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Are You Wasting Time Guest Posting?

This guest post is by Dan Norris of Web Control Room.

Guest posting is up near the top of every list of ways to grow your blog. The problem is, if you don’t do it correctly, you are more or less wasting your time.

I’ve been writing guest posts for a long time as a way to build interest in my blogs. But until recently I’d never really looked specifically at the results. I’d been assuming, like a lot of bloggers, that I could just get published on some big blogs, and readers would come my way.

My new business, Web Control Room, is a free web app that allows tech savvy business owners to track all their important metrics in the one place. So part of my launch strategy is guest posting on popular blogs for small business owners and bloggers.

In the first few weeks of running my beta I was lucky enough to get published on three well-known industry blogs.

But after analyzing the results, I was shocked. The stats are shown below, “conversions” being the number of people who signed up to use the app in its beta stage.

  • Total visitors to my site: 67
  • Conversions: 2 (2.9%)

Those figures are for all three guest posts combined—about nine hours work for me!

As you can see, these results fall a long way short of what most people expect when writing guest posts. Not only is the traffic minuscule, the conversion rate was well below that from other sources (some were closer to 10%).

Two problems with guest posting

There are two things that are often forgotten by bloggers publishing guest posts.

  1. It’s hard to understand an audience when they aren’t your audience. This is a problem when you’re writing your first post on a blog—you really don’t know what is going to appeal to the audience.
  2. People don’t want to leave their favourite blogs to go back to yours—unless they have a really good reason to.

So if you don’t understand what the readers want, and they don’t want to leave the host blog to come back to yours anyway, what do you do?

In this post I’m going to give you five techniques you can use to directly address these problems, and stop wasting time guest posting.

1. Mention your blog or business

The first thing you absolutely must do in a guest post is mention your blog or business, ideally with a link back to your site. A lot of people forget this. I’ve read some exceptional posts in the past and arrived at the end of the article having no idea who wrote it or what they do. You’ve got to work this into the post, ideally near the start (like I did above).

Some blogs don’t like linking off to your site during the body of the post, but most will allow you to talk about your business if it’s used as an example in your post. If you aren’t talking about your business then you are probably writing generic, boring content anyway, so most good blogs will understand the need for you to do this.

If you mention your blog or business at the start, it will be at the back of the readers’ minds when they get to the end of the post, where there definitely should be a bio and link back to your site with a compelling pitch targeted to the readers of the host blog.

2. Take a case study approach

To take the first point a step further, why not write a post specifically about what you are doing in your business—a case study? Notice how in the intro above I mentioned specific results I got for guest posts I have written. That’s a small example. An even better one would be to make the entire post about work you have done in your business.

I recently wrote a guest post for Think Traffic, called Which traffic strategy converts best? This post was all about the traffic strategies I was implementing as part of my new business. Because it was about my business, people were naturally interested in checking out my site after they read the post. In fact, I suspect a lot of people going back to the site were simply doing so to see how the site was set up for conversions.

This particular guest post brought in over three times the number of visitors than all three posts I mentioned above combined, not to mention 40+ email subscribers it generated.

Most of the time, the main thing that’s unique about you is that you are the one running your business or blog. Anyone can write general stuff, but only you can write truly unique content with meaningful insights from the work you’ve done—and this is much more interesting than a generic top-ten list.

3. Be nice to the gatekeeper

Most large blogs have someone who manages the content, but who isn’t necessarily the face behind the blog. This person is used to seeing the same spammy guest post email day in, day out, and guest posters following the same standard approach of sending off their article and never returning to the host blog once it’s accepted.

As I mentioned before, it’s hard to get everything right with your first guest post. If you are just doing it for a backlink, there are quicker and easier ways to get the same result.

If you are doing it to legitimately provide value and engage with the audience, then you should do what the others don’t do, because your goal should be to write more articles for the site in the future—and better articles, too.

When I approach a host blog, I always do the following:

  1. In the back-and-forth emails prior to a post going live, I make sure I take the editor’s ideas on board. They will always know the audience better than you will. Ask them how they think the post will go or if there are any tweaks you can make to make it more appealing to the audience.
  2. When the post goes live, I do my best to promote it. Add your post’s link to blog directory sites, promote it relentlessly on social media, ask your friends to comment on it, promote it on forums, and more. Getting your first post is sometimes difficult, but blog owners will be more than happy to have you back if you prove you can drive traffic to their site.
  3. I send a follow-up email after the dust settles. Say you thought the post went well judging by the social shares and comments, but you’d love to hear from the editor what they thought, and how they think the post was received. Most people don’t do this, so it helps you stand out from the crowd. But it also helps you understand the audience better and do a better job with your next post.

4. Encourage comments and reply to each and every one

Towards the end of your post, ask a specific question of the reader and encourage them to reply with their answer. Then, after the post goes live, respond to each and every comment made on your post.

Quite often a lot of the best content comes out of the discussion at the end of a post, so blog owners like to see an active comment thread. If you don’t have anything to say in response to a comment, just say thanks!

There will also be more opportunities to discuss your business or blog with the readers in the comments, and that discussion will drive up the comment count on the post, to make your work stand out from others’. In some cases, the number of comments will impact on the popular post links on the site, so having more discussion could get you even more eyeballs if it gets you into that list. Needless to say, you’ll also certainly get the attention of the blog owner this way.

The comments will also teach you a lot about the audience. What level are they at in relation to the content? What sites do they run (check out a few as you reply to comments)? What did they like and dislike about your post? This will help you do a better job on your next post, because you’ll know the readers and have a better idea of what they will respond well to. Regular readers will also remember you and be much more likely to read and engage with your future posts.

5. Make it controversial (if you can)

This one is always a bit tricky. It’s hard to fabricate controversy, and I’m not suggesting you go out and offend people. But often, you can inject a little hint of controversy into your writing and if it’s done well, it’s sure to result in more shares and more comments.

On my last blog, my two most popular posts were:

  • one that outlined a five-step process for ridding yourself of Microsoft products
  • another that told business owners to stop focusing and used examples from some big companies like Apple and Google to support the idea—an suggestion that’s against most of what you read about business these days.

These posts expressed an opinion and were in some way a bit controversial, and that, no doubt, is why they were the most popular.

You can even use the title to drip in a bit of controversy. “Are you wasting time guest posting?” suggests that guest posting can be a waste of time, which is controversial. “5 guest posting tips” wouldn’t have the same appeal.

My post on Think Traffic explained 12 traffic strategies, and the one that converted the best for me was a Twitter auto-follow strategy that some readers weren’t too keen on. But you have to go back 11 posts on Think Traffic to find one that was shared more than mine, and the comments thread was also very active.

If you can be just a little bit controversial, your post becomes interesting, and content needs to be interesting to have an impact.

So are you wasting time guest posting?

I’ve talked about some of my best and worst guest posts in this article, and now I’d love to hear from you. Have you wasted time on unsuccessful guest posts? And if so, what did you learn to turn it around for future posts?

Dan Norris is the founder of Web Control Room a free tool that gives bloggers a simple report on the performance of their site. The app talks to popular services used by bloggers (Feedburner, Aweber, PayPal, Analytics etc) and simplifies the information into a 1 page live report available via the web or mobile.

5 Tools for Harnessing the Power of We #bad12

Today is blog action day, and this year’s theme is “The Power of We.” But for some of us, harnessing that power is a major challenge.

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Image courtesy stock.xchng user srpatel

One of the most common complaints of bloggers I speak to is that they want to collaborate more effectively with their audience members, customers, or readers, but also with other bloggers in their niche, industry leaders, mentors, and more.

To me, collaboration is as much about attitude and personality as it is about process. That said, tools can make a big impact on how well we collaborate. So many of us work alone, or with collaborators in different cities, regions, or timezones, that collaborative tools are a necessity.

So in this post I want to show you five common tools that we use to help us collaborate here at ProBlogger, and to show you how we use them. While we’re not exactly pushing the envelope in terms of the way we do things, I hope that these ideas might help you try some new approaches with your own collaboration, and prompt you to share your own tips with us in the comments.

1. Email—and email redirects

Like many bloggers, all my blogs’ email addresses were funnelled to my own email address for years. But as my blogs grew, that arrangement became less and less feasible—I became swamped with email, and managing reading and responses became a massive burden.

Despite that, I really believe email is a useful collaboration tool. It’s had some pretty bad press in the last few years, but it has many advantages—including the fact that it doesn’t require you to coordinate time with the person you’re emailing (like a call or IM does), and that most email programs store email, providing a handy archive of conversations that, again, aren’t always available for real-time conversations.

One thing I’ve done recently is to set up email redirects to various members of my team, so that they receive the emails they need to respond to directly, rather than having me forward them on. It sounds elementary, but for the solo blogger, handing over that level of control can be daunting. I’d recommend it, though—once you’ve trained up your team members so that they, and you, know what to expect from each other, this is a good way to streamline your processes.

It means that the people who approach my blogs as writers or collaborators get a quicker, more personal response, but it also means that I can spend the time I used to spend sifting email collaborating with others. For me, more efficient email management means I can focus on opportunities to collaborate.

2. Basecamp

My team uses Basecamp quite a bit, particularly in the process of creating products. For example:

  • To-do lists: we might use these to set and manage tasks associated with product development
  • Projects: we use the discussion-thread-style “Projects” to manage discussion around projects, though it’s often supplemented by email
  • Whiteboards: these can be handy for scoping and brainstorming product ideas and topics as a team.

Again, one of the benefits of Basecamp and tools like it is that your collaborators don’t need to be online simultaneously, so you can get a lot done without having to fit it into everyone’s schedules at the same time. It also provides an excellent record of the evolution of product ideas, strategy, or whatever you’re using it to discuss.

Combine Basecamp with something like Dropbox for exchanging really large files, and you have a good system for creating products collaboratively, wherever your colleagues are located.

3. Google Docs/Drive

Google Docs—or Google Drive, in its new incarnation—is another good tool for collaboration on posts (with authors and content managers), sales content (with marketers), and more.

Like email and Basecamp, Google Docs allows for solid collaboration over elapsed time, but importantly, it has a great real-time editing feature, that lets you collaborate with others simultaneously on the same document.

This can be especially handy in high-pressure situations—when you’re trying to nail your sales copy in the hours leading up to a product launch or announcement, for example. You might combine Google Chat (or some other IM tool—or even a live phone or Skype call) with real-time editing to explain your copy tweaks to your collaborator as you make them, then watch as they tweak your tweaks!

This can also apply to your collaboration with authors on posts, or even with your accountant on your budget spreadsheet. If you haven’t tried real-time editing yet, have a look and see how it might fit your collaborative style.

4. Skype and Call Recorder

My team uses Skype a fair bit, not just for meeting calls, but also as an instant messenger tool. Despite being slightly notorious for sound quality issues, we find Skype pretty reliable for collaborating in real time. Since most of my team members work from home, we can also usually arrange to meet within reasonably short notice if we need to. (Though if Skype’s being flaky, you can always try a Google Hangout instead.)

One of the tasks that Skype’s proved very handy for is content creation. We’ve used it, combined with the tool Call Recorder, many times to interview topic experts for blog posts and products we’ve created.

Recording interviews like this can give you a lot of material that you can reuse in posts and other content you’re developing—with the interviewee’s permission, of course. And that’s material you’d never remember from an unrecorded conversation, or be able to get through an emailed, Q-and-A-style interview.

5. Social media

You may not have been expecting this one to be on the list! But social media can be a great collaborative tool.

I’ve mentioned before that I use Google+ to engage with readers and others through longer form content than I can post on Facebook or Twitter, and Jade mentioned recently how we’re engaging with potential DPS contributors through Pinterest.

Engagement is the first step in collaboration. I’ve found a good number of authors through social media collaboration—and not just by contacting, or being contacted by, those people myself. Often my team members will spot something or someone on social media, DM me about it, and spark a collaboration that way.

The other advantage of social media has been as a collaborative content creation mechanism in itself—on G+ I’ll post an idea or perspective, get feedback and input from my connections on that network, build on those extra ideas, then use everything I’ve learned as the basis for a post on either ProBlogger or DPS.

I have a hunch that some bloggers still see social media as a promotional platform, and—at most—somewhere to engage with individual readers for a short period of real-time before they disappear into the ether again. But if you let it, social media can fit into your collaborative toolset in a really productive, rich way.

Harnessing the power of we

These are just five tools that my team and I use to harness the power of we on an ongoing basis. If you’ve heard about certain tools, and think they might be helpful for you, but haven’t give them a try yet, I’d really encourage you to do so.

You don’t have to commit yourself to them for life, but if you can just give them a go, you might discover that they do a lot to help you harness the power of we with collaborators around your blog.

What tools—or other offline approaches—are you using to harness the power of we in your blogging? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Are Your Recurring Blogging Tasks Making You Crazy?

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

What’s the one similarity between these blogging tasks?

  • approving comments on your blog
  • proofreading posts
  • writing and preparing your post to be published (finding images, SEO, setting tags and categories, and so on)
  • keeping yourself up to date with social media
  • writing guest posts
  • recording a video and uploading it to YouTube.

You don’t know?

All those tasks are recurring tasks and you do them again and again. Unfortunately, no matter how tedious these tasks may sometimes be, they just have to be done in order to keep your blogging wheels turning.

On the other hand, these recurring tasks eat valuable time from other blogging-related tasks, for instance, from building your email list, creating relationships with other bloggers, or creating your own products and services.

A tricky situation, isn’t it?

Do you know what you did today?

The feeling of poor productivity—even if you work a lot—can be strong if you don’t know what blogging tasks you did, when you did them, and how long it took to do them.

If you don’t have any stats on how long, on average, it takes to approve the comments on your blog, write a guest post, or record a YouTube video, then your blogging habits aren’t as effective as they could be. Also, planning your next day’s blogging task list is going to be difficult.

This knowledge is crucial if you want to make a steady progress with your blogging and get the tasks done on time. Especially if you have a very limited “time-budget” available (you’re working full-time, you have a family, etc.), you should know the best way to spend your time.

Having those tracking stats in a document in front of you is a real eye-opener for many people. If you don’t know how you spend your blogging time and you still feel unproductive even if you work hard, then you should change your attitude towards time tracking—right this very minute!

Put your productivity into the fast lane

Time tracking is, first, about gathering raw statistics. Gather the time you spend on various blogging tasks for a several days.

Second, do some detailed analysis on the data you’ve gathered. Analyze the tasks and how much time you spend on each, on average.

Third, use that data to plan your next day.

For instance, if you are going to write a post for your blog tomorrow, then take a look at the stats you have and see how well that time block fits your next day’s schedule.

Very quickly, you’ll learn how to be realistic about your next day’s planning. It’s useless to have ten tasks on your list if you’re only able to complete four of them by the end of the day.

With the data showing you how much time you spend on the common blogging tasks, you’ll become more realistic with your day planning.

3 steps to a sense of accomplishment

1. Stop assuming you know how you work

Gather the facts that show how you spend your blogging time. I bet you’ll be surprised to learn more about your blogging habits when they’re right there before you.

2. Log the time used

To gather an effective time log, take the following steps.

Make a list

First, list your common recurring blogging tasks and create a document that contains them all.

For instance, I have various tasks in my document, like writing a guest post, writing posts for my own blog, recording a YouTube video, uploading a YouTube video, approving comments on my blog, replying to comments on my guest posts, proofreading posts, and so on.

Track your time

Write down the following for the next seven days:

  • the type of task
  • the date when you did the task
  • the amount of time it took you to accomplish a task
  • any special conditions that helped you to do the task faster, easier, or better.

Once you have the data gathered, count the average amount of time for your different tasks.

For instance, if you write guest posts, you could see the pattern how much on average you’ll spend on the writing. When I take a look at my time log, I see that it takes approximately an hour for me to write a guest post.

Understand that there are certain tasks which you can do faster

For instance, I listen to music when I write, when I approve comments on my blog or on guest posts I have written. Why? Because my time tracking experiments have shown that that helps me to do those tasks more quickly.

With simple improvements like this, you can make your recurring task faster (and easier) than before.

Set time boundaries

You can also decrease the time it takes you to complete tasks by setting clear boundaries on them.

For instance, I’m using a 15 minute time block for my daily Twitter usage. This means I’m not spending hours on Twitter or on Facebook and then wondering where my hours went.

3. Automate

Why not automate your time tracking? Try using a tool like RescueTime, which keeps track of how much time you spend on productive activities, what applications you used on your computer, and which websites you accessed during your work.

this is just my recommendation, but there are plenty of tools out there. Just give one a test-run to see if it’s a good fit for you or not.

Your time is valuable

Recurring tasks are usually tedious—yet mandatory—tasks that have to be taken care of.

To make your time usage more effective, track these tasks and understand how much you time you spend on them.

When you track your time usage, it is much easier for you to plan your days—and sometimes even decrease the amount of time you use for those tedious blogging tasks.

Do you track the time you use for repeating blogging tasks? What tools do you use for that activity? Have you found tracking to be effective way to improve your blogging productivity? Share your experiences with us in the comments.

Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, teaches WAHD superdad productivity for work at home dads. If you want to improve your blogging productivity, grab his free e-book, 61 Ways for Supercharging Blogging Productivity.

Create a Professional Blog Logo on a Budget

This guest post is by Samuel of Internet Dreams.

I am a logo hunter! What that means is I almost always stop and look at a new site’s logo. Almost like shooting at it, but with my eyes!

Believe it or not, this now has a profound influence on whether or not I feel I am going to enjoy reading the new blog, or want to check out this new site.

The logo of a site is like the cover image on that new blockbuster movie on the block. As the design of a blog is important in a visitor’s eyes, the logo is that cherry to the top of the ice cream.

Because a logo can have a profound effect on a user, I decided to create beautiful looking logo for my blog. It was tough to think about how I was going to create it, though.

I thought of creating the logo myself, but I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to be able to create one I liked.

But that thought changed down the road, as you will read later on.

A novel solution

Many times, your creations, such as a new design or a new article, you won’t really like. This is fine, since the sense others get from seeing our creative projects is different from ours.

To solve the problem, I decided to hire a designer to design a new logo for me. Nope, the logo didn’t cost me a million bucks. All I did was get a design idea for only five dollars from fiverr.com.

I am not going to lie to you: I did not get a fully done, professional logo out of the box, just for five dollars! But I got the idea and the design layout from Fiverr, and it was worth every single penny.

I will show you step by step how to get this done, and how you can do this yourself without another designer’s help. Note that you will need to have some sort of knowledge of Photoshop to use this technique—but if you don’t, I’ve included some resources to help below.

1. Find a graphic designer using the reviews

This step could be the hardest part of the process. It’s important to make sure you hire a credible designer who gets the job done.

When I look for designers on Fiverr, I usually first send a message to the designer to gauge their interest. If they respond pretty quickly, I know the communication is going to be fine.

My designer

As you’re reviewing designers on Fiverr, look for the designer’s rating, and look at the reviews of that individual at the bottom of their profile.

2. Tell the designer what you are looking for.

You need to tell the designer what you want. Try to be as accurate as tell them as much as you can.

Tell them your ideas, because they will definitely need those ideas for their outline. But also tell them the colors and size you want, and give them some concept for the design—such as “excitement” or an object related to your blog.

This is the message I sent to the logo designer to explain what I was looking for:

Name: Internet Dreams

There will be no description for the logo. I prefer it be a text logo that is creative in a way. I really like a minimal design with the letters being the main focus. Design it dreamy in a way, but not too light either.

The color blue is the primary option. Experiment with different colors if you want. This is the website it is going on. Please try to make it stand out from that greybackground.

Message me with any questions, and thank you for doing this! :)

3. Don’t expect it to look perfect, since you’ll finish the design yourself.

You are paying this designer only five dollars. Don’t expect them to do the whole work and make a design worth hundreds like the other top logos out there. Remember, you get what you pay for on Fiverr.

I worked with the designer till the outline was exactly how I wanted it to be. This is how I received my “finished” logo from my Fiverr designer:

The first logo

There’s not much color or texture in the initial design. But the concept of the design is what I really liked. So I took it from there myself!

4. Make the logo look professional with limited Photoshop skills

After receiving your initial design, always thank the designer for his fine job. A designer has certain skills in first thinking up the outline of a certain logo. So, thank him and give him a good review of his work.

Now, it’s your job to finalize the logo!

The final logo

Don’t freak out, or think you have to be a Photoshop guru. All you are going to do from here is select a font that you like, and add it anywhere on your logo.

The cloud in my logo is what I added to make it more “dreamy.” Also I enhanced the look of the bubbles by using a free PSD created by a graphic artist.

If you don’t have great Photoshop skills, have a look at PsdTuts+. This is the website that I have learned many Photoshop skills from.

How’s your logo looking?

Nothing about this is hard. I am no expert in Photoshop, but I did learn some techniques along the way. Trust me: having a few basic skills in the use of Photoshop is worth it.

Your logo is the brand image of your blog. Many people will recognize your site by the logo you have on it. Not only the logo will be created by you, but also other aspects of the design of your blog will need to be enhanced, and you can do it with those basic skills.

If you do run into some problems on your end and do not feel comfortable to use Photoshop yourself, then that isn’t a problem either. There plenty of places on the internet where graphic designers are waiting to finish your work.

Or, just hire the same designer again from Fiverr, and let them finish the job. It’s your choice!

Have you done any designing yourself for your own blog? If you did, tell us how it went in the comments.

The online world can be a very complicated place. There is too much information all over! My name is Samuel and I own Internet Dreams. Internet Dreams is a place where you can engage and learn how to set up and succeed with your blog or site. Internet Dreams talks about SEO, blogging, social media, and much more….. Follow Internet Dreams on Facebook!

Find Your Voice: Blog Like You’re In a Closet

This guest post is by Brian Lund of bclund.

Writing a niche blog is all the rage these days, but they require a different type of content than is typical of a “mass audience” blog. And that content can be hard to come up with.

However, there is a simple, though not necessarily obvious trick you can use to help produce consistent, quality, personal content that people really want to read, and which will eventually garner your blog a much larger audience. It took me five years to figure it out, but you are going to learn about it in the time it takes to read this post.

Learning from experience

Way back in 2006, I decided that I was going to start writing a blog.  It was free, seemed easy, and all the cool kids were doing it.

The subject of the blog was ostensibly the stock market and my original idea was to have it act as an online journal highlighting the stocks that I traded. I worked very hard at it, making sure to make a post every day, and supplementing my commentary with charts and graphics.

And it was horrible. I mean really, really bad.

As a novice, I was unaware of resources like ProBlogger, or important blogging concepts like actually writing coherent content!  In retrospect my blog was literally unreadable, filled with monolithic blocks of unformatted drivel.

It was flat.  Sterile.  Uninspired and lacking personality or character.  Too structured.  Too stiff.  And worse than that, there was nothing about my blog that set it apart from the thousands of other traders who were writing similar (and better) blogs. 

It was the written equivalent of beige paint.

After about two years, I finally gave up.  Over that period of time I think I was only able to attract two subscribers to my feed, one of which was probably my mom, and the other a psycho ex-girlfriend who wanted to cyber-stalk me.

Don’t try to find it now because I took it down, deleted the files, and crushed the actual hard drives from the company that hosted my site to make sure no trace remained. I wrote blogs off as “stupid” and “a waste of time” and continued on with my life, angry and bitter that the public at large failed to recognize the obvious brilliance of my writing.

Blogging in the closet

Fast-forward to the fall of 2011.

For the first time in years I seemed to have some extra free time, and the thought of devoting that time to watching television did not seem very exciting or worthwhile to me.  And for some reason, the idea of trying to write a blog again kept popping back into my head.

At first I hesitated because I feared that the same thing would happen as before: I would spend a ton of time and effort and get little in return.  But then something occurred to me that I had never seriously thought about when writing my original blog: who was I writing it for anyway?

I pondered that question for a while until I realized that I was really writing my blog for me, and only for me.  The problem was that this attitude was not reflected in my writing style, which was why my content was so awful.

Though the blog was for me, I wrote it in a way that I thought other people would want to see it written, based upon what I thought their sensibilities and expectations were.  I limited myself to what I thought they wanted to read about, and in the process lost any part of me in my blog. That is when I decided to play a little trick on myself.

I decided to write my new blog as if I was in a closet. 

Okay, to put it more clearly: I decided to blog like nobody would ever read any of my posts except me.

That small shift in my perception was at once liberating and exhilarating.  I began to sense a ne0-found freedom to write in a real and at times emotional way that I had previously refrained from for fear of what others might think.

I now felt free to write posts that were humorous or sad.  Posts that resonated or missed the mark completely.  Posts that were honest.  That bled.  That showed who Brian Lund really was.

I immediately wrote my first on-topic post, “10 Golden Rules To Blowing Your Trading Account Out” and tweeted it into the StockTwits network.   It was a raw, risqué, but funny list post that I would never have attempted on my old blog, and it got a reaction right away.

Comments, those strange creatures unknown to me previously, started to come in.  I suddenly had new followers on Twitter and even got emails from people telling me how much they enjoyed the post.

This “success” fuelled me and I started to write on a regular basis, always reminding myself of the virtual closet I was in.  Whenever I started to question what I wrote, I’d say to myself, “What does it matter? You are the only one who will ever read it.”

After a while, I got confident enough to write an off-topic post entitled “How To Bring A Loved One Back From The Dead.” This was my most personal post at the time, and it got an even greater response than any before it.

Then one day, out of the blue, I got a call from the executive editor of the StockTwits Blog Network.  Not only had he been following my blog, but he liked it and asked me if I was interested in joining the network, where my blog resides now.

Being the real you

In the first three months of my renewed blogging efforts I got more pageviews than I could ever have imagined during the two fruitless years I spent on my old blog. They have continued to climb ever since.

But more important than that, by “blogging in a closet” I was eventually able to find my natural writing voice, which has allowed me to connect with readers in a way that has created trust, loyalty, and an honest interaction that never would have been possible previously.

Have you similarly “come out” to your readers by getting into the blogging “closet”? Tell us how you connect best in the comments.

Brian is a active trader who blogs about the intersection of markets, trading, and life (with some punk rock, pop culture, and off-beat humor mixed in) at bclund on the StockTwits Network. You can also follow Brian on Twitter.

Good Blogs Take Time

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the course of my blogging career, it’s that good blogs take time.

If you’re run off your feet, and struggling to find space to do all the things your blog demands of you, that’s probably not what you wanted to hear.

But in my experience, it’s true.

There is no overnight success

Blogging superstars aren’t made overnight. Look at any of the heavy hitters in your niche, and I’ll guarantee they weren’t born yesterday. Even if they’ve only entered the blogosphere recently, if they’re already experiencing success, you can bet they’re leaning on a wealth of past experience with your niche, or a related niche, or with technology. Probably all three.

It takes time to get the kind of experience that gives you authority. It takes time to get to know your audience, and understand their needs. And it takes time to find the best way to meet that need with your skills.

There are tactics that you can apply to your blog to fast-track your progress. But it’s important to realize first, that these tactics take time in themselves, and second, that while they might advance your progress in some area—and that’s great!—they’re unlikely to rocket you to blogging superstardom, complete with mega-income.

There are many pieces in the blogging puzzle, not a magic bullet.

Experience pays

If that seems disheartening, you’ll be happy to hear that there is a bright side.

All the time you put into blogging will pay off.

When I say “blogging,” I’m not just talking about learning to use advertising or gain subscribers or write great posts. I’m talking about everything your blog inspires you to do, from holding events and meetups, to interviewing the leading lights in your niche, to creating products or selling services, to making new friends and contacts.

All of it pays off. I really do believe that blogging can enrich us as people if we let it, and a blogger with a broad perspective and a considered approach based on real-world know-how is in a great position to achieve things not just through their blog, but in their lives as a whole.

The thing is, getting that experience takes time. That’s what experience is: time invested in a particular task or set of tasks. If we see the work our blogs demand of us as an investment, rather than a simple expenditure of time we could spend elsewhere, that can help us channel our energies, but also give our blogging the energy—and time—it deserves.

Enjoy the journey

I’ve found that if I worry about the time I’m spending on various blogging tasks, all I feel is stressed!

If I let myself become immersed in those tasks, and really focus on what I’m doing rather than how long it’s taking, that’s when I get the chance to learn, ask questions, investigate, and practice. For me, that’s what makes what I do enjoyable. And that, in turn, is what’s let me get the experience I’ve gained over the last ten years or so. To me, that experience is invaluable.

What bloggers do really is part of a journey—there’s no end-point. It’s all part of our experience. So why rush it? Why try to push forward to an arbitrary “success metric” when we know that what matters is our experience, and experience takes time?

Are you trying to rush your blogging journey? Or are you prepared to give your blog and yourself the time it—and you—need?

How to Improve Workflow in a Multi-Author WordPress Blog

This guest post is by Syed Balkhi of WPBeginner.

Running a multi-author blog can become a hassle, especially if you do not have a dedicated content manager for your site.Having run several multi-author blogs myself, I understand the issues you face and decisions you have to make.

If you’re running a multi-author blog, you may have asked yourself questions like, should I give the writer access to my WordPress dashboard? Is it secure? How do I monitor their activities to see they aren’t messing up my website? How do I improve my workflow?

In this article, I will share my personal experience in managing a collaborative WordPress site safely and effectively.

The “t” in “team” is also for “trust”

If you want to improve your workflow, then you will have to give your writers access to your WordPress dashboard. Otherwise, you will find yourself copying and pasting a lot of elements from a Word Document into your WordPress dashboard, attaching images, adding styling elements, and so on.

Fortunately, WordPress comes with numerous user roles with various permission levels.

user capability

If you look at the charts above, the two permission levels that make the most sense for multi-author blogs are Contributor and Author.

The biggest issue with Contributors is that they can’t attach images because they do not have the ability to upload files. Since you want your authors to have the ability to upload and attach images to their articles, you will want to give them Author-level permissions.

The big issue with that is that it gives them the ability to publish posts, delete posts, edit published posts, and so on. While I trust all of my authors, I don’t want things to go live without going through an editorial review. So I don’t want them to have this capability.

The good thing about WordPress is that there is a plugin for just about everything. You can use a popular plugin called Members to modify the capabilities of the Author role. Once you install the plugin, go to Users > Roles and modify the Author role. Your final permissions settings should look something like this:

The roles editor

As you notice, the only abilities we’ve given Authors here are editing posts, reading posts, and uploading files.

Security and monitoring

In the past, I have seen hackers trying brute force attacks through the login page. Because each author’s URL contains their username, they only have to guess the password for an author to get access to your site. What’s worse is if your author has used the same password elsewhere, and the hacker knows this.

To prevent this kind of attack, the first thing you need to do is to limit the number of failed login attempts. This means that after three failed login attempts, the user will be locked out.

The second thing you need to do is make sure that you use the plugin Force Strong Passwords. To monitor users’ activity, you can use plugins like Audit Trail or ThreeWP Activity Monitor.

Last, but certainly not least, make sure that you have a strong WordPress backup solution in place. Of course there are other security measures you can take to protect your site in other ways, but these are the ones that are specific to multi-author blogs.

Improving your workflow

A good editorial workflow can make things a lot easier. The key to a good workflow is communication. I use a plugin called Edit Flow to make things easy for me.

The first step is to define the stages of your workflow. My workflow looks like this:

  • Draft: default auto-saved posts, or any un-assigned posts
  • Pitch: when an author pitches a post idea
  • Assigned: the editor or admin assigns the post idea to a specific author
  • In progress: the author puts the article in this mode so everyone knows that someone is working on it
  • Pending review: once the author finishes the post, they submit it for an editorial review.
  • Ready to publish: once the editorial review is complete, we make the post Ready to publish. From there, I or another admin can take a look at it and schedule it for publication.

This workflow makes the process really easy, especially when we have a lot of writers. This plugin comes with default statuses, but you can always add your custom post statuses.

The best part is that you can sort posts by the custom status. Changing the status is extremely simple.

Custom status

You can also use the Edit Flow plugin to communicate with the author from within your dashboard. This makes the communication part really easy, and prevents you juggling through emails. Also, when assigning posts to a specific author, you can set deadlines in the Editorial Meta Data option.

The plugin also gives you a convenient month-by-month calendar-view of posts. This lets you know if you have a post scheduled for a specific day or not.

Calendar view

A private area just for contributors

Over time I have learned that I don’t have to do everything myself. I can assign tasks to trusted folks in my team. The best way to establish this trust and find out who is the right person for the job is by judging their interest level. Setting up a private area just for your team members can help you determine that.

I recommend that you set up a site with P2 theme and invite your team members and authors there. Password-protect the site, so only logged-in users can see the content. And when an author stands out in this environment, you can promote them to an Editor or another position within your business.

What’s your workflow process? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Feel free to share your tips and tricks for multi-author blogging, too.

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

Write For Your Customers, Not Your Peers

This guest post is by Laura Roeder of LKR Social Media Marketer.

Think about your last ten clients. Did they hire you because they have the same level of knowledge and experience that you do? Or did they choose to work with you because of your expertise?

My guess is that they fall into the second camp: your customers look up to you because you’re farther ahead than they are. They expect you to provide them with advice and guidance to help them move forward in life and business.

Knowing this, why are so many blogs speaking to their industry and not their customers? You’ve seen it, and you’ve probably been guilty of it—posts filled with jargon and industry news. Maybe it seems like the articles your customers need are too simple: that information’s basic, it’s been written about before, and therefore, it’s not valuable.

Too many businesses err on the side of writing what they find to be useful or valuable, not what their clients need to know most.

Let’s use an example from my business, LKR Social Media. Our customers are people who learning the ropes of using social media for their businesses.

Because social media is our world, we know all the jargon, all the nuances, all the basics. It would be easy to gloss over some of the simpler setup details in our tutorial-style posts because we could make an assumption that everyone already knows how to do them. But, based on who our customers are, we can’t make that assumption!

We make sure that we always break down each topic to its simplest steps, making it easy for business owners at all levels to implement what we are teaching. We don’t assume that you already know how to set up a Facebook page, or mention someone on Twitter, or use RSS.

So, how do you ensure that you are writing for your customers, and not your peers?

1. Avoid jargon or technical terms

Use clear, concise language that everyone can understand. You do not need to use jargon or fancy terms to come across as an expert; simply blogging regularly and providing valuable information will accomplish that.

2. Break how-tos into action steps

Don’t assume that just because you know how to do something, everyone else does too. Break down instructions into simple action steps that someone just starting out on your topic can follow.

3. Write your posts for one person, not your entire audience

You might find it strange to think about singling one person out to write to in your posts. But the value in speaking to one person instead of a group is that usually, most people are sitting down, alone, to read your blog. There probably isn’t a huge group of your followers crowded around a laptop in a coffee shop all reading it together. For example, write “you” instead of “you guys.” The same goes for video blogs: speak to a single viewer, not to your entire audience.

If you find, after reading this, that much of your blog content was actually written for your peers (people at your level) versus your customers, that’s okay! It’s not too late to start. For your next blog post, keep these three pointers in mind to help you write content that will help your customers.

You’ll start to notice if this strategy is working by looking at a few key analytics:

  • how long people are staying on your site
  • how many articles they are clicking through to read in one sitting
  • whether you are getting more subscriptions to your email list
  • whether you are generating more sales.

Increased numbers in these areas are sure signs that you’re writing for the right crowd.

Laura Roeder, founder of LKR Social Media Marketer, is a social media marketing expert who teaches small businesses how to become welcome-known and claim their brand online. Follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook!

Behind Every Great Blogger is an Even Greater Voice

Much is said of the great content that is required to become a great blogger.

None of it matters if you don’t have a great voice.

Great bloggers don’t settle for great content. Great bloggers understand that how you deliver your message is just as important as the message itself. Your voice has to resonate through a sea of white noise before its message will reach the market. You have to be memorable.

The opposite of being memorable is being forgettable. And unfortunately, many bloggers have this down to a fine art. They lack a voice that lends authenticity to their words.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If you pen the world’s greatest article and no one cares enough to read it, does it make an impression?

You may think that what you have to say is special. So special that the world should stand and marvel, but it won’t. It never will. Your voice—the charisma and authenticity that oozes from your words—is the difference between a reader that is engaged in your brand and a reader that nods at your post before disappearing never to be seen again.

Great bloggers lend identity to their work.

It’s the voice that readers fall in love with. Some bloggers have the knack of writing about anything and making it exhilarating on our eyeballs. That is because they’re in sync with their brand. We can hear their words as if spoken to us personally.

Position your brand correctly

How consistent is your voice? How easily can somebody, who may simply be passing through your blog, get a sense of your character, your position in the industry, and your value to the scarce few minutes in their day?

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “The first duty in life is to form a pose.”

We all create a mask, an identity in our heads that embodies what we hope to become, what we aspire to be. If you haven’t got this far, and if you haven’t assumed a pose, how can you expect your readers to remember what you stand for?

Great bloggers form a pose!

Your first job is to answer that pivotal question: “What do I stand for?” Once you know what you stand for, you must transmute those principles in to your writing.

How can we turn a blog in to a glowing beacon that relays our message to any passing mortal who stumbles across it? Well, there are four poses we can form that make this association easy for the reader.

  1. The industry expert
  2. The industry commentator
  3. The industry fun-poker
  4. The average industry joe.

Positioning your brand correctly means knowing the difference between each pose. I’m sure we’ve all seen plenty of examples of brand positioning gone wrong.

Have you seen the “expert” who can barely spell? He who takes more pleasure in bragging about his playboy lifestyle than in lending any information of credit to his chosen industry?

Or how about the comedian who tries to entertain readers with endless quips that are never funny? You can visit this author’s blog for plenty of that.

I’m sure some readers will object to the idea that their shtick needs to be pigeonholed. I hear it time and time again. “There’s no category for what I write about! It’s the noise that occupies my imagination! I can’t be stereotyped!” Well, no offence, but that’s just stupid. Stupid and wrong.

It’s not a crime to write about the unmoderated wackiness of your imagination (although I suggest you confine such brainfarts to a journal). But it certainly is a crime to expect somebody else to stumble across your erratic collection of thoughts and come away with a lasting opinion that isn’t, “Damn, what happened to the last 15 minutes? How do I get them back?”

Failing to moderate your own content is the fast lane to mediocrity. Your mother may still read it, of course. Whose doesn’t? But the rest of us? I’m afraid we’re too busy—busy watching paint dry.

If you want people to remember you, better yet to save a moment in their busy packed schedules to listen out for your voice, you must optimize your memorability. Now there’s a new industry!

Let me introduce you to four characters that are time-proven assistants to your readers. They help every reader that ever passes through your blog to make a snap decision about whether you are worth following.

The industry expert

The blogosphere would be a much better place if every fledgling writer didn’t attempt to achieve expert status from day one.

I’ve noticed that many new bloggers just love to brand themselves as experts. Nine times out of ten, it is completely without merit. Some of the worst offenders are music bloggers.

Take Pitchfork as an example. Pitchfork is considered to be an industry expert for the alternative music scene. It has a very distinctive voice.

Have you ever read a Pitchfork album review? It’s like a scrabble contest to see who can pluck the most pretentious sounding adverb out of his backside. Somehow it works because Pitchfork—for better or worse—has carved a reputation as an authority source. The writers are qualified to deliver what we expect of them: fluffy, metaphorical nonsense.

However, take your typical unwashed 17 year-old kid who thinks his English C grade qualifies him to preach to the music industry from a holier than thou pedestal, and it’s not going to be pretty. It’s going to get downright “LiveJournal” in here, and fast.

Posing as an expert in a field where you are quite clearly just a fan is not going to win you any blogging awards. You will instead become a living, breathing case study of Mr. His Own Biggest Fan, the pompous know-it-all. That guy we read from time to time to laugh at, but never with.

Let me give you a tip. The secret to posing as an industry expert is to have some bloody credentials to begin with. You don’t need to be the smartest mind in your industry. But you do need to know more than 95% of your readers, which is surprisingly easy if you dedicate time to your craft.

The best tool for the industry expert, besides promotable credentials, is social proofing. Has your writing been featured on major sites that you can slap under a banner labeled “As seen on…”? Are you making any radio or podcast appearances that can be crowbarred in to a Media section to suggest noteworthiness?

The industry expert must leverage the psychological tools at his disposal to make us look up to him. Before we ever subscribe to an industry expert’s blog, we must respect him. Without respect, his pose is worthless.

The industry commentator

We have grown very used to our information sensors being bombarded on a daily basis. Information is constantly at our fingertips. It’s on the web, on our mobile devices, on television, in the newspaper, and spewing from the mouths of our friends and family.

There is a growing demand for The Industry Commentator. He is the soul brave enough to sift through all the news and views at our disposal, and then condense them in to a bite-size portion that we can devour in one sitting.

Curators of great content and interesting information are worth their weight in gold. They save us time, energy and eyeball fuel. We cling to their blogs because we can’t bring ourselves to confront the overfilling RSS reader of all those sites we promised to keep up with.

So, what makes a great industry commentator?

Once again, the voice is crucial. Industry commentators have a special skill for taking the goings-on of the world and rephrasing them to provide a simple resolution: “What’s in it for me?

All of the most popular tech bloggers have carved their reputations not by reporting what is happening in Silicon Valley, but by telling us why it matters. How might it change our lives?

In 2010, Mike Arrington sold TechCrunch, the world’s largest and most influential tech blog for a figure upwards of $25million. TechCrunch was (and still is) a success because it condensed and curated the madness of Silicon Valley in to small posts that somebody sitting on the other side of the world could live through.

Did we have to sift over hundreds of startup pitches and press releases to find the one nugget of information that meant something to our lives? No, because TechCrunch did it for us. This form of curating is vastly under appreciated, and yet it is the driving force behind many of the world’s most successful blogs.

If you want to build a blog as an industry commentator, you must be in touch with the core concerns of your market. What matters in their lives?

This question, and only this, should determine what gets published on your WordPress and what gets trashed for another day. If you attempt to curate your industry with information that means nothing to the people that matter, your value will be remarkably similar: Mr. Who?

Selective, interesting insights are the way forward if industry commentating is your calling.

The industry fun-poker

I often wonder why bloggers take their work so seriously. One of the easiest ways to slice through the white noise and produce content that matters is to poke fun. There is a constant demand for fun content that offers us a brief moment of escapism.

It’s fun-poking content that so often ignites virally and ends up plastered across our Facebook feeds. Why is that? It’s because people have enough serious in their day already.

Is there a better example than The Oatmeal? Penned by Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal taps in to the public frequency with sketches that satirize popular culture—and inevitably end up slapped across our Facebook walls. One look at popular posts such as “What it’s like to own an Apple product,” and “How a web design goes straight to hell,” and it’s clear that Inman is a master of poking fun.

Inman hasn’t even confined himself to a single industry! 20 million page views per month say it all. The hits don’t lie. Laughter sells.

Regular well-crafted content that stirs a smile, or better yet a laugh, is tough to write. It demands a voice that is both powerful and authentic.

Whether it’s satire, sarcasm or slapstick brilliance, very few writers have the ability to pull off humour and make it work. Perhaps more importantly, a bad writer who walks the fine line and tumbles is likely to ruin his reputation in doing so. Badly timed humour ranks up there with our wannabe expert in the cringe worthy stakes.

I strongly recommend you avoid becoming the industry fun-poker unless you have a razor-sharp wit and a thick skin (others will be quick to take aim at you).

On the flip side, those who are talented and skilled at poking fun in their industry make for some of the most entertaining reads in the blogosphere. If you have the talent, you will make a name for yourself quickly.

The average industry joe

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all successful bloggers adopt expert or aspirational status. Often the messages that touch us most dearly are those penned by the Average Joe.

If you can pinpoint the archetypal reader in your market, you can then turn your blog in to an ode to that character’s hopes, concerns and dreams. By doing so, you will leverage the power of being “one of the people.” You need only look to every presidential race in history to see what lengths politicians will go to in pursuit of the “man of the people” tag. It’s worth its weight in gold.

As much as we enjoy being sucked in to the leader-to-many relationship that guru bloggers thrive by, we are just as susceptible to those who do a fantastic job of branding themselves as voices of the crowd.

Do you remember the controversial flurry of “fake blogs” two years ago where marketers would write user-submitted tales of “how I dropped 30lbs in 4 weeks“, or “how I make $497/hour working from home“?

These blogs, scandalous as they were, tapped into a timeless psychological flaw where we place more value in what people just like us are saying. It means more when it comes from somebody who lives across the street, than it does from an expert who we share no common ground with.

I’m not suggesting you adopt a voice of outright deceit. But remember that there’s only one thing more inspiring than the rags-to-riches tale of an Internet stranger, and that’s the rags-to-riches tale of an Internet stranger who looks, acts, and thinks just like yourself.

There is an entire industry built around the concept of Work At Home Moms that stands as testament to how “ordinary” you can be while still speaking for a huge and significant crowd. The most successful WAHM bloggers are famous not because they set out to change the world, but because they relate to a huge number of readers and provide inspiration for everyday living.

You don’t need to be spectacular to be widely read. Spectacularly engaging will do.

One particular word of advice that will fare you well: those who can put in to elegant words what their peers can only feel intuitively in their heads will always inspire and captivate. If you possess this gift, use it. Let your blog become the voice of expression that readers can link to and say, “I agree with that guy.”

The average industry joe fights the corner of his market so that the crowd does not have to. They need only link to his thoughts. He is the beating heart of the market. He knows what makes his readers tick and he has a voice that spells their thoughts better than they ever could in a Facebook status or tweet. That is a powerful voice.

Finding your voice

An expert, a comedian, a curator, or a conveyor of public sentiment, it matters very little what position you decide on for your brand. Your objective remains the same:

Form a pose and hold it.

Decide on the message you want to promote and dress your blog for that purpose. Every personality trait, every post written, every hastily scribbled comment at 1am must align to the image you want the world to embrace.

It’s only when you find a memorable voice that your readers can decide whether they want to hear more of it. And guess what? Not everybody will. That’s okay. It’s a compliment!

Will you be stereotyped? Absolutely.

Will you satisfy everybody? Let me put it this way. If you do, not enough people are reading.

If your writing is so personal that it comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, you should probably stick to a bedroom journal in the dead of night. There is not a recognised blogger in the world that can claim to be so special that everybody loves his work.

The truth is, the blogosphere is growing fast. Competition for eyeballs is getting fierce. Our attention span for unknown bloggers is fleeting like never before. I’m pretty sure even my next-door neighbour’s cat can be seen taking time out of chasing mice to update WordPress. Everybody is doing it!

If he’s blogging, and I’m blogging, and you’re blogging, and 321,000 ProBlogger subscribers are also blogging, who is going to read any of what we have to say? People don’t have time to read between the lines, assess your character, weigh up what it means, and invest in whatever that might be. There’s enough decision fatigue in the world already.

Readers want your past, present and future handed to them on a plate. They want to know what you can do for their lives, and how quickly you can do it. For that reason, a stereotype driven by a powerful memorable voice is your best friend.

I challenge you now to answer, in one sentence, “What does my voice stand for?

And if you don’t know, why should I? Why should anybody? Find your voice and you will find an audience.

Martin Osborn is the editor of the affiliate marketing blog, Finch Sells. He is a 24-year-old entrepreneur with over 10 years’ experience in the fine art of wasting time online. You can download his Affiliate Marketing 2012 Survival Kit for free.