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Why You Need To Create and Sell A Product Now (And How To Do It)

This guest post is by Brandon Turner of RealEstateInYourTwenties.com.

Last night I made $9.

I know that isn’t a lot of money. I know I’m not taking that dream vacation to Italy or buying that new MacBook Air I lust after. So why mention it?

Because I made $9 last night.

While sleeping.

While completely unconscious.

I woke up and discovered that I was $9 richer than when I went to bed. The feeling not only energized me beyond what words can adequately describe, it also took me one step closer to my ultimate goal—complete financial freedom.

Perhaps this goal is familiar?

Perhaps you share the same goal?

If so, I hope I can shed some light on why now is the best time for you to begin selling products on your blog. The truth is you don’t need to wait until you are a “pro blogger” to begin making money by selling products that you create. You don’t need fifty thousand RSS subscribers to earn online income. You don’t even need the classic “one thousand true fans.”

What you need is an idea and a kick in the pants.

Why start right now?

Like you, I spent the first several months of blogging simply writing.

My blog at RealEstateInYourTwenties.com is aimed at young people looking to replace their “job” and enter the world of real estate investing, so I focus most of my efforts on discussing how a young person can begin earning money through investing. I began writing without a clear picture of how I would someday monetize the blog, but aware that the end goal was to replace my investment income with my online income.

Last month, while writing a post discussing how I analyze deals using a spreadsheet I created in Excel, I thought, “I wish this spreadsheet was around when I started investing! I would have saved so much time and hassle!”

Boom.

I realized at that moment I had a product that could actually help people. I spent the afternoon researching how to go about actually selling a product (more details on that below), polished the blog post and spreadsheet, and by the late afternoon my post was live.

I’d love to say I made thousands of dollars that first day and am now living on a beach in Hawaii. However, that’s simply not the case for most people, and wasn’t the case for me. I think I made around $50 during the first week. Again, it’s not enough to dance around about—but then again, maybe it is. I had actually done it. I made money online. Since the day that post went live, I have been consistently making one or two sales a day.

“Big deal,” you say.

It is a big deal though. It’s a huge deal. It’s the difference between a successful blog and being another tire kicker.

I don’t care how many readers you have. You don’t need a million readers to begin selling your products online. You can, and should, start today. Even if it’s just your mom following along to your witty posts, get something for sale now.

I’m not suggesting you write a 400-page ebook or a $99-a-month membership site. Those things may come later. I’m talking about offering something small or introductory. I’ll explain in more detail later some examples, but for now let me explain why you need to sell something on your blog ASAP.

Motivation

When I woke up this morning and discovered I was $9 richer, something triggered inside of me. I got up excited to start the day and began working on making my blog even better. I was motivated to reach out and connect with more people. I even decided to write this very post for ProBlogger.net because of how motivated I was.

Don’t underestimate the “motivation” factor. Find what motivates you and capitalize on that. Chances are, you are motivated by the very thing I am: making money. (Don’t feel bad about that. It doesn’t have to be your primary motivation, but deep down every human is at least partially motivated by the need to make an income). Making a few dollars per day is not going to move you from a shack to a mansion—but it just might move you from a mediocre blog to a stellar one.

Learn what works

You may feel it’s best to wait until you have a huge following to begin marketing your goods. However, by waiting until that point you are missing out on a huge opportunity—learning what works and what doesn’t. What if I listed my spreadsheet for sale online and did not sell any? What if the feedback was largely negative? I would have learned a great deal about what didn’t work.

Instead, I found that everyone who downloaded my product seemed to love it. Think of this phase as the “research and development” phase of product creation. Additionally, by selling products early in your blog’s existence you will begin to learn what works in relation to your sales funnel. How are you getting from product creation to the beloved “payment received” email from Paypal? How is your conversion rate? What about split-testing? These are all questions that you can begin to answer before you launch a “major” product someday in the future.

Collect names and true fans

Have you purchased anything from a blog online? Probably not a whole lot. The fact is, most people do not actually buy things from bloggers online. While conversion rates differ dramatically, chances are less than 2% of your readers will probably buy whatever it is you are selling. However, those that do buy a product from you early on have probably one or both of these characteristics:

  • They like to spend money frivolously online.
  • They really like you.

Either way—those are the people you want as friends. Those customers who buy a small product from you will be significantly more likely to buy other products from you in the future. Make sure you separate these people into their own email list (using Aweber, Mail Chimp, or whatever email service you use) and value that list above all others.

Where do you want to be in two years?

Do you wish you had started blogging earlier? I know I do. I look at the growth my blog has shown over the past six months and realize how much larger it would be today if I had started two years ago. However, I can’t change the past—and neither can you.

Instead, change your future. Take a moment and think about where you want to be in two years. Pretty nice, eh? You will never get there if you don’t start down that path now. Don’t look back at your life in two years and say, “I wish I had started selling products earlier!” Do things today that will matter in two years, five years, and twenty years from now. This is the exact same advice I give newbie real estate investors because it’s the biggest regret most professionals have later in their life—“I wish I had started sooner.”

Are you a serious blogger or an amateur?

Finally, by selling a product on your website you are telling the world that you are a professional. You aren’t just posting photos of your grandma’s recent birthday party. You are offering a professional service to the world because you are an expert in whatever field you are in.

In the same way that I wouldn’t trust a consultant who charged $15 bucks an hour, I would also have a harder time trusting a “hobby blogger.” Selling a small product on your site will allow your readers to adjust to the idea that you are operating, at least in a small part, a business.

If you run a blog for two years and suddenly spring a $297 product on them, many will go running for the hills or pass you off as just another self proclaimed guru trying to take advantage of the small folk. Instead, by offering a small product for sale early in your blog development you will help your community adjust slowly to the idea of you making money and view you as an expert they could pay to get information from.

What do I sell?

“But Brandon,” you say “I don’t have anything to sell.”

False! Everyone has something to sell. I believed the same thing. Sure, I could make a video real estate training series, write a big ebook, or create a membership site. Those things, however, take lots of time to develop and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a whole lot of free time these days.

The solution came when I found something I already had that could help others. For me, it was an Excel spreadsheet that calculated the profitability of a house flip. I realized that one of my most popular posts on my blog had to do with how to analyze whether or not a house flip would be profitable. Additionally, I received emails every day from people asking me “is this a good deal?” in regards to an investment property they found. By putting together both a common question and a popular post, I realized what people wanted.

Take a look at your blog. What do people want? What questions are they asking you? What are your most popular posts?

For example, let’s say you run a newer blog on fashion design. You take a look at your popular posts and realize that your blog post about t-shirt design is a popular subject. You may also have been asked questions about how you come up with ideas for t-shirts. You could spend an hour writing a document titled, One Hundred Killer T-Shirt Design Ideas, turn it into a PDF, and offer it as an emagazine for $7.00.

Or perhaps you run a blog about web design. How difficult would it be to sell a pack of twenty Photoshop images of buttons or icons for $9.00?

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. While obviously I can’t go into detail of every product type there is, there are a few standards:

  • An ebook, ereport, or emagazine: Perhaps the most popular type of product, these informational products are nothing more than a word processing document converted to a PDF. I use OpenOffice (a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Word) because it’s both free and has the ability to convert your document to PDF in seconds.
  • An MP3: Perhaps you are going to sell a twenty-minute lecture on how to do something. You can record your lesson using software such as Garageband (Mac) or Audacity (PC) to turn your words into an MP3 quickly and easily.
  • Consulting or coaching: If you are involved in a niche where you could profit by sharing your knowledge on a one-on-one level with others, consulting might be an excellent option for you. I use “Ether.com” to manage my consulting, which allows the client to call in, enter my Ether extension number, pay for the session, and connect us together while monitoring the time spent on the phone and charging accordingly.

If you have a really young blog (the “my mom is my only reader” type), a good strategy is to find a more popular blog in the same (or very similar) niche and read the comments. Look for questions that are being asked, or common concerns that are being raised.

If you can answer those questions on your own blog and turn them into a sellable low-cost product, you can often even respond to those comments on the other blog with a link back to your own. Just don’t be spammy.

How do I sell?

Selling products online is significantly easier than you’d think. There are many good articles across the web (like this one) that will teach you, step by step, how to do this. I want to just give you a big-pictur” look at how the process looks and show you how easy it really is.

The easiest way to upload a product for resale is using a website known as e-Junkie.com. Yes, the name is a bit off-putting and the web designers for the site haven’t yet caught on to the clean, smooth, minimalistic trends blanketing the Internet. However, what they lack in being pretty they more than make up for in being … awesome.

Once you register for an account, you will simply add your product to their servers, connect your PayPal account to e-Junkie, and place a link on your own website. E-Junkie will handle the entire process for you and provide the product to the customer after they have purchased it. The best part: e-Junkie starts at just $5 per month.

A warning and a kick in the pants

I am not suggesting that you spam all your readers with sales products. You are trying to build a blog into a business, and nothing is going to turn off potential readers faster than gimmicky sales and greed. If you are following the advice you find on Problogger.net and other great sites, you already know that providing value and great content is the best way to grow your blog.

However, it is important to have the option available for readers who earnestly want more and are willing to pay for it. By offering low-cost but premium content for sale on your site, you establish yourself immediately as an expert in your field as well as a professional business aimed at helping others. You also begin building a solid foundation upon which great success can be built for your blog, your financial future, and the lives of your readers.

You don’t need a million readers to start making money through your blog. You have everything you need to begin selling a product by tonight on your blog. The tools are there, the motivation is there, and the idea is probably already formed in your head. So what are you waiting for?

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, and blogger at RealEstateInYourTwenties.com where he teaches others how to “hack” the real estate game. He is also the author of “7 Years to 7 Figure Wealth,” a free e-book.

How to Write Your Most Popular Post

What was your most popular post this week?

I asked this question on Twitter on Thursday, and got some interesting responses. The people who tweeted back blog in a range of markets—from personal blogs and finance blogs, to fashion blogs and craft blogs. And their readers are have differing needs.

Put yourself in the picture

Put yourself in the picture

Among the posts were how-tos, reviews, personal stories, opinion—all kinds of approaches. And the ideas discussed are as diverse as yellow pants, Excel spreadsheets, and portrait photography.

Yet all of these were these bloggers’ most popular posts.

The message here?

There is no perfect post formula

If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ll have seen that a concept or approach that works one month might flop the next. While much of the advice we see online seems to suggest that repeating what works is the path to blogging success, most of us know it’s not that simple.

Each new day brings a slightly different world, and we have to continually adapt to meet the needs of that world, and the readers who inhabit it.

What worked yesterday may not work quite so well today. So while we can rely on some “formulae” or “secrets”, we have to continually evolve new ones, and test them, and see how they work, so that we’re evolving at the same rate as our market—maybe even a little ahead if we’re lucky.

In doing that, many of us develop reader personas—ideal views of the person we’re trying to reach through our blogging. While we all understand that there’s variation, these personas can make our blogging clearer, more consistent, and give it a stronger voice.

Still, it’s important to see the lesson here, too.

There is no ideal reader

While it’s good to picture an “ideal reader” and write and blog with them in mind, I like to remind myself that that person doesn’t actually exist.

All readers are different, as all people are different. We have unifying characteristics, but they’re usually outweighed by the differences. It’s the combination of similarities and differences that makes us unique. While as bloggers we can focus on the similarities, and use them to define our readership, if that’s all we look at, we miss a big opportunity to connect.

Each person experiences things—including your blog—in a unique way. This was very clear in the posts we recently published by bloggers who joined me in Queensland, Australia, earlier this year. We all attended the same blogging workshops, and we all shared a lot of the experiences that Queensland Tourism made available to the group.

Also, all of the attendees were bloggers who were interested in visiting Queensland, and had the abilities to win the competition we ran to find our attendees.

Yet if you read those posts—and we gave all the bloggers a similar “brief” for the series we put together—it’s clear that each person took something unique from the experience. NOt only that, but they applied what they learned in completely different ways with their blogs and readerships. No two bloggers are alike—not even in these five examples!

There is only one you

We’ve published a few posts recently that have made this point, including The Secret to Crazy-happy Blogging and Unconfidence: The Essential Ingredient to Crazy Stupid Success.

While the world may change and your audience may evolve, there’s only one you.

You—your unique way of seeing the world in which you blog, and interpreting it for your readers—are the glue between your blog and your audience. I know it’s more common to see the blog as the medium between yourself and your readers, but just for today, I’m asking you to see it differently.

See yourself as the reason readers are coming to your blog.

You’re the reason they’re reading, following you on social media, and using your blog to buy products, connect with others, share their experiences, and engage.

While none of us wants to get too ego-bound, I think bloggers can be more likely to overlook this point than focus on it. And that’s to our detriment. While your blog’s not about you—it’s about your readers—you’re the reason your blog is popular.

You’re the reason your most popular post is popular.

Success is down to the work we do, as individuals. So just for today, don’t look at others’ work to find some commonality, technique, or formula that you can apply to your blog to achieve popularity. Instead, think about yourself, and your readers, and know that the approach you create to meet their needs and solve their problems is unique to you. You’re popular with your readers because you are the person you are. And that’s worth making the most of in your blog.

Escaping from Desktop: Online Document Editing Tools for Bloggers

This guest post is by Nina Gorbunova of TeamLab.

I first faced the problem of document immobility a couple of years ago, when I was far away from my PC. I lost my flash stick and realized that I didn’t have my documents stored anywhere in the cloud. That’s what we call epic fail. Of course, “it’s not the end of the world,” you may say. But being a freelancer, sooner or later you realize the importance of round-the-clock access to your files.

Another problem I faced was appropriate document management—in terms of document creating, storing, editing and sharing. Being an active blogger, I deal with document editing almost 24/7 and have strict requirements for the software I’m using. I need it to have an intuitive interface, rich toolset, and flexible sharing features.

Microsoft Word and Pages were pretty much enough for me formerly, but since I decided to step into the world of SaaS, I needed something different.

It took me half an hour to find more than a dozen services that promised to help me with remote working in the cloud. However it took me several days to figure out that most of them were not what I was searching for.

Google Docs

The most popular online document editor deserves to be covered first. Google Docs‘ interface tends to be minimal. As for the toolset, although in comparison with desktop editors it is not that rich, I believe it can suffice for an average user.

Google docs

Your Google Docs document can be downloaded as ODT, PDF, RTF, text, Word and HTML formats. Despite its popularity I had quite a few troubles when it came to inserting an image and huge problems with editing tables.

The Sharing feature is simple enough: as well as the options shown below, you can share the document with anybody and set up access rights to let them edit, comment, or just view the document. The only hindrance that might bother your collaborator is that they’ll need to be logged into your Google account to access the document (unless you use private sharing, which is preferable).

Google sharing

As a positive, the Comments feature is amazing and appears to be a huge advantage. However, I had troubles uploading and editing large docs and docs that contained several images.

Zoho Documents

Zoho is another well-known giant in the world of collaboration software. From the first glance I was impressed by its colorful and bright interface. On the other hand, it appeared to be a little bit tangled and confusing.

Zoho docs

It has a custom dictionary, word count and Thesaurus—though I’m not sure how many people would use these features. Zoho developers did their best to put some fun into tables and even included Table Themes. Unfortunately, though, even those didn’t let me make the table look the way I wanted.

Zoho tables

Working with images went smoothly. One thing that was difficult me was pagination, because when I downloaded the document (you can see available formats in the screenshot), the number of pages was different from what I expected it to be.

Sharing was another feature that left me confused. The terms of sharing are standard, but the document didn’t look the same on my screen and that of my colleague; moreover, he couldn’t edit it even though I gave him “read and write” access. That’s a serious problem that might be a stumbling block for many users.

Zoho sharing

On the plus side, the toolset is extremely impressive. However, an average user would find many of the tools superfluous, besides, some of them, like tables and headers, seemed to have serious bugs.

Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 hasn’t gained as much popularity as Google Docs yet, but the service definitely looks promising. Its interface is close to what most of us are accustomed to, and the basic toolset reminds us of a desktop application.

Office 365

The number of fonts and styles significantly exceeds that available in other online editors. Furthermore, users have the ability to switch to the desktop version of the software using the Open in Word button.

What confused me most of all—and it can be seen on the screenshot—was working with images and tables—there was no drag’n’drop functionality at all. For me, this is on the “must have” list, but its implementation is probably only a question of time since Office 365 is still quite a young solution.

The application does not provide sharing capabilities, though SkyDrive by MS enables users not only to share the document with a others, but even post it directly to social networks. I’m sure this software has a bright future, being a part of such a strong suit, but for me currently it’s not functional enough—I would prefer to use SkyDrive or some alternative app.

Office 365 share

Central Desktop

The tendency of software engineers to include document management capabilities in collaboration and project management platforms has become widespread these days, and Central Desktop is an example of such a tool. A user-friendly interface and basic features, however, don’t make the service unique.

Central desktop

Document editing is inseparably linked to the other parts of the platform—Project Management, Calendar, and People, which is a benefit if you are planning to collaborate with your colleagues using this tool. If not, it may be a serious obstacle, since the sharing feature is available for system members only.

That said, the Central Desktop Document Editor can’t help but produce a good impression. The drag’n’drop deature works great, and editing tables is convenient. There does seem to be a poor number of fonts and font sizes, though.

Although I haven’t tried to collaborate with this platform, it seems to me that the opportunity of inserting Calendar and blocks of Group Activity might comes in handy especially when it comes to reporting—as you might do within a blogging team.

Central desktop 2

There’s no opportunity to use Central Desktop for free, so it’ll be a closed book for many bloggers. Prices start at $99 per month for 20 users—again reflecting its team focus. Initially you get a 15-day trial for free.

Teamlab Document Editor

This is another tool that includes an editor as a part of an online collaboration service. But I intentionally put this one to the very end of the list because—cards on the table—I work for TeamLab. Now you might say that every cook praises his own broth, so I’ll do my best to stay as impartial as possible!

Among various online document editors this one looks the most like your favorite desktop application—Office 365 is probably the only alternative that would compete with TeamLab in this realm. The toolset is also impressive—Teamlab Documents provide you with a large number of styles and fonts, using those already uploaded to your computer.

Teamlab view

Image editing is good. Images stay exactly where you put them and can be shifted easily. Tables offer the same flexibility and nice designs. The editor has its drawbacks, of course. The lack of a spell checker and drag’n’drop text pasting are the biggest issues I’ve found so far.

One of the most noticeable advantages of the application is the “document identity,” which became possible with the usage of HTML5 canvas technology. Technically, this means there are no more formatting losses when you convert your doc into another format (which is the most irritating thing about most online editing tools). You can download your document as PDF, text, DOCX, DOC, ODT, RTF, HTML, or EPUB, and it won’t change a bit.

Sharing is available for those who are registered to use the platform as well as for third parties, which means groups of collaborators aren’t dependent on the platform.

Teamlab sharing

This option also offers Dropbox, Google Docs, and Box.com integration. However, right now, Teamlab can process text documents only, as it is still in beta. Spreadsheets, PDF files and presentations are on the way, according to the developers.

Jacks of all trades, masters of none?

Though we can find a dozen services for online document editing, many users still have to admit that most solutions lack functionality and remain far behind the best offline editors, such as MS Word and Pages.

If you’re working with all document types—spreadsheets, texts and PDF files—neither Google Docs nor Central Desktop can be called a full-featured editor, though they reach the furthest of the options we’ve looked at here.

Do they offer additional tools for file processing? Yes. Are they desktop editor replacments? No. Nevertheless the younger generation of editing apps already gets closer to perfection.

Do you use online document editing tools in your blogging? Why, or why not? And if you do, which ones? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Nina is an active blogger, a marketing manager at TeamLab and CeBIT 2012 participant. She is interested in technology advance and believes HTML5 is the future technology.

How to Hit Content Scrapers Where it Hurts

This is a guest post by Robert from The College Investor.

If you’ve been blogging for any period of time, you’ve inevitably had your content stolen.  In fact, you’ve probably already taken steps to protect your content from being copied. And you’re also probably familiar with how to go about filing a DMCA takedown request.

However, I’m here to tell you to wait on doing that, and follow these two steps first!  You see, content scrapers are stealing your content for two basic reasons—to make money off it, or to build a site for links and/or traffic with it.

As such, to really hit them where it hurts, you need to hit them at these basic levels. And it only takes a matter of minutes!

Hit them where they make money

Most content scrapers are in business to use your content to make money.  If you’ve found their site, you will usually see some type of monetization, like AdSense. 

Now, a huge part of being in compliance with Google AdSense Terms of Service is to only publish original content, and not plagiarize or steal content.  If an AdSense Publisher is caught using someone else’s copyrighted material, it will result in the banning of their account, and the forfeiture of any revenue.

You can use this form to file an AdSense Complaint, and when you do, make sure that you select “This site is distributing someone else’s copyrighted material, possibly without permission.”

If you’ve read about being banned from AdSense, you know that it is very hard to get another account—you have to use a totally separate entity (such as a business), or another person has to open the account for you. Even so, if Google suspects any connections between the old and new account, the account will be suspended before first payment is made anyway.

Most pay-per-click advertising networks have some sort of reporting tool, so if the site isn’t using AdSense, you may still have an avenue for justice.

Hit them where they get traffic

The other reason why content scrapers steal your content is to use it to either build links or build traffic to their sites. However, if you’ve paid attention to any SEO news lately, you’ve undoubtedly read about Google’s search algorithm update. The search engine will now take into consideration valid copyright removal notices when it generates search results.

As such, it is essential that you report these scraper sites to Google using their Content Removal Form. This way, the offending sites will have their search results hampered, and may even be de-indexed.

It is also important that you submit the request to Google first, because they will usually verify the validity of the claim within 24-72 hours. If you get the content removed via DMCA, and then file a complaint with Google, the scrapers will stay in business because Google won’t see the plagiarized content.

Hit them where it hurts

If we all hit these content scrapers at these basic levels first, before we get our content removed from their sites, we can seriously impair their ability to make money and gain traffic, and hopefully slow down their actions.  I’ve had a lot of success with this in my niche, and I know you can as well.

Have you taken direct action to go after content scrapers and other who plagiarize your content?  Share your story with us in the comments!

Robert blogs at The College Investor, a personal finance blog dedicated to college students and young adults, and My Multiple Incomes, where he discusses his goals and methods to develop multiple income streams.

Six Top Tips for Success #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Mei of CCFoodTravel.

Not too long ago—in the middle of this year to be precise—I got an email stating that I was one of ten special bloggers chosen to participate in the Queensland ProBlogger event. I was over the moon, to say the least! In the coming week I prepared myself and my gear for this immersion in the great Australian outdoors, as well as for the blogging workshop with Darren of ProBlogger…

Little did I realise that at the event I would make such cool friends from all over the world, in the form of the other nine bloggers—some of them have even guest posted for me now! I also learned that blogger collaboration is indeed a huge aspect of reaching out to people—something that is yet untapped by my blog. Here are six other handy tips I picked up from the ProBlogger workshop.

  1. Have a system in place: Blog as often as you can, or in a way that suits your lifestyle. Tweet, Facebook, Stumble and employ other social media to help, but mainly do what works for you. Try to keep your blogging activities to a similar time each day of the week. If you know what time your USA market segment wakes up, for example, then try to schedule your tweets for the highest traffic periods of the day.
  2. Re-appraise past posts: It’s good to go back and re-write old posts and make them better, especially those that draw a lot of interest—your top hit posts. You should link those posts to other posts on your blog that you feel are even better. This keeps the readers engaged with your blog and makes your blog sticky.
  3. Test, try, and tweak: We should always strive to improve our existing strategies. Do not be afraid to test out new ideas. Once you have found something that works, keep tweaking it till you can no longer get any better results out of it. Once we implement these new ideas, we should continue to evaluate, assess, and to tweak until we get the desired outcome.
  4. Try to sell your own product: I met many inspiring ladies at this ProBlogger workshop, and they ultimately sold their own products on the blog. I would like to try this out for my blog, but am still “testing, trying, and tweaking” till I find the one!
  5. Plan to monetize: Create a professional-looking media kit and promote yourself in a professional manner. Advertisers are investing their time and money in you, so don’t be afraid to make yourself sound as good as you truly are. Adding testimonials and media mentions helps! And create an at-a-glance rate card that will help you to be more efficient in replying to emails!
  6. Blogger collaboration: Make friends, exchange business cards, and learn what makes the other bloggers’ blogs so special. And ask for guest posts and give give them out generously too, when you’re asked for them. That’s the best way to reach the untapped audience!

Have you used any of these strategies on your blog? I’d love to hear your top tips for blogging success in the comments.

Mei and her husband Jo, are avid travelers, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For some delicious food porn and adventure travels, check out CCFoodTravel. In our spare time we also write for our fitness and health blog, Cikipedia. Alternatively check out our extreme sports/adventure blog, WHOAAdventures. Follow Mei on Twitter.

How to Build and Monetize a Mobile-Optimized Blog

This guest post is by Thomas Samph and Matt Convente of Grovo.com.

For bloggers, creating a mobile site can seem daunting. Without the time, money and a working knowledge of various coding languages, a mobile site can seem out of reach.

But today, just like anyone who only has a desktop version of their website, that thought process is outdated. Mary Meeker, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, noted in her 2012 Internet Trends report that mobile traffic today accounts for 10% of total Internet traffic.

What’s more, way back in 2010, she predicted that mobile users would surpass desktop users by 2014. Even more recently, the Google Mobile Ads Blog released an infographic showing that in the United States, 47% of searches for information about Olympic athletes or news about the Olympics were conducted on mobile devices.

In other words, the rewards of going mobile far outweigh the risk. Plus, with the myriad of tools at our fingertips, creating a mobile optimized site isn’t as difficult as it sounds.

So let’s take a look at why you need a mobile optimized site. Then we’ll show you how to do it. And of course, let’s not forget to monetize, too.

Why have a mobile site?

Even by the time Meeker released her Internet Trends report at the All Things Digital conference in May, we knew where the Internet was headed. The Internet is going mobile, and bloggers need mobile sites.

Here’s a short case study: think of all your favorite sites. The majority is already mobile-optimized, and there’s a great reason why. Whether readers are checking in before they go to bed, as they’re waking up, or on the go, mobile-optimized sites offer great user experiences no matter what device readers are using.

Let’s see a demonstration. Below is a screenshot of the New York Times desktop version, to the left, and its mobile version, to the right.
NYtimes_desktop_mobile

When you access the New York Times from a mobile device, you actually get the same version of the site as from a desktop browser, just smaller. This is what you want to avoid by creating a mobile version of your site.

“But wait,” you say, “The New York Times has an app that I can access from my mobile device.” True; but there’s a large difference between native mobile apps and mobile versions of sites.

Whereas a native mobile app requires a brand new infrastructure (i.e. lots of time and resources), a mobile version of a site simply means that the existing site is presented to mobile users in a user-friendly format. Plus, a mobile version of a site doesn’t require its own content management system.

To see the difference, let’s take a look at the New York Times native mobile app, and the mobile-optimized version of their site:

nytimes_mobile_versions

In comparing the two, we can see that there’s much more functionality in the native app to the left, but the mobile version to the right is a huge step up from looking at the desktop version of the New York Times on a small screen.

Now that the difference between a native mobile app and a mobile optimized site is clear, there’s one distinction still to make. We’ll illustrate that with the following two sites:

mashable_desktop_mobile

ethan_desktop_mobile

Both Mashable and Ethan Marcotte have mobile versions of their sites. But there’s a subtle difference between the two, which has huge implications on how easy (or difficult) it will be for you to create a mobile optimized version of your site.

When Mashable’s site detects that a visitor is accessing it from a mobile device, it shows that visitor the mobile version of the site, instead of the desktop version.

Ethan’s site, on the other hand, uses responsive web design, where the elements of the site rearrange themselves depending on the size of the browser. Check it out by clicking and dragging the corner of your browser on his site to make the content bigger and smaller. You’ll see that all the content shifts and rearranges itself based on the size of your browser.

In fact, Ethan Marcotte wrote the book on responsive web design. He’s a good act to follow. But following him is not easy, by any means. Responsive web design is a very difficult emerging trend in coding and design, and few people can pull off a site like Ethan’s.

So, bloggers are left with a decision when it comes to creating mobile-optimized sites: create a mobile version of a blog, or build a site using responsive web design.

How to make a mobile-optimized site

Using a plugin

There are several methods you can use to create a mobile optimized site. But anyone with a Blogger blog has it easy: Blogger blogs are automatically set up with a mobile-optimized version. If you use WordPress, the easiest method is to use a WordPress plugin.

To see what your site might look like after you use a WordPress plugin to create a mobile-optimized version, check out TechCrunch’s browser version compared to its mobile site:

techcrunch_desktop_mobile

WordPress, which powers TechCrunch, has a number of plugins that can optimize your site for mobile—all you need to do is install one of them.

Wapple Architect will display the mobile version of your website to visitors with mobile devices. It supports AdMob and Google Adsense, and allows you to retain the URL structure of your current site, instead of having to create a new subdomain for the mobile version.

wapple_plugin

WPtouch is another popular WordPress plugin that, like Wapple, is fully customizable to your needs. There’s also an option for mobile visitors to switch back to the desktop browser version if they wish to do so.

wptouch_plugin

The WordPress Mobile Pack transforms WordPress blogs into mobile sites quickly and easily, while offering a range of customizable features. Again, you’ll have the ability to manage your ads through AdMob or Google Adsense. With this plugin, however, you can view mobile analytics apart from your desktop analytics.

wordpress_mobile_plugin

By using these plugins, you ensure that those visiting your site from a mobile device will see the mobile version only. Problem solved.

However, if you’re looking for more customization, or you’re not using WordPress, check out Onbile.com.

Instead of building a mobile site from scratch or installing a plugin, Onbile lets you build a slick mobile interface with no coding. You can choose from several themes, customize the pages, and link in your RSS feed.

how_to_use_onbile

Once you’re done building, grab the redirect code and place it in the index of your site, and you’re ready to go.

Here’s the transformation of my website:

samph_desktop_mobile

Unlike WordPress plugins or Blogger mobile sites, however, the free version of Onbile requires that you keep the Onbile advertising banner on your mobile site—not the best choice if you’re looking to keep your mobile site monetized.

Still, using WordPress plugins or sites like Onbile that let you build your own HTML5 mobile site can be a great quick-fix for anyone looking to appeal to mobile traffic without having to get their hands dirty with code.

In the next section we’ll discuss some more in-depth methods of creating a great mobile presence with responsive web design. The feint of heart can skip to the last section!

Using responsive web design

Responsive web design is a way to build mobile capability into your existing site. This method is much more difficult than building another version of your site and redirecting, such as with Onbile, and it requires a deeper strategy and planning to pull it off.

For another great example of responsive web design in action, check out the Boston Globe’s site. Note that as you change the size of your browser, the content of the site changes as well.

boston_globe_site

small_boston_globe_site

This is made possible by media queries, which control the adaptation of site layout and content based on certain conditions, such as screen resolution, orientation, and pixel density. Media queries are placed either in your master CSS file, or in a separate file; it’s really up to you. Having them in your master CSS file means you have one less file to load, but having a separate file for responsive styles makes them easier to maintain.

However, no matter which method you choose, you must place your responsive styles after your main styles. This is because browsers render code from top to bottom. If your responsive styles are placed above your main ones, they won’t be activated when they’re needed.

Here are some sample media queries that you can run to adjust the layout of a page when a visitor’s screen resolution is a certain size.

1. Make a layout that adapts to a max screen width of 600 pixels (likely a phone):

@media (max-width: 600px) { CSS goes here }

2. Make a layout that adapts to screens between 768 and 850 pixels (likely a tablet):

@media (min-width: 768px) and (max-width: 850px) { CSS goes here }

The last step to a successful mobile site is to add the viewport meta tag in your header. This determines a device’s width and informs the mobile browser, making it a necessary supplement to media queries. In order words, media queries adjust your CSS to varying widths, whereas viewport tags determine the starting width of the device a visitor is using right now.

In addition to device width, viewport tags can also assign initial and maximum scale. Here’s an example meta viewport tag:

meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width; initial-scale=1.0; maximum-scale=1.0;”

Here, initial-scale should be set to 1 so the correct responsive styles are displayed for your specific mobile device. The maximum-scale value can be whatever you want, though it’s important to note that zooming on a mobile device might cause some site elements to break, similar to zooming on full-width browsers. If you want to disable zooming, set maximum-scale to 1.

Let’s not forget to monetize

For any blogger who uses AdSense, it will be fairly easy to keep the mobile version of your site monetized. And if you don’t already, you can use AdMob, another Google advertising service designed specifically for mobile devices, to serve mobile banner ads to your mobile site.

Still, there are several common problems with advertising on mobile sites:

  • No Flash: It was slightly shocking to developers when Apple announced that Flash would not be supported on their mobile devices. Sites built with Flash were relegated to the broom closet, in favor of HTML5 and javascript. Many ads themselves, let alone entire mobile sites, are built with Flash. So, with limited support on Android devices, and no chance on Apple devices, Flash ads are a no-no on mobile.
  • Ad display size: The screen area of mobile devices is much smaller than desktops, so many ad sizes simply won’t do on mobile. The biggest victim of mobile is the vertical sidebar.
  • Ad file size: The speeds at which you can download data to a mobile device have still not caught up to those of a desktop. This means you need to be mindful of the loading time for your ads. Large files will take a while to load, and can also force your other content to load more slowly. When sites are slow to load, people leave.

However, those problems have some quick solutions:

  • No Flash? No problem: Instead of using Flash, try an animated GIF if you want a moving ad. Flash files are large, slow to load, and probably won’t even display on most mobile devices. Animated GIFs are a quick fix.
  • Getting the right ad display size: Square or almost-square ad units are best for mobile designs, because they’ll fit on most devices as long as you place them correctly.You can also use a rectangular adhesion banner that is fixed to the bottom of the mobile browser. Fixed banner ads have an identical pro and con: it’s always there. Be mindful of height, especially in landscape viewing mode, as a fixed ad that is too tall will cover up too much of your site. For a reference, check out the iab guidelines for digital ad units.
  • Fixing ad file size: Export your ad images using a “Save for web” or equivalent option in your editing software. This will compress the file size and make it acceptable for mobile.

How mobile’s your blog?

To prepare for the mobile traffic of the future, bloggers need mobile sites. Although some methods are more time consuming and difficult than others, there’s a way to do it for bloggers of all skill levels.

And with more and more data surfacing about the volume of mobile traffic, from Mary Meeker’s reports to the mobile search volume at the Olympics, going mobile is all the more necessary.

Do you have a mobile-optmized blog? How’d you build it? Tell us in the comments.

Thomas Samph, a product analyst, and Matt Convente, a front-end developer, both work at Grovo.com, an online training and education platform for cloud-based software.

From Hobby Blog to the Other Side of the World in 18 Months #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Stuart of averagejoesblog.com.

I don’t write in a niche, and I don’t really write to make loads of money.

The main reason I started writing was to put my own opinion and mark on things that I love. I founded www.averagejoesblog.com many years ago, but it was always just a brain dump—a place where I could be honest, and where if the odd visitor could read something that wasn’t a standard press release, or some old hack (writer) sucking up to a brand, then it was a bonus.

Then, in February 2011 I was approached by one of the biggest brands in the world: Ford. They asked me to cover the launch of a new car. This was one of my first experiences of a rather awesome press trip, and the first interest my blog had attracted from an international brand. The best thing about it? They approached me—I didn’t go to them. That is true for 90% of all the brands I work with (yes I may be a little lazy!).

In the past 18 months I have travelled to Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy, Switzerland, America, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and of course the pièce de résistance, Queensland, Australia with Problogger himself Darren Rowse, as well as nine other bloggers from around the world.

In this post, I’d like to give you a few non-standard tips on the things I do which are slightly out of the box.

How I got to Queensland

Why I have been chosen for these experiences? I honestly don’t know 100%, but I am pretty sure there are a few major factors. I have left out the usual stuff about quality content, readership, and so on—everyone knows that!

Here are the things that I think I’ve done differently.

  • Timing: I don’t like to use the word luck, but I do believe all aspects of life are about timing. You can have the best idea in the world at the wrong time, and it will never work. Because of this, I make sure I keep in contact with agencies and brands on a regular basis. If you are in their mind at the time of a big event or launch, you are much more likely to be invited to cover it.
  • Social: I have a private Twitter list of people in my industry, and those who I might want to talk to. This allows me to keep an eye on them and anything they might be working on. I will also tweet to them on a regular basis, again to make sure I am in their thoughts.
  • Honesty: Don’t get me wrong, we all like to get paid, but I personally won’t work with anyone if it doesn’t feel right. Never sell yourself short, and always make sure you have final say over everything that has your name attached to it.
  • Be pro-active: Now this is something I’m not as good at as I’d like to be. But if you have a good idea, do it! I’ve saved the contact details of every single PR person I have ever worked with. You never know when you might need them!
  • Be quick: I don’t think you can ever email or call someone back too quickly. There is a misconception that bloggers aren’t professional in business, and that just isn’t true. Very few emails sit in my inbox for longer than 24 hours, and if it’s a good one, it’s turned round in minutes.
  • Processes and templates: There are some things we bloggers are asked over and over again by people who can help us build our audiences. Our history, readership, rates—you name it. Don’t make the answers up as you go along. Spend some time making them perfect, and put them in a template. Then all you need to do is copy and paste.
  • Controversy: For me, there is no such thing as bad press. It comes back to honesty in a way: I won’t go out of my way to be nasty, but equally I won’t go out of my way to be nice. If something is garbage, everyone has the right to know it is! Now of course, you might not agree with this, but ultimately, that’s why controversy works…

That’s a sample of the reasons why I managed to end up in Australia with Darren. This was one of the few times I’ve been proactive in getting to an event, and look how it turned out!

As I said, blogging’s not about the money for me. It’s about the once-in-a-lifetime experiences we get the chance to have a go at. During five days in Australia, I ticked three things off my bucket list! That’s pretty good by anyone’s standards.

What one-in-a-lifetime experiences have you enjoyed through your blogging? Tell us about them in the comments.
Stuart is a UK based Internet ninja and digital geek, the founder of averagejoesblog.com. He helps organisations build and manage their digital footprints.

Blogging for Startups: 10 Essential Tips to Make it Work

This guest post is by Gregory Ciotti of Help Scout.

Getting the word out about your startup is tough.

Blogs serve as a great way to increase organic traffic and establish the all-important relationship of “know, like, trust” through the provision of free content. In addition, few other marketing channels allow you to connect so well with prospective (and current) customers as well as giving you a platform to provide readers with a ton of value.

To become a thought leader in your startup’s industry, and to generate quality leads through your blog, be sure to follow these ten essential steps to creating a blog presence that thrives in the crowded blogosphere.

1. Create useful resources

You’ve likely heard (many times over) the effectiveness that resource pages and opt-in freebies play in generating more email sign-ups, and it’s all true.

But when it comes to startups, these resources become doubly important.

It’s critical that you create numerous resources that are both informative about your industry and your offering.

Maintaining an ever-growing resource section that employs multiple media types to help people become informed about both your industry and your business is essential for increasing conversions.

It’s important to branch out into visual media to promote these resources, too. One of my favorite methods is to create slideshows based on existing content.

Why are resources so important for startups?

If you’re just running a blog, your resources are likely going to be used to generate more subscribers.

But for a startup, these resources can be the deciding factor in whether customers are willing to try you out: your free content gets them on your site, but your professionally prepared and incredibly useful resources give them the info they need to justify a purchase.

2. On-site content + guest blogging = success

Don’t get me wrong, running a company blog is hugely important. It’s so obviously effective, it almost doesn’t need to be mentioned.

One thing I see many startups fail to do, however, is to embrace the power of guest blogging.

Although the process can be time consuming, and it may take an extended period before any fantastic results are achieved, it is hard to argue with the success of folks like the BufferApp team, who’ve utilized guest blogging to attract over 100,000 users to their service.

Great on-site content deserves to be viewed, and there are few things that work as well as guest blogging to get your worthy content in front of readers who will enjoy it. Speaking of getting the word out…

3. Content promotion doesn’t end with a tweet

This is a big one. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that this is the biggest mistake any blogger can make.

Once a great piece of content is written for your blog, you may think your work’s done. In reality, it’s just begun.

They don’t call it “content marketing” just for kicks: although the content itself is a good marketing outlet, you’ve got to market your own content in order for it to succeed.

What does this mean? It means reaching out to people who may enjoy your posts.

This exemplary tale of getting published on Lifehacker makes an important point: when your content really is interesting and informative, getting featured on a huge blog like that may only be an email away.

It’s all about finding the right places for your content, and establishing a connection with the sites’ owners through mutual interests. Don’t blast your latest article out to everybody you know. Find a few people who might really enjoy it, and send them a personal email.

If you don’t know where to begin, I recommend browsing a few sites in your niche via AllTop.

4. Repeat after me: it’s not about you!

This is content marketing 101, and although it’s pegged at point four on this list, this is really the most important tip.

Your startup’s blog is never going to be an industry leader if the only thing you talk about is you.

On occasion, an important company update is definitely necessary. Cool company stories also make the cut, because they’re something that anyone can enjoy.

The rest of the time, you need to be creating content that informs, delights, and solves the problems of potential customers.

One of my favorite examples of a company that gets it can be found over on the Mint blog. While Mint is a powerful tool that’s worth writing about, the Mint blog focuses on Mint’s customers’ interests, which in this case includes topics like personal finance, savings, and income (jobs).

People read what interests them. While the internal updates within your startup may interest you, few other people are going to want to read about them. That’s why, in order to become a thought leader, your content needs to serve customer’ needs and interests, not yours or your team’s.

Your goal is to turn your company blog into a resource of its own. When other outlets start doing round-ups of the Top 25 [your niche] Blogs, will yours be mentioned?

5. Use the “halo effect” to generate more links

Your startup shouldn’t be excessively worried about getting backlinks, but generating links is an importance process of establishing your company’s (and your blog’s) authority in search engines.

One thing that startups can utilize is the so-called halo effect.

The halo effect states that people will generally feel favorably towards people (and things) that give them a good impression (that impression can be through association, perceived intelligence, and even their attractiveness).

As an example, there are many entrepreneurial shows that startup founders can appear on for more exposure. The shows are popular and seen favorably, and so are the people who appear on them as guests.

Here’s a great interview with Jason Cohen (founder of WPEngine) on Mixergy, which leverages the story of his startup’s growth for additional exposure.

This is the halo-effect in action: people generally support startups and view a group of hard-working people toiling away at a new venture as admirable, and they will often be willing to tell your story if it relates to their audience.

6. Check in on the competition, and find what they’re lacking

You can’t create a great company blog without a unique selling proposition. It’s needed for your business and it’s essential for your content as well.

The best way to do this is to see what’s lacking over on your competitor’s blog.

One great example comes from the fine folks at StudioPress, where content creator Josh Byers creates some of the more interesting web-design content around.

Many other WordPress theme sites only update on new theme releases or new features. If they don’t do that, their blog posts are often uninspired or generic.

Taking advantage of this, Josh creates some really in-depth content like the Secret to Confidence with Color Design, a fantastic look (with some great visuals) on a topic that many rookie website owners struggle with.

While competitors are busy focusing on themselves, Josh and the StudioPress team produce a ton of content that helps readers, and that’s the best kind of content to write!

What gaps are your competitors leaving wide open? How could you come in and fill the void?

7. Collaborate to take things to the next level

One of the biggest advantages you have at a startup is that you have access to a lot of talented minds. You don’t need to rely entirely on yourself, as you do as a solo blogger.

I mentioned how effective resources can be, but these collaborative efforts can also be used to enhance your marketing.

One of my favorite examples comes from the excellent startup Grasshopper, which collaborated with Less Films in order to create a video entitled “Sh*t (Tech) Entrepreneurs Say”, a comedic spin in the same vein of the original viral video:

On your team you’ll likely have a multitude of talents, so if you are able to use different aspects like visual marketing, creating different kinds of media, or brainstorming other out-of-the-box marketing tactics, you’ll more than likely have the manpower to pull it off (this is a more difficult process if you work alone).

8. Don’t fall for the social media trap

Bring out the pitchforks! Yes folks, I said it: social media is by and large way less useful than its vastly superior counterpart: email.

Social media is great in that it lets other people share your content. That’s good for exposure, but it happens without you being there. While it is useful for your brand to engage on all of the essential social media platforms, you’re dooming yourself to failure if you aren’t placing emphasis on email.

Email is the greatest way to provide customers value, to drive consistent and reliable traffic back to your site, and to … oh yeah, make more sales.

This is especially true if your startup is in the enterprise software or B2B spaces, because email crushes social media in those areas.

So remember, it’s great to create a strong following on Twitter, but if you aren’t ending your funnel with email (and actual sales), you’re just wasting your time.

9. Simplify your SEO

Search engine optimization is a powerful piece of the content marketing puzzle, but it can be portrayed as a very complex subject, and that’s largely because at its deeper levels, it is.

For startups, the most important SEO rule is this: create content for humans, then target one keyphrase per article. That’s it.

Create blog posts that people will enjoy. Next, find a relevant keyphrase that you might be able to rank for that’s related to that article. After you’ve figured this out, you can contextually link back to that article from guest posts and other off-site features, as well as make headline adjustments in things like All-in-one-SEO to enhance on-site optimization.

Industry-leading content is made for people to read and enjoy, but by keeping search engines in mind can help get it in front of a larger audience.

10. Follow the leader(s)

Sivan Cohen recently did a great piece on Mashable entitled 5 Tech Companies That Get Content Marketing Right, and in it she outlined some of my favorite places to observe as I look to improve my own blogging efforts.

To make things a bit more concise, I’ll highlight my two favorites:

Here’s what I like about what they do…

For KISSmetrics: The focus was on creating industry leading content and large guides on complex topics within the field of marketing and analytics.

KISS also entered the scene early by focusing heavily on infographics that truly set the bar for design. They weren’t afraid to get very data-driven because they knew that’s what their customers wanted. It’s okay to ostracize some readers—you want the people that lap up the kind of content that relates closely to your brand, as those people will become your buyers.

For the Buffer blog: The two big highlights are the prodigious guest posting coming from Buffer’s main content guy, Leo Wildrich, and the subsequent pivot of the Buffer blog USP.

Leo has done a fantastic job with utilizing guest blogging to bring customers back to Buffer, and it’s also what got Buffer’s own blog off the ground (I should know—I was the first person to guest post there!).

Buffer also made a great pivot recently when it outgrew its original topic of unique Twitter tips. It now addresses an angle consisting of productivity, lifehacks, and customer happiness (since it now serves multiple social networks).

There are definitely other great examples to learn from, so pick a few favorites and start taking notes!

Blogging for startups

As you can see, blogging for startups is different than either blogging solo, or blogging for an established business.

How has your startup utilized blogging so far? Bloggers, have you ever worked with a startup? If so, what were your experiences? I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments!

Gregory Ciotti is the author of Sparring Mind and the content strategist for Help Scout, the customer service software for small-businesses that turns email support into a fast, easy and memorable experience for customers. Learn more about @HelpScout by watching this free webinar.

5 Lessons I Learned About Blogging in Queensland #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Rebecca Cooper of simpleasthatblog.com.

It’s hard for me to believe that just three short months ago I was in sunny Queensland enjoying the sites and attractions across the world from my homeland of Canada. Being chosen as one of the ten bloggers to go on this once in a lifetime trip was exciting to say the least! I was thrilled for the adventure and equally as thrilled to learn what I could about blogging while there.

Though I’ve had a blog now for over five years, I’m relatively new to the idea of monetizing and was feeling ready to take my blog in a new direction but I needed some help to get there.

Amidst helicopter rides over the Reef, ocean kayaking and zip lining through the rainforest, we had the chance to sit through two blogging workshops with Darren and the open discussion and interactions between all the bloggers was so helpful and really opened my eyes to a lot of possibilities in this world of blogging!

Besides the obligatory Koala and vegemite souvenirs I brought home for the kids, here are a few blogging tidbits I brought home from Queensland with me.

5 Things I learned about blogging in Queensland

  1. Blogging buddies are the best: Discussing blogging with other bloggers is a lot different than chatting on the subject with my husband, who does not blog. So very different!
  2. Make products prominent: If you want to sell ebooks, or other products for that matter, make them easy to find.  I had links to my ebooks on my blog’s sidebar, below the fold, and I was only selling a handful. It was recommended I move them to the top of my sidebar. I was so surprised to see my ebook sales more than double just by doing this. It’s something so simple and obvious to some, I’m sure, but I told you, I’m new to this monetizing thing, remember?
  3. Write with intent: One thing that really stuck with me from Darren’s blog workshops was to ask myself what is the one thing I want my readers to do after they read each post. I find myself asking this question before I hit publish, now. Whether it’s to have readers purchase a copy of my ebooks, have them subscribe to my RSS feed, or simply to feel inspired, with this intent in the back of my mind as I write, I’ve found my posts being more driven and accomplishing better what I want them to. I find myself writing with more intent.
  4. Editing published content is wise: Going back and adding to past content is okay. I learned a few things about what I should have done in past posts, so I fixed them. I went back through my past photography-related posts and provided links to my ebooks, for example.
  5. Believe: One of the biggest things I took away from my experiences in Queensland is to be confident in who you are as a blogger. Believe that you have something to offer, that your content is valuable. That belief in yourself really does shine through.

While I still have a very long way to go in growing my blog and monetizing it the way I’d like to, the things I’ve learned and the small steps I’ve made so far have certainly made a difference.

Sitting down with the other bloggers and doing an open critique of each other’s blogs was one thing I found especially helpful during the workshops and I came home with a list of goals and ideas I can’t wait to implement in my blog!

What new ideas do you have on your blogging to-do list? Let us in on them in the comments.

Rebecca Cooper is a mom, blogger and photographer from Alberta, Canada. When she’s not busy taking care of her four kiddos she enjoys crafting, running, being outdoors, taking photos and blogging about her family’s adventures at simpleasthatblog.com.