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Stop Being a Lazy Guest Blogger in 3 Steps

This guest post is by Kelsey Meyer of Digital Talent Agents.

You’ve finally made it big! The Washington Post or SocialTimes has picked up your well-crafted, thought-provoking article, and you see your name in shining lights (or at least in the author byline).

Is your job done? No way.

Now is the time for you to stop gloating and get to work. Getting a great article published in a reputable publication is only half the battle; if you stop there, you are not only being disrespectful to your readers, you are doing yourself and your brand a disservice.

Here are three ways to follow through on an article that has been published.

1. Promote conversation

If you’ve written an interesting piece and had it published on a site with a decent readership, your article will likely attract a few comments. Some of these comments will be positive, and you should spend time and real effort reading these and thanking the people who wrote them. Don’t just thank them, but comment on what they liked within the article and expand on it—if they liked what you gave them to start, give them more!

You’ll also run into people who don’t care for your article. They may even hate it. Address these people as well, no matter how much you may want to ignore them. Don’t tell them they’re stupid for disagreeing with your article or that you hate them. Instead, a more mature tactic is to welcome their viewpoints and try to address anything they may have misunderstood about your article.

Addressing comments, both good and bad, promotes conversation and engages your readers on a deeper level. Guest bloggers who can take it just as well as they can dish it out are golden. A great example of this is an article one of my company’s clients, which was published on Under 30 CEO. My client had readers who agreed and others who disagreed, but he responded to every comment and it sparked great conversation.

2. Thank your sharers

It’s a great ego boost when you see that your article has drawn over 100 tweets. You get all warm and fuzzy inside, and you may even mention it to your co-workers.

Now it’s time to make those who shared your article feel just as special. There’s a great tool at your disposal, called Who ReTweeted Me, which you can use to see exactly who tweeted your article and easily thank them.

This way, you’ll make new friends on Twitter and encourage people to continue sharing your content. Everyone likes to feel acknowledged—you’re living proof!

3. Make sure the link ranks for your name

If you’re the author of a great article, you should be credited. Most publications will insert a link back to your website or your social media accounts in the author byline so readers can find out more about you.

Go one better: sign up for BrandYourself.com and include the link to the article in your optimized links. That one small move will help the article rank higher in Google search results for your name. BrandYourself.com is a free service, so there’s no excuse not to sign up and start making the most of your posts.

Get more exposure for each post

Take these three steps after each of your articles is published, and you will gain more exposure with each one. You’ll also engage your community and up your attractiveness to publications looking for guest contributors. And what’s more appealing to a guest blogger than another opportunity to blog?

Kelsey Meyer is the VP of Digital Talent Agents, an online PR firm dedicated to helping entrepreneurs, authors, consultants, corporate leaders and experts establish themselves as thought leaders in their industry.

How to Create Contests that Increase Engagement

This guest post is by Jeremy Statton of JeremyStatton.com.

Contests are an effective way to increase activity. Most websites run one of some type. If you haven’t, you should. Nothing attracts a crowd like the possibility of winning something for free.

But the standard contest that provides a free “prize” for those who enter may not be the best way to get your readers more involved.

That approach reminds me of credit card companies that throng college campuses in the fall hoping to get students to sign up by offering them a free T-shirt. Initially enthusiasm is high, but over time, your readers will get used to it. A T-shirt will never be more than a T-shirt, free or not.

What’s your goal?

The primary goal of our websites is to build an online community. A tribe. A group of people who share common interests and then interact with each other.

Increased traffic might be fun to see, but increased engagement is better. I would trade ten new readers who participate on regular basis than 100 people who have only signed up for a chance at free stuff.

These engaged readers are the ones who can help you find others who will benefit from your community. They are the ones who will keep showing up even after your content suffers from a bad day. They are the ones who will remained subscribed even after they receive their free gift.

A way to develop this type of reader involvement is to design a contest that reflects this goal. Instead of just giving stuff away, we need a contest that gets our readers more involved.

A new type of contest

My site is about living better stories. My readers and I encourage each other to step away from what most would call a normal life and step into a life full of risk, obstacles, and personal transformation. Instead of choosing comfort and ease, we have decided to make a difference.

As I interacted with my community, I discovered that many of them were already doing just that. I started asking questions, and the answers I heard were amazing.

So the “Secretly Incredible You” contest was born.

I asked my readers to submit the stories of people who are living these secretly incredible lives. It could be themselves or someone they know. The winners are featured in a blog post each Friday. At the end of 20 stories, I will collect them to make a book which will be printed and distributed to each winner.

The best part of this contest is that everybody wins. I get an incredible post and reach new readers each week. The winner is featured on my blog and has their story told.

How to create your own contest of engagement

If you want to create a similar contest for your site, here are four things to consider.

1. Reveal hidden treasure

The key to this type of contest is to discover what your readers are already doing that everybody else would be interested in. Find the place where your theme and their awesomeness intersect. My site encourages stories. A tech site might feature a best widget contest. A photography site could hold a contest with a different theme each week.

It doesn’t matter what it is. Find the hidden treasure and then give people a chance to show off.

2. Display the work

For traditional contests to work, you give out free stuff. But with this type of contest, instead of giving people stuff, give your readers the opportunity to show off their work on your platform. Since it feels and looks like a contest, they will do their best work with the hope of winning. And then they will give that work to you to display to the world.

By giving others a chance to show off their work, you can develop even better content then what you already have.

3. Make it regular

Your body suffers when certain necessities are not met with regularity. The contest is no different. Your tribe needs that same schedule. Instead of making the contest a one time event, consider doing it weekly or monthly. And then keep it running.

By declaring winners on a regular basis, you will create a sense of anticipation that keeps others coming back for more.

4. Reward winners even more

Go beyond featuring the winners on a blog post. Include them in something bigger as well. For my contest, I will put each post in a book and then have the book printed. I plan on sending the book out to each winner.

Give the winners something more than an opportunity to display their work.

Create contests that add value

The type of contest is a chance to not only bring new members to your tribe, but to also add value to your currents readers experience and increase user engagement.

Have you run a contest that increased engagement? Tell us about it in the comments.

Jeremy Statton is an orthopedic surgeon and a writer. When not ridding the world of pain he helps others live a better story. You can follow him on his blog or Twitter.

Find the Right Blogging Answers By Asking the Right Questions

This guest post is by Nick Thacker of livehacked.com.

I first started blogging in 2009, and I had to learn the hard way.

I chased every shiny object there was—the informational products that were going to hand me the blueprint to strike it rich overnight, the newsletters promising me the “latest and greatest” in making money online and blog marketing tactics.

I am a lifetime (paid) member of the Warrior Forum, and still subscribe to the old-school “guru” blogs out there.

But only now, after three years, am I starting to build the platform I’d originally envisioned.

Don’t think I’m saying that I’ve “arrived,” or “I’ve made it”—on the contrary, I’m only just getting started. Instead, though, hear me when I say that as soon as I stopped focusing on myself, my blog, and my future, I started to really grow.

For the last few months, I’ve been working on a new book that helps bloggers get their dreams and aspirations on paper—and onto their blogs. I used this method to grow very quickly, and I haven’t slowed down since.

We bloggers love to see tangible, visible results, so here’s what I’m talking about:

Blog growth

That is my Google Analytics traffic growth over the period between March and April 2012. Obviously there’s a big spike right at the end, but you can see a steadily increasing amount of traffic in a little over two months.

Okay, one more:

Subscriber growth

This image is taken from my MailChimp dashboard, showing the 200% increase in my newsletter subscription rate for the past few months.

Now, I hate the “braggy” feeling of showing results (part of the reason I took off the numbers), but I want to stress one important point:

If I can get these results, so can you.

Seriously. I’m not an expert on any of this–in fact, I have a degree in music. However, I’ve realized the difference between the blogger I was three years ago, and the blogger I am now.

What is that difference, you ask?

I can tell you one thing for sure: it didn’t come from a “magic bullet” strategy, or even a “guru” answer. It didn’t just spring up overnight, either. It was a change in me that happened only after I put in the hundreds of posts, thousands of words, and countless hours of Twittering, Facebooking, and connecting.

The difference between my old blogging self and my new blogging self is deceptively simple.

Rather than focusing on finding the right answers, I started asking the right questions. I began to look for the right questions to ask myself, and then I asked them.

For example:

  • Instead of trying to find the answer to “how can I make money online,” I asked myself, “if I could make money online, how would do it?”
  • Instead of looking for the answer to “what is the best way to advertise on my site,” I asked myself, “do I want to advertise on my site? Do ever click on ads?”

The answers I gave to these questions, as far as many of you are concerned, are completely and utterly irrelevant.

They don’t matter.

The “answers” don’t matter because they’re mine—they’re the perfect answers for only my blog, my niche, and my products. They won’t work in the same way for your stuff.

I could easily have given you the “right answers” (according to me) to these and other questions, like “set up Google AdSense and start writing 60+ search-engine friendly posts a month!” or “focus on guest posting only and wait until you have 2,000 visits/day before setting up ads!”

But the problem with those answers, even if they seem to be well-intentioned and harmless, is that they’re not based on your particular site and demographic, they’re based on mine.

There are stereotypes for a reason, and there are generalities that make answers like these common at best and downright overused and over-promoted at worst. There are answers that are all-around “good,” but because they’re not laser-focused on your blog’s niche, they’re not as useful to you.

But if you ask the right questions…

If you ask the right questions, you’ll come up with some answers that fit your brand perfectly. You have already read up on the most popular blogging platforms, advertising systems, and income-generation methods.

It’s time to stop reading; to stop focusing on other peoples’ answers, and start asking yourself the right questions. Start with these:

  • Why do you want to blog?
  • Do you want to make money blogging? How much?
  • What is your passion, and how will it be incorporated?
  • How do your passion, your blog, and your marketplace relate and interact?
  • Why will someone buy your product from you?

These questions get progressively more difficult to answer on purpose—they’re meant to make you think; to make you really dig down into why you want to make it as a blogger. Sure, grandeur, fame, and fortune all are a part of it—but why?

You already know these answers, so I’ll let you in on a little secret: you can read every word on every blog, in every corner of the entire Internet, yet none of it can answer these questions for you.

It’s up to you—you decide the “why,” “what,” and “how” of your future with blogging—not us.

The blogging world can give you tools and ideas and products and methods and on and on, but we can’t answer these questions for you.

Unless you’re still a baby blogger, someone who’s brand new to all of this (and that’s perfectly fine! You’re in the right place!), you already have a large stock of these answers in your brain’s blogging storehouse.

You’ve got the tactics and strategies you need to make a killing online, and you already know the best plugins, resources, tools, and PDFs to help you with the details.

You have the right answers—you just need to ask the right questions.

Why I’m harping on this

Alright—you get it. You know you need to start asking the right questions, and more importantly, start answering them for yourself.

I’m a stickler about all of this for two reasons.

First, I talk with writers, artists, and creators every single day (through my fiction-writing course) who are all struggling with getting noticed, building a platform, and growing to a respectable size. They’re great at what they do—creating art—but are confused with all of the terminology, methods, and possible scams out there. It’s difficult for them to wade through the baloney and figure out what’s going to be helpful to them.

To these people, I offer the exact same advice every time: focus on the one or two areas where you can make an impact, and start connecting with people by adding value to their lives. Once you get this down pat, start adding channels and networks, and begin asking yourself the right questions.

Second, I really care about this concept of “asking the right questions” because I’ve been struggling for years to ask them myself.

I’ve suffered through eight or nine incarnations of my current blog, and many failed attempts at other blogs. I’ve sat by and watched as blogs I loved took off and started gaining massive attention in seemingly no time at all. The frustration and jealously I’ve felt was, though hard to admit, present.

Again, I’m nowhere near where I think I can be in one or two years’ time, but I’m doing much better than I’ve ever done before. It’s possible, it’s doable, and it’s not even hard if you ask yourself the right questions.

I’d love to hear your take on this—what are the right questions you’ve asked to achieve your blog’s growth? And what are the answers that you’d give to these questions?

Leave a comment below and let’s get this thing started!

Nick Thacker is a blogger, writer, and author of fiction thriller novels. He recently finished his book, Building A Blog for Readers, available through Amazon. You can check out his site at LiveHacked.com, or subscribe to the LiveHacked.com newsletter here.

How to Be Profound

Before you ask, let me start by saying that I don’t feel that I’m a profound writer, or that many of the things I have to say fit the description of “profound”!

But in some blogging niches—self help, personal development, and other emotive categories—”profound” is a word that’s often used to describe posts. I don’t have any stats on it, but I think profound content is probably more likely to be read all the way through, to encourage comments from readers, and to get shared.

It’s probably fair to say that profound content draws more readers, and may have a better chance of going viral in some cases. For bloggers, profound content is a worthy goal.

So what is profound? And how can you and I, who may not write on such an emotive level, create “profound” content?

What is “profound”?

I think “profound” content usually unravels something for us and make us see that thing in a different light. It takes a common concept or idea—something we take completely for granted—and recasts it so that we can see something new or undiscovered in it.

If you think about it, this is really what Apple does with its products. The idea of a portable colour touchscreen computer may not seem like a massive leap from, say, a laptop. After all, touchscreens were already popular in many applications. But it took Apple to recast what we saw as “computers” and “computing” in the form of an iPad for people to sit up and say, “yeah, that’s great!”, and to use it, and love it.

I think this is pretty much the definition of “profound.”

Making profound content

A profound idea is, I think, the basis for profound content. You need to start by thinking—though I’m sure many ideas come from an “ah-ha” moment, the fact is that even those sparks of inspiration take mental energy.

Beyond that, I think there are probably several writing techniques that can make or break your profound content.

1. Clarity

The clarity of your expression is important in communicating a profound concept. The aim is likely to be to communicate what you need to with as few words as possible. This leaves the reader the mental space to take in the information and digest it as they read.

So avoiding lengthy, repetitive descriptions, unnecessary humour or undue seriousness, is important. A post doesn’t need to be “weighty” to be profound, but it does need to be effortlessly comprehensible.

Above all, make sure that every word in your profound post is necessary—that every word counts.

2. Length

Some posts are profound because they say so much in so little space—if you follow The Dalai Lama on Twitter, you’ll know what I mean.

The shorter the post, the more pithy it’s likely to be. That doesn’t mean a longer post can’t be profound, but it probably does mean that sentences are likely to be short, and the overall post contains no fluff.

3. Word choice

I think the most profound posts communicate, so that means the words you choose for the post need to be easily understood by all readers.

This doesn’t mean you need to “dumb down” your post, but a profound post is usually one that, as I mentioned above, takes little to no effort to comprehend. So word choice is important. Make your posts as accessible as possible by using words that your readers won’t struggle to understand—that will allow them to focus upon your message, and give their full attention to what you’re communicating.

4. Formatting

A trend I see often on blogs is that of using formatting to emphasise “profound” or meaningful points within a post. We might separate already-short sentences onto separate lines, bold them, or italicize certain words in them.

That’s fine, but it’s important to remember that formatting doesn’t make for profundity. More often than not, I see it used to draw attention to points that, if the blogger had taken more care with the text of the post itself, would happily stand alone and have impact without formatting.

If you craft the post well, you may not ned to use formatting to drive your points home at all. A truly profound post draws readers through its length by virtue of its power.

Do you have a profound post?

Is there a post in your niche that fits the description of “profound”? Share it with us in the comments so we can take a look and get a feel for how profound content works in different situations.

Weekend Project 2: Success Secrets of 5 Multi-topic Blogs

This guest post is by Natalie Webb of Leave Me to My Projects.

You try telling Martha Stewart she needs to pick a niche.

So why is everyone in the blogosphere telling you that doing just that is the key to achieving any level of success in blogging?

True, it is easier to build and write a popular blog when you stick to one topic. But now more than ever, there is an opening for multi-topic blogs to hit it big, if they do it right. Wait, you don’t see the opening? That’s funny, it has a big flashing sign pointing the way.

That sign says “Pinterest.”

What is Pinterest?

If I need to tell you what Pinterest is, I’d be mildly concerned that you have been in a coma for the last six months. But what is it about?

Pinterest is about collecting. People love to collect things. In the big wide world of the internet, this impulse is no different. As a matter of fact, it can be amplified.

Pinterest is where people collect pretty much everything they like from all around the internet and pin it to categorized and organized virtual pinboards. Each “Pin” is a nice large image with a description, which tickles our visual cortexes ever so nicely.

People … who are totally not me … have been known to spend entire days off getting lost in the inspiration. With Pinterest, you can visually create the life you are planning on living as soon as you get the time and money to do so.

I’m talking about lifestyle, folks.

What is the Pinterest niche?

The Pinterest niche, as this writer seems to have coined it, is the wide-open lifestyle area. Much of Pinterest, and therefore the Pinterest niche, centers around DIY (as in, things you can make).

The most popular topics on Pinterest, and in the niche, are Home, Arts & Crafts, Style/Fashion, and Inspiration/Education, according to Mashable. While those are the most popular, there tons of other topics to choose from as well—the Wedding category is also immensely repinned.

Because there are so many good topics to choose from, Pinterest niche blogs are not difficult to differentiate from each other. All you need is a focus. We walked though how to find your focus for a multi-topic blog yesterday. Now let’s get to some real-life examples.

The blogs selected here were chosen not necessarily because they are the biggest and baddest on the block. Some are run by whole teams of staff, some by one little ol’ person. Some have been established for a number of years, while some are newer on the scene.

What they have in common are all of the elements it takes to make an impact in the Pinterest niche. So what are these elements? Who better to show you than the Grand Dame of the Pinterest blogs, Martha Stewart.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart blog

A strong personality

A blog centered around a lifestyle, as Pinterest niche blogs are, need a face to associate with that lifestyle.

Martha Stewart has this so wrapped up that when you even think about homemaking, hers is the first face that springs to mind. She may run a media empire, live a life so beautiful it can make one green with envy, and have more prison street cred than some rappers, but when your mind turns to homespun craftiness, you think of Martha.

A strong message

Martha gives her readers and followers tools to simplify and beautify their homes and their lives through the power of DIY.

A super-specific customer avatar

All of Martha Stewart’s work is geared toward moms with kids and pets. They are a little older, settled down, and they own homes.They enjoy entertaining, gardening, cooking, crafting, and simply making their lives more beautiful.

Incredibly helpful and informative

I hardly have to mention how much how-to power Martha Stewart packs into her website, blogs, books and magazines. She has literally written the book(s) on homemaking.

Beautiful photography

Although Martha Stewart’s photography resources are nearly unlimited these days, her photography has always been top notch.

The good news is, with as little as a smartphone, paired with a little creativity and practice, anyone can take beautiful photos these days.

5 Great Pinterest blogs

Now let’s explore five innovative multi-topic Pinterest niche blogs, including those all-important five secrets, the important stats, and what they are doing so well.

1. Hello Giggles

Hello Giggles blog

  • Personality: Founded by Zooey Deschanel and two friends, Hello Giggles has some serious starpower behind it in the indie darling. She is known to have coined the phrase “Adorkable.”
  • Message: Entertaining and empowering inspiration for young women. Girly feminism, if you will.
  • Reader: Young women in their “finding themselves” phase of life.
  • How they help: Hello Giggles features tons of reader-submitted work and guest posts on a huge range of topics and creates a positive, female-friendly environment for reader interaction.
  • Photography: A combination of professional and reader-submitted photography keeps the look of the site both polished and approachable.
  • Topics: Entertainment, Treats, Beauty, Cuteness, Home, Social Issues, Opinion, Parenting, Humor and more.
  • Twitter Followers: 97,492
  • Facebook Fans: 165,000
  • Bloglovin’ Followers: 3,138

Secret: Besides the starpower behind the blog, the best thing Hello Giggles has going for it is its feel-good factor. It absolutely oozes “Yes you can,” and that is what keeps its readers coming back.

2. A Beautiful Mess

A Beautiful Mess blog

  • Personality: Perhaps it is no coincidence that the force behind A Beautiful Mess looks so much like Zooey Deschanel. Elsie, however, is more vintage indie than cute and dorky indie. She is always incredibly positive and upbeat, and lets you inside her life, home and business in such a way that readers powerfully connect with her.
  • Message: Pretty things that you can make and wear.
  • Reader: 20-somethings living in apartments or other semi-temporary residences who love to make things themselves.
  • How they help: Loads of tutorials and inspiration, as well as comprehensive ecourses.
  • Photography: Elsie is a fantastic photographer, and uses everything from Instagram to vintage cameras to fancier photo-takers.
  • Topics: Projects, Outfits, Treats, Beauty, Photography, Decor and more.
  • Page Views Per Day: 170,859
  • Page Views Per Month: 5 million
  • Twitter Followers: 29,412
  • Facebook Fans: 35,399
  • Pinterest Followers: 23,312
  • Bloglovin’ Followers: 32,600

Secret: Elsie (and her sister Emma) over at A Beautiful Mess own a vintage clothing boutique called Red Velvet. While their business may be clothing, the blog is all about inspiration for the vintage, indie lifestyle. Elsie lives and displays the beautiful life her readers aspire to, and shows them how to create it.

3. Cupcakes and Cashmere

Cupcakes and Cashmere blog

  • Personality: Emily is a girl who makes chic style look easy.
  • Message: A guide for defining your style, reinventing your space, and entertaining with ease.
  • Reader: The late 20s-early 30s married professional woman with no kids.
  • How they help: Cupcakes and Cashmere is about personal lifestyle refinement with plenty of written and video tutorials featuring both Emily and industry pros.
  • Photography: The photography here is spacious, simple, and beautiful.
  • About: Outfits, Recipes, How To, Decor
  • Twitter Followers: 56,769
  • Facebook Fans: 61,439
  • Pinterest Followers: 22,945
  • Bloglovin’ Followers: 8,1505

Secret: Although Emily is sweet as pie, she brings a serious sense of authority to her style mentoring. She more than walks the walk herself, and she brings in the pros to truly help you up your game.

4. The Dainty Squid

The Dainty Squid blog

  • Personality: Brightly colored hair does have a certain draw, and Kaylah the thrifting queen, amateur mycologist, cat lady, and collector of many many things goes through so many shades. She also has a cat named Dr. Octopus that lets her dress him up. Full of personality, this one.
  • Message: Explore and be colorful.
  • Reader: Shy, quirky, quiet, studious 20-somethings with insatiable curiosities and a love of multi-colored things. And they also love cats.
  • How she helps: Inspired style inspiration, lots of laughs, detailed tutorials, and thought-provoking explorations.
  • Photography: Kaylah is a photography fiend. Her style is whimsical, creative, and curious, and it always makes you think of her skipping around in the woods and fields with multiple cameras swinging around her neck.
  • About: Beauty, Cats, Crafts, Fashion, Food, Hair, Photography
  • Google Friend Connect: 6,104
  • Twitter Followers: 5,278
  • Tumblr Followers: 28,400
  • Facebook Fans: 5,241
  • Bloglovin’ Followers: 3,350

Secret: It is all about the personality. Kaylah is a shy girl (she even says so on her about page), and that is the kind of reader she attracts. The fact that she is so bright and colorful and outgoing on her blog is an inspiration to her readers, and she shows them step by step how to bring her carefully curated aesthetic into their lives.

5. Sincerely, Kinsey

Sincerely Kinsey blog

  • Personality: Kinsey is a wedding photographer who exudes and air of calm and tranquility that you can feel in every aspect of her blog.
  • Message: Inspiration and exploration of the small, simple sweetness of life.
  • Reader: Festival-going flower children that live with a camera in their giant hobo bags.
  • How they help: Inspirations and tutorials for a creative life.
  • Photography: There is a dreamy quality to all of Kinsey’s photography. She weaves magic with morning sunlight.
  • About: Fashion, DIY, Photography
  • Page Views Per Month: 265,000
  • Google Friend Connect Followers: 2,434
  • Facebook Fans: 1,077
  • Pinterest Followers: 2,647
  • Bloglovin’ Followers: 2,662

Secret: Kinsey makes this beautiful life look effortless. Her style, crafts and tutorials are presented in a way that makes them incredibly accessible and doable. On top of it all, her light, energy and passion shine through on every single page.

Have it all

Whether you already run a multi-topic blog or are thinking about starting one, you really can have it all, if you do it right.

If you can identify and focus your personality, message, and reader, provide them with real, concrete help and back it up with beautiful images, you will have a lifestyle blog that readers yearn to emulate and will come back to again and again. Why? Because it feels like home.

What are your favorite multi-topic blogs, and what keeps you coming back as a reader? What are your secrets to multi-topic success? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Natalie is a truly Edward Scissorhands living in a Martha Stewart world. A Chicago-based writer, barber and obsessive DIYer, she blogs over at Leave Me to My Projects about her adventures in the DIY lifestyle with loads of how-tos and inspiration. She also spends way too much time on Pinterest.

Weekend Project 1: Fix a Mess of a Multi-topic Blog

This guest post is by Natalie Webb of Leave Me to My Projects.

You started your blog because you were passionate.

You wanted to write about everything you love. You wanted to inspire people with your passions and your well-rounded knowledge in all of your areas of expertise. You wanted to put yourself out there and bring real value to the lives of your adoring readers.

Mess

Image courtesy stock.xchng user shelead

The love spiral would continue until the internet was throwing money at you like a pre-fame Channing Tatum up on stage. And yet…

Your traffic numbers are decent, but people aren’t sticking around on your blog. They aren’t interacting, with you or each other.

They certainly aren’t subscribing. Your readers aren’t connecting, and you aren’t helping.

So you scour the big meta blogs (blogs about blogging) for advice. They all tell you that to be successful in the blogosphere, you need to niche down and specialize. Micro-niche, even.

Here are five posts by very savvy and successful bloggers that will tell you all of the reasons why you should pick a topic and stick to it.

It makes sense, right? Less clutter, more focus. It’s business 101.

But let’s get real, shall we?

You. Don’t. Wanna.

Anyone who has caught an episode of Hoarders knows they these people don’t set out to have the mess in their homes eat them alive. They really do have the best of intentions. They love these belongings so much they cannot bear to part with any of them.

Although real-life hoarders are an extreme example, in a way, you understand them. You love each of your topics like one of your hoarder feral cat children. You know that to have a happy, balanced blog and life, you need to simplify and get back to basics.

But again, you don’t wanna. Your blog is you. It is your home, where you keep all of your most precious projects, ideas and musings. So you plod along, scattered and disorganized, believing that your passion will shine through and earn you a loyal following.

But it’s not going to happen. Blogs without focus do not have sticking power. They will not encourage readers to engage, and they will not make you money.

After all, how is anyone going to connect to your blog and stick around if they aren’t even sure what you do? Are you even sure?

If you suddenly found yourself standing in an elevator with Darren and he asked you what your blog was about, would you be able to tell him before your short ride was over? More importantly, would he exit those doors interested in knowing more?

If you cannot sum up your blog—what it is about, what you do and who you are—in a nice, succinct elevator pitch, you probably have a big, idea hoarding mess of a multi-topic blog on your hands.

I’m here to help you clean it up. That’s right. You can have your blog, and make it work, too. Consider this your intervention.

Let’s get to work

To make your multi-topic blog focused and relatable, I will walk you through five steps:

  1. Taking a blog inventory
  2. Creating a customer avatar of your ìOneî reader
  3. A little self-analysis
  4. Keep, Sell, Toss
  5. Finding your unifying thread.

After that, we get to put it all together. Are you ready? Here we go.

1. Take an inventory

Before you can figure out what you need, you have to figure out what you have. Start by making a list of all of your main topics or categories. Now go through your posts and find out two things:

  • Which categories seem to be most popular with your readers? You can use post comment counts, page views, or whatever metric works for you.
  • Which categories are the most filled out? While you may love all of your topics, there are bound to be some you do not write about as often as others.

Rank your categories in order from best to worst, but do not ditch any under-performing categories just yet.

2. Weed out your one perfect customer/reader

Much has been written lately in blogland about messaging and customer avatars. The idea is to write as if you are writing to only one person in the world.

Even if many of your real live readers do not precisely match this avatar, your messaging is clear, focused, and personal. That is what makes a blog great to read.

Danny Inny over at Firepole Marketing wrote an incredibly insightful post about this, complete with a beautiful checklist for finding your one perfect reader. You can get it for free by tweeting or sharing the page, and I highly encourage you to do so.

This is the sticking point for a multi-topic blog, isn’t it? Because you have so many topics, you have essentially been writing for everybody! How are you going to be able to narrow down your ideal reader traits to a single avatar? Relax, you don’t have to. Initially.

Instead, pretend that you have split each category of your blog from the previous exercise up into its own niche site, independent of the others.

Write out a customer profile for each niche, using Danny’s checklist. Do this for each of your main topics. Make a spreadsheet if you like.

Now look for similar customer traits between each of your niches. Do you see any patterns jumping out? Age, marital status, kids, interests, professions? Make a list of any traits that occur more than once, and how often.

At this point, you can start constructing your overall reader profile—the kind of reader that really does love and connect with all of the random things you write about.

But we’re not done yet. Now it’s time to breathe life into your ideal reader.

3. Analyze yourself

The common thread to pulling an unorganized blog together, surprisingly, is often found in you.

Pull up Danny’s customer profile sheet again. Fill it out again, answering these questions for you personally.

Using both your own profile and the list of most common traits, you can begin to cobble together a much more accurate profile of your ideal reader.

After all, you are writing this blog based on your own passions and experiences, correct? Why shouldn’t your ideal reader include a bit of yourself?

You see, that’s where the connection happens.

4. Keep, sell, toss

Now it’s time for the hard part. Just like any hoarder rehab, you are going to have to let some things go.

Keep: Set your new reader profile and your Inventory from Step 1 in front of you. Do any of your best-performing topics fit your reader profile particularly well? Good! Those are your absolute keeper topics.

Sell: If you have the time (and understandably, not many of us do) consider splitting off a topic or two that does not fit your blog into a separate blog.

Toss: Now you have to get ruthless. You’re going to have to do some soul-searching and figure out which extraneous topics you can let go. Chances are there will be one that you just can’t bear to part with. In that case…

5. Find your thread

Maybe that is your thread.

Perhaps you write a blog about crafts, DIY, cooking, gardening, hair, beauty, photography, wellness, and more. You have gotten rid of your Haute Couture and Blogging sections, but the one you cannot bear to let go is video games. Your love of MMORPGs is too intense.

Things just got real specific, folks.

Maybe your thread is craft-loving fantasy geeks. And boy are there a lot of them out there. Just look at anything Felicia Day posts on social media.

Put it all together: picture your publication

Everything is falling into place now. All the junk is cleared away, and the hoarder house is clean. Now you just have to put it all together so that you don’t lose your way ever again.

With what you now know about your reader and your topics, it’s time to find your message.

Your blog is an online publication. Start treating it that way. Sure, it may be personal, but it’s also your business (or so I would assume—you are reading Problogger, after all).

Publications, like books and magazines, have to have a flow, a layout, or in the case of magazines, an editorial calendar.

Right now I only want you to picture your blog as a book. It doesn’t matter if you want to write a book eventually or not. For this exercise, you do (and after this, it might not be a bad idea!).

Why a book and not a magazine? Magazines are ongoing, with constantly updated content, and are certainly more akin to how a blog works. But books have permanence. They can stand the test of time. And isn’t that what you want your blog to be?

  • What is the title of your book? Maybe a subtitle too!
  • Mentally (or physically) design your book cover.
  • How would you divide up the chapters and sections?
  • Write your book jacket copy. What is your book about, and how can it help that ideal reader of yours?

And now, just like on any good A&E show, the big reveal.

  • Your book title? That’s your new tagline.
  • Your book cover? That is what your pages should look like.
  • Your chapters and sections? Let them guide how you organize your site’s pages and menus.
  • You jacket copy? That’s your message.

Extra credit: guest posting

Even after all of this, I know there are some topics that you will have trouble letting go. Take heart, because you don’t have to.

When you have items that you don’t have room to keep in your home, what do you get? A storage locker, a.k.a. guest posts.

Keep writing those posts on topics that you love, but do not fit with your blog. The trick is to keep your overall message in mind when you write—not your ideal reader, but your message.

The idea with these guest posts is to pitch them to blogs that you enjoy, but are not the ideal reader of. This post is one such example.

I’m sure the ideal Problogger reader is not a 29-year-old barber stepmom, obsessed with Martha Stewart, wishing she lived in Rivendell. And that reader almost certainly does not frequently sport a peacock-colored mohawk. And yet…

What it all means

Like hoarders, we bloggers can get so used to the mess we see around us that we lose all objectivity as to the impression our blog makes on new readers. With every additional topic you cover, it gets exponentially more difficult.

The key is focus. If you follow the process I have outlined in this post, I guarantee that you will arrive at a clear and accurate customer avatar, strong unifying thread and clear, compelling message.

Tomorrow I will be back to show you five blogs that have mastered the ability to convey a clear, strong brand while juggling a wide variety of topics—and I’ll clue you in to their five secrets to killing it in the Pinterest niche.

What struggles have you had with focusing your multi-topic blog? Share in the comments below!

Natalie is a truly Edward Scissorhands living in a Martha Stewart world. A Chicago-based writer, barber and obsessive DIYer, she blogs over at Leave Me to My Projects about her adventures in the DIY lifestyle with loads of how-tos and inspiration. She also spends way too much time on Pinterest.

Weekend Project: Get Focused With Your Multi-topic Blog

It’s standard professional blogging wisdom that to succeed in blogging, you need to choose a niche. This is a point that I’ve made many times, and it’s advice I still stand by.

That said, there are many, many bloggers out there with multi-topic blogs who aren’t about to “niche down” any time soon. They love their blogs, topics, and readers too much to narrow their focus. Take, for example, Dooce. It’s not just a multi-topic blog, it’s a personal blog too—and one that’s monetized. Also, it’s just one of millions.

So there are plenty of bloggers out there who thoroughly enjoy multi-topic blogging, and many are making a living from it.

This weekend is designed for them: we have a weekend project that will help all the multi-topic bloggers out there get their blogs in order, help them focus on those topics they love, and assist them to gain more readers and followers through more creative, strategic thinking.

Though it seems like this weekend project is just for multi-topic bloggers, I have the feeling it’ll help any blogger who has more than one content category on their site. Like me, you might have been running your focused blog for a few years, and you might be finding that a topic spring-clean and strategic re-focus might help.

In that case, this weekend project is also perfect for you.

Today’s article, the first part in the series walks you through the process of conducting a topic inventory, and working out where your passions lie, who your readers are, who you are, and how you should focus your efforts.

Tomorrow’s article, the second part, looks at the way multi-topic blogs can really excel on certain platforms. Author and blogger Natalie Webb will profile five multi-topic blogs that are making the most out of Pinterest (as well as other social platforms). It’s an intriguing case study even for those with the most niche-specific blogs.

I think you’ll find this a really intriguing project. And if you have—or have ever had—a multi-topic blog, we’d love to hear about it in the comments. What’s your blog about? How long has it been going and where’s it heading? Share your stories with us in preparation for the first post, which will publish later today.

The Importance of Your Essence in Blogging Success

This guest post is by Alden Tan of Alden-Tan.com.

So you got your blog started up. It’s time to put everything in place.

You start to study the market and conduct all the research needed. You read up on other blogs, scout forums, and buy an ebook that’s supposed to help you succeed.

Having bought into the hype, you actually force yourself to apply all the tactics you learnt, even though you don’t have a good feeling about them.

You’re basically basing your work on others’ success!

Already you’ve fallen into the category of tired bloggers who’ve tried everything and yet not seen any success. And then you’re attracted by other “gurus” who advertise “the real deal”. It’s a vicious cycle.

What’s lacking? What is that one, invisible quality that the top bloggers all seem to have? You may be spending too much time doing what others are doing, when the real problem is this:

Your blog lacks your “why”

How much energy are you expending on your blog? I don’t just mean writing, designing, optimizing SEO, or using social media.

I mean how much of yourself are you putting into your blog?

The power of your self, injected in your blog, can take you far. It’s about bringing forth your beliefs to the world and sharing your vision with people.

And it all fuses together to create your “why”.

The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”—Simon Sinek, Start with Why

This attitude goes beyond merely following your passion and showing people you’re doing what you love. It’s also a step ahead of putting personality in your writing.

It’s the belief and vision you need to create your purpose. And with purpose, you’ll never be lost again.

How to find and express your blog’s essence

1. Find your own purpose in person

In order to find your blog’s essence, you’ve first got to find your own purpose in life.

Remember, your blog is you. You aren’t a ball of marketing tactics and business strategies. You need to continually express yourself in your blog to get all that essence out there.

I found and fine-tuned my purpose with this little exercise I did at RyzeOnline. This powerful exercise can help you to zoom in on your very being, building the strong roots needed for both yourself and your blog.

Furthermore, one of the things the exercise teaches is to be fully proud of your essence and loudly proclaim it to the world. You can easily do that by writing and portraying that on your About Me page, and in all your articles.

Ever since I completed this exercise, I’ve only written with purpose. To put it another way, I don’t write if I’m not inspired. I stopped churning out content just for the sake of having an update for my blog. Not only does it feel a lot better, but my articles have been receiving greater response in terms of comments.

Do the exercise now to create your blog’s roots.

2. Find your one person

Now, with your purpose and essence found, you need to as yourself: who will I bring this to?

Forget about finding a target audience or a demographic. Ask yourself this:

“Are you being completely you when having an intimate conversation with someone or when you’re addressing a large group?” You should be.

There is a fantastic article on finding your one person (or customer) over at Firepole Marketing, complete with a free worksheet.

Finding your one person makes it a lot easier for you and your blog to communicate your essence. It relieves the pressure of marketing and managing your entire blog.

For me now, when I write, everything is directed to my one person. And combining it with the first point—my why—I know for sure I’m on the right track.

So find your one person now, and write, blog, and talk to them.

3. Find your blog’s one true design

Every blog has a layout and design—otherwise it’s just a wall of words.

But does your blog visually scream your essence?

Good marketing for a blog would mean readers would know what you’re all about within just three seconds of landing on your page.

Your content and writing definitely plays a big role, but the fact is, people’s attention span fluctuate a lot, so you definitely have to get your blog’s look alone to grab attention. And when you do grab it, make sure the right messages are going through.

Zenhabits has a minimalist look and it works wonderfully. Firepole Marketing, with its tagline, “Marketing that works” easily tells us of the brand’s speciality in marketing.

I just went through a blog revamp myself. When I started out, I thought of taking pretty pictures of myself with a good camera, thinking that it would look good anyway. Now, the pictures of me easily tell of my life. Let me know if you get that.

Does your blog visually tell your story? If not, tweak it!

People will recognize your blog for you

When I started my own blog, I just thought I’d write and see what comes along, because I knew I was a good writer. But I ended up writing random articles that were at most entertaining.

It was only when I dug deeper into myself and find out why I wanted to blog that I found real purpose in blogging.

Not only does it feel good doing what I do everyday, but people eventually recognized me for that. I got personal emails from readers asking me for real advice. And all my “winning” strategic platforms thrive on their own—now I have more Twitter followers, more Facebook likes and more opt-ins.

Are you a little sceptical in the importance of essence? Essence is not some magical, cosmic energy at work in which the universe rewards you for the passion you have. It’s just building a strong foundation in your blog or business.

Remember, with strong roots, your blog will bear great fruit. And what better way to build your roots than by being yourself, being passionate, and being original?

Alden Tan is a rock star blogger who writes about personal development, passion and inspiration. He gets most of his essence from doing what he loves despite what others think of him. If you want to learn how to get your own essence out, check out his email series on learning how to stop caring about what others think and start living!

The Barnum & Bailey Guide to Internet Marketing

This guest post is by Steven A. Lowe of Innovator Consulting and Custom Software Development.

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”—P. T. Barnum *Note.

“They apparently all have Internet access.”—S. A. Lowe

Rubix D. Newby—Rube to his friends—left the family farm to strike it rich in the Big City. On the road he happened upon a garish collection of tents and lights.

A circus!

But not just any old circus, this was the famous Internet Marketing Circus. He scurried towards the gate. Fishing in his pocket, he wondered if he had enough money to get inside.

An old man by the gate whispered “No money required to get in, son, but best keep a hand in your pocket anyway.” The T-shirt he was wearing was faded and barely legible. “The Secret is Free,” it said.

The barker in front of the gate was wearing a black tuxedo with tails and a top hat. The top hat jiggled back and forth as the barker shouted into a megaphone.

“Step right up folks, and be amazed!” he cried. “Ladies, and gentlemen, young and old, draw near and listen as the story unfolds! Opportunities for riches beyond your wildest dreams await you online through Internet Marketing schemes! So step inside, where gurus and ninjas await! With secrets and contraptions that will never abate! With these treasures and tricks you can build a fortune online! No effort! No labor! All in your spare time!”

The barker pointed his megaphone right at Rube. “The sky’s the limit on how much money you earn, but what is the limit on the time you can burn? So step right up, and go on in, it’s not MLM so you don’t even need to bring a friend!”

Rube flowed with the crowd through the gate, mesmerized by the bouquet of booths, tents, rides, barkers, hawkers, carnies, signs, lights, sounds, smells, and promises inside. “Where to begin!?” he thought.

While Rube was gawking at the spectacle, a furtive young man dressed all in black and wearing a strange sword caught his attention. “Psst!” said the young man, “Have I got a deal for you!”

“Oh?” said Rube. “What is it?”

“Why, it’s a push-button cash machine niche site generator!” he said.

“Oh?” said Rube. “What good is that?”

“What good is it?” asked the man. “Why, it’s my own secret ninja guru formula and system guaranteed to bring you unlimited cash flow, practically overnight!”

“How interesting,” said Rube. “What do I have to do to make it work?”

“That’s the beauty of it!” said the man. “You just pick a niche by following my simple yet comprehensive formula, using a few tools that I conveniently provide for a small fee, then just push a button to automagically generate a web site that starts making you money instantly! And for a limited time, I am willing to sell this to you and only you for $97!”

Rube knew he didn’t have $97. “Not interested,” he said, and started to walk away.

“Wait!” the man said. “Just because I like you and don’t want you to miss out on this spectacular opportunity, you can have it for $7!”

Rube stepped in something. “Must be elephants around here,” he thought.

Rube laughed. “Mister, if I had a magic cash machine I wouldn’t sell it for any price, I’d just push that button over and over and over!”

The man suddenly vanished into the crowd. Rube had a sneaking suspicion and reached into his pocket. One of his dollars had gone missing.

“What a strange fellow,” thought Rube, wiping off his shoes in the straw.

Rube noticed a crowd gathering around a man wearing a suit covered in neon dollar signs, gesturing at a large circular device. He shook the straw off of his feet and shuffled over to the back of the crowd.

Article marketing is the true secret sauce for building authority!” the man shouted through a megaphone. “A thousand articles on ten thousand sites and you’ll be an authority practically overnight!”

“That sounds like a lot of work,” Rube yelled over everyone’s heads.

“Ah, my friend,” replied the man, pushing through the crowd, “ordinarily it would be!” He draped one arm around Rube’s shoulders, and steered him towards the strange device. “But not if you have this magical Spinner! Care to give it a try? Five spins for a dollar! Lifetime use for only $97! Step up and speak a few words into the magic funnel.”

“Well, okay, I’ll try it,” said Rube. He gave the man a dollar, and considered what to say. “The effect is amazing!” he said.

The machine whirred and spun and spouted great gouts of flame and billows of smoke, then intoned “The outcome is astounding!” “The consequence is impressive!” “Extraordinary is the result!” “Amazed by the effect, you will be!” “Become awestruck by substantial ramifications!”

The spinning and the smoke made Rube a bit nauseous. He was glad he only paid for five spins, as they were starting to sound rather silly.

Rube thanked the man and wandered away. Soon he noticed another barker in front of a dark tent. The man was dressed up like a spider.

“Master the web! Feel important! Instant authority!” hollered the spider-barker. “Superstar rankings! Fully automated mega backlink generation!” he continued.

Rube still felt a bit ill from the spinning, and was becoming somewhat disenchanted with the circus. But, he still had one dollar. “Surely one of these things has got to work,” he thought.

“I could use some instant authority,” said Rube, and handed the spider-barker his last dollar.

“Excellent choice, son,” said the barker. “Nothing builds authority faster than a thousand carefully-chosen backlinks! Just take the lighted path to the center of the tent, and prepare to be amazed!”

Rube stepped through the entry way and followed a dimly-lit path to the center of the tent. A spotlight snapped on as he stepped up on a small pedestal.

“Speak your mind, and let your authority be recognized!” intoned a disembodied voice.

Rube thought for a moment, and then said, “Farming is hard work!”

A fanfare of music swelled, and the lights started to rise. Rube saw that he was surrounded by bleachers, but they were empty.

As the illumination increased, Rube heard the screech of rusty gears, and noticed an odd bellows-like machine at the top of the tent. “Commencing generation of massive authority-building backlinks!” shouted the voice. The machine sprayed something onto the bleachers with a loud Hroof! and a Hurrrm!

Now the bleachers were no longer empty, but were covered in …ants! There were thousands of them, arrayed around him in neat concentric circles.

As the lights reached full glare, the screeching stopped and all was quiet. Suddenly, all of the ants pointed at him and whispered, “Farming is hard work!”

This did make Rube feel important—for a moment. “But they are just ants,” he thought. “And they seem to be dead.” He was very disappointed, and headed directly for the exit. He crunched over a few hundred ants on the way out.

“This circus is not fun,” Rube thought. “And now I’m broke. Might as well go back to the farm.” He dejectedly shuffled back towards the gate.

“I guess I’m not cut out for this Internet Marketing thing,’ he ruminated. “It’s too complicated, and costs too much money—and seems to be run by some very strange people!”

Lost in thought, he stumbled into a sign that had only two words: “Simple Truth.” The sign was in front of a plain table with two chairs. Sitting in one of the chairs was the old man from the gate, except now his T-shirt read: “There is no ninja sauce”. The old man gestured at Rube to take a seat.

“I got no more dollars,” Rube told the old man.

“Don’t need ‘em,” he replied.

“Then what do you want?” asked Rube.

“I want you to succeed,” he said. “Have a seat.”

Rube sat. The old man continued, “So, your money’s gone, is it? Went broke fast trying to get rich quick, eh?”

“Yeah. I guess I don’t understand this stuff; best give up,” Rube said.

“There is another way,” the old man said. “It’s not flashy, it’s not sexy, it’s not overnight, and it’s not a fully-automated push-button solution guaranteed to bring you loads of cash on autopilot while you sleep for only $97 per month. But it always works, and it costs nothing but time—and motivation. Oh sure, you can accelerate the process some if you spend wisely, but the knowledge and tools are essentially free.”

“What is it?” asked Rube.

The old man chuckled. “It’s called ‘Getting Educated’. Learn the fundamentals. Internet marketing is not about tricks and gimmicks, it’s about serving people. It’s about relating to prospects and customers online the same way you would relate to them in person. That means finding them, listening to them, and caring about them. That means creating the most valuable content or product that you can, tracking and refining your methods, and never stopping learning. It’s about real marketing, not trickery. And it works every time.”

“Where do I go to do that?” asked Rube.

“Well, there are a few good places, and in time you should visit them all,” he said. “I suggest learning about blogging, especially content marketing, then perhaps social media, how search engines work, and copywriting, for starters.”

“But wouldn’t these whizz-bang doohickeys be faster and easier?” asked Rube.

“If they actually worked, they might be,” the old man said. “If they added value instead of noise, they might be. If they solved problems for people instead of gaming the system, they might be. If they provided lasting value instead of temporary gimmicks, they might be. Now, suppose you bought one, and that it worked for a while and then stopped; how would you fix it?”

“I don’t know,” replied Rube.

“That’s right. You wouldn’t know how to fix it. And if it didn’t work to start with, you wouldn’t know why. So you would be depending entirely on something you don’t understand, that may be of dubious construction and quality. Does that sound like a good business model?”

“Well, no,” said Rube, “of course not.”

“Right,” said the old man. “You’ve got to learn to earn. You got to give to get. That’s the way of the world. The Internet is no different.”

“Okay, I’ll give it a try!” said Rube.

“You do that,” the old man said. “And remember what you learned on the farm—prepare the soil, plant the seeds, tend the crops, and be patient. You can only reap what you sow, you know.”

Rube stood up to leave. “Thank you. Anything else I should keep in mind?” he asked.

“Yes,” the old man said, and handed Rube a tattered card. It read:

Rube put the card in his pocket, and found he was once again alone on the road to the Big City. But now he walked on with a confident smile.

Steven A. Lowe knows 101 Ways to Land More Business Using Landing Pages. When he’s not studying marketing and copywriting or reading problogger.net, he runs Innovator LLC, which specializes in innovative consulting and custom software development.