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40 Bloggers to Watch in 2011

Welcome to the 2011 list of bloggers to watch. A few caveats before we launch into the list:

  • This is my own list of the people I’m watching. I was approached to do this list because of my work as a professional connector. These are the people that have stood out to me, or my network.
  • Your niche is different from mine, and that’s a given. My goal was to find the people whose tips and stories can be applied to your own niche.
  • Like last year, we will be creating a post collecting all of the watch lists ProBlogger readers create. The details for this appear at the end of this post.

Many thanks to Ali Luke, Jonathan Wondrusch, Allison Boyer, Andy Dolph, and Srinivas Rao for their help with background research.

Discovered at BlogWorld

BlogWorld is the social hub of this industry. It was where thousands of the world’s best bloggers met to network and learn. I recommend that bloggers of any niche attend conferences such as this to check out the rising stars. Based on many conversations over coffee, fries, and ice-cream, I was able to ascertain that the following people will have a lot to contribute to the wider blogging community.

Jaime Tardy

Blog |  Twitter

I almost missed meeting Jaime Tardy. She was this lovely, quiet girl that I met just a few times, which I sincerely regretted when I checked visited Eventual Millionare. Jaime is a fiercely talented blogger, but what I liked was how she approached the topic of personal finance.

Most people tend to go one of two ways: they blog about their journey to riches, or blog about their frugal lifestyle. Jamie was well on her way to becoming a millionaire; she was earning six figures at just 22. However, she decided that “instead of just a million dollars, I wanted to find work I loved, and the life I loved, and THEN make my million.”

I’m a huge fan of her because she has an authentic blogging persona, despite her recent success. She has been able to leverage her blog to get significant media attention—a goal most of us dream of. I think she’ll be taking her efforts up a notch this year.

Matt Kimberley

Blog |  Twitter

Matt Kimberley is just like his blog: suave, intriguing, and powerful with words. He is a fascinating case study of how you can leverage your blog to achieve personal and business goals.

He blogs at How to Get a Grip, which is “largely a rehashing of common sense, with a couple of practical tips for manning up and getting things done.” Biography jargon aside, he is one of my favorite examples of someone that combines personality marketing and no-nonsense advice to create a compelling blog.

His story is one that fascinated me, and many of my peers. He:

Blog lessons aside, I believe that How to Get a Grip should be required reading for everyone wanting to focus on the important stuff in 2011.

Jordan Cooper

Blog |  Twitter

Jordan Cooper is a blogger that I highly respect. He positions himself as a comedian who has an irreverent outlook at blogging, social media, and marketing. While he acts like the comedic anti-hero, he is this incredibly savvy guy who intuitively gets this industry. I love him because he is modest about his talents and success.

Last year, he became community manager of the Beyond Blogging Project and moderated the Treating Your Blog Like a Business panel at BlogWorld. He also has enjoyed considerable success with two video game-related fan sites he manages: FM-Britain and Gameworld One.

I suspect that he may be the silent success story of this year. He’s gotten the trust and attention of the many top bloggers he has worked with. He has all the resources at his disposal. He just has to choose his path.

Matt Gartland

Blog |  Twitter

I count Matt Gartland among one of my closest blogging friends. He has spent most of this year focusing on his Healthy Lifestyle Design blog. After meeting at BlogWorld, I got him on the phone and we chatted about his 2011 plans. Boy, is this guy going to shake things up. There are two things that I’m really looking forward to:

  • Modern Audacity. This is his blog “about bold ideas for brave adventurers hell-bent on living above expectations.” His content is looking to be challenging in a similar vein to Matthew Kimberly’s and is something that I’m really looking forward to reading.
  • Random Acts of Greatness. This blog aims to chronicle 10,000 acts of greatness over a five-year period. One trend that I’ve noticed is how many bloggers are leveraging their audience to deliver widespread social good. Johnny B Truant was among with first with his Bad Ass Project. I can see Matt’s project having a much wider reach.

His blog has gotten so many of my friends excited. His branding is something that many people, including myself, can learn from. His theme is inspired by comic books, which he leverages to tell a story. It is impractical for most bloggers to replicate this, however everyone is capable of telling a story via their words and visual elements. Excelsior!

Farnoosh Brock

Blog |  Twitter

Farnoosh impressed many with her positive energy during Blogworld. She was constantly engaging with people and showed how to make a solid impression in a short period of time. What was surprising is that she is just as active on social media and her blog.

  • She uses only images that she takes on her blog. This, along with her video and podcasts, allows her readers to join her on her journey.
  • She wrote an ebook about her BlogWorld 2010 experience. This was a great way to get more exposure, as she was subsequently featured on the BlogWorld blog.

Her blog aims to teach you smart habits for rich living. However, I feel that she has a lot of potential and that she has so much more to bring to her audience. I’m genuinely excited to see how she grows this year.

Srinivas Rao

Blog |  Twitter

I truly believe that Srini is going to become one of the major success stories of 2011. He is constantly applying what he has learned through the interviews he has conducted on BlogcastFM.

I was friends with Srini long before we went to BlogWorld, and meeting him only increased my admiration. He genuinely cares about improving his blog and connecting with others. He leveraged his connections to successfully launch BlogcastFM Premium, grow his personal blog, and expand Flightster’s social media presence.

If there is someone you think should be on this list, tell him. It’s likely they’ll be interviewed on a future podcast.

Karol Gadja

Blog |  Twitter

Karol got the attention of everyone at Blogworld. Part of it was due to his height—he was considerably taller most people he spoke to—but mostly it was because of his friendliness.

It was such an honor to get to know him because he was so laid back and genuinely interested in his community. He was incredibly generous with his knowledge despite the massive success of the past year.

His blog, Ridiculously Extraordinary, is an example of how to stand out in a crowded niche. He also showed how you can run a successful blog and leverage that to support business ventures. He has been able to grow his business so much in the last quarter thanks to the 72 hour niche sales he runs with Adam Baker.

I believe that he will continue to impact people in 2011.

Benny

Blog |  Twitter

I barely talked to Benny at BlogWorld. I had just enough time to ascertain his Irish accent before he got whisked away to a neighboring table. Fortunately, I hung out with some of the most connected people in the industry, who quickly informed me that Benny is someone worth paying attention to.

He is the Irish Polyglot behind Fluent In 3 Months: a how-to guide and story of becoming fluent in any language quickly. His story has attracted many but what I love is how the story extends to all facets of his blog. He:

  • encourages his readers to comment in the languages he is fluent in, and will respond in the same language
  • posts his videos in multiple languages—including his welcome video—to demonstrate his skills
  • maintains multiple Twitter accounts for his followers in other languages.

I believe that having your content available in multiple languages will become more relevant in 2011, and Benny is in the prime position to help people do this.

Heather Solos

Blog |  Twitter

I never met Heather. I came across her thanks to the recommendation of several friends and, after checking out her main blog, I could see why. See, she doesn’t fit the profile of your typical successful blogger. Her bio states that she is a “32-year-old professional blogger and author”. I see her as a master of leveraging communities.

Her profile has grown organically over the course of five years. She co-founded Home-Ec101.com, “a site designed to teach real people, real skills, as they apply to real lives.” In addition to this, she has gotten a book deal, leveraged in-person meetings to get great results, and has achieved multiple writing spots in newspapers. You can learn more about how she did this in her interview on BlogcastFM.

What I like about her is how she is shaping her content to her audience. In her sidebar she has a link to a feedback form to get more information about her readers, a note saying that her articles are print-friendly, and a phone number for questions that may get featured on her podcast. She is inviting audience engagement before readers even view her content, rather than taking the path of most bloggers and just targeting social media users. I’m fascinated to see where she takes this in 2011.

Pace Smith

Blog |  Twitter

Pace Smith is one of my favourite BlogWorld buddies. She is an extremely talented individual who brings a lot to the social media community. She is an amazing collaborator and business mind, but is very down to earth and friendly. She has tried to avoid the expert/guru scene and, by doing so, has enriched the wider community.

What’s resonated with me is how she’s evolved over the past year. Pace and her business-and-life-partner Kyeli rebranded “The Freak Revolution” to “The Connection Revolution”—a change that I believe suits them better. They wrote about the reasons why. They’ve also intentionally tried to avoid creating metablogging products and instead released two useful courses: 52 Weeks to Awesome and Engaging ECourses.

I’ll be watching to see how Pace develops the connection revolution. She intuitively understands the relationship side of blogging and I believe her impact will grow significantly this year.

Suggested by readers

Last year’s post got a lot of feedback. Many people felt that their niche or passion was excluded. For this edition, we scoured the comments to find the bloggers who you wanted to be highlighted.

Pat Flynn

Blog |  Twitter

I’m blog crushing on Pat. He was suggested so many times in last year’s list that Darren snagged him for an interview shortly after.

He is the type of blogger that everyone can learn from. He loves his readers to death and focuses on providing massive value. You can:

He is someone I believe every ProBlogger reader should watch. He is a talented marketer and mentor, and someone that is passionate about growing his community.

Brett McKay

Blog |  Twitter

Nate, from Practical Manliness, recommended Brett as a blogger to watch in 2010. He said “He did quite a bit in 2009 (book launch, hundreds of thousands of monthly visits, etc.), and I don’t expect him to slow down.”

Brett has shown how you can take your business beyond a blog. He has converted his blog into a community complete with forums and profiles for members, and introduced interesting concepts such as the Library of Random Man Knowledge and the Art of Manliness Trunk. He also created a mobile version of his website. I was part of a mastermind session with some pretty influential bloggers late this year and one thing we all identified was the role smartphones would play with our blogs.

He has also worked to grow his brand off the blog. He has released a book, and has a second out in 2011. He’s released themed posters and calling cards, as well as a t-shirt collection. I expect him to grow his brand further this year.

Lynn Terry

Blog |  Twitter

I included Lynn Terry thanks to the recommendation of Adriana, who said “she always puts out excellent information, and replies to just about every comment on her blog.” I’ve come across Lynn numerous times and loved her classy approach in a crowded and much-hyped niche.

She blogs at Click Newz, which has “internet marketing ideas, tips, and reviews to help you succeed.” She is a super-affiliate, and was involved in Internet marketing before social media became trendy.

One thing that intrigued me was Lynn’s Hot Topics page. Most people have a page, or sidebar plugin, that directs people to the best content. This technique takes the readers to the best tutorials. This is something that may be more useful to readers than a post that received a lot of traffic from social media sites.

Lynn has been in this business for 14 years. Her inclusion wasn’t based on anticipated success this year; rather, she is someone that I believe we all can learn from. If she, or any other person on this list, has helped you, I’d love to read about it in the comments.

Wil Wheaton

Blog |  Twitter

My dad would say that Wil Wheaton’s character Wesley Crusher is one of the most-hated characters in Star Trek. I, along with Slimeface, who recommended him, would disagree. I reckon that he is one of the coolest people I know.

The short version is that most people would consider him to be celebrity—ya know, except for Sheldon Cooper, who’s often mentioned as Wil Wheaton’s nemesis in “Big Bang Theory.” Jokes aside, he is one to watch is because he is a celebrity who’s using social media in the way it was intended.

A lot of bloggers struggle with scalability when it comes to managing relationships. Wil faces that on a much larger scale. His Twitter landing page is truthful and amusing. He doesn’t cater to popular opinion. Instead, he just acts like himself and attracts thousands of readers in the process. His success isn’t replicable for most of us, but his approach is.

In his post celebrating the new year, he said “2010 was easily the best year I’ve had in a decade, and 2011 is looking like it’s going to be pretty amazing, too.” I’m looking forward to following his journey.

Henri Juntilla

Blog |  Twitter

Henri first attracted widespread attention when he got over 1000 subscribers in three months. He was able to achieve this via two main methods: article marketing and guest posting. His content on Wake Up Cloud is mixture of metablogging and personal development.

Henri is currently in the transition stage. During 2010, he was able to gain a lot of attention for his work. The thing is, social proof doesn’t necessarily equal a successful business. Henri has earned a nice income from his affiliate efforts and product sales but is yet to turn his blog into a true business.

I believe he is one to watch as he makes this transition from blogger to entrepreneur. I’ve watched many people give up their blog or get burnt out. I think Henri will shine as he progresses on his entrepreneurial journey.

Daniel Scocco

Blog |  Twitter

Daniel Scocco has been someone I’ve been learning from for a while. I didn’t include him in the previous list because I assumed his prominence didn’t need mentioning, but you guys corrected me pretty quickly!

2010 saw Daniel reopen his membership site Online Profits. He offered the course for free (with the caveat that members need to sign up for an $8.95/month hosting plan with HostGator), posting Online Profits Is Open, And Now It Is Free!

This membership site has made for a fascinating case study. He was able to leverage the content of others to create a comprehensive product that covers more information than just blogging. He was one of the first people to make money from a course via affiliate commissions for other products. This is an underutilized technique and it will be fascinating to see if other people apply it to their own niche.

I know that he will keep challenging the status quo in 2011 and continuing to create useful content. I can’t say too much, but I can share that there are rumors of a new product released via Daily Writing Tips in early 2011.

Jean-Baptiste Jung

Blog |  Twitter

Jean-Baptiste Jung is “a 27-year-old blogger, web developer and web designer from the French-speaking part of Belgium”. He started out with a successful blog, Cats Who Code, and soon grew his business to include a portfolio of web development-related websites.

The past few years have seen him launched additional sites such as WpRecipes, PsdVibe and Cats Who Blog. In addition he has written for WpHacks, ProBlogDesign and Smashing Magazine, and released his first book, WordPress CookBook.

I’ll be frank—I’m not familiar enough with the WordPress community to discuss why Jean-Baptiste is worth watching. I’m relying on the many readers and friends who told me of his talents. However, I can tell you that his portfolio of WordPress and blogging sites will be a valuable resource for ProBlogger readers over the coming year.

Potts Weinstein

Blog |  Twitter

Elizabeth’s bio states that “I’m a woman who is on a continuing adventure of living my truth. And I’m inviting you to come along.” A consistent theme with many people on this list is that they have created a blog that is a natural expression of who they are. Elizabeth is no exception.

She explains, “Living your truth finds the nexus of your passions, your skills, everything that is unique and amazing about you, with practical, smart, efficient business strategies and systems and marketing and relationship building.” She has been a mentor to many of my good friends and accomplished a lot despite a tumultuous 2010.

Her personal and business theme for 2011 is “Creating Space for Ecstasy via Boundaries and Self Care.” This is a theme that a lot of people will resonate with in the coming year. It may take longer than one year for her to achieve true greatness but hers is such a fascinating journey to watch.

Chris Owyoung

Blog |  Twitter

Chris is a freelance music photographer based in New York City. He was included thanks to the recommendation of Greg Taylor. Chris blogs in a niche that most wouldn’t pay attention to. His target readers are potential clients rather than tutorial seekers. He approaches his blog differently from most ProBlogger readers.

A lot of the focus is on the visual experience. His sidebar comprises images rather than text—a technique that compliments his photography. He also invites the readers to view images from a shoot by telling a story and capturing the reader’s attention. Both techniques are common, but it’s worth seeing how it’s applied to a different niche.

His blog is a solid case study and it will be interesting to check if he changes his approach over the course of the year. I think he’s onto a winning formula.

Jade Craven

Blog |  Twitter

Yeah, I’m totally cheating by putting myself on this list. I was going to include Anne Jackson from Flowerdust.net, but she recently wrote a post discussing the end of her blogging. Long story short, I went through the comments again and after going through the joke suggestions, my name came up twice. So I snagged rising star Allison Boyer to write a bio for me:

Even if you don’t know Jade Craven yet, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ve been affected by her work. Jade is of course the author of this list, but she’s everywhere, working with people such as Dave Navarro, Jonathan Fields, and Johnny B. Truant. Regardless of her work with high-profile people, Jade always also has time for interesting up-and-comers who haven’t yet made a name for themselves. If you’re someone with passion and dedication, Jade wants to know you—and she will make good things happen for you without asking for anything in return.

I’m officially dubbing 2011 “The Year of Jade Craven”—she’s got some super-exciting secret plans for awesomeness that you don’t want to miss. Get Jade Craven on your radar if she’s not already, and you can be part of that awesomeness.

New talent

Sometimes it seems like a success story comes from nowhere. You’ll briefly see someone on Twitter, and then Bang! Their work is everywhere. This section deals with some of the success stories of the past year. These are the people who will be profoundly growing their profile in the coming months.

Jonathan Wondrusch

Blog |  Twitter

Jonathan is a paragon of blogging awesomeness. He is co-founder of By Bloggers and is working with Lavonne Ellis on the upcoming Customer Love Challenge. His profile has grown quickly over the four months—and for good reason.

His stand-out resource is By Bloggers, which is a site for ambitions webpreneurs creating incredible eproducts. His content is very high quality—Epic Ebook Creation is one of the best free books I’ve read—and has been able to attract a lot of attention in a short period of time.

I’m confident that he will rock it in 2011. He’s found a gap in a market targeting infoproduct creators, and has some some killer plans to help bloggers. You can see them taking shape with the new Blogging Bootstrappers community, along with the continually growing Bootstrapper’s Toolkit—a resource that adds new free worksheets and ebooklets every month.

Johnathan also is a talented relationship marketer and it’ll be worth watching to see where he takes his audience. It’s most likely to be silly (this man sported a half beard—a beard on one side of his face, but not the other—for a week), nerdy, and absolutely inspiring.

Peter Shallard

Blog |  Twitter

Peter is an example of someone who launched with a bang. See, Peter isn’t like us bloggers. He has a strong corporate background and he’s one of the people who understands relationship marketing and sales—something that many people find difficult.

He launched strongly by making a number of smart decisions, such as hiring 2010-blogger-to-watch James Chartrand for website design and copywriting. This allowed him to focus on what he did best: engaging with people via social media and empowering his clients.

He is a fascinating example of how a suit can dive into the world of social media and enjoy massive success. He is also someone that is laid back and a lot of fun to get to know. Even if you aren’t interested in his blog, hit him up on Twitter. Tell him Jade sent you!

Scott McIntyre

Blog |  Twitter

Scott McIntyre got on my radar before he had even launched his blog, Vivid Ways. He contacted me because he had been regularly guest posting on Liz Strauss’s blog and didn’t have a blog, nor much of a social media presence.

I believe he is one to watch because he made a conscious choice to focus his effort on developing relationships and learning as much as possible. Most people are busy sucking up to the big names, rather than finding ways they can contribute to the community.

Lavonne Ellis

Blog |  Twitter

Lavonne has spent most of 2010 in the transition phase. I met her via a paid program where she impressed me with her tenacity and willingness to learn. She launched her first blog, the Complete Flake, and was willing to admit her business had evolved.

What really put Lavonne on my radar was the community she developed around the Customer Love challenge. She’s run two Customer Love challenges, helping people to love their audiences and launch products. She’ll be co-leading her next challenge in February and launching a paid product at that time.

I think the customer love challenge will be something to watch in 2011. Lavonne is brilliant and smart, and she intuitively knows what bloggers want. She knows how to empower a community and is an example of how you can enjoy viral success just by being useful.

Jean Sarauer

Blog

In October, Jean decided to quit blogging to pursue her fiction writing. She handed her flagship blog over to Mary Jaksch, who has continued to develop it as a “safe, supportive space for bloggers to learn, grow, and enjoy their online journey.”

Despite that, I believe she is someone to watch. She contributed a lot to the blogging community during 2010 and has the potential to do so again during 2011.

Lynn Fang

Blog |  Twitter

Lynn Fang has garnered a lot of attention for her minimalist/environmentalist blog, Upcycled Love. She has built her blog with interviews and DIY tutorials on how to follow a green-friendly lifestyle and still achieve your dreams. She also happens to be a pretty amazing designer, redesigning Sam Spurlin’s first ebook.

I believe Lynn is one to watch because she’s empowering her community to achieve social change. She has accomplished so much in a relatively short period of time and I’ll be intrigued to see how she develops her brand and website this year.

Tyler Tervooren

Blog |  Twitter

Tyler Tervooren shot to fame so quickly that I didn’t have time to watch him. Seriously. I’d heard his name, but he’s included here because so many people recommended him.

Tyler is the type of person that I want to be like. He has incredible plans, such accomplishing goals that only 1% of humanity ever does. He aims to promote better living through uncertainty, which is something that really resonates with me.

If you don’t like his blogging style, that’s cool. You can still learn a lot from him. He rocketed to 2000 subscribers in three months. He is extremely talented at word-of-mouth marketing and taking care of his community.

This sentiment is echoed in multiple niches. Jonathan Woodrush said that Tyler “released hands down one of the best free and useful e-books I’ve seen when it comes to quitting your job: Take This Job and Shove It.” I agree. His first information product, the Guerilla Influence Formula, is a must-read if you want to create a blog that people naturally want to talk about. I believe he’ll be raising the bar on his paid content this year.

Kelly Diels

Blog |  Twitter

Kelly is no stranger to the ProBlogger audience. She had a regular column early last year and impressed many with her unique writing style. She has become notable for her continuing popularity, as well as her incredible writing. Her authenticity and presence really shine through every time she posts, as does her love of helping others.

She has done a lot since her stint at ProBlogger. For example, she launched The League of Extraordinary Bloggers with Dave Doolin to help people rock their blogs and their copywriting.

I believe she is one to watch because of her raw talent. She hasn’t tried to take over the blogosphere like many of her caliber. Instead, she’s worked on growing Cleavage, and developing her audience. Her work ethic and blog savvy make her one to watch for a long time.

Robert Hickman

Blog |  Twitter

Robert Hickman suffers from Aspergers Syndrome and writes about giving your disability a kick in the you-know-what. His blog is new, but it challenges readers to reframe their thinking and leverage their problems to their own advantage.

I believe he is one to watch because he’s offering a unique perspective in an overcrowded niche. He is writing about how popular concepts, such as minimalism, can have a positive influence when it comes to managing a disability. He isn’t blogging to be the most popular, nor for the social proof; he is blogging out of pure motivation for his project. This makes him truly stand apart.

Everett Bogue

Blog |  Twitter

Everett Bogue carved a name for himself, and his blog Far Beyond the Stars, rather quickly in 2010. He become known as someone who was applying minimalist principles to his life, and business, and having great success. He quit his job at New York Magazine to pursue a minimalist, location-independent life and has turned his blog into a work of art.

He has some pretty heavy plans for his content in 2011. Topics include:

I’m not sure what to expect business-wise from him, other than a new ebook shipping early in February. I do know that he will be exploring some vital topics that most bloggers wouldn’t even think about. I believe he is destined to grow rapidly beyond his blog and become a thought leader in relation to the ways in which our digital selves interact with our physical selves.

Inspiring blogs

Sometimes you find a blog that just makes you feel good about yourself. It could be because the blogger is a creative genius. With others, they just inspire you to be a better person.

The following people are the ones that inspired me over the past year and will continue to do so in 2011.

Jess Van Den

Blog |  Twitter

Jess is a rising star in the Australian creative scene. She creates jewelry under the brand, Epheriell, but I believe her real talent is her blog. She intuitively understands how to develop a community surrounding her blog.

2010 saw her create a popular craft zine, Bespoke. She created Crafting A Business for those like her who were developing a business online. She also wrote the book Etsy Success Stories in addition to maintaining her own popular blog.

I think Jessica will really shine in 2011. This year has seen her set up the foundation for success. The crafting scene is built on community and it has been so inspired by watching Jess grow hers.

Nathalie Lussier

Blog |  Twitter

Nathalie is a tech-savvy wellness-minded entrepreneur who writes about the intersection of technology, health, and business. She shot to fame as the creator of Raw Foods Witch and has developed a brand as a successful entrepreneur in her own right.

Late in 2009, she chose the word “confidence” as the one that would guide her through 2010. The past year has seen her accomplish great things. She has spoken at many conferences, including a much-praised presentation at BlogWorld, and has launched her own business website.

Nathalie is one of the true hidden gems. She instinctively knows how to empower her audience and help people. I’m hoping that 2011 is the year where she combines her many talents to create a world-changing business.

Danielle Laporte

Blog |  Twitter

Danielle is one of my favorite discoveries this past year. She blogs at White Hot Truth and is a continual source of small business leadership and inspiration. Her blog is a guilty indulgence. Just check out her shop. She combines aesthetics with her artistic soul and incredible writing style. She rocked the year hard with her Firestarter Sessions product and shows no sign of slowing down in 2011.

Danielle made a number of huge decisions in 2010. She turned off comments on her blog to make room for her art. This caused a huge discussion and many successful bloggers have followed suit.

Danielle is on the cusp of greatness. This is fact. She is already extremely successful but she will be taking her work to a new level this year. She recently got (another) book deal. Every part of her blog and social media presence tells a story. I can’t wait to see what story she tells this year.

Natalie Peluso

Blog | Twitter

The first half of 2010 saw Natalie rebrand herself a couple of times as she was discovering her blogging identity. She has a lot of success, such as the launch of Action Studio and the release of her Fearless Karaoke video—until she discovered that her true calling was helping creative entrepreneurs develop their presence.

She’ll be relaunching Action Studio early this year. Sources have told me that that’s just a taste of what’s to come. She has been working for a long time to get to her current level of success and, now that she’s found the right message, will enjoy rapid blog growth over the coming year.

Rachel Hills

Blog | Twitter

Rachel is more than just a blogger—she is a journalist, author and “digital media professional.” I discovered her when she featured me in a newspaper article about getting paid to play. I was impressed with her industry knowledge, so I investigated further. I was impressed with what I found.

She is a successful blogger in her own right. Her blog, Musings of an Inappropriate Woman, is considered to be the best Australian feminist blog. Her posts aren’t as conversational as many bloggers, myself included, but I found myself drawn further and further into her archives. She is one of the rare journalists that have been able to carve a name for themselves in digital media while staying true to her writing style.

I think she is incredibly talented and will get up to great things this year. That may be impacted by her other commitments, such as her forthcoming book, but I’d love to see her profile grow in 2011.

Ashley Ambirge

Blog |  Twitter

Ashley  has been described as one of the most unique and inspiring voices in the blogosphere. She’s truly in a class of her own with a writing style that leaves readers hanging on her every word and challenging them to think beyond where they’re at today.

She writes at the Middle Finger Project and has recently launched a new product: You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts. I love her content. My personal favorites are her Fear, Exposed series and her post The 67 Emotions of Online Success: My Story. She is one of the most unapologetically-herself bloggers out there right now, and loves both her life and audience.

I think she will be accomplishing great things in 2011. She has the audience and the raw talent. It will be interesting to see what direction she chooses to go in.

Willie Hewes

Blog

Willie Hewes is the freelance illustrator behind Itch Illustration. She is also a comic book publisher and launched the Monster Journals in August 2010. I started following her because I was a fan of her work, and because she was skilled at connecting with other bloggers.

Her main blog is Mad Science, where she blogs about mindfulness tactics for practical people. For those that are unfamiliar with the concept, mindfulness is a technique that is increasingly recognized as a useful way to reduce stress and anxiety. She takes a topic that is normally dry and technical, and makes it fun.

I love her because she has turned her blog and her work into an experience. Her friendly writing style and relationship marketing skills make it a pleasure to interact with her and her blog. I look forward to watching how she grows her business this year.

Catherine Caine

Blog |  Twitter

I hesitated about including Catherine on this list. She is a close friend and I’d been singing her praises for a while now. Then she launched her new site, Cash and Joy.

Catherine is an example of someone who evolved with her business, rather than her blog. She realized that why she loved the work she was doing at Be Awesome Online, the readers weren’t the type who could afford the services she’d been gravitating towards. She went on hiatus, restructured her current site (which included stopping a course mid-way), and then launched her current site. This is admirable because most people wouldn’t have the guts to launch something completely new or, if they did, they would have been torn between both brands.

I think she has barely started with her plans for Cash and Joy. She’s found her blogging groove and has gone past the struggling phase of her business. She has so much brilliance and a knack for helping people find their target audience. It will be interesting to see what she does on her own blog, and how she helps her clients achieve their potential.

David Crandall

Blog |  Twitter

David Crandall is a rising star in the blogosphere. In the short time since he started his blog, he’s become a master at building effective relationships. This year has seen him launch a product with Srinivas Rao titled How to Grow Your Blog Through Interviews and co-lead the first Customer Love challenge with LaVonne Ellis.

I believe that you guys can learn a lot from him. In addition to his relationship marketing skills, he is brilliant at polarization. When a good friend was recommending him, he said that he “has a unique voice on his current blog, Heroic Destiny, and loves unicorns and getting his hair done.” That’s referral marketing right there.

In 2011, he’ll be using his business intelligence skills to help bloggers transform knowledge into action. He’s recently launched Business Intelligence Badass and it will be interesting to see where that leads. He’s also worth watching to see how he leverages the relationships he’s worked so hard to build.

El Edwards

Blog

You probably haven’t heard of Eleanor Edwards. She is the founder of UK charity Give A Brick and the hostess of happiness at Heaven and El. Her personal blog has two goals: to make you smile and to support her charity efforts.

I love Eleanor because she isn’t out to be a super-famous blogger. She doesn’t want, or need, anyone’s attention to succeed. She blogs for the pure joy of it and genuinely cares about her readers. She is one of my favorite examples of someone who invests time in building her community rather than building her network.

From a networking perspective, this is the type of person you should emulate. Very busy, and important, people will make time for the friendly person cheering them on. During 2010, I watched her find her writing voice and purpose for her work. It will be fascinating to see where she takes her (accidental) relationship marketing efforts this year.

Which bloggers are you watching?

This list isn’t the definitive list—I accept that. We want to know which bloggers you’re watching, too! I’ll be writing about what’s going on in the ProBlogger community and would love to share your stories. You can contribute in the following ways:

  • Create your own list of bloggers to watch. They will be included in a follow up post.
  • Share specific bloggers you are watching. Go into as much detail as you like.
  • Comment about how you would improve on the list format. Do you want more people? A certain type of information? Tell us and your suggestions may be included in future lists.

How to Get 80+ Comments on Your Next Blog Post

This post is by The Blog Tyrant.

My blog is only 22 posts old but I already get close to 100 comments on most of the articles I write. I recently wrote about how to increase conversions and got over 250 comments in about six hours. It’s a surprising amount.

You only get one shot
Creative Commons License photo credit: aqsahu

So why is my blog getting so many comments? And more importantly, what can you do to replicate the commenting frenzy on your own blog? Let’s take a look.

Why comments matter

The first thing I want to talk about is why comments are important to a blog. It’s quite simple—one word in fact: community. Blog comments are a sign that your community is healthy and functional. The post I linked to above was the 18th article I had written on Blog Tyrant and I hardly had to participate in the discussion: my readers did it all. I just put up a post and watched my amazing community help each other out with their questions and concerns. I felt like a proud dad.

I’ve found that if you can increase comments on your blog, you’ll often find that traffic, subscribers, and all the other nice metrics rise as well. In fact, when I look in my analytics I see that the posts that get the most comments also do the most converting and bring the most visitors—not the other way around.

Let’s say that again: more comments lead to more traffic, conversions, and sign ups.

How I get people to comment

I want to share some simple little strategies that I use on my blog to get comments, and lots of them.

1. Close comments

Wait a second … close comments? Yep, close them. After two weeks I close off the comments on my posts so that people have to wait for a new post if they want to start commenting. Sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it? In fact, just two weeks ago I got an email from another blogger who asked:

Why do you close comments on old articles? What if people want to add to the discussion? You may as well close comments entirely.

I visited his blog and, quite ironically, almost every post he has written has zero comments. Unfortunately this guy has underestimated the power of scarcity. People are much more likely to interact with a product or a blog if they perceive it to be scarce or limited. That’s why car companies release limited editions and the big clothing stores have “one day only” sales. If you close comments your comment section automatically becomes more alluring.

2. Show up every single day

At least once a day I get an email from a reader thanking me for personally replying to their comment. In actual fact, I make it a policy to reply to every single comment that I get on my blog, unless it has already had some good replies. I do this because I want to show my readers that I care and that I really like getting comments from them. Replying individually, every day, shows them that I am interested and the karma of that action is that they want to comment more often.

You might also see a slight trick here. By replying to every comment you also increase your comment count. So instead of having ten reader comments, you might have 20 with your own individual replies. Not all of my posts are like this but in some of them, 30-40% of the comments are from me. Tricky huh?

3. Write full and detailed articles … but don’t finish them

In my 7,809 word series on how to blog, I told my readers to write comprehensive articles but not to finish them. This little trick is something I picked up years ago when I decided to sell a blog for $20,000: long but incomplete articles really attracted a lot of interest amongst visiting traffic.

Here’s the deal. If you totally exhaust a topic, you leave your readers with nowhere to go. They already have all the answers from your post, so why would they comment? The reverse of this situation occurs if you write articles that are too short and incomplete. In that case, you aren’t going to rouse enough passion and interest in order to generate some discussion.

The ideal situation is to write comprehensive articles, but to not quite finish them. Don’t complete every topic and always finish the post so that the reader wants to learn more, research further, and talk to you about what you have written.

What’s worked for you?

Have you ever heard the saying, “the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know”? I have been blogging for a long time but still, every day, I find new strategies and techniques to improve what I do. I get totally embarrassed by the fact that, after years of blogging, I still don’t know a thing!

Please leave a comment and let me know what strategies worked best for you on your blog. Is there any reason why your most commented articles did so well? Or is it totally random? I’m looking forward to hearing what the ProBlogger community has to offer!

The Blog Tyrant is a 25-year-old guy from Australia who has sold blogs for large sums of money and now writes about dominating your niche. Subscribe by email or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Monthly Trends + Resolutions for a Better Blog

Happy 2011! How are the ole resolutions holding up so far? Have you stopped biting your nails, started a daily exercise regimen, and organized your closets yet? Me neither. Still, ’tis the season for new starts, and while you’re thinking about improving your health, your home, or your life balance, don’t forget about your blog. Make a resolution today to take your blog to the next level in 2011.

It’s the beginning of the month as well as the year, so, as always, Regator has provided blogosphere trends for the month, and I’ll use posts about these popular stories to inspire you to make a vow to improve your blog in the New Year. (The most-blogged about stories for December 2010, in order, were: Christmas, Wikileaks, Tax Cuts, DADT/Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Tron, New Year’s Eve, Net Neutrality, Elizabeth Edwards, Oprah, and Michael Vick.) Let’s make some resolutions!

1. I resolve to be funnier.
Inspiration: Cracked’s The 12 Most Unintentionally Disturbing Christmas Ads. Obviously, humor isn’t always appropriate, but it certainly has its place and can breathe life into a dry subject if it’s used correctly. If you can handle a bit of rough language, comedy blog Cracked.com provides plenty of inspiration, putting an amusing spin on everything from Christmas to science to pop culture.

2. I resolve to take extra time to write gripping intros to my posts.
Inspiration: The Chronicle Review’s Why WikiLeaks Is Bad for Scholars. The first few lines of your post will determine whether readers will stick around or click around. Don’t save your genius for the third paragraph. Use your first paragraph to make a promise, create intrigue, hit readers with a killer quote, or—as in this example from The Chronicle Review—build suspense with a story.

3. I resolve to help my readers solve more problems.
Inspiration: The Consumerist’s Calculate How Much Of A Raise You’ll Get On January 1 [Tax Cuts]. You’ve read it over and over here at ProBlogger, but it can’t be said enough: Be useful to your readers and they will come back for more. As you sit down to write each post, ask yourself what the reader will get out of it and why he or she should take the time to read it. Even if it’s not a straight-up, service-oriented post, like this example from The Consumerist, all of your posts should provide some benefit: entertainment, knowledge, advice, etc.

4. I resolve to take more time to craft my headlines.
Inspiration: Queerty’s Why Fox News’ Story On Gay Soldiers Living Under DADT Never Got Filed. Your headlines should not be an afterthought and, if they are, this is the resolution for you. They’re all people see when your link is tweeted and the first thing potential readers see in RSS readers and aggregators. A great post with a mediocre headline will lose countless potential readers. This example from Queerty is keyword-heavy, potentially controversial, and seems to promise an intriguing bit of information.

5. I resolve to be more creative and to break out of the echo chamber.
Inspiration: Pushing Pixels’ The colors of “Tron: Legacy”. While many were blogging about Tron’s opening weekend numbers or its (awesome) Daft Punk soundtrack, Kirill Grouchnikov took a different approach and blogged a fascinating breakdown of the color usage in Tron’s computer world. It’s a perfect fit for that blog’s readers and a unique twist on a frequently covered story. If bloggers in your niche are writing about one particular story, find a way to put your own unique twist on it.

6. I resolve to use more photos and/or video.
Inspiration: The Big Picture’s A New Year rolls in. Photos and video add interest and depth and if you aren’t using many, this may be the resolution for you. Just be sure you’re using them legally. This example from The Big Picture shows just how striking the right photo can be.

7. I resolve to be more opinionated.
Inspiration: Tech Talk’s Opinion: Who’ll Really Benefit from Net Neutrality Regulation? Strong opinions have the potential to put some people off and generate controversy, but they also have the potential to establish you as a blogger with interesting things to say and to solidify your blog as a place where healthy debate can happen. This example from Tech Talk is clearly labeled as opinion, presents facts to back up the opinions in the post, and takes a respectful tone.

8. I resolve to develop my blogging voice.
Inspiration: The Atlantic’s Elizabeth Edwards and the Case Against the Political Wife. If you look back at 2010’s posts and find they don’t sound much like you or that they simply lack a bit of personality, resolve to work on your blog’s tone in 2011. This example by Elizabeth Wurtzel is conversational but smart and, quite simply, sounds like Wurtzel. Let that be your goal: sound like you.

9. I resolve to interact with commenters.
Inspiration: TV by the NumbersNo Matter How Tiny the Ratings for OWN, the Media Will Obsess Over Oprah. It’s easy to get so busy working on your next post that you don’t take time to correspond with readers about your previous post. It happens to us all at times (guilty). There’s certainly no need to respond to every comment left on your blog, but interacting with readers where appropriate can go a long way in building a community and, by extension, fans and advocates for your blog. In this example, blogger Robert Seidman responds to questions and even refers back to one commenter’s previous comment, showing that he pays attention to what’s being said on his posts. It’s a good habit to get into.

10. I resolve to edit my posts after I finish them.
Inspiration: The Phillyist’s White House: Vick’s Crimes Deserve Condemnation. This example is short and sweet. It gets the points across with no more words than are necessary. There’s nothing wrong with longer posts, but chances are, you can take around 15 percent off the word count of most posts without losing anything important. Try it for a month and you’ll find your writing is sharper and more concise.

So what do you say? Will you make a resolution to improve your blog this year? My blogging resolution is pretty simple: I resolve to blog more often. As one of the founders of Regator, it’s all too easy for me to get so distracted by the day-to-day running of an internet startup that my first love, writing, gets pushed aside. 2011 will be the year that changes. How about you? Please share your resolution in the comments!

Kimberly Turner is a cofounder of Regator, as well as an award-winning print journalist. Find her on Twitter @kimber_regator, get free widgets for your blog, or nominate your blog for review.

Buying and Selling Blogs with Strong Personal Brands

This guest post is by Andrew Knibbe of Flippa.

The responses to my last post raised the crucial issue of selling a blog that’s built around a strong personal brand.

Mark Wolfinger wrote, “When I write a blog, it’s my passion that the readers see. It’s my writing style and knowledge. Buy an existing blog and the blog’s voice changes immediately. How can you keep loyal readers who loved the previous voice?”

This is of course a key consideration in buying or selling a personally branded blog. It’s true that the strength of some personal brands may make a blog unsaleable, but that doesn’t need to be the case.

The blog as a business

In response to Mark’s comment, the Blog Tyrant pointed out, “Mark you read ProBlogger and hardly any of the posts are by Darren nowadays.”

This reminds me of that old saying that if you want to have a saleable business, you have to be able to step back at some point and work on it, rather than in it.

This seems to be the approach that Darren has taken with ProBlogger. He’s spent years building a strong personal brand, and building a blog that revolves around that. By establishing ProBlogger as a leading light in the niche, he’s able to attract some of the best bloggers and source high-quality content for the site, and that’s let him step back from the blog to work on aspects like product development.

We can guess that he’s now spending time he used to spend writing blog posts preparing courses, writing ebooks, and coming up with new concepts.

But the things that make ProBlogger what it is remain here, even if Darren’s time and presence on the blog has decreased from what it was when he started all those years ago. There’s a large and loyal community, a strong brand, an enormous, high-quality content inventory, and  a raft of happy advertisers, affiliates, and so on. So if ProBlogger was for sale, you can see that it would have a lot to offer a potential buyer.

Getting personal

What if this site was called DarrenRowse.net, rather than ProBlogger.net? Sure, that might reduce the overall sale price of the site, but it certainly wouldn’t make it unsaleable. As a potential buyer, you might choose to move it to a new domain, but if you were smart, and Darren was a caring seller, you’d probably negotiate a handover arrangement whereby you as the new site owner could be introduced to the ProBlogger readers and community.

Before you agreed to buy the site, you’d probably assess the alternative domains you could use, and you might buy one—possibly one like, say, ProBlogger, which talks about the niche more than a personality—as you bought the site. Perhaps you’d also secure Twitter and Facebook accounts with the same brand, or negotiate with the owner to transfer the existing account’s ownership with the blog.

During the handover period, you might undertake a gradual rebranding of the site and announce to users that its location was changing. Rather than switching off DarrenRowse.net the day your turned on the ProBlogger domain, you might have the two running in tandem, with a redirect attached to the personal domain, for a while.

Buying (or selling) an existing blog isn’t like buying a used car: it doesn’t need to be a take-it-or-leave-it situation. As the buyer, you can request any assistance you need to transfer the blog safely to your ownership, complete with its full complement of readers. If the seller cares about the community he or she has built up, they’ll hopefully be pretty happy to negotiate this kind of thing among the terms of the sale.

Finding opportunities on a personal blog

Another response to Mark’s comment on the article came from Alex, who wrote, “buying a blog which already has a small reader base and some articles can save you quite a bit of time, otherwise you’d need to “get the ball rolling” yourself, which is the hardest part of blogging, IMO.”

Mark replied, “It’s funny. I find writing to be the very easy part. And I have a decent number of readers (24,000 monthly unique). It’s the monetizing that’s difficult for me.”

These comments really show the variation that exists in the blog trading space—people buy and sell blogs for all sorts of reasons, and a blog that has real potential for one buyer will hold little appeal for another.

Take Mark’s comment, for example. It sounds like he’s built up a great content inventory, and a loyal, committed readership—but he has difficulty monetizing blogs. Alex says he finds the initial stages of starting a blog the biggest challenge, but perhaps he’s the type to easily spot monetization opportunities and do something about them. The fact that Mark’s been unable to monetize his blog presents an opportunity: if he wanted to, he might sell the blog to someone like Alex, who had monetization skills. After all, strong community and great content are valuable assets.

Mark comments that his unique style and personality are what readers come to his blog for. That’s great, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that, if he wanted to sell the blog, he couldn’t.

Firstly, he’d be choosy about the buyers he considered, looking for someone who knew his site and understood what it was about—he might well find that among the interested buyers were some of his site’s current users. He’d look for a potential buyer who had an appealing writing style that he felt would really engage his readers. Perhaps he’d invite them to write some guest posts so that he could see how his readers responded to the potential buyer, and to help that person build a profile among the readership in advance.

If the sale went ahead, he’d make a personal announcement to his readers, perhaps via email to subscribers as well as in a post on the blog itself. He might also recommend a handover period to help the transition go smoothly, and keep readers as loyal to the blog—and the new owner—as possible.

Personal brands can add an extra dimension to the buying and selling of blogs, but they don’t have to be a problem. A buyer might be able to find a personally branded blog that doesn’t have a strong personal style (we’ve all seen them online)—another opportunity for the astute buyer who knows what they have to offer.

Have you ever though about buying or selling a blog with a personal brand? What other concerns would you have about the process?

Andrew Knibbe is the Marketing Manager at Flippa, the #1 marketplace for buying and selling websites. He blogs at the Flippa blog. Follow him @flippa.

Three Ways to Take Advantage of Being a Blogging “No One”

This guest post is by Chris, “The Traffic Blogger”.

My name is “no one.” Well frankly, to you, being that you have no idea who I am, my name might as well be “no one.” However, just because I am a “no one” does not mean I have nothing to say! Many of you may actually know exactly what it is I want to say because you also are a “no one” like me.

I am a “no one” and I have dreams. I have aspirations, a good work ethic and although there are others with the same name as me, there is only one person who can be me. So just because my name and situation are not unique, does not make my personality, good humor and helpful nature a common commodity. Nobody else can be me—even other “no one”s!

I am “no one,” and I have something to say! I exist! I want to help people and I need to reach out to them! I write helpful content several days a week but I cannot find other people besides my mother to read my work. I exist whether I have a comment, a follower, or not!

Are you a “no one” as well? I know that I sure was when I first started writing a gaming blog two years ago. It took many months of hard work before 1000 people called my site home and two years later a staggering 9,000 individuals read my content daily. What I did as a “no one” was the difference between building a site that worked and one that would lead to me wasting my time.

There are two drastically different ways to look at being a “no one:”

You can realize this is hard work and eventually give up.
You can take advantage of being a “no one.”

If you chose option ‘B’, good for you! But how can you possibly take advantage of being a “no one?”

1. Be a new presence with fresh ideas.

If you are a new person to any niche you have an opportunity to jump off the band wagon and stand all by yourself on an island build out of your own ideas. Many people find fresh ideas exciting and inspiring, so play off this notion as much as you can by making your site seem very new and inviting.

Write content that is challenging of old concepts and revolutionary at the same time. In other words, don’t be just another site in your niche. If you manage to pull this off then you will be the person everyone wants a guest post from or the one person they all talk about on forums (which you should also be participating in).

2. Experiment and don’t be afraid to mess up.

Making mistakes and learning is what it’s all about. Although you will never stop screwing up and learning, it pays to get the bulk of your speed bumps out of the way earlier on. Write outrageous articles, experiment with cheesy headlines and do all the big mistakes we all learn from early on. You’re a “no one” so nobody will mind your early mistakes. Take advantage of the situation and do some learning.

3. Build a relationship with the few readers you do manage to get, while you have time to do so.

As your site grows you will find it impossible to build relationships with your readers the way you could when you were a “no one.” If you skip this crucial stage of intimately connecting with those who like you from the outset, then you will be building a structure whose foundation is made of Swiss cheese.

Be intimate with your readers and pick their brains on what their problems are, what they think so far of your site, and more. You’ll need these fans later when you want to promote site growth, especially with regards to social media.

Are you a “no one”? If you are, what are you going to do about it? If you aren’t, what did you do to go from a “no one” to a “someone?”

Chris “The Traffic Blogger” writes on the subject of generating traffic for both new and advanced site owners for the purpose of making money online. He is a self-proclaimed expert on building communities and marketing solutions for those communities.

Improving Your Ad Clickthrough Rate: the Definitive Guide

This guest post is by John Burnside of Money in 15 Minutes.

Those people who have been using the Internet as a business platform since it began will have noticed that there has been a significant drop in clickthrough rate of ads over the years. During the birth of this massive revolution people were curious and willing to click on anything that promised them fame and fortune or any of the other things that internet marketers advertise.

Nowadays, however, we have developed a generation of Internet-competent people who have seen thousands of ads thrown at them from all directions. This creates a problem for blog owners who would like their readers to click on their ads so that they can have a bit of pocket money for all their efforts.

Understanding ad blindness

This problem, which is sometimes called “banner blindness,” can be tackled to a certain extent by looking at the way users actually view and use your website.

For example, the Clicktale analytical software allows you to see how your visitors are moving their cursors around on your site. This will give you an idea of the areas where your visitors are interacting with your site, but what we really want to know is where your visitors are looking.

There has been some research about the study of how people look at websites and most have concluded that people browse websites in an F-shaped pattern, meaning that they will read the title and then move their eyes down the left-hand side of the page, occasionally flicking their eyes into the content if something catches their attention.

As you probably do yourself, internet users skim-read content to save time and to see if the information is something they are really interested in before they commit to reading it word-for-word. Full images and writeup of the study that produced these data can be found here.

Matching ad style to your content

The next thing that you must do is to match the style of your ads to the content. Because of banner blindness, people will purposefully avoid looking at ads if they can help it and if you make it extra-obvious that your ads
are ads, then most people won’t even consider looking at them: you’ll have lost the chance to attract a click.

All you visitors are interested in when they come to your site is the content. You have to make them interested in your ads. By matching them to your content you are suggesting that the ads are just as important as the content. If these ads are placed in the correct places as well, then they are likely to be seen, and hopefully perceived as a
useful part of your site.

There are a few other ways to blend your ads to your site. The one that I have found through my own research to have the greatest click through rate is the AdSense link unit 15×468. When placed near the top of your site, this link unit can appear like a menu which can create interest and if the adverts are relevant to the content, they can create excellent click through rates.

Now to talk a bit about banner and picture adverts. There is some argument about whether or not banner adverts are a good way of getting people to click through to your site. The obvious advantages are that you have a larger area to work with on the site, and these ads entail a visual aspect which can encourage people to see them. This doesn’t necessarily encourage them to click, though.

Some research suggests that banner advertising is much more useful in creating brand recognition than at actually directly selling products, and I for one would have to agree. If you have banner ads on several websites then even after seeing them only one or two times, the visitor is going to get comfortable with that brand—meaning that if they do click through to the site, they will already have a small element of trust in the brand.

The final point I’ll note is about which types of banners to use. Some bloggers can become enraged if there are what they perceive to be too many banners on a site, and will instantly leave your site with the content unread—that’s the last thing you want!

The words of wisdom here have to be: don’t drown your site in banners. This has to be left up to your own discretion but as a general rule of thumb I would suggest you use no more than about six to eight picture ads on any one page. Also, moving adverts can be great, and will attract readers’ attention, but if you use too many, you’ll risk making your website look like it’s all moving, which can be very disconcerting. My recommendation is to have no more than two moving advertisements in view at any time.

In summary, for maximum, CTR you want:

  1. ads along the top of the page
  2. ads in the top, left-hand corner of your content
  3. banner adverts sold to private sources who want brand recognition or for your
    own products
  4. picture ads in low-eye-traffic areas with moving elements to capture
    readers’ attention (but not too many moving ads).

What steps have you taken to improve your ad clickthrough rates? What advice can you add from your experiences?

This post was written by John Burnside, an expert in the making money and Internet marketing niche. To read more of his content or find out about ways to make money online then please subscribe to his feed at Money in 15 Minutes.

Is Your Link Text Letting You Down?

How do you use links in your blog posts? Bloggers link to other online resources for many reasons: to give credibility to a claim, to provide additional information, to give credit to another person or institution, to allow users to easily follow a natural progression or procedure, and so on.

You could say that in-text links allow us to apply a degree of functionality to written content. If they’re used appropriately, links can achieve their goals without confusing—or losing—the user. They can also support a good search rank for your content. If they’re used poorly, they can frustrate users, undermine your credibility, or create gaping holes in your site, SEO efforts, or sales process.

When we’re talking about in-text links—links that aren’t part of your blog’s buttons or navigation—it’s important to remember also that the links aid scanning. Well-used links can boost your posts’ readability, as well as reader comprehension. While some argue that a scanner finding an interesting link will simply click away from your site, ending their engagement with your content, I’m not so sure. I have the feeling that’s only likely to happen if the user is looking for something specific and their scanning suggests that your content doesn’t provide the answer.

If, as I’m scanning, the page content looks good, and the links seem interesting, I’ll go back and start to read the page content itself. Often, scanning is used as a means to gauge the page’s value and relevance to the individual, so if your links’ text, which jump out at a scanner, doesn’t help to communicate the content’s value or relevance, you’re missing a golden opportunity to connect with readers at first glance.

So let’s look at the link text specifically. I’ve noticed three broad approaches to using text links:

  • the minimalistic approach
  • a call to action
  • the descriptive approach.

The minimalistic approach

The minimalistic approach links a single word—maybe two—to the external content, like this:

You can read my article on tutorials here.

There’s a variation of this approach which links individual words in a phrase to multiple, related examples or sources of the information being discussed:

I wrote a short series of posts on blog content-related issues.

You guessed it—I’m not a fan of the minimalistic approach. Firstly, for scanners, or those using screenreaders, the word “here” isn’t exactly indicative of what we’ll get when we click on that link.

In the second case, readers may not even realize that different words are linked to different sources—a number of web developers and content creators (i.e. heavy web users) I’ve spoken to over time have said they’ve never noticed this technique in use, even though I see it often. Perhaps they’re just not realizing what they’re seeing when they come across these kinds of links?

A call to action

Once upon a time, when the web was young and users weren’t always sure what was possible, there was a school of thought that said every link should involve the words “click here”, as in:

Click here to access Darren’s article on ProBlogger’s October income.

A scanner scanning this page would only notice the words “click here” in the above sentence, so they wouldn’t know how relevant (or otherwise) this content was to their interests. We could link the entire sentence, but again, that makes it difficult for scanning readers to discern the important information in those first, split-second glances.

The words “click here” do form a call to action, and are certainly justifiable in cases where we want readers to take action:

For all the details on the Copyrwriting Scorecard, click here.

But in cases where you have no vested interest in the reader clicking on the link, I think it’s best to avoid “click here”. These days, when web users know what a link is, and what it does, this kind of link text can be boring at best, and patronizing at worst.

If you believe that the words “click here” do actually create impetus in the reader to take that action, you’ll use “click here” sparingly, saving it for links that make a difference to your bottom line, rather than verbally encouraging users to leave your site every time you reference another source (which may be often).

The descriptive approach

The descriptive approach indicates to readers—and to scanners, screenreader users, and search engines—what they’ll get when they click on the link:

Darren explained this point in his article on ProBlogger’s October income.

To me, this approach seems appropriate, at least in any case in which you want to link to another page—on your site, on someone else’s—that doesn’t impact your bottom line. You may also choose to use it as a softer, more subtle sales link in cases where the content in which the link appears isn’t primarily related to the product you’re promoting.

Text link composition

There’s one last consideration we haven’t touched on yet: the composition of your text links. If you’re going to treat them, at least in part, as scanning aids, you’ll want to keep links short and pertinent. Try to include the description or title of the linked document in the link, and if you’re not using the document’s title, include the most important words at the beginning of the link.

Let’s look at this in practice. Here’s an actual sentence I wrote naturally as part of a blog post critiquing infographics:

This one, revealing how teens use cell phones, hints at some of the informational problems that can arise when researchers focus on the form, rather than the function of infographics.

My immediate inclination is to link the words, “This one”, but of course that’s not very informative for scanners, since it doesn’t make sense out of context. I could link the phrase “revealing how teens use cell phones,” but that’ll make the words “This one” look weird in context.

What if I changed the word “one” to “infographic”? We could have a winner—although the words “This infographic, revealing how teens use cell phones” will make a very long link. This revised version provides a nice compromise:

This teen cell usage infographic hints at some of the informational problems that can arise when researchers…

This version would also work in cases where the nature of the linked content (infographic) wasn’t as important as what it was delivering (information on how teenagers use cell phones): it puts the information first—catching scanners’ attention—and the content type last.

Link text is important, don’t you think? Do you spend time honing your in-post links to communicate clearly with your readers? What tips can you share?

How to Make Your Blog Load Faster than ProBlogger

This guest post is by Devesh of WP Kube.

If you’re regular reader, you know that how much time problogger.net takes to load. Would you like to make your blog load faster than ProBlogger? Today I’m going to share eight simple tips to increase your blog speed. But first, you’ll need to know how quickly your blog is loading right now.

How to test your blog’s speed

So you can do a before-and-after comparison, take a moment to check how quickly your blog is loading now.

There are many tools online that let you test load speed, but I prefer to compare the loading speed of my blog against others—after all, that’s what your users will do.

One of my favorite tools for loading comparisons between two sites is WhichloadsFaster. To check your blog’s loading speed against a competing blog or a major website that’s used by readers in your niche, enter your site’s URL and that of the other site into the two boxes provided. Simple!

Here are the results of the loading speed comparison between my site and ProBlogger:

Comparing site load times

How to speed up your blog

Now that you know how your site’s loading in comparison to another, let’s look at the ways you can speed up your site’s load time.

Choose an efficient theme

Many bloggers make the mistake of choosing a free theme, or one that’s not properly coded. In my experience, every blogger should go for premium themes like Genesis, Thesis, or WooThemes. Premium themes tend to be much more carefully coded than free ones—Themeforest, for example, has some good themes, but many of the them aren’t well coded.

Review your hosting

Hosting plays an important role in your blog’s loading speed. Many new bloggers ignore this, but adjusting hosting can have a big impact on increasing your blog speed. Specifically, if you use shared hosting for your blog, you might want to look into switching to dedicated or grid hosting, as shared hosting can slow down load times when the demands on the shared server are high.

Remove extra widgets and plugins

This is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce your site’s load times. The more plugins you have on your blog, the longer it can take to load. Remove any extra widgets and plugins you’re using on your blog, which aren’t strictly necessary, and see what happens to your load time. Hand-code your functionality, and place it directly into the WordPress theme: this will reducing the number of calls each page load makes on the server.

Use the WordPress W3 Total Cache plugin

Now that you’ve reduced the number of plugins you’re using there’s one you should add! W3 Total Cache is a must-have plugin for any WordPress user. W3 Total Cache is a static caching plugin that generates HTML files that are served directly by Apache, without processing comparatively heavy PHP scripts. It’s compatible with most servers and server configurations, and gives you the choice of creating the cache on your own server, or using a content delivery network.

Use a content delivery network (CDN)

A CDN is a network of optimized servers around the world that store copies of your site’s data. By making your site available from various servers, the CDN maximizes bandwidth, and reduces your site’s load time. Using a CDN works really well if you have visitors from all over the world, as the servers closest to each user will be used to deliver content quickly. A CDN provider such as MaxCDN can provide great performance without putting a strain on your pocket.

Optimize your blog images

Many blogers don’t focus on optimizing blog images, but it’s a very effective way to increase your blog’s loading speed. There are many, many plugins that can help you to optimize blog images, but one of the best is WP Smush.it. I’m using it on many of my blogs and it really helps to make blog load faster. It offers an API that performs these optimizations (except for stripping JPEG metadata) automatically, and it integrates seamlessly with WordPress. Every image you add to a page or post will be automatically run through Smush.it behind the scenes—you don’t have to do anything differently.

This plugin:

  • strips meta data from JPEGs
  • optimizes JPEG compression
  • converts certain GIFs to indexed PNGs
  • strips the unused colours from indexed images.

Use social images instead of buttons

Social network buttons were among my site’s main problems: they take so much time to load, and can really slow your blog down. Displaying three or four buttons might be okay, but if you want to show all the buttons, I’d suggest you use images instead. Using images is the best way to show all the buttons without using a plugin.

These are eight simple tips that can help you to make your blog load faster then ProBlogger. What others can you share?

Devesh is young entrepreneur and part time blogger. Visit WP Kube for WordPress Tuorials & Hacks and Technshare for Make Money Blogging
Tips.

My Journey to Blogging Celebrity

This guest post is by Shawn Tyler Weeks of 344 Pounds.

In January of 2009, I weighed 344.2 pounds.  In July of 2009, I weighed 244 pounds.  I eventually reached my lowest recorded weight in my adult life in early 2010 when I weighed in under 200 pounds.  Today, I weigh a little bit more than 200, but also carry a lot more muscle on my frame.

In just about six months I changed my life forever. But my body wasn’t the only thing that underwent a transformation.

When I started my journey to lose weight by counting calories, I also started my very first blog:  344 Pounds.  It was a way to keep me accountable for my weight to friends and family members,  even though I didn’t tell them about it.  In fact, nobody read the blog for months.  I didn’t advertise it, didn’t know how to, and honestly expected myself to fail with the weight loss attempt (for the 1,353th time) and the blog would just die.  But for once, I didn’t fail.  I lost weight.

And the blog didn’t die.

The blog

On the blog I put videos of me, shirtless, at 300+ pounds, every Wednesday, plus a picture of my scale and called it “Wednesday Weigh-in Results.”  It was and is a way to hold myself accountable—almost like scaring myself to lose weight.  And while it’s not scary any more, I still hold myself accountable for my progress when I post my weight, plus pictures, every single Wednesday on the blog as I continue to try to transform my body (more muscles, less fat!).  I haven’t missed a Wednesday weigh-in result, not even when my dad died about six months ago.

As my weight loss progressed and I kept doing my weekly weigh-in results, I also started added other posts during the week.  The time involved was absolutely ridiculous and wasn’t being read by anybody and I’m still not quite sure why I posted so much as nobody was trying to read it, but I kept posting regardless day in, day out.  I’d share tips on losing weight, workout routine, the foods I was eating that week (counting calories on the blog, basically), and so on, two or thee days a week.

Eventually, somebody showed up to read what I was writing and watch me shrink! While I had to blog in darkness for a couple of months, that all changed in March.  I was featured on a consumer blog called Consumerist, after I wrote to its editor expressing my views on counting calories after I’d read a piece on the site that infuriated me by promoting some weight-loss gimmick. That email led to a plug for my blog on Consumerist, plus numerous follow-ups after that as they began to follow my journey.

Being featured on Consumerist was the start of a lot of exposure in “new” and traditional media.

Growing exposure

After Consumerist, I was in Newsweek.

I was contacted by Kate Dailey, a reporter for Newsweek, who wanted to set up a phone interview to ask me a variety of questions about my plans on keeping the weight off down the road. I had (and still have!) a full-time job, and I wasn’t prepared to ask her to work late just to interview me, so I did the interview on my lunch break one Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t tell her I was in my car at the time of the interview, but I was literally sitting outside of a barbeque restaurant in Columbia, SC, in my old jeep, being interviewed by Newsweek.  After the interview, I ate lunch and went back to work.

Consumerist and Newsweek gave me a strong following.  I can’t recall exact figures, but I was soon up to several hundred “fans” (I call them friends) on Facebook, and traffic was at several hundred visitors a day.

An interesting thing about the media coverage I’ve gained, since the start of the blog until today, is that while a spike of traffic will occur, it will never subside near its previous levels. It’s a simple concept, really: 10,000 people can visit your site in a day, and 9,700 of those will visit it once or a few times, and never return. You’ll be left with a few dedicated new readers, as I was, depending on the quality and relevancy of the traffic your site was exposed to.

My media exposure really started to accelerate after Newsweek.  While I’m not sure how the local media heard about me, I was invited be part of a live interview by the local CBS news affiliate for the morning show.

I don’t think I was as nervous on my wedding day as I was the day I walked into the state-of-the-art, multi-million-dollar satellite CBS studio one very early Tuesday morning.  I was incredibly scared about being on television and it showed.  Remember, I was nearly 350 pounds just a year ago, so I wasn’t exactly overflowing with self-confidence. But I was invited back several times to share tips about losing weight, andaAs I got more and more television experience, I became relaxed. The last time I was on television, it was laid back, casual, and I wasn’t nervous in the slightest. I walked in, made myself comfortable in the studio, and waited for my turn to step onto the live set.

The morning show, while a wonderful experience and something I’ll hopefully do again soon, didn’t bring much in terms of traffic. While I was able to plug my blog on the air and appeal to many listeners, there just aren’t a whole lot of people watching the morning news at 6 a.m.

What did bring a surge in traffic, however, was a taped segment I did with a reporter from the same CBS station.  This segment also focused on weight loss, but specifically on my realistic approach to weight loss.  The reporter, Michael Benning, followed me to my gym and a local burger shop. He filmed me working out and then shortly afterward eating a big, juicy, greasy cheeseburger. This segment, unlike my live interviews, was broadcast at 11 p.m. (with 20,000 people watching, he estimated).

In addition, my segment was plugged on the CBS station throughout the night during the regular CBS primetime television lineup, enticing people to tune in and hear my story.

I don’t know the exact number of people that watched my television segment, but the increase in traffic was considerable, and I know of at least one person that saw it:  Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford. As I live in the capital city of my state, the governor (Mark Sanford) actually watched the interview from the Governor’s mansion and personally wrote and mailed me a letter congratulating me.

Also, that same CBS interview (and a corresponding transcript) was put on their website, which was then syndicated to other affiliates and cities.  My mother actually called me in Charleston (about 120 miles away) when she saw my story come up on her local CBS station. Apparently, my story spread up and down the east coast at various CBS stations.

That was a good week in terms of gathering more exposure for me, the blog, and my effort to spread the word about counting calories.  I was an instant celebrity around Columbia after this exposure and that opened the door to many opportunities.  For instance, I now have a great relationship with Anne, the owner of a local athletic club.  One of her friends told her about me and Anne invited me to come in and talk to members about my journey.  Today, I have a few free memberships at her luxury athletic club for myself and family members.  We’re also discussing the potential for me to become trainer in her club starting in 2011.

Later, well into 2010, I would do another interview with CBS and Michael Benning.

The media coverage up to this point, the beginning of 2010, was modest.  It grew my site, got me some advertising requests (which I turned down, as most went against my core beliefs of counting calories), and gained me some true, real friends, plus thousands of followers.  I was impressed, happy, and content with blogging away in my little corner with a few thousand followers.

The media explosion

Then, I was featured on the homepage of CNN, and on air on CNN as they plugged their website. The CNN anchor mentioned “an incredible weight loss story” was on their homepage and recommended that viewers log on to CNN.com to check it out.

I was standing in line at the bank with about half a dozen other people when I saw their homepage and my face come on the plasma television hanging from the ceiling.  Nobody noticed it was me until I blurted out, “Oh wow, that’s me.” Indeed, it was.  Albeit, a much smaller me.

I received 100+ emails within minutes of that promotion.  Traffic was coming in, according to Google Analytics, at a rate of a thousand visitors every 30 minutes or so.  It was intense.  I remember constantly refreshing my Facebook page, and looking at all the new fans showing up.  The count was increasing by a hundred new fans every hour or so, which was impressive considering they had to first go to 344 Pounds, then like me enough to want to become a fan on Facebook.

CNN, much like the other media mentions, brought me hundreds of encouraging emails (by far the most of any plug I’ve done), and I’m still determined to respond to every single one. I receive a lot of emails through my blog: mostly positive, and mostly people opening up their hearts with me. I read about people who have been 50, 150, 300 pounds overweight their entire lives and how they’re depressed and sick of being so obese, and how my story gave/gives them hope for the future.

These emails deserve to be responded to.  I have 218 still needing a reply.

The road ahead

If Newsweek, CBS, and Consumerist didn’t solidify the longevity of my blog, CNN did.  All told, a few days after the initial plug and the link on the homepage of CNN disappeared, my blog had received well over 50,000 visitors and countless links, new fans, subscribers, advertising requests, and so on.  I made some money from it by plugging a couple of companies I truly believed in (and which didn’t conflict with counting calories), but I declined most offers as they focused on losing weight with fads, gimmicks, and diets.

Short-term money isn’t a good thing if you sell out your core beliefs to get it.  After about 22 months of blogging, I’ve recently secured a very well known, big sponsor: MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal is free calorie-counting website where you can track your calories on the web, as well as your iPhone or Android phone.  It is, without a doubt, something I support 100% and could recommend (and have!) to my mother.

Since CNN in early 2010, I’ve done the occasional television interview and various interviews for large fitness-related websites.  I’ve also done some interviews on different blogs.  Another notable media gig I did this year as for the powerhouse Clear Channel on a top-40 station in Columbia, SC, during rush hour. It lasted about three months and involved me driving down to the radio station one night a week and pre-recording several “Tyler’s weight loss tips” sessions.

These sessions involved me and the DJ in a little skit, where the DJ set me up with a question.  He’d ask, “So Tyler, I’ve heard that counting calories is the best way to lose weight.  Is that true, and if so, why?” and I’d give a short, quick, helpful reply.  These clips last about 30 seconds and a different one was played every weekday during rush hour.

Heading into 2011, I have follow up interviews lined up with various publications, and I’ve already been in touch with the morning show anchor for the local CBS station that I had my original interviews with. We should be setting up something soon for another interview around the start of the New Year.

I’m flattered by all the attention I’ve received over the last couple of years.  And while you may think that my ego has become inflated or that I think too highly of myself, think again.  As my wife says, I still have to take out the trash and change my daughter’s diaper regardless how “famous” I am.  I had to take out the trash when I had 100 Facebook fans, and I’ll have to do it when I have 100,000.

Of course, there’s no guarantee I ever will.  It’ll be a fun journey though, regardless.

Shawn Tyler Weeks lost nearly 150 pounds by counting calories in a little over a year.  He blogged his entire journey on 344 Pounds and continues to do so as he hopes to transform his body again in 2011.