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What Is Cyber Liability, and Why Should You Care?

This guest post is by Matt Setter of MaltBlue.com.

Recently, here on Problogger, I was discussing the topic of privacy breach notification and how it affects us as bloggers. The article looked at the protection of our site’s information and the potential impact that the loss of that information may have on the privacy of our readers and customers.

Today, I want to look at another, closely related, topic—cyber liability. The internet is an amazing medium, providing us an enormous amount of flexibility and affording us nearly the same opportunity as an organisation ten to 100 times our size. But unlike the days of old, the internet landscape is not what it once was.

Whereas in days gone by, we could pretty much write anything, anytime, for any reason, and either no one cared, or if there was a concern, the legal jurisdiction we fell in to was largely undefined or near-impossible to enforce. Fast-forward to 2012 and the law’s rapidly catching up, if it hasn’t already caught up.

Now I’m not saying for a moment that we are or should be careless, callous or unthoughtful individuals inconsiderate and unprofessional in our conduct. Quite the opposite: we’re professional in our approach, conduct, content, and more.

But from time to time, mistakes happen. There are people around who, potentially, don’t share our level of professionalism or may, justifiably, feel that we’ve wronged them.

However, as in my previous article on privacy breach notification, I don’t want to unnecessarily alarm you about these issues. I just want to take a minute or two to let you know about cyber liability, specifically about one key component of it, the infringement of intellectual property and discuss:

  • what it is
  • how it may affect you
  • what you can do about it, if you believe you may be at risk.

What is it?

The intellectual property aspect of cyber liability is quite similar to other fields, such as in computer software, academic papers, books, magazines, and other works. If we infringe on someone’s copyright or trademark, then we run the risk of having action taken against us by the other party to right what they perceive as a wrong.

If we, intentionally or otherwise, use a certain proportion of someone’s work as the basis for our own, we stand the risk that the aggrieved party may seek to take action against us.

Consider the following examples:

  • In 1990 music artist Vanilla Ice was sued for copyright infringement over his track “Under Pressure”, by Queen and David Bowie. The track appeared on his album “To the Extreme” but didn’t give credit to the original artists, nor did he seek their permission.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports that in 2008 blogger Shellee Hale was sued for remarks she made in forums relating to a software company. The article goes on to say that by 2007, 106 lawsuits had been brought against bloggers, up from 12 in 2003.
  • Lotus corporation claimed, in the case of Lotus Development Corporation v. Borland International Inc., that “the structure of the menus by Borland was copyrighted by Lotus.”
  • Oracle is currently suing Google for $1 billion dollars in damages, alleging copyright infringement over the Java programming language, which Oracle acquired when by bought Sun Microsystems in 2010.

How can it affect you?

In this modern day and age, we’re no long just bloggers—we’re also publishers. And as such, we increasingly have some of the same legal exposures and responsibilities as more traditional publishers.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. A number of countries, including the United States and Australia have what are referred to as “shield laws,” and these are increasingly being extended to include new media workers, such as bloggers.

Those living in countries such as the United Kingdom and other European nations are also, potentially, covered under the European Convention of Human Rights.

According to Out-Law.com, a shield law:

protects “publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, or by a press association or wire service” and a “radio or television news reporter or other person connected with or employed by a radio or television station.”

However, checking your facts before you seek to be covered by one of these laws is critical, as Montana blogger Crystal Cox found out the hard way. She was sued by Obsidian Finance Group for $2.5 million and tried to invoke shield law protection.

However, during the hearing, the judge ruled that she was not covered by them because she lacked:

  1. any education in journalism
  2. any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity
  3. proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest
  4. keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted
  5. mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources
  6. creation of an independent product rather than assembling writings and postings of others, or
  7. contacting ‘the other side’ to get both sides of a story.”

This goes to show is that although shield laws exist and appear to be becoming increasingly universal in their protection of bloggers and new media workers, they’re not universal yet. What’s more, they’re not a “get out of jail free” pass, nor do they give us carte blanche to say whatever we want.

It pays to double-check the laws before attempting to use them.

What can you do about it?

To keep it simple, ask yourself the following questions and write down your answers to them:

  • Has what we’ve published infringed someone’s copyright?
  • Has what we’ve published infringed someone’s trademark?
  • Have we defamed someone?
  • Have we invaded someone’s privacy?
  • Have we misused confidential information?
  • Has someone in our forums posted material that does one or more of these things?
  • Has one of our members or staff made derogatory comments about a person or organisation?

Did you answer yes to any one of those questions? If you have, then it’s a good idea that you take action immediately about it so that you don’t fall foul of cyber liability laws. If you’re uncertain or would like professional advice, always remember to consult a legal expert.

Should we feel the need to do so, we can also take out insurance cover against legal action relating to cyber liability. An increasing number of insurers who will do this for us, including QBE and Trafalgar International.

However, looking at the list above, you can see that with a healthy amount of common sense and a professional editing process, we should have nothing to worry about.

Before anything gets published, bloggers should to continue to ensure that:

  • our content’s been checked to ensure that we haven’t plagiarised or wholly copied anyone’s work
  • if we make statements, we can and have backed them up
  • if we’ve used content, we’ve sought relevant permission to do so and cited its original sources
  • we have a fair usage policy in place for commenting on posts and participating in our forums, and that it’s enforced
  • even if we’re cheeky and attention-grabbing in the content of our sites, we’re not crossing the line and being derogatory or defamatory of anyone or organisation.

You could sum all this up in two words: being professional. If we’re professional and use common sense, I don’t see that we’ll have any serious problems. However, if you’re not sure, or you just want to double-check, take the time to seek professional advice.

Summing up

While there’s always been, and likely will continue to be, a low barrier to entry for online publishing, that doesn’t mean that we can disregard normal, professional, and civilised etiquette.

We need to ensure that when we’re publishing content online, we’re keeping a professional tone, especially as the web becomes increasingly intertwined in all aspects of our daily lives.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of threats of litigation regarding your blog? Do you often see sites infringing content—even your content? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

Matthew Setter is a freelance writer, technical editor and proofreader. His mission is to help businesses present their online message in an engaging and compelling way so they’re noticed and remembered.

Long-term Goal-setting for Successful Bloggers

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

Short-term goals can be devastating.

In six months I lost over 60 pounds working out and eating smaller portions. I started off just running every day because I was sick of being overweight. Then I began eating less and obeying simple diets and workout routines. Things went well for a while, but then suddenly I started gaining weight again. Before long I had everything back—and this time around, I had to work much harder to lose the same amount of weight.

Just like someone who’s losing weight for the first time, a person who’s new to blogging is filled with energy and incredible amounts of motivation. Each post feels new and fresh, and every additional reader increases the blogger’s enthusiasm.

But this enthusiasm is often short-lived, as the excitement gives way to repetitiveness and the blog readership plateaus. This is why new bloggers don’t usually make it past the first six months. Actually, it’s not much different than any other hobby in this world.

I know it seems incredibly obvious, but short-term goals are rarely sustainable. Putting forth too much effort for a short period of time leads us to burn out and give up on the things we care about.

Without long-term goals our short-term ones are meaningless.

Sustainable long-term goals

What the person dieting and the new blogger don’t realize is that they need to change their lives permanently, not just for the next few months. So how can we set long-term goals that result in better short-term ones? Let’s start off with five tips to help you begin picking a ten-year goal.

That’s right, a ten-year goal.

One small caveat to this task is the obvious fact that the internet and our world changes at a remarkably fast pace. Your-ten year goal needs to be somewhat flexible to account for these changes. Keep this in mind as you read through these tips.

1. Choose the perfect you

For my own personal goal, I see myself as the owner of at least a dozen gaming-related websites. Unfortunately I decided upon this goal a little late, having just sold one of my cash cows for $50,000. That right there is the perfect example of the problems that arise when short-term goals (in this case, saving enough money for my first house) become your only priority. Had I kept a long-term goal of building twelve sustainable gaming sites, I wouldn’t have sold it.

When you decide on the perfect you, I want you to focus on something you truly enjoy doing. Don’t worry whether or not you’re successful at it yet, as this is a ten-year goal. You have a while to get there!

2. Make changes to your lifestyle

With the perfect you planted firmly in the center of your mind, there probably will need to be drastic changes made to your current lifestyle (that’s right, to your non-internet persona as well).

In my case, I need to put aside more time for blogging by making sure that I remove other distractions. If I don’t work out as soon as I get home, then my work-out is going to interfere with my blogging time. If I don’t prepare for a podcast, then I’m going to have a poor performance.

Make small but steady changes to your lifestyle that will slowly but surely lead to your ten-year goal. By far, the most important changes will come in the form of minor time management adjustments.

3. Surround yourself with encouragement

Before I had this ten-year goal of running a conglomerate of game-related sites, I wasted quite a bit of time with people who doubted my abilities. These were people who would get angry at me for spending another fifteen minutes polishing a blog post instead of shooting the bull with them on Skype.

If your friends don’t encourage you to fulfill your ten-year goal then they aren’t really your friends. Surround yourself with people who will encourage and help you obtain your dreams.

4. Walk, don’t run

A ten-year goal is neither an excuse for laziness nor a signal to overdo it. Take your time and avoid both extremes in terms of the steps you take to reach that goal. With a span of ten years, you have plenty of time to carefully wade your way through life making sure to always move forward one step at a time.

In saying this, don’t take months, weeks, or even days off from your goal. Even if you’re on vacation, attempt to stay mentally and physically fit so that you can go right back to work afterwards.

5. Failure is okay

I know in the previous tip I mentioned always moving forward, but there are times that you will fall flat on your face. When you fail, pick yourself up and simply mark that door as the wrong way to go, before carefully deciding on your next door.

Learning from your failures is by far the most important thing you can do to stay on track for your ten-year goal. You think that everyone who succeeds in life got to that point without tripping up multiple times? Try hundreds of times; just look at Edison and his attempts at creating the light bulb!

Has the ten-year goal helped me?

Yes, setting a ten-year goal has definitely helped me to keep my blog in perspective. I’m now making decisions that enable me to keep on track for that long-term goal instead of jumping at short-term benefits.

Take my latest Diablo 3 Gold Guide blog, which has had 1,000,000 hits in three months and earned over $30,000 in revenue. I could sell this for $100,000 easily, or I could cultivate it and grow it to double its current size in one year.

Think about my ten-year goal. Which option makes more sense? Obviously holding onto the blog, getting people to manage it for me, and expanding to new niches is the correct answer! I have my heart set on writing blogs for additional games and I’m super-excited to keep taking steps closer to my ten-year goal. (The details of how I made so much money with this brand new blog are explained in Another $10,000 Product Launch.)

Remember that the entire purpose of a ten-year goal is to change your short-term goals so that they reflect the bigger picture. Truly, a ten-year goal becomes a positive obsession in your life, and a gradual change that will greatly influence your success. Avoid fads and short-term riches that pull you away from the positive nature of this new ten-year goal of yours.

What’s your ten year-goal? Who is the ideal you? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter. Let’s use the hashtag #tenyeargoal and get the conversation started!

Chris “The Traffic Blogger” writes to help bloggers learn how to drive traffic, build relationships and earn revenue through blogging. His most recent efforts have been on teaching others What to Tweetto get more followers and make money on Twitter.

6 Sweet Tips to Help You Track Social Media Trends

This guest post is by Lior Levin.

Who has the time to stay on top of the latest trends on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Pinterest while still running a business or marketing department?

Unless you can figure out efficient ways to keep on top of social media, you’ll become overwhelmed. New social media outlets are popping up all the time, and the existing ones are evolving just as quickly.

If you are going to continue to use social media effectively, you have to maintain an awareness of the changes that are happening. Here are six simple ways to stay on top of social media.

1. Read social media news through Flipboard

With Facebook and Twitter at your disposal, you know where to find a lot of trends, but the hard part is efficiently sorting through all of the news. Flipboard adopts a magazine-style interface to make reading your social media news simple.

Kip Bodnar of HubSpot says of Flipboard, “This application and others like Pulse take information from news sources and social networks like Twitter and Facebook and display them in the form of a digital magazine, instead of boring lists of headlines like most RSS readers.”

2. Read leading blogs about social media

Plenty of bloggers out there devote their time and energy to providing their audiences with the most up-to-date information on social media outlets. Why not become part of their audience?

The article I mentioned from HubSpot is just the beginning of their resources on social media. HubSpot’s marketing team regularly blogs about social media trends such as the rise of mobile marketing, and provides additional resources in regularly published ebooks.

Let other folks do the hard work. All you have to do is become a loyal follower.

3. Use social media monitoring tools

You can easily search through social media trends without having to do your own narrow searches on individual sites. Priit Kallas has a helpful list of 48 social media monitoring tools, and section B mentions some of the best tools you can use to keep track of social media trends.

Perhaps the best tool in his list, depending on your needs, is Addictomatic. Kallas writes, “Addictomatic searches the best live sites on the web for the latest news, blog posts, videos and images. It’s a tool to keep up with the hottest topics, perform ego searches and get info on what’s up, what’s now or what other people are feeding on.”

4. Subscribe to newsletters about social media

“Some newsletters are worth signing up for,” writes SS Digital Media. “If you really want to stay in touch with social media, sign up for a daily newspaper such as SmartBrief. If you prefer weekly updates, check out newsletters such as SocialFresh.”

Search the web for social media experts—most of them have free newsletters that will keep you in the loop on changes made by existing social media outlets, as well as some of the new outlets preparing to enter the market. One great place to start is the Social Fresh Newsletter, which sends out seven insights each week. You can also sign up for an industry-leading Twitter blog like TwitTip via email.

5. Get social media training and certification

Maybe you’d like to take more of an official route in staying up-to-date on social media changes. If so, consider taking one of the many social media certification classes available, as recommended by OneIMS.

“Social media is becoming so important and popular among businesses that there are now several training and certification programs you can take to be at top of the social media field. If you are the go-to person at your company for all things social media or even if you are someone who wants to learn everything they can about social media is beneficial to take advantage of the tools and resources that are available for social media training and certification.”

Formal training and/or certification can also open up opportunities for you to share your knowledge with others.

6. Attend social media meetups, conferences, and tweetups

Sometimes the most powerful tool for keeping on top of trends is still word of mouth. You can tap into the wisdom of the social media community by attending meetups, tweetups, and conferences dedicated to social media.

“Whether in person at a meetup or virtually at a tweetup, chatting with like-minded individuals will keep you on your toes, help you predict what’s coming next, and teach you new things about how others are behaving in social media. To find a group of social media fanatics near you check out Meetup.com,” writes Cara Friedman at Mashable.

Taking the time to talk about these topics with other people can be a welcome change from staring at a computer screen or gathering information through a Twitter feed. Not only that, meeting with people in person can help you network in all kinds of different ways.

Pick one or a few of the methods listed above and you’ll stay up-to-date with all the myriad changes in the social media industry. The success of your marketing depends on staying on top of the latest trends, and these tips should make it easy!

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a task management tool company, and who also consults for a psd to html conversion company.

Learnings from My Pinterest Experiment

Over the last couple of days I’ve begun to play with Pinterest again. It’s been ages since I first set up an account but when I did I didn’t really really click with it. Interestingly, despite not being active on it, I seemed to gather followers til it got to 1000.

PinterestI also saw some decent traffic from Pinterest to our photographic tutorials on dPS. I guess our articles are just naturally pinnable, as we have a lot of images. Pinterest has been sending us around 40,000 visitors a month, which is nice, although not a massive amount in the scheme of overall traffic. In terms of social media traffic, it comes in behind Facebook, but ahead of StumbleUpon and Twitter.

An experimental strategy

Given than we’ve gained decent traffic from it, I decided to start playing with it this week to see what I could learn. My strategy has been very simple and very primative so far and has centred around a photography board on my personal account. There, I’m simply sharing the following:

  • photos that I love
  • tutorials from other sites that I think are good
  • a few of the better tutorials from dPS.

The links to dPS are in the minority, but over the last few days I must have pinned 20 or so items from the site. I’ve also done a little liking and commenting on a few other photography-related Pinterest boards—but not heaps!

Preliminary results

It hasn’t been long, but in the time I’ve been experimenting, I’ve seen some interesting results.

  1. Follower numbers are up around 450. I did link to it from my Facebook page and Twitter account, but most of that growth has just steadily come in (I’m guessing) mainly as people repin my images.
  2. I’m seeing decent repinning. The numbers aren’t huge, but already I’m seeing some nice traction on some of the pins I’ve put out there. Actually, I’m fascinated to see what is and isn’t getting repinned. Obviously its largely about the image, but  tips-related pins seems to be getting traction. I’ll continue to experiment to see what more I can glean about what’s working over time.
  3. I’ve noticed an increase in Pinterest traffic coming to the site, but given that I’ve only pinned a handful of dPS, stuff I wasn’t expecting much.

    Pinterest's traffic impact
    In fact, a couple of days after my experiment began, we had the biggest Pinterest day of traffic for dPS since May. While we were averaging about 1400 visitors a day over the last couple of weeks, but it increased to around 2100—not a massive boost, but encouraging. Follower numbers at he time of writing had also steadily grown to more than 1600 for that board.

  4. Reader engagement, as shown by the comments on some of my pins, was interesting. Followers were mainly asking questions. On one pin (on a set of images), a follower asked if I knew of any tips for a particular type of photography. I was able to link to a dPS tutorial on that topic in a reply to her comment.

I’m seeing quite a few opportunities here and have committed to take my Pinterest activity to the next level over the coming weeks. I’m not going to reveal what we have planned yet, but you can expect to see dPS on Pinterest in a more formal way in the near future (I’ll share what we do when that happens).

Update: now a week into this experiment I can compare traffic for the last week from Pinterest to the week before.

The blue line is this last week of referred traffic from Pinterest – the orange line is last week’s referred traffic from Pinterest. While it goes up and down from day to day (the last two days have been weekend traffic) you can see we’re up to 7 days of increased traffic on the previous week.

The increase is 38.94% on the previous week with Friday being up by 91% on the previous Friday.

While this isn’t a massive rise in terms of our overall traffic for the site the signs are positive. Even if we just sustain this increase for the next 12 months it is an extra 200,000 visitors to the site over the year (of course I hope we can ramp it up further with some further new strategies that will be implemented this coming week).

Straight to the source!

For those who don’t know, Pinterest has a Source page that shows you the most recent pins made to a site. For example, the dPS source page is at http://pinterest.com/source/digital-photography-school.com/

To find yours, just substitute the dPS URL for your blog’s URL in the link above. If you don’t have much pinning action on your blog, you might not have one yet, but quite a few of the small blogs I tried it on did.

On this page, you can see all the pins that people have made for articles on Digital Photography School. The page doesn’t seem to update minute by minute, but it is relatively up to date.

This, my friends, is what I consider gold information! There are many possibilities for how you can use this:

  1. Share this page with your community: I linked to this page a few months back on the dPS Facebook page with a call to action like, “See what’s hot on dPS right now.” I noticed a rise in traffic to dPS that day (and an increase in pinning action too).
  2. Research what type of posts are pinnable: Watch this page and you’ll quickly see what kind of articles readers find pinnable. Create more of them!
  3. Add Pin buttons to your hot posts: I’m currently getting a redesign of dPS done that will include Pinterest buttons on every page on the site. But while I’m waiting, I’ve manually added them to the pages on dPS that are getting the most pins—this page helps me to find them (so too does digging into your Google Analytics account). By adding this button to the right pages, you make the post more pinnable—so when people arrive from Pinterest they’re more likely to pin it themselves.
  4. Networking opportunities: Another benefit of this page is that you can see who’s pinning your stuff. What a perfect place to watch and thank those who are pinning your work with a quick comment. This is an opportunity to network with your readers, and not just any readers, but those who are evangelists for your blog!

Knowing what content on your site is being shared is great information. How are you using Pinterest to engage, and engage with, readers? Share with us in the comments.

Update: if you’d like a sneak peek at Phase 2.0 of the dPS Pinterest experiment take a look at our brand new dedicated dPS Pinterest account which I’ll write more about in the next week.

How to Succeed in the Video Game Blog Niche

This guest post is by David Edwards of A Sitting Duck.

Candy

A screenshot from my game, Candy

This year was a land mark year for A Sitting Duck. What started as a blog and creative community has evolved into a limited company that is on track to publish a multi-platform game very soon.

As John mentioned yesterday, gaming is a large and growing niche, with a massive, very passionate audience. It’s a great space to operate in as a blogger, and a business person.

Top tips for succeeding in the video game niche

Over the last four years I’ve moved from illustrations to animations, and now to interactive gaming. I guess as a blogger/publisher the focus for me has always been to build engaging, free content which then makes it much easier to sell services and products.

Here are my tips to build a successful blog in the video game niche.

  • Start with big games: It’s really important if you want search engine traffic that you write reviews on (or otherwise cover) the big games up front. Sure, the big blogs in the niche will cover them, and they’ll probably get first position in the search results. But often, you can get hits from angles they didn’t cover, like “ How To Pass Level 50 On Angry Birds”.
  • Use big pictures and tweet them: By adding the picture from your latest blog post to Twitter, you’ll get instant attention—and the chance to suggest that there are more to look at over on your blog.
  • Embed game trailers from YouTube and describe what happens on the video: This is such an easy thing to do, and it’s sure to get you extra traffic that the video producers will miss out on, because they’re busy working on more videos!.
  • Make your own videos: It’s no surprise that top video game blog IGN Entertainment  has produced thousands of videos: it works! Video gamers want to see how the game plays, and without actually playing it, a video is the closest they’ll get to the experience. Your best bet is to have a look around for a high-quality capture to stream, and save footage from the XBOX, Playstation, Wii and so on.

Trends do change with blogging, but from what I’ve seen in the video games market, the current popular formula is: upload a video to YouTube, produce a short post blog with extra images, tweet, and find another game to repeat the process with!

Monetization

The Candy Menu

The Candy menu

When it comes to making money, development companies like Thegamebakers.com use a blog to capture a free audience to save money on banner advertising, and sell their own games.

Large video game blogs sell ad space, from a bespoke full skin (like Pocket Gamer), where they fully re-brand the home page to promote the sponsor’s game, to the regular box ads at a more reasonable price.

Monetization gets interesting when you look at the smaller blogs in this space (avergaing 5,000 – 50,000 hits a month). These guys usually go for the approach of selling paid reviews, where developers pay, say, $300 to look at your game and write a positive or neutral review of it (it’s never bad—hence the fee!).

If you did ten or more reviews a month, it would start to work out as a full-time salary. Pocketfullofapps.com is a great example of this approach in action, and that blog’s founder is looking to expand quickly over the coming year.

What are you waiting for?

Overall I’d say you should start off by building up your volume of blog posts and video catalog, as this market is very much focused on quantity rather than quality, thoughtful stuff.

Then, once you have that base, work with other active blogs on videos, get them in on the commentary, and you’ll have the kind of banter that really brings in the video views (thousands, and in some cases millions!).

David Edwards is the founder of http://www.asittingduck.com and produces animations over at www.youtube.com/asittingducktv.

Stand Out in the Popular Pet Blogging Niche

This guest post is by Kimberly Gauthier of Keep the Tail Wagging.

When I was planning the launch of Keep the Tail Wagging, I heard the question “Do you know how many pet blogs are out there?” As John pointed out yesterday, this is a big niche, with a lot of competition.

But when I was asked this question, I would simply smile politely, while thinking, “Who cares?!” I’m not one to run away from a challenge; I’d been blogging since 2009 and planned to put everything I’d learned into practice on my new site.

Keep the Tail Wagging launched January 1, 2012.  In less than six months, I had a page rank of 2 (I’m convinced I deserve a 3 or 4), over 5,000 likes on Facebook and over 5,000 followers on Twitter.

Succeeding as a small fish in a big pond

To anyone looking to start a blog in a popular niche, don’t let the crowds discourage you.  It is possible to carve out your own section of the pond.  I get emails daily asking how I’ve managed to build Keep the Tail Wagging’s following and it was actually pretty easy. I’ve boiled my success down to five things that I do consistently.

1. Keyword research

Before Keep the Tail Wagging was launched, I downloaded a free version of Market Samurai to help me find an opening within the niche that could be monetized. I didn’t find the opening I was looking for.

But, using the free Google Keyword tool, I did find keywords with the right combination of competition and searches, and I apply these to each blog post I wrtie.

Keyword research

It’s a thrill to know, for example, that a dog owner researching her dog food options found my site through a Google search; this let me know that I was choosing the correct keywords for my audience.

2. Simple SEO

I remember the “Of course” moment that struck when I realized that I could put keywords in the captions and meta-tags of my images.  I’m not an expert in search engine optimization, but I do comprehend the basics and use the plugin WordPress SEO, and I invested in an SEO-friendly, premium WordPress theme.

SEO doesn’t have to stop on our sites; I send those keywords to every site that uses my content—Flickr (as in the image below), Pinterest, and Stumble Upon to name a few.  Any content or site that’s going to be indexed by the search engines is another opportunity for someone to find my site.

Not only is this great for Keep the Tail Wagging; properly tagging on social networks also benefits the pet companies that send me products to review.

Flickr Walk in Sync Image for ProBlogger

3. Promote like hell

I spent the first two months after launch on a PR campaign to make my site stand out.  To start, I told friends and family, handing out business cards, hung flyers, wrote press releases, and added links to my email and forum signatures.

I paid for a Facebook advertising campaign during the first month my site was live. It asked people to click Like if they’re tired of long commercials showing abused animals.  My first few hundred likes came from that campaign—and those clicks led to more referrals.

Facebook Ad

Then I discovered Help a Reporter Out (HARO), which I used along with Reporter Connection as unexpected PR sources. People became curious about Keep the Tail Wagging after seeing my regular inquiries and began to check the blog out.  During my second month, a PR professional was promoting my site to friends for free.

I landed several interviews and, most recently, a monthly feature on a local podcast about pets through these sources.

4. Interact with fans

I focus most of my time on the fans that liked my Facebook page, encouraging interaction, and getting feedback and article ideas.  Word of mouth is big on social networking sites and each week, friends of fans stop by to like my page.

Creating that back-and-forth made people feel comfortable to email me with questions about their dogs, which inspired articles I wrote for Keep the Tail Wagging.  We’re told to become authorities in our niche. Well, what better way to do that than to answer questions asked by our fans?

Leave Dog At Home

Over time, I got over my shyness and started asking people to tell their friends about my blog, share a post, and comment on an article or status update.

What makes a blog stand out is the blogger

I chose to be more personable with Keep the Tail Wagging followers by sharing my daily life with them (pictures, stories, frustrations).  My followers came with me when we fostered our first dog, when we lost our puppy to Canine Parvovirus, and when Blue joined our family.

Sometimes it’s the person, their writing style, or their short and sweet posts that makes a blog sing. There’s a reason why we choose to read some social media or photography blogs instead of others.

I’m not the most popular pet blogger.  I need to work on my bounce rate and I’m on the lookout for regular guest contributors.  But as to my success in the first six months of blogging in this niche, I’d have to say “Not bad.”

That said, we’re all learning every day. Do you spend any time on pet blogs? Do you operate in a similar niche? Share your tips for success with us in the comments.

Kimberly Gauthier is the Editor in Chief of Keep the Tail Wagging, an online magazine for dog lovers.  She’s also featured on Girl Power Hour as The Fur Mom and the podcast Your Pets, My Dogs.

How Bloggers Can Profit from the Weight Loss Niche

This guest post is by John Smith of Weightlosstriumph.com.

The internet is growing every day as more people hear about the concepts of internet marketing, blogging, and other ways to make money online that revolve around carving out their own niche.

But one mistake is becoming very common.

Due to the mass of examples and hype surrounding the marketing niche, most new bloggers believe you have to blog about blogging or making money online to succeed as a blogger.

Wrong!

If you’ve been reading Problogger.net for more than a while now, you’ll notice that is contrary to what is taught here.

The key to building a viable blog business is to having something to offer; you don’t have to force a niche on yourself because it is profitable, nor should you go into a niche because everyone else is in it.

The truth is that every niche has the potential to be profitable.

3 Powerful niches that prove every niche is profitable

You’ve probably assumed from the title that this article will be focused on the weight loss niche and how you can profit from it. But since that niche is popular and competitive in itself, let’s first look at two other examples of niches that you can start a blog in today, and which will probably have more profit potential than a new blog in the blogging or make money online niche.

Niche 1. Animal care

This is an ever-growing niche, with increasing importance in countries like the U.S. According to 2011-2012 data from the APPA, 62% of U.S households own a pet; that equates to 72.9 million homes.

Since this stat counts households with a pet, and there probably two or more people with interest in pets in each household, you can well expect the total number of people interested in pets in the U.S alone to be around 100 million.

Of course, this niche covers various forms of pets, but this number alone proves that there’s an audience for you irrespective of which pet you want to help people with. Not only is there an audience, there’s profit: more than $50 billion US was spent on pet-related services in 2011, and the estimate for 2012 is around $53 billion.

Tomorrow, Problogger.net will look at the pet niche in detail—specifically, at a blog that focuses on domestic pets. If you’re interested in this niche, check back tomorrow for tips and advice that can help you harness the profit potential of pet blogging.

Niche 2. Video games

Another powerful niche you can tap into right now is video games. Almost everyone plays a video game today, so not only will you probably have more than enough to say about the subject, but there’s an unlimited supply of people who will want to benefit from your advice.

Over 67% of US households play video games, and the average gamer spends eight hours a week gaming.

A lot of us barely spend eight hours a week tending to hour blog, so you can imagine the level of commitment you can get from an audience that spends an average of eight hours a week playing games—even when they have little or nothing tangible to gain from doing so.

In terms of revenue, the gaming industry is worth $10.5 billion. Tomorrow, we’ll take a closer look at this fun, exciting, and quickly evolving niche—and see what it takes to build a successful, profit-producing blog in this space.

Niche 3. Weight loss

Today, there are more than 1 billion overweight adults in the world, according to Worldometer, and this number is increasing every day.

Also, according to data from the CDC, 35.7% of U.S adults—more than one-third of the entire US adult population—are obese.

The weight loss industry is now estimated to be worth $60 billion; a huge rise of around 200% from 20 years ago, when it was just a $30 billion industry. In other words, the weight loss industry is growing daily, and there’s huge potential for you there.

Just so you get an idea of how big this is, over $160 million has already been spent on weight loss related products today, and even more has been spent on treating weight loss-related diseases.

The question is, how can you profit from such a massive industry?

How to profit from the weight loss niche

The techniques shared in this section are written with the weight loss industry in mind, but they can easily be applied to any other niche you can think about (including those we’ll discuss tomorrow).

If you’re familiar with the U.S weight loss market, then you probably already know of big commercial weight loss programs like Weight Watchers, Medifast, and Nutrisystem, which sell their weight loss solutions in the form of diet food (or meal replacements). But you don’t have to have big budgets like they do, or open a retail chain, to profit from the weight loss industry.

The non-medical people reading this will probably think you need a degree to pull off success in this niche, but you don’t need that either!

Here are my top tips to help you profit from the weight loss industry.

1. Make value your philosophy

What is your philosophy? What are the set of beliefs that guide your existence, especially as a blogger? I’m sorry, but if it’s just to make money then you’re going to suffer.

We’ve talked about how big the weight loss industry is, but that doesn’t mean there’s easy money here. The reality is that the weight loss industry is one of the most competitive industries online, so unless you can “out-value” your competitors, you’re probably not going anywhere.

Even if you’re not a weight loss expert, your desire to help others change the way they view their lives and health can make a huge difference.

You’ve probably tuned in to the TV to see that expert that lost a lot of weight in three months, or read about the expert who gained weight just to show others how to lose it, via a major digital platform.

The common thread between those stories is that they offer value, and people will be willing to follow the experts as a result.

Of course, the value you offer doesn’t have to be this obvious—or tangible, for that matter; even if you’re just giving someone the motivation to lose weight, it will be a great help.

2. Lead by example

Success in this niche isn’t just about talking the talk, but about walking the walk.

While photoshopping earning and traffic screenshots might work in the make money online niche, people are probably too smart for that in the weight loss niche. Of course, you’ll probably get a follower or two no matter what you do, but it’s only a matter of time before you get kicked out—unless you can walk the walk.

The key is to create a brand that people talk about. Don’t just give people advice and tips that can help them make weight-related changes. Lead by example: let them see that you’ve experienced the same thing as them, and help them find the motivation to make the hard decisions that they—and you—know they need to.

3. Make an offer

Don’t wait for people to start begging you before you make an offer, because they probably won’t.

Make an offer right from the beginning, and make your position clear.

The thing with the internet is there are a lot of freebie-seekers, who want more no matter how much you give. While it’s always recommended that you give a lot of free value before expecting something in return, it’s important to ensure you have the right people in your audience to begin with.

You have to make money because it’s the only way you can keep adding more value to people’s lives, and there are various ways to do this. A few top ways to make an offer in the weight loss niche are:

    • Recommend a product:This is especially easy if you have no expert status in the weight loss niche but want to help people nonetheless. There are a lot of quality weight loss products out there, and you’d have tried a few of them if you really know what you’re doing.You can make an offer by creating a list of your recommended diet, and then reference products you’ve used and trust as an affiliate. This is something I do on my weight loss blog, and the results have been awesome.

      Of course, it’s important not to just recommend a product because you’re an affiliate. Yes, you have to make money, but your end goal should be to change lives. If you find a product very helpful but are not an affiliate for it, recommend it nonetheless. When your readers learn about this, their respect for you will only increase.

      If you don’t know whether your favorite program has an affiliate system, you can check to see if it’s listed on Amazon. If it is, then you can make up to 5% commission just by referring someone to purchase it via your Amazon affiliate link.

      Darren once wrote about his experience with making money from products on Amazon a while ago, and even though the article was written in 2009, the tips in it are invaluable and still apply today. You should read the post for a head start.

    • Offer and package your advice:This could be in many forms. You could offer health consulting to others, you could give speeches to organizations and groups on how to lose weight, or you could create your own product.Not everyone has this option, though, because you have to be actually qualified to give health-related advice. But this shouldn’t be a problem if you know your stuff. There’s a great market waiting for you somewhere!

Your own experience

You’ve probably heard more than once that it’s a good idea to start a blog in the blogging or making money online niche, yet you know within you somehow that it’s not right for you.

Do you have any experience with succeeding in a niche other than blogging and making money online? If you do, share your experience with us in the comments below. And don’t forget to check back tomorrow, when we’ll look at building a profitable blog in the pet and video game niches in more detail.

John Smith is an expert weight loss blogger who likes to help others. Some of his must read posts are on Weight Watchers discount for September, and bistro md delivery discount.

5 Reasons to Start a Niche Blog, and 3 Niches to Consider

When the opportunity came up for us to do a series on niche blogging here on ProBlogger, I jumped at the chance.

Blogging isn’t what it was. I mentioned recently how blogging has changed so much that these days we may not even realise we’re looking at a blog as we use the web.

Picking the winner

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Rbut

This weekend’s little series of posts are a testament to that kind of variety. But niche blogging is also a topic that’s important to me. My main blog, dPS, is a niche blog that started as a personal passion of mine. There are a few things I love about niche blogging, and that’s at the top of the list.

1. Niche blogging lets you indulge a passion

It’s true that if you blog about something that you have a passion for, you’ll probably find it easier to write posts and establish your authority within that space.

But for me, the greatest advantage of niche blogging is that it’s allowed me to really indulge myself in an interest that captivates me: photography. Talking, reading, and posting about something I love—and which really intrigues me—is a great way to spend my work day.

2. It’s easier to create emotional engagement with a niche blog

I honestly believe this is true—and I’ve got a long list of now-defunct blogs to back me up!

If you blog on a topic you genuinely care about, that will come through in your posts. Your readers will be able to see instantly that you know where they’re at, and that’s the fastest way I know to lay the foundations of a strong emotional connection. Over time, you can build upon that connection to create loyalty, and hopefully give readers good reasons to subscribe or buy what you offer.

3. Niche blogging “feels” more creative

This is just my opinion, but I find it easier to be more creative when I think about personal-interest or “hobby” topics than when I’m blogging about business topics.

I think this might have something to do with our natural affinity for the hobby topics we choose to blog about. That passion is innate for most of us—I know my interest for photography is—and so a lot of the creative spark comes from an unconscious place. Often, it feels like it just happens—and I think they’re the moments of true blogging inspiration.

4. Niche blogging can seem more manageable

Cutting down your blog to concentrate on your chosen niche can help you focus your attention and efforts. It can make the often daunting task of blogging seem more manageable, because that focus can help you make decisions and prioritise the things you need to do.

Niche blogging can also help you to home right in on an audience, which, again, can reduce the burden bloggers often feel. If you run a niche blog serving a tightly defined audience, you know you don’t need to meet everyone’s needs. The tighter your audience definition, the more clearly you may be able to picture your readership—which can only help you to create content, as well as products and services, that those readers want.

5. Niche blogging is fun

This is true for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but also because your niche blog will allow you to connect deeply with readers who can relate to your passion, who understand your interest in the topic, and who can expand your knowledge, networks, and experience within the niche.

Niche blogging lets you dedicate yourself, your time, and your energies to something that really matters to you—and to help others while you’re doing it. What could be more fun than that?

Carving out three niches

If you think that this all sounds very fun and altruistic, don’t forget that many niche blogs are strong money-makers.

This weekend, we’ll take a tour of three specific blogging niches in which you can make money. And none of them is the “make money blogging” niche. We won’t cover online marketing or business blogs either.

What we’re looking at in these posts are genuine, personal-interest niches that attract strong audiences who have a deep passion for their topics and are willing to spend money on them. Those three niches are:

While our intention with these posts is to profile each of the niches, and provide a bit of market-specific information for those who might be thinking of targeting them, the posts also shed light on key blogging tactics that any blogger can use—no matter which niche you’ve chosen for yourself.

This series is a little different from our multi-topic blog weekend project. You could say that it sits at the other end of the spectrum, since this weekend’s posts focus on picking a specific niche, rather than combining many topics into a single blog. While the latter approach might be more complex, I think that both single-topic and multi-topic blogs can be used to target a given audience niche.

One of the great things about blogging is that it allows us to connect with people who share our interests from all over the world. And as this weekend’s project shows, no matter how particular you feel your interests are, through blogging, you’re sure to find others who share those interests. Moreover, you might be able to make some money at the same time.

I hope you’ll enjoy this weekend’s series. First up, though, I’d love to hear in the comments which niche you blog in (or if you’re a multi-topic blogger)—I’m hopeful that we’ll see an interesting cross-section of topics. To get us started, I blog in the amateur photography niche. What about you?

3 Do-at-Your-Desk Exercises to Avoid Becoming Chair Shaped

This guest post is by Dr. Kathryn Woodall of Indestructible Desk Jockey.

Do you spend a lot of time tickling the keyboard to crank out a blog? Then you’ll want to listen to this.

When you were a child, did your mother ever say, “Keep making that face and it’s gonna stay that way?” If you’re anything like me, you probably just brushed her off and stuck out your tongue.

Well it turns out your mom was right—sort of.

Your body has a remarkable ability to adapt to environmental stressors. We know this from weight training. Repeat a movement often enough with a challenging weight and the body grows new muscle. It adapts in such a way that the movement becomes easier to execute.

Trainers refer to this as SAID: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. But the thing most people miss, the flip-side of the SAID principle, is that same thing happens with any task we repeat over and over. Whether you want it to or not.

If you sit at a desk all day, it becomes easier and easier to stay that way. Your muscles and connective tissues adapt and the fascia becomes thick and leathery, until your body actually becomes chair-shaped. The same thing happens to your wrists when you spend a lot of time typing blog posts, texting on a mobile device, or playing video games. They adapt to that position.

The good news is, you can prevent these unwanted changes from becoming permanent by taking a couple minutes a day to perform these simple exercises.

Banish the desk jockey hunch

Very few people in our modern world are “hunch immune.” Commutes, conference tables, computer stations and La-Z-Boy chairs—they’re all conspiring to reshape us in their own image!

And it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. The more you hunch, the more your pecs and biceps tighten up, and the more you get pulled into that hunch… And yeah, this applies even if you usually blog in one of those overstuffed coffee shop chairs.

Thankfully, you can have a straight back again. It’s simply a matter of releasing tight tissues periodically throughout your day while simultaneously awaking and activating their “antagonists”—the muscles of the rear shoulder and upper back.

You’ll do this by lifting your rib cage up and forward, and then extending your mid spine to the back. Check out this video of the exercise so you can see how it’s done.

Keeping your thoracic region open and well balanced is a key to improving your overall wellbeing. You’ll breathe better by freeing up your lungs. You’ll look better—tall and proud—and people will interact with you differently. Your body language has a profound affect on your mood, so you’ll probably also notice an increase in positive feelings.

Best of all, you might find that chronic lower back and/or neck pain begins to fade away. Lack of mobility in the thoracic region can actually manifest as pain above or below those regions.

Release your shoulders

The Double Handcuff is a simple but effective release for your shoulders, and it’ll go a long way towards righting that forward hunched posture so typical of folks who spend their time writing for fun or profit.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Clasp your hands together behind your back.
  • Stand tall, with a neutral spine and maintain that alignment throughout.
  • Lift your shoulders to your ears, roll them back, and then drive your arms down towards the floor.
  • Hold this post for 30-40 seconds.
  • Check out this video demonstration of the movement.

You can practice the Double Handcuff throughout your day, and bang out a few each night to put the perfect polish on your evening.

Mobilize your wrists

This one’s easy. It’s pleasant. And it only takes a few minutes.

It’s also the most important exercise on this list if you spend more time googling and blogging than you do standing upright.

Just make a loose fist and circle your wrists through their full range of motion. First in one direction, then the other. Smooth out those “clunks” and work through the clicks and pops—as long as it doesn’t hurt. If you experience pain rather than discomfort, get yourself checked out by a competent health care practitioner.

You can see a video demonstration of the movement here, along with several other wrist releases. You’ll benefit from these whether you’re an accomplished typist or a thumb shuffling Blackberry belle. Just six to eight slow, smooth reps in each direction is enough to make progress. Even better if you can do them a few times during your day.

Some of these exercises will give the overworked blogger immediate relief. Others might require a bit of practice to make permanent changes to your “WordPress posture”. They really do make a difference. Give them a try.

Dr. Kathryn Woodall, DC is the author of Indestructible Desk Jockey. Dr. Woodall spent 15 years in private practice helping patients rediscover and maintain vibrant and healthy lives, and she now enjoys bringing that experience to a broader audience as an author and consultant. She published her first novel last year, and, when she isn’t writing, she enjoys exploring local trails with her dog or spending time with friends and family.