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Easy Goal Setting for Your New Blog

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

Ask any success guru out there and they will tell you that the most important part of becoming a successful blogger is to set clear goals.

And that is good advice for people who know how they want to tackle problogging. It is good advice for bloggers who know how they want to create content, generate traffic and monetize their blog.

But for the rest of us, who are on a journey where we start somewhere, try things and then respond to the result of our actions, slowly tweaking our strategy and tactics, it is not useful. How do we set clear goals? How do we define exactly where want to be in 12 months when we don’t have clarity on what we want to achieve?

Goal setting for new bloggers

The answer comes down to shifting your focus from end-state goal setting to activity-based goal setting.

On my consumer psychology blog, for example, I don’t know how I want to monetize it. Am I going to make money from ads? Am I going to make money by selling affiliate products? Am I going to make money from consulting? Do I even want to monetize it? I do not know. It all depends on what I discover about my market.

What I do know, however, is that no matter what I want to achieve in the end, I am still going to have to create content and promote my blog. So rather than setting goals around what I want to achieve in the end, I set goals around what I want to do weekly/monthly/yearly.

Accordingly, here are my top three goals:

  1. Write two blog posts every week.
  2. Submit one guest post every week.
  3. Read one non-fiction book a month.

This way if I have a bad week, as I do from time to time, I can make up for it in another week.

Goal setting for new or confused bloggers

So if you are a new blogger or an old timer who does not know what they really want out of their blog yet, but still wants to maximize their chances of success, set activity based goals. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Posting goals

I will write _____ post(s) a week equaling _____ posts a year.

I will read _____ book(s) a month equaling ______ books a year.

Blog promotion goals

I will submit _____ guests a month equaling _____ guest posts a year.

I will comment on ______ blogs posts a week equaling ______ comments a year.

I will network with ______ people on Facebook/Twitter/StumbleUpon a month.

This is a far easier way to set goals when you are new to the world of problogging.

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

How to Keep Track of Your Accounts as a Remote Blogger

This guest post is by Jane Meighan of www.RunawayJane.com.

One of the main benefits of being a blogger has always been that you could work from anywhere in the world—whether you are surrounded by the hustle and bustle of New York City, or sitting in a quiet, secluded beach hut somewhere in Thailand.

Provided you have good internet access and a computer, you can be based anywhere. It’s one of the key factors why so many of us become bloggers in the first place—to travel or be based anywhere, and earn a living at the same time.

Remote blogging

Image copyright Dudarev Mikhail - Fotolia.com

Through my experiences over the last two years of blogging remotely and traveling the world, I have encountered some problems along the way. I am sure many of you remote bloggers out there will have experienced some or all of these at some point too. Keeping track of your accounts, storing receipts, and converting multiple currencies from those receipts based on each day’s exchange rates are only some of many issues.

If you’re taking your blog seriously, and treating it as a business, then your accounts are something you need to be on top of. But when your “office” is basically anywhere with free wifi, how do you store, back-up, keep track of, and effectively sort out your affairs, so that when it’s time to fill in your tax return, everything’s in order?

Back up everything

Every receipt you get for anything, take a picture of it with your camera. Things like scanners are not always available on the road, or when you need them, but if you’re traveling, you’ll no doubt have a camera.

When you’re moving from one place to another, with no real filing system like you may have in an office, receipts can get lost or damaged to the point where you can’t read them any more. Having pictures of everything saves that problem. Also, if you can pull them all up on your computer screen, it just makes creating a spread sheet easier than having to sift through real paper documents to create your accounts.

Make sure you have copies of all important documents in at least three different locations, plus a hard copy kept somewhere at home if possible. Your computer will be 1 location, possibly a memory stick, or extra hard drive could be another twp. Alternatively, if it’s pictures you have taken of receipts then your memory card could act as another storage location.

Use programs to make it easier

Microsoft Excel, or open source, free programs such as Open Office provide fantastic spreadsheet services. If you want Excel in particular, but don’t want to pay for it, if you have a Windows Live email account, then you can use Excel on the Sky Drive there without having to bother with risky illegal downloads.

Another useful program is Xpenser, a free expense accounting program. You can update it via the Web, by voice, by text, by email, and by Twitter! Probably the most useful aspect of using Xpenser, however, is that you can attach a digital photo of the receipt to the updated expense.

Dealing with exchange rates

If you’re travellng to a variety of countries throughout the year as you are blogging, then like me, you will probably find that when it’s time to do your taxes, you have various receipts in various currencies which you then have to convert into whatever your home currency is.

The main problem with this is that currencies can change drastically over the course of a year. To be sure you have your accounts as accurate as possible, you have to find the local exchange rate on the day of purchase so you can convert it into your home currency and add it to your total expenses.

Most currency exchange sites will have an archives section that gives you exchange rates for at least the last 12 months, and sometimes a lot longer. Check the date of your receipt, and then enter it onto the site to find out the rate on that day.

I personally use the historical exchange rates on Oanda, but there is no reason why you couldn’t use another exchange rate website.

Alternatively, use a foreign currency card while traveling. When I’m in Europe I use a Euro card most of the time. I transfer all or part of my money for the trip onto the card, and it is all converted to Euros based on the exchange rate of that date.

Therefore, when you spend money, you only have to work with one exchange rate per currency, regardless of the date you spend it on, because it’s been converted into Euros before you use it rather than at the time of each transaction or withdrawal.

Stay on top of your blog finances

Filling your taxes, and doing your accounts can be a headache even for stationary bloggers situated in one place all the time. So when you are moving from country to country without a real office, it becomes even more important to keep everything in order, and have everything backed up.

The other important factor to keep in mind is to not let yourself get behind with things. Keeping track of your expenses should be as important as writing your next blog post. Schedule in time for it. If for nothing else, it lets you know if you are actually making a profit from your blogging activities, and if not, makes you stand up and look at how you can move forward.

Jane has been blogging since January 2010 from her flagship travel blog RunawayJane.com. She travels full-time using nothing but the earnings from her blogs. Such resulting travels have included learning Spanish in Spain for 3 months, and learning about the history of the former Yugoslavia in Serbia, to name just a few trips she has been on. None of this would have been possible had she had not set up her blog back in 2010.

9 Steps to a Daily Blogging Schedule

This guest post is by Caz Makepeace of y Travel Blog.

I publish almost daily on two blogs.

I have many people comment and ask me how I manage to do it, especially since I have two children, one being three months old.

While it is by no means easy, and I spend a lot of my sleeping time awake, there are still many strategies I employ to make it more manageable.

1. Write short, snappy content

The old adage less is more works here. You don’t have to write a lengthy, verbose story to gain a following.

Short, snappy posts that entertain and get a point across work well too, especially considering the attention span of our society’s inhabitants.

Think photos, poems, thoughts, quotes, community involving questions, giveaways, reviews, curating information for your readers, and highlighting other blogs.

2. Use guest posts

Why not have someone do the writing for you?

If you have strict guidelines attached you can make the whole process that much easier, as your guest writers understand how to format and promote to your liking.

Having someone write one post a week on your site frees you up to write a guest post for another site and attract a new set of readers as well.

3. Write daily

Why would I say this in giving tips on how to publish daily? I think you want to know how you write daily, right? Kinda neutralizes my advice.

It’s simple. The more often you write, the better you get at it, the quicker and easier it gets, the more in tune you become with your voice, and the more ideas start to flow to you as a result.

This post is an example. It took me ten minutes to write it on a train. My mind has been blog-post trained in its thinking due to my total immersion into daily writing.

4. Write from the heart

Once you tap into your voice, you tend to write more from your heart and soul rather than your head, which means less of the “logical and fearful” thought processes and more of the flow of words that pack a punch.

All of this ultimately means less work. Less work thinking, writing and editing. I don’t have to edit a post much that comes from deep within.

5. Repurpose your content

Find new ways to reproduce your old content. Turn old articles into podcasts and vice versa, turn newsletters and guest posts into new articles on your blog.

The work is already done; the ideas are there, they just need some tweaking and a slightly different angle.

If you have two blogs, like I do, you can use the same photos and content, but just tweak it a little. I often turn a travel experience I wrote about on my travel blog, into one that has a family or child angle for my personal parenting and lifestyle blog.

9. Carry a notebook everywhere, and become a keen observer

From conversations, passing billboards, songs and random thoughts, it is amazing what will spark an idea for a blog post.

If you don’t jot it down you will lose it.

I recently flew from Sydney to Melbourne for the Problogger conference. Within 30 minutes I had the outline for five posts recorded in my notebook. Had I not had the notebook that would have been five easy blog posts left at the departure gates waving me off.

7. Use your time wisely

The more I write on my blogs and spend time doing what I love, the more I come to understand what time wasters humans are.

Minutes and hours spent aimlessly wandering lost and filling the void with crappy reality TV shows and trashy magazines.

Check how you spend your time.

Ask yourself, “Is this somehow enabling me to grow? Is it fulfilling me? Can I write a blog post out of it?”

If not, put that time into something else a little more productive. We all do still need our down time, sure enough, but just don’t make it more than your on time.

If I check out to watch a movie or a TV show, or go to the beach or out to dinner, I usually find the blog post ideas won’t take a break anyway, and I hurriedly write my ideas in my notebook that is close by.

8. Stay inspired

All creation comes from inspiration. Do those activities that inspire you. You will move mountains when you operate from an inspired state.

The minute I start traveling or spending time with my daughters—the themes of my two blogs—the ideas start flowing and I can produce an incredible amount of blog posts with fresh original content.

9. Love what you do

I am able to do all of the above things without raising a sweat, or resenting the writing work. In fact I do it with a rush of gratitude and good feelings, because I love it.

When you love what you do it does not feel like work and you are more than happy to spend every waking minute doing it and the sleeping minutes as well.

The more you love the more you can do.

Caz Makepeace believes that life is all about the memories and inspires others to travel and make their life a story to tell at her popular, y Travel Blog. She also owns Mojito Mother, a blog aimed at putting the mojo back into a mother’s life, where she shares her experiences as a mother and a woman following her own dreams.

What Blogging for Fun Taught Me About Blogging for Profit

This guest post is by Becky Canary-King of Direct Incorporation.

There’s really too much to say about the benefit of a good blog for your business. A well done blog can bring in new customers, establish yourself as an expert in your field, open up communication with your clients, and support your SEO and marketing.

Recently I discovered that the blog I write for fun about body image issues has a higher Google page rank than my company’s blog! Of course, we get a fraction of the web views, but without pointed effort, I managed to make my personal blog keyword rich, get lots of backlinks, and ranked high in Google’s page rankings. Now that I’m writing for my company’s blog, here are the lessons I’m taking with me:

Pick a specific topic

Be specific. Want to be a catch-all related to everything about your industry? Great. But you’re going to have a lot of competition, and major competitors with more resources and established viewers. Instead, focus on what you do best, the niche area that you have a unique perspective. What is the blog that only your company could write?

Establish your credentials. Let your readers know why they would want to hear from you about the topic. Just the fact that you are selling the product or service is not necessarily enough to gain your reader’s trust. Sharing your education or career path is a quick way to add credibility; but it’s not the only one. I never got a degree in “Body Image Sciences”, but my genuine interest in the topic makes me a credible source to readers.

Collaborate with other blogs

Know your part in the blogosphere. Read other blogs on your topic! Getting to know what’s already out there helps you establish where your niche will be. You also get a feel for what readers on the topic are interested in and can borrow some tricks on what works.

Comment and share. Guest post, link back, comment on other blogs. All these actions convey your interest in the topic and establish your unique point of view. Blogs can act as a community of learners, experts and interested parties. Join in enthusiastically!

Interact with readers

Let your readers know what they can expect. Doing a series is a great way to get readers coming back for more. Or pick a day when you write on a certain topic, or have a certain type of post. Personally, I do a body positive music post every Friday, featuring a song or two I enjoy. I have been linked back to as a place where you can consistently check out body positive music.

Encourage and ask for feedback. Trying to get commenters on your blog can be really frustrating at first—it normally doesn’t happen automatically, but keep at it! At the end of every post ask questions or encourage them to give you feedback on the topic. Respond to comments right away with a real response, rather than just a thank you. Readers are a great resource for your blog, so let them know they are valued.

Now get writing!

Becky Canary-King is an Account Manager and Press Contact at Direct Incorporation, a company focused on providing a more economical and efficient alternative to using a law firm for common legal/entrepreneurial issues. She is passionate about women’s empowerment and blogs for personally for Happy Bodies, and professionally for Direct Incorporation’s Blog, offering tips for the first 6 months of your small business.

Infographic: What Makes Content Go Viral?

This guest post is by Voltier Digital.

Not every piece of content can go viral, but if you understand the basics behind what makes great content highly shareable, you will have a better chance of getting better exposure for each piece of content you create. The following infographic looks at some of the factors involved in making great content go viral, and what it takes to really hit a home run (click the image to enlarge it).

Voltier Digital is a content marketing agency specializing in infographics and other compelling content mediums. They can handle a wide variety of content marketing projects: from single infographics to complete content strategies. If you’re looking to drive traffic, increase exposure to your brand, and find more success online, Voltier Digital can help.

How to Establish Influence from Scratch

This guest post is by Jonathan Goodman of the Personal Trainer Development Center.

I’m a nobody. Scratch that; I was a nobody.  I work as a personal trainer in Toronto; I had no connections, knew nothing about blogging, and hadn’t written anything since University. 

What I did have was an idea and, with the right know-how, an idea is powerful enough to break through all barriers.

I’m not the first person on the Internet to talk about fitness.  On the contrary, I’m about the 1 000 000th.  My idea, though, was to be different and I decided to cover topics that nobody else was covering. 

You see, every fitness guru on the planet gives suggestions pertaining to exercise prescription, while nobody was effectively teaching trainers how to actually train.  After all, isn’t learning how to effective teach more important than a fancy new version of the squat?

That was my idea: “I’m going to be the one to bring non-exercise prescription advice to personal trainers.”

I launched the Personal Trainer Development Center (PTDC) in April of 2011 and it has become a main resource for personal trainers passionate about getting better.  It already brings in a nice monthly passive income and will provide a great forum for me to sell my book in April of 2012.

The question I get asked constantly is how I made friends with some of the best fitness pros in the World and consistently get them to take part in my site without being able to pay them.  These are folks who charge $200-500 to write elsewhere and give me their article for free.  To take it one step further, I know bloggers who put out brilliant information weekly.  Too bad their mothers are the only ones reading their blogs.

The answer doesn’t lie in SEO and doesn’t lie in buying links.  Those things matter but come later on.  The first step in building a house is a strong foundation.  That foundation hinges on both the relationships you’re able to build and your creative problem solving ability.

This article is the first time I’ve ever written about why I carefully hand-picked the people to be involved in my site and how the power of my idea has grown to both a money-making enterprise and a beacon of change in a badly controlled industry.  Apply these principles to your own industry and watch your influence grow.

Do your research

If you write it, they won’t come.  Content is only king if people read your content and care who you are. 

The first step is getting a thorough understanding of who the movers and shakers are in the informational sector of your industry.  I took a full year to study the fitness internet informational world.  Before launching my site I had research done into who the influencers were and who were the people behind the scenes acting as puppeteers. 

I opened a new email account and subscribed to everybody’s newsletter in addition to adding as many blogs as possible in my reader.  From there, I made notes not only on content but on who was linking to whom.  I was then able to ascertain which bloggers had relationships with whom and who seemed to be competing.

What I quickly realized is that in the fitness world there were a number of distinct “camps.”  Each of these camps had their head guru behind the scenes and top infopreneurs putting out resources.  Peel away the layers and I found all of the soldiers spreading information.

There is good news and bad news here.  The bad news is that you’re too late.  I can promise that these camps and levels already exist in your industry.  The good news is that there aren’t many bloggers who have figured this out yet and you have a great opportunity to become acquainted with these camps. 

Look at it this way: the systems of spreading information are already set up for you.  That’s the hard part.  So how do you break into these camps?

Create a committee of coaches

Anybody can contribute to the PTDC but I have a special section for “coaches” where I highlight their profiles and link back to them.  These coaches are my advisory committee.  I don’t ask for much from them but keep them on an email list.  Camaraderie has evolved where the coaches are now proud to be part of the team and many have built relationships with each other.

If you want to build a community, I recommend having an advisory committee and introducing them.  One of the biggest benefits you can give to new potential contributors is the ability to network with your existing following.

Start strategically small

At this point, your site should be built.  Don’t blast it off to the heads of the aforementioned camps.  You will be ignored.  During your research, though, you took careful notes of the foot soldiers right? Here’s where they come in handy. 

These foot soldiers are trusted within their chosen camp and will act as your person on the inside.  Here’s how I did it.

I noticed that many of the gurus offer internships.  One by one these interns become household fitness names.  It was obvious to me that the gurus weren’t only teaching them fitness, they were also teaching them the internet marketing game. 

In identifying the foot soldiers, I made special note of the folks who had done top tier internships and had small websites popping up or were starting to be quoted on the major blogs.  These were my targets.  I made sure to Like their Facebook updates and comment where warranted.  I also commented on their blogs.  After some back and forth among the comments I sent them a private message asking if they would like to be involved in my site as coaches.

I had a warm opening, as we had had some contact previously, and getting them on as coaches allowed me access to their networks (which, conveniently, consisted of the camps I was desperately trying to break into).

Identifying the foot soldiers in your industry is a great way of gaining entry into the trusted gurus camps.  These people are just as hungry as you are and will jump at the opportunity to network and be part of something bigger than them.

Republish your coaches’ old content

Now that I had a small but well-connected gang of coaches, it was time to approach the influencers.  Armed with my vision and some early success because of good content, I wrote them a message.  Out of the ten I contacted, I had a 90% response rate, and out of those 90%, every one agreed to come on board. 

It was right then that I knew the PTDC was going to make it big.  So how did I get their participation without being able to pay them?

I realized that all of these top fitness pros had been writing for years.  As a result both of their longevity in combination with poorly built sites, I realized that their old material was getting little to no traffic. 

I went through their archives before speaking to them and mentioned a couple of key articles that I had figured they forgot about.  I discussed how these articles would be a great addition to the site and were needed to help the industry.  They supported my powerful idea.

Each of the gurus agreed to come on the team.  I then sent them a list of the articles I wanted to republish and got the okay for each one.  Not only did I get a bank of articles to use for the coming months, so content wouldn’t run dry, I also had given these folks a great forum to attract more readers without any work.

Once two or three top pros were on board, they started referring me other “friends” who might be interested.  Now I also had the advantage of offering new coaches a powerful new network.

While doing your research, make sure to go through the archives of the gurus you found.  Keep a file on your computer of their old articles that support your idea.  It is a great way to stimulate initial traffic to your site.

Creatively solve problems

This process was not always rosey, and there were a lot of problems in building up the PTDC that had to be dealt with.  One I want to cover here is how I approached the top coaches. 

As a new blogger, your only currency is links, and sending out cold calls or messages to top writers won’t get you any response.  After a failed attempt I went a different route and started a weekly blog entitled Online Personal Trainer Blog Posts of the Week. 

It wasn’t much extra work since I was already reading these blogs anyway.  All I changed was to make a file and when I liked a post I kept the link and included it in the article.

Here’s the catch.  I knew which influential bloggers I wanted to approach next and the Posts of the Week blog was my way of making sure they noticed me before I sent them a message.  I linked to their blog and tagged them on Facebook in addition to mentioning them on Twitter.  They would almost always interact back. 

Adding their post to the list was my way of saying, “Hey! I noticed you do good work. Come look at my site and the great info we provide.”  Nobody is every surprised when I send them a message an more as they have all already seen the site.

You will also have problems building up and here is my recommendation to you: figure out who on the internet can help you solve your problem.  Don’t approach them immediately.  Instead, creatively find a way to make them notice you.

Summing it up

Follow Metcalfe’s Law.  Whether you are a new blogger or an existing blogger trying to increase your influence, remember that you are only as valuable as the number of nodes on your network.  Figure out who is already effectively doing what you want to do and find a way into their good books. 

Armed with your powerful idea and with the help of your advisory board your reach will explode.  Remember: content is only king if there are people to read it.

Jonathan Goodman is a personal trainer and blogger.  His powerful idea led him to create the Personal Trainer Development Center and maintain a personal site

 

5 Tips to Improve Your Web Sales During the Holiday Season

This guest post is by Isaac Atia of Howitoo.com

It’s that festive time of the year again: the holidays will soon be at our doorsteps. While many will be celebrating the holidays, us bloggers have to work hard to reach our sales goals.

Hopefully we can celebrate this season in a different manner: by improving our sales and boosting our profits. With competition always around the corner, it’s vital to formulate and apply solid strategies that get real results. Here are my favorite ways to boost sales over the festive season.

1. Create attractive landing pages

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a product or a service. In order to really convert plain traffic to a final transaction, you must create effective landing pages that list all the benefits of whatever it is you’re offering.

For a landing page to produce good results, it must have a purpose and a goal. What’s your target revenue? Set a time frame, aim high, and work towards your goal.

More importantly, the page must emphasize the ultimate advantage of your offer while stimulating the prospect’s mind. Get in the reader’s head—what are they thinking? To earn the visitor’s trust, link or quote authority figures and websites. Offer your product to a few individuals for free to create buzz and so you can get persuasive testimonials. Feedback is potent and cannot be underestimated. With a little bit of tweaking, landing pages are simply the best way to boost your offer’s sales numbers.

2. Offer incentives to improve sales

There are plenty of incentives to consider.

Free shipping

In the event that your website is promoting a tangible product such as a book, for the buyer, your offer of free shipping can be the deciding factor between making the purchase or ditching the product altogether.

Believe it or not, offering free shipping can actually make you more money. To qualify for delivery that’s free of charge, websites usually require a minimum order. That way, the buyer purchases at least one fairly expensive product or two products at a regular price. How many times did you visit an online store to buy one thing but then bought something else as well just to qualify for free shipping? I know I’ve done it plenty of times.

Slick promotions

Who doesn’t love the buy-one-get-one-50%-off deal? How about buy one, get one free? If you slightly raise the price of the first item and include a separate shipping and handling charge for the second, you could be earning almost the same profit you would by selling both items at the regular price!

How about promoting the older ebook that’s been sitting on your blog’s shelf for quite some time? Maybe throw it in as a free bonus to guarantee the sale. If you’re advertising a valuable service such as blog consultation, how about offering 25% off your first lesson to get things rolling?

Many thriving blogging mentors such as Jon Morrow offer package deals such as “sign up for five classes and get one free,” which can help achieve promotional goals. This is smart because it doesn’t cost you anything and creates more value for your buyers.

Other techniques

Other proven techniques to consider are cross-selling and up-selling. Have you ever bought a shirt and shoes from the same website at the same time? That’s like buying a theme framework and a skin for the design.

The point I’m trying to make is that you can convert sales to even more sales if you address the customer’s needs. The best way to do that is by dedicating a section on your website that links to related products. Placement is important so the related product(s) should be displayed in a highly visible area, preferably on the sidebar or right below your current product.

These are some powerful tips to think about. Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong incentive that can make or break your sales this holiday. Your success will be mostly measured by the effort you put in and the strategies you apply. It is, however, possible to determine the most ideal incentive for your operation through continuous testing (shifting things around).

3. Rely heavily on email marketing

Email marketing is so powerful because it’s right in your face. When I get an email from ProBlogger’s newsletter, 95% of the time I click on it and read it thoroughly. Why? It’s simple, I’ve been sold on Darren’s ideas as he gained my trust and loyalty as a reader.

I wanted to know this is true for sure so last week I emailed a few successful bloggers and asked about their experience with email marketing. Every single one of them responded with truly positive comments and one person mentioned that it’s beneficial to any web campaign.

I agree—in fact many web gurus have said that a large percentage of their sales come from email advertising. It works because it’s a direct form of sales that builds relationships based on trust. Most importantly, it’s targeted towards a crowd that’s already following your lead, which makes it easier to convert the sale.

Take into consideration that it’s not always just about making the sale. It’s imperative that your value your loyal readers and offer them substantial value in return. Sometimes it’s enough to just get more downloads, views, or subscriptions.

4. Shoot for repeat business through social media

The people who are already following your moves on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are usually the first ones to know when you release a new product, run a promotion, or publish a new post. Connect with people you’ve already convinced in the past. Make them feel at home by dressing up the design of your social network page to a holiday related theme.

Doing this will naturally encourage holiday shoppers to pick up the book you recently published on your website for their family or friends. Maybe they’ll even purchase a service you offer on their behalf. Guess what? You just sold two people without even knowing it.

5. Test your website early and frequently

If you’re expecting a serious wave of traffic for the holidays, the last thing you want is to have any errors such as broken links or pages on your website. If your planning is poor and your website is not fully functional, you could be losing substantial revenue.

Proof read as many pages as you can to check for grammar mistakes, especially the pages where an offer is based on visitor action. The images on your site should load quickly to avoid the visitor from exiting your page.

Your page shouldn’t take more than two to three seconds to load for the same reason. It may also be a good idea to go through a test transaction to make sure that your order link is working properly. This way, if there are any issues, you’ll be the first one to know.

So, how exactly do you improve sales through your website during the holiday season? By implementing the above strategies to your website and making buying easier, more comfortable, and rewarding. Share your extra tips in the comments, so we can try them too!

Isaac Atia writes about blogging tips, SEO advice, and other closely related topics. The goal of his blog is to help other bloggers improve their overall blogging knowledge. You can subscribe to his blog for more posts.

How I Got 18 Times More ‘Likes’ on a Facebook Update

Yesterday I hosted a free webinar for ProBlogger readers on the topic of using Facebook to help you grow your blog. In the webinar (attended by 1000 people) Amy Porterfield packed in over an hour’s worth of rich content.

I learned a lot from it myself (I’ll share one thing that instantly had results for me below) and we had literally hundreds of comments from those attending saying how worthwhile it was. Here’s just a few of over 250 comments:

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Based upon the amazing feedback and the fact that over 2000 people registered for the webinar but we could only fit in 1000 – we’ve decided to release the recording to those who missed out.

We’ll leave this recording up for a week or so so don’t miss out on listening in by doing it today.

You can listen to the hour of teaching and 20 minutes of Q&A (which was great too) here.

You will need a notepad and pen or a word doc to make some notes with because there is a heap of rich information to take in.

One Tip I learned that Instantly Increased My Facebook Results

As I said at the end of the call – there’s so much to learn when it comes to using Facebook to market your blog. I myself am taking a course that Amy is running to learn more. As I listened to her yesterday I jotted down a number of action items.

One was around the use of images. Amy mentioned in the webinar that images are the number 1 thing that people are sharing on Facebook. While I knew this I hadn’t really acted on the information. So this morning here’s a little experiment that I did:

Normally when a new post goes up on my photography blog I post an update like this:

facebook-for-bloggers-webinar-case-study-1

What you see there is the status update on our page as it happens if you simply add a link to the status update box. It automatically pulls in an image from the post, the title of the post and the first line or two. I do these updates manually each day and they drive some pretty nice traffic. You can see in this case that after 25 minutes of being live that update was ‘liked’ 3 times and shared once. I’d estimate that around 100 people came and looked at the post in that 25 minute period.

Taking Amy’s teaching on board today I decided to do a followup status update with the same post a little while later – this time I decided to upload the same photo that you see above and to write something about the photo (including the link).

Here’s how it looked:

facebook-for-bloggers-webinar-case-study-2.png

The photo is bigger and more eye catching and you can immediately see what happened as a result. 18 times as many people ‘liked it’. 7 people commented. While there were no shares I’ll bet that this type of update will typically get shared more than the other type. Interestingly since adding this update I saw a spike in traffic coming to that post that I’d estimate was around 400 people.

Update: the ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ are continuing to come in one this one.

Key take home lesson? If you have an visually interesting image in your post consider uploading it and adding the link in the description of your image rather than just sharing the link and letting Facebook pull in the image. I’m certainly going to experiment some more with this technique.

Listen to the Full Webinar for Free Here

This is just one action item I picked up from Amy in the above webinar. I’ve got another 10 action items that I’m going to implement in the coming week.

Enjoy the full webinar for yourself here and learn how to tap into the billion plus people on Facebook.

How to Get the Best Return on Your Blog

This guest post is by Laura Booz of Blogger Behave.

I started blogging because I caught a glimpse of its potential to give something back to me.

Can you relate? Sure, that “something” is sometimes money. But, as we all know, there’s got to be more driving us to the keyboard, or we’ll lose our enthusiasm. Blogging requires a ton of work, and if it doesn’t offer a sweet return, we get stressed out, our writing grows thin, and our impact weakens.

Though a nice deposit in the old bank account feels terrific, money can’t motivate us to love our work or grow in our craft. We humans need something more than money to be truly excellent, and truly happy. I don’t want to divert you from your financial efforts or goals; I just want to point you towards the thing that will keep you motivated long after the money is invested, gifted, or spent.

I want to remind you of the far greater reward that could actually increase your likelihood for making money: personal growth.

Think about the last time you shook off a bad habit or muscled your way into greater maturity: it rocked, didn’t it? Unlike money, the pay-off of personal growth is a permanent, deeply felt reward that will keep our affection over the long-haul.

At the end of this article, I’ll ask for your input about ways in which we bloggers can grow in our personal lives and in our craft. But for now, sit back and consider my top three ways to ensure that I’m getting the best possible reward from my blog.

1. Write a blog vision statement

In our home, we have a Family Vision Statement that helps each member—from the biggest to the littlest—join together in achieving the same daily goals. That’s what inspired my Blog Vision Statements, which help me to define what my blog looks like, where it’s heading, and the type of content I will keep.

My vision statement is a brief description of what my blog is all about. It helps me stay focused and not compromise for every passing whim and tempting online offer.  I use it to evaluate what I write about, the amount of time I take to write it, and the ambitions I have for my public platform. It’s the permission I need to say, “yes” to beneficial opportunities and “no” to everything else.

Here’s how it works: my newest blog, TheHomeschoolBaby.com exists to “equip homeschooling families with wisdom, practical application, and personal encouragement for their children from birth to five-years old”.

So if I’m suddenly over-dosing on giveaways or product reviews, I’ll know I’m working outside of my vision statement and possibly jeopardizing the value of my blog. The hope is that I like my vision statement so much, I think long and hard before breaking it.

2. Keep an online budget

“Time is money,” isn’t it? We need to be very discerning about the amount of time we are investing in our blogs: does it cross the line into costing us more than it’s worth? For example, as a “mommy blogger” I must be vigilant about my time online. Though adding one more affiliate link might put twelve bucks in my PayPal account, taking the extra fifteen minutes away from my children is not worth it to me.

I evaluate the hours in my day and all of the things that are worth my attention. If I only have one hour available for blogging, so be it. My blog will be a one-hour-a-day blog. It might not pay off the mortgage or catch the eye of thousands of readers, but it’ll be as top-notch as I can make it within that time frame. I’ll divide that hour up into portions so that I can write posts, respond to comments, solicit guest posts, and work on other projects. When the online stopwatch buzzes, my time is up.

Sometimes the sacrifices sting and I wish I had more time to accomplish all of my online dreams, but I’m confident that I will not regret my choices in the long run. To tell you the truth, I’ve found that when I keep healthy parameters on my blogging time, I have much more to offer—even if I only have twenty minutes to think smart and type fast.

3. Write tough yet reasonable expectations

My second-grade teacher was so demanding that I saved almost all of my work from that year in a big trunk. I was so proud of my accomplishments! She had high expectations, and we children were delighted to meet them.

I think about her when it comes to blogging. Thanks to Miss C, I know now to keep my blog in line by asserting some high standards for it. For example, I expect my blog to improve my writing skills, develop my voice, and make me a more honest person. I expect it to help me think twice about my opinions, and five times about my facts. I expect that the feedback from my family, friends, and enemies makes me confess, buck up, or move on.

I expect my blog to influence, help, and encourage other people whom I’d never be able to influence otherwise. I expect it to stretch me out of my comfort zone, increase my compassion for other people, and spur me on into other worthwhile projects.

Over time, I’ve received every item on my list. Gaining so many personally enriching treasures keeps me positive about blogging. It also keeps me in control of my blog, and not the other way around. If I didn’t benefit from my blog on a regular basis, I sure hope I’d stop blogging.

If you find that the motivation to make money just isn’t enough for you, consider writing a vision statement, an online budget, and a list of expectations for your blog. Once you have these in place, you’ll find yourself looking for ways to grow in those areas. You’ll reach out for advice, insights, and opportunities that will help you to grow as a person, not just a blogger-with-a-bank-account. You’ll love the sweet return.

Now it’s your turn to be the wind beneath the wings of bloggers like me. How can we grow in our personal lives and in our craft so that we get the most out of our blogs?

Laura Booz is the author of the new eBook Blogger Behave: Make your blog benefit your life so you can love both!. She writes at http://www.10millionmiles.com about homesteading, homeschooling, faith, and other things that fascinate her along the way.