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New Blogger? Create a Viral Post in 5 Simple Steps!

This guest post is by Greg Digneo of Cloud Marketing Labs.

Admit it: you think I’m nuts. There’s no way a new blogger can write a viral blog post with five simple steps!

Well, as the saying goes: “I said it was simple, but it ain’t easy.” In fact, it will take a lot of work, but it can be done.

The myth of the viral post

There isn’t a blogger alive who hasn’t dreamed of writing that perfect blog post that will be read by thousands of people.

You spend time researching a trending topic.  You relentlessly pursue the perfect headline.  And you pour your heart into creating epic content.

Raise your hand if you’ve done this and have not created a viral blog post.

Writing about a trending topic, creating a perfect headline, and writing epic content are vital to having a post that goes viral.

But you are missing one thing: relationships.

In order for a post to go viral, it needs to be seen by the right people.

What is a viral post?

Before we get into how to build these relationships, I want to first share with you my definition of a viral post.

Math geeks will tell you that a post goes viral when the viral coefficient is greater than one.

But for the rest of us, a viral post for a new blogger is when one of your posts gets read and shared exponentially more than the others.  It’s as simple as that.

Below are the steps you can use to create a viral blog post.

Step 1: Find a topic

There are two key ingredients that make a successful topic.

First, the topic should be one that’s trending.  If you are a blogger, there is almost no chance that a “Twitter” topic will be successful.  It’s been done. However, the topic Pinterest will generate more interest. It’s a new social media company, and bloggers and marketers are still trying to figure out ways to leverage it.

To find a trending topic, read blogs in your niche and take note of which topics are getting the most comments, shares, and links.This will give you a good indication of what your audience wants to read and share with their social media following.

The second ingredient to a successful topic is the ability to write five unique posts on the topic.

For instance, you might write one post called “3 Steps to Drive Traffic with Pintrest,” and another post called “10 Companies Profiting from Pintrest.” But make sure you can write five posts, each taking a different angle on the topic you’ve chosen.

Step 2: Find four blogs to submit guest posts to

Once you have your topic, find four blogs to submit guest posts to.

ProBlogger has a lot of advice on successfully submitting guest posts to popular blogs.

For this process to work correctly, ensure that the blogs you are submitting your guest posts to have large Twitter followings.

Step 3: Time your posts

The most effective way to guest post is to write multiple posts that go live around the same time.  That will give your audience the impression that you are everywhere.

To do this correctly, prepare to schedule your posts to go live in about 60 days’ time. Some of the more popular blogs receive a lot of submissions and have a large queue of posts they have to publish before they get to yours. But as long as you plan ahead, most bloggers and content managers will work with you to publish your post on the day you request.

Step 4:  Publish a post on your own blog

By now, you have written five blog posts and four have gone live on popular blogs. That leaves one post for you to publish on your own blog.

Publish this post two or three days after your final guest post has gone live.

Step 5: Email bloggers

Before you email the bloggers you’ve submitted guest posts to, check to see how well your post did relative to those around it. If it got a comparable number of shares, comments, and links, then you’re good to go.

Here’s the exact message that I write to bloggers.

Hey (Popular blogger),

I wanted to let you know that I created a follow up post to the one that went live on (date the post went live) that I think your readers will enjoy.

Pinterest is a hot topic these days and I couldn’t possibly provide all of the information in one post. I would love to know what you think.

Regards,
Greg

The goal here is to get the bloggers to tweet your post, but you’ll notice that in this email I didn’t ask for the tweet. There is a chance that the post won’t resonate with the blogger’s audience. If that’s the case, you don’t want to ruin the relationship and ask for a commitment they are not willing to fulfill.

The bottom line

The truth is you might have to guest post two or three times on a blog in order to build the kind of relationship you’ll need to have that popular blogger tweet your link.

And if even you follow this process, there’s no way to guarantee that the post will go viral. However, getting your content seen by top influencers does give you a fighting chance.

Like I said, it is a simple five step process, but it’s not easy to execute.

Most of you are going to read this post, file it away somewhere and go about your business.  And that’s fine. I do that all the time. But there are a few of you who know deep down that your content deserves to get read on a consistent basis.

You know that your content is as good as, if not better than, the influencers in your niche. You just need your big break. Do yourself a favor.  Stop waiting for someone to hand you your break, and go grab it.

The world needs to hear what you have to say. So, what are you waiting for? Get your content seen.  Like right now!

Greg Digneo is the founder of Cloud Marketing Labs which works with B2B companies who want to generate more online sales leads.  You can download his free ebook which shows you how to generate 100 sales leads in 30 days.

How I Run a Successful Blog Without Writing a Word

This guest post is by Ashkan of iPhoneAppCafe.com.

I started iPhoneAppCafe.com back in 2010 with the aim of making it a profitable blog—a goal that I eventually achieved. However, after my first blogging venture, one thing became clear to me: writing is not actually my greatest strength.

I have always had lots of ideas and I recognize a good article when I see it. But when it comes to actually writing one, it often takes me far too long, and time is something that I can’t really spare because of my day job and other commitments.

So, here was my challenge: how could I approach the blog with a more businesslike attitude and employ the right team to help with the content?

That’s when it occurred to me that I could start a multi-writer blog.

If I focused on what I was good at, which is the design, development, and optimization of the blog (I manage ecommerce projects for a day job), then all I had to do was find writers who would write about what they are passionate about. They wouldn’t have to worry about the other boring jobs that go along with creating a successful site, such as how to setup a blog, publish content and promote it, and so on.

In 2010, the iPhone was still fairly new and everybody was talking about apps, with hundreds of new ones filling up the App Store every month. There wasn’t too much competition from the likes of Android to worry about either! iPhoneAppCafe’s promise was to share each app’s experience and help iPhone users discover great new apps.

How did I get writers for my blog?

This bit was pretty simple: I placed a number of ads on a local classified website and also on the ProBlogger job board. To my delight, what I found was that there are many iPhone enthusiasts who would happily rate and review their favourite apps for next to nothing. I even managed to get a number of people to write for free!

In addition to the standard app reviews, I also came up with ideas for a number of good top-10 lists and delegated the writing to the most suitable contributors.  Some of the lists got shared on social media and did really well in terms of traffic; even today, some of the best ones still get top ranking in Google and generate lots of traffic.

5 keys to a successful multi-writer blog

Hiring authors is the first step, but there are five key elements you’ll need to work on if your multi-author blog is to be a success.

1. A popular subject

Blogging about a topically popular subject will enable you to find passionate writers. In my case iPhone and apps were very popular at the time I launched the blog and still continue to be topical and talked about.

2. An appealing job ad

Create an appealing ad and communicate your vision in a way that involves and includes your contributors. Here are two of the ads I used.

Get Free iPhone Apps By Writing For iPhoneAppCafe

If you love your iPhone and enjoy reviewing apps, then why not apply to join our team of contributors?  You will receive promotional codes for free apps and get the opportunity for your reviews to be featured on one of the foremost iPhone app websites on the Internet!

To apply, simply send us a short (200-300 word) review of any iPhone app, along with a star ranking, the name of the developer, the latest release date, the price and an image caption, (all of which are available from the iTunes store) and a picture or screen shot of the app.  Those who get through will join the iPhoneAppCafe team and will receive free apps, a showcase for their writing and the opportunity to advance to paid article writing!

Get Paid For Writing About Apps You Love

Do you have a certain passion in life?  Can you write enthusiastically about that passion?  Could you use some extra pocket money?  Most importantly, do you have an iPhone?!

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then we want to hear from you!  There are a few openings in the team at iPhoneAppCafe.com for talented writers who can write reviews of apps that are relevant to what they love.  For example, if you are a teacher then you could write about apps that help educate children; if you are a whiz in the kitchen, then you may want to write about cooking apps.

We are looking for contributors from different walks of life, in particular:

  • Sports people
  • Health and fitness enthusiasts
  • Food critics
  • Photographers
  • Entrepreneurs

If you are interested in earning money to write about what you love, then simply send us a short (200-300 word) review of one of your favourite iPhone app, along with a star ranking and a picture or screen shot of the app.  Those who get through will join the iPhoneAppCafe team and will receive free apps to review, a showcase for your writing skills and, best of all, you’ll get paid £10-£15 to write top 5 and top 10 lists!

3. Create author profiles

Allow each contributor to have a profile containing their contact details. This will encourage graduates and those just starting out to write for free for you in the interest of building up their profiles and CVs. We have had writers who wrote for free and used their profile on our blog to get writing jobs in the tech industry.

4. Select a topic that benefits from multiple viewpoints

As an example, I had a musician writing about his favorite music apps, and a keen globetrotter writing about good travel apps. This goes hand in hand with our blog’s community aspect and the sharing of mutual and individual experiences.

5. Share behind-the-scenes info

Keep your writers engaged by sharing website statistics and traffic figures with them. You can also create traffic-related incentives—something that I experimented with, which gave mixed results.

There were certainly times when I felt the traffic-related bonuses motivated the writers to spend more time in sharing and bookmarking the articles.

What’s your story?

These are the basic strategies I’ve used to build a successful blog without writing a word. What’s your story? Do you run a multi-author blog—or write for one? Share your experiences and tips with us.

Ashkan is the founder of iPhoneAppCafe.com, a community blog dedicated to reviewing and sharing the best iPhone apps. He started the blog in 2010 and got it to 5000 visitors a day within 9 months. He shares his experience on Twitter: @AshkanTalk.

Social Media Advertising: Should Bloggers Bother?

This guest post is written by Lior Levin.

Social media has proven its worth as a networking tool and a means of raising brand awareness, but the future of sites like Facebook and Twitter depend on convincing brands that that it’s worthwhile to invest in advertising on their sites in addition to interacting with customers.

Ads on Facebook usually appear in the right column, though Facebook has been experimenting with more socially-based ads that show up in the streams of users. With its simpler interface, Twitter relies on promoting tweets that show up in the tops of users’ update streams.

No one has any doubts about the value of social media marketing through engaging customers, running promotions, and creating company pages. The majority of doubts surround the ROI and overall value of paying to advertise on social networks.

Many brands are still engaged in social media advertising, and the data available changes from year to year. However, for bloggers, it can be difficult to decide whether social media advertising is worth it.

Here are a few of the current advantages and disadvantages of using social media sites for your advertising campaigns.

Advantages of social media advertising

Social helps campaigns go viral

According to Kelsey Jones of the Social Robot, “Companies and organizations can experience a large swell of website visitors, new customers, or Facebook fans all within a single day, depending on the effectiveness of their ads. This type of viral activity can be great for events and product launches.”

Brands are satisfied with the level of engagement

There’s no doubt that the right campaign can make a huge difference in driving visitors to a website. This spike in traffic for some major brands makes social media advertising worth considering.

The Wall Street Journal reports that “Companies that have bought Twitter ads generally say they are happy with the percentage of people who click on their ads or circulate them to other Twitter users. But marketers also say these ads haven’t proven they can convert people into paying customers.”

Disadvantages of social media advertising

The cost for national advertising campaigns is prohibitive

Kelsey Jones writes at Performancing, “For some targeted campaigns, competition can be very high, leading to high rates for clicks on social media ads or sponsored tweet impressions (views). For certain industries, the cost to run a viral campaign of this magnitude can be significant, up to thousands of dollars per day.”

While the cost of social media advertising can be quite steep for national campaigns, running an effective social media campaign through a free account on social media can produce similar results if managed properly. The opportunity to engage users through a free account may make it hard to justify the cost of Facebook or Twitter ads.

Social advertising can be perceived negatively

Unlike ads in magazines or on television, ads on social networks may prove to be ineffective or even a liability for brands, as customers may view them as an unwelcome intrusion.

One Forrester analyst mentioned to Bloomberg that injecting ads into a social platform is like interrupting a conversation among friends in order to attempt a sales pitch.

In fact, ads on a social network may be perceived as completely counter to what users are trying to accomplish. Some suggest that the success of social advertising hinges on whether brands can identify the purchasing intent of users and find the perfect point to introduce an ad into their social experience.

The ROI is difficult to measure on social media

Sean Jackson, the CFO of CopyBlogger, suggests that for all of the talk about being unable to measure the ROI of social media marketing in general, businesses should not be dismayed. Jackson says, “An investment is an asset that you purchase and place on your Balance Sheet. Like an office building or a computer system. It’s something you could sell later if you didn’t need it any more. Marketing is an expense, and goes on the Profit and Loss statement.”

Whether or not you agree with Jackson’s statement, the constant challenge of all marketing efforts over the years has been determining their ROI.

Is it worth it?

Social media advertising will undoubtedly produce greater brand awareness and user engagement with your brand, but the real risk is that brands may need to designate significant funds to their marketing efforts without necessarily receiving a guarantee that they’ll work.

That is a significant risk to take, but as brands seek to reach customers, we’ll see ongoing innovation among advertisers on social media platforms.

What do you think of social advertising? Have you tried it—or seen it? Let us know your take on these new ad media in the comments.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for pre shipment inspection companies located in China and Latin America, and who also consults for a psd to html conversion company.

Is Your Blog Over-optimized?

This guest post is by AJ Kumar of Single Grain.

The current hot topic in the search engine optimization world is Google’s recent Penguin update—a move the search giant claims is intended to help reduce the presence of over-optimized web pages in the natural search results.

In fact, the possibility of a forthcoming over-optimization penalty was alluded to as early as this year’s SXSW festival in March, where Google spokesperson Matt Cutts made the comment:

“[T]he idea is basically to try and level the playing ground a little bit. So all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little bit more level.”

Well, that “level playing ground” is here with the April 24th release of the Penguin algorithm update, which has affected an estimated 3% of all search queries. If you saw your blog traffic dip unexpectedly on this date, it’s possible you’ve been “pecked” by the Google Penguin—an indication that your blog is considered to be over-optimized in the eyes of the search giant.

Of course, knowing that you’ve been affected and taking remedial actions to recover from a Penguin penalty are two different things. Because of Google’s natural reticence when it comes to revealing the exact parameters that cause a site to be flagged for over-optimization, it’s impossible to know exactly which factors led to your site’s penalty.

The key to determining how to move forward following a Penguin attack lies in identifying potential over-optimization flags that can be quantified and measured by the search engines.  Remember, the Googlebot can’t manually assess the quality of every website online. Instead, it must rely on measurable signals that can be used to infer objective value.

Based on these criteria, there are a few possible areas that every post-Penguin recovery plan should address:

On-site over-optimization

The first potential avenue through which Google could quantify metrics and assess over-optimization penalties is through the abuse of well-known on-page SEO best practices.  The following are a few of the specific indicators you’ll want to pay attention to:

  • Title tags: Because your pages’ title tags play a big role in your on-site SEO, this keyword stuffing opportunity has long been abused by web spammers.  If you’ve ever seen a title tag that reads something like, “Lose weight, fast weight loss, lose weight now with these tips,” you’ve seen an example of on-site over-optimization that could easily be detected and penalized by the search engines.

    Instead, a far better solution is to structure your title tags as follows:

    • Incorporate your target keyword only once, in a way that sounds natural and accurately describes the content of your page.
    • Add your brand’s name to your title tags, as there’s some indication that Google is giving increased weight to websites with established brands.
    • Limit your title tags to 60-70 characters for maximum search engine consideration.
  • Internal links: Another on-site website element that’s easily manipulated from an SEO standpoint is its internal link structure. “PageRank sculpting” or “link sculpting” devotees claim that by manipulating the anchor text distribution and flow of Google PageRank from one blog post to another, they can control how each page on their site is valued by the search engines.

    Well, guess what?  Because the search engine spiders navigate the web using links, they’ve gotten pretty good at understanding what natural internal link distribution looks like—as well as what it looks like when bloggers and other webmasters build internal links in an intentionally manipulative fashion!

    For best results, link to other pages using internal links only when it makes sense for your readers.  Build your site’s navigation structure and architecture in a way that helps visitors access different areas of your site effectively, and add links between blog posts only when the information is relevant and provides value for your readers.

  • Footer links: This on-site over-optimization element is so obviously detectable by the search engines that it’s not even funny! I’ll keep this one brief: don’t pack the footer section of your blog full of unnecessary links for the sole purpose of manipulating anchor text, link relevance or internal PageRank flow.  Seriously, just don’t do it!
  • Scraped or stuffed content: Again, manipulated content is an over-optimization red flag that should be an obvious “no go,” yet it’s amazing how many websites still make use of content that’s either copied and pasted from other sites or so packed full of keywords that it’s nearly illegible to human readers.

    If you have either of these two types of content on your blog, get them off as soon as possible!  While scraped and stuffed content may have helped your site to rank well in the natural search results pages in the past, it’s an obvious red flag to a search engine that’s indicated its desire to go after web spammers.  Even if your site survived the Penguin update unscathed, chances are you won’t be so safe in the future!

Off-site over-optimization

In addition to the specific optimization activities you undertake on your website, your off-site actions can be treated as red flags by the Penguin penalty and future updates as well.  Here are a few of the specific elements you’ll want to pay attention to:

  • Link velocity: Although having external links pointing back at your site is an important part of optimizing your website effectively for the search engines, the rate at which you acquire these links (a.k.a. your “link velocity”) should be treated with the utmost caution.

    Ideally, your blog’s backlink profile should look as natural as possible—even if you’re following SEO backlinking best practices. If your blog is well-established and well-regarded within your industry, it may be able to handle receiving dozens of new backlinks a day.  On the other hand, if your site is new, you can bet the search engines realize that it doesn’t look natural to have a young site earning handfuls of new links every day!

    Although there’s no hard and fast rule about how many links are too many links, it’s best to focus on obtaining a few high-value backlinks than to spam your site with dozens or hundreds of low quality links.  Be especially cautious in the few six months of your site’s life, and hold off on any major link building campaigns until your site is indexed appropriately by the search engines.

  • Anchor text distribution: As you undertake your link building campaigns, steer clear of the dated advice to incorporate only your target keyword and a few closely related variations as anchor text within your new links.  Google Penguin has changed the way anchor text is valued, so having too high of a concentration of exact match anchor text backlinks could set your site up for future penalties.

    In addition, if you’ve used targeted anchor text links in the past, it might be worthwhile to remove as many as possible or to dilute their strength with untargeted links.  For more information on how to evaluate your existing link building profile for anchor text distribution, check out SEOMoz’s article titled, How to Survive Google’s Unnatural Links Warnings & Avoid Over-Optimisation.

  • Sitewide links: One final indicator of over-optimization you’ll want to be aware of is a high density of “sitewide links.”

    Sitewide links are those that appear in areas of a website that are displayed on every single page of that site—for example, in the sidebar or footer area of a blog.  Because these types of links can be used to quickly increase the number of backlinks pointing at a blog for the sole purpose of manipulating the search results, they’re an easy target for Google Penguin and similar future updates.

    To find instances of sitewide links, use the “Links to your site” feature found in Google’s Webmaster Tools or other paid link research programs like Ahrefs or the Open Site Explorer.  Then, as you encounter instances of sitewide links, you can either request their removal from the offending sites or increase your other link building activities in order to diminish their impact on your site.

Were you pecked by the Penguin?

Did you see a decrease in traffic following the Google Penguin update?  Are you concerned about future over-optimization penalties and how they’ll be assessed?  Share any other specific actions you’ve taken to improve your site’s optimization in the comments below.

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

Separate Your Blog Needs from Your Blog Wants

This guest post is by Nicola Ibberson of Little House In Town.

We’re always told in life that we should distinguish between those things we “want” and those things we “need.” The general idea of this is that we need to prioritise the things we do and things we buy according to their necessity.

Generally speaking, this is a pretty sound piece of advice—it ensures we don’t end up sitting on a mountain of chocolate when we have no toilet paper, for example. It ensures we have a roof over our heads before we go out and buy a two-seater soft-top. It ensures we don’t head off on our holidays before we’ve turned off all the lights, switched off the fridge, and put the cats in the cattery.

But I think I’ve found a flaw in this sound advice. I think that sometimes you have to put the “wants” up front. Sometimes, doing something because you need to do it, or buying something because you need to buy it, kind of takes the sparkle out of whatever that thing is. It makes the doing or the purchasing of that thing into a chore. And nobody likes chores.

I’m an extra-curricular blogger. I work full-time hours (sometimes more) and have several out-of-work commitments aside from my blog, as do many of you. At some point in time, I set myself a mental target to write two blog posts a week, minimum. It’s an amount that kept my blog looking up-to-date when people stumbled across it, it ensured my readers didn’t think I’d fallen off the face of the planet, and it made me feel that I was not wasting all the efforts I’d put into building up the small web presence I have.

Setting myself that target was, in many ways, a big error. It made every blog post I did into a “need.”

“I need to write a blog post tonight; I haven’t posted anything since last Friday” was a phrase my partner heard with alarming regularity.

Sometimes, I wrote a post and made a promise to my readers that I would be featuring a certain something the week after. Most of the time, when I made that promise, the “certain something” wasn’t even written yet. So then I needed to write it, because I said I would.

Mass panic ensued when, five days later, that post still hadn’t been written. So I would write it one night after work, when I was tired, fed-up, hungry, distracted, and my brain had all but turned to mush. I can’t imagine that writing in this state showcased the best of my abilities.

Sound familiar? Perhaps it’s time to make a change.

Changing the “needs” into “wants”

It’s difficult to try and juggle life with blogging, especially with other commitments taking up our time, such as full-time jobs or children. It can be easy to lose track of the reason we started writing in the first place and we can begin to view updating our blogs as a chore.

This is how I felt. For a while, I wallowed in pity and despair, complaining of lack of time and inspiration. Then I got a grip, and decided to actually do something constructive towards reclaiming my blogging pizzazz.

I mined the internet and other blogs looking for inspiration and advice, and have collated my tried and tested favourites here for you:

  • Write a blog manifesto: Sometimes we need a reminder of what our blog is all about, and why we started it in the first place. It can help to focus us when we deviate from the intended path, and provide inspiration when our brains are flagging. Write a business plan for your blog. Done properly, it will help you recapture all it is that you love about your blog, and fill you with enthusiasm on every read.
  • Give yourself designated blogging time: Most extra-curricular activities take place at designated times. Your pilates class may run from 7-8pm on a Wednesday, for example. You would be frowned upon if you took the kids and dog along with you, and you wouldn’t break away to sort out the washing half way through. Why should your blog be any different? Give your blog some respect, and set aside some designated “blog time.” Even if just for an hour a week, it could be the boost your writing needs.
  • Keep a notebook: If you don’t do this already, this is the one thing you really must try. If, like me, you can’t just leap onto a computer and type away whenever inspiration strikes, then please, please, please carry a notebook. Superglue it to your torso if you have to. And for goodness sake, don’t forget a pen. Whenever you have a light-bulb idea, you can scribble it down, and whenever you find yourself with a spare ten minutes, you can do a bit of blog scheduling. Then, when you’re staring gormlessly at your screen without a scrap of inspiration, you can delve into your notebook and pull out a gem of a post.
  • Stop worrying: Yes, social media is important. Yes, regular content on your blog is important. No, it isn’t so important that you should panic about it. Posting ill-thought-out content on your blog or your social media sites just so there’s something there could be just as damaging as not saying anything at all. So don’t sweat it.
  • Re-evaluate the depth and length of your posts: If you find that you are never able to finish writing a post in the time you have set aside, perhaps you really need to consider altering the length of your posts. I personally have this problem. I waffle. A lot. By capping the length of my posts I feel much more gratified by my writing, as now I can actually write whole posts in one sitting!
  • Lose the day job: An extreme solution? Perhaps, but if your blog is generating interest that you just can’t keep up with, and you can see potential for making revenue if only you had time to set up that affliate marketing scheme/write that sponsored post/put some ad spaces on your homepage, then maybe you should seriously look at whether you can make your blog more than just a hobby. Talk to your boss: they may be able to reduce your hours or offer more flexible working patterns. If you’re unsure of how things will turn out, look into career break options or extended holiday to trial the pro blogger life.

What are your blogging needs—and what are your wants? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Nicola Ibberson is about to give up the day-job, move to the seaside and embark on a freelance career as a writer, proofreader and whatever-else-comes-her-way-er. Her personal blog, Little House In Town, is a place for all things ethical, sustainable, handmade and seaside-y. 

Build a Quality Resource List for Your Blog

When was the last time you compiled a resource list for your readers?

Tom Ewer recently wrote up his own ultimate resource list for readers of his blog, titled 100 Blogs You Need in Your Life. (And ProBlogger came in at number 2! Thanks, Tom!)

If you look at the response from his readers, you’ll note the sense of excitement that this post generated. Words like love, awesome, absolutely amazing, and cool come up again and again in the comments. Readers are bookmarking the list and immediately (it seems) going to check out the recommended sites.

Resource lists like this really are valuable for readers. But if you’re putting together a resource list, you’ll want to think hard about how you do it. To my mind, there are five key factors that make or break a resource list.

1. Size

This post is a whopper—100 resources is a lot. It does make the list epic, and link-worthy, but it also works because the links aren’t time-limited. These resources will be as good in eight months as they are today, so readers can bookmark the list and come back to it again and again.

A list of 100 daily deals, for example, is probably less bookmarkable, since it’ll be useless by tomorrow. In deciding on a length for your resource list, look at the longevity of the content as well as its sharability. The greater the longevity of your resource, the more repeat traffic it’ll generate from those who do bookmark it.

2. Quality

At the beginning of the post, Tom explains that the list is “a labor of love”. Your resource list should reflect the same degree of care for your readers.

Many lists are put together simply for the sake of links, but they’ll gain fewer initial links—and less repeat visits—if the quality isn’t up to scratch. I often find the best resource lists are those that list “plugins that have saved my site” or “sites that helped me make my first online paycheque”—tools and services that the author has used herself, and can speak intelligently on.

Don’t just jam well-regarded resources together into a post. If you can give your own personal take on the resources you’re listing, your readers will relate, and appreciate the list all the more.

3. Layout

Tom’s presented his list in an easy-to-use, completely sortable table. This makes it really easy for readers to use the content, and undoubtedly encourages readers to use the post more than if he’d just provided an unsortable bullet list.

It’s the little things like this that really make your resource extra-valuable for readers. Think about the usability of your list, from the perspective of your readers, as you’re preparing it for publication.

4. Extras

You’ll notice that Tom asks readers to mention any other sites they feel he should have added. This tactic helps to make the resource even more valuable. Once dedicated readers have checked out every link in the table, they can start scouring the comments for good resources that didn’t make the cut.

This technique also ensures Tom has additional resources to consider for next year, gives him insight into the other information his readers access and value on a regular basis, and may help him to shape things like his content strategy or brand position going forward. Asking readers to contribute their own links is a great way to provide—and gain—extra value from your resource post.

5. Iteration

This post is a repeat of a resource list that was compiled almost six months before. This is a great advantage to these kinds of posts—especially if they’re as epic as Tom’s list.

We do the same thing with Jade Craven’s Bloggers to Watch posts, which she compiles every year for ProBlogger. Run your updated resource post regularly—at an appropriate interval—and your readers will likely refer to the previous ones as well as bookmarking the most recent one. They may even come to look forward to your new resource post each quarter, six months, or year.

Have you created resource posts for your blog’s readers? What’s worked for you—and what hasn’t? Add tips from your own experience in the comments—we’d love to learn how you make resource posts work.

From Blog to Profitable Business in Four Steps

This guest post is by Michael Chibuzor of Content Marketing Up.

Let’s face it: updating your blog on a daily basis doesn’t necessarily make you smart. It might be helpful, but there is more to blogging than writing.

How about doing this online “thing” as if it’s a real business? A brick and mortar business?

I strongly believe you could turn a profit easily if you change your mindset and style.

Of course, you’ll continuously write quality content—after all, that’s what your readers need. But turning your blog into a real-life business would help you connect, share, and breathe life into your blog.

It’s about productivity that leads to profit.

You need confidence to win

There are good reasons why you need confidence in your business. Confidence electrifies you and your readers, and prompts action. Entrepreneurs are risk-takers, yet many bloggers may decide to hang on to outdated principles instead of challenging the status quo.

But we can change that.

With all the noise in the blogosphere, it takes extra wit to attract targeted readers and build a tribe. Without confidence, you won’t be able to organize and manage your business.

You need to challenge yourself to take responsibility.

If you want to build a profitable blog, you must run it like an offline business. You need to master:

  • organization and management
  • customer service
  • social etiquette
  • profit

Those are the four essential factors in building a successful offline business—but they’re extremely beneficial to blogging, too. Are you ready to explore?

1. Organization and management

Jesus picked up twelve men from the bottom ranks of business and forged them into an organization that conquered the world.—Bruce Barton

“How do I get more people to trust me?” many bloggers ask.

Trust isn’t a one-off decision. You need to be consistent and build trust over time. As you interact with the target audience and provide valuable information, your readers will start to take your words to heart.

That is why you need to organize and manage your blog. A well organized and managed blog will soon become the go-to resource for your target prospects and readers.

First, you need to organize and manage your time. Use your time wisely. Your blog attracts people who have needs. They want answers. Use the limited time at your disposal to focus on answering your readers’ questions, and outsource the other tasks to professionals.

The easiest and most lucrative way to stay organized is to outsource. Before I launched my first ebook, I didn’t understand outsourcing one bit. I had to do the entire task myself—market research, keyword research, cover design, writing, and marketing. As a result, my blog suffered, and my engagement with my audience was broken. I also observed a drop in daily traffic and comments.

Like offline businesses, on your blog, the management (that’s you) is responsible for delegation. Use outsourcing as a corporation uses its departments, and your blog will grow and produce better results. Identify your greatest strengths. Outsource the other tasks (find freelancers at Odesk and Elance).

You don’t have to be a jack-of-all-trades to succeed online.

2. Customer service

We’re so used to customers in the offline business, but bloggers often don’t recognize who our customers are online.

Your readers are your customers, and how you treat them is important to your success.

It’s your responsibility to respect your readers and visitors. Address them by name and reply to their comments with the proper salutation. When someone comes to your site, they should feel that you care. They don’t have to be strangers—at least, not any more.

Create an environment of warmth with prospects and readers. When you give away valuable ebooks or software, or something that will make readers remember you, you’re building a solid relationship.When you send a quote to a prospect, send a gift, too. No matter how small it looks, it’ll create a bond between you and your target audience.

Also, your readers need to know what’s happening at your blog. If you’ll be making changes, you should notify them beforehand. Surprises are good, but not at the detriment of your business. And when there’s a complaint, accept it peacefully and with good humor. See your readers as your friends.

Good customer service can boost your online business and expose you to a world of opportunities.

3. Social etiquette

You can’t help it—you’ve achieved so much in life, and feel a bit fulfilled. Perhaps you have a slight tendency to brag when you blog. But is this healthy for your audience? I don’t think so.

Social etiquette is an attitude. It requires you to look at your personal life, and consider how you bring it to the table as a blogger. Those who don’t share, communicate, and help others have problems with their lives. The problem isn’t the blog or the business—it’s their personal life.

If you focus on helping people, there won’t be a room for bragging. Your level of blogging success today is directly proportional to the value you create. So change your approach and focus on readers, their problems, and how you can help.

That’s how you can use etiquette to make your blog a profitable business.

4. Profit from your blog

As your blog grows into a business and you build its uniqueness, you’ll begin to attract high-paying prospects and outstanding offers. Are you prepared for the opportunities your blogging business could create?

Blogging offers different opportunities to profit. When you visit my content marketing blog, you won’t find an affiliate banner or link. I sell my writing services and generate enough income to pay my bills. And guess what? I didn’t apply for any writing job; I was contacted directly by entrepreneurs because they discovered I was business-minded.

Land a job

Perhaps you’d like a secure, and well-paid job. If that’s the case, running your blog like a real business can be of help. I’ve worked with a human resource firm prior to running my online business. Employers were looking for hard working, passionate, confident go-getters who could help reach the organization’s goals.

Most bloggers don’t have these qualities. They see a blog as a tool, rather than the true business that it is. Are you confident to put your blog’s URL on your resume? If not, consider running it more like a business that you can be proud of.

You’ve seen blogs featured at CNN, Fox News, and so forth. Those are no half-baked blogs—they’re manned by savvy entrepreneurs. If they can do it, why shouldn’t you?

Monetize your blog

Most blogs have no product to sell, but they’re updated regularly. I once asked a blogger friend of mine, “Why don’t you monetize your blog?”

“I don’t want to chase my readers away,” he replied.

Who says selling chases readers away? Monetizing a blog is as important as setting up and updating the blog. Without this, people won’t take you seriously. You’ll be regarded as a newbie at worst, and an amateur at best.

Sell a product

Selling a product or offering a service via your blog won’t annoy readers, provided it’s valuable and offers practical solutions to their problems.

If you decide to monetize with affiliate offers, be honest in your reviews. Let readers know you’ll earn commissions when they buy via your affiliate link. This helps to build credibility and shows that you genuinely want to help them.

If you decide to create your own product, spend time with your audience so that you can understand what they need, and build a product that truly delivers.

Do you see your blog as a real business … or “just a blog”?  Is it time you changed your philosophy? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Michael Chibuzor is an entrepreneur, a freelance writer and the founder of Make Money Hi. Are you looking for a creative writer to help grow your site/blog’s traffic and increase sales? Hire Michael to write for you. He loves the color Red. He’s 23 years old and likes to meet new people.

4 Simple Growth Strategies Any Breakthrough Blog Can Learn From Pinterest

This guest post is by Mike Holmes of the Simple Strategies for Startups blog.

You don’t need me to tell you about Pinterest do you? I’m pretty sure you’ve heard all the media outlets singing its praise:

  • the fastest growing site
  • its user base is mostly female
  • its breakthrough rise from obscurity
  • how marketers are using it
  • how marketers CAN use it
  • how its a step forward in the evolution of social media
  • …and etc.

Pinterest LogoI mean we’ve talked about it over here too, haven’t we?

But what else can we as bloggers and businesspeople learn from this recent phenom? Namely:

1. Have a greater purpose

When CEO Ben Silbermann created Pinterest, he did so with the purpose of making something “timeless.” Like most great entrepreneurs, he created the company out of his own interests, passions, and purpose.

Throughout history, truly great companies answer these question: Who are we? And what are we about?

In fact, purpose is the catalyst for all great companies and organizations.

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple he came back to a mess: little to no market share, declining revenue, and a business almost on the verge of bankruptcy. He turned the company around simply by focusing on what the company had long overlooked: its core purpose.

According to Jobs:

“Apple was in serious trouble. Apple had to remember who Apple was because they’d forgotten who Apple was.”

We all know how that ended up!

Companies like Wal-Mart, Southwest Airlines, Charles Schwab, and BMW are all purpose-driven. In fact, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, repeatedly stresses the importance of companies having a core purpose. These entrepreneurs make money (in fact, they make a ton) but they set out to “change the world” in some way or other.

I know this sounds like some touchy-feely-cry-me-a-river-nonsense! I understand that.

But purpose is anything but nonsense. It’s a viable business strategy—an immutable law. And those companies, entrepreneurs, and bloggers that practice it always rise above the crowd!

2. Have a great product

Not an okay, good, or not-too-bad product. But a great product!

From the very few interviews there are with Silbermann, you can feel his obsession with the quality of the site:

  • He and his team spent a lot of time agonizing over the site’s five-column layout, producing almost a dozen fully-coded versions before settling on the one that is live today.
  • According to him, he’d rather spend time working on the site than giving interviews. The site is incredibly addictive because he obsessed over every detail.

For the blogger, this boils down to writing epic content (thanks again, Corbett Barr!).

But maybe that’s not for you. I mean, you could just follow the crowd, make an okay product, and write ok content.

You could do that.  You won’t get noticed that way, but you could do it. It’s totally up to you!

3. Forget the mainstream: go after those who want it!

Pete Cashmore noted early on that Pinterest didn’t take the mainstream route to success:

“The web-based pinboard, which launched almost two years ago, barely got a mention on Silicon Valley news sites until six months ago, when early adopters suddenly realized that a site with millions of monthly users had sprung up almost unnoticed by the tech press. That’s because Pinterest didn’t take the usual route of Web-based startups: romancing early adopters and technology journalists before attempting to cross the chasm to mainstream adoption. Instead, Pinterest grew a devoted base of users—most of them female—who enjoy ‘pinning’ items they find around the Web.”

That was totally unheard of. And yet this strategy produced better results than a thousand press releases.

It was the strategy used by early hymn writers. While the majority of church attendees didn’t see the value of the songs, the hymn writers focused all their attention on those that did. Ultimately the majority came around.

It’s the strategy used by great salespeople, startups, and game changers. For instance:

  • When an unknown author named Tim Ferriss decided to promote his book, he focused his efforts. He called successful authors and asked them how they promoted their books. They gave him two answers: radios and bloggers. Since radio was losing its influence he decided to rely on bloggers. He went to a blogger event, met the ones he wanted to meet, established relationships, and then asked them to do a review. They did. And with the book becoming the #1 New York Times, the #1 Wall Street Journal, and the #1 Businessweek bestseller, the rest is history.
  • When Mel Gibson decided to market The Passion of the Christ, he focused his efforts. When he approached movie executives about producing the movie nobody wanted to go near it. So Gibson decided to fund it himself using $30 million of his own money. Not having much money left to marketing (it usually costs $40 million for marketing, he only had $15 million) he tried an unconventional approach: letting pastors see it for free.  They started small–showing only a few pastors, but it grew exponentially. One of the final screenings was at Willow Creek Church. After the showing, Bill Hybels took the stage and spoke for the 5,000 pastors in attendance: “All right, what do you need us to do?”  And with $611,899,420 in gross sales, the rest is history.
  • When a Baptist preacher named Rick Warren decided to market his book, Purpose-Driven Life, he focused his efforts. Years before he wrote his first book, Purpose Driven Church and followed it up with a website: Pastors.Com. The membership of the website grew to 85,000 pastors who saw Warren as trusted advisor. He enlisted their help with the PDL book–asking them to conduct the “40 day campaign” in their churches. And 1200 agreed to it. He gave away copies of the $20 book for $7 to churches and congregations that agreed. Within two months, those spokespeople pushed sales to $2 million, then to 30 million copies by 2007 … and the rest is history.
  • When an pop artist by the name of Lady Gaga found success it was through focus. She did everything she could to break through: schmoozed the music execs, performed wherever she could, had doors slammed in her face, begged to have her music played on the radio, was cut from a label, and was told she wouldn’t make it. But the turning point for her was her acceptance by the gay community. Once they accepted her, they championed for her, and she championed for them. And the rest is history.

Why do we spend the bulk of our time trying to get people who don’t like us to like? And in the meantime turn our backs to those that love us?

  • Rick Warren didn’t market to atheists.
  • Mel Gibson only showed screenings to conservative Christian and religious groups (even refusing to include those that initially criticized the film).
  • Timothy Ferriss didn’t go after those interested in a nine-to-five lifestyle.
  • Not once did Lady Gaga try to win over those who adamantly opposed her. She focused all her attention on her “monsters.”

It doesn’t make any sense does it?

Well, with 20 million users and a $1.5 billion valuation, it’s evident Silbermann understood the power of fans.

4. Remember: service is the best form of marketing

In the beginning, Silbermann said he personally wrote to the first 5,000 users, gave them his cell phone number, and even met many of them for coffee. He asked them questions, listened to their concerns, and went above and beyond for them.

Whoa!

Sometimes in the middle of our social media, SEO, and direct marketing efforts we forget that great service is still the best form of marketing.

There are six primary reasons people stop doing business with a company:

    1. 1% die.
    2. 3% move away.
    3. 5% develop other relationships.
    4. 9% leave for competitive reasons.
    5. 14% are dissatisfied with the product.
    6. 68% percent go elsewhere because of the poor way they were treated by employees of the company.

Case in point: when Patton Gleason went live with his online startup, the Natural Running Store, he outhustled his competitors in terms of service:

      • He created personalized videos that thanked customers for their purchase.
      • He created videos that told customers their shoes were on the way.
      • He put handwritten notes in the shoe boxes.
      • He sent follow-up emails asking about his or her training plans.
      • Instead of having an FAQ page, he sends out a two-minute video answering the customer’s questions.

naturalrunningstore.com

Because of this, Natural Running Store receives a ton of organic traffic, customer referrals, and endless praise.

And this is with Gleason admitting he doesn’t know how to sell.

You’ve all heard the story of how the Blog Tyrant became a true fan of Darren? You didn’t? For shame! “What happened?” you ask. Well, I’ll just let the Tyrant tell you:

“I once sent Darren Rowse an email telling him that I was having problems leaving a comment on his site. I told him not to worry about it too much as it was obviously working fine for everyone else. He replied in about ten minutes telling me that every single one of his readers were important to him and then tried to problem solve the issue with me. Instant fan for life.”

My friends, we’ve entered a new paradigm: marketing is the new selling and relationship building, engagement, and delivering new and innovative content is the new marketing.

High five for Silbermann!

What can we learn?

Right now we don’t know what’s in store for Pinterest. Right now, they’re flying as high as a Facebook IPO. They’re on top right now.

But if history has been any kind of teacher we’ll find more lessons in their story as the days go on. Good or bad.

What do you think? Are there any other lessons we can learn from Pinterest, or other startups like them?

Mike Holmes is an author, speaker, and serial entrepreneur who leads a small movement of world changing startups. You can find out more about him on The Simple Strategies for Startups Blog

Resources for Selling Consulting Through Your Blog

As Ash explained in her post today, using blogging as a platform from which to sell consulting services can be effective and lucrative.

Blogging has long been respected as a method for supporting offline businesses, but as the potential of blogging in general has evolved, so too have the options for those using blogs to sell services.

If you’re interested in finding out more about this business model, have a look at these articles:

Also, don’t forget our series, Build Blog Products that Sell, and ProBlogger’s Guide to Blogging for Your Business—these resources are detailed practical guides that will really help those looking to sell consulting and other services through a business blog.

What other resources and articles do you know of that can help those trying to sell consulting services through their blog? Share them with us in the comments.