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So You’re Making Money Blogging … Now What?

You’ve started a blog, written great content, engaged with readers … and now you’re making a little money at it. Congratulations!

I started blogging seriously with the aim to make a living from it, but I know plenty of bloggers—probably the majority of those making money blogging—have less clear-cut ambitions to profit.

Many money-making bloggers started simply by trying out some monetization method (an affiliate product, perhaps, or advertising) and were pleasantly surprised by the fact that it worked.

If this description fits you, although you might not be quitting your day job any time soon, you’ve at least proven that you can make money from your blog.

That’s an exciting realisation.

So exciting, in fact, that the world of pro blogging focuses heavily on the questions of how to get to that point, rather than what you might do once you reach it.

Today I want to ask that question.

You’re making money … now what?

Let’s say you’ve made your first $20. Or $200, or $2000. What will you do with that money?

Treat yourself to a movie? Celebrate with a dinner in a nice restaurant? Put it into your holiday savings account?

Or will you look at how you could invest it back into your blog, with the aim to earn more next month?

While it mightn’t sound as exciting as any of the options above, I’d encourage you to consider investing at least some of the money you make back into your blog.

How much? That’s up to you. But it might be a good idea to put a set percentage of the money you make through your blog each month aside to reinvest this way.

That percentage may change over the life of your blog, and depending on your blogging goals at a given time. But the important thing is to commit yourself to a percentage that you’ll reinvest into your blog every time you make some money from it.

How will you invest it?

When you make your first few dollars (and it might literally be a few dollars!) blogging, you’ll probably feel the excitement that, wow, blogging really does work! Your efforts have paid off and that idea you decided to try succeeded in making some money. Great!

That elation can be a great springboard for your plans to use the money you’re reinvesting into your blog.

If you made the money through careful selection of an ad network and appropriate advertisers, for example, you may decide to leverage what you’ve learned in that process—this time with some financial backing. You could:

  • have a designer change your blog interface to create ad space in different places
  • try different ad networks, or change your blog’s listing so that the ads shown on your site are more targeted to specific topics or keywords
  • buy advertising space yourself and pay a designer to create some eye-catching ads for you
  • set yourself up to sell your own advertising space, if you have a large and targeted enough audience.

Of course you’ll want to spend the money you’re investing in your blog wisely. Rather than throwing it all at a one-shot tactic, try to build on the successes you’ve already had.

You might divide up your investment between two or three different trials or test tactics, to get a sense as to what might be the best way to direct your money-making efforts in the coming weeks and months.

Or, you might decide to spend a portion of the investment on something new, dedicating the rest to building momentum with what’s already working to generate income.

This way, you reduce the risk that you’ll get zero return on the investment you’re making in your blog, and maximize your chances of developing skills in the methods that are proven to work with your blog, niche, and audience. You also have the freedom to experiment with new ideas, to see if they might work for you too.

Hopefully, you’ll maintain the same baseline income you had this month next month, and be able to grow that income with some of these new ideas you’re trying out. So next month, you might even have a little more money to invest in growing your blog—and that monthly income—even further.

How are you spending the money you make?

Investing money into your blog can be a big shift for those who have been running their blogs on blood, sweat, and tears alone—but it’s an important one.

It can help you to understand that your blog has the potential to build your income, and to think practically about the implications that could have for you. It can also drive your day-to-day blogging and open you up to new opportunities to learn and engage with blogging as a rewarding challenge.

Do you reinvest some of the money you make from blogging into your blog itself? If not, how do you spend the money you make? Share your approach in the comments.

How to Land a Job as a “Resident Blogger”

This guest post is by Jane of Runaway Jane.

I recently secured the position of Resident Blogger at PLUS Hostels, a large hostel and camp site chain based in Europe.

I’d spent more than two years blogging on my independent travel blog RunawayJane.com, and that experience undoubtedly led to me securing this position.

But it wasn’t the only factor.

I thought it would be useful to illustrate exactly what led me to land this job so that if you’re looking to secure a freelance position like this, you’ll have a head-start on your competition.

Initiative is key

I approached PLUS about becoming their Resident Blogger. This was an idea that I pitched to them.

I had looked at their social media output and saw that they were very active. They also had a very cool, well-designed site targeted at a young audience.

So I was surprised that they didn’t already have an active blog, and I took it upon myself to email them and ask if it was something they’d be interested in doing.

My first email was short, to the point, and didn’t waste anybody’s time. I simply asked if it was something they’d be interested in. I decided to wait for their response before I’d go into more detail about how we could potentially partner.

Timing and a bit of luck

As it happened, my timing was spot-on: PLUS was already looking at implementing a blog sometime over the coming months when they received my email.

However, before I approached them, I was not on their radar as someone who could help—in fact, they were considering approaching other people. I was told in my interview with them that one of the reasons I was chosen above other candidates was because I approached them. They knew I was keen.

I guess you can guarantee that someone who’s approaching you is more likely to work hard for you, because they obviously have an interest in working with you that goes beyond just monetary value (although of course money is important!).

Follow up

I initially approached PLUS around January or February 2012. I remembered they’d said they would be considering bloggers in April, and would get back to me then.

So I sent them a follow-up email in mid-April to ask whether they had considered my proposal, as I hadn’t head anything from them.

This was another key factor in me securing the position, as it meant I was not forgotten, and, again, that I appeared keen and interested.

Previous blogging matters

There is no doubt that if I hadn’t been blogging as Runaway Jane for some time, I would not have been considered for this position.

As soon as I got in touch with PLUS they were able to go onto my blog, and access hundreds of blog posts I’d written. They could see the quality and style of work that I was producing, and assess whether or not it would fit their blog.

They could also see I was active on social media channels, and already had a following. This proved that I understood the demands of blogging (as opposed to straight-up travel writing), and had demonstrated the self motivation over two years to create my own standing within the blogging world.

They could see that I updated my blog regularly, was interactive with my readers, and could write the types of content that engaged an audience. That audience also happened to fit their target market.

Get paid!

I was asked by quite a few other bloggers whether or not I was getting paid by PLUS for this position.

These questions surprised me. To me, the matter of getting paid was obvious—of course I was getting paid! It was a freelance blogging position that I was going to be putting a lot of time and effort into, so payment was only fair.

That said, PLUS are also putting a lot of effort into promoting me, my brand, my Twitter handle, and my site. I took this into consideration when I was quoting them a price for my services—after all, not everything is about immediate monetary gain.

For me, long-term value is more important, and securing this position was more important than an extra hundred dollars a month or so.

If you’re trying to build a brand and a long-term future in blogging, it’s important to be able to seek opportunities that allow you to promote yourself, further your experience, and create case studies that help to prove your abilities for future opportunities.

It’s also something which I hope will grow to become a long-term partnership, rather than something short lived.

With all that said, I’d be lying if I said I was an expert on quoting a price for such services. Blogging is such a new industry, and a new way to earn a living. Even now, people still look puzzled when I explain to them I make a living from blogging.

Prices and expectations change all the time, and you have to weigh up factors such as earning a living now against the long-term gains and opportunities for building a career. Then there is the fact the the value of bloggers is now starting to be realised by big companies in almost every industry. I predict more positions will open up like this in the future…

Create your own job

I hope that if you try to create a Resident Blogger position like I have, you’ll find some success using these tips.

Overall, the key is to go out and create your own opportunities (although what I did involved luck in terms of timing). All this would never have happened had I not approached PLUS myself.

To be a successful blogger you really need to seek out and create as many opportunities for yourself as you can. Offers that land on your doorstep are great, but I wouldn’t plan on that happening!

Jane has been blogging from her travel blog www.RunawayJane.com since early 2010. She has been making a full-time income from blogging since 2011, and travels the world full-time as she goes, living a location independent blogging lifestyle.

Titles That Work on ProBlogger—And Why

Darren recently highlighted some of the posts that attract clicks at Digital Photography School. Many readers were interested to see the kinds of titles that do well here at ProBlogger, so today I thought I’d show you the posts that garnered a lot of traffic here in April.

The top titles

Here are the top seven, in order of their traffic levels:

  1. Win 1 of 10 Trips to the Great Barrier Reef in QLD, Australia #QLDBLOG
  2. 19 Essential WordPress Plugins for Your Blog
  3. 9 Facebook Marketing Tactics That’ll Triple Your Fans
  4. 3 Reasons No One Comes Back to Your Blog—And How to Fix It
  5. And the Winners Are… #QLDBLOG
  6. Attract 100,000 Pageviews in 1 Month Using SlideShare
  7. A Systematic Approach to Writing Successful Blog Posts

Why they work

Looking at this list, a few features immediately jump out at me—I wonder if you found that, too?

  • Titles that quantify the post’s benefits work well: Facebook tactics that’ll triple your fans? 100,000 pageviews in one month? 19 Essential plugins? Win one of ten trips? Quantification of benefits is a theme among these titles. I know people say “list posts do well,” but I think the issue—at click—isn’t the list so much as the perceived payoff. And all of these post titles promise a big payoff, up-front. Of course, to be shared, the posts need to deliver on that payoff, and these ones obviously do.
  • Natural language speaks volumes: The title 3 Reasons No One Comes Back to Your Blog—And How to Fix It quantifies a benefit, but it also speaks in natural language. It’s a slight exaggeration—you’re probably not getting zero repeat visits to your blog—but it’s one that we’d use in conversation with our blogging friends: “Man, no one comes back to my blog!” The same goes for “tactics that’ll triple your fans.” Bloggers seem reticent to use contractions in titles, but they can work really well—especially in keeping the rhythm of the title swinging along. They also suggest that the post will be written in language that’s approachable and on the level.
  • Titles that speak to “you” have cut-through: Three of these titles refer directly to the reader: your blog, your fans. While you’ll want to mix your titles up a bit, bringing the message and the benefits home to your audience by speaking to them directly is a good way to pique readers’ interest. Using “you” and “your” can give titles personal relevance.
  • Unique ideas grab attention: We see titles about Facebook marketing and WordPress plugins all the time, and they’re basically essential reading. But some of the other titles in this list communicate unusual ideas, and get attention for that very reason. Get 100,000 pageviewss a month … using SlideShare? That’s going to make a few people stop and sit up. Similarly, systemizing writing is a bit of a foreign concept for many: just how do you systemize what’s seen as an unruly, unpredictable creative task? So topics are important to the success of these posts, too.

How we tweaked them

Finally, I wanted to show you how we’d altered these titles, so you can try similar tweaks on your own post titles.

  1. Win 1 of 10 Trips to the Great Barrier Reef in QLD, Australia #QLDBLOG: This post was originally called “Queensland Competition” but Darren updated it before publication! Smart move.
  2. 19 Essential WordPress Plugins for Your Blog: The only change I made here was to the ending. The post’s original title was “19 Essential WordPress Plugins for 2012″ but I thought the content would have more longevity without the time-limitation. I also like to use “your” in titles where I can, because I think it gives some titles more cut-through: “Essential plugins for my blog? Really? Alright, I’ll take a look.”
  3. 9 Facebook Marketing Tactics That’ll Triple Your Fans: This post was submitted with the title “9 Facebook Marketing Strategies to Triple Your Fans”. I changed “strategies” because, well, they weren’t strategies. I also wanted a stronger sense of causality between the tactics and the results, so I used “that’ll.” Altogether, these changes alliterated well and gave the title a strong natural rhythm, too.
  4. 3 Reasons No One Comes Back to Your Blog—And How to Fix It: This post was originally titled, “3 reasons no one comes back even after a huge spike in traffic”. The problem was length, and context. Comes back to where? When I see titles in my Twitter feed or RSS feed reader, keywords jump out. I wanted to get “blog” into this one. Also, since Alex had included “The fix?” headings for each of the reasons he’d identified in the post, the “—and how to fix it” part of the title basically wrote itself.
  5. And the Winners Are… #QLDBLOG: Again, Darren wrote this one and, within the context of the blog, there was no need to change it.
  6. Attract 100,000 Pageviews in 1 Month Using SlideShare: This one was submitted with the title, “How to get 100,000 views in 1 month using Slideshare” but I wanted to get that big number closer to the start of the title. Also, we have a lot of “how to” posts on ProBlogger, so I try to vary them a bit so the blog doesn’t come across as one big how-to post. Finally, the full word “pageviews” seemed a bit more Google-responsive than “views.”
  7. A Systematic Approach to Writing Successful Blog Posts: This post was submitted with the title “How to write a successful blog post,” but on reading it I saw that it presented a system for writing, and I’d just scheduled another post on systematized blogging. I thought this post would be a nice follow-up, so I scheduled it for the same day and gave it a title that tied it to the theme of systematized blogging. As I mentioned above, this title was a bit more of a head-turner, since the whole problem with creative tasks like writing is that they seem so slippery and difficult to manage.

How do you go about creating good titles for posts on your blog? Share your secrets with us in the comments.

10 Cheap Survey Tools for Bloggers Who Want Answers

This guest post is by Neil Patel of Quick Sprout.

Whether you want to write a persuasive post or a headline that grabs attention, or create a call to action that grows your RSS subscription count by 243%, you first have to understand who your reader is.

So how do you go about finding this out?

You could guess, measure, and repeat until you hit upon a winning formula … but that could take months or years.

The easiest and fastest way to find out what will resonate with your readers is to ask them. And the best to do that is with a survey.

How can surveys help you?

You probably have a good working understanding of who your readers are because of your experience in the field. This will help you create surveys, but it won’t help you get to those breakthrough insights that will turn your posts into reader magnets.

To do that you need to know information like this:

  • Demographics: A survey will tell you who’s reading your blog. It can tell you their sex, age, income, and interests.
  • Content: A survey will tell you what kinds of content your readers like. Do they like practical articles or more research-based posts? Do they want those to be long or short? What about frequency?
  • Products: A survey will also tell you what kinds of products your readers may be interested in.
  • Problems: Finally, a survey can tell you what problems that your readers want solved. This is probably the best piece of information you could have when it comes to creating engaging content, right?

Top survey tools

AJ showed how to create a survey that gets insightful answers from your readers earlier today.

Now, let’s look at some in expensive tools that will help you gather this all-important information professionally and securely.

Comments

One of the simplest ways to get feedback from readers is to write a post with survey-like questions, and then ask your readers to respond in the comments.

There are some disadvantages to this approach. For example, because people are free to say anything they want in the comments, it may be hard to get the exact information you want.

Also, with this approach, the survey responses are out in the open, and this may suppress the response since people may be a little timid to share information so publicly.

What I’ve found about using comments for surveys is that this approach is perfect for simple questions like “What was the worst work experience you ever had?” If you want something more specific, then you need to use one of the tools we’ll look at next.

WP-Polls

Using a WordPress plugin like WP-Polls on your blog will give you the option of asking very specific questions that should generate very specific answers over an extended amount of time.

WP Polls

This plugin is embedded on your site as a widget, and actually adds another element of interaction with your readers. Every month, you can change the questions.

The nice thing about WordPress plugins is that they’re simple to install from inside your WP admin control panel.

Google Docs

Google Docs offers a tool that will help you create surveys that you can link readers to (for example, in an email), or actually embed into your blog.

It creates these forms out of HTML, gives you several survey styles, and even gives you a huge selection of themes to choose from:

Google Docs Surveys

This is the form that Chris Brogan uses:

Chris's Google Docs Survey Form

On the back end, you can review the collected data in a charts and graphs:

Google Docs Survey Stats

Survey Monkey

Survey Monkey is the most well-known survey tool online, having been around since 2002.

While there are paid plans that won’t bankrupt you, I’ve found that the free online version suits most of my needs. The only drawback to this type of survey is that it will drive your readers away from your site, as they need to go to Survey Monkey to give their answers.

The service gives you a choice of 15 question styles to choose from.

Survey Monkey Question Selection

And you can even customize the survey to match your blog color scheme.

Survey Monkey Custom Color Selection

KISSinsights

This tool is one my team developed. KISSinsights is a simple tool that takes two minutes to install, and allows you to ask one question of your readers. You can update that question at any time.

What I really like about this survey tool is that we tried to make it as little a distraction from your site as possible: it pops up, but then the user can close it and move on to your site immediately.

Kiss Insights Survey Tool

WP Survey and Quiz Tool

This robust WordPress tool, WP Survey and Quiz Tool, will let you do more than just create surveys—as the name suggests, you can also use it to create quizzes and polls.

WP Survey and Quiz

There is no limit to the number of surveys or quizzes you can create, and the tool gives you these features as well:

  • Limit answers to one per IP address.
  • Send customized notification emails.
  • Send notification emails to one email address or a group of WordPress users.
  • Create custom contact forms.
  • Export your surveys and quizzes.

The drawback to this tool is that your survey is limited to s single post—it’s not available site-wide.

WordPress Simple Survey

The jQuery-based WordPress survey tool Simple Survey will allow you to create basic weighted surveys that route users to a location based upon their survey “score.”

The page doesn’t need to be reloaded as the user progresses through the quiz:

WordPress Simple Survey

You can have results emailed to you, or you can simply login into your WordPress dashboard to see the results.

SodaHead Polls

SodaHead gives you great options for customizing and publishing polls. In addition, you can:

  • add videos and photos
  • add questions with more than ten choices
  • protect against voting fraud with a Flash-based security code.

SodaHead Survey Tool

The feature that I really like about this tool is what it can do to help your poll go viral through features like one-click sharing to Twitter and Yahoo, and adding your survey to SodaHead’s network to get more exposure.

Polldaddy Polls and Ratings

This fully customizable survey tool for WordPress gives you the ability to post your poll on a single post or as a sidebar widget:

Polldaddy

The nice thing about Polldaddy Polls is that it supports 57 different languages, making it a better option for those serving audiences outside of the United States.

Unfortunately if you have the latest WordPress update, 3.3.2, then it may not be compatible with your site.

Survey Me

For the people who don’t code out there, SurveyMe is probably the WordPress plugin you want to use.

Survey Me

This simple install will allow you to role out a poll within minutes.

Maximizing responses

By the way, if you are concerned about how many responses you’ll get to your survey, don’t worry. People love to share their opinions—you’ll probably get as high as a ten percent turnout!

If you are interested in getting an even higher response, I’d recommend you tell your readers that you’re going to share some of the best responses that you get from the survey. With a promise that they might get some exposure on your site, more people will be motivated to leave a response.

If you want an even higher turnout, or if you have a small audience and want to maximize the number of answers you receive, you may want to offer some kind of incentive (for example, everyone who responds will be entered in a drawing for a $50 Apple iTunes gift card).

What survey tools do you use? Tell us your faves in the comments.

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

7 Steps to Creating More Effective Reader Surveys

This guest post is by AJ Kumar of Single Grain.

The benefits of polling your readers and conducting good customer surveys have already been well-established in the blogging world. 

Not only does this technique enable you to make better informed marketing decisions, gathering information via reader survey can help you to identify your visitors’ pain points and determine what they’ll spend their money on—before you invest the time in writing posts or paid products!

However, there’s a big difference between the data generated by a thoroughly-planned, well-executed customer survey, and one that’s hastily thrown together without clear goals and objectives.

If you haven’t been impressed by the results of your past survey efforts, check out the following seven steps to making your next customer survey far more effective.

Step #1. Define a single objective

Your first priority when developing a good reader survey should be to define a single objective.  Although you may have several different topics you’d like to poll your readers on, the reality is that most internet users today have extremely short attention spans.  Homing in on one major area of interest will help to keep your surveys manageable, increasing the number of responses you receive.

If you’re a blogger, a few potential survey objectives to consider include:

  • selecting a topic for your next info product
  • determining if the balance of post topics on your blog is meeting your readers’ needs
  • uncovering reader areas of interest you haven’t covered yet with your posts
  • setting the price and features of your future info products.

Really, any major topic can be addressed with a customer survey—as long as you’ve carefully chosen a single subject that prevents reader confusion or distraction.

Step #2. Avoid leading questions

Once you’ve defined the objective of your questionnaire, the next step to building an effective reader survey is to structure your individual questions in a way that doesn’t lead respondents into providing specific feedback (a scenario known as “leading questions”).

For example, suppose you’ve decided to put together a survey to determine how much your readers would be willing to pay for your next ebook.  Any of the three following question versions could be potential ways to gather this information:

Version #1:

Would you be comfortable paying $47 for the ebook I’ve described?  Select “yes” or “no” below:

Version #2:

What would you be comfortable paying for ebook I’ve described?  Enter your response in the field below:

Version #3:

What would you be comfortable paying for the ebook I’ve described?  Select one option below:

  • $1-$7
  • $8-$14
  • $15-$24
  • $25-$34
  • $35-$44
  • $45-$54
  • $55+
  • I am only interested in free content.

Although each of the variations listed above gathers the same basic information, the way each version does it—and the different responses each question style could provoke—is very different.  Heck, even the specific data ranges you use in questions styled similar to Version #3 listed above could influence the information you receive!

While there’s no right or wrong way to structure your survey questions, it is important to think carefully about the type of data your questions will return, and whether or not this information will help you to meet your survey objectives.

Step #3. Avoid “yes or no” questions

Now, to be fair, “yes or no” questions can be useful in some cases.  If you’re introducing a totally new concept to readers, getting a straight answer on whether the idea is worth pursuing or not may be helpful and can be accomplished with a simple “yes or no” response.

But in most cases, asking “yes or no” questions limits the amount of feedback you’re able to generate from your respondents. Take our example above.  If you asked a question about product pricing using the “yes or no” style described above, you might find that the majority of your respondents aren’t comfortable at the $47 price point you’ve specified—leading you to scrap the idea altogether.

However, this question style could cause you to miss valuable information.  Suppose, instead of using Version #1 of our sample question, you had used Version #3, which indicated that most survey respondents were comfortable in the $35-$44 price point range.  Even though these respondents may have been turned off by the idea of a $47 product, you could still have a profitable idea at a slightly lower price—which you wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t bothered to collect information beyond a basic “yes or no.”

Step #4. Cut the total number of questions

As you build your questionnaire, keep a close eye on the total number of questions you ask.  Keep in mind that short attention span mentioned earlier, but also limit the length of your survey out of respect for your readers’ time.  After all, if they’re taking a few minutes out of their otherwise busy days, shouldn’t you at least do them the courtesy of making your survey as clear and concise as possible?

The magic number for most reader surveys falls between 5-10 questions per survey, depending on how in-depth and involved each of your questions is.  If this seems quick, remember that it’s better to create multiple surveys to ask further questions than to burn out your readers and cause them to never respond to your questionnaire invitations again!

Step #5. Solicit responses from multiple sources

Just as your readers access your standard blog content in a variety of different ways—from your blog itself to your social networking profiles to your email newsletters—be sure to promote your survey across multiple sources as well.

By making your survey easy to access from a number of different sources, you’ll increase your odds of catching a reader at exactly the right moment—when he or she has the extra time to kill in exchange for a small incentive.

Step #6. Offer an incentive for participation

Offering survey participants a small reward for their time and effort isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that’s often applied as a blanket recommendation.  For example, you’ve probably heard before that you need to offer readers a free ebook or a coupon code in order to convince readers to take your surveys.

Not true!

In fact, the specific incentives or types of rewards your audience will respond best to can vary wildly from one blog to another.  In some cases, you’ll need to offer something tangible—like the ebook or coupon code mentioned earlier—to persuade busy, high-volume internet users with a compelling reason to take your survey.

In other cases, if your readership is loyal enough, you may be able to convince visitors to take your survey simply by telling them you appreciate their feedback!

Truly, the only way to determine what types of incentives are most appealing to your unique audience is to test out different offers.  As you run customer surveys over time, include different rewards and track your response rates to see if you can detect any measurable differences.  Over time, this should enable you to conclusively identify the type of incentive that’s most effective for your readers.

Step #7. Expand your response base with paid survey partners

Finally, while generating reader data through the use of effective customer surveys can be an extremely valuable part of growing your business, be aware that this method has a few limitations.

For example, what if your current readership is too small to gather a meaningful amount of information?  If you’re a top blogger, this shouldn’t be an issue—but even smaller, first-time bloggers need customer data!

Or, what if you’re planning to expand into a new market and want to survey members of this new target community before making your move?  In this case, polling current readers won’t give you the information you need to make smart decisions.

The solution to these problems lies in contracting with paid survey partners.  If you find you aren’t generating enough data through your own customer base, companies like SurveyMonkey or iResearch will distribute your survey to the users in their databases that meet your set criteria.  Of course, you’ll have to pay to capture these additional responses, but you may ultimately find that the cost of working with paid survey partners provides a positive ROI for your overall marketing efforts.

Have you used customer surveys before?  If so, share any additional tips you have on how to make them as effective as possible in the comments below. And stick around—later today we’ll profile ten cheap (and free!) tools to help you run a survey that gets a strong response!

AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency< based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media, and various other marketing strategies.

What’s the “Right” Kind of Blog Traffic?

As I was reviewing my analytics this week, it struck me that the universal desire for basically all of us is to grow traffic.

We’d all like more traffic, all of the time.

Having that goal in mind drives more than a few bloggers to try black-hat techniques, or to bend the rules here and there.

Those with a longer term focus are usually more interested in slower, more lasting traffic-building techniques. They’re also aware that traffic isn’t just traffic—the traffic you want to come to your blog has certain characteristics.

The visitors you’re after are part of a certain group or audience united by interests, location, opinions, desires, and/or some other characteristics.

But sometimes really honing in on those qualities can be difficult—even if you have a clear idea of your ideal reader, and you’ve created a persona to reflect that.

So let’s look at what makes “good” traffic—the “right” kind of traffic for your blog.

It’s qualified

The right traffic meets certain criteria that your blog or content requires of it.

Those criteria might be personal (e.g. you’re targeting women, so you buy advertising space on a popular women’s interest site) or behavioural (e.g. you’re targeting golfers who want to improve their game, so you begin to participate in a pro golf tips forum).

By qualifying your traffic, you’re making sure that these new readers have a need that is met obviously and completely by your blog.

In basic traffic terms, this is why, for example, you target niche-related keywords with quality content rather than buying a typo domain and just sticking ads on it. Both options attract traffic, but only one of them actually meets the needs of the people who visit.

It’s invested

The right traffic has already shown a strong tendency to do what you want.

These people are invested in your niche—and their own needs within that space. You might target traffic that has already bought, signed up, commented, or pursued knowledge elsewhere in your market.

This is why you prefer to guest post or advertise on well-known blogs with loyal followings, rather than new blogs without a proven audience track record.

While there’s nothing wrong with guest posting on the newer blog, you’ll have more certainty that any traffic your blog receives from the more established and respected sites—which have large subscriber lists and sell products—is more likely to be willing to complete similar behaviours on your blog.

It’s like-minded

The right traffic has key values that are closely aligned with those of your brand.

If your blog is to hit a deep chord with readers, it needs to project the values they hold dear. The more readers see themselves in your blog’s brand, the more loyal they’re likely to become, and the more sharing and word-of-mouth promotion they’ll do.

If your content resonates with the wrong kinds of people, they’ll be promoting your site to their peers—who are likely to be more of the wrong kinds of people. Over time this can really take your blog in the wrong direction.

This is why you’re selective about the social media contacts you respond to, the off-blog discussions you engage in, the comments you delete from your blog, the outlets you allow to join your affiliate programs, the keywords you target, and so on.

It’s connected

The right traffic exhibits strong sharing activity, either online or off.

Not all blogs target readers who use social media. But the right kind of traffic is made up of users who are proactive about recommending your blog when the need arises.

They may not be what we like to think of as top-level “influencers” on Facebook, but they value the opportunity to share good things with the people they know and care about.

This is why you encourage readers to share your content with peers—via share buttons, an email-this-article button, or offline promotions that encourage word of mouth—and why you proactively and generously share your expertise yourself.

Is this traffic right for you?

When I’m looking at promoting my blog, these are the kinds of things I consider. Those assessments aren’t always conscious—often they’re subconscious—but they do motivate me to make certain decisions about traffic-generation opportunities.

What other factors do you consider when you’re targeting traffic sources? I’d love to hear your thoughts on what makes the “right” kind of traffic in the comments.

This Post Will Change the Way You Read Blogs. Guaranteed.

This guest post is by Timo Kiander of Productivesuperdad.com.

Let me ask you this: how many RSS subscriptions do you have?

20? 50? 100? 250?

I figured that the number you follow would be quite high. I used to follow almost 90 blogs through RSS.

However, there is one big pain that I experienced: although these blogs were very interesting and I read the blog posts, I was pretty much wasting my time.

Ultimately, I couldn’t find any justification for reading these particular blog posts, because the activity took away from my already limited time for building my blog (I have a day job, a family, and I’m an athlete). Because of this realization, I had to start really making the most of a blog post if I decided to read it.

You see, just reading a blog post is very inefficient. When you read a post, you are pretty much taking that time away from something else of value—like writing a guest post or engaging with your email subscribers.

What also tends to happen is that you keep doing this inefficient activity day in, day out: you spot an interesting blog post title through RSS, you read it, you leave a comment or share it, you pick another post on your RSS feed, and you follow the same pattern again.

Wouldn’t you be better off if those posts actually did something good for you, like improve your business or yourself, on a very concrete level?

Admit it: you are sleeping!

Now, I don’t know you personally, but if you follow the pattern I just described, then you are not awake—at least when it comes to reading blog posts. This happened to me too, before I decided to change my habits.

You see, you have become addicted to interesting content—and there’s nothing wrong with that when you first start.

However, this “sleeping” leads to bigger problems, like wasting time, overwhelming yourself unnecessarily, or procrastinating on important tasks.

When you subscribe to dozens or even hundreds or RSS feeds and start numbly consuming the content, you soon start to wonder where your time went, why you didn’t manage to work on that important project, or why the blog post you are reading seems to be more interesting than actually writing that killer blog post of your own.

Yet another bad habit to break

Most of us are doing the blog post reading ritual on auto-pilot; we just keep reading and consuming information out of habit. But do you see the piece that’s missing from this picture?

Action!

How many times did you just read something, think to yourself: “That was nice” and then move on to the next post? I don’t know about you, but this happened to me countless times. Eventually I became aware that this way of consuming information was just plain silly.

Now, not all blog posts request you to take action, nor do they inspire you to act. However, there are lots of posts which demand your execution.

The question is: are you willing to take action?

Move from passive observer to action-taker

Before putting you on the information diet, let’s clean your RSS reader first.

Unsubscribe from RSS feeds ruthlessly. You don’t read that many blogs after all, so don’t clutter your RSS reader with subscriptions that do not add any value to you.

Also, the next time you read a post, start taking notes; jot down some interesting ideas that the post sparked in you. In addition, take a note of all the action points that a post includes (or the additional ones you came up with as you were reading).

From now on, take action on posts; don’t just read them! You can also take action by creating a case study out of what the post is teaching you.

Passive reading is still okay, but only if you do it less than active reading.

Stop just reading those posts!

  1. Take a very critical look at your subscribed RSS feeds: Do you honestly think that you need to follow hundreds of blogs? Apply the80/20 rule: Out of those 100 subscriptions, leave only 20 that you currently check on a regular basis. If you have more than 100 blogs in your RSS reader, increase the ratio even more—to 75/15, 90/10, or to 95/5 if needed.
  2. Read the post and take some notes: Jot down interesting ideas that you get from the post (for example, topics for your own blog posts).
  3. Implement what has been taught: Now, there is one thing to be aware of: if you are reading a list post which says “101 ways to raise a chicken”, don’t be overwhelmed—there is no need to take action on those 101 items at once. You can try one or two methods at first and then decide if the rest of the tips are worth following. The most important thing is that you take action and implement the lessons—no matter if it is only on one or two items on that 101 item list.
  4. To get even more value from a post, create a case study out of it: This is actually part of the previous step (#3), but I wanted to list it separately. This is something that I originally learned from internet marketer Terry Dean. For instance, if a blogger is saying that using a particular method you can achieve certain results, actually prove it by creating a case study. Create a report on how that method actually helped you to achieve something. Even better, you can offer this case study as a guest post for the blogger on his or her blog.
  5. Change your passive/active ratio: Create a habit of taking action on most posts you read and spend less time on reading passively. For example, you could decide that for 70% of the posts you read on a weekly basis, you will take action on what’s being taught. The idea is to keep the amount of active days higher than the passive days. This ensures that you truly develop your skills and gain more experiences on the topic you have chosen.

Change the way you read

So there you have it—an actionable way to consume blog posts. It is very easy to fall into the passive mode and just consume posts without taking any action on them. Once you actually start to implement what has been taught, you will learn new ways of getting things done, and sometimes your business—or your life—could improve dramatically!

Over to you: do you take action on the posts you read? What type of action do you take? Please share your ideas and experiences on the comments.

Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, teaches WAHD superdad productivity for work at home dads. If you want to get more productive in your own life, grab 222 of his best Tips for Becoming a Productivity Superstar.

What to Do When Your Posts Aren’t as Good as they Seem in Your Mind

This guest post is by Amit Sodha of Unlimited Choice.

Have you ever had an idea, a thought, or a burst of inspiration that, while it was still in your mind, sounded amazing? But, when you tried to articulate it on screen or paper, or in speech, it didn’t sound nearly so good?

I’ve found that effectively conveying my ideas is not only critical for my blog, but also for writing comedy and creating links on my radio show. One of the biggest challenges for me has been to get the ideas out of my head sounding just as good as they did whilst they were still cocooned in my grey matter.

The question, then, is how do you become less like Frederick Spindal (Who? Exactly!) and more like Aaron Sorkin (we love you Aaron!)?

It’s easier said than done, but if you look around at most successful bloggers, writers, comedians, and even successful business people, you will find that they’ve mastered this skill, coupled it with passion, and used those ingredients to excel them to the top of their field.

When your written expression doesn’t emerge as clearly as the initial idea, it can be incredibly frustrating and disheartening but, if you’re ready to take some steps with me right now, I can help you put an end to those blocks.

The importance of instant action

Have you ever seen a stand-up comedian performing on stage? They all have scripted material that they’ve meticulously rehearsed and polished. Most comedians will break their sets and engage with their audience; ask them questions, and very often they come out with hilarious responses to the answers. Those parts weren’t scripted … so where did they come from?

They vocalised their thoughts almost instantly. They didn’t question whether what they were about to say was funny or not, they didn’t worry about what people were going to think, they just reacted.

That’s what your finished article should be. It should almost be a reaction to an idea. Speed is critical. If the idea isn’t acted on instantly, or it becomes tainted with any kind of derogatory self-talk, then it will never come out with the purity with which it was conceived. Editing and polishing only come later, once the core idea has been laid out.

I also remember hearing a DVD commentary by Joss Whedon, who recently co-wrote and directed the box office smash, Avengers Assemble. He said that when he gets an idea, he uses it instantly and rarely does he deviate from the initial concept.

Any hesitance, and a million-dollar idea may become shelved permanently. Thoughts like, “What if people don’t like what I’m about to say; what if it’s wrong, what if people don’t agree with me?” stop our natural flow of brilliant material.

Over-thinking and perfectionism are two of the biggest culprits in this matter. The good news is there are two wonderful techniques you can employ as a writer (skills transferable in other fields also such as comedy and speaking) which will help you to present the ideas you had as equally clear on paper.

Here are two wonderful techniques that have helped me immensely, which you can utilise to become a more articulate, clear writer.

Technique 1. Un-edited thinking

The first of the two methods is a technique I call un-edited thinking, or naked dictation. I think some people also refer to it as “free-writing.”

The principle is relatively simple. Take a dictation of all the thoughts going on in your head right now. No matter what they are, write everything down. Imagine you’re a secretary and your mind is the boss telling you what to write. Go on, do it. Do this on a regular basis.

The purpose of this exercise is to ignore the blocks you might normally put in place. If you override them, and allow your thoughts to flow, your ideas will also come out—and be expressed—more naturally.

The more you practise this, the easier it becomes to capture the fresh ideas in the way they sounded in your head. Why? Because you’re ignoring all the things you may have done in the past to taint them.

Technique 2. The 30-minute deadline

The second technique is a pressure technique using a timer. My preferred method is to use a countdown timer on my phone. I set it for 30 minutes and make it a goal to complete the blog post I had in mind within that time.

I enforce it as a strict rule. Rarely do I complete the editing within the 30-minute limit. But this method puts the pressure on, ever so slightly, and enough that I negate blocks, and get the main essence of the piece completed.

When you do this, you’ll find that you spend less time faffing around re-reading, or worrying about perfecting it, and be more focussed on getting it done. It’s not about rushing to complete the finished product; it’s about rushing to get the idea out as as quickly and clearly as possible.

Practising expression

Practise both and combine these techniques to produce a more refined piece of writing. Make these exercises part of your daily writing routine and you’ll find that your finished article will be more pure and succinct.

Above all, remind yourself regularly that not every piece will be a masterpiece. Some ideas will be awesome, and some will be mediocre, but your audience will decide that. That’s not your responsibility. It’s your responsibility as the writer to put your work out there, to welcome critique, and most importantly, to write those ideas so they sound as good as they did in your head.

Amit Sodha has been blogging for over 6 years, is a life coach, stand-up comedian, and a radio presenter. To find out more you can connect with him on twitter.

How I’m Using Google+ to Create Content and Collaborative Opportunities on my Blogs

Google Plus has been a medium I’ve had a fascination with since Day 1, but it’s taken me a while to work out how to actually use it effectively in my blogging.

I’ve tried a variety of things, including using it as a blog of sorts (making longer posts), for status updates (what I’m doing), as a pseudo-RSS feed (sharing links to posts I’ve written on my blog), looking for great content that others are sharing to reshare, and much more.

But to be honest, I’ve still not found it to “click” with me… All of this work has been good and benefited what I do, but I’ve not felt I’m really using it as effectively as I could be. That was until last week, when I began to realize that sitting right in front of me was an opportunity that I’d not seen before.

The opportunity was not to drive traffic to content on my blog: it was an opportunity to actually help create content for my blog.

Each day as I sit down to G+ I see the most amazing conversations happening. Each day I see ideas, images, and information being shared by remarkable people. G+ is being used by innovative people who are pushing the boundaries.

As an example of this, recently I was marvelling at the beautiful photography of +Elena Kalis on G+. I was completely sucked into her beautiful images and it struck me that I had an opportunity to connect with her and to even shoot her a message. I did, and cheekily asked if she’d be open to being interviewed by me for +Digital Photography School. She agreed and we published that interview a couple of weeks back.

Then, the other day, I was watching a hangout run by +Trey Ratcliff. It was one of his weekly variety hours, and he had his usual array of guests—people who were clever, funny, and creative. Some of them were reasonably well-known, while others were not (but should have been). All were active on G+.

As I sat there watching the conversation, it occurred to me that I was watching a group of five or six potential guest posters for my photography blog. They were people who knew what they were talking about, who could communicate, and who were obviously trying to get their names out there.

I immediately decided to use G+ to send a message to one of them (+Todd Sisson) asking if he’d consider writing a guest post for me. An hour or so later he’d agreed and we’d decided upon a topic. We published that post soon after.

I also shot another message to two other panelists in that hangout that day. One didn’t reply, but I’m now talking about topics for a guest post with the other.

Over the last two weeks I’ve reached out to around ten people on G+, and five are working with me to create content for dPS as guest posters or interviewees. Another just submitted his second post and is keen to contribute regularly. Yet another is talking to us about a potential ebook collaboration.

All of this activity has taken place in private messages on G+. While this could probably be achieved on Twitter or Facebook, the freedom to write more than 140 characters—or to not have to be “friends” to message someone—is certainly a big plus on G+.

While there are many benefits of using G+ to drive traffic, deepen reader interaction, build your profile, and so on, I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the last few weeks by how wonderful a place it has been to build collaborative opportunities and generate content.

How are you using G+, other than to drive traffic to your blog? I’d love to hear about your strategies in the comments.