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Specific Targets vs. Sustained Growth: Blogging Goals

“When you started blogging for money, what amount of traffic were you aiming for?”

This was a question asked of me recently in conversation by a newer blogger. The reason they asked was that they were wanting to come up with a number to aim for, at which they knew they could become a full-time blogger.

As I reflected on the early days of my own entrepreneurial blogging, I realized that I never had a goal like that. My goal was never a certain amount of traffic, or even a certain amount of money.

My goals were always more about growing my blog’s readership (and income) by a certain percentage each month. The percentage that I was aiming for varied a bit over time, but the goal was sustained growth over a long period of time.

I realized early on that, even though my first blogs had relatively small readerships and income levels, if I could increase traffic and income by 10-20% per month over a year—or even longer—the idea of ‘exponential growth’ would take over.

The calculations

Here are the calculations that were behind my goals.

Early on I was earning $10 per month. It didn’t seem like a lot but I realized that if I could increase that by 20% every month over a year, I’d be earning $89.16 per month at the end of 12 months.

That’s still not a massive amount (as much as a part-time job in those days, perhaps), but do the calculations on 20% growth each month over another 12 months, and at the end of that time you’re earning $794.96 per month.

Do it for another 12 months and you’re up over $7000 per month.

Do the same calculations on 30% growth and after three years you’re earning over six figures a month.

Is it realistic?

I can only really speak for myself, but this approach certainly worked for me—particularly early on in my blogging.

Each month my goal was to see increases in my traffic and income. I never really set a specific monthly goal, but in the back of my mind, I was always looking for at least 10% growth as a bare minimum—though I was aiming much higher.

Some months I scraped in at the 10% level, while other months it would be a lot higher—some months early on saw my income jump up over 100% in a month!

Of course, there were also occasional months where things went pear-shaped, and for one reason or another traffic and income fell. The key in these months was to not give up—to keep aiming to get things back up to where they were previously.

Today, things are a little different. After a number of years of blogging, this kind of growth can get more difficult from month to month. I’m still aiming for growth each month but due to the nature of blogging, my income is up and down depending upon what products are being launched and what we’re promoting.

Having said that, over time my goal is still sustained growth. I’m just looking less at month-by-month figures, and focusing upon quarter-by-quarter and even year-by-year results to see that upward trend growth.

What’s your approach?

How do you approach goal-setting with your blog? Are you looking for specific amounts of traffic and or income, or do you approach it some other way?

Writing for Mobile Blog Readers

This guest post is by Brian Milne of the BlogHyped Blog Promotion Community.

As far as you know, your blog is mobile friendly.

You’ve optimized the design for mobile devices using plugins such as WPtouch. You’ve started serving Google mobile ads. Heck, you even have your own mobile app.

Mobile user

Copyright Aaron Amat - Fotolia.com

But are you turning away mobile readers with your content? Are your 2,000-word posts, bogged down with 200-DPI images and run-on sentences, negating all your other efforts?

Possibly. But with mobile users making up between 5% (global) and 8.2% (U.S.) of overall traffic, you’re probably wondering if it’s worth tailoring content for mobile users.

Well, like any form of writing, you can’t satisfy every audience, but here are some reasons to consider mobile when producing content for your blog:

  1. The iPhone/iTouch combo was the fastest-growing consumer electronics line of all time (before the addition of the iPad and the dozens of ensuing anti-Apple tablets).
  2. The line between entertainment and the web has blurred thanks to today’s multi-use devices (desktops, laptops, phones, readers, iPods, TVs, kiosks, gaming consoles).
  3. And most importantly, many mobile writing tips will improve your content on the traditional Web as well.

Shorter (and smaller) is better

A wise old newspaper editor once gave me some great advice, even though I didn’t want to hear it as a reporter: “When you’re done with your story, cut out 100 words before you file it. Then it’s done.”

Hacking 100 words from a blog post is pretty extreme, but it can’t hurt to trim 25 to 50 words. Cut out content that’s irrelevant, or acts as a speed bump in your post. Your content should flow from beginning to end, without any bumps or potholes that’ll bounce your readers off the site.

Cutting down content also carries over to the images and media that complement your post. Whether they’re reading on a desktop or a tablet, users bail when page-load time becomes a problem. The W3C recommends pages be no more than 10KB, and total page weight shouldn’t exceed 20KB (images included). Using a mobile theme or skin will help shed that weight, but using a content delivery network (CDN) and making sure your images and other assets are “web ready” will speed things up across all devices and platforms.

Break it up

Along with tightening up your writing and getting to the point early in posts (getting a keyword phrase in the first couple sentences is a best practice across the board), it’s always a good idea to break up the main body text with subtitles and bullets.

Subtitles not only break up your post into digestible pieces, but they’re an ideal place to inject keyword phrases as H2 tags, further improving your SEO efforts.

Bulleted lists such as Top 10s are another popular approach, not only because they’re interesting and generate traffic in a hurry, but because they’re easier to read on both the traditional and mobile web.

Provide utility

If you’re writing about a subject readers on the move could benefit from (restaurant reviews, event information, etc.), give your mobile readers the details they’re searching for.

As with the traditional Web, a large portion of mobile users stumble upon blogs via search (Google reported mobile searches quadrupled in 2010, with one in seven searches coming from a mobile device), so don’t hesitate to include mobile-critical details such as phone numbers, addresses, websites and directions. Keeping your traditional Web readers in mind, you can avoid bogging down your body copy by offsetting those additional “mobile” details in parentheses, taglines, captions or callouts.

Get engaged

The key to a successful blog or online community is user engagement, no matter the device at the reader’s fingertips.

The easiest way to encourage interaction is through comments. But on a mobile device, with fat fingers and tiny keyboards, commenting can be a challenge. Unless, of course, your blog integrates smoothly with quick-hit services such as Twitter and Facebook—communities that thrive in the mobile realm because they’re easy to use on the fly.

Even if mobile users aren’t commenting on your blog in a traditional sense, give them plenty of other options to talk about your site, and, more importantly, link to you from the social mediasphere.

Remain balanced

Unless you have a website geared specifically toward mobile readers, it would be foolish to abandon traditional blogging and web writing best practices for mobile-only content. Even the most popular blogs out there—problogger.net, for example—see an average of only 5-8% of overall traffic coming from mobile devices.

Rather than focusing exclusively on that small slice of readers, consider the entire audience with your content development efforts—all while keeping in mind the smartphone market is projected to grow by 49.2% this year, according to the IDC.

Take advantage of this opportunity to not only better your content overall, but prepare for the mobile takeover. Absorb valuable online resources like ProBlogger, and consider offline resources like community college writing courses and those dusty old journalism books filled with priceless tips about writing for busy newspaper readers.

It might sound funny, but those age-old writing techniques carry right over to today’s hurried mobile readers. (Think of bus or subway commuters who replaced their morning newspaper with smartphones and tablets.) Now is the time to work those suggestions into your blog. Get the nutgraph (keyword phrase) of your story in your lead (first 140 characters). Write short paragraphs, and use bullets (lists) and subheads (H2 tags) to improve readability.

You’ll be surprised at how well those old-school, JOURN-101 tips can tighten up your content and enhance the user experience for your blog readers—whether they’re surfing via the traditional web or their mobile devices.

Follow those tips and it’s only a matter of time before your blog is truly mobile friendly.

What tips do you have for improving content for both mobile and traditional web audiences? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

A former senior writer and editor for McClatchy Newspapers, Brian Milne founded the BlogHyped.com and BallHyped.com social voting communities, where bloggers can share their posts, get followed links and additional blogging resources. Connect and share your blogging tips with Brian via Twitter @BMilneSLO.

Let Twitter Improve Your Copy Editing

This guest post is by Jason of FindingMyFitness.com.

You know that one of the “tricks” to writing great posts is to keeping the content short, crisp, and clear.

So why is that so hard to do?

Adopting the Twitter method

Ever write a great tweet and have to shorten it because it doesn’t fit? You tweak and edit until you get your point across in 140 characters or fewer. I noticed my tweets were snappier when I edited them down.

I get wordy in my posts, so I wanted to practice writing more succinctly. I began playing a game with myself by putting my wordy sections in Tweetdeck and crafting them to fit. Long sentences get shortened to 140 characters. Sometimes, even whole paragraphs.

Twitter can help improve your writing in different ways:

  • You have to craft sentences instead of write them, so your command of the language improves.
  • It helps you to communicate more clearly, specifically, and directly.
  • If you tweet parts of your posts (I have), you’ll see immediately how readers react and even generate interest in your next blog.

A practical example

I didn’t edit while I wrote this post. I knew I wanted it to be short, but I didn’t specifically try to make it tiny.

By using the Twitter method to edit, I shortened it by 20%.

I’ve noticed that my shorter posts get retweeted more often than my longer posts. When you make your point and get off your box, people react. You haven’t given them time to be bored.

You can take it too far

This method won’t work for all posts in all situations. Sometimes you’ll just need to use more words. Just a few tweaks can completely change the meaning of what you wrote, and that is something you don’t necessarily want.

Short and crisp works great for inspirational posts. For explanations and how-tos, clarity might require more words. Don’t let your long posts be boring, though: break them apart with short, concise paragraphs.

Eventually, you’ll be concise without thinking about it. Your sentences will be snappier; paragraphs, clearer; readers, happier; wallet, fuller. Nothing but wins!

What techniques do you use to make your posts as tight and clear as possible?

One day Jason got tired of being fat, so he created FindingMyFitness.com to help him get skinny. Follow him there or on Twitter at @fmfblogger.

Interview: Benny Lewis of FluentIn3Months

This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of KevinMuldoon.com.

Recently, I interviewed Benny Lewis, the man behind the successful blog Fluent In 3 Months.

Over the last month or so I have been organising everything for my move to South America. Since reading The Motorcycle Diaries at University in my late teens I had thought about travelling South America and learning Spanish. I was all set to go four years ago when I was living in New Zealand, but decided to head back to the UK to save more money so that I didn’t have any financial difficulties. Weeks turned into months and months turned into years—until I finally took the plunge this year and made the decision to go.

While looking for help and advice about the quickest way to learn Spanish I came across the fantastic blog, Fluent In 3 Months. It’s run by self-titled “Irish Polyglot” Benny Lewis, who has managed to become fluent in around ten languages (and several dialects too) in just eight years. Don’t believe me? Check out this video.

Fluent In 3 Months is a fantastic example of how sharing a passion for a subject through your blog can be profitable. By regularly adding great content and taking the time to connect with readers every day he has managed to create a blog with over 100,000 monthly visitors in just two years.

The main source of his income comes from sales of his Language Hacking Guide. This multi-format guide is available in dozens of languages and includes a 32,000-word ebook, worksheets, and three hours of audio interviews with well-known language specialists.

Benny kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for ProBlogger readers.

You travelled for a number of years before launching your own blog. What was the motivation behind launching Fluent In 3 Months?

How I finally learned how to get along with ParisiansFor the first six years of non-stop travel, I had been moving to new countries and challenged myself to learn their languages quickly. It was fun, but I noticed that I got a lot further when I was more public in announcing my project to as many people as possible, for some accountability.

So when I decided to speak fluent Czech in three months, I registered the domain and started blogging about the journey! I had no intention to monetize on the site; it was just to document my mission and share my tips.

This is not, however, one of those ‚Äúonly my mother read it first‚Äù stories. I had definite intentions for the blog’s readership to grow as I knew that I was giving unique advice and stories that people would appreciate.

The blog grew quicker than I could have imagined so I went on to document other missions, changing every few months and constantly giving all the advice I could for others who wanted to learn languages quickly and travel easier.

Your blog launched with a consistent flow of high quality articles right from the start. Did you find it difficult to update your blog with such regularity when travelling?

Although I have technically been “on the road” for over eight years, it’s actually been a string of two- to three-month stays where I rent an apartment with Internet. So travel only slows me down for the couple of days that I transition between places.

Ever since the blog started I’ve remained pretty consistent in updating very regularly, with the exception of two separate months when my financial situation was in tatters (credit card debt) and I had to focus on my previous job as a freelance translator, accepting overtime work to compensate.

Since I started earning full-time from the blog a year ago, there have always been about two in-depth posts (two to five thousand words) per week without fail.

Is it better to travel to villages for language/cultural immersion?

How much research and planning did you do before launching Fluent In 3 Months?

None. Came up with the summer project idea and the blog name one morning, registered the domain name, bought the ticket and started blogging all just one week before moving to Prague.

Even though it was my first time ever blogging, I had been reading other (travel) blogs for many years and already had a popular multilingual Youtube channel, so I had a vague idea of what would work for promotion and keeping readers’ interest.

Had you always envisioned using the blog as a platform to sell a digital product or had you considered monetizing the blog in other ways?

I had no experience in online monetization—my previous understanding was that it involved covering your website with irrelevant and noisy advertising, which as a long-term online reader I always find irritating. So I never ran a single advertisement on my site, in order to maintain the kind of user experience I myself appreciate.

With this in mind, I simply accepted that I’d never make money from the site. I had a donation button, but in the first year of its use I managed to get 50 Euros, total, and most of that was from just one enthusiastic reader. Not enough to do anything more than cover hosting costs!

Then when I was in Thailand I met some interesting people like Chris Guillebeau, Adam Baker, Sean Ogle, Cody McKibben, and more. They gave me some encouragement that with my traffic I could market a product specifically outlining how I learn languages, and advice about how to approach doing it.

First impressions of Thailand

With no time to waste, as soon as I got to Germany I took six weeks off my work as a translator and focused on writing the Language Hacking Guide. One of my greatest talents in language learning, traveling, and many other things has been to ditch perfectionism and (as Seth Gothin always says) ship. No excuses, no time-wasting, no waiting until everything is “just right.” I applies this to creating the product too. Six weeks after I started writing I put the product on the site, and interest in it was tremendous!

I managed to cancel the debt that had been haunting me for years, and even build up a nest-egg. From this I could add more to the product, improve the look, add more content etc. (always a free update for those who already had it). Enthusiastic readers offered to translate it and the full version download now includes 23 native written translations.

I created another product about Why German is Easy, but only got a burst of sales from it initially. Basically in the entire last year I have been funding my travels and entire lifestyle from one product! Sales have been consistent for over 14 months now!

This has meant that I haven’t had to force myself to create new stuff just for the sake of making money, or spam my readers. I continue to focus on the content, and the site’s traffic grows naturally enough to ensure every day I make the sales I need!

In a recent complete redesign of the site, I even went as far as to take all visual banners to my product off! The whole site looks so much better now. It’s kind of hard at a glance to even see that I have anything to sell on the site, and despite that I’m still earning what I need!

I also offer Skype based consultation, but earnings don’t compare to sales of my product. Soon I’ll finally start developing my second product, which will be entirely video based.

Getting rid of your English accent when speaking a foreign language

You promote your newsletter “The Language Hacking League” using Aweber. How important has email marketing been in promoting your blog and promoting your hacking guide?

It’s been quite important—when I had a major update to the product I would increase the price, and give people a few days to get it at the old price. The vast majority of those sales were from the email list, and these have given me incredible boost to help me cover travel and other expenses, especially to allow me to go to conferences to spread my message more.

But I would only make those pitches once every few months. To make it worth their while I send very regular pure content (no pitches) to email subscribers. It’s almost as much work as the blog! I want to make sure people enjoy and open them. Even though I have a decent sized list, my open rates are still hovering around 65% so I must be doing something right!

I could get more people onboard with plugins that black out the screen and force an email signup form on you, but I think too many bloggers get greedy about the numbers and come across as too pushy—this is especially true for international readers who find American sales/closing tactics frustrating.

My email list has been important also in that I focus on it way more than RSS subscriber numbers. I realised very quickly that monitoring my Feedburner count was stressful because a) it jumps around too much and thus isn’t even accurate and b) it’s irrelevant for non-techie blogs.

The Many Benefits of Engaging People‚Äôs Curiosity in Your EmailsSo many of my readers have told me that I’m one of five or so blogs that they have bookmarked in Internet Explorer, so expecting them to subscribe by RSS is silly. So I decided a year ago to never log back into feedburner and don’t care what it says my subscriber numbers are. The RSS subscription logo is on my site for whoever wants it, but I focus on getting people subscribed by email—this is something all of my readers can understand.

In each email I link to recent blog posts, so they get updates and move back to the site from that!

I get a surge of sign-ups as I build up suspense about what my next language and destination will be, announcing it first in the email list, and my suggestions for that were so unique that Aweber themselves invited me to guest post on their blog about it.

Free Hug For All ProBlogger Readers!

What lessons have you learned from blogging over the last two years?

That focusing on the numbers rather than content is a terrible idea. Since I ditched checking my RSS subscriber numbers and only logging into Google Analytics every few weeks max (mostly only to follow up on incoming links), it’s been way more enjoyable! As long as you get positive comments directly on the site, by email or via social networking, then you know you are on the right track!

What I focus on is to make it more personal. For example, I’m one of the only bloggers who has a photo of himself in every post (apart from occasional guest posts on my site), and I share both tips and personal stories. I also answer almost every single comment directly.

This level of personalisation means that people really see who I am and that I’m not in this for the money, so they share my site passionately, knowing that I’ll treat new readers well.

Describe a typical day in the life of a travelling blogger.

I wrote a blog post about one such day in Colombia, with video to document it. It involved getting up early, working very efficiently and dancing salsa with cute girls.

Here in Istanbul I’m getting up late and being quite lazy. In Rio I worked most of the day from a penthouse apartment with a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and in India I had a hut with no hot water or kitchen where the power would go out several times a day. There is no typical for a travelling blogger!!

What’s would be your advice to someone who is learning another language for the first time?

Many people will have learned a language in school and failed and believe it proves that they don’t have the right genes or whatever. The problem was that it was a totally unnatural way to learn something that is actually a means of communication. You can’t teach that in the same style as you would mathematics!

My advice is to speak from day one. Learn a few phrases, flick through a cheap book course and then just find a native and speak to them. Yes, what you have won’t be award winning stuff, but you will certainly be able to get by if you try hard enough. Through lots and lots of practice and exposure you will improve quickly.

Real use and not over-studying dusty books (or even pointlessly expensive new software or audio courses) is how people genuinely end up speaking a language. Use it or lose it!

As well as this, being public about your “mission” is important. Either blog about it, or start a thread on my site’s very active language learning forum for encouragement and to set solid end-goals.

Why I love Brazilians

What plans do you have for yourself and your blog over the next 12 months?

I really enjoyed my experience speaking at TBEX (both as a main speaker about language learning and as a panelist about branding and growing website traffic). I’ve applied to speak at larger events and hope that they will accept me, as I feel this is the next step to getting my message out to more people. I’d like to use my blog as a stepping stone to other media; my goal is to convince the entire world that language talent is irrelevant, and that anyone can become fluent in a second language.

Otherwise, every few months I will go to a new destination and learn a new language, and write about it in detail as always. The completely new story in the blog so frequently always brings in a fresh wave of new readers and new opportunities!

While I know where I’m going for the next few months, I don’t know where I’ll be next year at all. If you’d like to find out, just come on over and subscribe!
___________
A huge thank you to Benny for taking part in this interview. You can find out more about Benny, his views on language and his latest travels through his website at Fluent In 3 Months or via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google+.

Kevin Muldoon is a webmaster and blogger who lives in Central Scotland. His current project is WordPress Mods; a blog which focuses on WordPress Themes, Plugins, Tutorials, News and Modifications.

Melbourne ProBlogger Training Event – Tickets On Sale Now

IMG_2052.jpegIf you’re an Aussie, have a blog, and are looking to improve it, check out the ProBlogger Training Day that we’re holding in Melbourne on 21 October this year.

Tickets have just been released in the last hour for the event, and they’re selling fast (as I write this over a third of them have sold).

The day will build upon the momentum created by the last event back in 2009, where 150 bloggers gathered for a great day of inspiration and networking.

This time around, we’re flying in Chris Garrett (co-author of the ProBlogger book) and Sonia Simone (from CopyBlogger), and will feature a number of Aussie bloggers including Nicole Avery (Planning with Kids) and Phoebe Montague (LadyMelbourne). We’re locking in a range of other speakers in the coming week and will also have the team behind ProBlogger sharing too.

Get full details on the ProBlogger Events site or book your tickets directly on Eventbrite.

Update: we sold out 150 tickets to this in about 30 hours. I’ve just added 50 more tickets so if you’re thinking of coming – make sure you act quickly to avoid disappointment.

3 Questions to Ask Before You Publish Your Next Blog Post

This guest post is by Eric Transue of erictransue.net.

“Warning: this post may cause dizziness.”

This is not a warning you want to put at the top of a blog post. But guess what? Many should.

Why? Because some blog posts leave visitors feeling dizzy and confused.

They come in with the intention of either being entertained or learning something. But they leave saying, “What the heck was that?”

Part of the reason readers feel this way is because the author has “Lost syndrome.” What is it exactly?

Well if you watched the series Lost, you probably felt exactly that at the end of many episodes. Lost. Why? Well I have a few theories. But the top one is this. I think the writers were creating the story as they went along. That may or may not have worked for them, depending on who you ask.

But for bloggers, this is not a good idea.

You want to have a focused message that you can deliver to the focused eyeballs on your site.

Focused eyes on an unfocused message? Not only will your readers feel confused, they’ll possibly be a bit dizzy from trying to piece together your message. That is, if you even have a message.

So before you hit Publish on your next blog post, here are some questions you can ask yourself to increase the chances of getting your message across.

Question 1: Who is the target audience for this post?

Knowing your target audience will help you create a clear message that directly addresses them.

It’s far better for a few targeted readers to read your content and take action than it is for many un-targeted readers to read it and do nothing.

Fix your sights on your desired audience and speak directly to them. Address the emotions they are feeling and the questions they have on the subject you’re writing about.

Build a bond with them. Put yourself in their shoes and then speak to them directly. Address the emotions they have towards your subject. And answer the questions that are burning inside of them.

When you can bond with a person to the point that they say, “This person actually gets me,” you have taken a huge step towards getting that person to trust you and listen to what you have to say.

Question 2: Why am I writing this post?

In order for your readers to clearly understand your content, you should clearly understand why you’re writing it.

It’s great to do a brain dump into your notebook or journal, but that’s probably best kept for your eyes. Remember, just because something you write makes sense to you, it won’t necessarily make sense to your reader.

Understand why you are writing the post. Then, as clearly as possible, present the content to your readers.

If you aren’t sure why you are writing your post and want to do it anyway, it might be a good idea to let your readers know beforehand. That way, they aren’t left scratching their heads when they get to the last word of what you have to say.

Question 3: What action do I want my readers to take?

Your readers shouldn’t need a secret decoder ring to decipher what you want them to do after reading your content. Clearly state the action you want them to take. If you leave it up to them to figure out, they probably won’t.

What do you want them to do? Click a link? Buy something? Leave a comment? Share your post?

Let them know in simple terms. People are much more likely to take action when they know exactly what to do and how to do it.

By asking yourself the three questions above you’ll deliver a clear message that your readers can understand and take action on. This will help separate you from the pack of blogs that leave people scratching their heads and wondering what just happened.

How does your most recent post perform in light of these three questions? Let us know in the comments.

Eric Transue is a part-time blogger and product creator focused on showing you how to succeed online without all the BS. Download his free ebook on How To Create Your First Product Online and visit his blog at EricTransue.com to learn more about him.

FeedBurner vs. Aweber: Do You Really Need an Autoresponder for Your Blog?

This guest post is by Aman Basanti of Ageofmarketing.com.

When it comes to turning casual visitors into regular readers there are two main options—FeedBurner and Aweber.

FeedBurner uses Feed-based technology (RSS and Atom) to send updates to your blog subscribers. Owned by Google (Google bought it in 2007 for $100 million), FeedBurner is one of the biggest feed syndicators on the Internet.

It works like this: a site visitor subscribes to your feed and every time you add a new post, a message is sent to them alerting them of the addition. The subscriber needs special software (a feed reader) to access the feed.

For more information on feeds, see Darren’s post, What is RSS?

Aweber is email-based technology that allows you to send automated email messages to your subscribers. It works similarly to a feed but does not require special feed-reading software, only an email address to subscribe to a blog.

Aweber is the most popular autoresponder software system on the Internet. Other popular brands include Infusionsoft, MailChimp, and GetResponse.

Advantages of FeedBurner

  • FeedBurner is free, Aweber costs money: The key advantage of using FeedBurner instead of Aweber (or other auto-responders) on your blog is that FeedBurner does not cost anything. Aweber, on the other hand, can cost $20-$100 a month depending on the number of subscribers you have.
  • FeedBurner take less effort: Most popular blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger, TypePad etc.) publish feeds automatically. There is nothing more to do on top of publishing a post. With auto-responders, however, you have to manually setup the messages and sequence them (but you can now set up a blog broadcast in Aweber, which creates an automatic email newsletter).
  • FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email subscribers: The key advantage of auto-responders like Aweber used to be that you did not need special software to subscribe, only an email address. As millions of people still do not have feed readers or prefer email, this meant that you still needed an aut-responder to capture those readers. But FeedBurner changed all that by allowing people to subscribe to a feed using an email address. This means that while an autoresponder only supports email, FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email.

Given that FeedBurner is free, easy to set up, effortless to use, and supports both feed readers and email, why would you want to pay for an auto responder?

The fatal flaw in feeds

The key thing that you cannot do with a feed is sequence messages: you cannot create a series of messages to be sent to your subscribers. This means that your subscribers only get alerts for posts that are added after they subscribe.

For example, say you post four articles over four weeks, and a visitor subscribes to your blog after week three. This means they will only get alerted about the fourth post, and will not receive posts one to three, as shown in the image below.

Feedburner alerts

In FeedBurner, you cannot send alerts for older posts

Now, if you post time-sensitive information (news or latest developments) on your blog, this doesn’t matter. But if you publish evergreen content, or you want to take your blog readers through a specific set of messages, the ability to sequence is crucial.

Autoresponders allow you to do just that. You can create a sequence of messages, set how long the wait is between each message, and the autoresponder will execute that for you for each subscriber, regardless of when they join, as shown below.

Aweber sequencing

Aweber allows you to create a sequence of messages

Then there are the other benefits of auto-responders like Aweber—customization of look and feel of emails, personalization (“Hi John”), controlling the wait period between messages, solid delivery rates, split-test multiple lead capture forms, and so on.

The audience factor

A third factor in deciding which system to use is your audience. If you have tech-phobic audience, then an email-based system like Aweber is likely better for you.

For tech-savvy audiences, on the other hand, FeedBurner may be better. Technically inclined people are more likely to use and prefer to get their blog updates through feeds. Feeds also have the added benefit of allowing another blogger to include your feed on their blog, creating free exposure and traffic for your blog.

The best way to find out what your audience wants is to have both options on your site for a month and see what your readers prefer. You may even find that it is useful to have both.

The bottom line

If you have a small budget, publish time-sensitive information, and/or cater to a tech-savvy audience, FeedBurner will be sufficient for your blog.

If, on the other hand, you want to take your subscribers through a sequence of messages and control the wait periods between the messages, then Aweber is better suited to your blog.

What are you using: Aweber, FeedBurner … or something else? Tell us how you do it in the comments.

Aman Basanti writes about the psychology of buying and teaches you how you can use the principles of consumer psychology to boost your sales. Visit www.Ageofmarketing.com/free-ebook to get his new ebook—Marketing to the Pre-Historic Mind: How the Hot New Science of Behavioural Economics Can Help You Boost Your Sales—for FREE.

How Offline Promotion Landed 300 New Blog Visitors

This guest post is by Kyle Taylor of The Penny Hoarder.

I’ve been blogging for six short months and I’m bored.

I still love writing new content, but like many of you, I have spent so many countless hours commenting, tweeting, and begging for backlinks that I’m simply too bored to keep it up.

What makes the situation worse is that I have spent months establishing myself as a unique brand in my niche, yet I’ve been employing all of the same marketing strategies as my competitors. My marketing is the first impression I give potential readers and, by reusing old strategies, I have been leaving readers with the impression that I was just another personal finance blog. Sure, the traffic has grown, slow and steady, but I decided that I needed to do something different this summer; not only to grow the site faster, but to make marketing more enjoyable for myself.

My experiment

My first move was to step offline. Offline is a scary place, but there happens to be millions of people out there that have never heard of my blog. And these are the kind of people who aren’t trolling comment threads and message boards like the rest of us. I wanted to reach them and I was confident that once they found me, I could hook ‘em.

bumper sticker

My bumper sticker

I once read in a ProBlogger article that when advertising online, you shouldn’t necessarily send people to your homepage. Rather, you should sent them to a page deep within your blog. I decided to run with that advice and apply it to my offline endeavor. Instead of promoting my entire blog, I picked a popular article on my site titled, “I Get Paid to Buy Beer,” bought the domain iGetFreeBeer.com, and permanently redirected the domain to the article hosted on my blog.

Maybe it wasn’t quite what Darren had in mind when he shared that advice, but what the heck?

It had all the makings of a page ready to go viral offline:

  • A rather juvenile web address. Check.
  • An article that represented my blog well. Check.
  • And, well … free beer. Check.

My hope was that some of the new visitors would like what they saw in the article and start exploring the rest of the blog. The downside of promoting a separate web address was that we wouldn’t be promoting our actual brand or website. However, I was hoping the novelty of “free beer” would successfully launch our regular website to stardom, or at the very least, bring about world peace.

Naturally, this type of article and domain address was perfect to market to the under-30 demographic. To promote the new domain, we had simple bumper stickers made and hired willing college students from Craigslist.com and Fiverr.com to put the stickers up around their college campuses, apartments, and hangouts.

Results

All told, we spent about $120 dollars. The printing cost us $45 for 250 bumper stickers. And five college students were paid $15 each to put up 50 stickers in their towns.

The campaign is only in its second week, and we have already had more than 300 new visitors come from our bumper stickers. At $0.40 per visit, our costs are certainly cheaper than an AdWords campaign, and there is no telling how many more visitors we will get in the coming weeks.

It’s also easy to track our campaign using Google Analytics, because the visitors show up as a “referring site.” Plus, using the Advanced options, we can look at our visitors’ cities to see if word-of-mouth has found us readers in locations other than the ones we targeted with our stickers.

Get creative

Start brainstorming ways you can promote your website that you haven’t seen done before. Get crazy. Have fun with it.

Maybe you could make a video of yourself planking and post it on Youtube? Maybe you could give out free lemonade at the beach and put your blog’s logo on the cup? What about passing out flyers at the farmer’s market?

The strategy you choose will largely depend on your site’s niche, but if you want to be different then everybody else, you are going to have to start thinking differently about your marketing.

Have you ever completed offline marketing—or done something completely outside the box? Let us know how you went in the comments.

Kyle Taylor is a personal finance blogger that blogs about weird ways to make money at The Penny Hoarder. Connect on Facebook or join the newsletter and get our “5 Wackiest Ways to Make Extra Money.”

How to Recruit Evangelists for Your Blog

This guest post is by M.Farouk Radwan of http://www.2knowmyself.com.

Today, every successful blogger knows that diversifying traffic sources is a practice we can’t afford to ignore. Search engines update their search algorithms all the time, social media sites keep rising and falling, and new traffic sources keep appearing and disappearing.

In order to ensure your long-term continuity on the Web, and in order to be able to live through these changes, you need a team of evangelists who can help you market your content whenever a new traffic source appears.

For example, if you had a blog before the time of Twitter, and then Twitter came into existence, you need loyal evangelists who can help you develop strong presence on the social network, who tweet your posts, retweet your tweets, and follow you.

In this post I will tell you about powerful and effective methods that can help you recruit evangelists for your blog.

Recognize potential evangelists

How many times you ignored a mail, a comment, or a request of help from a reader? Each of these people can become potential evangelists when you provide them with the help they need.

When I get a mail from someone asking for help I do my best to answer him on time. If he replies to say something like “thanks,” or if he doesn’t reply at all, I don’t consider him an evangelist. But if he replies saying that he is very thankful, I then ask him to become an evangelist for my blog.

Of course I don’t ask him to do this in a direct way; instead I tell him something like, “You are most welcome. If you want to help me as well, then you can do that by sharing my content.”

People who send you thank you emails are evangelists. When they use powerful words, you know they are already existing evangelists who are eager to do what you ask. Never be ashamed to ask someone for a favor if you really helped that person through your blog.

Never block all communication channels

I often come across blogs that have no content forms, no method to comment on a post, and no communication method that can help you reach the owner of the blog.

Of course you might want to disable one or two features for technical reasons, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t keep at least one communication channel opened between you and the people who might become evangelists. After all, if those people can’t reach you, you will never be able to recruit them.

Spend more time communicating with people

Before understanding this fact, I used to spend no more than 30 minutes answering emails, and sometimes I allowed many messages to accumulate in my Facebook inbox. After understanding my mistake, I started spending more than one hour per day answering emails and searching for potential evangelists.

Post an announcement

Even if you keep all communication channels opened between you and your readers, there will still be many potential evangelists who won’t offer help unless you ask them to do so.

Post an announcement that states that you need help from loyal readers in your forums, on your blog, or on your Facebook page.

Assign tasks to your evangelists

  1. Once you have a team of evangelists, you can ask them to share your content and to promote it on the newest potential traffic sources.
  2. Keep an excel file with the names and emails of your evangelists, so that you can reach them whenever you want.
  3. Keep looking for potential evangelists and keep increasing their numbers all the time.

Remember: successful blogging is all about connecting with your loyal readers on a deep level so that they can help your blog come into the light.

Avoid overburdening your evangelists with tasks

People who believe in you should be treated as if they are precious treasure. You don’t want to overburden those people with tasks and have them turn away from you.

If you asked one evangelist for help, make sure you don’t ask her again for a reasonable period of time. In the Excel sheet where you keep the names and contact details of your evangelists, make notes so that you can check which ones have been contacted before, and which have not.

Also, repay the favor your evangelists gave you, even if you have initially helped them. For example, if you sell products or have membership areas, give those people free access to some of your products.

This will help to increase their loyalty even more, and they will never turn away from your blog. The key point to keep in mind is to not ask for more than those people can tolerate, or else you will risk losing them.

And the next time you need help, ask those loyal evangelists indirectly, for example, by announcing on your fan page that you need help with a task. Only those who really want to help another time will get back to you, so you can be assured you’re not overburdening anyone.

Does your blog have evangelists? How did you build up a core group of loyal followers? Share your tips in the comments.

Written by M.Farouk Radwan, the founder of http://www.2knowmyself.com, which gets more than 600,000 page views per month.