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Five Newsworthy Stories for Your Next Press Release

This guest post is by Frank Strong of Vocus.

Most bloggers understand that online press releases can drive traffic. Press releases are powerful ways to reach people through search. As Lee Odden wrote in his book Optimize, “search is an explicit expression of need or want” and online press releases provide the means to reach people at the precise time they are expressing that need. This of course can result in one thing many bloggers desire the most: traffic.

ProBlogger has offered reasons to use press releases to promote a blog, and very sound editorial guidance on how to turn a press release into a blog post. However, there’s one piece of insight that’s missing: idea.

In other words, what are we going to write a press release about?

This is especially important for the better press release distribution services. They must enforce editorial guidelines or risk having their content rejected by distribution partners.

The biggest catch?  We’ve got to have a news angle—that is, there’s got to be something new in our announcements.  I’ve seen bloggers struggle with this concept the most, and so here’s a few ideas that I’ve found make great press releases that are effective and simple to produce.

1. More reads for the most read

As bloggers, we know that to build a community, we’ve got to blog consistently.  The same is true for online releases: we need to develop a regular cadence for our announcements. 

One very easy way is to announce our most read blog posts every quarter. 

Take a look at your analytics and determine which posts earned the most unique visitors and then write a press release about it.  Is the media going to call us?  Probably not, but we’ll definitely earn some traffic and hopefully repeat visitors.  This works best if we can find a trending angle—as you can see my company follows our own advice and earned 1,000 new visitors with this release.

2. Themes emerge in blogs

Sometimes bloggers like to experiment with an idea—we get a hunch and the float the idea on our blog to gauge the reaction. One idea leads to another and the next thing we know, we’ve got a whole series of blog posts.

As they say in the news business, three is a trend, so look for a trend that emerges from all time we’ve invested in blogging and find those emergent themes. Then, write a press release that illustrates the trend just like a hard news story you might read on a major news site. In this case, your press release is the story.

3. Research is newsworthy

Matt Landau is like any other entrepreneur trying to make a living. To promote his business, he does what good marketers all do well: he’s active on social media, publishes a blog, and contributes content elsewhere. He’s got a niche in vacation rental marketing and over the years has accrued wisdom that he’s turned into products, like reports, guidebooks and research he sells on his blog. 

For one of his latest products he spent $199 on a press release and earned $3,850 in bookings.  However, he is cautionary against suggesting such success can come overnight.  During a phone conversation, Matt noted that content marketing is a “slow, long hard process that requires a commitment, but if you are confident and persistent, that persistence pays off.”  The lesson?  Consistency matters.

4.  The news before the news

Starting a review site?  Want products to review on a blog?  We’ve got to tell someone about it if want them to come—building it isn’t enough.

Marie Howard was tired of lousy beauty products and started a blog, Howard House Reviews, to review beauty products for women.  And she announced it to the world.  Ah, but that’s only a one-time announcement, right?  No. The consumer industry has sales seasons and so too should review blogs. 

Journalist Beeb Ashcroft announced her Holiday Gift Guide for 2012 which will help drive traffic, but also attract new products to review, and in turn, drive more traffic. There’s an announcement for every season.

5. Announce what’s new

Satyam Kumar is a yoga teacher that knows how to promote his business. He blogs, he has a newsletter, and he creates audio podcasts and video tracks for practicing the various yoga techniques he teaches and he hosts them on his blog. 

When he uploads a newest yoga podcast, he puts out an announcement about it and is careful to point out to readers they can subscribe on iTunes, so he gains not just visitors, but subscribers. 

This tactic can work well for any sort of new content we produce on our social outposts and embed on our blogs: the latest YouTube video you embedded on demonstrating your software, or the latest speaking presentation just posted to SlideShare.  If this works well, double down and post the five most views SlideShare presentations to the blog and announce that too.

Get tactical—and practical—with your next release

These ideas are not strategic—they are tactical and intended to be practical ways to promote a blog with press releases.  There’s a quotation often attributed to Hinduism that might well apply: “An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.”

Frank Strong is the director for Vocus, which also owns PRWeb, Help a Reporter out (HARO), iContact and North Social.  Follow @PRWeb on Twitter for more tips on press releases.

Why Google Loves My Blogs (and How to Get it to Love Yours)

This guest post is by Melody McKinnon of Canadians Internet Business.

The latest algorithm updates from Google have broken the hearts of many blog owners. The search engine appears to have lost interest in many of them.

Yet on every website and blog I own, my attention from Google has increased—even on blogs less than a year old.

Naturally, I want to stay in Google’s good books so I’ve given this a lot of thought. I’ve concluded that Google is simply looking for blogs with a personality worthy of its love. It’s no longer a matter of superficial gestures and pretty words. This somewhat fickle search engine uses several factors to determine if you are ‘the one’, and I happen to meet that criteria by nature.

  • I prefer to write (and read) posts that are packed with information that may not be easy to find online.
  • I write for people and what they’re searching for. I answer the question, “What would I be happy to find if I was searching for this topic?” When that task is complete, I go back and lightly optimize for organic search.
  • I’m consistently active on social media.
  • I’ve built quality relationships with other bloggers.
  • I’ve been marketing online since the 90′s. I’ve seen every manipulative trick and they all had one thing in common: they came back to bite people on the butt every single time.

Desperately seeking

Google is trying harder to find what people are looking for these days, so it helps to view the search engine as a person rather than an entity. If Google placed a personal ad, here’s what it would be seeking:

  • Good looks and a great smile: custom design, limited advertising, and shareable images.
  • Charm: social media and blog interaction. Give them something to talk about.
  • Friendly and open: user-friendly blogs with easy commenting.
  • Intelligence: deep, meaningful content that is truly useful.
  • Unique: dare to be different and create unique content.
  • Good listener: cater to the searcher, not the search engine. Are you really giving them what they’re looking for?
  • Integrity: are you a cheater? Manipulation has no place in a good relationship with Google. Neither does copyright infringement, illegal activities, or hate content.
  • Long walks on a Vancouver beach: geographically-specific content when applicable.
  • Sincerity: thinly disguised advertising, superficial posts built around keywords, and buying links will not be tolerated.
  • Highly respected: Google respects those who are respected by websites it respects. You may have to repeat that a few times to get it!
  • Great attitude: upbeat stories, suitable for a family audience.
  • Hang with a good crowd: avoid linking to, or being linked to by, the “slums” of the Internet.
  • No hookers please: there’s nothing wrong with making money with your blog. The key is to give more than you get.
  • Love yourself: you can’t expect anyone else to love you if you don’t love yourself. Produce a blog that you would love to read.
  • Love them back: sign up for Google+ and take the time to learn how to use it. Add both a follow and share button to your blog.

Oh Google, your love means so much to me. I’m inspired by your efforts to control your wandering eye and focus on those who are truly worthy of your attention. You make me feel like the most special website in the world wide web!

Melody McKinnon holds 52 certifications in business, marketing, writing, nutrition, biochemistry & general sciences. She blogs for the newly relaunched Canadians Internet Business, All Natural Pet Care, and Petfood Industry Magazine.

9 Elements of the Perfect Post

This guest post is by Ginny Soskey of Shareaholic.

A perfect blog post is hard to come by. Sometimes the mistakes are small, like a grammatical error, and other times the mistakes are so glaring that you just can’t look away.

You spend so much time coming up with post ideas, optimizing, editing, and promoting that you should make sure your posts are near perfect so your efforts don’t go to waste.

To help you make sure you’ve covered all your blogging bases before you hit “post,” I’ve created a handy infographic outlining the perfect post with some key learnings below:

9 Elements of a Perfect Blog Post

1. Headline

It’s essential to start your post off with a great headline.

In Shareaholic’s publisher network, the most shared websites tend to optimize for keywords in their headlines, include headlines less than ten words, and stick to “list” and “how to” kinds of posts.

Think of your headline as a tweet—would you click through to the link if it showed up on your feed? Crafting a headline in the form of a tweet also ensures that your headline is short enough to be shared via Twitter.

2. Sub-header

People like to scan, and large blocks of text scare them off. Try to break up your copy with several sub-headers as it will make it easy for readers to digest your content. Having sub-headers will also help them to comprehend your post as the main points are brought immediately to their attention.

Numbers, bolded text or larger font size are all ways you can create sub-headings for your blog. If you have several authors for your blog, be sure to tell them how you want your sub-headers to be styled in your editorial guidelines.

3. Optimized copy

SEOmoz’s infographic of the perfectly optimized blog post will guide you to see where you should place your keywords throughout your post.

To identify your keywords in the first place, make sure to check your content analytics tool to see what organic keywords and topics are popular with your readers.

4. Multimedia

Having visual and interactive elements to your blog post is essential to engaging visitors on your blog. Find stock photos or Creative Commons Licensed material using Compfight or even create one of your own.

The best part about using visuals in your posts is that it’s easy to reuse them to promote your blog on Pinterest, which Shareaholic found to be the fifth largest traffic source in the world. Among our publisher network, we notice that websites with branded visuals get the most shares on Pinterest while along benefitting from the brand exposure of including their name in those shares.

5. Embedded CTAs

Ultimately, you want your readers to take some form of action from your blog. That could mean subscribing to your blog so they come back again, or maybe downloading an ebook or other offer from you.

Make it easy for them to do so by embedding a call to action (CTA) in your post. From what we see in our publisher network and on our own blog, CTAs above the fold do the best, as your readers don’t have to scroll to take action.

6. Sidebar

This is prime real estate on your blog, as it is displayed no matter which article your readers are viewing. Use this area to show off links to your social networks, subscriptions to your RSS feed and email list, and free downloads of white papers, infographics or badges.

One of my favorite plugins for the sidebar is Social Media Widget—it’s easy to customize and use for bloggers of any level. Having these buttons will help keep your readers connected with you long after they leave your article.

7. Social sharing tools

After you create content that people enjoy, you need to make sure it’s easy for them to share it through their social networks.

Make sure your social sharing tools are prominently displayed on each post. Also, you should choose social sharing buttons that your readers are likely to use—you can use content analytics to determine where people are sharing your content and then include those social networks in your sharing buttons.

8. Related content

It’s not always love at first “site”: it may take a few posts to convince your reader to share your content or subscribe to your blog.

A related content tool speeds up this process by engaging your current readers with suggested posts at the bottom of each article you publish. This is sure to increase your pageviews and improve your overall time on site.

9. Comments

As social media has gained popularity, commenting on a blog post has expanded from the real estate directly below the post to other networks like Facebook and Twitter. Commenting systems have evolved to accommodate to this change and one of my favorites is Livefyre—it works in realtime and integrates seamlessly with Facebook or Twitter.

Knowing how to optimize your layout for maximum pageviews and social shares is incredibly important to growing your blog. What are some of your favorite tools to help create a perfect blog post? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Ginny Soskey is a marketing manager at Shareaholic. Shareaholic creates social sharing, related content and content analytics tools for more than 200,000 websites, reaching 300 million people each month. You can keep up with Shareaholic on the Shareaholic blog to get more tips on blogging.

Measuring and Monitoring Online Reputation: What, Why, and How

This guest post is by Rich Gorman of Reputationchanger.com.

In this day and age, there’s really nobody who is exempt from the supreme importance of online reputation. Business owners need a sterling online reputation to ensure that they keep attracting new clients. Job seekers need a good reputation to put their best face forward, in the likely event that a potential employer checks them out on Google.

Bloggers need a good online reputation for any number of reasons; whether you’re seeking to build an audience or sell products, having people know that you’re reputable and authoritative is key.

The problem is, the chances for an online reputation to be utterly derailed are abundant. Things aren’t the way they used to be in the days when protecting your image was basically just a matter of keeping DUI arrests and mug shots out of the local paper! Now, a business rival can post something defamatory about you to the Web, or an old, embarrassing photo from your college days can surface, and the damage can be immense.

What’s your reputation like?

There are ways to monitor and protect your online reputation, which is good news, but there is also much misinformation about the ways in which online reputation is accurately monitored.

There is an increasingly large population of people, particularly bloggers, who are using tools like Klout and FollowerWonk to help them evaluate where they stand, reputation-wise. While these tools are useful in many ways, it’s not quite accurate to say that they offer an assessment of your online reputation.

Take Klout, for example. Klout will tell you many things about your online persona and your “Google footprint.” It will tell you how many people you directly influence, what kind of sway you hold over others within your industry, and more. What it does is effectively measure online influence through the prism of social network import and reach.

This is hardly without value, but it’s not quite the same thing as reputation monitoring. What these tools tell you is how influential you are, but they don’t tell you whether your overall online image is good or bad, or whether there are potentially embarrassing listings out there that could cost you, personally or professionally.

Let’s say, for instance, that the old DUI report or frat party photo surfaces on the Web. A good way to stay alert about these negative listings is to simply search for yourself, on Google and Yahoo and Bing, as often as you can.

A couple of professional reputation monitoring tips are in order here: First, log out of Google before you search for yourself, lest you get “personalized” results that fail to show you the big picture. Second, search for spelling variations on your name, particularly if your name has alternate spellings; if you go by Cammie, for example, there’s a decent chance someone might post about you under the name “Cammy.”

Setting up Google and Yahoo alerts is another important step. This might all seem a little less sophisticated than using something like Klout or FollowerWonk, but for bloggers and professionals seeking up-to-the-minute knowledge about their online listings, this is really the most effective way to go.

Proactively managing your reputation

Of course, merely monitoring your reputation is not always going to be enough. You may wish to proactively shape it, ensuring that when someone searches for you on the Web, the first listings to appear on the page are positive ones. Crafting a positive online reputation is essentially a matter of populating the search engines with flattering content about yourself—but how?

The first thing to think about is your online real estate portfolio. Make sure you are the owner of all the domain names associated with your name; if you go by Jon Lener, try to secure access to jonlener.com, jon-lener.org, jonlener.net, and all the exact-match variations you can get. Do the same with social media accounts: a Twitter account is not going to provide you with Google rankings if it isn’t directly attached to your name.

Remember that your goal in reputation defense is to fill the first page or two of Google with positive listings—that is, listings that you control. Make sure to get a LinkedIn page, then, because LinkedIn ranks better on Google than any other social network! Other social networking suggestions include a WordPress blog, which ranks better than Blogger or Tumblr; a Vimeo account, which, surprisingly, ranks better than a YouTube account; and limited time spent on photo-sharing services, like Flickr, which simply aren’t as useful for obtaining search engine rankings.

Measuring your online influence is ultimately useful, but when it comes to ensuring that your online image is a positive one, there is no substitute for basic reputation monitoring. There is also no replacement for the tried-and-true methods of using exact-match domains and social media accounts to foster an online reputation you can be proud of.

Do you monitor your online reputation? Tell us how in the comments.

Rich Gorman is a recognized thought leader when it comes to online reputation management techniques and a designer of direct response marketing programs for companies large and small. He leads the team at www.reputationchanger.com.

Behind the Scenes of the DPS Pinterest Strategy: Case Study

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked if I wanted to set up and manage the Pinterest account for Digital Photography School. Within a week, we had launched, and Darren explained his take on the process in this case study.

So far, the account has nearly 5000 followers. We have been getting a lot of great feedback and have noticed a lot of people signing up just to follow us. We’ve tapped into something amazing in the DPS community and I believe that a lot of the success is to do with our approach.

In this case study, I’ll be talking about how we went against common advice for bloggers when it comes to setting up a Pinterest account. It may get a bit geeky when it comes to the marketing strategies, but trust me: your blog will be better for it.

Pinterest foundations

I’ve been interning for The Village Agency for some time now, with a strong focus on Pinterest. We noticed two behaviours that were being repeated across various brands:

  • People follow boards, not accounts.
  • People don’t just want pretty images. They want context.

This is because of a concept called the interest graph.

The interest graph

Many bloggers have a presence on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Most people do this because they want to know others on theses networks and socialize with them in some capacity. People follow information based on their interests, but their behaviour is mostly social.

The interest graph shows when people are connected by common interests. The social element takes a backseat at this point—people want to find information that is relevant to their interests.

This is where a lot of bloggers mess it up.

A lot of people hear about the traffic potential of Pinterest and start pinning their content. An example is the Problogging board by David Risley. This board is based around the interest of the blogger, not of the people in the Pinterest ecosystem. This means that David will get traffic from people that visit his account, but the conversation will end there. People are unlikely to repin that content—and the action of repinning is what makes your content go viral on this network.

Note: I have to commend David for actually having a Pinterest account. You can’t learn anything unless you experiment!

What does this mean for bloggers?

This means that people don’t want your Pinterest account to be an extension of your blog. As Darren pointed out with his case study, people are already pinning your content.

If you really want to develop a strong Pinterest presence, you need to curate pinboards based around the interests of your readers. This is especially relevant for those outside of the popular niches on Pinterest.

How we did this

We developed a series of boards based around the common topics on Digital Photography School, such as lighting, portraits, and composition. I went through the archives, and looked at the ebook topics on the resources page, and came up with a rough list of 25 boards. I then set about finding content for those boards.

I started noticing patterns and trends while I was creating the boards. I noticed that other users had created boards based on certain types of lighting or certain technical aspects of photography. I knew that I had to narrow down the focus of certain boards to really tap into the interest graphs for these users.

Sites such as DPS and Problogger are authority sites. They are known for containing a lot of content on a wide range of topics that are important to the fields they cover. This is part of the appeal of these sites.

Most bloggers—and photographers—however, are specialists. They are interested in general trends affecting their community, but are focused on very specific information that affects their niche. This means that people don’t just want information on taking photos of people. They want to know how to take photos of newborns, children, families, and seniors. They want ideas for specific types of lighting or poses. We created specific boards targeted towards these interests and have gained a lot of traction from that effort. We now have twice three times as many boards as we originally planned.

We took this idea one step further

Within hours of launching we had over 1000 followers, but I felt like we were missing something. We were collecting a lot of solid information about digital photography and had been grouping it into categories. This information was great for existing photographers, but … then I realized what we were missing.

Newbie photographers, such as myself, would have been overwhelmed by the myriad of boards. I still use my camera as a point-and-shoot tool. Imagine if my first exposure to the DPS brand was the Pinterest account! I may have been too overwhelmed to check out the site and see the fantastic resources in the Beginners section.

Tweaking the strategy

I might be brilliant at social media but, as I say, I use my DSLR as a glorified point-and-shoot snaps. I´ve had it for four years and only have a vague ideas about what the buttons do. I decided to set up a board covering the basics, but even then, I found the information to be overwhelming.

Photography has a steep learning curve for the newbie. That is where resources like Digital Photography School come in. So what if I structured some of the boards like they were lessons? I could use the description area to create additional context and tell people what board they should visit to get their next “lesson.”

We set up a board called DSLR basics. The next four boards focused on elements of a concept called the “exposure triangle.” The first board focused on why exposure was important. The following boards were dedicated to each part of the triangle. I linked to relevant blog posts in the description.

The first board in the “series” said:

Learning exposure is the first step you should take when it comes to understandind photography. Read our tutorial on the exposure triangle: http://bit.ly/1N3I In the following boards, we talk about the 3 parts of the triangle: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.

The following boards contained a brief line about why that concept was important.

We have only just started experimenting with this technique, so we don’t have much data about whether or not people are responding to this. We are giving away space above the fold to boards that, visually, aren’t as interesting as some others we’ve created. But we’re hoping it pays off.

This is where bloggers can really stand out: give people a reason to visit your Pinterest account other than to check out images. Create a destination. It’s risky and requires a lot of work, but it has the potential to send a massive amount of targeted traffic to your blog.

How can you apply this to your blog?

The first step most people take is to set up their own Pinterest account and start pinning images. If your main goal is to get traffic, you should focus on creating prettier images on your own blog first.

There are a number of ways you can do this:

  • Increase the number of images in blog posts. This gives people multiple pictures to choose from when pinning a post.
  • Hunt for incredible images on Flickr. This post by Skellie gives details about how to do this.
  • Include a portrait-oriented image later in the post. Landscape-oriented images work better to grab attention on a blog post, but the portrait image suits the pinboards better.

I also recommend that bloggers create a Pinterest account for themselves to experiment with before creating one for their blog. You don’t have to do this, but it will give you the chance to understand Pinterest a bit more before making a big commitment.

Creating your own Pinterest account

Many pinterest newbies start by pinning pretty things. That´s what all the “experts” recommend you do. I’ve noticed, though, that having a nice image is just one part of Pinterest success. The second is telling people why they should click through to read the article connected to the pin.

This is incredibly easy and will make you stand out as an authority. Sometimes you will need to read the article to add context, but often the headline will suffice.

Importantly, once an image has been repinned, you lose control over the conversation. It will get shared and, often, the text will get edited. Adding information means that people will have an additional reason to categorize it according to their interests. It also helps people discover your pins via the network’s search tool.

What do I do with the account?

Having a Pinterest account isn’t enough—you also have to give people a reason to click through to check out your boards. Here are some suggestions to tie it your Pinterest account to your blog:

  • Link to relevant boards when discussing issues in your blog posts. This is a great way to give more information without sharing a bunch of links.
  • Create a Pinterest landing page on your blog. This is like a Twitter landing page—it’s where you talk about why your blog is relevant to those who have clicked over from Pinterest. You can see our example for DPS here. I’ve also created one for my marketing client at The Village Agency.

How do I drive traffic to the account?

Some of the comments on Darren’s earlier Pinterest experiment post suggested that we achieved a lot of success because of the strength of the brand name. This was part of it. But interestingly, there was a lot of traction before we publicly launched the account.

Something that, I believe, will really grow the account is the way Darren is involving the community in the growth of the account. Look at the questions Darren asked in the launch post:

  • If there’s a topic you’d like to see us develop a board for, please suggest it in the comments below.
  • If you have a photography board of your own, please let us know about it in the comments below—we’ll be following as many as we can and repinning the best of the best from our community.

Here’s why this step was important.

The fan cycle

I’m a huge fan of word of mouth and how it can help bloggers spread their message.

I discovered this concept called Cycle of a Fan which shows how a person can go from introduction to ownership. This can also apply to Pinterest accounts.

People naturally want to share something that they feel that they are a part of or have contributed to. This step allows us to engage with the DPS readers and, even better, gives us valuable information about how we can improve.

  • have created several new boards based on reader feedback
  • are following many of the boards of people following us
  • are planning new boards once we’ve gotten through this launch period

We can then use the information from these boards to influence the content at the blog.

Over to you

We’ve had an incredibly busy couple of weeks since we launched the DPS Pinterest account. It has been a constant process of refining and tweaking the strategy.

I’d love to hear any feedback you may have—or any questions! What are you biggest problems related to creating a Pinterest presence for your blog?

Finding a Mentor-writer—and What to Do Once You Have

This guest post is by Karol K of imcreator.com

Who is a mentor-writer? This question is probably on your mind right now. Even more importantly, why do you need one?

Let me take this from the top.

Is there a writer or an author you’ve always looked up to? Someone whose writing style is exceptionally interesting? One who can write a sentence in a way that makes you stop and think “darn, that’s good”?

I’m sure you’ll find someone who fits the description if you take a minute to think about it. Maybe it’s an author you’ve been reading forever. Or maybe it’s someone whose work you’ve found just recently. The timespan doesn’t really matter; what matters is that their style of writing is so addictive that you can’t stop reading.

But that’s just the definition of a good writer, so what does upgrading this person’s status to a “mentor” do for you?

What can a mentor do for you?

A couple of things.

First of all, they inspire you to grow as a writer. When you read their work, you simply pay closer attention to all the things they are doing. This is very motivating by itself. You start thinking, “wow, I need to write something just like that.”

Secondly, they show you a way of writing you wouldn’t have stumbled upon otherwise. Every writer who has somehow gained your recognition is likely to possess their own voice and style (the thing that makes them so recognizable). Being aware of this and noticing this style consciously can do a lot for your own style of writing.

You can use their work as a benchmark for your own writing. Whenever you finish an article or post, you can put it against a piece of your mentor’s work. Is your flow equally as good as your mentor’s? If not, there’s room for possible improvement right there.

How to choose your mentor

Now, I’m not going to tell you who you should choose, or why my mentor is better than yours. This is not the point. The point is to have a mentor who’s unique to your own style and the way you see quality writing.

So you’ll have to give it a little thought and select, on your own, just one writer who gives you the most inspiration.

The easiest way of doing this is to simply take a look at your bookshelf. One writer (or two) is likely to dominate it. You can also include the writers you find in the online world. A good place to start in that space are with the blogs you read the most.

My writing mentor is Jeremy Clarkson. Yes, the Top Gear guy. Why him, of all people?

As it turns out, I’ve been reading his books for a long time now. I’ve bought everything he’s ever released. Every single one of his books is extremely entertaining and interesting to me. His style is just exceptional.

At some point when reading one of his books I simply decided that I need to write more like him, and that was it. That was the moment. He became my mentor.

Again, this is only my perspective, you may (and should) have a different opinion. But that’s okay. That’s the whole point of a personal mentor-writer. Other people don’t have to agree with you, or tell you that there are other writers who are better. It’s no one else’s business who you choose.

What to do once you have a mentor

The first rule is to read everything they write. Every writer evolves, mentors included. Evolve along with your mentor. See what’s changing in their style, the topics they cover, the novels they write, etc. Just be up-to-date with what’s going on with them.

The second rule is to read their work consciously. What I mean by that is to read it in a twofold way, so to speak. First, you obviously like to read your mentor’s work, so enjoy it like you always do. But more than that, be aware of the technique and the style they’re using. Notice all the clever sentences, funny references, engaging paragraphs. To put it simply, be aware of what you’re reading.

The final step is to develop and improve your own style after being influenced by your mentor. A specific style is what distinguishes one writer from the other.

For example, every web design blogger can write a post on “How to design a proper about page.” But every one of them will create the post in a completely different way. The point is to find your own way of delivering a message. Your mentor can help you with that because they are likely to already have a distinct and noticeable style.

Finally, grow as a writer. Take all the inspiration and information you’ve gotten from your mentor and put it into your own work.

What not to do

This is basic, but it needs to be said: don’t be a copycat.

You’re supposed to get inspiration, not to copy your mentor’s style entirely. This advice sounds obvious, but you really need to be careful here. It’s quite easy to start copying your mentor subconsciously without even noticing it.

Keep in mind that you probably have a voice within you that’s just as good as your mentor’s. You only need to find it and bring it to the surface. And yes, I really mean it!

Now, there’s one more step. It’s not mandatory by any means, but it’s a nice addition to the whole approach I’m presenting here.

Contacting your mentor

Because why the heck not? You probably have a lot of questions to ask, a lot of things to say, and a lot of things to thank them for. Being able to speak (or email) your mentor directly might just be the motivator you need to get to the next level.

Contacting your mentor might not be easy, and might take some time to get through all the gate keepers and all kinds of other people. But when you finally manage to get in touch, it’s totally worth it.

Do you have your writing-mentor already? How did you find them? Let me know, I’m curious.

Karol K. is a freelance writer, and a blogger. If you want to check out what he’s up to, feel free to hit him up on Twitter (@carlosinho).

5 Big Hosting Mistakes Bloggers Don’t Know They’re Making

This guest post is by the Blog Tyrant.

If you take your blogging seriously you’ll know that you have to wear a lot of different hats. We are content marketers, SEO students, social media savants, and sometimes web designers.

But what a lot of bloggers seem to forget is that our blog hosting setup is an extremely crucial piece in the puzzle. Yet it often gets overlooked because it is scary, boring or just too darn hard.

It is really complicated stuff. I certainly couldn’t cover everything in one post—some people spend their whole careers figuring it out!

What I am going to show you, however, is a few big mistakes that you need to make sure you avoid. If you know any others please leave a comment and let me know. It might really help someone.

1. Setting up on a free host instead of your own

I’ve talked about this a lot on my blog and so have writers here on ProBlogger but it is a mistake that many new bloggers continue to make.

Now don’t get me wrong, services like Tumblr are a really cool way to get your word out there and blog socially but if you want to take it to the next level and go pro, you need to get your own domain name, and install WordPress on your own host.

Here’s why I don’t like freely hosted blogs:

  • Lack of control: On a free blog, you don’t have total control over the theme, settings, back end, or hosting environment. You are essentially leasing a space from the owners.
  • You don’t own it: The big concern for me is that on a lot of free platforms you don’t own the blog! This is a really big problem if you are trying to go professional or if you ever want to sell the blog down the track.
  • Google doesn’t rank them as well: The last big clincher for me is that many SEOs will tell you that Google doesn’t rank these free domains as well in the search results. If you want to step up and compete in a very competitive niche, you’ll need your own domain name and a solid permalink structure.

And it’s important that you switch sooner rather than later if you are planning on doing it. You see, when you change from free to paid hosting, there’s a whole host of other issues to sort out, like a loss of current rankings if your link structure changes.

It’s very important that you weigh up the pros and cons of a migration like this as soon as possible.

2. Not choosing a host with live support

As I mentioned at the start, this stuff is really confusing. And things often go wrong. When they do, it is really important that you have live support staff that can help you out and get the problem fixed fast, without hassle.

Part of the reason I recommended Blue Host in my post on the best host for new WordPress bloggers was because they have live, 24/7 support staff that are incredibly helpful. I am no longer with Blue Host as I outgrew the service, but for the years that I was there, I had countless life-saving, middle-of-the-night, brilliant support sessions from staff who really know their stuff.

Live chat

A screenshot of the live support wait time at Blue Host recently

I have noticed that it is really common to get stressed and panicked when you don’t understand something fully. And because hosting is so complicated, it is really easy to lose your cool when something goes wrong. It is a massive advantage to know there are people there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case something goes wrong.

3. Thinking that “unlimited domains” actually means unlimited domains

Something that I learned only recently is that when most hosts say that you get unlimited domains, unlimited hosting, and unlimited databases, they don’t actually mean it.

If you dig deeper into the terms of service you will find that most hosts (not all) have an excessive storage policy which basically says that if you abuse your “unlimited” space, your service will be affected.

Some of the things they might do include:

  • Throttling: This is where your site gets slowed down in order to help cope with the strain on the servers. This might happen if you have a bunch of sites that are taking up too much bandwidth for your hosting environment.
  • Stopped backups: Most good hosts perform a daily backup of your entire server to re-install if something goes wrong. But if you exceed the allowed file count by too much, you’ll find that those automatic daily backups stop pretty quickly.
  • Account suspension: If things get really bad and the host suspects that you are hosting files not related to any website activity, they will suspend your account. This is something that you really don’t want to happen.

My best tip here would be to know exactly what your host’s policies are on file storage, and to then make sure you know exactly what your server needs are.

If your blog is getting a lot of traffic and constantly growing it might be time to move to a more advanced environment like a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or a dedicated host.

4. Mixing your experimental stuff with your money sites

If you have a website or blog that is starting to make money that you rely on, it is really important to make sure it is on its own hosting account.

You see, what often happens is that we purchase one hosting package and then start experimenting with new blogs and websites. Eventually the whole situation gets cluttered, crowded, and very unprofessional.

Blogs that are starting to get some good traffic and have good rankings and loyal subscribers need to be protected and looked after. Make sure you keep them on their own host for security and up-time reasons, and leave your experimental sites to a different hosting package and location.

5. Failing to delete old blogs, websites, and files

The last thing I want to talk about is the fact that many bloggers leave abandoned or dead files, blogs, and websites in their host not knowing that they represent a security threat.

Without going in to all the details (I don’t really know all the details!), hackers can use insecure and old files to access your account in some situations. This is especially risky if you have been using WordPress and not keeping your plugins and installations up to date. It’s a threat.

If you’re not going to use a blog any more, just delete it. It’s not the easiest process, but it’s something that is worthwhile learning. So how do you do it?

Well, in some hosting environments you can just go to Addon Domains and then remove the domain that you want to stop using. That often removes the installation and the remaning database.

Other times, you will need to use PHPMyAdmin to locate the old site and delete the corresponding database. This can be a complicated process, so it’s best to ask your own host for advice on how to proceed. As mentioned, some environments and setups are different to others.

Are you making any mistakes?

I’d love to know if you are making any of these mistakes or whether you can think of any others that we can add to the list. Please leave a comment and let me know.

The Blog Tyrant is a 26 year old Australian guy who plays video games at lunch time and sells blogs for $20,000 a pop.

How to Deal with False Third-party Matches on YouTube

This guest post is by Jenny Dean of Floppycats.

Several months ago, I met  Michael Strange through YouTube. I noticed immediately the success of Michael’s YouTube endeavors and asked him if he could please help me out.

He was game, thank goodness, and he walked me through the steps on how to fix my YouTube channel. One of these was to address false third-party matches on the service.

Third-party matching indicates that your video is understood to infringe some third party’s copyright. You can’t monetize videos on which these matches are outstanding, so if you’re trying to make money through YouTube, third-party matches can be a problem.

Finding third-party matches

First and foremost, you might not even know if you have third-party matches. I knew I had some, but I wasn’t aware that videos that were entirely mine were flagged for copyright issues!

To see if you have third party matches on YouTube, just log in to your account and go to your Video Manager. On the left side of the Video Manager you’ll see an entry for Copyright Notices.  Select that, and you’ll see all your movies that have third-party matches.

Third party matches

In the list of movies you’ll see notes like “matched third-party content”. You have to address each one as a separate dispute, so hopefully you don’t have many.

To get started, click the blue hyperlink that states the reason for the copyright notice.

Matched third party content

You’ll be taken to a screen that looks something like this:

Third party match page

Here you can see a general information statement about copyright matches, followed by a link that states, “I want to learn more about the dispute process.” When you select that, you’ll see some information about when you can and can’t dispute things.

Disputing the match

If, after you have read all the reasons to dispute or not to dispute the matches, you still feel that you should not have copyright issues, then you will want to dispute the claim. For example, a video that I’d created in my backyard had been flagged as a third-party match, but it was all my own content, so I decided to dispute it—and won.

To dispute a copyright notice, go to the bottom of the dispute information. You’ll see a link that says, “I believe this copyright claim is not valid.”

Dispute claims

You will be taken to a screen that asks you to select the reason for your dispute.  Carefully select your reason and click on Continue.

Dispute claims - select reason

You will then be taken to a screen where you will be asked to confirm that you own all the rights to the content.

Please note: the example that I am using here is not a valid one to dispute—a song plays in the background of my video that is not my content, therefore technically I cannot dispute it. I am using these screenshots to show the steps only.

Confirm that you own all rights

After you click Continue, you will be taken to the dispute form.

Dispute form

Fill in the form and submit it. Then, you’ll want to walk through the same steps with any other videos that have false third-party matches flagged for them.

The dispute process

YouTube has recently improved the dispute process and will send you an email when a dispute claim has been received.

At that time you should check the status of the relevant movie and add the monetization details if necessary. You may need to manually check your disputes to see if you’re still awaiting an outcome, or some other problem has arisen.

If the dispute is resolved in your favor, it just drops off the copyright match list. You’ll need to go hunting for the movie in your video manager to then monetize it.

Unexpected matches

Like me, you can sometimes have a problem if the TV or radio was playing in the background when you recorded your video, as legally you would then be using that music in your movie without a valid license, and recording industry companies such as Sony could have a legitimate dispute against you.

In those cases, there is nothing you can do if you wish to monetize the movie, other than to remove the movie from YouTube, replace the audio track, and then re-upload the corrected movie.

Have you had third-party matches on YouTube that you’ve disputed? How have they gone? Share your stories in the comments.

Jenny Dean is the Editor over at Business Blog Writers, online SEO content writers.  She also has some of her own blogs, Floppycats, Antioxidant-fruits and Guide to Couponing. Business Blog Writers offers a YouTube enhancement service.

Forget Willpower: Here’s What You Can Do to Dominate Bad Blogging Habits

This guest post is by Bea Kylene Jumarang of Writing Off the Rails.

You tell yourself you need to exercise, but you don’t do it. You tell yourself you need to write, but then you go on Twitter. Or, my favorite situation, you tell yourself you need to save more, and then you blow out your cash on that shiny new bag.

It’s a vicious little cycle, and you know you need to end it, but you don’t. Of course, you tell yourself it’s your fault, and add in, “If only I had a little bit more willpower.”

Well guess what? Willpower’s no good.

It’s a limited resource and it’s generally a bad one to draw on when it comes to eliminating bad habits. Barring sudden epiphanies, you’re going to stay stuck in your cycle if all you do is tell yourself that you need more willpower.

What I’m going to show you in this post is a different approach, and how you can use it to remove and replace bad blogging habits.

1. Eliminate temptation

Okay, I realize that sounds trite and sort of stupid. Still, you would be surprised at how many things just need to be removed in order to remedy your bad habits. Like Robert Downey Jr. says in Due Date, “If you’re allergic to waffles, don’t go to a waffle house.”

Now, let’s apply that to you. Say you’re a blogger who’s a little too addicted to being online. You know that it damages your productivity, but you tell yourself you can limit your online time just by having more willpower. If that sounds like you, please do take a reality check. You already know it doesn’t really work that way.

Why? Again, willpower’s no good.

So what do you do? Once you open your laptop or tablet, or wherever it is that you write, get your writing done first. The moment your device boots up, go straight to your word processor. Don’t open a browser. Seriously, don’t even think about it. Just click the word processor icon and start getting words on a page. Remember, you’re not a writer until words are on the page, and you’re not a blogger until you have a blog post published.

Got that? Eliminate temptation. It’s the first step.

2. Now, just show up and do it

So here you are. Your word processor’s open, but you’re just itching to close it and come back later. You’re thinking of all the emails you might have, or how many tweets have piled up in your timeline. You’re in the danger zone.

Solution? Tell yourself out loud, “I will not open my browser. Instead, I will write 1000 words.”

You’d be shocked at how a verbal affirmation can do wonders for your behavior. By speaking the words out loud, your thoughts get redirected to the affirmation you just said. And did you notice the 1000 words bit? That wasn’t random. That amount is a manageable daily goal. It’s not that hard to reach, and it’s a specific, measurable number. Remember, getting specific with your goals is always a good idea.

Now you might say, “But I need willpower to reach the goal!”

I get that, which brings me to the words, “Just show up and do it.”

If you’re a writer, just start writing. Turn off your internal editor and just get words on a page. Just write. Free yourself up to write really badly, because at the end, you’ll have something. Far better to have a poor chapter or a flat blog post to edit, than to have nothing at all.

Each time you’re tempted to stop, whip out the verbal affirmation again. “I will not open my browser. Opening it will make me unproductive. I will finish my writing.”

If you just keep on going, you’ll find that you’ve gone over the 1000 word goal, or you’ll have finished the blog post you needed to write.

Here, I’m giving you the template—you can apply this advice to whatever blogging task it is that you want to get done. That said, it’s a good thing to know what your personal limits are. That way, you can customize your affirmations depending on how many words you can normally write.

It’s now time for the feel-good step in this process.

3. Reward yourself

Let’s say you’ve finished your writing goals, or you’ve done your blog post. Congratulations! Two things can happen at this point.

The first possible outcome is that you might feel so good you’ll want to continue. If that’s what you feel, by all means do it. However, if you’re just starting out on the road to dominating your habits, the better thing to do is to stop and reward yourself.

This is pure conditioning, by the way. Studies show that we do what rewards us, and we actively avoid what punishes us. As much as you may want to claim being above such caveman simplicity, in the end it’s a matter of psychology and common sense.

So, what I want you to do is just stop. Go say a verbal congratulations to yourself, and then reward yourself with something that makes you happy. Now would be the time for you to open your browser, check your email or say hi to Twitter in all its 140-character glory.

To be clear, you can only reward yourself if you did what you set out to do. Don’t go cheating (hint, use the verbal affirmations and stop yourself), because cheating will defeat the entire purpose of rewards in the end.

4. Take it a step further: automate

The three steps above are a rinse-and-repeat process. You just do the whole thing over and over again to replace bad habits with good ones. Of course, ones the habits are in place, you won’t need rewards because the actions will be automatic.

However, you can still tweak this process to get even better results. If that’s what you want, my advice to you is to automate. To make it easy, here are some extremely actionable automation posts, courtesy of finance whiz Ramit Sethi.

How can you apply automation to your blog writing?

The answer is, you can’t. The only things you can automate are the things that get you even more writing time.

Let me give you an example. Social media is a huge distraction when you want to get writing done. Usually, that’s because you’re always on the hunt for things to tweet or link to. Now, I love Twitter, so this applies best to that service. If you want to get more time and not have to manually tweet, you can use a scheduler like HootSuite or Buffer. If you’re more of a Facebook person, HootSuite also has scheduling for that.

Throughout the day, you can list content in these apps, then just schedule the updates for the next day. With that method, you’ll have more time to write and get other errands done. Even so, you’ll still have the added comfort of knowing that you’re sharing great stuff.

These are my tips on dealing with the limitations of willpower. If you have some to share, I’d love to know in the comments!

Bea Kylene Jumarang is a fiction writer and the blogger behind Writing Off the Rails. When she’s not working on her books or her blog, she’s writing on tissues inside a Starbucks café, or socializing with people on Twitter.