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Traffic Technique 3: Online Advertising

When bloggers think of online advertising, they usually think first of selling it, rather than buying it.

But buying ad space can be a great traffic-generation technique if you’re careful in terms of how you go about it.

There are really two types of advertising—brand advertising, and tactical or action-oriented advertising—and for traffic generation purposes, you’ll probably want to focus on the second type.

Making a traffic-focused ad campaign work depends on a few elements:

  • the audience
  • the ad space
  • the ad
  • what you do with the traffic the ad generates.

Your target audience

Last time, when we looked at content marketing, we saw how important it is to work out who you’re targeting with any traffic-generation strategy since, of course, not all traffic is the right kind of traffic.

So your first step is really to think about who you want to target with your advertising. If your answer is, “well, more of the same people who are visiting my site now,” that’s fine. If you want to target a specific sub-segment of that audience, that’s great too.

The important thing once you’ve identified those people is to work out a key need related to your topic that all of them share—and that your blog solves.

Buying ad space

Now you know who you’re targeting, you need to work out where they gather online. Broadly speaking, we can break down the options into three categories:

  • search engines
  • social media
  • informational websites.

Buying advertising space on search engines can be a great way to ensure that the people seeing your ads have expressed a need in your offer. Your ads will appear alongside search results for the keywords you target (there’s a range of other filters you can select too, like geographic targeting), so the users have already expressed an interest in the need your blog meets.

Buying ad space on social media also targets your ad to the right users—but depending on how closely you select your ad filters, this targeting can be less stringent, which means you could wind up paying for more “wastage” (the amount of ad impressions that are seen by people who aren’t in your target audience).

Also, social media advertising can automatically restrict your ad’s reach, since it only gets seen by users who are subscribed to a particular social media network. Pretty much everyone online uses search engines, but does your target audience use Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter … or not?

By buying ad space on an information or entertainment website, you’ll be actively targeting the users of that site specifically. Whereas social media advertising can inadvertently restrict the reach of your message, on-site advertising lets you proactively target your ad’s reach—which is something that you can use to your advantage.

Of course, different sites sell ad space differently. On some, you can buy ad space privately, though the site owner; on others, you’ll go through a network like AdBrite, Kontera, or DoubleClick.

An example of an on-site ad is the in-page Genesis ad we run on ProBlogger. This ad targets ProBlogger users specifically in its headline.

Genesis ad on ProBlogger

So before you buy ad space, it’s important do your research: compare services and costs, and make sure your ads will be seen by as many of the right people as possible.

If you’re looking at buying ad space on an informational or entertainment site, check the rates and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to speak to the site’s owner (or ad sales rep)—they should be happy to talk with you.

Your ad

You’re in a good place now: you had a target audience and you’ve bought ad space. You’ll have chosen ad ad format, too: when you buy ad space, you’ll need to choose a format, and the format you choose will likely be driven by your budget. If you can’t afford to have a designer create a banner for you, for example, you might opt for text ads until you can afford design expertise.

That’s all good, but before you race off to work up a catchy copy line or cool visual effect for your ad, backtrack to the first thing we discussed in this post:

Work out a key need related to your topic that your target audience shares—and that your blog solves.

For the Genesis ad, we can define the audience as ProBlogger readers who already use WordPress, or don’t mind the idea of using WordPress.

And we can define their need as being something like this:

I need (or want) to do more with my blog.

We could say this about every person who reads this blog. It seems like a pretty general need—what does “do more” mean, exactly?—but the thing is that when you hit on a need like this, in natural language that the readers probably use themselves, you can create an ad that cuts through and really speaks to them.

You can write copy that uses words that respond to that need, like:

  • empowers
  • build incredible websites
  • takes [you] places you never thought [you] could go.

Even the headline no the ad—Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework—implies something to our loyal readers: you’re reading ProBlogger because you want to do more with your blog … like Problogger has … and here’s the secret.

To write good ad copy, you need to think about who your target audience is and what they want, understand what your blog could mean to that need, and then tell them.

This will probably be easier for you to do if you have a specific offer to give the people your ad is targeting—like a free report or ebook. You could even make an ad for an especially great blog post on your site that specifically meets a felt need of your target audience.

Also remember that ads tend to be small (much smaller than that Genesis ad, usually!), so short copy is essential. If you’re not great at writing headlines or elevator pitches yet, practice getting better at those as a starting point for creating really engaging copy lines. It’s a good way to learn to hone a message with a small number of powerful words before you start spending money on advertising.

Responding to ad traffic

Even if you’re just starting out with advertising, it’s a good idea to track the return you make on your investment in ad space—whether you’re making money off that traffic or not.

If nothing else, track the return you get on your investment not just in terms of clickthroughs to your site, but in terms of responses to the offer you’ve included in your ad (e.g. downloads, signups, etc.). This will let you improve your ad content—headline, copy, images—over time to get better and better response rates.

Even if you’re not getting a direct return on the investment (for example, selling a product) it’s still worth tracking the return you make for your effort.

If you’re using an ad network of any sort, it will provide you with reports on how your ads are performing—impressions, clicks, and so on. Depending on how you’ve set things up, you may need to combine this data with tracking information from the landing page on your own site to get the full picture of the return you’re making on your investment, and find points upon which you can improve.

The bottom line

The best way to get a feel for online advertising, and what it can do for your traffic levels, is to give it a try. If you can, try a mix of at least search an on-site advertising through an ad network; if you want to go further, give private (or negotiated, non-network) advertising and social advertising a shot. In all cases, test and track your results so that you can improve your ad’s impact over time.

Later today, that’s exactly what we’ll be looking at, in a post that compares search and social advertising, and breaks down the numbers to help you choose which one’s right for you. But for now, let’s here about your adventures in advertising for traffic generation. Share your tips and advice with us in the comments.

Free Interview Webinar with Tsh Oxenreider from SimpleMom

529429_10151910238930385_1351166577_n.jpegThis Thursday evening at 10pm US Eastern time (international times below) I will be running a free webinar with a blogger I’d love you to meet – Tsh Oxenreider from SimpleMom.net. Register for the webinar here.

I know many of you know Tsh already as her blog has a big readership and those of you who followed the ProBlogger Tourism Queensland trip that we did earlier in the year will know that she was one of the winners of that prize.

I have to say that one of the highlights of that trip for me was having the opportunity to meet and get to know Tsh (we even got to do our first scuba dive together).

There are some people whose approach to blogging you just click with – Tish was one of those. I learned a lot from those chats and wanted to share some of what she’s done with ProBlogger readers.

About Tsh

Tsh began blogging in 2008 on Simple Mom so has only really been at it for 4 years but has not wasted her time since then. Simple Mom is a productivity blog for home managers which she describes as ‘like Zen Habits wearing an Apron’.

Since 2008 Tsh has grown her blog incredibly – not only in terms of audience and influence but in other ways. In those four years Tsh has anded a publishing deal and released a book, released a successful eBook, started a podcast, expanded her blog into a blogging network (currently 6 blogs with numerous writers and editors), spoken at many events and gone full time as a blogger.

In many ways Tsh is living the dream that many bloggers aspire to yet she’s one of the most grounded and humble people I’ve met in this industry. She blogs with authenticity, passion and a genuine interest in her readers.

In this week’s webinar I will be interviewing Tsh about the last 4 years and what she’s learned. We’ll cover:

  • how she’s grown her blogging from hobby to full time endeavour
  • how she expanded from a single blog into a blog network
  • how she monetizes her blog
  • how she manages her time and gets it all done
  • how she grew her audience
  • much much more

There will also be time for Q&A with attendees.

Register for the webinar here

Note: this isn’t a ‘selling’ webinar. We’re not going to pitch you anything at the end – it’s purely a chance to meet Tsh and hear about her approach to blogging.

Register for the Recording

The most commonly asked question that I get on these webinars is whether we will be recording them for those who can’t make the live webinars. The answer is YES. However to get the recording you need to register for it. All registered people will get an email about 24 hours after the webinar with a link to the recording.

Note: registering doesn’t get you on any email list or lead to any ongoing emails. It purely gets you into the call and access to the recording.

International Times

I know this time won’t suit everyone – we’ve made it a little later this time to make it more accessible to people in Asia but I understand those of you in Europe are going to struggle to make it (which is why we offer the recording option). Here are the times in a few parts of the world:

  • Los Angeles – 7pm on Thursday 26th
  • London – 3am on Friday 27th
  • Delhi – 7.30am on Friday 27th
  • Singapore – 10am on Friday 27th
  • Melbourne Australia – Midday on Friday 27th

I hope to see you on Thursday/Friday (depending where in the world you are)!

Register for the webinar here

PS: if you’d like to be notified of future ProBlogger webinars (we do them every 2-3 weeks) please add your email address to our notification list here.

Disable Comments for a Better Blog

This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Feedback is great, right?

Your honor, if it pleases the court, I’d like to contend that that’s a leading question. The answer to it might be “yes,” but not unequivocally. Steak is great too, but not in the middle of church. Providing a forum in which people are allowed to say nothing of consequence might be a good idea, but the positives outweigh the negatives.

Want to make your blog instantly better? Disable comments. If that sounds as blasphemous to you as rib-eye during the offertory does, keep reading.

My blog’s schedule is regular—a new 1000-word post every Wednesday, another one every Friday, a carnival every Monday, and a pithy one-liner every day of the week. Of course I link to fellow bloggers out of necessity, including dozens of times in every carnival.

In the past, whenever I did I’d usually receive a comment from the other blogger, thanking me for the link. That would be the comment in its entirety: some variation of “Thanks for linking to me.”

These comments and their brethren did nothing to propel the dialogue. Dialogue, as in people exchanging ideas and insights. As opposed to sentiments. I mean, I thank people every day—waiters, bank tellers, the woman who lets me in when I scan my membership card at the gym—and not once have I felt the need to broadcast that gratitude to the public at large. It’s a private thing between me and whoever’s extending me a courtesy. I don’t need to share my politeness credentials with the world.

The thank-yous were in addition to the comments that said “I agree with that one point you made,” and that perhaps included an anecdote that no one beyond the commenter’s family would ever be interested in. In toto, most of the comments on my blog came from fellow bloggers with an agenda, and that agenda was getting links. 98.2% of the comments were effectively meaningless. That number isn’t intended as hyperbole to prove a point, either: it’s the product (well, the quotient) of a real calculation. The remaining 1.8% were worthwhile contributions—offering data that challenged a point, or enhancing a position my blog had taken, etc.

Finally, the morass of comments became too much. I tired of seeing the same people saying the same things, which they did mostly out of obligation. (“He linked to my blog. If I make a show of gratitude, he’ll continue linking to my blog.”) So I took a deep breath, followed my head rather than my instinct, and shut comments down. And I’ve never looked back.

You call that “engagement”?!

This sounds counterintuitive. Why not engage as many people as possible?

You engage them by giving them something to read.

But why not engage them in as many ways as possible?

Because you’re the one offering the content. They’re just using it. In recent years it’s been trendy to synthesize those two fundamentally opposite roles, producer and consumer, but it doesn’t apply here. It’s tough enough to interest readers in what you have to say. Why attempt to interest themin what other readers have to say? Readers whom you have minimal control over, and who probably aren’t as erudite and certainly aren’t as committed as you are?

For a lay reader, a non-blogger who just wants to visit my site for tips and information, the familiarity with which the other bloggers referred to each other and me in the comments was intimidating. By turning off everyone’s ability to comment, I no longer have to worry about new readers feeling that they’ve stumbled into a private club by mistake.

For the commenters with blogs of their own, it’s not about the content. It’s about the form. They’re really interested in getting another link, the comment serving to improve their Alexa scores however incrementally. That’s their problem, not mine.

There are also considerable aesthetic reasons for killing comments, assuming you’re not a fan of cacophony. Do we really need more angry expressions of political opinions (The Huffington Post)? Or insults concerning each other’s sexual shortcomings (YouTube)? Or disjointed spelling and unconstrained grammar (just about everywhere)?

The comments on some popular blogs have degenerated to the point where the commenters make a game of openly mocking the author, who doesn’t even bother responding. From a third party’s perspective, it’s kind of amusing. But if it were my blog, I’d be incensed and embarrassed. Left untended, the blog I referenced has been overrun with verbal weeds that are now poking through the tile and have compromised the entire landscape. Better to just pour on a few gallons of herbicide and finish the job.

Continuing with the artless flora analogy, how many of the comments on your site count as hydrangea blossoms anyway? Is anyone really going to miss them?

On almost every blog, the comments and commenters add zero value. They might add value for the commenters, as the innate human desire to see the public presentation of one’s name and opinions is a strong one. But comments are typically an affront, an annoyance, or at least an inconvenience to the only people who should matter to you—your readers.

What do you mean? My commenters are my readers.

Yes, if someone’s commenting, then by definition they’re reading. But practically all of your readers just read and then move on to some other activity, rather than bothering to leave a memento of their visit. The commenters are a motivated and not always rational few.

This goes beyond blogs, too. Read the comments on the stories on your news site of choice. Have you even seen an astute one? And if you did, was it worth sifting through the hundreds of illiterate ones?

Put your readers—and your blogging—first

It bears repeating: your readers come first. They took the time to find you and do you the honor of absorbing what you have to say. Shouldn’t you make it as effortless as possible for them to continue to do so?

Personal development uber-blogger Steve Pavlina figured this out a while ago. He hasn’t allowed a comment in seven years, and explains why:

“A large volume of feedback gets overwhelming at times, and it has a tendency to exaggerate the importance of certain issues in my mind. Well below 1% of visitors ever post a comment.”

He adds that it also freed up lots of his time. Nothing to moderate means more time to concentrate on other, more critical aspects of your blog. Or even of the rest of your life.

It wasn’t the negative comments that convinced me to extirpate the entire species. It was all the comments. Although the negative ones were plentiful. A few years ago, no less an authority than IT publisher Tim O’Reilly outlined a prescription for reducing if not eliminating them, by creating the Bloggers’ Code of Conduct—seven commandments for being courteous online, which ought to be intuitive, but if they were then people wouldn’t choose to be uncivil in the first place. O’Reilly’s first four precepts are as follows:

  1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog.
  2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments.
  3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments.
  4. Ignore the trolls.

If you disable comments, you can handle all four of those in an instant. If something has the potential to cause so much trouble that esteemed authors are codifying ways to combat it, why tempt fate?

I still keep trackbacks, which I love. With them, people can express their opinions of my blog without me being the one to provide the forum for it. My life has gotten far less complicated and my blog far more streamlined since I decided to go commentless. Try it yourself, and you’ll be surprised how little you miss those pesky fragments of thoughts.

(Postscript: Yes, I’m aware of the irony that you can leave comments on this post. ProBlogger is different, obviously. Let’s just say that the recommendation to disable comments doesn’t hold for globally influential blogs whose very purpose is to engage bloggers and have them exchange ideas.)

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

Should You Use a Third-Party Commenting System on Your Blog?

This guest post is by Syed Balkhi of WPBeginner.

If you’ve been blogging for anything more than a few months, you probably have come across blogs using third-party commenting systems like Disqus, Livefyre, Facebook Comments, Intense Debate, and more. You may have asked yourself, “Why do other blogs use these systems? Are they helpful? Should I use a third-party commenting system on my site?”

I have used both the built-in WordPress commenting system and a third-party commenting platform for an extensive period of time. In this article, I will share the pros and cons, from my personal experience, of using a third-party commenting system, and point you to some of the plugins that I use to extend the power of built-in WordPress comments.

Pros of third-party commenting systems

1. Single login (authenticity)

There are a lot of trolls on the web leaving anonymous comments. By using a third-party commenting system, you can require the user to register before the comment, and so cut down on trolling.

If you’re using a popular third-party commenting system like Disqus, Livefyre, or Facebook Comments, then the chances are that the user already has an account with those services. Users can surf from one website to another while staying logged in to the commenting platform, and this allows them to easily track all of their comments—and those of others—throughout the blogosphere.

2. Expanded social media presence

Almost all third-party commenting platforms offer some sort of expanded social media presence, Facebook Comments being the leader because it gives you the viral aspect. Your users’ comments can be posted on their walls, as long as they leave right the checkbox checked.

Other platforms allow users to integrate with Twitter and Facebook. Livefyre, in particular, allows the user to tag their Facebook or Twitter friends within the comments. This tagging sends a tweet or Facebook message to their friend(s) notifying them about your post.

3. Spam control

Requiring a commenter to log in to comment virtually eliminates the chance of a spam bot attacking your site.

4. Increased engagement

Most third-party commenting platforms claim to increase engagement. Some do it by making your comments appear in real-time, simulating a chat-like feel within comments. Others allow users to easily subscribe to comments via email to keep up with the conversation.

Cons of third-party commenting systems

1. Change and frustration

While the concept of using one login across all websites sounds noble, it doesn’t always work.

If your current commenting system doesn’t require user registration, then your users will likely be frustrated when you introduce a new system. This change “forces” them to create an account with a third-party service to leave a comment on your site—and that may seem as if they’re losing their freedom to comment on your site. This can drive some of your most loyal users away.

2. Lack of control

If you are the kind of blogger who likes to fine-tune and tweak every aspect of your blog, then third-party comment systems probably aren’t for you.

You will lose control over most aspects of your commenting platform in terms of formatting and design by adopting these systems. Your users will also experience slower page loads while the third-party commenting platform loads (especially during maintenance and occasional server outages), which is totally out of your control. Last but certainly not least, you will not be able to add features, such as lead-generation option or comment policy text links, without mastering the commenting system’s API.

My choice: default WordPress comments

After using a third-party commenting system, Livefyre, for over a year, I decided to switch back to the default WordPress comment system. While I could go into the excruciating details about why I switched away from Livefyre, the main point was the cons outweighed the pros. I wanted more control over the look and functionality of our comments, and I also wanted to keep our users happy. Lastly, I was able to replicate just about every advantage of a third-party commenting system using WordPress plugins.

So let’s go through that pros and cons list again, and see how it caused me to switch to WordPress comments.

  1. Authenticity: While requiring users to register is one way to ensure authenticity, it was really annoying. So we just use Gravatar, which allows others to recognize the same commenter over multiple platforms. No need to use a plugin for this! WordPress has built-in support for Gravatar as long as your theme is properly coded (most good themes are).
  2. Expanded social media presence: I was able to add Sign in with Twitter and Connect with Facebook options to my blog fairly easily while leaving the default method as is. I used the plugin called Simple Twitter Connect which allowed me to add the Sign with Twitter option. I used the plugin called Simple Facebook Connect to add the Connect with Facebook option for my comments.

    Social comment integration

  3. Spam control: While requiring registration can reduce spam, it is also very annoying. I thought of a less annoying method that has been working great for us—the awesome Akismet plugin, which comes with every WordPress installation and does a fairly decent job of detecting spam comments.

    I noticed the main reason why people leave spam comments is to get backlinks. Well, I decided to get rid of the link feature altogether. This required me to edit the comments.php file, but it wasn’t very hard. All I had to do was get rid of the Website field from the comment submission form. Then, I just edited the way our comments were displayed in the theme by removing the hyperlinks from the name and Gravatar image. This takes away the backlink incentive for most spammers. Another thing I did was disabled pingbacks/trackbacks on all posts. I noticed a lot of folks were trying to send trackback spam on our site, hoping for a backlink from posts. However by doing this, I totally avoided that issue.

  4. Increase in engagement: You can add the Subscribe to Comments feature to your comments using a popular plugin called Subscribe to Comments. I also added an opt-in checkbox to our comments that allows readers to subscribe to our newsletter using Newsletter Sign-Up.

As you can see, I was able to get almost all of the benefits of a third-party commenting system that people want while still using the built-in WordPress comments. Not to mention that I was able to customize the look of our comments, so they look good and are in keeping with out site.

Do you use third-party commenting systems?

Despite my experience, third-party commenting systems work perfectly for some bloggers and their blogs. I’d be interested in hearing your experiences of using a third-party commenting platform—or choosing to use the default system that came with your blog.

Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest unofficial WordPress resource site that offers free WordPress videos for beginners as well as other comprehensive guides like choosing the best WordPress Hosting, speeding up WordPress, and many more how-to’s.

Comment Marketing 101

This guest post is by Slavko Desik of LifestyleUpdated.

Trying to understand the ways to get more traffic to your site, or even get some backlinks, you’ve probably stumbled across comment marketing.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but the first thing you probably hoped to get out of it was some links (even though most of them “nofollow”, hoping that it will still somehow boost your ranking), and also maybe get some traffic while making the blogger notice you.

Sorry to be the one to break it to you, but this is the wrong way to go.

So what are the basic benefits of comment marketing, and what should you aim to get out of it on the long term?

The benefits of comment marketing

Once you have a deep understanding of the benefits you can get from leaving comments on other blogs, you can learn the right approach to doing so. Let’s look at each of the benefits now.

Make yourself an authority in the field

The first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking about how you can present yourself as someone who knows your niche, is to leave comments on other blogs that serve that same niche. The only way to make this happen is to leave good, structured comments that add value to the discussion.

Forget about writing “Great post”, or “I completely agree”. You are putting your name out there, so you’ll want to make every comment count. That way, you will grab the attention of those who are really interested in whatever goes in your niche. And those people are usually the key players now, or will be so in the future.

Grab the attention of the blogger

That’s probably one of your main goals here, right? I mean, you probably wouldn’t be leaving your opinion on another blog post if it wasn’t at all important to you. And leaving a comment that adds value to the discussion is the right way to do it.

You can either agree with what the blogger’s is saying, and offer some of your own similar views on the matter, or you can take a different side (something that is highly recommended if you want to grab the attention) with arguments that support your claims.

The word “arguments” is very important here. You can also grab the blogger’s attention by being offensive, or offering some highly subjective opinion—sure. But you probably won’t achieve any of the other benefits listed here if you take that approach. If you disagree with the points made in the post you’re commenting on, make sure to say that in a dignified, respectful way by offering strong objective facts that support your view on the matter.

In any case, if your comment’s strong, you will probably eventually spark a conversation between yourself and the blogger, so be sure to check back on the post after you submit a comment. Most of the comment systems nowadays have optional subscription for replies, but even if the blog doesn’t, you’ll want to return to the post to check out the replies and other new comments.

Making connections

It’s really a no-brainer when you understand the points above, but making those connections with the blogger, as well as the other readers, is so important that it must be mentioned separately.

Connect not only with the influential people in blogs’ comment sections, but also give your attention to those who are new, and not that experienced in the niche. Because note this: Your blogging peers now may one day grow to become A-list players in your niche.

Also, the “natural link building” which is so many times mentioned as the ideal way to gain backlinks, is not so “natural.” If you check the link profiles of some of the most authoritative sites in your niche, you will surely find that a large amount of links come from sites that are very well connected with the sites that they link to. By making connections with other bloggers, you’re passively attracting future links from them.

Just ask yourself who you would rather link to: a person you know pretty well, a person whose blog you love responding to and leaving comments at, or a person you don’t know anything about? The answer is pretty obvious!

Gain some search rank juice

This takes is such a small consideration in light of all the reasons why you should leave comments on sites, that I’m not sure if it’s worth mentioning. But here it is anyway.

If you’re thinking about boosting your site’s backlink count—and thereby search rank—by leaving comments on blogs, you’re probably hoping to find those blogs that allow “dofollow” links back to your site. So you go over there, write a sentence—or maybe two if you are in the mood, pack your name rich with keywords that you are hoping to rank for, and hope for the best.

Sound familiar? It’s all right—many, if not all, bloggers go through this stage at one point or another. However, the link value that’s passed even through those “dofollow” links is almost not worth mentioning at all compared to other methods of link building (and of course there’s none available through “nofollow” links).

On the other hand, if you leave blog comments under a name that’s rich with keywords, chances are that search algorithm updates like Penguin will make sure to greet you appropriately—that is, by penalizing your blog to some extent.

I should probably mention that there are still some sites in some niches that rank or ranked pretty well using this gray-hat SEO strategy in the short term, but it’s just not a viable long-term solution for your brand or your blog. Also by doing that, you’re just begging to be outed by someone out there.

Familiarize people with your brand and yourself

This point is similar to the first, except that this one deals with making a positive impression whenever someone sees you and recognizes your brand anywhere online. That’s why I strongly recommend having only one name, and one avatar associated with all comments you leave. Choose whether this will be your own name, some nickname you go by, your secret ‘net alias—whatever, as long as it’s something you feel comfortable with.

It’s widely accepted that the best option is to use your real name and your headshot, but you should probably decide for yourself. The thing is that this is how people will recognize you, so once you decide, it’s better to stick with the name and image you’ve chosen than to change these details.

For that reason, be sure to choose the picture carefully. You will be surprised how important this is—even at such a low resolution. Choose a professional-looking picture, and try to make a positive impression by smiling. Using Gravatar is a great way to make sure your picture is the same all over the web. This can go long way to build that trust and connection with people.

Get traffic from the other blogs, and expose yourself to a broader audience

Each time you leave a comment, make sure you include a working link back to your site. Remember, the better you fulfil the ideas we spoke about above, the greater the chance someone will click your name, and visit your blog.

I’ve heard that the commenters that get most clicks are those who leave the first few comments. You can also achieve higher CTR by leaving responses in which you (respectfully) disagree with the author—this will surely attract some attention, but you’ll have to make sure that the facts are on your side.

Guest posting opportunities

In some ways, this benefit is closely connected with the second one: grabbing the blogger’s attention. But the thing here is to consistently add value to the discussion over a longer period of time. That way, you’re sure that the connection you are building with the blogger is going in the right direction, and the chances of having a guest post offer accepted are bigger, and more real.

Using the same name and picture each time you comment should help here, because it increases your chances to be noticed by the author. That said, do should consider the number of comments on the page and the response rate of the author. If you’re commenting on a site that has a few hundred comments on every post, it’ll take eternity to get yourself noticed. By the same logic, a site on which there are a smaller number of comments, but where the author is not even willing to spend time responding to them is also a site in which you would have a hard time making yourself stand out from the crowd.

Comment marketing in practice

Building a brand and developing your persona as an expert in your field takes a lot of time, but knowing how to make the most out of the commenting opportunities on other blogs is going to help you a lot.

What are your practices when it comes to leaving comments, or better yet, have you had some experience from the other side of the fence, in the comment section of your own blog? Maybe you have some tips you want to share too. Be our guest, the comment section is right below!

Slavko Desik is writer and editor at LifestyleUpdated where he tries to blend together his passion for living full time with his knowledge and passion for blogging. Find Slavko on Google+ or the official Facebook Page.

Blog Comments: 3 Bloggers Discuss the Issues

One of the things I love about Problogger.net is the value of the comments my readers make here.

Commenting

Image courtesy stock.xchng user lusi

Although the days when I could reply to many of those comments are now, sadly, long gone, I do read comments on the blog, and frequently get ideas and inspiration from them. Not only are they encouraging, they’re one of the best sources of thoughtful, spontaneous insight I have.

Not all bloggers feel this way—you probably know of at least one or two big-name bloggers who don’t allow comments on their blogs. And it’s certainly true that comments come with a range of challenges:

  • time: it takes time to wade through comments, sift the diamonds from the dross, and then compose thoughtful replies
  • trolls: there’s no shortage of trouble-makers online, and it can be wearing to have to deal with trolls on a daily basis
  • critics: some bloggers find criticism made in comments difficult to handle in such a public sphere
  • stalkers: while this problem isn’t often discussed, inappropriate comments can be a problem—especially if they persist
  • spammers: if you’re an experienced blogger, you probably rolled your eyes when you read that word!

Of course, these aren’t the only issues you need to consider in terms of comments on your blog. Which commenting system will you use? Will you set standards for accepting and rejecting comments? How can you use comments to enhance your blog—and your blogging?

The articles

We’ll be answering three of these questions today and tomorrow, in a series of posts that explore the issues of:

Before we get started, I’d love to hear your approach to blog comments (Do you have them on your blog? Do you comment on many others’ blogs?) in—you guessed it—the comments!

The 10 Rules of Social Media Engagement

This guest post is by Matthew Turner of Turndog Millionaire.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a set of universal social media rules?

The internet is full of social media wisdom, but what if we had 10 rules of engagement?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a writer of some kind. Whether you’re a blogger or author, social media has become a large part of our lives. The options are vast, but how do you stand out from the ever-growing crowd?

The 10 rules of social media engagement

The following tips are adapted from my ebook, How To Build An Author House.

Reading this post won’t turn you into a superhero, nor will you wake up tomorrow with 100,000 new Twitter followers. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not one of those guys.

What this post does offer is some tips to help you become a social media rock star.

1. Engage first, sell second

The clue is in the name … social media. Your first instinct might be to tweet about your book, but what good does this do?

When did you last buy a product because someone Tweeted about it?

These days, we buy from those we trust. This takes time to develop, so engage first and sell second.

2. Be consistent

If you’re a celebrity this doesn’t apply to you. You’ll be able to share a Facebook message about that muffin you just ate and receive 2,043 likes. The rest of us need to keep it relevant.

People like consistency. If they know you as that girl who shares great financial advice, keep giving them what they want. You can mix it up from time to time, but make sure you’re being consistent overall.

3. Be regular

We’re all guilty of it: we start with vigour before getting lazy.

This is social media suicide.

If you open a Youtube account, comment on 30 videos a day, and upload daily, people will begin to take notice. If, after a month you stop, guess what? People will forget who you are.

Once again, it comes down to consistency. Be regular and be consistent.

4. Look beyond your own nose

It’s not always about you. If someone follows you on Google+ they want to know what you’re doing. By all means share your stories and spread the love. Don’t, however, think you’re the centre of the universe.

Have you ever been to a networking event where someone only talks about himself? Do you want to be that guy?

5. Reply to everything

If you have 100,000 Linkedin connections, this is bad advice. Assuming you aren’t Darren Rowse, though, you should try to reply to everything you can.

If it’s spam, by all means press Delete. If it has value, make sure you reply and keep the conversation going. We’re forever sewing seeds.

6. Search, don’t wait to be found

Again, if you’re a celebrity, this doesn’t really apply. You can sit back as a million people follow you. Most of us, however, need to search, but don’t worry, it’s quite fun.

Search for conversations that interest you. These are the people you want to meet. Go find them and make some new friends!

7. Be patient

Instant social media success is hard to find. You might upload amazing images to Instagram, but don’t be surprised if it takes a few months before people take notice.

The truth is, most people are wary. They see people like you all the time disappear after a few months. Be patient and earn your stripes. It will be worth it.

8. Spend time on it

One thing I discuss often is finding the right platform for yourself. Social media is a demanding mistress. If you think you can get a way with a mere fling, think again.

Join every platform at your own peril. To get the most out of social media you need to put in the hours. Picking the right channels is key. You want time to blog, too, after all.

9. Be your brand

Chances are you’ve built a platform. This means you have a brand. This means you have responsibilities to upkeep. Represent your brand as often as you can.

Again, consistency is important. Provide a message that spreads across platforms and you’ll do just fine.

10. Remember to sell

We began this journey with the warning of selling too soon. However, don’t forget to ask the darn question. Whether it’s a book you’re selling or a blog you need people to visit, make sure you plug yourself from time to time.

It’s about finding a balance between sharing your own world, and sharing other people’s. Being social is the first step, but we all have bills to pay.

Like I say, these rules of engagement won’t guarantee you an instant hit, but they will point you down the right path. Social media can help, but only if you use it properly.

Do you follow these rules of social media engagement? Has social media propelled you in front of new readers? Share your own stories below.

Matthew Turner (aka Turndog Millionaire) is an Author of both Fiction & Non-Fiction. Part of his life includes helping fellow Writers Build an Author Platform & Brand Story. You can find out more about him by visiting his Website or downloading his Free Ebook How To Build An Author Houses.

Limitations: Your Key to Blogging Success?

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

I know a blogger who tries to do everything he can to make his writing career successful. He posts multiple times a week on his own blog, writes guest posts for others and spends a lot of time researching affiliate marketing. On top of all this, he is creating his first info product.

Of course, there’s social media too: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn… he feels obligated to be everywhere, on every platform.

As if this wasn’t enough, his email inbox is full of compelling info product offers and they all claim they will change his life if he acts on them now.

My blogger friend works so hard, but when he looks at his blog stats, he collapses completely. Hard work has yielded barely any new visitors and only a couple of measly subscribers to his list.

Is it any wonder he’s ready to quit blogging?

Filling the glass with too much water

Do you see what’s going on here? I bet that, as an observer of this scenario, it’s very easy for you to see the problem: the blogger I just described is trying to do too much at once.

But let me ask you: is this blogger anything like you? Because we are often so blind to our own situation that we fail to recognize the entire picture.

Just like a glass will overflow as you try to fill it up with too much water, the same will happen to you, my blogger friend. The difference is that in your case the overflow means burning out—and as a result your productivity will decrease dramatically.

With too much to handle at once, there’s another negative side effect: you lose your focus completely.

Even if you think you’re getting the right results and you think you’re moving in the right direction, you’re going to be shocked. Most of the hours you’ve spent on your blog have been a waste of time.

Being afraid of the unfair advantage

There is something that has been sold to most of us and the marketers have done a good job at making us believe it: the unfair advantage (and fear as a bonus).

How many times has a marketer or another blogger told you that you have to do a specific thing or buy a certain product to succeed? And if you don’t do as you’re told, then those who do buy the product or implement “blogging tactic X” will have an unfair advantage.

It’s quite natural to want to avoid being the outsider. Have you ever thought to yourself, “No way am I going to give others this advantage and struggle myself—I’d better join the tribe or I’ll be doomed with the rest of the average Joes.”

I know that I recognize it myself when I look at the statement above. That’s the main reason why I have spent thousands on info products and blogging tactics that I didn’t use and which were actually steering me off course.

There is actually a term for these kinds of thoughts. It’s The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). You are afraid to be an outsider because you think you might be missing out on something very important.

When you take the concept of FOMO and apply it to blogging, the scenario described near the beginning of this article starts to make sense; you want to do everything because:

  • someone told you to (“I have to be part of this group, otherwise…”)
  • you are afraid to let go of something (“If I let go now, I will never become successful.”)
  • you’re afraid to be an outsider (“I don’t want to be an ‘average person’ while others are successful.”).

It’s no wonder you’re stressed out and overwhelmed: you’re trying to move forward on too many fronts, yet your blog is not getting any more popular.

Pressing the reset button

To move from chaos to clarity, you should start limiting both your mind and your actions.

“Limiting?” you ask.

Yes, limiting. The problem with your current overwhelming and stressful situation (and lack of results) is that you’re trying to do too many things at the same time because you are afraid that you will miss out.

But if you limit your mind and your actions, you will exclude the unnecessary stuff, thus seeing your destination again. In the process, looking at those stats is not very scary anymore, because the figures have improved. In fact, you will begin to look forward to checking the stats!

When you decide to let go of the unnecessary, you are kicking your FOMO’s butt. The feeling of liberation as you sit back and let others rush to buy that $1000 course is unbelievable.

Reclaim your enthusiasm and clarity

If you’re overwhelmed and confused, it’s time to put yourself back on track. Try these steps to get rid of FOMO:

1. Unsubscribe

To decrease the amount of “shiny object syndrome” exposure you get through email (and to clean your inbox at the same time), use online application called UnRoll.me (please check out their FAQ page before you join).

UnRoll.me lets you unsubscribe from multiple email lists at once—it’s a great way to prevent your inbox from filling with clutter. Unsubscribing from multiple lists is very easy and you can feel the relief as soon as you do it. Just stay with those subscriptions that you truly like to follow.

2. Take a critical look at your goals

Cut down the number of big goals to a minimum. For example, trying to be a social media maven and PPC wizard at the same time may not be the best strategy.

Instead, choose the one thing you would like to be spectacular at, roll up your sleeves and start working. That old pearl of wisdom is still true: the more you do something, the better you become at it.

3. Take a critical look at your current projects

Look your project list. How does it look? Do your current projects truly support your big goals?

For example, I mentioned already that I dropped my plans to build niche websites. Instead, I’m focusing on guest posting to grow the audience of my blog.

While I’m concentrating on building my audience, I’m not going to be creating products or developing services. Although they have their place, they are not important right now—I want to have the right audience first.

This is exactly what you should do too: if you have even a bit of hesitation about whether a project should be on your task list, then consider freezing that project until a later date.

4. Apply the 80/20 rule

Everyone seems to be talking about the 80/20 rule at the moment. They’re asking what it is and why it’s a great way to increase your productivity.

The main principle behind 80/20 is that focusing on 20% of something brings 80% of your results. A classic example of this is that 20% of your clients bring you 80% of your sales.

So how do you apply 80/20 to blogging? Well, since you’ve now got your big goal in mind and decided which important projects contribute to that goal, it’s easier to see the tasks that will help you complete those important projects.

In my situation, I’m focusing on guest posting, building my email list and interviewing people in my niche. That’s my 20%. I feel super-focused since I can concentrate on a few choice activities and I don’t have to hustle around doing too many things at once.

5. Neglect the fear

Make a bold decision to let go of everything that becomes a burden. Once you have defined your goals, projects and your 20% actions, you are on a road to becoming a happy and successful blogger.

Whatever you do, ask these questions: “Should I be doing this?” or, “Is this action contributing  to my goals?”

Whether it is spending time on Pinterest, buying yet another ebook on Google domination or trying to create a logo for your blog, keep asking yourself these questions. If you answered “no” in your mind, then listen to your inner voice and let go of them.

Finally, dare to be different and stop following the herd. For example, I decided to stop doing  SEO on my blog almost completely. I’m also spending much less time on social media in order to focus on my 20% activities.

Getting over the fear is not easy, since you will feel that you are going against the flow. But doing certain blogging-related activities differently is also very liberating. It also cuts down stress and leaves you with more time to spend on the important things.

6. Outsource the small but important

Outsourcing may sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be.

First of all, you don’t necessarily have to hire a full-time virtual assistant, but you can still get certain time-consuming tasks done very easily.

I regularly use Fiverr, whether to hire proofreaders, designers, or voice-over artists for my videos. Although I haven’t been happy with the results all of the time, I still think it’s a great resource for getting small tasks done.

Another way to outsource is to ask your family members to help you. For instance, my wife does some of my proofreading work and this has the benefit of not having a fee. You also have the advantage of knowing the person you work with very well. These two methods can help you reduce your workload quite a bit.

Do you limit your blog for success?

Over to you: what limitations do you use to improve your blogging productivity? How are you handling this overwhelmin situation? Do you feel your limitations have brought you blogging success?

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.

Weekend Project: Write Posts that Hold Readers to the End, Part 2

This guest post is by Peter Sandeen of Affect Selling.

In yesterday’s post, you learned how to get people to start reading your posts. So, if you haven’t already checked that out, do so now!

But do you want your visitors to increase your page view count by one, before leaving for good? Or do you want them to read what you have to say? Great headlines will get you the latter benefit, through Twitter and the merry company of social media sites.

But getting those visitors to read to the end is a different goal. And something most bloggers get really wrong.

The content that comes after the headline has to accomplish two things:

  1. meet expectations
  2. create and intensify suspense.

And when it does those things, readers read to the end.

What I’m about to say next will sound a bit like a wine review. You know, like, “The softness of this metallic wine makes your mouth as dry as the sea.” But here it is:

You must give your readers what they want without giving them what they want.

Again that’s simple, but not necessarily easy. But keep reading and you’ll write posts that every visitor wants to finish.

Meet expectations

The headline sets expectations. If you don’t meet those expectations, visitors will leave after the first few sentences—regardless of your post’s quality and content.

The expectations range from the actual value you provide to the way in which it’s delivered. For example, 5 Simple Ways to Discover What People are Dying to Read promises simple ideas you can use immediately, but it also promises clear and easy-to-follow advice (no “set up a pop-up poll with JavaScript that you introduce to repeat visitors when they scroll to the 8/9 part of a page, after reading for at least three and a half minutes, but only if they’re from Timbuktu…”).

Another example is 3 Strategies for Email Marketing and How to Succeed with Each. Headlines that have two parts, like this one, create even more expectations. In this case, you’re not promising that the reader will get a good understanding about email marketing. Instead you’re promising that in an easy-to-understand form that gives practical steps for getting real results.

On one hand, specific headlines usually capture attention better than vague ones. On the other hand, it’s more difficult to meet the expectations they set if you don’t understand headlines really well.

After you’ve created certain expectations, there’s no going back (unless you rewrite the headline); the beginning of the post has to reassure the reader that they’ll get what they came for. If you promised simple steps, but your first paragraphs don’t meet or reinforce that expectation, readers will leave and maybe never come back.

Likewise, if your headline promises entertaining content, but your first paragraph feels like it’s copied from “The 1001 Traditional Oven Mittens”, your visitors won’t risk reading more.

But now the wine review part: You shouldn’t give them what they came for…

Don’t share your goodies

If you’ve read a lot of blogs, you’ve probably noticed how you often lose focus right before the final call to action (comment, share, read more…).

Have you noticed why that happens? And if you have, then do you write in a way that keeps readers reading to the end?

The reason you lose focus is that you got what you came for. In other words, you don’t expect to get any more value from the post if you keep reading it. That doesn’t mean you could hold all the value to the end of your post; no one will get there unless the post is useful from the start.

So, how do you keep readers reading, then?

Create suspense

Great headlines create suspense. Great first paragraphs add more suspense. Great content keeps adding suspense while providing value.

Suspense is a blogger’s best friend. Without it, your blog has a squirrel’s chance on a 16-lane highway to succeed: suspense is the reason why anyone reads anything you ever write.

So, how do you create suspense?

Suspense in headlines

Your headline should always promise clear value. It can do that in countless ways:

But as your headline cannot (and shouldn’t try to) make multiple promises, it’s not enough to keep readers reading to the end.

If you’re deprived of the promised value for long enough, you skip straight to the end—or you leave. So, your content has to play its part in suspense-creation.

A hunger that grows as you eat

Your content has to create more and more suspense, but it also has to offer value.

Suspense doesn’t last forever; you’ll forget the promises at some point and your interest will be gone as well. You could remind the reader about the original promise, but if you constantly go back to that, it starts to feel like annoying hype…

Instead of going back to the original promises, make new ones and deliver what you promised before.

But there’s a big “but” to this approach: people came to read your post because of the headline, and they kept reading because of the first paragraphs. So, if you deliver the promises you made there, you lose most of the suspense.

The solution? Make smaller promises along the way that move the reader towards the main promises that you’ll deliver at the end.

Sub-headlines are maybe the easiest way to make more promises. For example “Suspense in Headlines” promises to explain how to create suspense in headlines. Deliver those promises in the following paragraphs and make promises about what’s to come to create more suspense.

And now I’ll finally deliver what I promised in yesterday’s post: what to do if you write about a general topic, or about something that your audience has already read a lot about.

Be weird or be square

Let’s say you write a post about healthy foods. Odds are your audience has already read a post or two (or 100) about the same topic.

You could be more specific and write about the health benefits spirulina has. But maybe you want to write about healthy foods in general and you know your post is the greatest article ever written about it.

Well, none of your readers care to read more about that … unless you frame your message the right way.

How do you frame something ordinary as something new and interesting? You do something unexpected, or weird.

How interesting is “How to Eat Healthy”? Compare that to: “How Not to Eat Yourself to Early Death,” “How to Be as Green as a Gorilla,” or “Are You Killing Your Children with Food?” Any one of these headlines will most definitely get more people to read your post than the original one.

But it’s not quite that simple. Most people make two mistakes with being weird:

  1. The headline isn’t weird enough or it’s not weird in the right way, so it doesn’t capture attention or create fascination.
  2. The content loses the fascination the headline created.

The first problem isn’t so difficult to solve. Just think of something so freaky that you’d skip your trip to the Moon to read what it’s about.

The second challenge is what most bloggers get so wrong. When you start with a weird headline, you promise weird (that is, entertaining) content. And most importantly you promise your content to stick to the weirdness of the headline; if you just explain what the headline means in the first paragraph, readers will probably leave.

So, if your headline is, How to Seduce a Goldfish, you’d better write about seducing goldfishes…

Can you write a post that gets read to the end?

Have you written a post that gets visitors to read to the end? Why not share it in the comments below?

101 Headline Formulas is a FREE eBook that’s Not Just a Swipe File; it also explains what should come after each headline to keep readers reading to the end. To learn Persuasive Copywriting, building High-Conversion Landing Pages, and the Real Principles of Effective Marketing, check out Affect Selling by Peter Sandeen.