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Blog Wise Tip 5: Manage Distractions

Given their productivity levels, you might think that A-list bloggers don’t get distracted. The truth, as the interviews in Blog Wise show, is that they’ve learned to deal with distractions so that they don’t rule the day.

Distraction #1: Social media

Is social media sucking up your time? Give yourself permission to spend a few minutes there, says Amy Porterfield.

“I give myself permission, I get in there, I do it, there’s no guilt associated with it, there’s no hurry to it, and then I go on with my work,” she says, adding that for her, less stress means greater productivity.

Distraction #2: Family

For work-from-home bloggers, family can be very distracting. For this reason, Darren has agreed with his wife on certain times when he’s unavailable—“work time”—so that work and home responsibilities can stay fairly separate.

He adds that his family is understanding. “Having a business is a very high priority for me as well, and so we, as a family … acknowledge that I need to work long hours, and put aside time for that and plan for that as well.”

Distraction #3: Work

Darren and Jeff both handle work-related distractions by asking themselves whether the distraction is taking them closer to their goals.

Jeff, too, reminds himself that his purpose is to create, not react, which can help him avoid dedicating time to less productive tasks.

“If I have a choice, and often I do, between reacting or responding to what somebody else has said, and creating something new, I want to create something new,” he says. “So in terms of getting things done, that’s … a question that really helps me guide a lot of decisions.”

Top tip for killing distractions

Some of the bloggers we interviewed commented that they way they handled distractions was to physically remove themselves from the distraction itself.

Matt Kepnes, whose distractions are also his blog topic, shuts himself away from the world when he needs to catch up on work and really focus. For this reason, he finds air travel time to be really productive.

Gretchen Rubin also changes her physical location depending on the work she’s doing. This helps her feel that the time she has for any given task is finite, and helps her to stay focused as she tackles each of the tasks she needs to do.

Among Gretchen’s catalog of working locations, besides her office, are cafes and the library. The walk to get to those places is a bonus.

“I get outside I get a little breath of fresh air, a little hit of sunlight in my face (which is good for alertness and energy, I know from my research), and then I work there,” she says. “And then when I feel I can’t take that anymore … I move someplace else.”

How do you handle blogging distractions? Share your tips in the comments.

Tomorrow: Building a productive blogging team.

Top-of-mind Topics for Bloggers: Digging Deeper

Yesterday’s infographic covered a lot of topics, which I guess goes to show just how much we bloggers have on our minds!

I thought I’d follow it up with links to more information on each of the topics it covered, so that anyone who’s feeling overwhelmed can access and work through these ideas at their own pace.

While each of us might have all these topics in mind at any time, we’re naturally going to focus on those that interest us, or those we find easier, or feel less challenged by. Perhaps yesterday’s infographic and this list will prompt you to give some attention to one or two of the areas that you might usually neglect.

  1. Choosing a blog theme, topic, or niche: How to Choose a Niche for Your Blog
  2. Selecting a URL: Which Domain is Right for You?
  3. Search Engine Optimization: 25 Reasons Why Google Hates You (and don’t forget to check out our SEO article archive for more specific help).
  4. Creating blog content: How to Blog When You’re Not a Writer, also listed in our Writing Content archives.
  5. Creating and using graphics: Why You Should Create Your Own Graphics for Your Blog—plus look out for a post on creating and using imagery in posts on the blog tomorrow.
  6. Choosing and using a blog template: Recommended Blogging Resources, along with our articles on Blog Networks.
  7. Sharing content: 9 Practical Ways to Start Attracting an Audience to Your New Social Media Account.
  8. Blog monetization: 7-Point Checklist for Bloggers Who Want to Create a Profitable Blog.
  9. Traffic generation: The Unsexy Truth About Finding Traffic for Your Blog.
  10. About pages: How Your About Page Can Make or Break Your Blog.

Also, later this week, we’ll take a closer look at three of the areas mentioned in the infographic: the phases in a blog’s lifecycle, creating blog graphics quickly and easily, and avoiding blogging burnout.

Blog Wise Tip 4: Choose a Structure that Works for You

All the bloggers we spoke to as we researched Blog Wise had an opinion on structure.

Even those, like Matt Kepnes of NomadicMatt.com, who doesn’t blog to regular schedules, noted that they had particular times that were good for certain work tasks, and particular times that tended to be less productive.

Matt, in balancing his desires to work and to experience the destinations he travels to, puts time limits on his daily blogging tasks. “The Internet, blogging, it’ll take as much time as you can give it,” he says.

“I force myself into boxes to work … to limit the amount of time I’m working.” He finds this the easiest way to stay productive.

Jeff Goins, of Goinswriter.com, takes the concept a step further: he’ll create a good “context” for that time, to make the work more enjoyable. He explains his rationale like this: “I have to do something I don’t want to do, so I’m going to create the most enjoyable context possible. I’m going to listen to music, I’m gonna drink coffee, and I’m gonna sit down and I’m gonna do it, and I’m gonna set aside this much time to do it.”

For Jeff, it’s not necessarily about hitting a milestone or goal within that time; it’s just about doing the work itself—about getting something done.

For the full-time bloggers, chunking time as part of the daily schedule was important. “That way I know how I’m going to spend my day,” Amy says.

She explains that this helps her prioritise tasks, and know if she has time to step away to do something a bit more inspirational or extraordinary.

While Leo’s a full-time blogger, he also practices a No Goals philosophy. What does that mean for the structure of his day? “When it’s unstructured, [the day is] really a huge, open container that you can do anything you want with,” he says. “I mean, you can fill it with anything.”

As he explains how that works to boost his productivity, he warns against the pitfalls of being too wedded to structure.

“When you’re structured, it just ends up being frustrating,” he says, “because you don’t always meet the structure that you set… if you had a structure that you had planned, and it doesn’t go according to that plan, then you’re messed up.”

Does a loose structure work for you? Or do you prefer something more prescriptive? Share your secrets for structuring your blogging workday below.

Tomorrow: managing distractions.

Infographic: The Brain of the Beginning Blogger

This guest post is by Infolinks.com.

Nowadays, it seems like everyone has a blog. But creating a successful and popular blog isn’t as easy as simply getting a domain name and ranting away on whatever comes to mind on a given day.

Here, we take a look at some of the common misconceptions that beginner bloggers have on issues ranging from content and SEO to graphics and URLs. For instance, have you ever done a double-take when a URL can be read two different ways (one being not so favorable)? Or have you been completely turned off by someone’s “About Me” page?

By debunking some popular myths, we hope to enlighten the burgeoning bloggers out there and help them avoid these potential pitfalls.

Infolinks is the fastest growing In-Text advertising network, providing monetizing solutions for bloggers of all levels.

Premise 2.0 Released: Complete Digital Sales and Lead Generation Engine for WordPress

I’m really excited today to see that the team over at CopyBlogger are announcing an update of their popular Premise software for WordPress users – and it is something that you will definitely want to check out if you are a WordPress Blogger who wants to:

  • set up a membership area on your blog
  • you want to sell digital products from your blog
  • you want to generate leads for your email list

This is going to be good!

What is Premise 2.0?

Premise was previously a landing page creation tool which I’ve used myself – it was great but landing pages are only part of what an entrepreneurial blogger needs. But the new Premise lets you do so much more!

With version 2.0 you can do the previous landing pages the first version did but you can now also:

    Build a membership site with WordPress – secure and protected areas for members – all within WordPress.

  1. Take recurring payments – your membership area can be free – or you can charge a recurring fee. Premise manages this all.
  2. Drip Member Content over Time – manages you being able to drip content out to members of your membership area over time. Think a course in which you take members through a process over a week, month or even a year.
  3. Securely Sell eBooks, software or other digital products – whether its eBooks, apps or any other kind of downlaodable product Premise allows you to sell your products securely from within WordPress.
  4. Create Private Forum Areas within vBulletin – integration with the popular vBulletin forum software to give your membership area forum capabilities
  5. Password Protected Content Libraries – offer premium content in exchange for registration – a great way to grow your email list.
  6. Build Check-out pages for Paypal and Authorize.net – coordinate payments of all kinds (one time and recurring) – again all from within WordPress.

I’m particularly excited about this release because it fits my own needs on a couple of projects and I’ll be implementing it in at least one place (possibly two).

Special Introductory Price

You can learn a lot more about the newly updated Premise 2.0 on the CopyBlogger Blog – but before you do know that it’s not free, but it is discounted by $70 at present. This software will retail for $165 but it is currently $95 – a pretty amazing price for something as powerful as this.

They are also offering a 30 day money back guarantee so you can try it out to work out if it is right for you and if it doesn’t fit your needs you can get your money back.

Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for Premise and CopyBlogger. I’ve used version 1.0 of Premise (and use every other product CopyBlogger make) and highly recommend them – and I will be using this one too.

Blog Wise Tip 3: Plan for Productivity

Given all the tasks that can crop up on a blogger’s to do list, it’s no surprise that many of us struggle with task planning and control. Even the big-name bloggers we interviewed for Blog Wise grappled with these issues.

Having realized the negative impacts of stress on her productivity, Amy Porterfield has adopted a range of tools—from physical calendars to Google Docs—that help smooth her daily workload, and make sure she gets everything done.

Importantly, she actually uses these tools: she told us that she discards any that don’t really work well for her. In this way, her task and time management tactics are constantly evolving to suit her personal preferences and her changing workload and goals.

Gretchen Rubin has found that having a clear desk, and an uncluttered workspace, helps her to feel calm and in control. “Outer order contributes to inner calm,” she said. “And I used to think, ‘well, it doesn’t really matter if my desk is messy, because I can find everything.’ But now I’ve really keyed into the fact that I feel calmer, my mind feels more orderly, when my stuff is more orderly.”

Bloggers who work at home with families obviously face a particular set of planning challenges. Both Heather and Darren explained the value of sitting down at the start of the week—perhaps even on a Sunday—and looking at the work-life schedule to see what’s on that week.

Darren also takes the opportunity to speak with his wife about the family’s plans, so that he can schedule in the things he needs to do as a dad, as well as a blogger.

Heather says Google Calendars have been a “life-changer” for her. “We’ve hooked up all of our calendars onto Gmail,” she says. “And so my assistant has a calendar, my husband has a calendar, there’s a home calendar, there’s a me-work calendar, there’s a me-exercise calendar, and all of those are synced together on my phone so that I can look at my day.

“And I can make a change, my husband can make a change, and it immediately updates on my phone so that I know what to be prepared for the rest of the day.” Heather adds that while things don’t always go to plan, “It’s having all the other days go smoothly that makes that one or two days off the rails doable.”

Finally Leo, who blogs without either goals or plans, also feels that “I definitely am more in control of my life now than I ever was before.

“Blogging made that possible,” he adds.

How much do you plan your blogging—and how much do you leave up to chance? We’d love to hear your take on planning in the comments.

Tomorrow: how structure helps productivity.

The Essential Ingredients for Building a Blog That Ranks in Alexa’s Top 10,000

This guest post is by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.

Would you like to know how I grew Quick Sprout to have an Alexa ranking of 10,000 in under four years?

That’s not an easy feat. But the cool thing is I didn’t do anything that you can’t do now. My tactics will work for you, too.

Fortunately, late last year I did an interview with Michael Alexis over at WriterReviews about how I grew Quick Sprout. It’s a great interview to listen to. In the meantime I’ve summarized the content in this post.

Endure and sacrifice to get great content out

At this moment my ranking on Alexa stands at 10,060:

Let me tell you, I’ve had to sacrifice a lot to get there.

Because I’m so busy with KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg I have to use my holidays and weekends to write posts. When people think of Christmas Day or New Year’s Day and time spent with family, I look forward to a peaceful day of writing posts.

Saturdays and Sundays? Because the flow of work-related stuff is slow on these days I use these days to knock out four or five posts.

But listen: I don’t say this to brag or to make you feel guilty. I’m simply pointing out that you have to sacrifice if you want a great blog. You might have a family that will not appreciate you writing blog posts on holidays and weekends.

I totally understand that.

So ask yourself, where are there hours that you could better use your time? And here’s a hint: When you sit down to write during that time, give yourself a two-hour deadline. I’ve found if I focus intensely on a blog post like a surgeon at the operating table I can knock posts out quicker than if I allow myself to get distracted.

Use Digg

This is not the greatest tactic now, but I share it since it has been part of my success with Quick Sprout.

In the early days of Quick Sprout I worked hard to become a top user on Digg. I added lots of friends who had similar interests, submitted their content, commented and even gave them tons of diggs.

Eventually those influential people would friend me back and start to digg my stuff. And so the way it works…the more friends you have the more chances you have of getting stories to the homepage.

It really wasn’t very hard to become a top 100 Digg user as long as you added friends and submitted good stories from BBC, Forbes, Yahoo News, PCWorld, CNN, and the Washington Post. The quality of the posts is what really mattered, and you’ll eventually get in close with the top digg users.

The unfortunate part of being a great digg user is that it can take up a lot of time! It doesn’t have the same sort of impact as it did in the early days of Quick Sprout, but there might be some value if you can invest a minimal amount of time.

Build real relationships with people over time

Another part of my success in building up Quick Sprout is that I systematically built relationship with power bloggers over the years. That’s right: I said years.

See, you can’t expect to get any favors like free traffic from big players unless you invest the time in them. You have to always ask, “How can I help you?”

The way I would do it is travel to conferences and run into these bloggers. I would talk to them, ask them questions and invite them out for a drink or dinner, and always pick up the tab.

Some guys who have been instrumental in helping me grow Quick Sprout include:

I met these guys face to face and over time built a relationship with them. The conference that I recommend you definitely attend is Blog World.

But you should also attend other conferences that are related to your industry. The point is to meet people who share similar interests like you, then go out of your way to see how you can help them.

After a few months, you then have enough emotional equity built up with them to be able to email them and say, “Hey, would you mind blogging about me?”

Of course you need to offer something in return—that you’ll blog about them or something else. Ask them how you can help. Whatever it is, make sure you reciprocate.

The two sides to responding to comments that grow a blog

There are two parts to commenting that will drive traffic to your site—responding to comments on your blog and responding to comments on other blogs. Let’s deal with responding to comments on your blog first.

For me, responding to comments is one of the things that I enjoy the most. It is the time that I get to engage and learn about you, and how I can help.

This is not easy.

It takes time, but it’s worth the effort, even though it takes me anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes a day. But this is not me saying “Thank you.” It’s got to be more than that. Your comments must seem like they really care about the person who wrote the comment, and that you are listening to the questions they ask.

For example, you should acknowledge what they’ve said, point out an interesting point they made and then ask them a question. It could be as easy as “I’m curious, how did you come to that conclusion?”

Equally important about driving free traffic to your blog is commenting on other blogs. As I grew Quick Sprout I would try to be the first person to respond to an article on Mashable or TechCrunch. That first comment gets the most exposure, but you have to be quick on the draw.

How?

Set up an account with an RSS reader that sends you desktop notifications when a blog publishes new content. You can use an iPhone app like Push for these notifications. When you do comment never write “First comment” or “Thanks for this awesome post.” Those are useless comments, and might even get deleted.

Instead, you need to write a detailed comment—one that demonstrates you understand what the blogger wrote about. And you need to ask questions, too, that compel the author to engage and shows that you are interested in learning more.

And don’t be afraid to critique what the blogger wrote about. If you see a flaw in something they wrote, first tell them something you appreciate about the article, and then transition to the point you disagree with. Be kind. Respect goes a long way.

Keep in mind, you don’t have to comment on every single article. Select articles that are relevant to your blog and what you do and that will drive traffic to your site.

Write content people want to read

Finally, when it comes to building free traffic to your blog, you cannot get any better than providing great content. I’ve blogged about this extensively on my guide to blogging. You should read those posts again if you haven’t already and apply the principles behind each.

But perhaps you’re wondering how you find out what readers want. Here are the ways I would go about it:

  • Read hundreds of blogs and figure out three things: who are the top bloggers, what are the top posts, and why?
  • Next, try to put your finger on a topic that is not getting a lot of attention. You are looking for a need in the space that you can fill.
  • Crawl through the comments on busy blogger sites and see what people are saying. You’ll often find a person or two who are asking for something specific. Collect these ideas as possible blog topics.
  • Build your blog and start asking your readers and visitors what kind of content they would like to read. Use survey tools or devote entire posts to asking for topic ideas.

Don’t forget that when you write detailed, long-form posts, you will get better comments. And as the content grows, promote it across the social web.

Grow your Twitter account first

Another free strategy that you can use to build traffic to your blog is to build up your Twitter account before launching your blog. We did this with our KISSmetrics blog.

We invested a whole lot of time in building up our Twitter following by sharing great content across the web, responding to tweets, following influential Tweeters and thanking people for retweeting. When we reached a point where we felt was critical mass, we finally launched the blog.

The Twitter handle had paved the way for creating hard traffic to the blog, allowing us to grow the blog very quickly in a very short period of time.

Check out the 10 Ways to Get More ReTweets and How to Create a Jaw-Dropping Social Media Strategy in 5 Steps posts for more information on this topic.

Invest in ReTargeter

All of the tips I gave you above are based on free traffic. This last one is a paid traffic source, but it’s worth it!

With ReTargeter, you can serve up ads to people who’ve visited your site to encourage them to come back. This is great for first time visitors who may not have subscribed. I pay $500 a month for ads to be served up on various networks. Some of the networks that ReTargeter access include:

  • Audience Network
  • Right Media
  • Double Click
  • PubMatic
  • Glam Media
  • OpenX

As you can imagine, that huge network spreads a very big net. This means my ads are more likely to appear in front of a visitor, and drive them back to my site to sign up.

Two things you have to keep in mind when you create your ad:

  1. Rotate your ads: Create three or four different ads that appeal to the viewer. Tests have shown that you’ll get a higher click-through . Most people will see about three ads before they click.
  2. Create a compelling message: Cute or clever messages will not work nearly as well as a compelling message. Appeal to their pride, vanity, greed, or fear—some emotion that reflects your content but will get them to click.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, growing a blog to be in the Alexa top 10,000 is really all about doing old-school stuff: writing great content, commenting, promoting and trying to help as many people as you can.

There are no shortcuts. No sensational ways that will get you tons of steady, quality traffic to your site. You can’t have a great blog if you’re not willing to work. So … are you?

What other questions do you have about creating a great blog that I didn’t answer in this post?

Neil Patel is an online marketing consultant and the co-founder of KISSmetrics. He also blogs at Quick Sprout.

Blog Wise Tip 2: Know Your Motivations

Every blogger has different motivations, but the interviews we completed as we developed Blog Wise showed how important it is to know what your motivations actually are.

The bloggers we spoke to listed a range of motivations.

The first was community and audience. Darren told us he’s motivated when he sees the community here at ProBlogger getting energy from his ideas. He’s motivated even further when he gets energy back from you guys.

Amy Porterfield’s motivated when she hears about the results her readers have achieved using her advice. And Heather’s dooce.com motivated by providing a place for her readers to form firm friendships.

Another key motivation for the bloggers we met was their blog’s topic.

Gretchen Rubin, of The Happiness Project, said, “The more I think about happiness, and the more I learn about it, the more intrigued I am, the more fascinated I am, and the more directions it seems to lead in.”

She sees that motivation as a key to actually producing a consistent, lasting blogging presence: “The deeper I go into it, the bigger it gets,” she noted.

Anther key motivation was a sense of contribution. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits explained that he’s motivated by his desire to do meaningful work, to enjoy his life, and to question established perceptions.

“All the truths that we believe in as a culture and as a society—none of those are necessarily true,” he commented. “So you have to question them and test them. This is why I do experiments,” he added. Like Gretchen’s approach, Leo’s motives contribute to his very productive creative strategy.

One thing that really stood out about these bloggers is that, in each case, understanding their motivations has allowed each person to set priorities and directions for their blogging work—and to pursue something they love.

It’s your turn: what’s your blogging motivation? How do your motives help you get your work done? Tell us in the comments.

Tomorrow: planning for productivity.

Blog Wise Tip 1: Diagnose Productivity Problems

Over the coming days, we’ll be presenting a series of pro blogging productivity tips that we’ve compiled using the advice of nine A-list bloggers we interviewed for Blog Wise, our new ebook on blogging productively.

Today, let’s consider the question, “do you have a productivity problem?”

In the blogosphere, it’s pretty easy to compare your blog to others, and feel like you’re not doing enough.

But how can you identify areas within your own blogging work that aren’t as productive as they could be? These productivity problems may not be easy to spot, but they can really hold your blog back.

The bloggers we spoke to had a few pointers.

  • Emotions: Heather Armstrong from Dooce.com admits that when she ends the day in tears, she knows something needs to change. “That’s usually my body saying, ‘something’s out of whack… the balance is off.’”
  • Energy: Darren keeps an eye on his energy levels, and those of his readers. “If I’m doing certain things and people are responding well to them, then that’s a signal that I need to do that more,” he says. “And conversely, if I’m doing something and there’s no reaction or a negative reaction, then I’m questioning, ‘Is this something that I want to put time and energy into?’”
  • Quality and results: Amy Porterfield, of AmyPorterfield.com tells us “If you’re not meeting deadlines, if you’re not actually producing great work that’s getting great results, you have to look at that and think something is broken in your process.”
  • Progress: Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com has experienced that first-hand. Before he merged his five companies, he had, he says, “these separate satellites, and they didn’t share together in knowledge or expertise or teamwork or profits … I saw that the only way I was going to get to where I saw as a possible future vision, was to put all these smart people together.”

What about you? Do you have a productivity problem? What are its symptoms? Let’s share them!

Tomorrow: Motivation and productivity