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Advice from Famous Authors a Blog Writer Could Use Today

This guest post is by Colin Olson of Fresh Essays.

Every high-school superstar longs to follow in his sport hero’s footsteps. Small business owners idolize those on the Fortune 500 list. Likewise, blog writers can hope for the greatness of past literary giants.

While many of the world’s most famous authors are long gone, their words of wisdom still resonate today. Listen to the advice these famous authors have left for blog writers.

“What I try to do is write… And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’ ”—Maya Angelou

When writing an article, just let the thoughts flow. Constantly stopping and starting will break your train of thought. Don’t stop to correct typos, grammar errors or punctuation mistakes. All the editing can be done later. Don’t pause while writing to go looking for facts and statistics. Do all the fact-checking at once.

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”—Elmore Leonard

One of the most unique features of a blog is the laid-back, conversational tone that can be implemented. Blogging is a chance for customers to see the person behind the brand.

Don’t be stuffy, pompous, or too formal. Engage readers in a conversation.

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.”—Isaac Asimov

A great way to earn loyal readers is to provide content no one else is willing to discuss. 

Sit down and make a list of all the controversial topics, hard-to-answer questions, and pressing issues that are related to your industry.  Then, write content to address each item on the list. 

Be the first one to talk about the touchy subjects, and readers will come to trust and appreciate what you have to offer.

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”—Elmore Leonard

Blog readers tend to be skimmers. They like grabbing bits and pieces of information. So make that process easier for them.

Use headings, bullets and lists.  Keep paragraphs to a few sentences; big chunks of text can be intimidating.

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.”—Edgar Allen Poe

When writing blog posts, be concise.  Choose one topic and stick to it.  Wander too far off on a tangent and readers will be lost.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”—Ernest Hemingway

Write about topics that are interesting. If you wouldn’t want to read it, no one else will either. And make sure blog posts have genuinely helpful information. Readers who are subjected to constant product pitches won’t stick around for long.

Write about topics people are passionate about—topics that they hold dear to their hearts.

“Quantity produces quality.  If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”—Ray Bradbury

Nothing says, “I don’t care,” like a dormant blog. At the very least, bloggers need to post once a week. Readers who always find the same old posts won’t bother to come back again.

Also, try to be consistent about when your posts appear. Use the site’s analytics to determine when readers stop by. Then, post on that day(s). If posts appear sporadically, readers won’t know what to expect.

Don’t be afraid to tell readers when a post is coming, too.  Make a simple announcement on your social networks.

“Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Never use the passive where you can use the active. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”—George Orwell

Blog writing is different from just about any other type of writing for one very simple reason—it is global. Loyal readers can come from any corner of the world, and for many, English is a second language.

Make blogs post simple to read. Avoid clichés—not everyone will understand them. Even posts that are translated into a native tongue will benefit from clear, concise, accurate language.

Check out these two great resources to learn more about passive and active voice and commonly misused English words.

“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia”.—Kurt Vonnegut

Have a target audience, and write for that audience. 

For a business blogger, the target audience is not the bigwigs with corner offices who sign the paychecks. Writing to please them is a big no-no. And a target audience of “women,” isn’t specific enough.

Narrow down the target audience until it seems there could only be one possible person in the world who fits that description.

“Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible….Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why…”—Kurt Vonnegut

Get to the point quickly. Readers shouldn’t have to wade through half the article before coming to the main point. Tell the readers what they’ll get from the article within the first few sentences.

“Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald

After writing a post, go back and proofread it. Not only do spelling errors and grammar mistakes need to be caught, punctuation blunders should be noted too.

Overuse of comas can be distracting. Long, ugly sentences that would benefit from semicolons are annoying too. Consider consulting the AP Stylebook. At the very least, note AP style calls for only one space after a period or colon. Numbers ten and under should be spelled out (with the exception of age: a 5-year-old boy).

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read!  You’ll absorb it. Then, write.”—William Faulkner

Reading the content of other industry leaders can provide useful information. First, insight will be gained as to what the competitors are up to. Second, inspiration can be found on other sites. Lastly, valuable lessons can be learned about what not to do!

There is no better way to end this article than by sharing G.K. Chesterton’s words: “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”

This post was written by Colin Olson. He is a content writer and editor at Fresh Essays – an online writing services provider. He likes to write essays on history and education related topics.

Branding Your Blog: You’re Doing it All Wrong

This guest post is by Julie Cottineau of BrandTwist.

A while ago, on this very blog, I read a post about how to make a five-dollar logo for your blog.

There were a few things about that post I disagreed with, but chief among them was the assumption that a cheap logo was somehow all you needed to brand your blog.

A logo does not make a brand.

Logos are important, but what’s most important is to have a crystal clear brand promise. This is important in every line of business, particularly in blogging, where competition is brutal and securing a loyal readership is the only way to make your overnight success last more than a few days.

Your brand promise should be felt in every single post

The most important part of your brand is largely invisible—at least, at first.

It’s the promise you make to a visitor the first time you meet.

It is more than just a half-hearted promise to try and be interesting and entertaining. It is a promise to deliver a specific and predictable result every time.

Whether you commit to always making your reader laugh out loud or go into deep thought, to giving her investment advice she can act on immediately, or a gluten-free recipe that her children will like, your brand is the one aspect of your blog or business that people can always trust that you will never compromise on.

Don’t try to do everything yourself

It should be said that DIY brands rarely look as good, or work as well, as the owners think they do. On the contrary, 100% homemade brands often look unprofessional and unreliable.

Unless you’re an expert marketer, designer, copywriter, and web developer in addition to your day job, there are lots of things you don’t know and skills you don’t have. You should admit that to yourself, and invest in some outside expertise. It doesn’t have to break the bank. You can pick one area and start there, but please do make building your brand a priority.

It’s what sets you apart, helps readers quickly understand what you are about, and creates loyal followers.

If you really only have $5 to spend

If you really don’t have more than $5 to spend on design, you’ll be better off spending your fiver at Starbucks. After all, you’re not very likely to get a good logo and visual identity for that kind of money.

So sit down with your grande latte and your free wifi, and be sure to take in your surroundings, because there aren’t many who do brand as well as Starbucks.

What’s special about Starbucks is not just the coffee. It’s that they stand for way more than that. Their brand promise is about community and you can feel that in every single touchpoint, from the comfy chairs, to the online community.

Think about how your brand can show (not tell) what it stands for, like Starbucks does. Even if you exist only in the online world, the types of topics you cover, the products you offer, and the other blogs you link to all serve to create an impression for your brand.

Color can be a great differentiator

Another thing you can learn from Starbucks is the effective use of color. You can see that green from miles away, and instantly recognize the store as a Starbucks.

So take a few minutes to pick a fresh color scheme for your brand. Something that really makes you stand out in your space. Your colors shouldn’t conflict with the promise you’ve made—for example, a site promising inner peace and a site promising playfulness should probably choose different colors—but that’s the only rule.

Almost everything is allowed, and bravery is usually rewarded.

Start out with a single, strong color you’d like to use, then use a tool like Kuler to find other colors that go well with it. 

Ideally, you’ll put together a palette of colors that is uniquely yours, instantly recognizable to anyone who knows it, and that you can find ways to implement on your blog, across your social media properties, and in your product designs, both online and offline. Be creative.

Watch your tone of voice

It’s no coincidence that Starbucks has its own language (including words like barrista, grande, frappe, and so on.). This vocabulary helps support the brand’s promise that this is not your run-of-the-mill coffee shop.

Think about your blog’s tone of voice. Is it authentic, distinctive, and consistent? Are you falling into the trap of over-complicating things with big, boring words, and overused jargon? Are you conveying your personality and making it easy for people to understand what you are offering and why they should care?

There is a lot of brand power in the way we say things, not just in what we say. Have someone else look at each of your posts before it goes up and make sure you are choosing words wisely. We all know how hard it is to edit our own work.

Invest in your brand—with money, time, and creativity

Now, these are some quick tips. There’s a lot more to learn about brand. But the key message is that it’s always a good idea to invest in your brand. If you don’t have the money to invest, at least invest the time and energy to learn, and the thought and creativity to do a good job with what you have.

How’s your brand looking? Share your ideas for blog branding in the comments.

Julie Cottineau is former VP of Brand at Virgin and executive at Interbrand. Recently she founded her own brand consultancy, BrandTwist, to help small businesses and entrepreneurs, and will soon launch Brand School, an online course about building, growing and monetizing a brand.

How to Write a Must-read Product Review

This guest post is by Karol K.

Reviews are one of the more common types of content on the internet. I’m sure you’ve looked for a review of a given product yourself once or twice. However, being on the receiving end of a review, so to speak, is a completely different ball game than actually writing one.

First of all, some people mistake reviews for sales messages. Some indications that you’re dealing with a disguised sales message, rather than a review, are: too big a focus on glorifying the product, the presence of numerous affiliate links, and a lack of actual information about the usage of the product or service being reviewed (only promotional speech).

So how can you be the good guy or girl and actually craft a proper review? This post presents the essential techniques you should use, but first…

What’s the purpose of a review?

A good review is not intended just to make some affiliate sales … at least, it shouldn’t be.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against affiliate sales, it’s just that if making money is your only goal, this makes it impossible to present an unbiased opinion of the product or service. You still can include an affiliate link at the end of your review, but treat it as an extra opportunity, not the goal in itself.

So what’s a better purpose than affiliate sales for a review? To answer that question, take a look at why people read reviews. If you decide to cater to that need exactly, you will create a truly valuable review.

In my opinion, the most common reasons why people look for product reviews are:

  • to learn the pros and cons of a given product
  • to find out if the product is meant for them
  • to find out if the product is of high quality and easy to use
  • to find out about alternative solutions
  • to find out about other users’ experiences with the product
  • to ultimately learn if the product is worth buying.

With those needs in mind, let’s look at what you can do to craft a truly valuable review.

Buy or ask for the product

This is the first rule to writing a review! Sometimes I’m really amazed at how many people continue writing reviews without even owning the product they’re reviewing.

I mean, it’s doable if you just want to make a few affiliate sales, but if your goal is to provide value, then it’s absolutely crucial for you to have the product in your hands (or on your computer).

Now, there are a range of ways you can get the product. The best way is to simply ask the product owner to give you a copy for free (just mention that you’re writing a review).

If this doesn’t work, you can sign up as an affiliate and buy the product through your affiliate link. This will allow you to get up to 90% off the retail price, depending on the affiliate commission you’ll earn. Be aware, though, that some affiliate programs don’t allow you to buy through your own link—check the terms and conditions of the arrangement before you do this.

Consider becoming an affiliate

As I said briefly a couple of paragraphs above, I’m not against affiliates. As a matter of fact, I’m an affiliate for plenty of products.

To put it simply, if there is an affiliate program available for the product you’re reviewing, by all means do sign up. Just don’t make affiliate sales your main goal when writing the review.

Tackle the problem of honesty

Why am I calling it a problem? The problem is that not every product is a quality one.

Every once in a while, you’ll stumble upon a product that is simply garbage. And the problem here is that people (including you, I hope) are naturally nice. So we don’t want to hurt anyone by publishing negative reviews of their products.

And this is where the problem of honesty arises. A natural approach here is to simply omit some negative experiences from your review—to not say anything about them. I really don’t advise you to do this.

Always try to fight the natural resistance and mention every negative aspect you’ve stumbled upon. This will strengthen your brand and also ensure your readers know that you’re an honest source of information.

Craft the core content

Setting all the issues with purpose and honesty aside, now let’s focus on the core contents of your review.

Make sure you provide information on:

  • Features: Cover information on what the product does.
  • Target group: Include information on who the average user of the product is, and why they would want to use it.
  • The main benefit: There are always some benefits a given product has to offer, and listing them is usually the biggest value a review brings. Just to define the idea of a benefit briefly: it’s what the features of the product mean to the users, and how those features improve their lives.
  • Practical details: Cover things like the price, where to get the product (you can include your affiliate link here), what the guarantee is, how long customers have to wait for the delivery, and so on.

List the alternatives

This is optional. You can do this, but it’s not a mandatory element of a good review. Besides, sometimes there simply aren’t many alternatives to a really specific product.

Even if there are, there’s often no point in listing them. For example, when you’re reviewing a novel, even if there are other novels in the same area, it’s not likely to provide much value if you list them as alternatives.

Cove the pros and cons

The pros and cons section is a feature of every good review. Listing the pros is usually easy, as the product creators always try to make them clearly visible, but cons are a completely different story.

The first thing you need to realize is that there are always some cons, no matter how good the product seems at first. Your job as the reviewer is to bring them to the surface.

One more tip. Please don’t list cons that aren’t really cons. This is one of the tricks used by affiliate reviewers. For instance, when dealing with digital products, affiliates tend to mention the fact that the package takes a long time to download as a downside. It isn’t.

Cons are only significant if they somehow make the product less usable in some way. Focus on those.

Other people’s opinions

If you take a look at Amazon, you’ll find loads of customer reviews for every product. They’re not there just for the sake of it. People are simply very interested in other people’s opinions.

If you have access to reliable customer reviews or opinions that you can legally use, by all means include them in your review. Try to find both positive and negative ones.

Share your final opinion

Finally, share your personal opinion about the product. Mention whether the product is worth buying or not, and what your overall experience of it was.

Don’t be afraid of speaking your mind freely here. If you love the product, say that you do. If you hate it, people should know about this, too.

Also, include your affiliate link if you want to recommend the product to your readers. You don’t have to make it look overly promotional—a big Buy Here button might be too much. Simply hooking up your affiliate URL to the product name is usually enough.

That’s it for my advice on writing a proper product review, but feel free to share your own thoughts and ideas. Do you write a lot of reviews? Have you experienced any difficulties getting products? I’d love to hear your tips, too.

Karol K. is a freelance blogger and writer. Currently, he’s all about providing blogging advice to real estate business owners, and getting the word out about las colinas real estate.

Blog Design for ROI, Rule 1: Prioritize the Opt-in Form

This guest post is by Gab Goldenberg, author of The Advanced SEO Book.

Are you writing phenomenal posts only to have your poor design fail you? Here’s how to fix that, with rules that will guide you whether you create a custom theme or just pick a theme and adapt it.

Today’s post is the first in a series on blog design for ROI.

Lots of articles give blog design rules or guidelines, but no one I’ve seen explains how these rules achieve your goals.

So let’s look at a business blogger’s possible ROI goals and how the design can help one achieve those goals:

  1. earning ad revenue
  2. earning revenue from selling your own products and services
  3. growing your email list, RSS + Facebook, or Twitter list (listed in decreasing order of value)
  4. building a community or audience—especially as reflected by comments, forum activity, etc.
  5. developing connections and networking.

Every blogger’s first goal should be developing repeat traffic from a loyal audience. Everything else—sales, links, social sharing, networking opportunities—is attainable from this.

In practical terms, the most direct way to achieve this is to blog regularly and to build an email list. Blog design can’t motivate you to write regularly, but it can maximize the number of people who subscribe to your newsletter.

Blog design for ROI rule #1: Prioritize the opt-in form above all

Q: How does your blog design help you build your list?

A: It makes the newsletter subscription call to action the most prominent element on any page, be it the homepage, an individual post page etc.

Sandra Niehaus of Closed-Loop-Marketing wrote an excellent guide to the factors of visual prominence (or “pop”), and I encourage you to read it.

Notably, Sandra highlights the following factors, which are within reach for every blogger to use.

  • location on the page
  • whitespace around an element
  • colour (saturation, hue and contrast).

Have a look at Derek Halpern’s Social Triggers. The design is brilliant with regards to building an email list. Here’s what an individual post page looks like:

Derek Halpern Home

Notice how besides the logo, the next most noticeable things are the email optin area and Derek’s face, followed by the title? Derek is making excellent use of both location, whitespace and color to draw attention to his opt-in box.

Even top marketers like Derek can improve, though.

If you look at the above screenshot, the email opt-in stands out—but it’s trying to shout over the logo and the further branding in the image box embedded in the post.

It’s easy to understand that Derek wants to brand himself and his blog as an expert source, but the large logo and face staring out are very distracting. Derek would likely increase his conversion rate by making the logo smaller and removing his face from the promotional box within his post.

What about branding? Branding is the result of relationships and getting your message out—two things which email does significantly better than a one-time view of a large logo and face.

So what lessons can we draw from Derek, on prioritizing our opt-in form in the blog design?

1. The ideal location to place your optin box is after the logo, before the content

This is the most prominent position you can place anything on the page, and since this is the call to action we care about, it fits here best. This is also why Google suggests placing AdSense ads there.

Failing this, you should still get it above the fold, and you can see that Derek did so at the very top of his sidebar. (Personally I’d love to see it integrated in the post’s upper right corner where his Insider box is, but that’s not always possible.)

2. Give the box plenty of breathing room

Note how it’s not squished between anything else? There’s also whitespace on the right and left margins, so this stands out even more.

3. Give it some colourThis way, it can contrast with the remainder of the page.

4. Make the rest of the page’s above-the-fold elements less prominent

Keep your logo small: look at Amazon’s for a good example of smart use of space. Also, avoid using a headshot above the fold, unless it’s integrated into your opt-in box.

Even this second point is debatable, as making the box too loud can make it physically hard for people to draw their eyes away from the opt-in to read your content. Or you could use a grayscale headshot in association with the author credits, or else resize the face image to be quite small.

The point is to be warily careful in using faces because they’re such a visually dominant element.

5. The spot before your comments is also a big draw visually, so put another opt-in form here

I attribute this prominence to people skipping down to the conclusion of a post to learn quickly what matters, as well as to being curious what others said and/or to see replies to their own comments.

Again, Derek does a good job with his placement, whitespace, and color contrast.

Derek's opt-in

So that was rule number 1: give the top spot in your visual hierarchy to your email list’s opt-in form.

I’d love if you could comment with other examples of bloggers whose designs do a very good job of persuading people to join their lists.

At this time over the next few weeks, I’ll share the other steps involved in designing your blog for ROI. To follow along, add ProbBlogger’s RSS feed to your reader!

Gab Goldenberg wrote The Advanced SEO Book – and you can get a free chapter here. Gab and Internet Marketing Ninjas, the folks behind the Blog Design for ROI series here on Problogger, are offering to mail you a free print copy of the Blog Design for ROI guide as a small book. Get your free copy from seoroi.com/blog-design-for-roi/ .

One Essential Characteristic of a Pro Blogger [Not Your Everyday Blog Writing Advice]

Each week, my Content manager Georgina turns away around 20 or so posts for publication at ProBlogger. She tells me that maybe 5-10% of those are of a publishable standard, but they just don’t fit our audience or purpose. The rest aren’t pro-level pieces.

Learning

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Valsilvae

Forget for a moment that these are guest posts—which are supposed to be bloggers’ best content.

Instead, I want to think about what that means for the average blogger, toiling away on their blog day in, day out, trying to reach and captivate their audience.

What is “pro blogging”?

Pro blogging isn’t just about making money through a blog. You don’t need to write a word to do that. But I think most of us would expect pro bloggers to be able to write reasonably well.

Why?

Because Pro bloggers need to be consummate communicators. Whether they hire others to write for their blogs, or use video, audio, or images rather than text, clear expression is a hallmark of any pro blogger.

Clarity doesn’t just mean error-free writing. It means:

  • content that touches readers, showing you empathize with them
  • relevant, helpful content
  • consistent information, in terms of frequency, tone, etc.
  • content that delivers what it promises, and has integrity.

A blogger might use writing for a range of purposes, too:

  • to attract readers, and keep them coming back
  • to promote their blog or sell something
  • to approach potential collaboraters
  • to build relationships and networks
  • to make money directly (e.g. through an information product).

There’s plenty of great quality advice about writing and content marketing online. Writing tips abound.

This week, we want to present a few different takes on writing for your blog. Over the next four days we’ll publish some posts that focus on some nitty-gritty aspects of writing—ideas that go a bit deeper than usual.

Writing to make money

Our first post will look at writing product reviews that deliver real value. Among other things, the post explores the challenges bloggers face in exposing the negative aspects of a product they’re reviewing and may want to encourage readers to buy (if they’re an affiliate for it).

Handling that tension is exactly the kind of thing that pro bloggers work to master. This post will show how showing the full picture supports authority, and can actually encourage more sales than a purely glowing review.

Writing to improve

One great thing about blogging is that everything we do is practice—each post we publish should be an improvement on the last one.

Looking to leaders for advice on writing is an excellent way to develop your skills. Our second post will reveal the thoughts of some of the world’s greatest writers, and provide starting points to help you apply that advice in your own posts.

Writing to build your profile

When bloggers think about content marketing, we often ponder the question of content reuse. If you do it right, it can be an efficient way to get the most out of the time you spend writing—it can boost your visibility, your publishing schedule, and your available time.

Our third post this week explains how freelance writers can best reuse their freelance content on their own blogs. This isn’t a straightforward topic, and this post highlights the potential advantages and pitfalls so that if you’re a freelancer, you know where to start looking into content reuse.

Writing to experiment

For many bloggers, after high-school or college essays, and workplace emails, blogging is the first focused writing they’ve done.

We’ve all heard the advice that if you want to be a great writer, you need to be a big reader. But the final post in our series shows that to be a better blog writer, you need to be a better writer, period. It prompts us to look beyond blog posts for opportunities to write, and topics to write on. It shows that through experimentation, we can learn skills out of context that we can bring back and apply to our blogs.

Are you up to the challenge?

The advice we’ll cover this week goes beyond the everyday. It assumes you’re already serious about being good writer, and are facing the challenges of becoming a great writer. There’s no hype in these posts, and no write-your-way-to-a-million-dollar-income-in-five-minutes advice. They’re posts that aim to provide a different perspective on post writing.

Where are you at as a writer? Are you ready to challenge yourself to become better? Or do you think you’ve reached your limits, either in terms of potential, or interest in writing? Share your perspective with us in the comments.

The 4-Step Guide to Building Your Authority

This guest post is by Derek of Fear No Goal.

If you want people to visit your blog—and stay there—you have to be an authority figure.

This is definitely true if you are trying to solve a common problem. You have to know and understand what you are talking about.

When people know you’re an expert on a topic, it gives them comfort. They know that they can trust you. They are going to put their faith into you over and over again. That means you cannot fail your readers. They have to be your main focus. They deserve an expert, they deserve great advice, and they’re expecting it from you.

You have to deliver.

How do you become that expert? How do you become that person that they go to for advice and guidance? Here are four steps you can take to help build your authority.

1. Write about something you already know or are willing to learn

This one tip can make the process very easy. You must focus on something you know or are willing to learn.

If you are interested in your topic, writing for your blog will be much easier. If you are already an expert, you shouldn’t run out of things to write about.

If you are an expert, your advice will be sound and your readers will be able to achieve success with the information you provide them. Good advice builds credibility. Your audience will return to you more often if you’ve proven that you are an expert.

You may not be an expert in the topic you choose to write about, but being passionate about it can go a long way. You’ll be learning as you go. You will be able to supply information to your readers about was or was not successful for you. It may take longer to build that credibility, but it is definitely possible this way.

Another benefit of building yourself up to expert status from scratch is that you can relate to your readers. Very recently, you were in their shoes. You are searching for information, just like your audience. You will be able to form a connection that few other bloggers can establish.

Take a look at Darren here at Problogger. He has become the expert on blogs and monetizing blogs. Darren knows his stuff; he has been through it all. He gives out quality posts consistently.

If you take a look at his posts, you will see he speaks with authority. Darren is the authority to anything related to blogging, and people trust him—expert and novice bloggers alike.

2. Speak with authority

This is a huge aspect in the development of your blog. It will definitely keep first-time readers on your blog while keeping long-time readers coming back for more.

If you speak with confidence in the information you are supplying, it will spark your readers’ interest. They will definitely be more willing to try out the advice you’re giving.

How do you speak with authority and confidence? Good question. The biggest point is to watch the words you use. If you use words like might, could, and may, then you are not putting confidence into the information you’re supplying.

If you are giving your readers good information, and they follow the information you give them, then there should be no question that they will be successful. Not only should you be confident, but you should instill confidence into your readers too.

Have you ever visited The Simple Dollar blog? Trent Hamm has emerged as the expert in saving money and creating a stable financial future. Bring up one of his posts on simple money saving tips. As you read, you’ll notice quickly that he knows what he is suggesting works. There is no question in his mind.

He gives you specific examples. He tells you that if you do X then you will save Y. No maybes, no mights, no coulds: only results. That’s what people want—results. They want to know that if they do what you say, they will have success. Trent does a great job of this.

3. Speak from experience

If you are giving your readers advice, then you’d better have tried it out yourself first. The easiest advice to give is advice on what has or hasn’t worked for you. You have to give your readers information that you know works.

If you speak from experience, not only will your information be more detailed, it will also be more reliable. This is a great way to establish credibility.

Readers love to hear about your experiences, too. This adds a personal level to your writing. And so your credibility builds, because your readers know that you tried each piece of advice you are sharing with them. Besides, how can you be confident in something you’ve never tried?

The first time I visited Life Without Pants, I was hooked. Matt Cheuvront shares his life experiences on overcoming challenges and working towards goals. Not only does Matt do a great job of describing his experiences, he’s great at making the lessons he learned relevant to his audience. This is powerful, because he is doing two things.

First, he’s sharing his experiences, which most audiences love. We all love a good story. He also gives the reader something to walk away with and incorporate into their lives. Whether it is a philosophy or a specific action, Matt is giving his audience usable information from his own experiences. That’s pretty powerful!

4. Be honest

If your give information that’s supposed to help your readers, but it doesn’t, think about how bad you’ll look. Those who give out bad information do not tend to last in blogging. People can tell very quickly whether or not you are lying.

Real experts will also know when you are lying. If you have a comments section, they will point out how wrong you are very quickly. You can’t just post something telling people it will help them of you really don’t know if it will. This is a big credibility- and authority-killer.

Don’t take an article written by someone else and market it as your own. This is another huge issue that will kill your authority. Come up with your own unique material. People want new and useful information. If you steal other people’s work, you will lose all respect from the blogging community.

Blogging is all about building relationships with readers and other bloggers. Taking others’ content will make others never want to work with you. It will forever tarnish you and your brand and. Keep it honest and your authority will soar.

Neil Patel at Quicksprout is well-respected around the blogging community. If you have never heard of him, just visit Quicksprout and see how popular his blog is. Neil has had his share of successes and failures. He makes that very public. He is also very open about things that do and do not work.

He has established himself as an authority figure as a result of this. His posts are honest and genuine, and include loads of valuable information. Model yourself after Neil and be honest and helpful when you write. You’ll have a following similar to his, active and hungry for knowledge!

Are you an expert?

Well there you have it. These are four ways of increasing your authority and expertise. If you practice these tips regularly, people will learn that they can trust you and the information you provide. They will come to you more often for the information they need.

Become an authority figure and success will find you!

Derek is the author of the blog Fear No Goal. He has a Computer Science degree and currently works as a programmer for a major retail company. His writing is meant to inspire, motivate and help people to reach their goals, no matter what they are.

10 Ways to Woo Would-be Advertisers on Your Blog

This guest post is by Anup Kayastha of MoneyMakingModes.com.

Earning money through blogging is an attractive and viable income source. But it is not possible unless your blog have relevant, current, and useful information for your readers.

That will not only help increase traffic to your blog: it will also attract advertisers to buy ads. but to make that a reality, you need to know how advertisers are evaluating your site.

What makes them think that your blog is worth their investment? What they are looking for in your blog before offering you a deal for ad posts?

Here are ten factors that would help you understand what the advertisers consider before they’ll approach you about buying ad space.

1. Announce that you accept ads

Your blog must explicitly announce to the potential advertisers that it is ready to sell ads. Use an “Advertise with us” banner or message so that the advertisers know that they can buy space with you.

For example, look at the sidebar of this blog. There’s an image link which clearly mentions that ProBlogger accepts sponsor ads.

2. Create a specific page for ad information

Having a separate page that displays the information about ad space on your blog is very important.

Include information such as the blog’s niche, ad space rates, methods of payment, and your contact details. This shows how organized—and serious—you are about helping advertisers reach their audiences.

Take a look at the advertising page of John Chow’s site. When advertises land on that page, they can easily get the required information, like site stats, banner spot and sizes, space availability, and so on.

3. Concentrate on your niche

If your blog targets a particular niche, you must stick to it in all your blogging activities. The advertisers interested in your particular niche will critically monitor this aspect of your work.

Don’t go off topic. Your advertisers want to gain targeted visits to their product sales pages. You don’t want to disappoint them with untargeted traffic.

4. Work to increase traffic

Most importantly, the advertiser will want to know about the traffic that flows to your blog. The blog readership, subscribers, and your reputation within your niche are all carefully considered by advertisers.

These factors directly impact the cost expectations of potential advertisers. Most advertisers are more interested in the traffic that a blog attracts than many other factors.

5. Assess the positioning of ads on your blog

Prospective advertisers will analyze the placement of ads on your blog, to see if those spots will suit them.

First, they’ll ask if their ads will be visible without requiring a page scroll. If the space is above the fold, you should be able to charge more for it.

They’ll also want to know if the ad space is horizontal or vertical? Horizontal space is usually more costly because if has better readability. They’ll likely review the spot’s prominence and visibility too.

My blog, Hack Tutors is a good example of this point. You can see a horizontal (468x60px) banner at the top-right header. Typically, it gets sold as soon as the previously running ad has expired.

It’s the most popular ad spot on my blog, simply because it’s above the fold, eye-catching, and easily viewable without scrolling down the page.

6. Consider costing methods

Advertisers are very careful to review the terms on which ads are sold to the advertiser.

You may offer CPC (Cost Per Click), CPM (Cost Per Thousand Impressions), CPA (Cost Per Action), or some other method of selling space. The advertiser may be interested in a specific costing method, so be prepared to negotiate.

If you’ve no idea how to arrive at pricing for your ad space, you can get some ideas in this post by Hesham of FamousBloggers.

7. Establish your ad posting conditions

The ad posting conditions you impose will be taken very seriously by advertisers. Ad specifications—such as formats, maximum allowable file sizes, restrictions of animations, niche appropriateness, Flash requirements, and so on—are all considered by advertisers before they’ll buy.

You may not want to display colorful, blinking ads in your blog—but maybe your advertisers want to. It’s very important to clearly communicate your ad posting conditions so that your advertisers won’t be confused. Mention these conditions in your Advertising page, like iTrailMap have.

8. Provide special offers and promotions

Some advertisers also get attracted by special ad offers made by bloggers. Introductory or special offers can give an added incentive to the advertisers to give your blog a try. You can offer to give a free week or month for an advertisement, or provide some other kind of special promotion.

For example, you can offer to promote their product by writing a free review or sending their product newsletter to your subscribers. Such offers can come in very handy when advertisers are considering on buying ads in your blog.

9. Present your blog statistics

Blog statistics (other than traffic stats) are closely considered by potential advertisers.

If you’re proud of them, include your Google Page Rank, Technorati Authority, Alexa Traffic Rank, and others on your Advertising page. These ranks cement the perceived worth of a blog, and advertisers appreciate seeing blog statistics from established third-party sources.

If you take a quick look at the Advertising page on this blog, you’ll see that these statistics are clearly mentioned.

10. Provide discount offers to guarantee long-term business

Advertisers also consider the long-term advertising opportunities provided by a blog. Their fear may be that the blog may not allow more advertisement time after ending of first contract period. For that reason, they may want to book ad space for the longer term.

Discount considerations will also become a factor in these deals. If you’re securing ad revenue for couple of years instead of months, the advertiser will naturally ask for a discount. The terms should be flexible—again, prepare to negotiate!

Final words

There are many factors about your blog that potential advertisers will consider. You can start experimenting and getting to know your advertisers’ needs. If they get some good results, they’re more likely to become long-term advertisers with your blog.

Don’t forget to ask previous advertisers to write testimonials, since most prospective advertisers will want to know if others have benefitted from advertising on your site.

Do you offer ad space on your site? What kinds of things do your advertisers want to know before they’ll buy? Tell us in the comments.

17 year old, Anup Kayastha, has 3 years of internet marketing experience and shares his tips for internet marketing, making money online and blogging in his blog MoneyMakingModes.com.

Set a Posting Schedule that Encourages Shares and Pageviews

This guest post is by Lindsey Dahlberg of Bloggingtips.com.

We’ve all heard the saying, “great content gets shared.” But what happens if yours isn’t getting shared? Does that mean you don’t have great content?

Not necessarily. It could mean you have top-notch content, but you’re not posting it at the most opportunistic times of day.

Maybe you aren’t interested in social shares but would like to know why your killer content isn’t generating lots of pageviews.

Perhaps you’re suffering from the same malady: your content isn’t getting viewed because you aren’t posting on the best days of the week.

According to Shareaholic, the day and time you post your content will determine how many social shares and page views it receives. The following information was taken from data received in 2011 (social shares apply to Facebook and Twitter).

Social shares

If your top priority is social shares, you’ll want to know the best day and best time to post your content. Here is a breakdown of both those stats.

Best days

According to research, content posted on Thursdays gets more shares than any other day—10% more in fact. From there, sharing days decrease in popularity as follows: Wednesday, Friday, Monday, Sunday, and Tuesday.

We can take two things from this information. First, people are using Facebook and Twitter at work. Second (and more relevant to you!), posts made later in the week do better than posts made earlier in the week.

Best times

Now that you have determined which days you should be posting, you’ll want to know which hours are best.

According to Sharaholic, 27% of all social shares occur between 8am and 12pm EST. There is a definite surge of activity between 9am and 10am. After that, social shares are on the decline for the majority of the day. There are two other small peaks of activity around 2pm and 9pm.

Apparently, we like to take in our information with the morning news, get an update after lunch, and check in before bed.

One popular blogger shares his posting schedule. He posts at 4:30am. That way, his content is ready for his US audience while his UK audience is still awake and active.

Pageviews

If you are interested in driving traffic to your blog, and you’re not too particular about social shares, your posting schedule will be completely different.

Best days

The four best pageview-related posting days are the same as the social share posting days. However, the winners are in a different ranking. Of the top 100 pageview days in 2011, 43% landed on a Monday. Tuesdays received 28%, Wednesdays 24%, and Thursdays finished the list with 5%.

Note Saturday and Sunday didn’t make the cut.

Best times

Most pageviews take place between 7am and 1pm EST, Monday through Friday, with the majority occurring between 9am and 10am. From there, views decrease significantly.

What this means for you

There are several takeaways we can gather from these statistics.

First, you need to determine how you want your audience to find your content. Do you want them to click from Twitter? Do you want them to subscribe via email? The answer to these questions will determine how you implement a response to these statistics.

Second, these statistics should act as a guideline only. They provide a nice place to begin your testing. However, you’ll want to check your own numbers and adjust from there.

These statistics don’t apply to everyone and they aren’t carved in stone. Pageviews and shares can vary from topic to topic, time zone to time zone, and country to country.

Third, you should determine which time zones read your content and when. Some businesses focus on the US east coast, since the majority of the country resides there. However, other companies draw a large band of followers from the west coast or Europe. Use your site’s analytics to determine where your target audience lives.

Lastly, be ready. Have your content up before the peak viewing time occurs. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to let viewers know it’s coming. A simple social media post along the lines of, “check the blog tomorrow at noon for a hot new post—you won’t want to miss it!” couldn’t hurt.

If you have been churning out stellar content and not receiving the traffic or social shares you’d like, try making a few changes to the times at which you post your content.

Lindsey Dahlberg is a blogger at http://bloggingtips.com and http://ppc.org/.

Courting Brands to Collaborate on Your Blog: A Complete Guide

This guest post is by Anshu of Blooms And Bugs.

You may have seen other bloggers working with different brands and wondered how they did it. You may have also considered if it was a good thing to emulate.

I’m a sewing blogger and in my one and half years of blogging, I have worked with several brands from the sewing industry. Here’s the why and how of finding the right brand for your blog, and developing a successful partnership with them. I found the process was not very different from finding a life partner.

Soul searching: Why are you doing this?

What are your motivations for finding a partner brand?

  1. To establish yourself as an authority in your niche: Being on website of a leading brand in your niche builds your status as an expert.
  2. Extra traffic: Some brands already have very popular blogs and forums. You could leverage their popularity by collaborating with them.
  3. Building back-links: Even the websites of relatively lesser-known brands generally have good Pagerank. When your website is mentioned there, that improves your reputation in Google’s eyes.
  4. To build a network in your niche: You may get introduced to other experts working for the brand. You may even get a chance to learn the tricks of the trade from them.
  5. To get free products: Most brands are more than willing to send their products to the bloggers they work with for review, give away, use in projects, and so on. You may even get  their products ahead of launch to play with and review.
  6. To get sponsored for trade shows, conferences, conventions etc.: There are some industry shows that are not open to the general public, yet the brands you are working with may sponsor you to attend them. Here is a great post by Kylie Ofiu on how to get sponsored for a conference.
  7. To make money: Some brands will pay you to generate a positive buzz around their products.
  8. To double-dip: This is important. Almost all brands allow you to post your content on your own website after certain time. This means that while you are writing for them, you are also generating content for your own blog. However, duplicate posts get penalized by Google, so you need to weigh that against leveraging your work twice.

Any and all of these are valid reasons to work with brands, but consider what you are looking for before you approach any company. Are you looking for more traffic? Then a company with a dormant blog or forum may not be the right fit. Do you want a paid assignment? Then the brands with popular blogs may not be right, because they may already be getting traction without paying bloggers.

So be sure you know what you want from the relationship before you look for a brand partner.

Take a look in the mirror before you head out

You are getting ready to approach some big names in your industry. Great! But are you looking your best?

  1. Collect your readership data, and any outstanding achievements you’ve made with your blog. Are you very popular on Facebook? Does your average reader spend half an hour on your website? Look at your stats and find the highlights.
  2. Prepare a reference page with some of your best posts. Is it something you would feel proud showing to a potential sponsor? If not, then you have more work to do before you approach a brand.
  3. Have you been featured by any reputed websites in your niche? Do you have a Featured page with those links? If not, then make one.
  4. Have you worked with another brand in the past? Do you have any feedback from them? Make sure you compile it nicely on a page that a potential partner could look at.

At the bar

I can’t help but remember the analogy given by Tom Ewer in his article, 5 Things Online Dating Can Teach Your About Networking for Blogging Success.

In the subheading “Going for the hotties,” he mentions how all the newbies head for the most popular person in their niche.

I would suggest approaching some lesser-known brands first and seeing how they respond to your offer of partnership. One exception to this is when a brand already has an active program for bloggers.

An example in my case was Moda Fabrics. I contacted them barely a few months into blogging, but they already had a very active program for bloggers, and I got accepted there right away.

To contact the brand you’ve chosen, you’ll want to first prepare the message you want to convey. Make sure you answer the most important questions for them in this message.

  • Why them? Without being sycophantic, mention the things you appreciate about them that made you get in touch. If you can’t find anything? Back off, delete the email and run away. That person brand is not right for you. Period.
  • Who are you and what do you want? Write briefly about your website and what you are proposing to offer them.
  • What is in it for them? What are you bringing to the table that a) they don’t have, b) they can’t get, and c) they can’t get from 13.29 million other bloggers in your niche? Are you willing to provide excellent content for their website, using their products? Are you willing to promote them using your blog? Are you going to shout from the rooftops how awesome they are? If so how often and when? Be concise, clear, and honest. And write the offer only if you can do all of that, and then some.
  • Why should they trust you? Highlight your best stats, add a link to your Featured page, and link to your best posts. Let your work speak for you.

Once you’ve prepared your message, find the brand’s Contact us page. Of course you can totally use it without worrying that your email will go unnoticed. I always use brands’ contact forms, and I always get a response.

Before you move in

So you heard back from the brand and they are as interested as you are. Before you hand them the key to your apartment and rent the truck, here are a few things you’ll want to have a mutual agreement and clarity on:

  • Who will do the dishes? Get a clear understanding of what you are getting (free supplies, products, backlinks, glowing introductions, promotion, etc.) and giving (content, promotion using your channels, etc.). Also, establish a time-line of what is expected when—even a rough guideline that you can both agree on will save a lot of headaches later on.
  • Who will look after the child and when? If you are a blogger collaborating with a brand, you will likely be generating some content for them. Get a clear understanding of who will publish it and when, and who will have the rights to it. If they publish it, do you get to republish it? How soon?
  • How possessive are they? Are they okay with your working with other brands?
  • What if you want to work with multiple brands at the same time? Think carefully about any potential conflicts of interest. If you are working in photography niche, working with both Cannon and Nikon at the same time may not look good for you.

    Also consider your time. If you want to write for multiple companies, commit only when you can do outstanding work for each of your partners. Remember too that all this work will eat into your time for your own blog. Make sure you’re able to keep your blog alive and healthy while you take up these extra assignments?

    Wow them!

    So you hashed out the details of partnership. You have to wow them from here on in, and show that you are a keeper.

    Deliver what you committed to—and then some. Deliver excellent content. Promote it the best you can, even if they didn’t ask for it—even if they are much more popular than you.

    When I wrote on Moda Bake Shop, my blog was fairly small and unknown. But I promoted my post to the best of my ability and brought it into the top five most-viewed pages on their website that month.

    Be generous too. If the brand has a new blog and you have some insights on specific things they can do to increase traffic, tell them (if they are receptive). If they are having an event on their website, mention it on your blog. I have even shipped some of my projects to partner companies when they needed help with trade shows and such.

    Finally, don’t forget the legal stuff. According to FTC policies, bloggers need to declare anything of monetary value that they received from a business. Make sure you do this so you don’t fall foul of the law.

    Parting ways

    All good things come to an end. Maybe you want to find newer opportunities, maybe they want to work with other bloggers. Whatever be the reason, try to bid adieu on good terms.

    1. Say your goodbyes in a note: Tell the partner how much you appreciated working with them. Also ask them to write you a letter of recommendation where they specifically mention how helpful you were and how well received your contributions were.
    2. Bring your stuff home: Unless specific arrangements are made otherwise, your content is your intellectual property. Give it rightful place on your website.
    3. Hang onto the memories: Put their feedback in your Featured page.

    So that was my experience of working with various partner brands. How about you? Have you partnered with any company in your niche? What was your experience? What are the pros and cons of working with them? Chime in with your experiences in the comments.

    Anshu blogs about sewing on Blooms And Bugs. It all started with a couple of dresses for her daughter…and just never stopped. Here is a list of the sewing tutorials she has written.