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20 Bloggers to Watch in 2012

This year, I tried to go outside of the social media echo-chamber and focus on people who are expanding beyond their blogs. As Michael Stelzner said at Blogworld, “You’re not a blogger, you’re a publisher!”

These are 20 people who stood out to me this year. There is no ranking, nor is there a competition. If you are after more variety, I’ve included links to other round-ups at the end of this post.

Do you know of someone that has really stood out in 2011? Let us know in the comments, or create and link to your own list post. Enjoy!

Maria Popova

Maria Popova describes herself as “interestingness curator and semi-secret geek obsessed with design, science, storytelling and combinatorial creativity”. She is the editor of the much-loved Brain Pickings, which she described as a “a destination for indiscriminate curiosity.”

I love Maria’s work because talented curators are needed in this cluttered blogosphere. Maria goes beyond the collection of links and ideas, and provides a narrative that just enchants you. In the aforementioned interview, Maria said that “curation is all about pattern-recognition, seeing how various and diverse pieces of content fit together under the same taste umbrella or along the same narrative path, so the guiding principle has to be the sole storyteller with a strong point of view.”

I think Maria will be an influence on curators for years to come.

Kristi Hines

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, online marketing consultant, and social media enthusiast that blogs at Kikolani. She has  become famous for her weekly resource posts, Fetching Friday, and is a prolific guest poster on many high-profile sites. Her work is highly regarded in the social media community and she was recommended multiple times in the comments section on last year’s list.

Her book, Blog Post Promotion, is extraordinarily in-depth for a book at its price point, and is something I’d strongly recommend to those who need help getting more attention for their posts. You guys may also enjoy her post about making money online through blogging and writing.

Corbett Barr

Corbett Barr is someone I’ve been watching for a few years. He had a popular blog, Free Pursuits, but focused on creating a legacy rather then just being a blogger. He started Think Traffic in 2010, and quickly built a solid reputation for building quality content. In 2011 he created the Million Dollar Blog Project and launched his case study blog, Expert Enough.

I like Corbett because he’s one of the people who evolved with the challenges that blogging presented, rather than giving up. Some of the best discussions of 2010 came from his blog and I believe that the Million Dollar Blog Project will result in a few more bloggers to watch.

Marcus Sheridan

Marcus started a swimming pool company in 2001. Thanks to his blog, and inbound marketing, it grew to be one of the biggest companies of its kind in the world. Marcus had amassed a large amount of knowledge about content marketing and created The Sales Lion to teach others about the power of community.

I love his blog. He isn’t a pseudo-guru testing his theories—he only teaches about stuff he’s personally experienced. He also has a talent for community engagement. Many of his posts contribute to the conversation surrounding many facets of our industry, which encourages related companies to adjust their model to serve bloggers better.

Hands down, Marcus is one of the coolest guys online. He helps so many of us when he already has a successful business and doesn’t need the social validation. I hope we’ll see a lot more of him in the coming year.

Alexis Grant

Alexis Grant is a publishing powerhouse. She describes herself as a “journalist, blog & social media strategist and a budding entrepreneur.” She has been experimenting with digital products and micropublishing, such as her popular eguide on building a Part-Time Social Media Business. She’s also the managing editor of the Brazen Careerist blog.

I’ve had the pleasure of being friends with her for past few months, and it’s been fascinating watching her grow. She has a unique work history, starting out in traditional journalism and evolving until she landed a job editing a popular blog. I think we will learn a lot from her experiments in digital publishing, especially during the latter part of 2012.

Colin Wright

Colin Wright intrigues me. He runs a popular blog, but I wouldn’t called him a blogger. I don’t think anyone really knows what to call him. Every four months, his readers vote on the next country he’ll move to. He has an everlasting ebook called Exiles, runs a T-shirt shop called I Have No Shirt, and has published six ebooks.

I like Colin because of his constant experimentation with micropublishing and entrepreneurship. He closed eBookling because he’d achieved what he had set out to do, despite having a profitable model. He was one of the first in my community to experiment with Kindle publishing. He’s a genuinely cool guy with a thirst for knowledge, and a desire to improve on existing creations. I think that’s an attitude we all can benefit from.

Torre De Roche

 

Torre De Roche is the Fearful Adventurer. While overseas, she “fell for a 31-year old Argentinean man who had a humble sailboat and a dream to set off exploring the world.” She accompanied him on his trip across the South Pacific which led to her blog and later, a book about her journey. Within two months of self-publishing her book, she landed a big publishing deal. Her book, Swept, will be out in 2013.

I think that Torre will be one of the writers that will really stand out over the coming years. She has such a natural talent, yet is still a bit of an unknown in the blogosphere. I’m confident that will change over the next year and I think that we are in a fortunate position to watch her evolve.

Deb Ng

Deb is an accomplished blogger. Previously she was the founder and owner of the Freelance Writing Jobs network of blogs, as well as the community manager for Blog Talk Radio. Now, she is employed as the conference director of Blog World Expo and has released her first book, Online Community Management for Dummies.

In 2012, she’ll be just as busy. She’s authoring her second book for the Dummies brand and planning is already well underway for Blogworld in New York.

I love her work, and her contribution to the industry. I especially enjoy her blog, Kommein,  where readers are fortunate enough to get an insight into the work of someone whose career spans multiple areas of the blog industry.

Jen Bishop

Jen is mostly known as the publisher and editor of Dynamic Business magazine in Australia. Part of what makes the magazine so successful is its prominent web presence, which feature a wide range of bloggers. But I’m not including her because of that.  I’m watching her based on her work at her new blog, Interiors Addict.

Interiors Addict is a blog that curates a lot of the best information her passion, interior design. She’s leveraged her skills as a journalist to get access to industry news and interviews, and has turned her hobby blog into a very prominent force.

One of my favorite trends this year is how journalists are dabbling in creating their own digital presences. I believe they enjoy a lot more success, and learn more, when their blog is based on an obsession rather then just their personal brand. I’m also enjoying how Tumblr is aiding bloggers that focus heavily on curation.

Derek Halpern

Derek runs Social Triggers, a site that “breaks down psychological research and business case studies into simple, actionable steps that can help you improve your online business.” His content isn’t the reason I’m watching him, although it is high-calibre and he only publishes his best work. No, the reason he’s gotten my attention is because of how he got noticed.

Early in 2011, he did blog reviews of popular sites such as Chris BroganThink TrafficSmart Passive Income, and David Risley. He showed both the blogger and those who watched the videos how they could increase conversions, which resulted in massive word of mouth from both the readers and his peers.

2011 was the year he spent working hard, and getting attention. I’m curious to see how he leverages his brand in 2012.

Jenny Blake

Jenny Blake is an authorblogger, life coach, and sought-after speaker who helps others “Wake up, live big! and love the journey.”  Jenny recently took her own great leap by leaving Google after five and a half years to pursue her passions full-time.

I’ve enjoyed watching Jenny evolve as she released her first book, Life After College, and expanded her digital offerings. She is fast approaching the end of her first year of self employment, and I think she’ll really start to shine during the latter half of 2012.

Yasmine Surovec

Yasmine is the creator of the popular web comic Cat Versus Human. She documents the everyday realities of living in a multi-cat household via a series of hilarious drawings. In late 2011, she released her first book, Cat vs. Human.

I read a lot of web comics, and I enjoy the fact that they don’t do many of the things that bloggers typically recommend. She has a cat’s bottom in her sidebar, a self-deprecating about page and a contact page that had me hunting for tin-foil. I think that we can all learn from her example and poke more fun at our work, while maintaining a growing brand.

Molly Mahar

Molly Mahar is the founder of Stratejoy, a positive corner of the Internet that provides thousands of women the tools, strategies, and camaraderie to lead authentically joyful lives. There are many career blogs targeted at people in their twenties, but hers is focused on helping people through their “quarter-life crisis.”

I think her blog is fantastic. She invites a number of people to blog for her for a “season,” so that readers can follow their journeys over a five-month period. It’s a great way to build community, encourage new voices and make sure her content is always interesting to that demographic. I’ve heard so many good things about her blog, and how it’s helped people.

Kristin Glenn and Shannon Whitehead

Kristin and Shannon started {r}evolution apparel, a sustainable fashion company based in America. They came up with the idea for their fashion line but knew they had a lot of work before it could reach the market, so they decided to blog about their journey. Thanks to their blogging and networking efforts, they’ve had massive success with their fundraising to launch their first product. At the time of writing, they have reached double their target for their kickstarter campaign and still have a week to go.

They focused on building their community while building their business. As a result, they had a lot of people willing to help them when they asked for support. Their story shows that you don’t need to wait until your product is ready to get your message out there.

Young House Love

Young House Love chronicles the story of two DIY dorks who are turning their house into a home, and sharing every detail as they learn. The content is great, but what I really loved was how they delved into their personal lives and shared the personality behind the bloggers. Their stories are compelling and somewhat harrowing, such as the details of their daughter’s traumatic birth.

I love how they’ve transformed a personal blog into an amazing resource. Look at how they changed the sidebars for the mood board section. They are incredibly savvy. Their work highlights the potential to build your brand beyond a blog, and shows how you can leverage your archives.

I’m embarrassed that it took me this long to discover Young House Love. I plan to spend many hours delving into the archives after finishing this post.

Lingerie Addict

Treacle is the founder of The Lingerie Addict. She started her site in 2008 because she couldn’t find any resources for people like herself—women on a budget who wanted honest, objective lingerie advice, reviews, and suggestions. She has since turned it into the #1 resource in her niche, attracting over 100,000 readers a month. In October, she quit her job to offer her consulting services.

I think Treacle has done an amazing job empowering women to embrace their body shape and buy underwear that makes them feel gorgeous.

Nerd Fitness

Steve Kamb is the founder of Nerd Fitness: a community for nerds, desk jockeys, and weekend warriors looking to level up their lives. He built up a strong following and has since expanded with Nerd Fitness Message Boards, a clothing range, and several useful products. He is a natural leader—just look at how he doesn’t pressure people to join his rebellion.

I enjoy his work because he is incredibly savvy, yet has a very friendly/casual tone on his blog. He makes new visitors feel very comfortable in a niche that can feel rather alienating.

Sarah Peck

Sarah describes herself as a storyteller who communicates ideas through words, pictures, and other visual media. Her blog, It Starts With, started as a column about making the transition to the professional world and finding out what’s important for you and your career. It has evolved into a blog on business, generating ideas, entrepreneurship, management, and design. She also leverages blogging for her professional work, and is the founder and editor of Landscape Urbanism.

Sarah emerged in the blogosphere early in 2011 and is shaping up to the one of most unique and inspiring voices online.  Her content is always thought-provoking and will force you to confront the challenge of executing your best ideas. She studies where great ideas come from and help individuals and businesses do great work. Every blogger has a tipping point and her post on 28 in 52 Notes made Sarah a blogger to keep an eye on 2012.

Tara Gentile

Tara Gentile is the editor of Scoutie Girl, a daily zine with the aim of getting you thinking about your creative life and the changing world around you, and the owner of a boutique web design business. She quickly built a reputation as a DIY lifestyle design expert. She has transitioned to consulting and writes about the philosophy of the new economy, creativity, social media, value and meaning, and wealth.

I really resonate with Tara. She has empowered a huge segment of the creative community to take pride in the marketing of their work. Her work has affected an entire industry. I can’t wait to see what she does in 2012.

Joel Runyon

A year ago, Joel was just a guy with an inspiring blog. He wasn’t satisfied with that. He expanded his original blog to create Impossible HQ, a hub that incorporates a separate motivational community, a T-Shirt line, and a manifesto. He also created a separate site, NerveRush, to cater to the adrenalin-seeking segment of his audience.

I think Joel is just getting started with what he has to offer. He is always adding new ways for his community to engage with his site and, as a result, is creating an increasingly passionate readership. I’m really excited to see where he takes the ‘Impossible’ brand in 2012.

More bloggers to watch

Want more? Take a look at these blogging round-ups:

And don’t forget to give us your suggestions in the comments!

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Your First Guest Post

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

You can’t really turn anywhere these days and not hear somebody telling you that in order to grow your blog, you need to guest post.

I know you’ve heard that before, but have you actually done it?

Or are you looking for somebody to tell you how to actually go about creating a guest post content strategy, finding the right blogs to guest post for, approaching that blogger and actually writing that post? If so, then you’ve come to the right place.

Develop your guest writing strategy

Your first step is to create a content strategy. There are a couple of decisions you need to make. Listen: guest posting is not easy work. If you have a full schedule and your own blog to keep up with, you now need to find the time to write posts in addition to your regular guest posts.

There are two common approaches:

  1. Slow and methodical: This is very strategic and targets one, maybe two blogs and dishes out guest posts for them at least once a month. This is a really great way to ease into the habit of guest posting. You’ll stay sane with this method, but results will build up more slowly over time.
  2. Fast and furious: The other method is simply to write as many guest blog posts as you possibly can in a short period of time. The way to make this happen is to blast an announcement to your social media sphere announcing that you’d like to write a guest post for anyone who signs up. You’ll be surprised how many takers you’ll get. People are desperate for content. Next, set aside large chunks of time … like every night of the week from 6pm to 10pm, or devote your entire weekend to it. Then write non-stop. This was The World’s Strongest Librarian’s approach when he wrote 42 blog posts in a seven-week period. It’s one that may make you go nuts, so don’t over commit.

Which approach you choose will determine the quantity and quality of your guest posts, so choose wisely.

Brainstorm for fresh, relevant guest posts

It doesn’t matter which approach you chose above, the following brainstorming ideas will help you come up with ideas for your guest posts.

  • Mind mapping: Mind mapping is the concept of starting with a central idea and then branching out from there into subsets. FreeMind is an open source program that will help you do that. It even allows you to add images and hyperlinks so you can track all your ideas.
  • Time machine: Another creative way to brainstorm unique ideas is to pretend you step into a time machine. From there imagine how someone from the 70’s might solve a particular problem. Or look to the future and make a prediction about how particular problems could be solved.
  • Push the envelope: One of the reasons I like to guest post is because it forces me to push my boundaries of thinking. It’s a great way to see how far you can go with an idea. When you think you found an idea’s limits, take it farther.
  • Role play: You can do this either alone or with a partner. Alone, all you need to do is just put yourself into someone else’s shoes, like a child or client, and try to imagine how they would approach a particular problem. If you have a creative partner, ask him or her to play the devil’s advocate and have a conversation about your topic idea. Take note of all the ideas that pop up.
  • Hot potato: This is a great one to use when you are hanging out with a bunch of friends. This brainstorming technique basically involves someone starting an idea … and then passing it on to the next person. Use a timer and some kind of object to pass around so you can keep track of whose turn it is. This technique is great for getting everyone to pitch an idea.

Build a social media presence

If you choose to go the slow and methodical way, then when it comes to guest posting, it’s helpful if you build your reputation with the blogger you hope to write for before you ask to guest post. The best way to do this is to start following him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ and interact with him. Here are some other things you must do:

  • Comments: Start to leave thoughtful comments where you are asking questions and engaging with the blogger on his site. But don’t ignore everyone else. Answer questions that other readers leave. Busy bloggers love it when someone comes along and starts answering questions that allows him to not to worry about following up on every comment.
  • Join forums: If there is a forum to join, join that. Subscribe to his email newsletter if he provides one, too. Occasionally it’s a great idea to reply to his or her email newsletter. Do it from your inbox so he or she will see your email signature, which should have your blog address on it. Hopefully they’ll take the time to look at it. I’ve had a few bloggers invite me to write guest posts for them after exchanging emails.
  • Email: At some point you should directly email the blogger. It doesn’t have to be about guest blogging. It could be just to ask a legitimate question. For example, you could compliment them on their writing and then ask where they learned how to write. You want to build that relationship.

Of course, some blogs like problogger.net have guest posting guidelines that you can follow and skip the above process, but most don’t. And don’t think of this as a waste of time just to get the guest posting opportunity. This is really about building long-term relationships, so it helps to do it whether they have a policy or not.

Master the components of a guest post

Is a guest post different than a post you’d publish on your own blog? The answer is yes. See, when you are posting on somebody else’s blog, you need to put your best foot forward. Your hope is that the guest post will generate some subscribers to your own blog, so you better be on top of your game.

Here’s what you need to think about:

  • Links: Bloggers like it when you write a post that has links in it, both internal links and external links. When you create a blog post that links to the blogger’s own content, it shows that you’ve done your homework. And he or she appreciates the external links because that builds his credibility with those bloggers.
  • Advanced blog posts: The jury is still out about whether you share your best stuff or not on guest blogs, but my view is that you write a damn good post no matter what. This means give the host blogger something unique to his sight. This won’t work if you’ve decided to write fast and furiously, because advanced blog posts take time.
  • Create a conversation the audience: Your post must answer some question relevant to the host blogger’s audience … not yours.
  • Demonstrate you are an authority: Don’t be afraid to casually mention the reasons why the audience should listen to you. You won’t be bragging if it’s true and part of the conversation.
  • Hook headlines: Although there is a good chance the host blogger may change your headline, give him or her the best one. Yet, give them three to choose from. And remember, a great headline is unique, useful, ultra-specific and urgent. They’re the four Us. Use them!

Conclusion

That’s it. If you follow those steps, you should be on your way to your first guest post gig in no time. All you have to do is start pitching bloggers.

When pitching bloggers make sure you play the numbers game, as everyone won’t say “yes.” What other tips do you have for guest posting?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

Why You Should Wear The 6 Thinking Hats On Your Blog

This guest post is by Nischala Murthy Kaushik.

Wearing the 6 Thinking Hats on your blog helps in generating valuable, interesting and diverse content.

What are the 6 Thinking Hats?

Dr. Edward de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats is a simple, effective parallel thinking process that helps people be more productive, focused, and mindfully involved. And once they’re learned, the tools can be applied immediately!

The 6 Thinking Hats

Image copyright Lisa F. Young - Fotolia.com

The premise of this concept is that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be identified, deliberately accessed and hence used in a structured way to develop strategies for thinking about particular issues.

De Bono identifies six distinct states in which the brain can be “sensitized”. In each of these states, the brain will identify and bring into conscious thought certain aspects of issues being considered.

His 6 Thinking Hats are:

  1. the White Hat, which calls for information that’s known or needed: “The facts, just the facts.”
  2. the Yellow Hat, which symbolizes brightness and optimism; under this hat you explore the positives and probe for value and benefit
  3. the Black Hat, which is judgment—the devil’s advocate that spots the difficulties and dangers, and where things might go wrong; this is probably the most powerful and useful of the Hats but a problem if overused
  4. the Red Hat, which signifies feelings, hunches and intuition; when using this hat, you can express emotions and feelings and share fears, likes, dislikes, loves, and hates
  5. the Green Hat, which focuses on creativity, the possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas; it’s an opportunity to express new concepts and new perceptions
  6. the Blue Hat, which is used to manage the thinking process; it’s the control mechanism that ensures the Six Thinking Hats guidelines are observed.

How to wear the 6 Thinking Hats on your blog

Blogging is a testimonial of an individual’s thoughts, creativity, and literary expressions. And the quality of the content you create on your blogs is directly linked to the quality of your thoughts. Given that de Bono’s principles focus on mindful thinking, the Thinking Hats concept is highly relevant to blogging.

In my journey as a blogger for more than two years, I have published 1000+ blogs and have been featured in several forums, communities, and reputable sites. And when I look at the body of work that I have created, I realize today that I have consciously and unconsciously worn these many hats in my blogging.

The Six Thinking Hats can help you create diverse content on your blog, keep it vibrant, enjoy blogging, and create a meaningful relationship with your readers. Here’s how.

The White Hat

Ensure that some content in your blogs are based on hard data and facts. This can be information that you personally know, or links to articles, research, and literature available in published sources.

This is important because:

  • You tend to read and learn about key data and facts before you can blog about them
  • Sometimes the data itself can alter your and others views, comprehension, opinions, judgments, perceptions, and conclusions on a subject
  • you have logged this data for your future reference, and also the reference of your readers
  • you build credibility when you support your views and opinions with hard facts and data
  • readers place more value on the content you generate, since your blog is not purely based on your thoughts and feelings
  • the chance that you’ll be quoted or referenced in other places is significantly higher than if you never wore the White Hat.

The Yellow Hat

Ensure that some content in your blogs gives a positive, bright and optimistic view. This is important because:

  • when you write positive stuff, you tend to think and feel positively
  • when anyone reads your blog, they take-away a positive thought, message or emotion
  • readers are more likely to share a positive post in their sphere of influence—the positivity just spreads and magnifies along the way! And it all started with your blog!

The Black Hat

Ensure that some content in your blogs highlights the difficulties, challenges, risks, dangers, and negatives of your topic. This is important because:

  • this is the reality of life and it needs to be reflected in your blogs; otherwise, you may appear to be in your own dream world, far from reality
  • having all positive, data-driven content does not give the real holistic picture for any topic, hence it is imperative to wear this hat.

The Red Hat

Ensure that some content in your blogs articulates your feelings, hunches, and intuitions. This is important because:

  • it makes you think, introspect, and feel
  • it also gets your readers to think, introspect, and feel
  • it makes you connect within—to draw from your creative imagination
  • it makes you acknowledge, recognize, and appreciate the power of your sixth sense.

The Green Hat

Ensure that some content in your blog is creative, innovative, novel, and radical. This could present your own views or thoughts or something you’ve read and would like to share with your readers. It’s important because:

  • when you read and hear such things, they transport you to a different plane—a different world in which you are able to view the world through a very different lens; this usually gives you a radically different perspective on any topic, and on life itself
  • when you immerse yourself in creative, innovative, novel and radical readings, thoughts and ideas, you tend to dream and visualize beyond the realm of the known.

The Blue Hat

Ensure that some content in your blogs is about processes. This is important because:

  • it makes you clear in your own mind about processes that should be followed
  • it gives you an opportunity to showcase your knowledge and understanding on subjects which you are aware of and strengthens your own personal brand.

Do you wear the 6 Thinking Hats on your blog?

You can wear the 6 Thinking Hats on your blog for many purposes:

  • to choose a topic that you will blog about
  • to write the title of your post
  • to create the actual blog content itself

You can wear one or many hats in a single blog post. But ensure that over a period of time—a month, for example—you wear at least four of the hats in your blog. We all wear the different thinking hats at some point, so the more you wear, the more likely you’ll be to meet the varying needs of your readers.

Do you wear all six thinking hats in your blog? Tell us in the comments.

Nischala Murthy Kaushik currently works at Wipro. She blogs at VERVE: The Quintessence of my Life, Nischala’s Space, Thoughts & Expressions, 12Most.com, PaulWriter, Wipro & Mindblogs. She has completed her MBA from IIMB, one of the premier Business schools in India. She takes pride in being a mother, philosopher, writer, scholar and guru of life for life. You can follow her on Twitter @ nimu9.

4 Key Criteria to Build Your Dream Blog

This guest post is by Matthew Setter of The Dreamers Manifesto.

Have you wanted to start a blog, a website or an online business, but you’re not sure where to begin? Are you already putting in the hard yards to build one or the other or both, but you’re not sure if it’s going where you want it to go?

The reader puzzle

Image copyright FotolEdhar - Fotolia.com

Building blogs and online businesses is very exciting, but it’s a very challenging endeavor as well. Whilst the excitement helps, some days it’s never enough to prepare you for just what it takes to be successful, as always there’s so much to do.

Here’s a common list:

  • the epic content that you have to write, both for your blog and for the guest posts for other peoples blogs
  • the work to build a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, StumbleUpon, and Reddit—amongst others
  • the SEO research that you have to perform, from keyword research and analysis to implementing SEO in your post titles, excerpts, links, images, headers, and meta data
  • reviewing your site statistics and analytics on a regular basis, so that you know how you’re going
  • establishing and building a growing mailing list of people who want to be more actively involved with your community
  • the time you need to take reaching out to fellow bloggers and networking with people so they even know you exist
  • searching for and getting in touch with affiliates and partners (i.e., checking email).

Even reading this list can leave you feeling a bit exhausted. Whatever happened to “build it and they will come”? Well, I’m sorry to say it, but as exciting as it is to do all this—you have to work to build your dreams and make them come true.

But I’m not going to dissuade you—heck no! Today, I’m going to share four key pointers that will help you build your dream blog sooner than you’d anticipated with less time and effort wasted.

1. Have a dream

The first and most fundamental thing you need is to have a dream. This is something dear to my heart, it’s something very important. You need to know what you’re setting out to achieve. Whether that’s a legacy, an achievement, a journey, to continue a tradition, to gain satisfaction, to leave your job, or whatever. No matter what you do, you need to know why.

Without the why, you may soon find yourself questioning your motivation and your resolve as you have to write yet another post, make a tweak or design change to your blog, search for affiliates, comment in forums, and do solid keyword research.

When you have a clear dream, a clear why, then you are better prepared to handle these times of question and doubt. Without it, you may end up like the majority of blogs with a handful (or less) of posts that eventually get left to wither and die on the scrapheap of the internet super-highway.

2. Have clear goals

After you have your dream firmly formed in your mind, you need to step beyond that and set  SMART goals. I stress SMART goals as there’s no time to be general or vague about this. You need to know how you’re going to achieve your dream—your fantastically high-traffic, super-dooper blog using these characteristics:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

Through these criteria, you  set clear goals so that you know what you’re aiming to achieve, you’ll have a clear action plan and targets to strive for. With clear goals, you’ll know why you want to achieve your dream, what you’ll feel like, think like, act like, and so on as and when you get there.

What’s more, you’ll be able to tell that you’re getting there, you’ll know if you’re getting closer, getting further away or just plain stagnating. And lastly, you can enrol people to help you, to keep you honest and accountable to achieve your stated aims.

3. Focus your time and effort

After you’ve established your dream and your vision, and you’ve set a series of targeted, specific, and measurable goals to guide you to building your dream, you need to get to work to do the day-to-day, week-to-week, activities.

But oh my, there’s so many things to do. What’s that, it’s 6pm and it seems like you’ve gotten nothing done today? But how could that be?! You sat down to work at 8am and you’ve been in a flurry of activity ever since.

How is it that day after day, despite finishing days that stretch between ten and 12 hours, you seem to just end up tired and the traffic’s not growing much? For all that activity, where are the results?

Well, I can’t give you a silver bullet solution to ensure that the action you take will manifest itself in the results you desire? But what I can tell you is that just because you’re taking action and are “busy” all day, that doesn’t mean you’re being effective. That’s right, there’s no clear correlation between busyness and productivity.

Don’t kid yourself that just because you’re doing things, you’re achieving.

Look at the key tasks that you need to do, then work out a regular pattern that you can keep to to achieve them. For example, for me, the key tasks that I need to do are:

  • Keyword Research (Google Analytics, Twitter research)
  • Content Research and Creation (Writing, writing, writing)
  • Content Promotion (Social Media, Blog and Post commenting, telling friends and family)
  • Blog Management (Is the design right, is the content linked and described properly)
  • Manage email and correspondence

Now, it’s easy to get lost in the latest gadget, service, technology, product, podcast, screencast, and so on. It’s easy to think you have to check your voicemail and emails every 20 minutes—or worse, respond to them the second that they alert you that they’ve arrived.

It’s easy to think that it’s important to be on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter multiple times every day. After all, everyone seems to say they’re the places to be. But stop attempting to multi-task. You may believe that you’re a computer, that you’re so good that you can do multiple things on the go, but I disagree.

So does Douglas Merrill the former Chief Information Officer at Google. In a 2010 post, entitled Getting organised the Google way, Mr. Merrill said,
“…trying to juggle or multi-task is a complete waste of time, not a display of organisational prowess.”

I am probably not unlike a lot of people with two computers on my desk, a tape machine with an interview I am listening to, two landlines, my mobile phone, a TV in the background, and a radio on low. Then there are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn beeping in every time a status update drops. And depending on what time of day or night it is, I have my four-year-old and partner vying for attention.

“Multi-tasking is a waste of time and effort. It just doesn’t work,” says Mr. Merrill.

“When you multi-task, you’re interfering with your brain’s efforts to put information into short-term memory—a process that is fragile enough to begin with. And if the information doesn’t make it into short-term memory, you won’t be able to recall it later.”

When you cut between so many tasks, frequently, you break your concentration, you break your attention and make it harder to do a few or even one thing well. So I suggest, as does Darren in his book 31 Days to Building a Better Blog, to get an action calendar.

Determine a pattern for how and when you’re going to do the essential tasks. For example, I:

  • check email twice a day; once in the morning, once in the evening
  • review Google Analytics once a week in my regular Monday morning house-keeping session
  • have a plan for post production
  • have regular times each week that I check in on and participate in social media
  • and so on…

4. Take a break

We’re almost there, so it’s only right that the last point is the least intense. You can only work for so many hours—productively—every day. Yes, you can eat super-foods, do meditation, and take power naps; but you’re only really productive for a limited time each day.

What’s more, your blog, whilst being very important to you, is not all of you. Don’t neglect your health, friends, family, relationships, and balance in your life, no matter how much importance you place on your work.

Your brain is similar to your muscles,so perhaps it’s best to sum up it up as my old gym instructor did:

“It’s not when you’re working out that you’re growing, that’s just preparing you for growth. It’s when you’re resting (in this case—sleeping) that your body has the opportunity to act on the investment you’ve made and build up your body’s muscle content.”

So it is with your mind in so many ways. You can sit there and do a lot of work, do research, talk with people, and email, but often, it’s only when you’re away from it all, from all the noise, attention and distractions, that you get your best inspirations, ideas and thoughts.

So remember, take time out, disconnect from it all, and recharge.

Winding up

I hope that this helps you tighten up your approach to successfully building a great blog, whilst maintaining your creativity and perspective. I wish you all the very best in the pursuit of your dream blog. Set goals, be focused and go create your beautiful blog. I hope you’ll tell me about it soon.

Matthew Setter is a passionate goal-setter, writer, educator and solopreneur. He’s also the founder of The Dreamers Manifesto, dedicated to helping you learn how to define and achieve your goals in a fun, engaging and informative way.You can connect with him anytime on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ anytime.

Whose Blog First?

This guest post is by Shakirah Dawud of Deliberate Ink.

Writing for three blogs on a regular basis, with the odd request for a guest post elsewhere, my writing plans are already tight. But because I write for overlapping fields of interest, my  plans can also tangle. The most common:

  • Snag A: The topic could be of use to any blog I write for. Should I send it to my friend’s blog, where the people know me better, or let it air at the writing forum where it’ll snag more eyeballs?
  • Snag B: If I don’t write about this topic I’m gonna bust wide open, but it’s not appropriate for my audience’s needs, my friend won’t be able to post it till it’s no longer relevant, and I don’t think enough people will see it over a the writer’s group.
  • Snag C: I have one blog topic on my mind right now, and only one. But I have three blogs to post to this week.

Whose blog first?

It might seem obvious the answer is my blog, but that’s not always the case. Depending on who the audience is, what the post is addressing, and the characteristics of the other blogs, it can be tough to decide.

Look at the post. When you have a post that may fit more than one blog, the post itself can sometimes tell you which blog it belongs to. What level of the industry or topic are you addressing? What point are you making? What image are you projecting?

Look at the blogs. Each of the blogs you write for may lie within the same area of interest or industry. But the reason you chose to write for them is because of their differences. What are those differences? Community size, reach, posting schedule, and general atmosphere often make your pieces self-selecting.
Look at the audiences. Think of one reader from each of your blogs. Don’t make one up. Literally find the readers who interact most often with comments and shares. Ask yourself which piece each person would most enjoy reading, and don’t hesitate to give it to him.

Readers have rights. It’s unfair to try shoehorning a post into anyplace it doesn’t belong (at least, not without a good excuse). That’s why you should look at the other factors involved when deciding where to post what. But what happens if you have something valuable to share, and nowhere to share it? Network with your fellow bloggers and find the right fit for a guest post.

Plan ahead. Do this only if you want to avoid getting into any posting snag in the first place. Create a chart including each of your blogs and the dates you’ll be posting. Fill in each date with more than one topic idea. This way there’s no worry about topics that overlap because there’s always an extra. Pick one and start writing, tangle-free.

Shakirah Dawud is the writer and editor behind Deliberate Ink. Based in Maryland with roots in New York, she’s been crafting effective marketing copy as a writer and polishing many forms of prose as an editor since 2002. Clients in many fun sizes, industries, and locations reach her through the Web.

What Process Do You Want to Lead Repeat Readers Through?

Yesterday we looked at the strategic question of, “What do you want new visitors of your blog to do?” It’s a question that’s very powerful in helping you to achieve your goals as a blogger.

Today I want to take the question and apply it to repeat readers—an exercise that I think is really important. It can help take those first-time visitors and make them loyal and engaged readers who not only buy your products, but spread the word about you.

What do you want repeat readers to do?

One of the main goals that I suspect many people yesterday wanted to achieve with new visitors to a blog is to get them to sign up for your newsletter. But what do you want those visitors, who are now subscribers, to do next?

The beauty of having someone sign up to an email list is that you now have an opportunity to take them through a series of emails in an auto-responder sequence that leads them through a series of interactions with you.

Doing some thinking about the journey you want to take people on can be very fruitful.

A hypothetical example

For example, here’s a sequence of actions that you might want your readers to take (this is one I brainstormed quickly, so yours will, of course, differ from this).

reader-relationship.png

  1. Subscribe: This particular process starts with a visit and the initial goal of getting someone to subscribe (to an email list).

  2. Follow: The next goal in this process is to get people to make a secondary connection by following a Twitter or Facebook account. This might be achieved via an immediate email in the autoresponder thanking people for subscribing and drawing the subscriber’s attention to your social media accounts.

  3. Comment: The next action we’re looking for in this sequence is to try to get people to interact with us by commenting on a post. The goal here is to train readers to be interactive and participate. To do this, the next email in the autoresponder sequence might simply be an email that lists ten of the hottest posts on your blog—posts that you’ve chosen particularly because they have a proven track record of getting comments. You’d also include a strong call to action for subscribers to comment, perhaps even pointing them to a post where you ask readers to introduce themselves.

  4. Join: The next goal in this sequence is to “join.” This might not be relevant to everyone, but perhaps you have a forum attached to your blog (or a ning community or some other communal area). There would again be an email sent to highlight this opportunity and list the benefits of joining.

  5. Buy: The next goal is to buy. You might, at this point, add an email to the autoresponder sequence that offers subscribers a discount, or simply highlights a product that you have, and calls them to buy.

  6. Spread the word: Lastly in this sequence, the goal is to get your subscribers to tell others about your blog, and to spread the word. Perhaps your email might be a competition to incentivize this, or just an email that offers some links that will tweet a message to the reader’s followers automatically when they click the link.

Note: Again, what I’ve put together here is a quickly brainstormed series of actions—you’ll probably want to come up with your own and I would strongly suggest you also think about how you’re providing real value to subscribers through the emails you send. Between each of these calls to action, you might send other emails that are purely about serving readers, rather than just sending a series of emails that are about getting them to do something for you!

The key is to do some thinking about what you want your readers to do over time and then to design a process that will lead them through those actions.

What Do You Want Your First-time Reader to Do?

Here’s a little strategic exercise that I think is well worth doing as we approach the beginning of a new year. Ask this question:

What do you want your readers to do?

There are numerous levels you can ask this question on. Let’s explore one now (I’ll do another tomorrow).

What do you want new visitors to do?

What’s the number one thing you want a new visitor on your site to do?

The answer to this question will vary depending upon how you define success for your blog, what your goals are, and depending even upon your business model.

In most cases, I tend to advise bloggers to focus attention for this first visit upon hooking the user into your site in some way (subscribing, joining, following, friending, etc).

The thinking behind this is simple: if you don’t hook a new reader in, they’ll be gone and unlikely to return after they’ve read the post that they landed on.

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The key with hooking readers is to find out what technologies and media those you’re attempting to reach are familiar with. Then, call them strongly to connect with you using those methods.

But there are, of course, other valid conversion goals for new visitors.

If your blog is less about getting repeat visitors, you might actually be more interested in getting people to buy a product, click an ad, donate, retweet a post … or achieve some other goal.

For example, on my first photography site (a camera review site which is no longer active), I wasn’t as interested in getting people to keep coming back as they were their with the intent of researching cameras (and once they’d bought one, they weren’t likely to return even if they had subscribed, as their need was met). So I was much more focused upon trying to monetize their first visit by getting them to click an ad or buy a product via my affiliate links.

As a result, there weren’t too many strong calls to subscribe. Instead, ads were prominent and calls to buy cameras in reviews via affiliate links were also strong.

There is no wrong or right answer to this question. However, knowing what you’re attempting to get first time visitors to your blog to do is important. Otherwise, they’re likely to blow in and blow out again.

The answer to this question should inform your blog’s design, and what calls to action you place in key hot spots on your blog (the places people look).

What do you want your first-time reader to do?

Stay tuned tomorrow! Tomorrow we’ll explore this same question on a deeper and more powerful level, as we ask what you want repeat readers to do after they’ve subscribed.

No Matter What Your Blogging Goals for 2012 Are… We’ve got a 50% Off Deal For You

Over the last week on Digital Photography School we’ve been running a 12 Deals of Christmas promotion where we’re offering some big deals on photography related products over 12 days (each lasting for 24 hours).

A number of readers of both ProBlogger and dPS have asked whether we are going to run a similar promotion on ProBlogger – hoping to pick up some ProBlogger eBooks at a discount.

We were not planning on it but who am I to say no!?!

Starting today we’re running a 50% discount for 3 days on any (or all) of 3 ProBlogger eBooks.

Lets call it the Three-For-Three-At-A-Half Sale (cheesey I know but this is spur of the moment).

Here’s what we’re offering:

For three days you can save 50% on any of these three great blogging eBooks, and there’s something for everyone…

If you’re just getting started …

first-week.jpegFirst Week Of Blogging – just $9.99 and it’s yours!

Making great early choices is vital to the long-term success of your blog. This ebook guides you, day by day, through your first week of blogging so you can make the most of those critical first few days.

It will ensure you’re blog is build on a rock solid foundation — a Probloggerdation.

Pick up a copy now

If your plans are to turn your blog into a page view power house next year …

31dbbb-workbook.jpeg31 Days To Build A Better Blog (2012 edition) just $14.99!

New and updated for 2012, 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is a downloadable ebook designed to help you revitalize your blog.

One step at a time, it will transform your blog into the page view powerhouse you’ve always dreamed of — because we all love seven digit numbers on google analytics!

This is our best selling eBook ever – so join with many others and get involved.

Pick up a copy now

If your plans are to start earning real money from your blog in 2012 …

bgom-180.jpegThe Bloggers Guide To Online Marketing (normally $99.99) now $49.99.

A comprehensive, 31 chapter blueprint for your blog’s ongoing profitability – right from the ground up (AKA more cash!).

Backed by an extensive library of practical templates, printable worksheets, and in-practice example documents, this kit delivers all you need to make your blog turn a profit now, and over the long term.

Pick up a copy now

Three 3 deals are good for 3 days only, so make sure you don’t miss your chance to pick up a last minute Christmas bargain.

Grab one or Grab All Three – But Don’t Delay

I’ve chosen these 3 eBooks because they represent the 3 biggest needs among our readers – starting out, giving things a kick start when they’re slow and making money. So whatever your blogging goals are in 2012 I believe we’ve got you covered.

This sale ends in 3 days time on Friday 23 December at midnight US Eastern time) so don’t delay – they’ll all be full price again from 24th and into the new year.

How to Host Guest Blogs while Building your Credibility

This guest post is by Ronique Gibson of Freshome.

Once you have been blogging for a while, the reality of keeping your content fresh, relevant, and interesting becomes more of a challenge. One way to satisfy these challenges is to host guest blogs on your site.  While there are plenty of tips out there on how to be a good guest blogger, what about being a gracious host? Similarly to inviting guests to your home, you want your guests to feel welcome, relaxed, and oh yeah, they should provide a gift to the party—worthwhile content!

Host guest posts

Image copyright denlitya - Fotolia.com

On my home decor lifestyle blog Stagetecture, I have hosted close to 300 guest bloggers to my “home,” and along the way I have been able to carefully perfect a system of hosting quality guest bloggers that helps my guests deliver a quality product to my readers and develops my credibility in the process. Here are three tips to help your guests writers want to contribute more, and how your reputation as a quality blog will rise to the top of the competition.

1. Know your niche and don’t let your guests deviate

Have you ever had a guest come to your dinner party, and they come with a hidden agenda, like trying to recruit your guests for their business? Remember: your home, your rules. Have a clear and concise niche that you are accepting guest posts for, and make it crystal clear in writing for interested guests. 

While most guests are genuine, it is not rare to have content pitched to you that subtly veer off-track from the intent of your blog, and the message you want to deliver to your audience.

How to accomplish: Before accepting guest blogs, ensure that your blog has room for opinions, and ideas, and welcomes engagement of your readers.
Develop submission guidelines: Visit a few blogs that you enjoy who welcome guest blogs. Typically, they will have submission guidelines, or you may have to go through the contact form for these. My advice is to put everything in writing on a page that can be easily found on your blog. Include who your blog caters to, desired length of blog posts, if you welcome images, links, and so on. This will save time and energy for both parties.

Once your niche and audience is clear, your guests will be clear as to where their creativity and expertise can best be used on your site. You, in turn, will build credibility for your website as a blog that sticks to its niche and values your reader’s valuable time.

2. Stay professional and courteous

Have you ever sent out RSVPs for a dinner party where only two people responded, yet 30 people showed up on the night of your gathering? When hosting guest blogs, professionalism and courteousness can take you a long way. I, personally have been on the receiving end of trying to write on another blog, and never received a response.

When hosting guests, reply within a set period of time, and make it your policy.  After all, both of you are taking a chance on the other, the rapport that you develop now will make the experience enjoyable for you both, and will in turn show through in the blog post for your readers.

How to accomplish: Keep your contact form linked to an email that you or someone from your blog checks regularly. 
Feed back: Provide concise and courteous feedback. Thank the guest for wanting to submit content and work with them to bring their post up to the standards of your blog. For excellent posts, show them your appreciation, and give them a date when it will be published. As a courtesy, I write each blogger and give them a link to their post when it is live. This also helps them promote their post on social media streams, which is a win-win for both of you!

3. Build diverse content through guests

The last time you created a guest list for your barbecue, did you choose all guests that were exactly the same, or did you try and mix and match personalities for diversity? Once again, the same scenario is true for hosting guests on your blog.

While you want your guest writers to stay within your blogging niche, you still want to seek out diversity to add interest for your reader, and therefore credibility to your blog as a whole. When I first started accepting guests on Stagetecture, I only sought out home interiors and decor guests, then I realized there was an entire world of do-it-yourself, home maintenance, green home living, and home trade experts out there that I had never tapped into!

In October of this year I was asked by eHow.com to be a resource for their home niche blog content to lend helpful advice to eHow readers. To this day 90% of these posts are from Stagetecture guest blogs.

How to accomplish: Seek out guests through your social media connections, visit similar niche blog sites, and seek out guest blog websites that are a meeting place for a myriad of bloggers. You will be surprised how many resources are out there.  When finding guests, you just need to ask, be friendly, and be genuine in your intentions, and your ‘guest list’ will fill up in no time.

Hosting guest blogs on your website can be rewarding for both parties. Similarly to a perfect party, your guests will love to talk about your blog for months into the future; if they were treated well, enjoyed themselves, and made new friends.  

Your website is your home to the world. Create an inviting guest blogger experience and your guests will be asking when the next party will be—and your site will build credibility for being the best place to visit for quality guest-contributed content!

Ronique Gibson is an Associate Architect and a LEED Accredited Professional, who has been in the home design industry for over 13 years. Her writing at Freshome and her guest blog hosting at Stagetecture encompasses her love for architecture, interior design, and family solutions to help make your home the best place it can be.