Close
Close

What Bloggers Can Learn From Musicians

This guest post is by Jamie Northrup of jamienorthrup.com.

A lot of the keys to being a successful musician are the same as being a successful blogger.

Some of the similarities between these two professionals are that both write a lot, both present their work to an audience, and both can choose to do it for the art or for the money—or even both, like I do!

The path to the top

There are currently three ways to become a successful money-making musician:

1. Join a music label or record company

Blogging to music

Image copyright IKO - Fotolia.com

This is the oldest and most common way to becoming a successful artist. You can either push your demo or get discovered. Either way, you may not have as much control over your destiny, but you usually have some help getting to the top—or as close as possible.

2. Do it yourself

This isn’t the easiest way, but it is probably the most rewarding. You have to work hard, but you get the control over what you do as an artist.

One artist that comes to mind is Master P, who basically sold CDs out of the trunk of his car. He made millions like that, and later founded his own record company. He was worth over $400 million, and was on Forbes richest people under 40 list in the late 1990s.

3. Win a contest

This isn’t new—it’s been around since television has been around with shows like Star Search—but it seems to have exploded in recent years with shows like American Idol, X-Factor, and others.

It’s a great way to become a star and showcase your talent, but it can be hard to even get into the early stages of the competition.

When you look at these options, you can see that attaining blogging success isn’t much different. You can join a “tribe,” do it yourself, or enter blogging contests—but chances are, like me, you fall in the second group of people trying to do it on their own.

Some of the techniques I use to be a successful blogger are similar to the ways DIY musicians gain success.

Think of a song as a blog post, and an album as a blog.

What successful bloggers and musicians share

There are several techniques that work for both musicians and bloggers.

The first is guest posting. The same thing happens in music: guest posting is pretty much the same as one artist featuring another one in one of their songs. It’s a great way for either the musician or the blogger to establish themselves with a new audience, and get their name out there.

The second technique, which is quite similar to the first, is remixing a song. Lil Wayne is famous for doing this on his mixtapes (unreleased or non-mainstream albums). This artist would take popular songs and remake them with his own words. Bloggers do this quite often as well—I actually try and do it once a month. My latest attempt was “remixing” a popular post from Think Traffic.

The final link I like to draw between successful bloggers and successful musicians is that both write about what is hot—the trends. There’s no surprise that when you blog or sing about what’s in the news, you’ll get recognition. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not, but apparently there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Choosing to blog on your own isn’t the easiest way to earn blogging success, but if you don’t quit, you will succeed—just like self-made musicians.

Do you see any other ways that bloggers are like musicians?

This post was written by Jamie Northrup, a web consultant based in Montreal, Canada. Jamie runs several different blogs, and tweets using his web handle DeuceGroup.

Want to Make Money Online? Then Stop Reading and Get Moving!

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post here at problogger.net about how Firepole Marketing makes money.

I explained that even though we’re less than a year old, we’ve already made over $20,000, and that over half of that came from offline sources.

We wanted to know how other bloggers make their money. Is it all online, or do they make their money offline as well?

In other words, we wanted to know if they were Semi-Local.

In October 2011, we surveyed 153 people; 107 who were already Semi-Local, and 46 who aspired to be. We asked a number of questions to find out what was really involved in becoming and being Semi-Local. Here are the highlights of what we learned.

How many hours per week do you work?

The first major finding was about how many hours per week people who were already Semi-Local (current SLs) spent working, versus how many hours per week people who aspired to be Semi-Local (aspiring SLs) spent working:

Notice the discrepancies on either end of the spectrum: 31% of aspiring SLs work less than 20 hours per week, versus only 12% of current SLs. On the other hand, only 15% of aspiring SLs work 50+ hours per week, versus 28% of current SLs.

Do you think people are idealizing the Semi-Local life, and expecting it to be a lot easier than it really is?

What is your take-home income?

Another interesting finding was about take-home income:

There’s definitely more money in being Semi-Local: 39% of current SLs make over $60K/year, versus only 22% of aspiring SLs. The majority (60%) of aspiring SLs make between $20K and $60K/year, whereas the majority (60%) of current SLs make between $40K and $200K/year—a big difference!

There’s some interesting data at the edges of the spectrum, though. 25% of current SLs make under $20K/year, versus only 18% of aspiring SLs, and only 2% of current SLs make over $200K/year, versus 4% of aspiring SLs.

How does one become Semi-Local?

One of the most interesting findings (to me, at least) was about how people actually go about becoming Semi-Local:

The majority (71%) of aspiring SLs expect to achieve Semi-Local status by creating an offer that is substantially different from their current offer. In contrast, the majority (60%) of current SLs did it by selling exactly the same offer to a new market.

The lesson here is pretty clear—put away all of the shiny objects, and look for new customers to buy what you’ve already got!

How long does it take to launch?

This is one of the top questions for anyone who’s thinking about becoming Semi-Local: how long does it take to launch?

There are really two “categories” of results here: the first category is “under 100 hours,” and the second category is “100+ hours.” Seeing the results in these two categories, we can draw a couple of interesting conclusions:

  • Current SLs have a stronger preference for smaller projects as a means of getting going (76% of current SLs, versus 70% of aspiring SLs).
  • Current SLs took a lot less time to launch than aspiring SLs expect it will take (46% launched in under 40 hours, versus 34% who believe they can do it in such a short time).

Do you need professional help?

That’s the question that we should all be asking before opening up our wallets for the latest training program on blogging and online business:

This is the most striking finding: 63% of current SLs said “no,” versus only 43% of aspiring SLs. The message here is very clear: you don’t need training, you just need to get off your butt and start working!

Do you want to see more of the numbers? Review more of the answers that the respondents gave us? Then download the full report—it’s free!

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, expert marketer, and the Freddy Krueger of Blogging. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on how to build an engaged audience from scratch.

Creating Online Courses 101

This guest post is by Peep Laja of Traindom.

Blog monetization is a tough challenge for a lot of people. In this post I’ll help you overcome it.

The best way to make money with your blog (even when your traffic is low) is by selling your own digital products—especially online courses that teach people to do or achieve something.

Content marketing (blogging, social media) is the way to position yourself as an expert and build relationships with your audience. Both will make it easy for you to sell a course on your blog.

Taking a course

Image copyright Dmitry Vereshchagin - Fotolia.com

If you have your own products, you control the marketing, the pricing, and the content, and you take 100% of the profit. That sure beats everything else.

If you’re doing it right, you’re already teaching people through blogging, so teaching shouldn’t be new to you.

Ebooks might not cut it

The easiest way to package paid content would be PDF ebooks. They’re really easy to create, but they also have many problems:

  • Low perceived value: People know how to create pdf ebooks—just choose “Save As” in MS Word. So your PDF has a perceived value that’s much lower than the $13 real book you can buy from Amazon. This means you cannot charge a high price for your PDF ebook.
  • Ebooks are static: Once they’re out there, they’re out there. You cannot add stuff, correct material, or fix typos.
  • Ebooks are way too easy to share pirate: Someone buys your $19 ebook and then attaches it to his email and blasts it everywhere. Or uploads to his blog. Or better yet, shares with the world via torrents. So much for your ebook income.
  • People don’t want to just read any more: They want to watch videos and use a variety of media.
  • There are no analytics: Which chapter is most popular? What are your readers most interested in? You will never know.
  • There’s no interaction: People read a chapter in your ebook and have questions. But alas, no interaction is possible.
  • There’s no recurring income: Money is in the repeat purchases. You can only sell PDFs for a single payment. So kiss goodbye to the potential of a membership site.

So, what’s better than ebooks? Online courses. They have none of the shortcomings mentioned in this list—in fact it’s quite the opposite.

First, solve a problem

If you decide to build a course for your site, your journey begins with understanding the problem you’re solving. People don’t want to buy online courses. They want to solve their problems.

If your course doesn’t solve a problem, it will be difficult—if not impossible—to sell.

Solving the core issue should be your #1 priority—everything else is extra. You have to get this right.

Your course should:

  • give solutions to the problems your readers want to solve
  • give solutions to the problems your readers don’t know they have
  • be practical and have actionable content (the more specific, the better)
  • use a mix of media: text alone is too boring; all video can be too time-consuming (with text they can just scroll down or search for something specific, whereas in video or audio, they don’t know what’s coming).

So your first goal should be to understand what the users’ problems are. Pay attention to what people are saying and asking about your field on Twitter, LinkedIn Answers, relevant forums, and blogs.

Determine the ultimate goals for the end user—why is this person buying your course?—and make sure your course contains everything that will help the user achieve her goals.

Survey your audience

If you’re blogging, you probably already have an audience you want to sell to. The best way forward is to figure out what audience members’ main challenges are, and how you can help them overcome them.

If your readers are constantly sending you emails asking the same questions over and over, that’s a clue right there.

Great questions to ask include:

  • What is your main challenge when it comes to (the topic you’re blogging about)?
  • What are your main (business or personal) goals for the next year or two?
  • If you could only ask one question from the world’s foremost expert on (the topic you’re blogging about), what would you ask?
  • What kind of information would you like to see more of?

The question you should not ask is, “how much would you pay for it?” People are unable to predict accurately how they will behave in a situation. The answers they will give you won’t reflect how they’ll actually behave. If you want to read up on product pricing strategies and techniques, see this article.

Ideally you will not ask more than five questions. The longer the survey, the fewer people will fill it in. Are the additional questions you want to add worth it, if they mean less peoplewill take the survey? Usually not.

Quick tip: conducting surveys is easy using Google Docs forms (my favorite tool) or SurveyMonkey.

Organize the content in a logical sequence

The best courses give clear instructions: first do this, then do that.

People who buy online courses don’t have the time to go through hours and hours and hours of training materials (there are universities for that) to figure out what exactly they should do. They might think they want a lot of content, but in reality most courses people buy they never finish.

Organize your course modules and chapters in a logical order and structure every piece of content in a 1-2-3 format whenever possible.

Keep it short and to the point

Everybody is crazily busy these days, and making time for learning is difficult. Business books can be frustrating because they are often 250 pages long, while the key learnings can be summed up in ten pages. There’s no reason why your course should make the same mistake.

Have you read the book Re-Work? You should. You can learn a great deal from this book about creating great courses. Two main points to keep in mind:

Keep your chapters (videos, text content etc) short!

If you have hours and hours of video material, try to make each video five minutes long, maximum. Anyone can find five minutes to watch a video, and people will feel that they’re making progress.

Nothing creates more motivation than making progress. People want instant! They don’t like hard work. It’s a known fact that most people don’t complete the online courses and books they buy because they’re simply too long.

Don’t mull over it: get straight to the point

You want to make a point and teach something. Don’t go into in-depth background stories. Just focus on the key learning right away. Your customers will appreciate that.

Also, be aware that people can remember maximum of three points from a presentation, so don’t try to teach more than that. If you have more important points to make, break them into several chapters or videos.

Show me and I may remember

Showing something is way more effective than just talking about something. That’s why using video is way better than just plain text: you can show stuff. (Ideally, use a combination of both text and video.)

If you’re a sales trainer, you can show your emotions and facial expressions, and even enact sales meetings and scenarios. If you’re teaching people how to use a particular software or an online tool, you absolutely need to use screencasts (recordings of your computer screen).

They’re so easy to create with Camtasia Studio or Screenflow (for Mac).

For beginners or advanced-level learners?

Often I’m asked if the course materials should be aimed at someone who is a total beginner or someone who already knows something. The answer is: it depends on your target group. If you’re not sure, create two courses: beginner level and advanced level. This way you can make sure that your course materials are neither too hard nor too obvious, and you can upsell the higher level courses to people who first bought your entry-level stuff.

The beginner market is always the largest in terms of number of potential customers, and there’s only a handful of people who are real experts. This means that it is a good idea to price your entry-level products lower. Advanced level courses can be much more expensive.

Put some personality into it

Plain dry text puts people off. This is your chance to convey your personality and make the content not only useful, but entertaining. Portraying a strong personality is also a great way to stand out from the competition (think Tom Peters or Gary Vaynerchuk).

People like to feel that they know you a little bit, and developing that kind of a relationship helps your sales figures. After all, the money is in the repeat purchases and you want them to buy your next products, too. All the top information marketers constantly release new products. Your current product is your best sales tool.

Seek external input

You know your stuff and you have good ideas, but a fresh pair of eyes is always good to have. Even the best writers have editors and other people who give feedback on the content and structure.

Before you launch your product it’s a good idea to show your course to other experts in your field, and people in your target group. These people can give you feedback on a range of questions:

  • Is the structure of your product clear and logical?
  • Which content needs more in-depth explanation?
  • What parts are unclear?
  • What kinds of concerns do they have as a user about putting the know-how into action?
  • Which content could be added to the course?

This feedback helps you add what you missed and generally improve your product—and get validation that everything rocks!

Do a pre-launch for the first X number of customers

Once you’ve got the feedback and you’ve further improved your product, it might be a good idea to do a pre-launch for your product.

What this means is that you sell access to your online course only for a select few (first ten, 20, or 50) for a reduced price—and everyone who joins has to give you feedback. You communicate in advance that you will improve your product based on their input.

This increases your sales by creating scarcity (limiting the amount of people who get the low price), and helps you get testimonials right from the start and you get valuable feedback directly from your customers.

If it turns out your course is missing some important stuff, they’ll forgive you since you prepared them in advance and charged them a lower price. Now you can make your course better and do another launch for the general public.

“A year from now you will wish you had started today”

This quote by Karen Lamb struck a chord with me the first time I read it. I always think of it when I’m contemplating when to start something.

Don’t linger too long—aim to get the product out there. The sooner you start, the faster you learn. After all, it’s not how you start, it’s how you end up.

Do you offer a course to your readers? Share your tips and advice for course creation in the comments.

Peep Laja is the CEO of Traindom, online software for building online courses†and membership sites.

How to Write a Year’s Worth of Posts in 30 Days

This guest post is by Kelly Kingman of eBook Evolution.

Last year, I took part in a writing challenge called National Novel Writing Month, which is also known as NaNoWriMo. The challenge? Write 50,000 words—all during the 30 days of November. Until then, my personal length record hovered around 10,000 words for a single project.

Amazingly, I did it. And instead of fiction, I wrote a memoir. Which is why this all matters to you, dear bloggers.

On the NaNoWriMo forum, there’s a section just for the “NaNo Rebels”—those of us whose work doesn’t qualify as lengthy fiction. On the site’s FAQ, the party line is it doesn’t technically matter what you write: “We just want you to be excited about writing.”

If I could use NaNoWriMo to write anything, why not blog posts?

If you average 1,000 words per post, you could write 50—just two shy of a post per week for an entire year. Of course, you can’t anticipate everything you’ll want to blog about—but core content? Sure. Write shorter posts and add ebooks, guest posts, sales pages to the mix—the possibilities are endless.

So I decided to use this November to generate 50,000 words of raw, unpolished content in 30 days. I’ve started calling my parallel challenge Contentpalooza. Friends and readers have enthusiastically chimed in with support and their own content-creation goals.

38,000 people completed NaNoWriMo’s challenge last year. There are two primary reasons the structure works so well. First, it’s a sprint. We can push ourselves harder, writing far more than we’re used to (1,666 words per day, including Thanksgiving) because we know it’s temporary. Second, it’s a crazy goal, and sometimes they are more effective than “sensible” ones, they excite us and motivate us to go beyond our comfort zone.

Should you also choose to hack NaNoWriMo this year in order to boost your blogging, I offer the following advice to help ensure your success.

Find your formula and tracking tool

50,000 words is a lot of written content, but what if you want to create podcasts, videos or graphics? My goal formula this year is: 50 blog posts (about 700 words = 35,000) plus an ebook (approx. 15,000 words) and then the balance of words with guest posts. You don’t have to decide on everything in advance, but I suggest you decide what your equivalencies are if you’ll be venturing into other media.

It’s also important to have a way to keep track of your word count from day to day. This helps you stay motivated, see your progress and plan. This could be a simple word processing document that you pile everything into, or a website like 750Words.com. If you want to recalculate the daily minimum you must write, try WriteTrack and yes, there’s also an app for that.

Stock up on idea seeds

So many of us get hung up on coming up with high quality ideas before they begin writing, when really you just need idea seeds. Half-formed thoughts, hunches and questions are all seeds that you can grow by exploring them through writing itself. You don’t need to know exactly what you’re going to say or the point you’re going to make. In fact, writing is a great way to figure out what you think.

Capturing your idea seeds is critical—in a notebook, on your smartphone, wherever. Just don’t let them get away and keep them in the same place so you can grab them during November as needed. I love Evernote for this. I have clipped over 150 items—other posts, articles, and other content that I can use to seed my own thoughts and opinions.

Remember to write, not edit

We often forge that writing and editing are distinct activities, a lot of us write and polish as we go. But the lesson of NaNoWriMo is that to achieve the sheer quantity necessary, you must bind and gag your inner perfectionist. Don’t tempt yourself into fixing spelling and grammar, finding images, brushing up the formatting. Embrace mistakes and false starts (don’t delete them — they count towards your goal) and press on. Polishing is for December or later.

Find a buddy or two (or more)

Our chances of success at anything go up dramatically when we find others who share our goals. Writing, especially blogging, is too often seen as a solitary pursuit. But we absolutely need other people—to bounce ideas off of, to cheer us on, to convince us we don’t need that much sleep anyway. Trust me, this is crucial. Do not go alone. Find others in your area via the NaNoWriMo forum, get on Twitter, and find people who are participating (search #contentpalooza) or recruit them yourself.

What could you create for your blog in 30 days? Why not start now?

Kelly Kingman is a content visionary and the co-creator of eBook Evolution. If you want to join her in the quest for 50,000 words, follow @kellykingman on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook where she’ll be providing daily pep talks and tips.

How to Blog Reactively … and Why You Should

This guest post is by Alex of ToMakeALiving.com.

The word “proactive” is tossed around a lot these days, and you could easily be forgiven for thinking that being proactive is pretty much the only way to blog or do anything else.

Certainly in your blogging life there are times when being proactive is important; but it’s not always the answer!

The problem with being proactive

On target

Image copyright FikMik - Fotolia.com

Being proactive essentially means doing things unprompted—typically, you set a schedule and you work to it. This is a great way to ensure you get things done. The problem is that to be proactive in this way, sometimes you have to write blog posts at times when you don’t feel all that inspired; this can result in posts that are less than perfect, which is never a good thing.

Reasons to be reactive

There is a lot that you have to do to build a successful blog, but the one vital ingredient you cannot miss is writing top-quality blog posts. Like it or not, the best posts are not the ones you force out—they’re the ones written from seeds of ideas which spring into your head at three in the morning, on the way to work, or when you’re out with your friends.

Inspiration is not something that can be forced, and as such the best blog posts will always be the ones written in response to the inspiration we get when we are not even seeking it. This is the beauty of writing reactively.

The problem with being reactive

On the other hand of course, if you only ever write when inspiration hits you, you might find that you just don’t write often enough, or that your posts are inconsistent—which, again, is bad news for your blog.

So how can you get the best of both worlds? Write reactively inspired blog posts which flow and read like poetry, but do it proactively and in a structured way so as to build a reliable blog that gathers a consistent following of dedicated readers.

How to blog reactively-proactively

The key to successful reactive blogging is to be proactive in every other area of your work flow, support the elements which encourage inspiration, and grab it when it comes. Here’s how.

Have a schedule for posts

For best results you should have posts going out consistently, so decide on a schedule and stick to it. Write it down or even publish it so your readers know the deal (this makes you accountable, so you are less likely to let it slide). From now on, no matter when you actually write your posts, this is when they will be published.

Keep a bank of posts

On some weeks, you’ll be visited by inspiration, and some you won’t. Try to get ahead so that you always have at least two or three weeks’ worth of content ready to go live. This way, on the weeks where you can’t string together a decent post, you don’t have to force out something that isn’t up to scratch.

Schedule your inspiration

Just because you are waiting to be inspired before you write doesn’t mean you can’t be proactive about what inspires you. Make a list of the websites, newsletters, and bloggers who inspire you and utilize your favourite RSS reader, iPad app, or simply subscribe to have their content delivered to you each week.

My personal schedule

Just to help put the process into context, here’s the blog schedule I use for one of my blogs.

I use the time-release WordPress plugin to ensure that a post is published every Wednesday at 6:30pm. All I need to do is ensure that there is always at least one post written and ready to go live; the plugin makes sure I stick to my schedule.

I use Google reader to aggregate my favorite sites, then every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday around lunch time I check my reader and have a look at what’s new in my niche.

So when do I write my blog posts? Whenever I get a good idea or otherwise feel inspired to write! By following this proactive schedule I never fail to have at least one good idea each week, but by keeping four or five posts in the bank (this is what I aim for), I never feel any pressure to write.

All the same, if I find that I have more posts than I need and my bank of posts is full, I will skim a couple off the top and use them for guest posting and link building purposes. I have a separate schedule for link building, but that’s another post altogether…

Summary

So hopefully you can see how this strategy allows you to get all of the benefits of being proactive without having to smother your creativity. The result? You get inspired, very topical posts, published consistently and to a timely schedule—and hopefully an altogether better blog. Neat, huh?

My name is Alex from ToMakeALiving.com where I blog about how to earn money online in all manner of different ways. I also offer a quality link building service for bloggers and affiliate marketers. Please check out my site for more info and lots of great tips.

The Secret to Explosive Blog Growth

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

Since launching my blog on the psychology of buying in mid-May, I have often wondered whether I am missing something; whether there is a secret to growing the traffic on my blog that I do not know about.

Am I not commenting on the right blogs? Am I not writing enough guest posts? Am I not submitting my links to the right social media sites? Am I not aware of some cheap advertising source?

But the more I look for that secret, the more I am convinced that there is no one secret.

Allow me to me explain.

Jim Collins on achieving explosive growth

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins examined companies that achieved explosive growth. These companies went from being average to suddenly gaining traction and growing exponentially.

Explosive growth

Image created by author

Collins theorized that something had to happen in that time period which resulted in explosive growth. Maybe it was a new technology that the company adopted, maybe it was new business process that they implemented, or maybe it was a new product that the company developed. Whatever it was, he expected there to be a defining moment.

As he wrote in the book, “We kept thinking that we’d find ‘the one big thing,’ the miracle moment that defined breakthrough. We even pushed for it in our interviews.”

The unexpected result

But that is not what he found. As he says, “The good-to-great executives simply could not pinpoint a single key event or moment in time that exemplified the transition.”

What Collins found was that each step built upon the previous step in an interlocking puzzle. Once all the major pieces were in place, that puzzle allowed the company to break through, and achieve explosive growth.

The company had to get the right people on board, set the right strategy, develop the right products, implement the right business processes, and use the right technology to accelerate growth. Slowly, as the pieces of the puzzle started falling into place, the company started to gain traction—and the more traction it gained, the better its results were. That, in turn, helped it grow even further.

What this means for your blogging efforts

Now, you’re not a corporation trying to land a spot on the Fortune-500 list. You are a blogger who is trying to turn your passion into an income stream. What does this all mean for you?

What it means is that there is no one secret to growing your blog. It is a combination of writing good content, promoting it, building relationships with other people, and doing that week in, week out, over a long period of time. This is what will help you gain traction.

That is not to say that there aren’t defining moments. Yes, a link from an A-list blogger will grow your blog quickly. Yes, finding someone to fund your idea will help your get your project off the ground suddenly. But looking at those events in isolation is meaningless. Those big events only happen because you have done a lot of little things right. They are just preparation for meeting opportunity.

I’m not the first to say this.

Darren Rowse on the secret to blogging success

Here is what Darren has to say about “the secret”:

“There is no blueprint for guaranteed success in this space. Ultimately it’s about being persistently useful to people and building a relationship with them. A by-product of that is that they will keep coming back, bring their friends, and respond to your calls to action.”

How Copyblogger got its initial spark

Here is how Brian Clark, owner of Copyblogger, got his first big link:

“In the first 3 months of Copyblogger, not only did I bust out the best content to get that initial spark where things start to take over on their own, but I also did all sorts of behind the scenes networking.

“I was establishing relationships, commenting on blogs, emailing people … and a combination of doing all that I got my first big link, and then I got my first big flurry of attention when I released a free report that pretty much all major bloggers linked to.”

But it wasn’t the report that was the defining moment. It wasn’t the commenting on blogs. It wasn’t the good content on its own. It was all of those things together. It was the pieces falling into place that came together to deliver the punch.

My own experience

It is only in the past month that I have started to see what Jim Collins, Darren Rowse, and Brian Clark meant. Between May-August the only traffic I was getting on my consumer psychology blog was from the guest posts I wrote and some paid advertising that proved too expensive to form a long-term strategy. My monthly visitors were around 200. At that rate it was going to take a long time to run a successful blog.

But I kept writing good content for my blog, submitting guest posts to major blogs, and in small measures commenting on blogs and submitting my articles to some social media sites like Reddit. Now all those guest posts, back-links, and list-building efforts are starting to pay off. For the month of September I got 1,200 visitors to my blog. That is a five-fold increase in just three months. While 1,200 visitors a month is no big feat, it is a sign that the blog is starting to get its initial spark.

So if you have been looking for those big opportunities, they will come—provided you are actioning all the little opportunities.

What’s your view on exponential growth? Was there a defining moment for your blog? If there was, what did you do to achieve it?

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 ebook—Guest Posting Secrets: 25 Tips to Help You Get More Guest Posts. Visit Ageofmarketing.com/guest-posting-secrets to download it now for FREE.

8 Ways to Use Autoresponders to Drive Traffic and Increase Your Blogging Income

Yesterday I wrote a post titled Introduction to Autoresponders. It recommended them as a tool that bloggers should consider as a means of driving traffic, deepening reader engagement, and increasing profits. I also showed how to set up an autoresponder sequence of emails in just a few easy steps using Aweber’s service (another great service that offers Autoresponders is MailChimp).

Today I want to suggest a number of practical strategies for actually using autoresponders alongside your blog.

Some of these I’ve used with success myself, and some are based upon the experience of other blogging friends. It should also be said that you could combine some of the following ideas into a single autoresponder sequence (more on this below).

1. Free mini-course

Set up a sequence of emails that walks readers through the teaching around some aspect of your niche. This is what I did when developing an early version of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

Back then 31DBBB wasn’t an ebook—it was a series of 31 emails that readers signed up for. Each day, readers received an email with some teaching and a task to do. This later evolved into the ebook with extra content.

2. Paid course or product

Numerous bloggers have set up autoresponders as central parts of paid products or courses. One of the best examples of this is Chris Guillebeau’s 365-part autoresponder, which forms part of a product. Chris’s product took a mammoth amount of work, but was hugely successful with those who bought it, and as a result, it would have been a very profitable endeavor.

3. Introduce readers to your archives

One of the challenges that many bloggers face is that new readers to your blog don’t ever see your old posts sitting in your archives. So why not showcase the best of your older posts by putting them together into an autoresponder sequence? Perhaps you could send one “classic” post per week. In doing so, you’ll be constantly driving readers to your archives for as long as new people keep signing up.

Another alternative is to do a compilation email on a particular theme. For example, on our photography blog autoresponder, one email that goes out in our sequence lists ten posts from our archives all on the theme of composition. It shoots readers deep into the site, and we often get emails from readers thanking us for it.

4. Affiliate promotions

Is there a product in your niche that you highly recommend your readers buy, and which has an affiliate program attached to it? You can easily add an affiliate promotion into your auto responder sequence. I recently put such a promotion into my photography blog’s autoresponder, and it has already driven thousands of dollars in sales (and will continue to do so). You can read about this concept more here.

5. Relaunch your own product every day

For those of you who have an ebook or some other kind of product that you’ve previously launched, building a mini-promotion of that product into an autoresponder sequence is a must. In our photography email list, we give new subscribers a discount on our portrait photography ebook 7 days after they join the list. That offer drives sales every single day.

6. Upselling

This is another one for those with your own products to sell. The idea is that when someone buys one of your products, you then follow up the purchase with an offer for a second product.The second product could be another of yours, or it could be an affiliate promotion.

For example, when people buy our travel photography ebook, they get an email a couple of weeks later with a discount offer on another travel photography ebook by the same author. The ebooks make good companions, the author is now familiar to readers, and as a result, these emails convert pretty well.

7. Showcase what you do

If you have an offline business that you’re promoting, use your an autoresponder sequence to showcase what you do. I know of one photographer who has a sequence of emails that goes to all clients (and potential clients that he meets to give quotes to). This sequence simply sends out an email every month with a couple of photos from another client shoot, and the story behind it. In sending these emails, he’s showing off the photography he does and positioning himself as a known photographer for them time when those who receive the emails are next looking to hire someone.

8. Tips

Another offline business that I heard of recently who uses an auto responder sequence is a butcher who collects email addresses from customers with the promise of sending them recipes for the meat that they’re buying. He gets their permission to email them and at the end of every day he sends each person that he sold meat to a recipe for the meat that they bought (he has a range of recipes for the different meats and tailors this first email to customers’ purchases).

Once the first email is sent the customer gets weekly emails (via an auto responder) for other recipes and tips for cooking with meat.

The butcher reported a sharp upswing in repeat business from the strategy—again, he was putting his name out there in front of people through his emails, building his brand, deepening personal relationships, and giving those subscribed a reason to keep coming back to him.

Multiple autoresponders, or one with mixed objectives?

The above array of uses for autoresponders is certainly not an exhaustive list. I’d love to hear how else you use them below.

It is also worth mentioning that some bloggers have multiple autoresponders running at once, while some mix a number of the points I mentioned above into the same autoresponder sequence. Personally, I do a bit of both.

At Digital Photography School I have a number of single-purpose autoresponders running in category #6 (upselling), where if someone buys an ebook they get a followup email/s with further recommendations.

However, my main autoresponder sequence on dPS is a real mix of the above, plus it also mixes in weekly newsletters, which are sent manually each week in addition to the automated emails. The sequence looks like this:

email-auto-responders-sequence-dps.png

I’ve written more on how I combine a mix of weekly newsletters and autoresponders here.

Wealth Creation Through Blogging

This guest post is by Shaun of MoneyCactus.

There’s a blog for just about everything these days. Some are a lot better than others, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that any blog has the potential to become great.

It is completely possible to find a niche and an interested audience if you are serious enough about it yourself.

Wealthy

Image copyright Maria Goncalves - Fotolia.com

Some Internet entrepreneurs are better at doing this than others and make the process look easy. While many of these great bloggers definitely have a talent for what they do, the fundamentals of how they go about it really don’t change too much at all.

I guess now is probably a good time to tell you that this is not an article about making money from your blog. Before you even get to this stage you need to develop a strategy, understand your market, and allocate your resources. Good bloggers understand this. They are the same principles that you would use when making any investment.

If you want to create a blog that is successful, then these basic wealth creation fundamentals should go a long way to getting you there.

Hobbies are not an investment

People often make bad investment decisions, most of which are based on their emotions or—even worse—a “gut feeling.” Bloggers can make this mistake when selecting a niche as well.

A hobby is not an investment, it is just another way to spend your money. You do not need to be good at a hobby. Really, it’s just something you do to waste time.

The best investments are made in things that you are very knowledgeable about. Don’t confuse something you like the sound of with something you know a lot about. In order to create an authority site and demonstrate social proof, you need to know enough about your area of interest to attract readers. You do not need to be an expert, but you do need to have a knack for delivering information that makes readers want to keep coming back.

Do your research before anything else. You wouldn’t waste time and money on a dud investment; don’t do the same with a blog.

Risk makes it real

If you told me I had an imaginary sum of $1,000 and then asked me to pick some stocks to watch over a year as a way to practice my investing skills, I probably wouldn’t have any trouble making a choice and playing the game. If you told me I had to actually put my own money on the line, the chances are I would be studying those stocks very closely and sweating every decision I made.

If you are really serious about blogging, then you need to have a stake in the game. It doesn’t need to be big money, but spending some money on your blog will help keep you motivated as losing it is never fun.

Forget Blogger, WordPress.com, Tumblr, or any of those other free platforms (believe me, I learned the hard way). Yes they can be useful and they are simple to set up, but if you plan to use your blog as a means to generate income, then invest in yourself, and pay the small amount of money it costs to get a unique domain name and a self-hosted account.

Give before you receive

Tithing is practiced by many of the world’s richest people, but you don’t need mega bucks to start giving. You can give in lots of ways that help others, and the nice thing is that giving has a habit of coming back to you in lots of other ways.

Bloggers are quite possibly the nicest people I know. It is amazing how approachable they are, and what they will do to help or provide advice if you ask them. If you spend some time hanging out in the blogosphere, then you will quickly realize that the whole network runs on love. Bloggers write about things they love, people follow the things they love, and the better you are at showing people how to do what they want, the more love you will get in return.

If you can find ways to be ridiculously useful to others within your niche and over-deliver on your promises, you will attract people organically. Unsurprisingly, bloggers follow other bloggers in their niche, so reach out and give to a fellow blogger or combine your powers to offer even more.

Diversify your traffic sources

In order to spread risk, investors often use different vehicles to grow their wealth. The same principles apply to blogging: a nice spread of traffic will ensure you are not reliant on any one stream.

There are many ways to do this, and you might have your own methods, but here are a few things that I have been doing to grow my audience.

Search engine traffic

There are ways to help make your blog posts as targeted as possible by focusing on keywords and employing other SEO tactics. But, to be perfectly honest, the most visited pages on my site are poorly optimized (I really should do something about that).

Instead, I write about what is affecting me, and I try to solve the problem. Funnily enough there are lots of other people that have similar problems, so my posts end up getting found anyway. I’ve found the best thing to do is just focus on a single topic per post. That way, basic things like keyword density seem to happen on their own.

Blogging carnivals

This is one of the best ways I have found to share my blog posts as widely as possible and get referrals from other blogs. It is also a really great way to network with other people in your niche. Different carnivals have different rules, but they usually let you submit a recent article that you have written on your site. A link to this is then listed on the carnival host site, which means potential traffic from other bloggers and people that are regulars on the host site.

Blogging carnivals are often hosted on a different site each time, so submitting your articles regularly means you are more likely to be seen by a broader audience. If you want to look for a blogging carnival for your niche, you could try starting here.

Commenting on blogs

This has got to be the next best thing to guest posting. You get to have your say on a topic, actively participate in an online community, and you can often leave a link to your site for people to see what you are all about.

I think that this traffic generation strategy is completely underrated. I can’t tell you how many times I have checked out a site because I liked a comment I read somewhere else, and Google Analytics tells me others do the same with my site too. If you want to develop your comment strategy, you might like this guide to writing killer comments.

Blue-chip blogs

The best blogs have “shareholders” in the form of subscribers. These people have decided that the site is an asset to them, and that it’s worth investing their time in. Like any good stock, a blog needs to continue to perform over the long term in order to hold or increase its value, and that requires ongoing effort.

I’ll be the first to tell you that there is more I could do more to improve the stock of my blog, but every time I have invested in it, I have seen a gain. My final wealth creation tip is to continue investing in your blog: set short-, medium-, and long-term goals, but view it as an appreciating asset that will grow in value over time.

Try these simple wealth creation strategies on your blog and see what happens for yourself.

Shaun is not an accountant, financial planner or life coach, but he writes about wealth creation anyway! Shaun’s motto is “Make wealth, not money,” which fits quite nicely with where he wants to be in life. You can find out more by visiting his blog where he shows you how to do nothing and grow wealthy.

Introduction to Autoresponders [And How You Can Use them to Drive Traffic and Profit]

Today I want to talk about a tool all bloggers treating their blogs as a business should at the very least be familiar with—and should probably be using. It’s something that has the potential to drive significant traffic to your blog in the coming years. It could also add significant profits to your blog in that time.

It is a tool that can be used in a variety of ways. It isn’t overly expensive to set up, and it’s not difficult to use.

The tool is the email autoresponder—something that is central to my own blogging business today, but whose power I ignored for several years.

In this post, I want to introduce you to the concept of autoresponders. Tomorrow, I will highlight a number of techniques for using them to drive traffic and profit.

Introduction to autoresponders

Autoresponders are a tool that most email service providers offer. An autoresponder is a sequence of emails that will be sent to anyone who subscribes to them. The emails are set up to go out at predetermined intervals to a user who subscribes to your email list.

The service that I use for my autoresponders is Aweber, but most providers offer them (another that many use is Mailchimp).

How to set up an email autoresponder

Using Aweber to set up a sequence of emails is simple (the process is simple at Mailchimp).

  1. Set up a list: Log in to Aweber (once you’ve signed up, it’s free to test drive), and then hit Create a New List. Enter your list name and details as prompted. Aweber will also get you to come up with a “confirmation message.” This is sent to anyone who signs up for your list so that they double opt-in to receive your emails.
  2. Add your first email: Once your list is set up, head to the Messages tab in your Aweber account and choose the Followup option from the drop-down menu.

    aweber messages followup

  3. Create your first message: You’ll be taken to a page which lists any messages you have in your sequence. If this is a new list, it will be empty: it’ll look like this:
    Screen Shot 2011-10-05 at 12.25.16 PM.png
    Hit Create New Followup Message, and you’ll be taken to a page where you can create your first email. This page is pretty simple to set up—you just need to enter a subject line and the message you want to send.

    This being the first email in your sequence, you’ll probably want to welcome people to the list and set some expectations about what will follow: when they’ll get their next email, and what the emails that follow will be about.

    Screen Shot 2011-10-05 at 12.29.24 PM.png

    Once your email is ready, hit Save. Since this is the first email, it’ll be sent to anyone who signs up to your list immediately upon signup, so do get this email right before you invite people to sign up.

  4. Create further emails: With your first email in place you can now begin to develop your sequence of emails. What goes into these emails will depend a little upon your goals for the autoresponder (tomorrow I’ll highlight a few potential strategies), but whatever you put in them, you will also want to think a little about the interval and delivery times of these next emails.

    When you’re editing these emails, look under the space in which you enter them for the area where Aweber lets you set mailing intervals.

    Screen Shot 2011-10-05 at 12.38.30 PM.png

    The “4″ signifies that this second email will be sent four days after the welcome email. You might want to lengthen or shorten this timeframe depending upon what the autoresponder is for.

    Click the check box below this to specify times and days on which you want emails to be delivered.

    Screen Shot 2011-10-05 at 12.40.25 PM.png

    In this case I’ve chosen to have the emails delivered on any weekday, between 9am and 12 noon, based upon the subscriber’s timezone. If you’re sending daily emails, you will want them to go out every day of the week; alternatively, you might choose to mail weekly on a certain day.

    Once you’ve got email #2 in place, repeat the process with further emails.

  5. Promote your list: Once you’ve got your welcome email and perhaps another couple in place, you can promote your autoresponder to get people to sign up to it. You can do this in a variety of ways using the Forms that Aweber provides. How you promote your autoresponder will depend on what the autoresponder sequence is about.

What can you use an autoresponder for?

Okay, so you know how to set up an autoresponder sequence in Aweber, but what can you actually do with it?

I’m going to follow up this post tomorrow with another post that answers just that question, and shows you a number of different ways bloggers can use autoresponders to drive traffic and bring in revenue.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear how those of you who already do use autoresponders use them in your blogging. Please share your experiences of them below in the comments section!

Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for Aweber. While I make a small commission if you sign up for Aweber from links in this post I’m also a long-term user of their service and recommend you consider them as an email provider. Here’s why I use Aweber.