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Make an App to Engage Your Blog’s Readers

This guest post is by Leah Goodman of AppsGeyser.

A few months ago, when I started working for AppsGeyser, a friend asked me if I could turn her blog into an app, to which I responded, “Yes.” Then she asked me the more important question: why would she want to do that?

There are loads of reasons. Here are just a few ways you can use an app to bring new readers to your blog and give more value to your current readers.

Raise the level of engagement

Make a blog app

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Mobile users can read your blog on a mobile RSS reader, but reading a blog through an app means that they’re coming to your blog specifically. It’s a different level of engagement. They’re looking for this blog’s icon. They’re looking to interact with this blog each time. It’s not just one of a bunch of publications.

Be found where mobile users are looking

Regular readers will have your blog in their RSS feeds on their mobile devices, but new mobile readers are much more likely to find your blog by searching for apps than by searching the Web. Having an app gives bloggers a whole additional avenue for discovery.

Form a “secret society”

Once people have downloaded the app, you can engage them in some really great ways, too. Provide unique content for app users, creating the sense that they’ve joined a “secret society,” just by downloading the app. Utilize the fact that it’s not just an RSS feed, and have them vote, fill out forms, and leave comments without having to use a different interface.

Push your message

Last, but definitely not least, is the idea of push messaging. With an app, it’s easy to send messages to people who’ve downloaded your app—even if they’re not checked in.

Push messages are just like text messages to everyone who has the app installed. For a craft blogger, this might be the way to tell people that the project everyone’s been asking about is finally completed, and the instructions are up.  Are you a mommy blogger in her ninth month? Push messaging is a great way to instantly let everyone know it’s a girl! Financial blogger? This is the way to tell everyone the mortgage is finally paid off! The possibilities to connect more closely are right there, the moment a blog becomes an app.

How to make your blog into an app

There are a number of ways to make a blog into an app.

  1. You can have an app developer create a custom app for you. This is the most expensive option, but it will give you an app that looks perfect, works beautifully, and gives you all the special features you want to offer your readers.
  2. You can use a service that turns an RSS feed into an app, such as Android Apps Maker or Mippin.
  3. Our recommendation (and yes, we’re slightly biased) is to use AppsGeyser, because it gives you the full power of your blog in an app.

Distributing your app

Your blog app needs to be distributed in two main ways.

The first is on the blog itself. This is achieved by taking the app’s link information and adding it to the blog. It’s important to copy the QR code to make it easy for readers to download the app easily with just a click of their phone camera.

The second avenue of distribution is the Android Market. This is how new readers will find the app and, by extension, your blog. When adding the app to the Android Market, pay special attention to the app’s name and description. The name and description are what prospective readers will search when they are looking for new apps to download. Be especially careful about the name, as it’s a problem to change it later. You can change the description later if you’re not happy with it.

Don’t skimp on your icon and screenshots, either. We’ve put together a post on making an attractive icon without hiring a designer. An attractive-looking app is an important part of reaching a wider audience.

Does your blog have an app? How has it affected your readership? Share your experiences in the comments.

Leah Goodman is a Content and Community Manager at Abel Communications, managing the blog and community for AppsGeyser.com. She believes in a t-shirt economy and is an amateur juggler.

Bushido for Bloggers: What Samurais and Bloggers Have in Common

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

Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hagakure is the most famous text on bushido, the warrior code of the samuari. Written in an era when Japan was obsessed with warfare and martial prowess, the book offers instruction on how a samurai should live and die.

The most famous and misunderstood line in Japanese history

The most famous line in Hagakure is, “I have found that bushido means to die. It means that when one has to choose between life and death, one quickly chooses the side of death.”

Modern scholars find such a statement horrifying. The author’s obsession with death is disturbing. Even the Edo Confucians of the time condemned Tsunetomo’s morbid teaching.

Beyond first impressions

But if you look past the shock and absurdity of the statement, there is logic and sensibility behind Tsunetomo’s advice. In fact, once you understand what the statement is really saying, you realize that Tsunetomo is not preaching obsession of death; he is preaching freedom from its obsession.

What Tsunetomo is saying is that being afraid of death attracts it. Fear of death paralyses the warrior in battle stopping him from thinking clearly and acting correctly. When you accept death, however, you neutralise its paralysing effects. You become apt at dealing with the stress of combat. You become better at mobilising your martial skill, therefore increasing your chance of survival.

It is a great paradox that by accepting death you increase your chances of surviving in battle.

Samurais, bloggers and the fear of failure

But you are not a samurai. Why do Tsunetomo’s words matter to you?

No fear

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Whether it is dying in battle or failing as a blogger, fear of failure paralyses people. Like samurais in combat, would-be bloggers get so consumed by the fear of getting it wrong that it stops them from starting on their idea.

After the excitement of researching the idea, of thinking of the possibilities, of counting the potential dollars in your head, doubt starts to set in. Do I have the time to do this? Will the people I have to market to or network with like my products, ideas and style? Will I be able to make this blog successful in time to quit my job?

You put off the idea for a week, a month … before you know it, another six months have passed and you are not much closer to execution of your blog idea.

I certainly felt this way when I decided to start my blog. I wanted to get the design right. I wanted to get my strategy right. While some of the planning was important, much of it was just procrastination. I wanted to launch in November 2010, but I ended up launching in May 2011—six months behind schedule. In the end I stopped trying to get it perfect and took the plunge, and am glad for it. Improvement, like education, is a lifelong activity. You cannot wait till you know everything before you start.

Even after they get started, many bloggers do not give it their all. They do not work at it seriously enough. Why? Because that way they can still hold onto the mental comfort of, “I could have made it if I tried.” Just think of how many people you have met who will look at a successful person and say, “I could have been him or her if I tried as hard.”

Unfortunately, mental comforts do not put food on the table. They do not make you a celebrity. They do not win you interviews or awards. All they do is keep you ticking along until you are six feet under and not in a position to do anything.

If you are such an individual, Tsunetomo’s words could not be timelier. Accept failure. See it is as another aspect of life, as another season in the year, as another colour in the rainbow. Do not think of it as an end, but another starting point.

3 people who failed miserably before succeeding superbly

Don’t buy it? Then take a look at the list below. These are famous individuals who failed before they succeeded.

  • Abraham Lincoln went bankrupt running a general store. Had to surrender everything he had, including his horse and navigation gear. Then went on to become the President of America.
  • Walt Disney went bankrupt after his first film studio failed. Then invented Mickey Mouse and started the juggernaut that we today know as Walt Disney.
  • Henry Ford went bankrupt after starting his first car business, Detroit Automobile. Then founded Ford Motor Company and never looked back.

Failure is not the worst thing that could happen to you, it is mediocrity. Failure lets you move on, mediocrity just stalls you.

Is the fear of failure holding you back? Has it done so in the past? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Aman Basanti has written for a number of A-list blogs including ProBlogger, MarketingProfs and Business Insider. He shares his secrets to getting guest posts on A-list blogs in his new FREE e-book – Guest Posting Secrets: 25 Tips to Help You Get More Guest Posts. Visit Ageofmarketing.com/guest-posting-secrets to download it now for FREE (No opt-in required).

Why Bloggers Should Pay Attention to the New Affiliate Tax Laws

This guest post is by Yasmine Mustafa of 123LinkIt.com.

The Business Insider recently reported that ten thousand affiliates were recently dropped from Amazon’s Affiliate Program with little warning.

How much income would you lose if you were no longer permitted to use the program?

This is an issue that bloggers in California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are currently facing. They were instantly cut from Amazon’s affiliate program due to a new affiliate tax law.

Update: Amazon dropped the ballot fight last week and cut a deal with California on the collection of sales tax. According to CNN Money, they have not stated whether or not they will reinstate their CA affiliates.

How did it happen? What can you do to avoid this law from passing in your state?

All about the affiliate tax law

Online retailers such as Amazon that do not have a physical presence are not required to collect sales tax like brick-and-mortar businesses. Big companies like Wal-Mart who are taxed see this as an unfair advantage and are paying lobbyists to push what is now called the “Amazon tax” or the “affiliate nexus tax.”

In short, this affiliate tax states that online merchants can in fact be taxed if they have a “nexus” or connection within the state. Affiliate marketers are one of the groups of people viewed as a connection. As a result, state governors in the above-mentioned states are signing a law that taxes Amazon and other online vendors through its affiliates. They are now being treated as having a physical presence and are subject to pay taxes.

Amazon has reacted immediately. Wanting to avoid being subject to costly tax inquiries from the government, they are cutting connections to every state that passes the affiliate tax by terminating agreements with all affiliate marketers, leaving many bloggers with decreased incomes and some with no incomes from their blog. As long as there are states that do not tax its sales, Amazon has stated that it will continue to avoid affiliate marketing in the states that do. As of June 30, 2011, California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have been affected by the nexus tax.

How you can make an impact in the Amazon tax battle

The war is not lost and bloggers can make a difference in fighting back or preventing the affiliate tax law from passing in their state.

  1. Visit the Performance Marketing Association (PMA) Tax Nexus site to further educate yourself and join one of their state-specific Google groups.
  2. Join PMA’s fight in the reversal of the tax currently underway in certain states. To learn more, visit PMA’s contribution page.
  3. Bloggers can write their state representative and explain how the legislation will harm their income. The best letters are concise and honest, and include supporting examples. About.com has a great structure on how to write letters to Congress that is worth checking out beforehand.

What are some Amazon Associates alternatives in the meantime?

If you have been affected by the affiliate tax, there are other options consider.

  1. Find other affiliate programs to join. Some of the most popular that can fulfill Amazon’s inventory include Barnes and Noble, Buy.com, Best Buy, Newegg, the Apple Store, Wal-Mart, Target, and Sears.
  2. Sign up for an affiliate tool that aggregates all the affiliate programs and automatically embeds affiliate links in your blog. These include 123LinkIt (Disclaimer: I am the Founder of 123LinkIt), Skimlinks and Viglink.
  3. Relocate. This is a drastic step but worthwhile if your revenue warrants it.

Questions to consider about the affiliate tax law

Will national standards for taxing online retailers be implemented?  How will all this affect bloggers and small businesses? Let us know in the comments!

Yasmine Mustafa is the Founder of 123LinkIt.com, a service that allows WordPress bloggers to earn affiliate revenue from product keywords in their content. It is currently the #1 downloaded affiliate plugin in WordPress.

Run an Awesome Blog Contest in 5 Steps

This guest post is by Kiera Pedley of Binkd.

Running a contest on your blog can be a great way to generate new readership, reactivate stagnant subscribers, and increase the engagement of your readers.

Competitions can be a lot of hard work for little or no results, unless you run them to a plan and have a clear objective in mind.

Here are five tips for running an awesome blog contest campaign.

1. Set a clear objective

As bloggers we love readers, we love engagement, we love community—a contest can help you achieve any or all of these things. When planning your contest, set a goal as to what you need to achieve.

Do you want more:

  • email Subscribers
  • RSS readers
  • social media fans
  • sales of your product
  • comments and engagement?

Set your goals as numbers—if you wish to increase your email subscribers, how many do you want?

The true measure of a successful competition is in its metrics, and without a clear, numerical goal in place, you won’t know if your hard work is paying off.

2. Don’t go it alone

If youíre hoping to attract new readership to your blog, you want your contest to be seen by as many people as possible. You can do this using a few strategies:

Use a third-party social media competition platform to help send the contest viral

Increasing your contest’s visibility is the key to success, and the easiest medium to send your contest viral is social media.

A third-party app helps you to encourage your fans to share their entries on social media. You can either use a blog plugin to run your contest, or use a Facebook based application such as Binkd or Wildfire App. (Full disclosure here, Binkd is my product!)

Joint venture with partner

Leveraging someone else’s list is a powerful way to attract a fresh audience. Team up with a non-competing colleague in your niche and share the rewards of your contest. In exchange for the cross promotion, you could allow them to market to the list generated by the contest.

Approach sponsors

Getting a high-profile sponsor of your contest to assist in the promotion or in the donation of a prize is another way to help market your contest. It also adds credibility to your contest by transferring trust.

3. Choose your contest carefully

If you’re using a competition app, there are several types of contests available:

Skills contest

A skills contest requires your entrants to perform a task to be elligible to answer. Short story contests, answer a question contests, and write a jingle skills contests are popular. Entrants can then either be drawn randomly, or encouraged to share their entries to get their friends to vote. Skills contests are similar to sweepstakes, but the entrants can influence their success or failure in the competition.

You can select to have the entrant with the most votes win, or have each vote count for an entry, and drawn similar to a sweepstakes contest.

Photo contests

A visual form of skills contest, here, your entrants upload a photo, and then appeal to their contacts to vote for the photo. This is a really good way to visually promote your brand. Getting a photo of your fans using your product, or performing a stunt related to your brand spreads the word about you far and wide!

Challenge contests

A challenge contest can send your entrants on a virtual scavenger hunt around your site and social media pages, searching for answers to your questions. This type of contest is powerful for creating engaged and interactive entrants.

Sweepstakes

Your entrants submit their entry, and the winner(s) are randomly drawn. Sweepstakes are a game of chance, not skill.

4. Build engagement

Increase the stickiness of your contest by increasing the engagement of your entrants.

Multiple entry steps

Statistically, contests with multiple entry steps deliver more engaged and sticky entrants. A challenge contest gives your entrants the opportunity to explore your site, and interact with various articles on your blog.

Achievable goals

Make the contest goals achievable for your entrants to complete. For example, if you’re running an article contest to generate some awesome new articles, don’t set word counts or criteria too high or tight.

Don’t make your challenge contest questions too difficult to answer, or be too cryptic in your clues.

5. Automate the process

You can effectively run a contest just on your blog, or by a forum and email management system, but it’s a lot of hard work and can be an administrative nightmare!

There are several applications on the market that automate running a contest and allow you to keep the list of entrants to market to during and after the contest.

Some of the most popular are:

  • Binkd a contest platform that offers a WordPress plugin and Facebook Sweepstakes and Challenge contests
  • Wildfire App, for Facebook Sweepstakes, Photo Contests, and Vote to Win
  • Bulbstorm, for Facebook Sweepstakes, Photo Contests, and Vote to Win.

Running a contest can really help you build up your readership and drive quality, qualified fans to your email subscriber list and social media platforms. You can simplify the job by using a third-party application to handle the grunt work of administering the contest.

Have you used a contest to promote your blog and engage readers? Share your experiences and tips in the comments.

Kiera Pedley is the CCO (Chief Caring Officer) at Binkd home of the Binkd Promotion Platform.

3 Ways to Reduce Bounce Rates and Increase Conversions

This guest post is by Gregory Ciotti of sparringmind.com.

One of the many tough obstacles that newer bloggers have to deal with is the fact that many of their visitors, which they work very hard to get, will often “bounce” away from their pages—they’ll immediately leave the blog after landing on the homepage.

Reducing bounce rates

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This “bounce rate” can have a drastic effect on your blog’s success at any stage, but especially in the beginning. It’s very important to be able to keep the interest of your earliest visitors in order to build the loyal following that’s the essential foundation of any great blog.

So, what can you do to keep people around your blog long enough to explore its great content?

1. Set up a navigation bar with “super pages”

As a blogger, you’re probably very familiar with (and even have) a navigation bar on your blog, and you likely recognize its importance in helping readers get to your content.

However, many people do not take full advantage of this above-the-fold navigation bar, which inevitably draws a lot of clicks. After all, your nav bar really stands out on your site, and people are very familiar with how these menus work.

You can get more out of your navigation bar by having it link to pages that are much more than just a sequential list of posts in separate categories (as most bloggers do). I’d like to show you how by teaching you about a tactic that I call “super pages” that will direct readers to your best content.

Instead of just listing those categories up on your navigation bar, you can create separate blog pages that accomplish many useful goals, including pages that turn into SEO powerhouses and are incredibly shareable (linkbait), pages that convert new visitors, and pages that help you establish trust with people coming across your blog for the first time.

First things first, one super page to include in your navigation bar would be a Start Here page, where you can include a lot of elements that could be beneficial for first-time readers, and boost your subscriber count.

This page will reduce your bounce rate, guaranteed, as readers who may otherwise have been confused and left your site now have somewhere to begin. In fact, on many of my blogs, it is the most clicked link on my navigation bar.

Secondly, the Start Here page gives visitors a chance to see what your site is really about. You can also make this a little About Me page, putting a trustworthy face on a formerly anonymous website, and letting visitors know that your blog is run by a real person looking to offer great content.

Third, if the above two things weren’t enough: you can use this opportunity (after a descriptive About Me section and great Getting Started guide on your page) to offer visitors a way to get email updates, and if they like what they’ve seen thus far, they will opt in.

So not only will you be reducing bounce rates, you’ll be gaining more subscribers who might otherwise have slipped away after visiting your Getting Started page.

The other way to use super pages effectively is illustrated by Copyblogger. You’ll notice the navigation on that site includes topics that the site posts about, such as landing pages, email marketing, and keyword research. However, these links on the nav bar do not take you to a categorical list of posts.

Rather, they take you to a super page that presents a long description of the topic, including useful insight into getting started in that category, with plenty of links to the best posts on Copyblogger on that specific topic.

So, for instance, on the Email Marketing page on Copyblogger, an intro on the topic and its effectiveness is given, followed by links to great Copyblogger content, followed by a link to the Copyblogger newsletter specifically on email marketing (which people are obviously interested in). This is followed at last by an opt-in form that states that Copyblogger is a great place to learn about email marketing.

Anyone clicking to this page will be interested in email marketing, so now they have a list of links to great posts that is easily shareable (you’ll find that super pages are some of the most shareable pages on your site), a way to opt in to get updates, and a great descriptor of the topic at hand.

Much better than just a list of archived blog posts, wouldn’t you say?

2. Everybody loves a freebie!

One strategy that is implemented on almost all successful WordPress blogs is the giving away of freebies. These are almost always digital products, so that it doesn’t cost the blogger anything to give these products away.

This strategy works so well because people are much more likely to follow your blog if they see free and valuable content coming their way: they won’t want to miss out on anything in the future.

One of the best ways to do this is to create an autoresponder to send out a freebie if people sign up for your blog’s updates. I’ve found an extremely useful tool on MailChimp for doing this, which is described in detail on MailChimp’s blog.

If that sounds a bit too complicated, don’t worry! Freebies by themselves work as great promoters for people to follow you, so even by sharing a few freebies you are bound to gain more subscribers.

However, there is a way to greatly leverage your freebies: make people share your website in order to get them!

You may have heard of the service PayWithATweet, but there is a much better option that I’d like to show you called CloudFlood. What this service allows you to do is share anything you’d like to give away for free, but your viewers have to send out a tweet (that you generate) in order to gain access to it.

So if I’m sharing a new pack of icons for web design, and I want to give it away for free, I can set up my CloudFlood button and whenever someone wants to access the free download, all they have to do is send out the automatic tweet that I made, and they get instant access.

I could make the tweet link back to my username on Twitter, and have it say something like “Free icon pack for web designers up for grabs, download it now! bit.ly/SomeLinkHere.”

So, I get to give away free content that is useful to people, and they share my website to their Twitter followers … sounds like a win-win!

3. Make it easy for people to subscribe

If there is one thing you should take away from any place giving blog advice, it’s this: your blog is nothing without loyal subscribers or followers.

Thus, it is very important to convert people from the get-go, and making it easy to follow your blog is something that is of utmost importance.

Creattica has some great, free pre-made PSD buttons that are easily edited (you don’t need to be a designer, it’s very simple) so you can add whatever text you want. You can also get some great buttons at Graphic River, such as these.

The link above takes you to an example button that you can edit if you have the PSD files (which are included on the Creattica buttons as well as on Graphic River). So you could easily edit the text to say something like “Follow Me For Updates” or “Get Updates From My Blog” or whatever you think will encourage your subscribers to click on the button.

Eye-catching buttons that stand out and complement your blog are guaranteed to make those who come across your content more likely to subscribe. Copywriters and bloggers alike know that big, beautiful buttons are just calling to be clicked. Are there any on your page?

Why it’s important

As you can see there are a lot of things that you can do (for free!) to reduce your blog’s bounce rate, and in the end, grow your blog’s subscribers.

Even if you only drop your bounce rate by a few percentage points, think about how many visitors that will mean in the long run, over your blog’s life.

Capturing a visitor when they land is the starting point for any visitor to become a new subscriber to your blog. You need to do all you can to make sure things start off on the right foot.

How do you plan on dropping your blog’s bounce rate?

Gregory is an avid blogger and marketer, and loves improving and measuring his blogs. You can find him discussing effective WordPress strategies, and even talking about the hot topic of tumblelogs and lifestreaming on his blog I Love Tumblr.

How Tumblr Helped Put My Site on Top

This guest post is by Ryan Shell of Fashables.

I won’t even begin to act like I’m some sort of SEO ninja, because I’m not. What I do know is that a particular post on one of my sites has ranked in the top three spots on Google, with a majority of that time spent at number one and outranking a major clothing brand.

Tumblr played a huge part in making that happen, and I’d like to share my almost accidental findings.

The backstory

Fashables

Break dancing (Image courtesy PhotosbyRy.com)

I’m a marketer by day, but one of my many side projects is running a men’s and women’s fashion blog called Fashables. I attended a Dockers event on April 7 for the launch of one of a new line of pants, the Alpha Khakis.

After the event, I went home, wrote a new post and scheduled it to be published the following day. The post was well optimized for the phrase “Dockers Alpha Khakis” and search engines have since sent my site a good amount of traffic for those keywords.

One of the reasons why I’ve received the traffic is because of keyword optimization, but another huge part of the SEO puzzle is what happened with Tumblr, and that’s the real story here.

The accident

This could get confusing, so keep I mind that Dockers Alpha Khakis is the primary post in question.

A recurring feature on the site is a street style fashion post that is published twice a week. One of the photos previously published is the one you see to the right—it’s of a young girl taking part in a break-dancing circle at Union Square in New York City.

One of Fashables readers evidently liked the photo enough to share it on Tumblr. Now, this is where the accident happened.

When they shared the photo on Tumblr they, for a reason unknown to me, linked the photo to the Dockers Alpha Khakis post on Fashables.

Once the photo hit Tumblr, it got reblogged and reblogged—maybe 40 or so times in total. Each reblog provided another link back to the Dockers Alpha Khakis post on Fashables and increasing the post’s Google juice.

The result

Before long, I started noticing that searches for “Dockers Alpha Khakis” were sending a decent amount of traffic to Fashables.

In fact, for quite some time my post was coming up number one in Google searches and outranking the main Dockers website. This was a huge deal: my little fashion blog was outranking a major brand’s website. This had my inner nerd awfully excited, which made my mind curious about how these findings could be used, on purpose, in the future.

Contest your way to links

We can talk until we’re blue in the face about ways things were done or ideas about outcomes, but at the end of the day, you need to know how they can impact you.

For this Tumblr example, my immediate thinking is that this could alter the way bloggers, or anyone wanting to promote a specific webpage, run contests.

Currently a lot of people who do giveaways focus on email entries, comment entries, Facebook entries, and Twitter entries. The time may now have come for Tumblr to be part of that game. If you want a high search engine rank for Widget X, using Tumblr to have a link reblogged time and time again will add significant influence to a specific page and its keywords.

Keep in mind that the photo that was posted to Tumblr from Fashables had only one link that connected it to the Dockers post. To be clear, there wasn’t a mention of the product or keyword in the original Tumblr post, so this method can be used without appearing overly spammy or self promotional.

In the end, I didn’t plan on ranking so high for “Dockers Alpha Khakis,” but I certainly welcome the traffic that has been driven to Fashables from search engines. Do you think this tactic could work for you?

Ryan Shell is a marketer by day, and he runs the fashion blog Fashables by night. Connect with him on Twitter at @RyanShell. And if you like fashion, make sure you connect with @Fashables.

How I Started Making $3,000 a Month Blogging About Travel

This guest post is by Marcello Arrambide of wanderingtrader.com.

It has been about one full year since I started blogging about travel, and I have started to generate $3,000 or more a month via my travel blogs.

My very first post was published on May, 4th, 2010, and it was nothing but grammar mistakes and partaking in an activity that I really don’t enjoy: writing. I’m telling you this because even though I am a horrible writer, English os not my first language, and I need other people to proofread my work, I’m proof that you really don’t have to be the best at something in order to do make money via your blog. I have started to make at least $3,000 a month via my main travel blog, wanderingtrader.com.

Initially, I started my blog to capture traffic for a day trading business that I was running. I wanted to get more people interested in day trading and, well, get more sales. What it turned into was my own personal travel blog about my passion for travel, and tips about day trading and travel. My whole blogging strategy is based on exposure; you might have read my post about focusing on quantity of traffic instead of quality when you first start out.

There are a million posts on ProBlogger about making money blogging online and frankly almost everyone online makes money the same way. It seems there aren’t very many new ways that bloggers can make money from blogs. Darren wrote a great post on how bloggers make money from blogs if you are interested in learning your different options.

Instead of talking about ways to make money blogging I’m going to share how I managed to start making $3,000 a month via my travel blog in less than a year. I consider it ten months, really, since I took two months off when I got extremely frustrated by a small change in my blog design that crippled the traffic to my main blog. The list below is what I started focusing on, in order of importance.

Exposure

There are some instances where you find advertisers, but for the most part advertisers find you.

Once you have the right criteria you are eligible for a range of money making options with your blog. The most important thing is getting your name out there. You want to try to focus on guest posts, SEO, and getting on every single blog list that’s related to your niche. The more people who see your blog, the more likely it’ll be that advertisers will find you as well. Below are some examples of the travel-related lists that my blogs are listed on on.

Creating authority

By working on exposure, authority will come naturally. You want to be careful how quickly you build your authority online, because you can’t become an expert in your niche if you only launched your website yesterday.

Creating solid authority for yourself, and advertisers will know that you have a website that is both legitimate and powerful in the niche you’re covering. If you achieve enough exposure, and have good authority, then you may be considered for things like a press trip. That’s a bonus that might be restricted to the travel niche, but you get the idea.

How we measure authority is something of a debatable issue, since most of the lists on the web have some kind of limitation. Either way, when I have asked people specifically about this they have repeatedly given me the same information:

Sticking with it

As I explained earlier, there was a time when I got extremely frustrated and just gave up. A redesign to my blog caused me to take a giant hit from Google, and I was extremely annoyed. I just gave up!

If I didn’t take that two- or three-month break, I might have been on my way to making double what I make now. The tactics I’ve outlined so far helped me in the very first month that I started to make money with the blog. I’ve now nearly doubled my income using the strategies I’ll share below.

Getting in with the Rat Pack

When you get started blogging, you have to understand that you are the new kid on the block. There are people I know personally who have been blogging for five to ten years, and I call these people the Rat Pack. They’re the cool kids on the block that you want to get to know and work with.

How did you feel when you met that new kid in your class back in school? The way for them to succeed was to avoid being pushy or asking for too much. They had to be part of the community.

I made the new-kid mistake of approaching people the wrong way, and asking for things I shouldn’t have. Luckily I had a few bloggers point me in the right direction, and that allowed me to get to where I am today. Be engaging, but not demanding. Be interested, but not needy. It’s all about being part of the community and not trying to force your way into the cool kids’ group.

By interacting with the Rat Pack, you’ll open yourself to an extensive group of people who already know how things work and can share best practices. Since these people already have exposure, that may allow you to take a shortcut when you are ready to start making money with your blog. By talking to other bloggers in the field, I went from zero advertisers to having a list of over 60. Use the tools above for exposure and authority to find the Rat Pack in your niche.

Outsourcing what you can

I’m busy, the guy at Mcdonald’s is busy, your kids are busy. I get it, you’re busy. When I first started blogging I was running a day trading business, traveling around the world, day trading, and running my blog. How did I handle all of this? I hired help. I found what now is a team of employees overseas that I pay to do a lot of the admin and back-office work for me.

The old adage is really true: it takes money to make money. While you may not have hundreds or thousands of dollars to invest in getting someone to help you, you may be able to afford, say, $100 a month. Understand that your time is money. By outsourcing mundane tasks—even if it’s just a few hours’ work a week—you will free up your time to do more important things, like creating quality content and thinking of better ways to make money with your blog.

The one goal I had for my blog was to break even. Any business or blog that you create should at least break even. You’re not going to be doing something for very long if you keep losing money. I pay a team of two people a total of $510 a month for roughly 45-50 hours a week of work. Just imagine the things I can accomplish during that timeframe!

Are you making money yet?

After you have successfully started making money with one site, you can continue on to other ventures to increase your income and your online empire.

Think about expanding to other niches online. My main niche is travel which is absolutely massive. I now am branching out to my other passion, which is day trading. I have started an Online Day Trading Academy to help others, and now I can blog about day trading and travel across two sites, which will significantly increase my exposure online.

What about you? Are you making money from your blog yet? Which of these strategies do you use?

Day Trading from 8 different countries Marcello Arrambide has begun to chronicle his travels around the world on his Wandering Trader Travel Blogs site. He has traveled to over 40 countries in his lifetime and is currently exploring South America. You can find out more about Marcello on his Facebook Page or RSS.

A Dash of Analytics Takes the Guess Work Out of Guest Posting

This guest post is by Joe of the New Customer Workshop.

Guest posting is a great way to market your brand. When you guest post you are able to demonstrate you expertise to a new audience. The short term benefits are a bump in traffic to your website. Longer term benefits are sees through quality backlinks which will help with search engine optimization.

One of the questions that comes up when guest posting is “Where should I post?” For me, the answer is often “Whoever will take me!”

As you begin to build a reputation you may become more selective on where you guest post. Part of your process might include research to find sites that are aligned with your brand.

Let’s say you’ve done the research and authored some guest posts. Now what? Well, like any good marketer, you must measure the results of your campaign. If you have Google Analytics installed, this is a snap.

Google Analytics

All of you should be running some analytics software on your website. If you’re not, stop reading and go install Google Analytics.

If you aren’t running Google Analytics, the fundamentals of what I’m explaining are the same even if the mechanics are different.

The secret sauce: campaign variables

When you insert the link back to your website you are going to add some extra information tags on the end of the link. This data will help you classify the traffic. Google calls these tags campaign variables.

Using campaign variables you can add extra information to your posts which will help you to answer questions like:

  1. Which guest posts drove the most traffic to my site?
  2. Which websites with guest posts drove the most traffic to to my site?
  3. Which posts resulted in opt-ins to my email list?
  4. Which websites gave me more opt-ins to my email list?
  5. Which source of traffic is better for me? Facebook, guest posting or search engines?

This is really just the tip of the iceberg. Once you start using campaign variables on your guest posts you will come up with all sorts of cool ways to look at the data.

Tag your links

Google provides a number of campaign variables that you can use when you tag your links.

The following tags are available:

  • Source: utm_src
  • Medium: utm_medium
  • Campaign: utm_campaign
  • Term: utm _term
  • Content: -tm_content

There isn’t a hard set of rules for what to put in these tags. What I’m going to show you is how I use the variables.

  • utm_src: I set this to the website I’m posting on. In this case it would be problogger.net. Once I do this, then I can compare problogger.net to my other traffic sources, not just other site’s I’ve posted on but also Facebook, and Twitter.
  • utm_medium: I set this to guestpost. Then, I can compare guest posting as a whole to my other marketing efforts.
  • utm_campaign: I use the name of the article. If I post a couple of articles on problogger.net I can see how they compare to each other.

I can also look at all of the articles across multiple sites to see which ones are more effective. You might want to abbreviate your post title but that’s up to you.

I don’t use utm_content or utm_term.

Put together, the tags look like this:

?utm_src=SITENAME&utm_medium=guestpost&utm_campaign=POST-TITLE

I then apply this to each link back to my website:

http://www.newcustomerworkshop.com/about?utm_src=problogger.net&utm_medium=guestpost&utm_campaign=dash-of-analytics

If you don’t want to do this by hand each time Google provides a link building tool that will take care of all the messy work for you.

Check your data

After you publish your guest post, you’re going to want to look at your analytics dashboard to see what type of traffic the post is giving you. If you are using the new Analytics dashboard, you can find the information under Traffic Sources > All Traffic.

Select All Traffic, and you will see a report that shows visits by Source/Medium.

This will show you traffic from all referring sites and uses the value set in utm_source.

Select Medium to the right of Viewing, and you can see all of your guest posts.

This allows you to roll up your reports and compare guest posts as a group with your other traffic sources.

If you want to see what articles drove the most traffic, it’s easy. Click Other and then type Campaign in the Traffic Sources box.

This is just a very high-level overview of the kinds of reports you can create. Check out the book Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics if you want to learn more.

Conclusion

Google Analytics is a great free resource that, when used effectively, will help you zero in on the effectiveness of your guest posting efforts.

Armed with this knowledge, you will understand which articles and websites drive the most traffic to your website.

I’d love to learn how you measure your guest posting efforts. Please share them in the comments.

Joe writes at New Customer Workshop and offers training for small business owners who want to increase their business through Internet marketing. Visit his blog for more information.

If You Don’t Stop Doing This One Thing, Your Blogging Business Will Never Go Anywhere

This guest post is by Tommy Walker, Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name.

Why are you reading this article?

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it, but isn’t there something else you could be doing?

What are you putting off?

I’m going to be straight with you. You are your own worst enemy.

And you are killing your business.

The curse of the boring business

Putting something off

Photo by Stephen Brace on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

If you’re blogging regularly, at some point you’ll delude yourself into believing that reading every “5 tips to do this thing with your blog” article, and bantering back and forth with industry folks on Twitter, is “work.”

This delusion usually starts at the point where you hit a plateau, and your feedback starts to stagnate or wither.

So you hunt through other people’s work in search of the magic bullet.

Maybe if you read more, you’ll learn the secrets.

Maybe if you talk more, someone else in the industry will take notice and launch you into blogging superstardom.

If you just share more, create more, or interact more, eventually, somehow, you’ll make it.

Take this a step further, and you start buying information products, thinking that might somehow fix the problem. It doesn’t.

Meanwhile, your understanding of your audience hasn’t deepened, your writing hasn’t actually improved, your traffic hasn’t increased, and you still haven’t made a cent directly from your blogging efforts.

And you don’t understand why.

Relationships matter, but focus on your customer

I know this, because I am you.

My blog has been live for a while, and granted there has been some steady growth. But when you’ve seen others rise up from nowhere in literally half the time, and make at least ten times your income, that extra 100 or so visitors isn’t really all that encouraging.

They get invited to speak at major conferences across the country, they get asked to do interviews with popular bloggers, they make six figures on their first launch.

You’re getting rejected from events from your own chamber of commerce.

And when it comes to talent level, their demonstration of knowledge is, well…

Doing more, giving more, and creating more, without having a purpose or an end goal in mind does nothing for your customers, and it does nothing for your business.

When you watch newbie after newbie surpass you in record time, it gets on your nerves.

After a while, it doesn’t make you want to learn more, it makes you want to quit.

For me, the moment came when I thought I was getting tired of working for myself, and considered taking a no-pressure sales position at Men’s Wearhouse selling suits.

But then I remembered,I got fired over a pair of pants in my last “real world” gig, so going back wasn’t really an option. It just seemed safer.

Of course, your customers don’t know any of this.

All they see is you phoning it in.

They see boring, haphazard updates desperate to grab their attention with no mission or purpose in mind.

They’re not sure what to think. You’re not helping them do anything specific.

So why would you expect them to do anything specific (like click the Buy button)?

I knew if I was going to revitalize my business, it was going to take something big.

I needed to prove I could do something impossible.

Legitimate reasons to not make it better

But let’s be real. There are plenty of reasons you can’t take on big projects, right?

For me, I have a nine-month old son.

I’m getting married in a month.

We’re moving into our first house.

I have a full-time client.

I conduct coaching sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I just started working on a collaborative project with seven other people.

While these are plenty of legitimate reasons to not do anything differently, the reality is that if these things controlled my business development, six months from now, I might not have a business at all.

Is this you?

Are you doing the same thing, day in and day out? Do you feel bored?

Have you convinced yourself you can’t do something because there’s too much other stuff going on?

Listen, the world is too small and life is too short for you to not do everything you can to make a dramatic impact.

One thing we have in common is that we share 24 hours in a day. Your impact on the world is a direct result of how you spend that time.

What do you have mentally filed away in the “I’ll get to it eventually” folder in your mind?

Chances are, that’s the best thing you could do for yourself, and you know it.

So really, what are you afraid of? Because isn’t that really what it comes down to?

Is it that that you might get criticism? Or that others’ expectations of you will increase?

Are you afraid that nobody will see it?

So what?!

“To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing”—Elbert Hubbard

Critics and downright haters mean you’re doing something right.

“Safe” inspires nothing: you don’t get people to think, or dream or hate.

Not everyone will love you. But consider yourself lucky that you’re able to inspire such a passionate response, even if it isn’t overwhelmingly positive.

And if nobody sees what you’re doing, do it again. And again, and again.

You are the only person in the world with your perspective, and to the right people, your perspective could hold massive transformational value.

Over-commit to a project

So, with all of this in mind, I realized I didn’t really want to quit.

Knowing I had to prove I could do what I thought impossible, I decided to over-commit myself to a project.

Specifically, a project called 21 Days to a More Engaging Facebook Presence.

The problem with the “Facebook marketing” world is that too many marketers are focused on the “get more fans” aspect, and completely neglect how you can use the platform to genuinely learn more about how to communicate with your customer base.

I wanted to put out a free series that wasn’t just about Facebook marketing, but focused on developing an engaging voice that could be woven into every aspect of a business.

The principals really are universal, because it’s about truly connecting and bonding with your customers.

And like Gary Vaynerchuk says, “It’s the message, not the platform”

But here’s the thing: I didn’t plan.

Maybe three days before the beginning I said, “I need to sketch this thing out if I want it to be successful”

But three days came and went…

Plan or no plan, if I didn’t start on pre-designated Day 1, I knew I wouldn’t do it.

With no idea in mind,

I scanned my brain for some of the most common complaints people had.

14 hours later, I scripted, screen capped and released a video entitled “Navigating Facebook to Gather Customer Intelligence” and introduced it as Day 1 in a 21-day series (which I still did not have planned out)

The reception to the video was overwhelming. New people as well as those who I had established relationships with were cheering me on and were very excited to see the rest of the series.

Each day, I thought about the problems that I had heard about, and created a new video.

Most days, I had no idea what I was going to do. But I knew I couldn’t stop.

I also knew that I wanted the information to be higher quality than some of the paid training that was out there, so many days involved a ton or research, and testing and experimentation to make sure that it was a caliber that would make people say, “WOW!”

It was hard.

Some days took 16 hours, other days the screen capture program would crash.

At one point I had to buy a new external hard drive, because I filled my existing hard drive with video data.

The end result?

2 hours, 31 minutes and 4 seconds of video were produced.

My traffic is up 13% , people are taking 42% more actions than before, and my time per visit to my website is up 41%

I see a steady flow of daily traffic that is roughly double what I got before the series, and my Facebook Fan count is about 75% more than it was before.

Now here’s the kicker. I didn’t do much at all to promote the series. Between creating videos, doing client work, coaching, being a father, and being a fiancee, I didn’t have time.

It was pure organic growth, and every day I see inbound traffic coming from new links from websites I never heard of.

What this means to you…

Anything worth doing is friggin hard.

In order to raise the bar, you have to over commit to something.

You’ll never learn how much you can do, or exactly what you’re capable of, until you push yourself to the limit.

Why are you holding yourself back?

Honestly.

Quit looking for dime-store tactics and commit to a project that forces you to level up.

Define a mission.

Develop your voice.

Do the impossible.

Then, and only then will you able to have a business that has any meaning for yourself or your customers.

So do yourself a favor, turn off twitter (after you share this article of course) close your email, and start fleshing out that idea you’ve had that you’ve been “too busy” to do.

Because your blogging business will never go anywhere if you don’t.

Tommy is an Online Marketing Strategist and owner of Tommy.ismy.name. He is about to release Hack The Social Network, the ultimate guide to Facebook Marketing, and is currently developing a “mind hacking” course.