clearly a no-no? Is it okay to link back to your own blog once or twice in the body of the guest post? Is bad language acceptable?

It only takes a few minutes to find these things out, but by doing so, you’ll avoid wasting your time by writing and submitting an unsuitable post.

Step #5: Come up with several ideas

When you’re trying to write a great guest post, you need to start off with a strong idea. Don’t pick the first thing that comes to mind—write down several possibilities, and decide which is going to give you the best chance of acceptance.

There are plenty of different ways to generate blog post ideas. A couple of my favorites are:

  • Mindmapping. Write the name of the blog, or a particular topic, in the centre of a page. Start jotting down ideas as they come to you, and draw links between anything that seems connected.
  • Making a list. It’s pretty old-school, I know, but still very effective! Try writing the numbers 1 to 10 on a sheet of paper (or a computer document) and come up with an idea for each.

If you have a couple of good ideas and you’re not sure which to pick, try asking on Twitter or Facebook to see what your existing audience would find more useful.

Step #6: Craft your post carefully

There’s plenty of great advice on ProBlogger about crafting posts (including Darren’s excellent series), so I’m just going to run through some basics as a refresher.

  • Your post should have an introduction, main body and conclusion.
  • The introduction needs to draw readers in and set up your post.
  • The main body is the bulk of your post, and it should be easy for readers to take in. That might mean using subheadings, lists, bold text and other formatting to help improve readability.
  • The conclusion to your post should round things off and provide some call to action which will help the blog—perhaps encouraging readers to leave a comment.
  • Your post should have a great title (though don’t be surprised if the blogger changes it).

A great way to add value to your guest post is to include links to other posts on your target blog. This creates a much better impression than trying to stuff your posts with links back to your own site—and it improves your chances of getting your post accepted.

#7: Edit and proof-read your post

When you publish posts on your own blog, it’s not a disaster if a few typos sneak in. You can easily edit those posts, and your readers probably won’t mind the occasional slip.

When you’re sending in a guest post, though, you want it to create the best possible impression. If a blogger is faced with the choice between a well-edited and typo-free post, or a hastily-written post with grammar and spelling mistakes, it’s pretty obvious which one they’ll pick.

If grammar, spelling and proof-reading aren’t your strong points, you might want to ask a friend to take a look at the post for you, before you send it off.

Don’t be surprised if your post gets accepted and then edited: it doesn’t necessarily mean that there was anything wrong with your writing. Bloggers know their own blogs better than you do, and they may well tweak your post to make sure it’s firmly on-message for the audience.

#8: Include a short bio

Don’t forget to include a bio with your post, and a headshot, if the blog uses them. This saves the editor having to get back to you to ask for extra information. While this in itself won’t usually stop them taking your post, it can mean that you’ll have to wait longer to have that post published.

Make sure your bio conforms to any guidelines. If you don’t have guidelines, look at other guest post bios on the blog. You can normally assume that you’ll be allowed:

  • one to two sentences about yourself/your blog
  • one link (often two) to your own site(s).

And you’re done!

All you have to do now is send in the guest post. I know this can be a scary step (my first guest post for Copyblogger sat on my hard drive for days until I got up the courage to send it in). Don’t agonize over it: just write a short, polite email and attach your post, then take a deep breath and hit Send.

I’d love to hear about your own guest-posting successes (or disaster stories!) in the comments.

Ali Luke has just launched Blog On, a hands-on ecourse that teaches bloggers how to write four popular types of post, through step-by-step guidance and focused exercises. (There’s even a prize draw at the end, to help encourage you to get all four posts written.) You can find out all about it here. Registration is only open until Friday 3rd June.

5 Product Creation Mistakes Most Bloggers Make

This guest post is by Henri Junttila of WakeUpCloud.com.

Creating your own products can take you from earning a few dollars a month to a few thousand. It can be scary, but as you learn to take action, and learn from the feedback you receive, you get better and better.

There are many mistakes I see beginning product creators make. The good news is that these mistakes are very easy to avoid if you keep them in mind.

Painting the World

Copyright photocreo - Fotolia.com

Most bloggers know exactly what these mistakes are but don’t incorporate that knowledge into what they are doing.

Don’t let that be you. Take control of your life and your blogging by avoiding the most common product creation mistakes.

Mistake 1. Not asking what people want

One of the biggest mistakes I see new bloggers make when they are creating the first product is not asking their audience what they want.

This can be as simple as surveying your audience and asking them what their biggest frustrations and problems are in the area of your expertise. I also suggest you drill down from their answers to get even more specifics about what exactly it is that they want a solution to.

For example, you may discover that people want to learn how to blog, but as you drill down, you discover that what they really want is to learn how to create their own products.

You just never know until you ask.

Mistake 2. Aiming for perfection

Another big obstacle is perfection. It’s easy to believe that you need to get everything perfect in order to get your product out there and selling.

The truth of the matter? You can do a pre-launch, where you give your audience a discount and tell them that you want feedback on how you can improve your product before you release it fully.

The beauty of the Internet is that you can tweak and revise your product at any time. Don’t be afraid to get your product out there even if you don’t think it’s perfect.

Often our minds play tricks on us. It’s impossible for you to know what “perfect” means for your audience. You might as well get your product out there, and ask them.

Mistake 3. Pricing and value misperceptions

If you feel that you’re not ready to create your own products, instead, you may want to create a short and to the point report that you sell for $7.

This will give you confidence—if you’ve surveyed your audience and you’re solving a problem, people will buy, and they will be happy to do so.

After you’ve gotten a few sales, you can set up an email autoresponder that automatically asks your buyers to give you feedback on your product. Ask them to rate your product on a scale from 1 to 10. And if they answer anything below a 10, simply ask them the following: What would I have to do to make this product worthy of a 10?

This is a simple way to build on what works. As you do this with more and more products, you’ll see patterns around what people like and don’t like. But the only way to learn how to do this is by taking action and getting feedback.

Mistake 4. Failing to build anticipation

A great way to get people fired up about what you’re doing is to build anticipation. Just look at how Apple does this with each new product they launch: they tell you about what they are doing long beforehand.

You don’t have to make this a big show. You may just want to tell your audience what you’re up to and what they will be getting once you launch your product.

As you do this more frequently, you’ll notice new insights about what your audience likes and how you can make the whole process better and more effective.

Mistake 5. Trying to make the perfect launch

Last, but not least is the launch. I see a lot of people having problems launching their products, because while the content of the product may be good, they just don’t know how to go about launching it.

The truth is that you probably won’t have a perfect launch on your first try. You may not even need to get affiliates for your products right away. I personally love to focus on getting things done instead of trying to get them perfect. It helps me learn and make progress that much faster.

Creating your own products can be highly profitable and a great way to monetize your blog. And always remember: the only thing standing in your way is you.

What kinds of mistakes have you seen beginning bloggers make when they create their first products?

Henri writes at Wake Up Cloud, where you can get his free course: Find Your Passion in 5 Days or Less. And if you liked this article, you will enjoy one of his top articles: How I Made $46,305.38 in My First Full Year Online.

Never Used a Sales Video? Now’s Your Chance!

If you’re a regular here at ProBlogger, you know that I often post videos on the blog.

I love doing video posts—it’s fun, it’s something a bit different, and it’s a good way to really reach out to my readers. I think videos provide bloggers with a good opportunity to connect in a way that can be hard to do through written text.

I’ve also found video really useful for generating sales.

Not my videos, though. I’ve made a lot of video posts, but when it comes to promoting products, I know I need something that’s a bit more powerful—I need videos that have an edge.

Just as writing informational blog posts is different from writing sales copy, preparing a standard video for my blog is very different from making a sales video.

Enter: Samurai Sales Videos.

I worked with Timothy Marc, the guy behind Samurai Sales Videos, and his team to make the sales video for Photo Nuts and Shots, an ebook I released earlier this year on dPS. We used the video on the launch post for the ebook.

Here’s that original video.

Timothy and his team use a combination of great video and scripting, along with some little-known psychological selling techniques to create sales videos that have that “edge” I mentioned.

The results? This is our biggest-selling ebook yet.

We had a lot of great feedback from customers about the video, and it made a big contribution to making the ebook such a success.

Timothy’s now offering ProBlogger readers a $50 discount on his Samurai Sales Video package, which includes:

  • 6 minutes of HD video
  • bold graphics and text
  • 1 royalty-free audio track
  • 3 royalty-free images
  • script creation (or you can use your own)
  • professionally recorded audio
  • brainspan technology
  • a 100% money-back guarantee

Usually, the package costs $499, but if you order in the next seven days, you’ll pay just $449.

When you order, just use the code “PROBLOGGER” to get the discount.

Timothy’s service made a big difference to my product sales, and I’m sure he can do the same for you. Don’t miss out on this generous discount!

Four Ways to Make a Captivating First Impression with Your Blog In a Reader’s Market

This guest post is by Bill Post of 123Print.com Business Card Design.

In real estate, first impressions are everything. Even though the color of the front door would be easy and affordable to repaint, it’s one of the first things a potential buyer notices. If your door is red and the buyer doesn’t like it, most likely she isn’t going to bother looking at the interior. Maybe she doesn’t even know why she doesn’t like the house. She’s on to the next one before yours had a chance.

Blog readers are just as finicky as house buyers—not that there’s anything wrong with that. There are simply so many choices in blogs and other online publications that it’s a reader’s market. A blog that doesn’t pass the front door test doesn’t attract readers willing to go farther inside the blog to look around. Think about these four ways to make a first impression with your blog so it becomes a hot property.

Create curb appeal

Junk in the home’s yard, or old and battered features are a quick turn-off.

On a reader’s first drive-by of a blog, they will keep moving if your blog is cluttered with an over-abundance of information or too much distracting formatting. Use a clean and open format that is easy to read and in which important information is easily identifiable. Choose your content selectively. Don’t recycle other people’s used articles. Use fresh and relevant content that is easy to see and access.

Be a good neighbor

Put some rocking chairs on the porch. Invite readers to share, comment, and interact. Ask them questions. Link to and connect with other blogs.

Realtors always advise baking fresh cookies so buyers feel like they’re at home in your house. Do the same for your blog. Make it a welcoming resource and a positive exchange of information that gives readers a sense that they belong. A blog that is all talk without any listening or interaction is like a big tall fence that reads Stay Out.

Look at comps on other houses in the neighborhood

Search the terms that you believe your best visitors will be searching so you can see what other blogs and sites your targeted audience reads. What do the blogs with topics similar to yours look like? What do they seem to be doing well? What could you do better? What differentiates your blog from the others? What niche within your topic could you be filling for readers that no one else seems to have developed yet?

Once you’ve figured out what your blog’s strengths are compared to the competition, play up those assets. Give your posts titles that speak to these strengths and originality. Put your best material where everyone can see it and include a “most popular” posts list to show off your best features.

Show some character

Nobody wants a cookie-cutter house that looks like all the other houses on the street. Stand out with details that give your blog character and originality. Give your charming cottage or svelte condo of a blog a name that attracts your targeted visitor. Give your headings and posts engaging and creative titles. Write entertaining content that makes you stand out and that exemplifies your unique take on your topic of expertise.

While you don’t want to get too fussy with formatting and features, do try to be original with color and design. Walk that fine line of visitors feeling as if they are experiencing something new and different while simultaneously feeling a sense of comforting familiarity. Charm them with what makes your blog like all the best blogs, and delight them with what sets your blog apart.

Behind the shutters

Once you feel ready for an open house, be prepared on the back end. While the first impression is essential, you wouldn’t want your blog to be like the house in the Tom Hanks movie The Money Pit. It looks like everything the buyers ever dreamed of in a house, but after only a little living, the underlying structure begins to fall apart board by board, and bathtub-through-ceiling by bathtub-through-ceiling. Be sure your foundation is sound with all the bugs worked out.

Test your comment process and archiving. Be sure you have enough content to sustain your blog. If you get one week in and you’re already out of material, it’s all going to come crumbling down. Prepare your blog with extra posts for times when you get in a jam. Prepare to spend time on your blog and not leave it on its own without diligent maintenance, upkeep, and tweaks as necessary.

When trouble does arise, work to fix the problem quickly. Then write a post about the misstep or problem and what your learned from it. Readers can relate to that, and in a reader’s market, they’re the ones you’ve got to impress.

What tips can you add for creating a great first impression with your blog? Share them in the comments.

Bill Post, Small Business Research Analyst, has been providing research on issues of concern to small businesses for 123Print.com Business Card Design for three years. A former business owner prior to his involvement with 123Print Custom Business Cards, Bill spent several years after receiving his degree in the fast-paced corporate world before going out on his own to provide marketing and branding services to other small businesses in the Washington, DC metro area. In his work for 123Print Business Cards Online, Bill works to help small businesses get ahead and assist the little guy to prosper.

Everything’s Already Been Said. Now What?

This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

Over the course of human history, nearly everything has already been written about extensively. Despite this, more people are writing than ever before.

It’s because there will always be more to say.

It is very challenging to write completely original content. Quite often, the best we can do is present known content in a new way or combine it with another idea. There is no limit to the number of ways you can say something, and yet some approaches are vastly superior to others.

Consider the following sentences that carry the same basic message (hint: one of them isn’t any good).

  • I want to have good sentences.
  • I want to convey information in a manner that is enjoyable to read and accurate to my intent.

Teach an old idea new tricks

A recent 50-word article from the brilliant Seth Godin laid out a single concept: you can’t have success without being willing to fail. I can prove this isn’t new. My second post was titled, “Are You Willing To Fail? It Is The Key To Success,” and you’ll find about 100 more posts like these via a quick Google search.

What Seth did to make his article unique was tie in the concept of innovation. He replaced “success” with “innovation” in the formula, and people loved it. They hadn’t thought about how innovation and failure relate to each other, even though it’s a simple derivation from the failure/success concept.

As soon as you say, “failure is not an option,” you’ve just said, “innovation is not an option.”
—Seth Godin

Overwritten, tired topics can be re-energized with a fresh perspective and choice words. Seth’s post was 90% recycled information, but the 10% of new material changed it as a whole. A nasty analogy is that of adding a few drops of gasoline to a gallon of water—it has a dramatic effect!

One way to say something old in a new way is to leverage yourself. Great writers are cherished for their unique style. Every single person on this planet is unique (an amazing fact of reality). In an effort to write “correctly,” we may miss out on opportunities to be our more interesting selves.

Here’s an example. The personal development niche is one filled with serious writing. Changing lives is serious business! This observation and some incorrect assumptions about how a personal development blogger should write were stifling my creativity. Namely, I wasn’t injecting steroids humor into my posts like I naturally would.

Imitation = Limitation?

How about imitating the greatest writers? Most articles and books I’ve read recommend this. There are some things that you absolutely should imitate, but be careful about taking it too far. If you’re unique in some way, it could be a mistake to disguise that with imitative writing (unless your unique writing attributes are poor). Blogging is a medium that allows for wild creativity and individuality.

I believe that Steve Pavlina is currently the best in personal development blogging. He “gets it.” However, I’m not going to try to be a clone of him. Steve Pavlina is the best Steve Pavlina out there. I may pick up some great ideas or techniques from him, but I’ll be incorporating them into Stephen Guise’s writing style and ideas.

I want to be the best and most innovative voice in personal development and believe I have that potential. What if I fall way short of that? No problem, I’m willing to fail in order to succeed and innovate! You can’t become the best or anywhere close to it believing that 45th best is your upper limit. Do not put a ceiling on your ambition. Imitate great writers on this point—they don’t believe in ceilings unless it is raining outside.

Your ceiling is too low

When you put a ceiling on your potential before you’re exhausted from trying to reach it, you artificially ruin your chances. Like a nervous fan walking up to Jay Z, you’ll be timid about what you’re saying, thinking that successful people have magical powers. In your posts, maybe you’ll throw in some power words to feign confidence. Unfortunately, when the problem is underlying, it will bleed through to the actual content of your writing. You can’t hide it. You’ll play it safe and lose to those who are going all out … like me!

The answer, as I mentioned before, is to leverage yourself and your voice. Nobody can be you better than you. Darren Rowse can’t. Seth Godin can’t. Steve Pavlina might be able to. Their voices are different (and awesome, to their credit). Bonus: If your unique voice is terrible, you’ll find out sooner by trying really hard.

This has been said before

Oops! I’ve just rehashed a couple of cliches in this post.

  1. “Believe in yourself.”
  2. “Reach for the moon, and if you fall short, you might land on a star.” Side note: How did this catch on? The moon is closer to us than any star is….

Those are very common sayings. A possible reason you’re still reading this post is that maybe I’ve found a better or more interesting way to say those things (in just a few more words). Do you think I am audacious to invite comparison of my writing to a couple of the most well-known phrases? Me too, but it’s because I refuse to have a ceiling. I will never rule myself out before the umpire makes the call—and neither should you.

Maybe this post did fall short of those popular sayings and it will be forgotten tomorrow. I accept that as a possibility.

But maybe my perspective of this topic connected with you. Maybe my unique construction of words and ideas had an impact on you. That’s what I hope for. That personal connection is what makes blogging beautiful. That’s why we do it.

Stephen Guise lives happily outside of the box and enjoys sharing his ideas for positive life change. At Deep Existence, you’ll find an irresistible combination of critical thinking, creativity, and humor. Say hello to Stephen on twitter!

June is ’31 Days to Build a Better Blog’ Challenge at SITSgirls – Join them Today

How to BlogIf you’ve been blogging for a while now but feel ‘stuck’ – there’s a group of bloggers about to take the ‘31 Days to Build a Better Blog‘ challenge that you really should consider joining.

The Group is SITSGirls – a blogging community with over 8000 women bloggers – and for the 2nd time they’re running #31DBBB. Last time around was amazing – by my count over 400 bloggers joined that challenge and the impact that I witnessed was pretty profound.

It was the first large group of bloggers that I saw walking through the eBook together and to see so many tackling the daily challenges together and supporting each other through them just highlighted how much more effective blogging can be when you take a communal approach to it. In addition to just working through the eBook there was lots of support in the forum area as well as on Twitter.

The SitsGirls challenge starts on 1 June and participants in the challenge get the eBook at 33% off. If you already have the eBook this is the ideal time to put it into action.

The coordinator of the challenge is Shelley from I’m still Standing – you can read her kick off post here.

PS: yes, there’s only 30 days in June – I guess they’ll extend it a little beyond and into August.

Behind the Scenes of Our New Ebook Launch at FeelGooder

It’s been six months since I launched my latest blog—FeelGooder—and today it’s entering a new phase, so I thought it might be time for a bit of an update.

You might remember back in November we launched FeelGooder and I outlined some of the backstory here on ProBlogger. The blog was a slightly new approach to me for a number of reasons—partly because of the wide niche (it covers everything from health, to relationships, to finance, to social good), but also because I decided to launch without any kind of advertising, and with the intent of monetization without ads.

It was an ambitious task and something of an experiment, but I was excited by the prospect.

Over the last six months, the focus on FeelGooder has really been to build up an archive of content (and a team of authors), and to build up a core readership. We’ve done both, although the going has been a little slower than I’d hoped, mainly because of the juggling I and my team are now doing across multiple websites.

However today we’re moving into a new phase and are launching an ebook: 7 Ways to FeelBetter.7 ways feelbetter.jpg

You can read more about it on its sales page, but in short, it’s a week-long challenge for readers to work through. We think it will lift their spirits, help them to feel better about their lives, and hopefully help them to develop some life-changing habits.

I’m very excited about the reaction we’ve been receiving from those who have already reviewed it, and love the way it looks (we’re getting a lot of positive feedback on its design).

A new approach (for me) to launching products

One of the things I’m excited about in this particular ebook launch is that we’re experimenting with a slightly different launch process. Here’s how it looks:

  1. We’re giving the first 500 copies away for free.
  2. We’re then offering the next 500 copies at 50% off ($4.99).
  3. Then we’ll be selling it at its normal price of $9.99.

UPDATE: due to limitations with e-junkie allowing only 100 free copies to be given away per day I’ve had to put the price up to 1 cent for the first 500 buyers.

This is a bit of a departure from my normal launch process, and is one I’m excited to see the results of. You can check out how it’s going over at FeelGooder today, because as this post goes live, we’re starting the giveaway part of the launch.

One of the main reasons I’m taking this approach is that, with a smaller audience on FeelGooder than here on ProBlogger or dPS, I suspect it’ll be a little harder to get momentum going with a new product.

The aim with this giveaway is to get what we think is a great product in front of as many people as possible. My hope then is that with it “out there,” we’ll have some opportunities to grow the momentum as people begin to use it.

One of the ways that we’ll do this is through a push via social media—particularly Twitter. We’re encouraging those who participate in the challenge to use a common hashtag to document what they’re doing with the challenge.

Time will tell how it goes, but I wanted to keep ProBlogger readers up to date as to what we’re experimenting with on FeelGooder.

P.S. Want to give some copies away on your blog?

If your niche relates to that of FeelGooder (life tips, health, relationships, fitness, finance, social good, etc.), any tweets, blog posts or linkups to this great little ebook would be greatly appreciated.

We’re also open to doing a handful of giveaways on related blogs—feel free to contact me via the contact form here on ProBlogger if you think your readership might be interested. Do include a link to your blog and any details of your audience (size, demographics, etc.) with your email.

Why Bloggers Should Also Be Freelance Writers

This guest post is by Ali Hale of DailyWritingTips.com.

Blogging can feel like a long, hard road—especially when you’re starting out. You haven’t hit 100 subscribers, let alone 1,000, and it feels like you’re writing into a vacuum.

And even when you’re a little way down that blogging road, it can still be tough. You might be spending two or three hours a day on blogging—writing content, answering comments, building up friendships on Twitter and Facebook. Chances are, you’re not making much money from it, though.

I’m not going to suggest that you give up. I’m not going to suggest that you work harder, either, pouring more and more hours into your blog.

Instead, I’m going to suggest something which you might never have considered before: becoming a freelance writer as well as being a blogger.

This might sound like a huge step. But really, you just need two key things:

  • the ability to write well
  • some contacts who’re willing to pay you.

These might well be challenges—but they’re not insurmountable hurdles.

Prerequisite #1: Being able to write

You certainly don’t have to be a budding Shakespeare in order to write a competent, professional blog post—but you do need a strong grasp of grammar, and the ability to write engagingly.

There are certainly a few sites out there which will pay you for sloppy, lazy content—but the rate of pay will be abysmal. If you’re going to write for a good, reputable blog, your writing needs to be solid. That doesn’t mean flawless (even professional authors have copy-editors) but you should know:

  • how to construct an engaging blog post, with a gripping introduction, clear message, and strong conclusion
  • how to format your posts for easy readability, using subheadings, short paragraphs, bold text, and bullet pointed lists
  • how to adapt your writing style for different purposes—some blogs will want a much more casual approach than others.

I firmly believe that writing is a skill. It comes more easily to some of us than to others, but everyone can learn and improve. (Reading the posts here on ProBlogger is a great start.)

Prerequisite #2: Contacts who can pay you

You might not have many contacts yet, but if you’re thinking about freelancing, you’ll want to start getting to know editors of big blogs and websites. Sure, plenty of jobs are advertised (you may well have taken a look at ProBlogger’s own job boards), but most higher-paid positions never get publically advertised.

If you feel a bit intimidated by the idea of networking with editors and blog owners, take the pressure off. Believe it or not, big bloggers are human too! I’ve met several of my blogging heroes—like Darren Rowse and Daniel Scocco—and they’re lovely, friendly, normal people.

A great way to strike up contact is by using Twitter or Facebook to send a friendly message letting an editor know how much you enjoyed a recent post. Don’t be smarmy or fake about this—focus on blogs which you personally love.

My first few blogging jobs all came from sending in guest posts. A well-written, targeted guest post is a great way to get an editor’s attention. It proves that you can write, and that you know their audience. (And even if you don’t land a paying job as a result, you’ll still get some traffic to your own blog, plus great exposure.)

You’ve probably got your hands pretty full with just your own blog. You might think it’s not worth taking the time to improve your writing ability, or to build up your contacts.

But here’s why you might want to think again.

You’ll make money (fast)

Of course, money isn’t everything, but if you’re in the problogging game, chances are that you’d like to see some financial reward for your hard slog. Problem is, you can’t attract big advertisers and you don’t have any products to sell yet.

If you write a piece as a freelancer—whether that’s for a blog, a magazine, or a newspaper—then you get paid. For a typical freelance blog post, you’ll receive around $40–$60.

Doesn’t that sound a lot more efficient than watching the pennies trickle into your AdSense account?

The money from your freelance writing might let you quit your day job, so you can put more time into your own blog or other projects (that’s how it worked for me). Or, if you keep your freelancing as a job on the side, it’ll at least let you afford hosting, premium themes, and training materials for your own blog.

You’ll build your blogging network

When you’re Joe Newbie in the blogosphere, you’re probably used to big bloggers ignoring you. It’s not personal—they just don’t have the time to reply to every single comment and tweet.

But when you’re a freelance writer, your editor will definitely know your name. In fact, they’ll probably get to know you while you’re building up your freelancing contacts—perhaps you’ll have been a regular commenter on their blog, or you’ll have sent them a couple of guest posts, before landing that paid gig.

Plus, when you’re regularly having work published on large blogs or websites, other big bloggers will start paying attention to you, too. Instead of trying to get attention to your own blog, you’ll be able to leverage an existing audience—quite possibly one of tens of thousands of readers. And you’ll be getting paid to do it.

Even if you only freelance for a few months, you’ll have made contacts which you can maintain throughout your blogging career.

You’ll get audience feedback

When you publish a post on your own blog, how many comments do you get?

It’s probably not as many as you’d like. Maybe most of your posts seem to sink like pebbles dropped into an ocean—no-one ever sees them, and they don’t make any ripples.

If you write for a blog that’s big enough to pay writers, you’ll get feedback. That might be:

  • comments from readers who loved the post
  • comments from readers who hated the post—this can be tough to take, but it can also teach you what doesn’t go down so well
  • tweets about your post, or Facebook “likes” for it
  • indirect feedback from the editor—if bits of your post were edited, try to work out why the changes were made
  • direct feedback from the editor—they may tell you to do more of the same, or they may ask for something different next time
  • emails from readers—there’s nothing better than a heartfelt message from someone who was really touched by your writing.

As a writer, you need to get feedback on your work: this is how you know what’s going well, and what’s in need of improvement.

You can write about anything you want

This might seem like an odd reason to freelance—but it’s one of the reasons I love it: you get to write on a whole range of topics, and you can often choose exactly what you write about.

If you find it hard to stick with one interest—perhaps your own blog is suffering because you post about several diverse topics—then freelance writing will give you an outlet. You might be writing one post every week or every month, so you won’t run out of things to say.

Plus, writing about lots of different topics is a great way to stay fresh and to continually hone your writing skills. You might end up researching an area that you knew very little about—or writing for an audience of people who have a very different background from yours. Getting out of your writing comfort zone is an essential part of your growth.

I know that the problogging dream is to have your own huge, successful blog with hundreds of thousands of readers, a line of products, some great advertisers and lots of affiliate income. The truth is, though, that it takes an awful lot of time and hard work to get to that stage. So while you’re working your way up, why not give freelance writing a try?

Have you done freelance writing? Share your experiences in the comments—I’d love to hear about them.

Ali Hale is a writer, blogger and writing coach. You can read more from her on DailyWritingTips.com, where she also offers a course for those who want to get started with freelance writing.