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Weekend Project: Get a Handle on HTML

Tools like WordPress and Blogger and pretty much all online editors now provide us with WYSIWYG tools.

The HTML editorThat’s excellent for those of us who are less technical—like me! But visual editors like the one in WordPress can tempt us to copy and paste content from another program, like Word.

Even if we type directly into the content window, as I’m doing now as I write this post, if we only know how to use the visual editor, we can make what seem irrevocable errors (or edits!) as we format and style the content using the buttons on the toolbar.

For this reason, we’ve wanted to publish an HTML-for-bloggers guide here at ProBlogger for some time. And now we are.

Why bother?

If you’re not as familiar with HTML as you could be, you may hit a few problems in your blogging:

  • making small errors that are time-consuming to fix and solve
  • having trouble correcting issues that arise in guest submissions
  • not being able to check the content of links—which can be disastrous if they’re affiliate links or promotions
  • failing to present your content in a consistent or professional way, which undermines your blog’s credibility.

These are just a few of the potential everyday problems you face if you don’t know the basics of HTML. But the fact is that to grow your blog, you will definitely need to know how to encode a link, style text, and more—and that means you need to understand a little HTML.

Get a handle on HTML

This weekend, Matt Setter’s going to introduce us in a straightforward, simple way, to the basics of HTML. Over the next two days, he’ll show us what HTML looks like, and step through the main elements you need to know to set up and format posts to perfection.

This two-post mini-series will help you get a handle on the code behind your posts so that you can trouble-shoot formatting and content issues yourself, quickly, as they arise. It will also, I hope, inspire you to find out a bit more about the language.

At the end of each post (or the series) feel free to add a comment about the main problems you have with encoding posts and content on your blog—I’m sure Matt will be pleased to answer your questions, perhaps in an extra post if needed!

To get started, I’d love to know how you’d rate your understanding of HTML basics. Do you usually use your blog platform’s WYSIWYG editor, or its HTML editor, to edit and format posts? Let us know in the comments—and enjoy this weekend’s project!

3 Steps to Living an Authentic Life Online

This guest post is by Geoff Talbot of SevenSentences.com.

Whether you like it not, social media is taking over Internet.

Research tells us that one in five of every minutes spent online is currently being spent on a social media channel. Business has always been about getting the attention of customers. That’s why the newspaper salesman used to peruse the busy city sidewalks, shouting at the top of their voices “Read all about it! Read all about it! Read all about it!”

The time and place may have changed, but the heart behind the messages that are being shouted at the minions who walk by is still the same.

Businesses, attention hungry artists and entrepreneurs who are building their own platforms are standing on the social sidewalks of cyberspace shouting at the top of their voices. “Look at me! You want this! You need this! Come buy from me.”

The problem is the people on the sidewalk aren’t stopping anymore, there is too much noise, too many interruptions, they’re just covering their ears and walking as fast as they can.

How can an authentic artist, a good business person, or a brilliant entrepreneur actually get traction in this noisy world?

Here are my three secrets for creating an authentic web presence.

1. Leave the sidewalk

You will never get any healthy attention on the sidewalk. It’s time to stop selling, it’s time to go into your storehouse and pull the curtains across the windows and lock the doors. You need to breathe clean air for a while. Some people would call this a social media detox; I think of it more as simply deciding not to swim in shark-infested water.

What is your storehouse?

Your storehouse is your authentic center; it’s who you really are, it’s the reason you went into business, picked up that musical instrument, or came up with that product line in the first place.

Breathe and remember.

The dog eat dog, rabidly competitive world of cyberspace can cause a person to forget their humanity; it caninizes them.

Sometimes we spend so much time on the sidewalk, we forget to look after our storehouse and it gets pretty messy inside. This kind of social media strategy, which focuses more on the market, more than it does on the product and the services you are offering will always end in burn out and decay.

No one else will tell you this BUT I think for the sake of your soul, you need to keep the doors locked until you’ve rediscovered the “real reason why.” The why is always greater than dollars, it’s above status and far out reaches any amount of social significance; the thing that captivated your heart in the first place?

What was it?

Almost certainly it will involve at least one of the following…

  • a deep desire to connect with other people in a positive way
  • a heart for justice or a desire to improve thing.
  • a profound love of creativity.

When you are alone in the quiet of your storehouse, drink deeply from the ancient river of your inspiration. Let the fresh waters wash over you and heal you from the rampant busyness of the sidewalk. Relax; you will know when it’s time to unlock the door.

2. Inviting others in

When you are refreshed and ready, your storehouse although now beautifully in order; it will begin to feel strangely empty, even though it is in fact full. That burning desire to share all you have with others will begin to grow inside you again, until you find it is almost impossible to resist. Yes it is time to re-engage, but it would be foolish to venture out onto the wintery sidewalks of cyberspace again.

What do I suggest?

Go into the kitchen and take your finest cut of lamb out of your refrigerator. Cook that lamb. Let rich aroma of that beautiful meat satiate every corner of your storehouse. Stoke up your fire in the hearth; warm your storehouse to the point of total comfort. Now go to the front door, open it and let the warmth and the rich essence of who you really are spill out onto the sidewalk.

You don’t need to shout anymore, your authenticity, the smell, the warmth of your genuine self, will do all the talking for you. In the cold, wild, attention-grabbing world of cyberspace, you have created a safe haven and a place of nourishment.

The tired, angry, frustrated and cold souls busily marching down the social media sidewalks are desperately in need of what you have to offer. One by one they come in, to escape, to breathe, to get warm again and to gain nourishment and strength. Your website, your business, your product or your song, is so pure in its authenticity that it is just what they needed, it’s literally saving their souls.

Perhaps this is real reason you went into business or picked up that instrument in the first place; to feed the hungry, to bring health to the sick, to be a friend to the lonely?

3. The best messages are whispered between friends

But how will people know if you don’t tell them?

The temptation to shout and move back out onto the sidewalk is very strong BUT shouting nearly always forces a person to cower, step back, or put their hands over their hands. There are very few people who can shout effectively, and why would you want too, when there is a much better way.

The best messages are almost always whispered amongst friends.

It’s the private conversations in cyberspace that will really; truly dictate the success of your business or career.

When you feed people, when you connect with them on a level that goes deeper than simply a product, a business or a song they simply cannot help BUT share their experience with others. And this is the true and democratizing power of social media; not that it connects strangers with strangers; but that it connects friends and that enables friends to share truly good things with each other.

So what does this all mean?

What are the practical implications here?

When there is a lot of shouting, people long for quietness. When there is a lot of incessant selling, people long for generosity.  So be authentic and genuine, but also be judicious and intimate. Don’t give pearls to pigs or they will trample what is truly good into the manure of the sty.

In today’s brave new world, perhaps the best way of spreading your message is to insist on keeping it a secret.

Geoff Talbot is a social media consultant based in Portland, Oregon and the creator of SevenSentences.com, an online community for creative people.

How Free Ice Water Turned into a $10M/Year Business (And What it Means for You)

This guest post is by Greg Miliates of www.StartMyConsultingBusiness.com.

In 1931, during the depths of the Great Depression, Ted Hustead opened a store in a tiny South Dakota town, population: 326, virtually all of whom were penniless. Over the following decades, Hustead grew his store into a $10 million empire, now famous throughout the world, still with one location in that nowhere South Dakota town which has, at last count, 766 people.

His secret?

Free ice water.

What does this have to do with running a blog and earning money online? Just about everything. But more on that in a minute.

A bad beginning and a big breakthrough

From the beginning, Ted barely made enough to scrape by. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl had wiped out most of the families in town, and there was no relief in sight–certainly nothing that might help Ted’s business.

Nearly five years after opening his store, Ted, his wife, and son–and now they had new baby daughter–were no better off than when they’d first opened their store. To earn a little extra cash, Ted even resorted to studying veterinary medicine so he could help farmers with sick livestock.

But Ted’s luck changed on a hot day in July 1936.

Ted’s wife kept hearing cars roar through town on nearby Route 16 en route to Mount Rushmore some 60 miles away. On scorching, dusty summer days, she thought those travelers might want a cool drink, and told Ted that they should offer free ice water to travelers. Ted put up a few signs along the road, and by the time he got back to the store, his wife was scrambling to keep up with all the new customers, serving up ice water, ice cream, and whatever else people wanted.

Fast-forward to today, and during the peak summer season, Ted’s store can get 20,000 customers a day.

From ice water to a world-famous, million-dollar enterprise

Ted and his wife built up from those first days of free ice water, learning what else their customers wanted, and adding onto their store to accommodate their customers. Their store—the world-famous Wall Drug, still with just one location in the tiny town of Wall, South Dakota—now sprawls over 75,000 square feet. Over the years, Ted added a restaurant, gift shop, clothing store, theatre, an Old West frontier town, chapel, and even an 80-foot dinosaur.

But how did he do it?

Now, unless you have a boatload of cash–which Ted didn’t–how did he scrape up enough money to build that kind of enterprise? And how did do you get 20,000 people a day to go out of their way—literally in the middle of nowhere—to come spend money at your store?

Remember those signs along Route 16 on that hot, dusty day back in 1936? That was the key. After the Husteads saw the signs bring in customers, it was a matter of “rinse and repeat.”

But Ted didn’t stop with just a few road signs. He decided to go big—on a massive scale. If you’ve ever driven through South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, or within several hundred miles of Wall Drug, you’ve seen signs for Ted’s store. Chances are, you’ve also seen lots of cars with Wall Drug bumper stickers too.

Strung out along thousands of miles of interstate highways, state routes, and other roads, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of billboards for Wall Drug, offering everything from free ice water, to a hot meal, cowboy boots, gemstones, a frontier town—even a roaring T. rex and the opportunity to pan for gold.

What Wall Drug means to you

That’s all great for Wall Drug, but what about your blog? Well, the free ice was a bribe. Everything else is an upsell. But there’s more to it.

Those first road signs back in the summer of 1936? Essentially, Wall Drug was able to bring in customers by tapping into marketing channels. Ted’s wife realized there was a steady stream of prospective customers hurtling past on Route 16; Ted just needed to give people a reason to stop by their store. And on a long, hot, dusty drive across the prairie, free ice water was it.

Tapping into your marketing channels—for example, by putting up billboards on virtually any road in the region—lets people know you exist.

The next crucial piece is giving people what they want—which can be different from what they need. People don’t need to see an 80-foot dinosaur replica. But what parent is going to turn down that request after being cooped up in a car and enduring hours of pleading for it? Damn right. The kids can see the darn dinosaur, and everybody can get a hot meal and stretch their legs.

How to magnetically pull people in

Educating prospective customers that you have something they want is necessary, but sometimes isn’t enough. Certainly not enough to create an empire in the middle of nowhere.

You need a little something to push people over the edge—to compel them not just to come to you, but to buy from you.

How? Emotional marketing.

For Wall Drug, curiosity and social proof—along with the desire to be part of a tribe—are powerful emotional triggers. There are other emotional triggers—like fear, jealousy, prestige—but curiosity and the need to belong are strong positive emotional triggers.

Back to all those Wall Drug billboards. Something strange happens as you drive along for those hundreds of miles, heading toward the national parks and other sights in the region like Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, or Devil’s Tower. As you keep seeing all those Wall Drug billboards—even if you don’t need anything they’re offering—you get curious. You think, “What the heck’s the big deal about Wall Drug? Why so many billboards?”

And when you finally get to Wall Drug—and you surely do—you see tons of people crowded into the store, some sporting hats, T-shirts, and other paraphernalia promoting Wall Drug. If you’re a savvy marketer, you realize that Wall Drug has created massive social proof—and its own tribe of fans. It’s the brick-and-mortar equivalent of Justin Beiber’s Facebook page.

How you can copy Wall Drug’s strategies in your own business

Now that you understand how Wall Drug got so successful, let’s apply those ideas to your blog.

  • Tap into your marketing channels: Ted put signs on Route 16, then expanded to other roads and the interstate highways. Find channels where your prospects are, and be there to educate and entice them. What’s your Route 16?
  • Understand your prospective customers: Know what they want, and let them know you have it. Road-weary travelers and families want a cool drink, a meal, and something memorable. Offer your bribe—free ice water, an ebook, a video—to get people in the door. Being part of a tribe (“I’ve been to Wall Drug”) is icing on the cake, and gets others to do your marketing for you.
  • Build buzz, engineer social proof, and create intrigue that magnetically draws prospects to you: Being everywhere and having other customers promote you creates social proof. Your prospects will also be curious what they’re missing out on enough to seek you out and join your tribe.
  • Adapt and offer additional products and services to meet customers’ needs and wants: Ted added a restaurant, entertainment for kids and adults, an art gallery, and souvenirs so people could show they’re part of the tribe. How can you give visitors what they want and generate revenue at the same time? Though lots of bloggers make money through advertising, some savvy bloggers realize that consulting can be very lucrative, and offer consulting services as another way to monetize their blog. If you aren’t offering consulting, you’re losing out on a potentially significant revenue stream. Look for other ways to meet customers’ needs and wants that also create revenue.

Next, answer the following questions, then experiment with implementing your answers to see what works best in your niche.

  • What are your marketing channels?
  • What are your prospects’ wants and needs?
  • How can you make people curious, create buzz, and build social proof for your site?
  • What other ways can you fulfill your prospects’ wants and needs? What other products or services could you offer?

Ted Hustead built Wall Drug into a large and successful business—in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere—by using strategies that you can apply to your site. Understanding how he did it gives you a blueprint to follow.

Greg Miliates started a consulting business in 2007, quadrupled his former day-job salary, and ditched his day job along the way. His blog (www.StartMyConsultingBusiness.com) shows you how consulting can change your life, and gives specific tactics, strategies, and tools for starting and running a successful consulting business on the cheap.

Find the Ideal Frequency for Blogging and Email Marketing

This guest post is by Francis Santos of Benchmark Email.

Blogging and email marketing are a lot alike. Okay, a lot might be stretching it, but they do share some similarities. For example, both are easy for beginners to use, are generally inexpensive, and great for business.

Another quality these two internet-powered vehicles share is the importance of frequency.

Whether it’s entertaining your blog readers or marketing to your email subscribers, frequency is something that could literally make or break you.

Blog posts: two perspectives on frequency

One of the golden rules of blogging is to post, and often. How important is it to post with regularity? Very, if you’re a fan of market research. 

According to HubSpot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing report, underestimating the importance of posting frequency is equivalent to leaving cold, hard cash on the table. The report showed that businesses that posted to their blogs multiple times per day had the highest levels of new customer acquisition, at 92%.

On the other hand, you have those who say that blog posting frequency no longer matters, citing that quality, engagement, and reader loyalty are more important.

The observers on this side of the fence have a point, but frequency is something that should never be viewed as an afterthought. It is usually the moment you get comfortable and feel you can ease off on posting that your visitors get bored and take their blog reading adventures somewhere else.

Email: frequency matters

Although I’d say it’s vital, the overall importance of blog posting frequency may actually be questionable when you factor in aspects like quality, engagement, and loyalty. When it comes to email marketing, however, there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it—frequency definitely matters. It really is one of those double-edged swords that can cut you on both sides, too.

With blogging, you can pretty much post away until your heart’s content. Of course some posts might perform better than others, but this really is one of those no harm, no foul situations.

This is not the case with email.

If you flood your subscribers with too many messages, they are likely to get annoyed, which could lead them to opt-out or cry “spam” and report you to their ISP.

But if you’re not contacting them enough, you run the risk of having them lose interest, which could again lead to a higher opt-out, rate and money wasted on subscribers who have little to no chance of converting.

Finding the frequency sweet spot

Blogging and email marketing may be two entirely different animals, but you can take similar steps to determine the ideal frequency of both tactics for your blog and audience.

Think about your content

What type of content are you offering your readers? Is it the latest in celebrity gossip and entertainment news? If so, then daily updates may be appropriate. Is it coupons, special offers, or other forms of cost savings? Maybe every other day or once per week will suffice.

When you’re trying to nail down the right rate of frequency, your content should be one of the first things you consider.

Evaluate your resources

You could have all the ambition in the world, but in some cases, it will be your resources that determine what is the right frequency.

For instance, if you have multiple people contributing to your company blog, posting every day may not be a problem. But if it’s just you, something like a monthly newsletter to your email subscribers may be all you’re able to handle.

Let your audience dictate

Bloggers and email marketers alike often find that letting their audience decide is the best way to get a grip on the frequency dilemma.

It is possible to determine what they want by judging their response to your approach, but don’t hesitate to ask them in a blog post or a survey just to be sure. This is a good idea because people tend to have different preferences, especially when it comes to email communications.

Frequency and format

Whatever the format, as long as a communication concerns your marketing message, the frequency at which you deliver it will always be important. This is true whether we are talking about blogging, email, or posting on social networks like Facebook or Twitter.

No matter what turns out to be the best frequency, make sure you commit to it because your ability to be consistent with it will tell all.

Got any additional advice on frequency for bloggers and email marketers? Feel free to share them with us in the comments.

Francis Santos is a writer for Benchmark Email, a best practices email marketing company.

Why Great Writers Win Out in the Blogosphere—And How to Join Them

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Writers’ Huddle.

Is your writing holding you back?

If new visitors never stick around, if you rarely get retweets, or if there’s tumbleweed blowing through your comments section, this might not be because you’re getting anything wrong in terms of promotion.

There’s a chance that your writing isn’t quite up to the high standard required for blogging success.

Of course, the ability to write isn’t the only skill you’ll need as a blogger—but it’s a crucial one, and perhaps even more important than being able to market your blog well, or handle the technical side of things.

Here’s why.

Text is still dominant online

Podcasts and video blogs are great ways to get your message out there—especially if you know you come across well when you’re speaking, but you struggle to put your thoughts in writing.

However, text certainly isn’t dead:

  • Text is much faster to consume than audio or video. A post that takes five minutes to read might take fifteen minutes or more to listen to on audio. This means that many people still prefer to get information through text.
  • Text downloads much faster than audio or video files. For people on slow connections, or on phones or tablets with limited data plans, this is a huge benefit.
  • Ebooks are a huge growth industry, and that’s only going to continue. Even if you’re not writing ebooks yet, you might well do so in the future. (For instance, you might want to bring out your blog posts as a cheap Kindle ebook.)

And, of course, writing is an easy way to get started online. You don’t need any specialist equipment to write, whereas the cost of a good audio or video setup might put you off, especially if you’re a new blogger.

Simply choosing text as a medium, of course, isn’t enough. Your writing needs to be good too—after all, there are plenty of other blogs and websites that readers can turn to.

Readers want to enjoy your posts

What should a blog post do? Some bloggers think it should give information, or report on breaking news. Both of those are great starts, but if you want readers to stick around, your post should also be enjoyable.

That doesn’t mean you need to pack in jokes, or write in a literary, highbrow way so that people marvel over every word.

It does mean you need to write in a clear, accessible way so that readers aren’t left struggling to understand your message.

It also means you’ll want to put in some personality, rather than making your post sound like an essay for school.

What great writing means for bloggers

Perhaps you’re realizing just how important good writing is … but you’re concerned that this isn’t your key strength.

There’s a good chance that you’re already further along the road to being a great writer than you think.

Great writing is about every aspect of the blogging process:

  • structuring a post with a strong beginning, middle, and end
  • crafting an attention-grabbing title and a gripping introduction
  • writing in a clear, easy-to-understand, and friendly way
  • using subheadings effectively, to act as “signposts” to help the reader
  • rounding off the post with an effective call to action.

That might seem like a daunting list, but the good news is that these are all things you can learn, if you’re not already working on them.

Seven tips to put into action this week

Whether you’re already a good writer and you want to go that bit further, or you’re a brand new blogger with very little writing experience, these tips will help.

Each should take you about 10 minutes to put into action, so try one every day this week, and see how your writing improves.

Tip #1: Plan your next post

If you don’t plan your posts before you begin, get into the habit of doing so. You’ll improve the structure of your posts, and you’ll find it easier to write them.

Tip #2: Read your post out loud

One of the best ways to spot typos, spelling mistakes, and clumsy sentences is to read your post out loud. This forces you to slow down and hear the rhythm of your words.

Tip #3: Change “I” to “you”

Does your post include a lot of your personal experience? Try switching things around so that you’re focusing on the reader instead (at least most of the time). Imagine you’re writing to one, single person.

Tip #4: Craft a great title

Your title is the most important part of your post: if it’s weak or confusing, the rest of the post won’t get read. Can you make it more compelling? (Try looking at post titles on ProBlogger or Copyblogger for inspiration.)

Tip #5: Write a call to action

A call to action tells the reader to do something. It normally comes at the end of your post, though it doesn’t have to. You could ask them to comment, ask them to subscribe, or ask them to check out your new product or service.

Tip #6: Analyze another blogger’s post

Find a post that was a good, enjoyable read, and print it out. Go through it slowly and figure out how it works. How is it structured? What hooks keep you reading? What’s the writing style like?

Tip #7: Choose three areas to work on

You might be aware of some weak spots in your writing. Perhaps you struggle with titles, or you often muddle up words like your and you’re. Choose three areas to work on, and plan to tackle at least one of these next week.

I’ve worked with dozens of bloggers over the past couple of years, and I’ve found that everyone can improve, whatever stage they start at. You can too.

Best of luck with your writing and blogging! If you’ve got a great writing tip to add (or a question to ask), just leave a comment below.

Ali Luke runs Writers’ Huddle, a community/teaching site for bloggers and writers. This fall, she’s offering her popular Blog On course for Huddle members: 10 weeks of step-by-step teaching to help you write great posts and pages for your blog. You can find out more out Writers’ Huddle here. (Move fast, as membership closes on 12th October.)

How to Score a Job on the ProBlogger Job Board

This guest post is by Jason Bacchetta of Life’d.

After posting quite a few jobs on the ProBlogger Job Board, I’ve come to realize that a number of pet peeves affect my decision as to whether or not an applicant gets hired. Although some jobs receive upwards of 500 applicants, few of those people will follow these twelve easy steps to scoring the job.

Implement the tips given here, and watch the positive responses to your applications skyrocket!

1. Follow the instructions

The very first thing you should do before applying for a job is read the entire job post.

If the company or individual asks for something specific, be sure to follow the instructions. After you’ve completed the application, go back through both your application and the job posting, making sure you’ve covered all your bases.

By following this first step, chances are you’ll already be in the top 20% of applicants.

2. Start with the application itself

Believe it or not, I’ve had applicants ask me not to take their initial application into consideration when judging how qualified they are for the job.

Your application is your first impression, when you should be trying your hardest. If you’re unable to demonstrate your qualifications now, why should you be trusted to perform in the future?

Use complete sentences in your application, and make sure you’re not making any obvious spelling and/or grammatical mistakes (read 3 Simple Grammar Tips to Improve Your Writing).

3. Act fast

If you find an exciting job opportunity, you need to act fast. As mentioned, some postings will receive hundreds of applications. Don’t wait a week before applying; get started immediately.

By being one of the first to apply, you’ll get noticed before the hiring manager becomes overwhelmed and, even more importantly, before the job has been filled.

Keep in mind, though, that “acting fast” doesn’t mean you should submit a sloppy application with a dozen errors; this will cancel out any advantages you might gain from applying early. Rather than getting eyeballs on your application, your email will end up getting trashed.

4. Don’t be demanding

Occasionally, I’ll get an email that sounds more like a decree than an application.

Telling the hiring manager how it’s going to be (e.g., “I get paid weekly via PayPal,” “I will submit X amount of articles on these days,” etc.) is not likely to go over well.

Don’t be so aggressive. Focus on getting hired first, and then get into the details and the negotiating once you know the hiring manager is interested in you.

5. Be direct

Start off your application with exactly what was asked for, and format your email so that it can be scanned.

If you choose to send one big block of text covering every minute detail about your awards and past experience, you will come across as a poor communicator … and boring. At the very least, this will earn your application a “come back to later” tag.

Additionally, don’t send the hiring manager all over the web with 30 different links. The person reading your application wants to find what they’re looking for quickly and without feeling like they’re spending more time doing research than actually evaluating you.

6. Submit relevant examples

If you’re applying to become a writer on a personal finance blog, link to articles that you’ve written in that particular niche. Submitting a portfolio that consists of random ramblings or medical research won’t get you far. Remember, your voice and writing style are going to be taken into consideration as well.

In other words, take that same cookie-cutter application that’s getting sent to everyone, and customize it to be better suited to this particular job.

7. Be honest

If you’re submitting an application that has been written by someone else, you’re going to be exposed in a flash. I’ve had applicants submit impressive applications, but when it comes time to write an article, their work barely qualifies as English.

Likewise, if you’re submitting sample articles that have been heavily edited by someone else, be upfront about it. Otherwise, you are going to be expected to deliver work of that quality each and every time.

Most companies won’t have any problem with letting you go the moment you fail to live up to their standards.

8. Don’t hesitate

Don’t send over an email asking whether or not you should apply, even if you’re just checking to see if the job has already been filled. You may come across as lazy or unsure of your own qualifications. If you’re not confident in yourself, why should I be?

9. Be realistic about pay

The web has completely changed the way publications are run. Rather than a few magazines that charge for each edition and stuff ads into every other page, we now have tens of thousands of websites that everyone expects to read for free.

Think about it. How often do you pay to read an article on the Internet? Sure, maybe you click on a few banner ads here and there (or maybe you have a program like Adblock installed, in which case the publication is actually paying you to read their articles), but the fact is, revenue isn’t what it used to be when traditional media ruled.

Be realistic about how much you expect to get paid for writing on the web. Of course, there are still publications out there that pay upwards of $2 per word, but those jobs are few and far between.

There are U.S.-based writers with some college education who are willing to write for as little as $0.03 per word. On the high end, I personally pay upwards of $0.10 per word to my best writers. These are people who not only have excellent written English skills, but who are also capable of generating intriguing article ideas and producing viral content with little to no help from me.

10. Be patient

Obviously, knowing that someone truly wants the job for which they are applying is a plus for the person doing the hiring. But don’t get too far ahead of yourself. At the very least, give it a few days before following up on your application. Ambition is great, but you don’t want to look too desperate or pestering.

Also keep in mind that popular jobs—ones that offer good pay and tend to be more exciting—are going to receive a lot more applications than the others. Therefore, in some circumstances, you may want to hold off for a couple weeks before sending over a second email.

11. Don’t burn your bridges

You’ve heard this phrase before, but you may not have known that it applies to freelance web positions as well. You never know how many web properties someone owns. And many website owners will ask each other for referrals when looking to fill a position.

I’ve had people burn me in the past, who then went on to apply for other job postings of mine. Needless to say, they didn’t get a response.

12. Treat it like a real interview

All of these guidelines point to one simple rule: treat your online freelance applications as if they were a real job interview. If you wouldn’t say something or act a certain way in a face-to-face interview, why would you do it via email?

This is a guest post by Jason Bacchetta, founder of Life’d, where you’ll find life hacks, health, finance and productivity tips.

Is Your Facebook Page in Danger of Deletion? Save Your Fans in 6 Steps

This guest post is by James Dunworth of the Ashtray Blog.

On the 28th August, shortly after getting our 14,000th follower on Facebook, we received one of those emails that makes your heart not just sink, but plunge through your stomach and crash onto the floor.

Facebook had deleted our page from its network.

Facebook email

In this post, I’ll provide some hard-won tips that’ll show you:

  1. how you can avoid losing your Facebook page
  2. what to do if your page is deleted
  3. why and how to diversify your traffic sources
  4. how not to lose your Facebook page in the first place!

6 tips to save your page

First up, here are six tips that night help you avoid having your Facebook page deleted in the first place.

1. Read and re-read the Ts and Cs—and keep up with the updates!

I’ll start with this one, as I believe this was the key mistake we made!

We’d been through the network’s Terms of Use with a professional Facebook agency, and thought we were acting in accordance with their guidelines—not using Facebook ads to advertise our products, but promoting them from time to time on the page itself, for example.

A week or so before we lost our page, Facebook emailed us with some updated terms and conditions. If I had taken the time to read them, we might still have our page today.

Most people don’t bother to read terms and conditions. On Facebook, that could be a mistake! You can find Facebook’s full terms and conditions here.

2. Run your competitions through an app

Competitions are a fantastic way to gain followers, but they have to be done right:

  • You need to use a third-party app to run your competition.
  • You can’t use Facebook Likes as a voting mechanism.
  • You can’t announce Facebook winners through Facebook.

An alternative to running a Facebook promotion is to post a link to a competition you’re holding off Facebook, adding the disclaimer:

“This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.”

Social Media Examiner have an excellent article which will help guide you through the minefield or running a contest on Facebook, called Facebook Promotions: What You Need to Know.

3. Don’t upload copyrighted material

These days, everyone shares images on social network. However, if someone complains about some material you have shared, you could find your post deleted. Check that anything you share is available for public reuse before you publish it to Facebook.

4. Get your cover photo right

Facebook cover pages can’t:

  • include calls to action (e.g. “Buy Now”)
  • include contact details
  • contain prices or discounts
  • contain text that encourages people to Like or share the page.

5. Get your Facebook name right

Facebook names can’t contain generic terms, use excessive capitalisation, contain character symbols, or use “superfluous” descriptions.

6. Create multiple page administrators

Two examples of lost pages I came across when I was researching this post included:

  • cases where admins accidentally deleted the page themselves
  • pages being lost because an individual admin had his or her personal Facebook account deleted.

Choose your page administrators carefully, though—these admins will also have the ability to delete you, the page creator.

What to do if your Facebook page is deleted

Those are the basics, but the Facebook terms and conditions can change at any time. What can you do if you suddenly find your Facebook page has been deleted?

1. Appeal

When you get Facebook’s email about your page’s deletion, you’ll also get a link to a form that allows you to appeal the action.

Although we didn’t get a reply to our appeal, there’s always a chance you will, and a few other Facebook admins have managed to have their pages restored.

If you work with a social media agency, you might also find that they have a contact within Facebook—see if they can use their contact to get an explanation and make an appeal. Unfortunately, to date, appealing has not worked for us.

2. Pause any advertising for your page

In our case, Facebook continued to take money for ads that pointed to our defunct page. Make sure you cancel those ads, or you’ll be wasting money!

3. Create waves

Some bloggers who have lost their Facebook pages have managed to get them back by creating a community backlash.

When Ken Envoy of SiteSell lost his Facebook page and its 16,000 members, he immediately published a blog post titled, Urgent: We Need Your Help.

He urged his readers to spread the story, and credits his Facebook page’s restoration to their efforts.

We’re trying to do the same thing, and have set up a petition to ask Facebook to warn admins and give them a chance to change their pages before deleting them.

4. Make a story out of your loss

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”—Winston Churchill

We blogged about our story, and it went viral! We were astonished to get over 2000 shares of our first blog post about our Facebook page loss.

I also contacted several bloggers about our story when we created our follow-up petition post. As a result, Aaron Wall very kindly shared the story with 68,000 followers, Amy Smarty from MyBlogGuest signed our petition and shared the story, and ProBlogger invited me to write about the story!

It doesn’t make up for the loss of our page, but we received a lot of heart-warming support, and got some good links from other blogs out of the loss.

5. Start a new Facebook page—quickly!

People joined your Facebook page for a reason: because they liked it! Some of those people will join your new Facebook page, and you might be surprised at the kind messages of support they add to your page.

It’s worth starting the page quickly, and with a similar name—then, people looking for your page will be able to find it before they have forgotten about you!

Obviously, it’s important to also try to analyse why Facebook might have deleted your page, so you can avoid making the same mistakes again.

A lesson learned: diversify your traffic sources

Another key lesson we learned from this experience was not to rely one source of traffic. Our Facebook page was important to us—too important—but luckily, we also have other sources of traffic.

If you are relying on any one source of traffic, remember it can disappear rapidly. Work hard to make sure you are diversifying your traffic sources! Here are several which work well for us:

  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • search engines
  • affiliates (only relevant if you have a product to sell)
  • advertising
  • Twitter
  • specialist forums
  • our newsletter
  • blog links
  • blog commenting
  • specialist blogger groups on Facebook (If there aren’t any in your niche, why not start one?).

Have you ever lost a Facebook page? If so, what did you do? Let me know in the comments!

James Dunworth is the author of the Ashtray Blog, where he writes about e-cigarette news and tobacco harm reduction.

When You Don’t Have “One Reader”: Writing for a Diverse Blog Audience

“Write for one reader” is advice we hear often in the blogosphere, and it can be a useful way to get a consistent voice going on your blog.

But the longer you blog, the more likely you’ll be to get to know your readers, and the more diverse their needs may seem. Or perhaps you’re blogging in a niche whose readers, while they’re united on some fronts, have deeply divided opinions on certain aspects of your topic.

Difference

Image courtesy stock.xchng user mzacha

This kind of diversity can be particularly common among readers of blogs in the religious, political, and “cause” niches—areas where people feel really strongly about the topic, and have a deep appreciation of what can be the many complex aspects of the topic.

That said, I’d guess that plenty of blogs would reach audience segments with differing—perhaps conflicting needs. Meeting the needs of those segments is a challenge that every blogger faces.

What if you don’t have “one reader” that you can keep in mind as you write? What if you have three, or four—or more?

Today, I’d like to talk about a strategy you can use to meet the varying needs of a diverse blog audience. It has three key steps:

  1. understand
  2. match
  3. meet.

1. Understand

The first step—and perhaps the most important—is to understand the different audience segments you’re writing for. Have a think about your readers, and note down the ways you think they vary.

For example, if you’re writing a travel blog, you might be juggling the needs of armchair travellers who want a vivid story and glowing shots from around the globe with those of pragmatic travellers who really need practical advice and inspiration to help them get out there and see the world.

You might have more segments than just two—that’s fine. Once you’ve worked out what basic factor differentiates them from other readers on your site, it’s time to delve a bit deeper. Look through your blog comments (or those on other blogs or forums in your niche) and try to track down some key facts about each segment:

  • Their attitudes: Consider their motivations or reasons for holding certain opinions.
  • Their media preferences: Your blog may in fact unite readers who might not otherwise come together online. But even if it doesn’t, different segments will likely use different media within (and beyond) your niche. It’s a good idea to make a little profile of their media usage habits, as far as you can work them out, as this can give you insights into other opinions, preferences, or expectations they may have.
  • Their post format preferences: There may be little difference between segments’ preferences for different formats, or there may be a lot. Do certain segments prefer list posts, or vlog posts, or opinion posts? Does your podcast subscription list equally represent your audience as a whole, or has it attracted more readers from a particular segment?

All you’re tying to do here is get a feel for what makes these different segments tick—what interests them, and why.

2. Match

Once you understand each segment a bit better, you can consider how your brand serves the needs of each one.

You might be able to see, for example, why different reader types respond in certain ways to particular topics you’ve covered on your blog, or why they react in certain ways to your interactions on social media. Ideally, you’ll be able to point to actual examples of posts on your blog that work—and don’t work—for each segment within your audience. I’ve visualised that matching of your brand, your blog topics, and your segment’s needs in the diagram below.

A diverse audience

Don’t just look at posts on your blog, though—it’s a good idea to also at the other media you know this segment’s readers use, and do the same there.

Hopefully, this exercise will help you come up with a list of topics and messages that your brand can use as a basis to form deep, lasting, loyal relationships with the readers in this particular segment within your niche.

3. Meet

The last step in this process is to make sure you meet each segments’ needs through your activity on and around your blog.

You created a list of topics above, you know what aspects of your brand resonate with each segment, and you also know how they like consuming your content. The trick now is to create a list of potential posts that look at the topics of interest through the lens of your brand.

Now you can drop those post ideas into your content schedule, so that you can make sure you’re meeting the needs of the important segments within your larger audience. If you want, you can probably come up with some more targeted, specific ways to address them through social media, through your current (or new, targeted) email sequences, and perhaps—for large segments—through your product strategy too.

This way, you can make sure you’re diligent about meeting the needs of each subsegment within a diverse blog audience, without undermining your blog’s brand or making any group you want to serve feel left out or forgotten about.

Celebrate diversity

I think that perhaps the best way you can go about addressing sub-segments of your readers very specifically is to get excited about the diversity your blog has attracted!

One of the most enjoyable aspects of blogging is how it opens up doors to connect with people we’d probably not have met otherwise. Those relationships can be so rich and rewarding—don’t miss the opportunity to connect with key segments in your broad audience.

Does your blog have a diverse audience, with a few—or more—different segments? Tell us about them, and how you’ve tackled them, in the comments.

10 Words Every Successful Blogger Needs to Know

This guest post is by Tony Hastings of The Top 10 Blog.

Whether you are blogging for profit, publicity, or pleasure, the basic building blocks of success are the same.

Success can be defined as, “accomplishing an aim or purpose or having achieved popularity, profit, or distinction.” (Google Dictionary)

Here are ten essential words you should consider constantly as a blogger, as they reflect the values you need in order to succeed.

1. Purpose

A purpose is “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.” (Google Dictionary)

So why do you blog or want to start a blog? Your motive should determine the style of your blog, your style of writing, the frequency of your posts, and the subject matter of your posts. It’s important that you establish your purpose from the outset and make sure that your design and content fit that purpose.

The theme, layout, amount of advertising and type of content will all flow from your purpose, and they’ll set the tone that you desire. That doesn’t mean that you need to take it all too seriously if you are blogging just for fun, but it does mean that you shouldn’t dominate your pages with ads if your aim isn’t to make money blogging.

If you are operating in a niche, your purpose will be fairly clear and your content sharply focused. If, however, like me, you started to blog without any firm aims, then you might find that you need to be more flexible and allow your purpose to evolve and mature.

I started out aiming to collate Top 10 posts on all sorts of subjects, but now I focus on social media, especially blogging and Twitter. You don’t need to be too rigid—follow your instincts and go with the flow if you feel that could be the best way for you to discover your purpose.

2. Quality

Quality is “the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.” (Google Dictionary)

Good-quality content is the foundation of all great blogs. That’s easy to say, but how do you measure quality, and how do you ensure that your content achieves the desired standard?

That is a very subjective question but I would say that a post should be able to inform, educate, amuse, or entertain. Any one of these is a basic requirement, more than one is desirable, and all four is blogging heaven!

Your content should be original—too often we can visit a blog which appears to have some killer content but which, on closer examination, is a copy of or an excerpt from something previously posted elsewhere.

Don’t just focus on content quality, but on presentation quality too. Poor spelling and grammar can ruin the best posts. Always check and proofread your content to make sure it’s as good as possible. Be proud of what you do and make sure it embodies the best quality in all respects.

3. Patience

Patience is “an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.” (Dictionary.com)

This is essential in blogging! It can take some considerable time for your blog to be noticed, or for changes you have made to show results. Sometimes you can make changes such as SEO improvements, new sharing options, or different ad types and become frustrated when you don’t see results overnight.

It takes time for changes to take effect, particularly with search engine results and rankings, so be prepared to let things run for a while before you judge the results.

Too many changes in a short space of time can annoy regular visitors too, so try to be a tortoise and not a hare: allow good time to see the benefits of all the positive changes you make to your blog.

4. Determination

Determination is “a resolute movement towards some object or end.” (Dictionary.com)

Surely you don’t need to be determined to run a blog? Well, if you are trying to make money from your blog, or are using it as part of your social media strategy for a business, you most certainly do. It needs to be kept up to date and monitored to see how it’s performing, and that takes time and commitment.

But even if you are blogging just for the fun of it, you still need to be determined to keep it going in the long run. There are so many distractions in “real” life. I know from my own experience that sometimes blogging can seem to be a bit of a chore, and the blog can take a back seat as life takes over.

But you need to be determined to log in again to start writing and constructing that next post, as a neglected blog will soon begin to whither on the vine.

5. Confidence

Confidence is “belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities.” (Dictionary.com)

Self-confidence is a quality that is generally required to succeed in all areas of life—and blogging is no different. Just to put yourself out there in the first place takes courage and self-belief, and even the most experienced blogger may sometimes feel self doubt as their finger hovers over the Publish button.

Every blogger starts from the same place, and the key to building that confidence is, in the first place, to take that initial step to get started, and then to learn and develop from there.

You may not consider yourself to be the best writer or very technically minded, but by looking at what other bloggers do, soaking up the best of the amazing resources that are out there, and trying out new things to stretch yourself, your confidence will grow.

However, you must be prepared to fail and to learn from the inevitable mistakes that you will make. The blogger who hasn’t made a mistake yet may feel confident, but that confidence may be misplaced and will lead to an almighty fall when disaster strikes.

A better way to develop as a confident blogger is to take risks, be prepared to fail, and learn from the experience when it happens.

6. Integrity

Integrity is “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” (Dictionary.com)

I like a blog post with a bit of spice in it as much as the next person, but as bloggers we need to know where the boundaries, both moral and ethical, lie—and to act accordingly. What is considered to be offensive material is in many ways “in the eye of the beholder,” however the blogger should be wary of springing surprises on their readers.

For instance, a visitor to an erotic literature review site might know what to expect but if they come across explicit material on a web design blog they might be somewhat surprised. Similarly I see bloggers use offensive language and get away with it, but most would agree that it needs to be used sparingly and in the right context to be acceptable.

Do you have adverts or affiliate links on your blog? If so do you make it clear that you might be earning from these and do you ensure that you are not advertising products and services that most of your readers wouldn’t approve of? To preserve our reputation as bloggers it’s vital to make sure you make the appropriate disclosures and to ensure that you are happy with your ads and promotions.

We all hate to see our work copied elsewhere or images used without permission, so don’t do it to others. Again, we should all try to maintain good standards and do something about plagiarism when it does happen.

We all, as bloggers, have a responsibility to act with integrity and honesty to maintain our reputations. If we don’t, then we are unlikely to be successful.

7. Communication

The definition of communication is “to give or interchange thoughts, feelings, information.” (Dictionary.com)

This is one of the most important words for a blogger. Sharing, networking, commenting, reacting to comments, and connecting and interacting with others are vital ingredients of the blogging experience.

There are two aspects to this. The first relates to your own blog and the second to your own actions. A successful blogger must make sure that it’s easy for their readers to comment on and to share their posts. There is endless (often conflicting) advice out there about the best way to achieve this, so do your research, experiment, and find out what works best for you.

Get out there into the big, wide online world too. Connect with others on whichever platforms work for you. But don’t just use this as a way to make yourself known—promote other people too. Share great content from other bloggers, comment on their work, and interact with them. Doing that well not only means that you have a better chance of blogging success, but that your experience will be enriched, and b,logging will just be more fun.

8. Personality

Character is “the essential character of a person.” (Dictionary.com)

A great quality of any successful blogger is that they allow their personality to shine through all that they do. Don’t hide behind a logo—take a peek out and show your face.

Tell the world a little about yourself and add your image to your About page, and people will relate to you as a real person rather than as a corporate or anonymous entity. Let your own personality show in your writing and the things you write about.

People relate to real people, so showing your personality to the world will be of benefit when you do get out and about connecting and interacting on your chosen social (and real-world) networks.

9. Consistency

Consistency refers to the “steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc.” (Dictionary.com)

In my early blogging days, I tended to make quite a few changes to the design and format of my blog as I found my feet and decided what worked best for me. I progressed from a Blogger blog to a free WordPress theme, and then through two premium themes until I finally settled on my blog’s present layout.

My guess would be that it didn’t matter too much initially, as I had very few visitors, but it’s important, as your blog grows, to create consistency so that your readers are comfortable visiting your place and know, to a degree, what to expect from you.

I’m not just talking about consistency in design and layout, but also consistency in content and post frequency. You don’t need to be posting all hours of the day, but try to achieve a consistent style and frequency of posts so that people get used to seeing you around.

Consistency of topic is a little harder but still very important if you are blogging in a niche. I have always had posts on all sorts of subjects, from blogging and social media to chess and Halloween games, so readers are used to that. However if you blog about cookery, for instance, and suddenly a post on car maintenance appears, your readers might wonder what you are up to.

10. Flexibility

Flexibility is “characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements.” (Merriam-Webster.com)

Since I just sung the praises of being consistent and patient, flexibility may seem a strange word to include, however the ability to be flexible is vital for the successful blogger. It’s all about recognising when something isn’t working and having the courage to make changes to try to improve what you are doing to meet your aims.

The social media world is changing and developing around your blog, so you need to be willing to be flexible—prepared, for example, to make changes to your sharing options, or to integrate a new development that would benefit you and your readers.

The key, though, is to try to maintain that consistency by not making too many changes at once, and being patient enough to allow the changes to take effect. Those three key words of flexibility, consistency and patience are most definitely interlinked. You need to keep them all in mind.

What do you think are the key words a successful blogger needs to focus on? Have I included any you don’t think are important? Are there others I have left out? Let me know in the comments.

Tony Hastings is a blogger who aims to inform, entertain and amuse you at The Top 10 Blog. He can usually be found hanging around on Twitter so please pop over to connect and say hello.