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What Are You Putting Off Doing Today that Could Significantly Improve Your Blog Tomorrow (And Beyond)?

Do you put off doing things on your blog that you know you really should invest time into?

I do.

Yesterday I was out walking and found myself thinking about my “I’ll do it one day” list. It struck me that there were a lot of things on that list, and that while some of them were just fanciful ideas, there are also items on the list that I know are potential profits that I’m just not earning.

One point on the list was updating the autoresponder sequence on my photography blog.

I’ve talked in the past about how I’ve structured my email strategy on my photography blog. It looks something like this:

201107251306.jpg

For a full description of what all the elements are, have a look at this post. In short, people get weekly manually edited emails containing updates from the blog, along with a mix of bonus content (themed updates) and “promotions.”

The promotions are a mix of promotions of our own ebooks (discounted) as well as promotions of other people’s photography resources (affiliate promotions).

The weekly updates are all done manually but the “themed updates” and “promotions” are all done via an autoresponder. The autoresponder simply sends out these emails at predetermined intervals (around every 30 days). This means you’re doing mini-promotions every day, which creates long-term sustained income.

In many ways, when you add a promotional email into the sequence, you’re setting up a small passive income stream for as long as people keep subscribing to your newsletter.

The problem is that while I do have a number of these promotional emails in my sequence, I could have more. In fact, after you’ve been subscribed to my list for around 10 months the autoresponder sequence stops and you just get the weekly updates. Right now, more than 300,000 people have gone past that ten-month subscription duration—that’s a lot of people who I could be promoting quality products to.

So last night I decided to bite the bullet and create more emails for the autoresponder.

I added the first one last night—an affiliate promotion—and it’s already started to go out. All up the email probably took me a maximum of two hours to write and set up in Aweber.

The email will go out tonight to most of the people on the list on my list who’ve been long-term subscribers. It’ll then slow, to mail to just a few hundred people per day. As a result, we’ll see a nice big spike in sales tonight, and then it should slow down to a few sales per day.

Update (24 hours later)

The bulk of the list has now received the email, and we’ve had a good sales spike totalling around $14,000. Based upon open rates and sales generated, I estimate that, since long-term subscribers now have the email, this autoresponder should now generate around $50-$70 per day in income.

That’s not a massive amount when you think about it on a daily basis, but over a year it ads up to more than $18,000. Over the next five years, it’ll go past the six-figure mark—not bad for a single email, and a couple of hours’ work.

Key points

So the main points of this post are:

  • Firstly, I wanted to highlight a strategy that lets those who have email lists generate a longer term income stream from those lists. Keep in mind, we have hundreds of thousands of people on our list, so the amounts we’re talking about here might mot be achievable on smaller lists. However, the strategy will be the same. A simple email you write today that goes out on a daily basis to a segment of your list can generate daily or weekly sales for you over the long haul. And that’s income that you don’t need to do much work for after setting up the initial email.
  • The second reason for this post is to motivate those of you who, like me, like to put things in the “one day” basket. I could have created yesterday’s email 12 months ago. In that time I could have created 12 more of them that could already have been mailing to my list. Instead of an extra $50-$70 per day of income, those emails could have been generating 12 times that much for me by now.

So what are you putting off doing today that could be leading to a significant, long-term improvement to your blog and business?

Over the next two weeks, I’ll suggest something new each day that you could invest some time into, to generate this kind of long-term payoff (not all of them are financial payoffs). In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you’ve been putting off that you’re determined to get done now.

Articles in this series:

How to Email Your Blog Updates Like a ProBlogger

This guest pst is by Martyn Chamberlin of Two Hour Blogger.

“When you work with words … words are your work.”—Don Knotts

I assume you know a lot about blogging.

You know how to set up a blog, you know how to write. You know how to tweet and share.

Most importantly, you know how to build your email list.

Maybe you’re not as fanatical as I am. Maybe you haven’t hidden your RSS feed. Maybe you offer alternatives to email. But you understand the best results come from your emails. You baby your list.

email

Copyright Tommi - Fotolia.com

The email list is important … but what are you doing with it? You’re sending your blog broadcasts to it? How are you doing it?

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion you aren’t doing it right. Don’t take it personally—some of my most brilliant clients weren’t either. It’s not your fault. No one’s ever told you how, that’s all.

Are you handling your email subscriptions in Feedburner?

When people subscribe to your blog via email, where’s that email address going? I hope it’s not going into Feedburner.

See, Feedburner is pretty lousy when it comes to email marketing.

  • You can’t easily customize the subject line
  • You can’t customize the design
  • You can’t utilize auto-responders
  • You can’t know who’s subscribing in real time
  • You can’t know the open rates
  • You can’t completely control when the broadcast goes out

Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t care that much. Feedburner’s free. This is deep and scary, and I’m not going to worry about it. I’ll just blog.”

Let me remind you that your blog’s success hinges on how effectively you master email marketing.

This is important. Quit using Feedburner.

What are the other options?

I’ve worked with a lot of email marketing tools, but the best are MailChimp and AWeber. There are other options out there, but I recommend one of these two.

Which one should you chose? Mailchimp’s free for the first 500 subscribers while AWeber costs from from the start. They’re both excellent tools, but if you can possibly afford it, go with AWeber. It’s slightly better, and after all, ProBlogger uses AWeber.

Once you migrate your list to one of these services, you’re ready to send emails. Whenever you publish a blog post, you want to send it to your list.

You can always do it manually, of course. Whenever you publish content, you can copy and paste the article from your WordPress dashboard and blast it away. While it’s fun doing it this way for about two months, it starts getting old after a while. Really old. Trust me.

Here’s a better way

Unfortunately, this is where most bloggers run into trouble. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll frustrate yourself.

Luckily, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you. After successfully implementing this for myself and clients, I’ve put this article together for you. You’ll be rocking with the big boys in no time flat. I’ll even help you in comments if you get stuck. Deal?

Step 1: Prepare thyself

If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to burn a feed for your blog at Feedburner.com.

Okay, I told you to quit using Feedburner. You’re probably confused.

While Feedburner is lousy at email marketing, it’s a great tool for creating a feed URL. You’ll use this feed’s URL in your email campaign, so this step is important. Since Google owns Feedburner, you only need a free Google account to use this service.

You may have already created a Feedburner feed and don’t know what the feed URL is. Log into Feedburner and click the grey RSS icon to the left of the feed title. The link it sends you to is your feed URL.

Make sure your feed URL shows the full content version of your posts. If you only see excerpts on this page, it means your email subscribers will only get excerpts in their inbox (usually a bad idea).

To change your blog’s feed to full content, log into WordPress and head over to Settings > Reading Settings. Make sure you’ve selected Full text instead of Summary. It can take Feedburner up to fifteen minutes to recognize these changes, so be patient if you don’t see immediate results. (Yes, I’ve learned this the hard way!)

If you’re using MailChimp …

  1. Log in.
  2. Click the large, orange button in the left column titled Create campaign. A drop-down menu will appear. Select RSS-driven campaign.
  3. This will take you to a page where you enter your RSS Feed URL. Paste your Feedburner URL and hit next.
  4. Select the list you want to send your campaign to. Hit next.
  5. In the Message Subject field, paste this:

    *|RSSITEM:TITLE|*

    That pulls the title of your latest blog post into the email subject line. Fill out the other details and hit Next.

  6. Select your template and edit the body copy. The default prose says “Heading 1 Heading 2″ etc. After deleting all this, select the Source tab and paste the following:

    <a href="*|RSSITEM:URL|*">*|RSSITEM:TITLE|*</a><br /><br /> *|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|*<br /> <a href="*|RSSITEM:URL|*">Click here to leave a comment</a>

    This funny-looking code dynamically pulls the the content from your latest blog post into the email. To see the magic in action, just hit the preview button to view how it will look in your inbox. Nifty, isn’t it?

    Hit Next.

  7. Finalize your plain-text version. Hit next.
  8. You’re now looking at your entire setup with all the glamorous details. Scroll to the bottom of the page and hit the orange “start RSS campaign” button. You’re all set!

If you’re using AWeber…

  1. Log into AWeber
  2. Hover over the Messages tab and click Blog Broadcast.
  3. This sends you to a page with a green button that says Create a New Blog Broadcast. Click it.
  4. Chose the list you want to use and prepare your email template. I recommend keeping the design as simple as possible, but you’re welcome to customize it to your heart’s content.
  5. In the RSS feed URL, paste your feed URL you got from Feedburner.
  6. In the subject line, paste this:

    {!rss_itemblock}{!rss_item_title}{!rss_itemblockend}

  7. In the HTML message, paste this:

    {!rss_itemblock} <p style="font-weight: bold; font-size: 30px; margin-bottom: 0px"><a href="{!rss_item_link}">{!rss_item_title}</a></p><span>{!rss_item_content}</span><br /> <h2><a href="{!rss_item_link}">Click here to leave a comment</a>.</h2> {!rss_itemblockend}

    Be sure you’re on the Source tab when pasting this content. It won’t work in the design tab.

  8. Hit the save button and you’re off!

Let’s wrap it up

In case you’ve wondered how the pro bloggers do it, now you know. It’s not that difficult, but no one tells you how to do it. Funny, isn’t it?

Let’s face it—getting your email campaign off the ground can be tricky. I remember when I first started doing this stuff, I had so many questions and I couldn’t talk to anyone (for free).

But today, it’s different. If you have any questions, I’ll answer them in comments. Let’s get started!

Martyn Chamberlin is a full-time web guy who blogs about the importance of web design and builds web sites that enhance great blogging. Learn what it takes to succeed online and join the growing number of passionate writers becoming better bloggers.

You Need to Be (Better Than) a Jerk

This guest post is by Joe Bunting of The Write Practice.

You’ve been told that controversy sells. You’ve heard you need to use hyperbole in your headlines. You’ve tried to create polarizing content that gets comments rolling in like crazy. You’ve heard that being a jerk is the key to effectively drawing people to interact with your blog.

But I’m here to tell you there is a better way.

A way to generate more traffic. A method to write more meaningful content. A secret to building a more passionate community.

I’m here to teach you how to be a better jerk.

We’ll call it Jerk +.

Three secrets to starting controversy

Angry typing

Image licensed under Creative Commons, Copyright Douglas Witt

Before you can be a Jerk +, you have to learn how to be a jerk. You can’t transcend jerkdom without first understanding it. You can’t break the rules before knowing what they are.

Here are three effective ways to be a jerk and create controversy:

1. Use satire

Remember, Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal? During Ireland’s potato famine of the 1720s, Swift argued that starving parents should eat their children. Of course, he wasn’t serious, but by satirizing the heartless rich, he helped convince them to take better care of their poor countrymen.

Satire is simple. Satire is like saying the opposite of what you believe as offensively as possible. You write a blog about social media? Write a post about three ways to piss off your twitter followers. Or for your photography blog? Write a post called the 5 Best Ways To Take a Terrible Picture.

2. Question dogma

What recent author wrote a book about heaven and hell was so controversial that one leader basically excommunicated him and many others called him a heretic? Ann Coulter? No! Rob Bell and his book Love Wins took a commonly held belief and said, simply, “Is this really true?”

What’s a widespread assumption in your field? Something everyone subscribes to? Start asking questions. Is this really true? What if it isn’t? What if the opposite is true? The best thing is, you don’t necessarily have to disagree with the dogma. You just have to raise a few doubts.

3. Be irreverent

Note: Do this at your own risk.

In April 2011, four young men walked into an art museum in France. They threatened the security guards with a hammer (one of them had hidden it in their sock). Then, they used the hammer to pry the plexiglass case off Andres Serrano’s photograph “Piss Christ,” and slashed it with an ice-pick.

Serrano’s picture is considered by many—including those who defaced it—to be one of the most irreverent photographs of all time. It is also one of the most popular. Or, rather, it was.

It’s easy to be irreverent. Do the equivalent of drawing a mustache on a picture of a dead president. Channel Eminem. What are the values of your field? Who are the leaders and celebrities? Make fun of them. It’s as simple as that.

How to be better than a jerk

Acting like a jerk will bring you traffic. There’s no doubt about that. There are consequences though. The traffic is shallow. They’ll visit your blog, but will they come back again and again? You also run the risk of annoying everyone who could help you. Do you want to get attention at the cost of being hated?

Several years ago, I wrote the ultimate jerk post. It combined satire, iconoclasm, and irreverence like a giant middle finger. Before posting it I sent it to a friend and mentor who teaches art. She told me something that changed my life, not just in my writing, but everything I do.

Don’t settle for cynicism. Always strive to create meaning.

It’s easy to tear people, ideas, even whole communities down. Creating meaning, building something that is beautiful, starting a revolution, these require more effort. They also offer greater relational, financial, and personal rewards.

To be a Jerk + you have to find a way to build meaning with your controversy. Cheap hits are easy, but tomorrow those page views will be gone and you’ll have to start over. Instead, create controversy around something that’s bigger than yourself, something inspiring, something that could change the world.

Get beyond cynicism. Don’t stop at criticism. Build something new that will last for years.

What do you think? Do girls (and blog readers) only fall for jerks? Is it okay to be a jerk if you’re able to create meaning? Or is it better to just play nice?

Joe Bunting is the head Jerk + over at The Write Practice, where he is questioning the dogma of the written word, satirizing his old English professors, and drawing mustaches on Edgar Allen Poe. Don’t you want to subscribe?

Develop Your Link Bait Repertoire

This guest post is by Jacob of BlogRevolter.com.

One of the most basic things that we can do to understand how Google functions is to understand how they determine which pages are considered strong and which are not. At the very core of its algorithm is the reliance on linksóthe connection from one website to the other.

In Google’s eyes, if website A is linking to website B, that must mean that website A trusts website B. That trusts passes what is known as authority. The more authority that a website and a page have, the more power that it is going to have in the SERPs. And, the stronger the link is from website A to website B, the more authority you’re going to get.

It’s because of this that those “Get 5,000 links in directory submission” offers that are seen on webmaster forums are pretty useless. Google looks at these links and determines that, in reality, very few of them have authority. However, getting a link from a blog that is updated often and has grown its authority will, without a doubt, help you greatly in developing your own authority.

The only problem with getting links is that it is dry. You could always email people for the links, but the success rate for that is low. I used to have to do that at a job. We’d email websites and nearly beg for links… It didn’t work.

All SEOs that are worth their salt will tell you that the best links are those that come naturally. This makes sense because Google is looking to see if you’re willingly passing that authority to someone else. So, if you get a link naturally, that must be great.

The best way to get a natural link is through what is known as link bait. In other words, you’re baiting people into giving you links. Most people will automatically go to ìList postsî as the best type of link bait, but I want to present you with a series of other methods of link bait that are equal to, if not better, than list posts.

Types of link bait

As I mentioned above, there are numerous different types of link bait that are really quite effective at giving your site the links it needs to rise in the search rankings. And as I said above, the common one is the list post, so, I felt it might be prudent to get that one out of the way so we could focus on the good stuff.

List articles

People love numbers. A list article is something like “Top 10 Ways in Which Lindsey Lohan Snorts…” and just leave it blank. People will link to that article like it’s the last thing they can do. Why? Because it’s funny. It’s got numbers. People want to see the top ten ways someone can do something like that.

Darren writes these often. 5 Ways I’m Using LinkedIn and 3 Reasons Why I Don’t Worry About the Competition are two examples of list posts that naturally get linked to. They provide value in list form rather than just long, bulky paragraphs. So, it’s easy to understand and therefore, easy to link to.

Okay. Now that weíre done with this one, let’s move on to some lesser known methods.

Infographics

An infographic is a graphic that contains a slew of information. For example, SearchEngineLand.com released a Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors. This infographic is a period table of elements, except instead of having C, O and H, it has Cq, Ht, and V—content quality, title tags, and keyword stuffing, which is a violation.

What the infographic does is take all of this information that you might write and put it into a nice, simple graphic that looks really nice. And it’s because it looks so nice that people begin to write about it and mention it on their sites. Naturally, when someone mentions something, they usually link back to you.

Another great thing about infographics is people print them out. I’ve got the above-mentioned infographic on my wall. Every time I look at it, I see that it was “Written by SearchEngineLand.com” and that makes me want to go back and check the site out. It’s a great way to start getting people to come back even after you’ve gotten that link.

Controversy

What’s better than hearing controversy such as “Kim Kardashian Might Have Butt Implants?” You hear something controversial like that and you just want to read it. Why not? It’s Kim K. She’s like so cool.

But, all of that aside, controversy gets linked to. The reason is because so many people disagree with it that they have to write a blog post about how wrong that person is and, naturally, they link back to it so their readers can see how wrong that person is.

My favorite example of all of these is the link bait that says “SEO is garbage.” The funniest part is that it’s link bait. That person is baiting you so much, trying to convince you to link to them by saying something outlandish. And it works. People write about how wrong that person is, and they link to them.

It’s so wrong, actually, that they are using SEO to back up their claim that SEO is garbage!

Spin the news

When something is trending in the news, people tend to link to it more because itís very fashionable. Unfortunately, unless you’re in the political or entertainment niche, most news is specific to niches and it’s hard to get any sort of movement. There’s a way around that.

Let’s talk about American debt for a second. You’ve got a situation where the American government almost defaulted—whether that’s true or not can be saved for another article—and that would’ve meant borrowing money would have been more difficult.

How could a blogger like Darren or myself ever cover something like that and get some of the juicy “debt news” traffic?

Well, the best way to do it might be like this: because it will be more expensive to borrow money, short-term funds that would normally be allocated to advertising are now going to have to go to paying employees because companies can’t afford to get short term loans.

Because of a drop in advertising, bloggers are now finding that they are making less money on their websites, which demonstrates the spread of the economic woes to the Internet. In other words, we can’t default because if we default, bloggers will hurt too. There—you’ve put a spin on the news.

Expert post

This is probably the sleaziest way of getting links, but it still works. Create what is known as an “expert post.” This is a post where you suck up to every big blog in the niche.

If I was making this type of post, I’d probably link to Darren and Glen from Viper Chill and the nameless dude from Blog Tyrant, because they’re experts. The hope then would be for them to link back to me because I touched their egos.

The only problem with this is that you’re sucking up and almost begging. It’s not really all that creative. However, if you can find the right people, you might get mentioned for it.

Great content

The best link bait content really is just well-written content. If you are helping people with your content and providing a service, people are going to link to it.

I know this is sort of avoiding the overall purpose of this post, but it’s true. So many bloggers focus entirely on creating a ton of content rather than creating great content. All of that content won’t get linked to if it isn’t great, so it makes more sense to create great content.

Give people something they want to link to and they will.

Conclusion

Link bait is one of the best ways to get links. People naturally decide to link to you, which, in the eyes of Google, is great. And, more importantly, you’re not wasting time trying to build links in any way considered “black hat.” Google loves natural links and link bait is content that gets natural links.

Have you ever used link bait? What methods have you used to encourage people to link to you? I’d love to hear your opinions below.

Jacob is the owner of BlogRevolter.com where he talks about topics such as building your social empire and WordPress SEO. Be sure to check him out on Twitter and Facebook.

Find Out What Readers Think (and Feel) About Your Blog

Yesterday I shared a little exercise to help bloggers gain clarity around the branding of their blogs. The idea was to simply list what you want your readers to think and say about your blog.

Today I thought I’d share a followup exercise—one that I also do on my own blogs from time to time.

The idea of yesterday’s exercise was really to crystallize in your mind the type of brand you want to build. Doing this exercise can be powerful in framing how you move forward as a blogger, however the reality is that in most cases what you want your brand to be, and what it actually is, can be quite different.

So what is the reality, and how do you find out how people actually see your brand?

Focus group

Copyright Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

The simplest way to find out is to ask people—and that’s what we’re going to do today.

There are a variety of ways to do this. Let me suggest a few:

  • Start a survey: One simple way to do this if your blog has regular readers already is to set up a simple survey using a tool like SurveyMonkey, and invite readers to fill it out. Design the survey to test the brand that you’re trying to build. Surveys can be particularly good because they offer participants anonymity, which can increase the likelihood of real and raw responses (just be ready for some honest and sometimes confronting answers).
  • Email trusted readers: If your blog is smaller and you’re not confident of getting many survey responses, perhaps another method would be to email a few trusted readers—those that you do know read your blog. Even just a handful of responses from readers could give you valuable insights.
  • Run a focus group: One blogger that I know recently held a small focus group with a group of local readers. She had them all meet at a cafe here in Melbourne and shouted the group morning tea in return for their insights into how she could improve her blog. The face-to-face interactions were not only great for getting feedback, but also building relationships with a few readers.
  • Ask a friend: If your blog is really new, or you don’t know any of your readers to ask for feedback, why not ask a real-life friend to test your blog for you? Ask them to sit down at your blog, read over it for 15 minutes, and then give you feedback on what they think about it. Another thing you can do in this situation is actually watch your friend surf over your blog—don’t interrupt them, just watch how they use it. What navigation links do they click? What problems do they have leaving comments? This can be an illuminating experience.

However you do it, the key with this research is to try to get inside your readers heads, and learn about how they see your blog—particularly what lasting impressions they have of it.

Also keep in mind that brands have a lot to do with the feelings and emotions people have about your blog. So make sure you ask about those, too.

How Tim Ferriss Busted the Biggest Myth About Blog Success

This guest post is by Amy Porterfield of AmyPorterfield.com.

When it came to building my business with social media, I lived by the motto, “More is better.” I applied every social media strategy I learned, stacking plan after plan and idea after idea.

Then I read Tim Ferriss’ new book. And everything changed.

With Tim’s 4-Hour Body, I realized I was a sucker to yet another myth in my head just like I was when I was little and my mom used to tell me I couldn’t swim for an hour after I ate or I would lose my lunch.

In his book, Tim talks about a concept called the minimum effective dose. He says the minimum effective dose is the smallest dose (a.k.a. activity) that will produce your desired outcome. In real-life terms, it’s that sweet spot that is exactly enough, no more, no less, that gets the results you’re after. It’s that place where you can achieve the most dramatic results in the least amount of time possible. Anything beyond that point is a waste of your time.

Tim uses the example of boiled water. Boiled water is boiled water. There’s no such thing as “more boiled.” Make sense? Or if you go to the beach and you spend 15 minutes in the sun, you get a tan. But anything beyond those 15 minutes and maybe you start to burn. Once you pass a certain point, you actually can create setbacks. Essentially, doing too much can trip you up.

Then it hits me: with social media marketing, more is not better. In fact, more is worse.

Whether you are using social media to gain greater exposure for your blog, build awareness for a product or sell your services, it’s natural to want to do all you can to get results. But did you know that when you do too much, you could actually halt real progress? In fact, when you try to do too much, it can mess up your momentum and cost you profits and valuable relationships in your business.

How does this relate to your success?

To apply the minimum effective dose to your social media efforts, you first have to realize what may be a dirty truth: you’re trying to do too much.

At some point, we’ve all been there—we try to be everything to everyone and make promises we can’t keep, schedule meetings on top of meetings and start new projects that never get finished. It’s human nature. The challenge is that when we take on too much, there’s no time to think things out—and you begin executing in a bubble, ignoring your intuition and making decisions that lack creativity and strategy.

The problem scenario: the social media junkie

One of my most recent clients was a self-proclaimed social media junkie. When it came to online networking, she did anything and everything to boost her online exposure. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, YouTube, FriendFeed, shiny new social apps, networking gadgets, widgets and tools, you name it, she was all over it. And if a new social media strategy was discovered, she was ready to implement at any time.

Not only was she overwhelmed, confused and stressed, but also she was not seeing results. After a few coaching sessions we discovered that her audience was not using Twitter, and rarely checked into their LinkedIn accounts. She instantly quit wasting her time on these networks.

Also, although she loved making videos, and hated writing blog posts, she was producing several written blogs posts a week because she thought the “hard work” would pay off. Since she was not confident with her writing, each post would take her three to five hours. The misconception that she needed to post multiple times a week was costing her time and money. After monitoring her blog we learned that her audience responded better to video blogs vs. written blogs. She stopped the written blog posts immediately and now posts videos multiple times a week, each taking her about 30 minutes to record, edit, and post.

She was doing too much and was completely sabotaging her success. When she took a step back and stopped “doing,” she was able to see what was working and what was a waste of time. This insight was not clear until she finally stopped “doing” and stepped back to assess the situation.

The solution: create more white space

Harvard Business Review recently published an article called, This Space Intentionally Left White. To get an edge on the competition, the author suggests we “slow down to see more.” She goes on to say that we need to “radically alter a small moment of time each week—to schedule a time for doing nothing but thinking—and pay attention to what emerges in the absence of the noise of our normal activity.”

When you slow down and think about your next steps, things get a lot clearer. You are able to see the pockets of opportunity—and that is where your sweet spot, that minimum effective dose, starts to become more apparent. Setting time for the white space allows you to uncover the areas where you are doing too much and wasting your time—and easier, more strategic opportunities come to the surface.

Spacing out

Are you mired in too much? Make it a habit to find two hours a week where you do nothing but think, not do. No multi-tasking, no emails, no cell phones, no journaling. Just you and your thoughts. Think about where you come up with your best ideas—in the shower, or listening to music in the car—it’s when you’re likely doing an automated activity that allows you to just think.

And next time you get that overwhelming urge to take on yet another project, remember this myth buster: more is not better, it’s just more. Choose your best dose instead—the minimum effective one.

Amy is the co-author of Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies and a social media strategist for entrepreneurs and small business owners. You can read her weekly blog here and check out her latest program, The Simple Social Media Formula, here.

What Do You Want People to Say About Your Blog? A Blog Branding Exercise

“A brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”—Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder.

This quote gets pulled out a lot by bloggers (I’ve used it three times in the last week myself) but I wonder if it might be time to give it a little more intentional pondering as we think about the brands we are trying to build around our blogs.

Whispers

Copyright Faber Visum - Fotolia.com

The brand of your blog is that lasting impression that people have of your blog. It’s the things people go away from your blog thinking—and, more importantly, talking about to others.

If this is the case, an important question to ask yourself as a blogger considering your brand is:

What do you want people to say about your blog?

Here’s a quick exercise that I’ve done recently that gave me a lot more clarity about what I’m building.

  1. Grab a sheet of paper, open a text document or mindmap, or go to a whiteboard.
  2. At the top write “What do I want people to say about my blog?”
  3. Spend ten to 15 minutes brainstorming answers to this question.

As you work on your answers think broadly about your blog. What do you want people to say about your content, the style you write in, your voice, the community and interaction on the blog, your approachability, etc.

Perhaps another way to ask the question is, “What words do you want people to use to describe my blog?”

Also pay attention to the feelings and emotions you want people to have while they’re on your blog. My suspicion is that feelings and emotions are a big part of a brand. Do you want people to feel:

  • a sense of belonging
  • content and happy
  • intellectually stimulated
  • that they’re not alone
  • informed
  • …or something else?

When I recently did this exercise for myself (I did it for my main two blogs), it gave me a lot more clarity about the types of brands I’m attempting to build. I hope that this, in turn, will help me communicate that to others, and actually make those goals a reality.

Got 30 Minutes? Learn How The Ninja Turns Blogs Into Real Businesses

Skip the Backstory and Take me to the Free Video and MindMap!

In 2002 I started my first blog without even the hint that blogging would be anything more to me than a hobby.

Over the years that have followed I began to see the potential of blogging to make money and began to experiment – growing blogging from a hobby, to a part time job to a full time job and beyond.

The evolution of my blogs was wonderful in many ways but meant I ended up with…. a bit of a mess.

A couple of years ago I sat down to do some strategic thinking about my blogging and realised that I’d created something that resembled a house that had had many extensions added to it.

It all worked – but it was far from the strategic business that it could be.

Really what it needed was an Architect.

Meet the Architect

Today I’m excited to introduce you to someone who in many ways has become the Architect of my business – The Web Marketing Ninja.

The Ninja has literally added 0′s to my blogs revenue with his advice. He’s smart, humble, warm hearted and ethical (and a little shy). Just my kind of online marketer.

Regular readers of ProBlogger already are familiar with the Ninja – he’s been guest posting here for a year or so.

Get inside the Ninjas Mind with this Free In Depth MindMap

But today the Ninja is stepping things up a notch and is going to reveal an in depth overview of how he approaches helping blogs transition from hobbies to businesses.

WMN-MindMap.jpg

I was meeting with the Ninja recently to talk about a product launch that I’m doing and as we chatted I realised this guy has so much great strategy in his head that we just had to capture it somehow.

I issued him a challenge – get your approach down and share it with ProBlogger readers. Off the cuff I suggested he create a Mind Map outlining what he does.

Little did I know that the Ninja would not only create a MindMap – but he’d also go on to create a complete 31 chapter guide to online marketing complete with a heap of other tools for bloggers!

We’ll launch the full online marketing kit that he’s produced in the coming week or so but in the lead up to it I’ve asked the Ninja to share the Mind Map with ProBlogger readers today and to talk us through it step by step in a video.

The free video he’s created is not for the light hearted – it is 30 minutes long and is a meaty overview into the topic of online marketing. You’ll need to set aside some time, make yourself comfy and grab something to take notes with to make the most of this.

The Ninja is a little nervous about presenting it – it’s his first foray into the public limelight – but I love his gentle and yet smart approach and trust you will to.

The video is completely free and we’re not asking for your email address to watch it. We’ve also included the actual MindMap as a free PDF download too.

It is part of the lead up to launching the Online Marketing Kit but I’m confident that it’ll provide value to any blogger wanting to make money from their blog – whether you go on to buy the full kit or not.

Check out the Video and Download the Mind Map here.

Reading Blogs for Fun and Profit

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

How much time do you spend reading blogs? A few hours per week? Maybe even a few hours per day?

I spend at least an hour per day, and sometimes more. You have to, if you want to keep up with the happenings in an online community.

Now let’s do some math.

Let’s say that you spend 90 minutes per day reading blogs. Weekdays only, so that works out to seven and a half hours per week. Thirty hours per month.

Three hundred and sixty hours per year. Yes, that’s right—three hundred and sixty hours per year. That’s fifteen straight days of blog reading.

If you’re spending that much time, shouldn’t you be sure that it isn’t going to waste?

Reading blogs

Copyright Ana Blazic - Fotolia.com

The first thing we need to do is figure out why we even read blogs. Putting entertainment value aside (yes, I know it can be fun, but we’re professionals, right?), I think there are two main reasons we do it: to learn, and to build relationships.

Other than entertainment, these are the two reasons that we read blogs. Either we’re trying to learn something, or we’re trying to build a relationship with the blogger or their community. Ideally, we’re trying to do both.

Well, if we’re going to spend this much time trying to learn and connect, maybe we should think about how these processes really work!

How learning works

Learning is one of those things that we all do all the time, but never stop to really think about. There are a few steps to a learning process:

  1. You’re exposed to new ideas and information.
  2. You filter out the information that isn’t relevant to you (this is something like 95% of what’s going on around you at any given time!).
  3. You encode that information in long-term memory, so that you can remember it later.
  4. You integrate that information with your understandings and worldview, so that you can apply it in appropriate situations.
  5. You remember it at the right time, and adapt your behavior based on the new learning.

Reading the blog posts is just Step 1—exposing yourself to new ideas and information.

To really learn something, and get as much as you can out of what you’re reading, you still have to make sure you don’t filter out anything important, encode it in a meaningful way so that you can access it later, learn to apply it in your life, and actually do so.

Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Repetition, association, processing, and meta-cognition

There are a few principles that you can harness to your advantage when you’re trying to learn new things; repetition, association, processing, and meta-cognition:

  1. Repetition. This is what it sounds like—the greater the number of times you hear something, the more likely you are to remember it. I’ll say it again: the greater the number of times you hear something, the more likely you are to remember it. This is how we all learned our multiplication tables as kids.
  2. Association. We learn and remember by drawing associations between the new concepts that we’re trying to learn, and older concepts that we’re already understand. This could mean thinking about how the new idea is like an old idea, or how it’s different, or how it is connected. For example, in what way is Peter Pan like an entrepreneur?
  3. Processing. The more you think about something, the more likely you are to remember it; by turning an idea over and over in your head, you get to know it that much better. Thinking through scenarios and applications of the things you read about is a good way to improve the learning.
  4. Meta-Cognition. Meta-cognition means thinking about thinking. In other words, paying attention to your thinking processes—things like your assumptions and your feelings as you explore the new ideas that you are reading about.

Okay, okay, obviously you aren’t going to spend three hours on every blog post—and you don’t have to. There are simple tricks that you can use to apply these principles, and I’ll share them with you in a little while.

But first, let’s talk about how relationships work.

How relationships work

Relationships… connections… community… These are some of the hottest buzz-words of social media. But do we ever stop to think about how they really work? How do you build a relationship with someone?

I think there are four important things that are required:

  1. Show that you know them. Relationships depend on familiarity and understanding—you have to feel that someone really knows you in order to have a relationship with them. That’s the difficulty in connecting through blog comments—you’re just one in a hundred, and the comments all start blurring together.
  2. Show that you think and care about them. When a relationship is genuine, we care enough about someone to occasionally think about them when they’re not around. By the same token, we like to see that someone else has been thinking about you—that’s why we get such a kick out of a simple @mention on Twitter.
  3. Show that you’re making an effort. Real relationships take effort, because before we emotionally invest, we want to see that someone is in it for the long haul. This means that a single blog comment is not enough to build a connection, and even a dozen might not do the job. It just takes more.
  4. Actually being helpful. As well as we know someone, as much as they care about us, and as hard as they may try, we will quickly get tired of someone who wastes our time without ever being useful (or fun to be around). We may tolerate this sort of thing with family (because we have to), but we won’t do it in the blogosphere.

And now for the 64-million-dollar question: how do we do all these things while reading blog posts, without having to turn it into a full-time job?

Funny you should ask…

How to improve learning and relationships

Now it’s time for the fun part, where I outline the strategies that you can actually use to improve your learning and build relationships while you do your regular blog reading.

I won’t lie and say that this takes no extra time, because it does take some.

Honestly, though, it doesn’t take much more, and it multiplies the benefits that you get from the reading. Try them for a week and see for yourself!

  1. After reading a post, take a moment to think about who might benefit from it, and send it to that person. You’ll remember more, because you took the time to think about how the content was relevant to someone, and you’ll build relationships by showing someone that you thought of them. You can get extra credit by sending it to them on Twitter and @-mentioning the blogger, too.
  2. After reading a post that you like, explain the gist of it to someone else. You can do this via email, over the phone, or in person, and you don’t have to do it right away—you can even do it with your family over dinner. Whoever you talk to will appreciate your sharing, and you will remember much, much more of the post.
  3. Leave a comment explaining how the post was insightful for you, when you’ve seen an example of whatever is being described, and how it relates to your life. You can even write a whole response post. The blogger will appreciate the well-thought-out comment, and you will remember a lot more of the post for having drawn these associations.
  4. Bookmark the best posts that you read. Once every week or two, spend 30-60 minutes re-reading the best posts, and really savor them (I try to do this every other weekend, when I write our Best of the Web posts).
  5. Keep a journal of good ideas that you come across. Just write them down, but don’t rush to implement them. That way you avoid shiny object syndrome, but still have the repetition that helps you remember. For extra credit, you can review the journal every few months and pick out two or three of the best ideas to implement.
  6. Whenever you finish reading a post and take an action based on what you’ve read, take a moment to think about why. What did the blogger do to get you to take an action? What worked for them, and how could you apply it in your own work and writing?

These strategies, when taken together, only add a small amount of reading time to your day, but they will help you learn dramatically more, and build more and better relationships—which is what it’s really all about.

Over to you: if you had to pick just one of these strategies to implement for a week, which one would it be? Do you have a good tip for learning and building relationships while reading? If you do, share it with us in the comments!

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!, or follow him on Twitter @DannyIny.