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5 Ways to Use Images to Make Your Posts Irresistible

This week on #blogchat on Twitter, we discussed the use of images in blog posts, and I thought that some of the advice we covered there might be useful for you too. So here are my top tips for using images in your blog posts.

1. Use an image per post

At Digital Photography School, I include an image at the top of every post.

This provides a visual point of interest that draws people to read the post. Whilst the audience is particularly visually oriented, I think this is true across the board. The web is filled with rich media, and great images now. So the more you can do to make text-based posts visually appealing, the better.

In fact, some of our most shared posts on dPS are composed almost entirely of images, with little to no text at all.  Take a look at the stats on your blog for posts with images, and compare them with posts that don’t have images. You might find that the former do better with readers. They’ll almost certainly be more likely to be shared.

Eye

Image courtesy stock.xchng user L-O-L-A


2. Use images to draw the eye

Using an image at the post’s top is a default for dPS, but we also often images later in posts, too. In this way, they act almost like sub-headings to draw people down the page, and keep them engaged throughout the post.

Not only do those later images catch attention, they provide visual respite for the visitor who is diligently reading through the whole post, from start to finish. So these images serve all kinds of readers—not just scanners.

I think the trick with this is to take care with the images you use. If the reader scans from the top image to a subsequent one, you may—or may not— want that subsequent image to jar for them. It’s important to choose those images carefully, so that they tell the story you want them to.

3. Use images for RSS

Images in your posts also grab the attention of users who are subscribed to your RSS feed. In that case, they can mean the difference between your post being read or ignored.

If you think images are eye-catching on your blog—which is already heavily designed and strongly visual, just imagine what they can do to get attention in a less designed, more texty environment.

4. Trust your instincts

I choose images for blog posts based on the feeling that the image gives me more than anything else. And I’ve really found this to work well.

Often here on ProBlogger, guest posters will send us generic clipart-style images to accompany their content, and we avoid publishing these.

The best images are the ones that evoke a feeling in you and your readers. Clip art probably won’t do that! What does are images that contain people. We’re human, and biology has preprogrammed us to look into each others’ eyes.

So I find that using images with people who are looking at the camera tend to be the most engaging.

5. Take your time

Images are important—and not just to those embracing Pinterest as a medium for growing their readership!

A good image is sometimes as important (if not more important) than a good title for a blog post. On dPS, sometimes I’ll take longer choosing the image for a post than writing the post itself.

You may not spend that much time on your image selection, but if you’re not paying much attention to it, I encourage you to build some time into your posting schedule over the next few weeks to source really strong, eye-catching, and engaging images. You never know how your readers will respond, but you might see longer visits, and more sharing of your content if you do.

Are you already using images on your blog? What types work best for you? Share your advice in the comments.

The Day A Spider Monkey Tried to Kill Me (And What it Taught Me About Getting More Blog Readers)

This guest post is by Logan Marshall of the Free Life Project.

The hot Costa Rican sun filters through the canopy, warming my back as I walk up a small path towards the house where I am staying. I can hear the calls of howler monkeys in the distance, echoing through the rainforest like prehistoric dinosaurs.

Caught up in the magic of this place, I am barely aware of my surroundings—marveling at the exotic wonder that surrounds me. Massive, vine-covered trees erupt from the soil. Vibrant red flowers pop out against the canvas of dark green…

And then it happens.

Triggered by a flash of movement, my eyes shoot upward to see a full grown monkey charging towards me, its eyes fixed on mine as it rockets across the forest floor.

All of the sudden, the world is moving in slow motion. Panic floods my body as I realize what is happening.

Twenty meters separate us, then ten…

In an act of unrestrained desperation, I turn and sprint towards the beach, hurtling away like a man on fire.

I am running on the edge of collapse, crashing through the jungle in a frenzy of pure terror. My heart pounds in my chest. My lungs burn. I can hear the soft footsteps coming closer and closer…

That, my friends, was a (slightly dramatized) true story.

Yes a monkey actually tried to kill me. Yes I screamed like a nine-year-old girl. Yes I left Costa Rica the next day.

But while that story hopefully had you engaged and chuckling at my paranoid idiocy, you’re probably wondering what it has to do with blogging.

Well, I’ll tell you.

It’s a ridiculous example of how to “hook” an audience and engage them enough to keep reading. A model of how to look blogospheric boredom in the face and proudly give it the finger.

When it comes to blogging, people don’t want to just receive an endless stream of instructions (no matter how good they are). People want to be entertained. They want to be engaged, excited and captivated.

As David Mamet puts it:

“The audience will not tune in to watch information. You wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. No one would or will. The audience will only tune in and stay tuned in to watch drama.”

This is why the Hunger Games can attract the entire US population while the latest edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica rests on a dusty bookshelf next to the works of some high-browed and equally lifeless academic professor.

It’s boring. And we humans will do everything in our power to avoid the crushing grip of boredom.

Online, most blogs are cybernetic reflections of Ferris Bueller’s Economics teacher: dry, painfully boring and utterly devoid of life-enriching color.

With this in mind, it’s your job to break through the clutter and offer your readers more than just good content. Offer them an experience. An adventure. A vibrant integration of valuable information and galvanizing awesomeness.

Let’s begin.

The great “Infobesity” epidemic

There’s a disease ravaging the western world. A life-sucking affliction slowly making its way into the cracks and crevices of our lives.

No, I’m not talking about physical obesity or technological addiction, although these are both equally dangerous.

I’m talking about what John Naish calls infobesity.

Yep, infobesity. As Naish writes,

“We are so wired to gather information that often we no longer do anything useful with it. Instead of pausing to sift our intake for relevance and quality, the daily diet of prurient, profound, confusing and conflicting information gets chucked on to a mental ash-heap of things vaguely comprehended. Then we rush to try to make sense of it all … by getting more.”

There’s a ton of information out there. You know that.

Especially when it comes to the online space, we are drowning in a sea of contradictory messages: “Just learn blogging, PPC, affiliate marketing, SEO! Try this one magic formula and it will instantly transform you into the supreme master overlord of all things awesome!”

Yeah … I think I’ll pass.

With so much information fighting for our attention, people don’t really pay attention to any of it.

They ignore it. They block it all out … unless you can find a way to break through the clutter and give them an obvious reason to watch, attentively, like a seven-year-old at Sea World.

This is your mission. Let me show you how.

6 Ways to turn your blog into the next big TV drama

Okay. So you understand the importance of being interesting and the reality of information consumption.

Now it’s time to switch gears and dive headlong into the practical section of the post. The “meat and potatoes.”

While there are undoubtedly more, I’ve identified six primary ways to eradicate the “customer coma,” capture attention, and turn your blog into the next big TV drama.

Step 1. Tell stories

Stories have been around for thousands of years. Since the very creation of language. They are the purest form of human communication.

As Robert McKee puts it:

“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”

Agreed. Stories are insanely powerful.

They have the power to captivate an audience, skyrocket your email open rates, and have your readers excitedly awaiting your next piece of content like it’s the finale of Lost.

While I can’t go into all the details in this post, the essence of effective story telling can be condensed into one single sentence.

As Andrew Stanton puts it:

“The greatest story commandment is: make me care.”

Such great advice.

In every piece of content you create, every story you write, keep this at the front of your mind.

The reason why my sister (and thousands of others) will dress up like Hermione Granger for the Harry Potter finale is because they care about the characters. They desperately want them to succeed. To make Voldy pay.

With this in mind, your job is to make people care about what you have to say. To create suspense. To evoke emotion. To get them to “feel” why your story matters.

Do this, and watch your success skyrocket.

Step 2: Employ open loops

Have you ever watched Lost, 24 or another hit TV drama?

You probably have.

They’re insanely popular, captivating the minds (and destroying the work ethics) of countless people all over the world.

But why are they so addicting?

Simple: they employ a little-known suspense-building tactic that makes people have to know what happens. A trick that leaves people on the edge of their seats, counting down the days until the next episode airs.

What tactic am I talking about?

Two words: open loops.

I was first introduced to open loops by the (storytelling genius) Andre Chaperon…and they’ve made big-time difference in my business.

Here’s how they work. You’re fully captivated by a story, you’re on the edge of your seat, wanting desperately to know what happens.

The action rises.

The tension builds. And then…

The episode is over. You have to tune in next week to see what happens.

Here’s an example.

Get it? You build the action and suspense…and then leave the story unresolved. Unfinished.

This “lack of closure” causes people to return week after week because they need to see what happens. Once a “loop” is opened, it’s human nature to want to see what happens. They can’t not know what happens.

How do you apply this to your blog or online business?

Here’s what I do: instead of writing isolated blog posts or email messages, I create context around my content.

I “continue the story” from one piece of content to the next. Leave stories unresolved so that people watch their inbox like a hawk, eagerly awaiting my latest “episode.”

This is my primary “anticipation building” weapon. I leverage it in my content, emails, even guest posts.

Use it at your own risk.

Step 3: Leverage the senses

Video wins. It has the highest perceived value, crushes long-form sales letters, and captures attention far better then plain old text.

Why? Because it “leverages the senses.”

Instead of relying on mental imagining, video gives you the full experience. You can hear it, see it, “feel it,” and often read it too.

With this in mind, instead of putting out the same old posts, mix things up. Include video, audio, images, and text. Send people on what I call a “discovery adventure.”

The key is to always make things interesting and exciting. If you get bored reading your content, chances are it will tranquilize your audience.

Step 4: Create your “super alter-ego”

One of the most fundamental rules of blogging is this: people follow bloggers, not blogs.

You’ve heard this before, right? Well, it’s true.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, people do not want cookie-cutter information delivered to them from some impersonal void. They want to interaction, entertainment, and connection.

You see, there’s a saying in internet marketing that goes like this: “Make fans over friends, and friends over followers.” Simply put, people like to do business with people they empathize with, and the best way to foster this is to infuse personality into your marketing. Not a bland, neutral, “corporate” version of your personality, but a strong, exaggerated, larger-than-life version.

Your “super alter-ego.”

The key here is to take the aspects of your personality that people will connect with, and blow them up. Amplify them. Don’t be afraid to take a stand.

As D. Bnonn Tennent puts it:

“You gotta be hot! You must have more personality than you know what to do with—a personality that appeals to your ideal prospect. Then you simply write to him directly as one person to another; as if you were having a conversation.”

Step 5: Don’t be afraid to use comedy

Online, most people shy away from comedy. They say it doesn’t work. They say it turns people off.

Well, this is absolutely false. I don’t know about you, but when someone makes me laugh, I instantly like them. And I want to be around them as much as possible.

As Dan Kennedy puts it in his book “Make ‘Em Laugh and Take Their Money,”

“The ability to get those laughs, to make people relax and be uninhibited and enjoy themselves, to leave their worries behind and enter a different mind space, to feel a sense of shared, funny futility over life’s problems and puzzles, to trust you enough to open up and laugh with you…is as necessary to a performer or speaker as an audience itself. For the speaker seeking to sell, it is the golden key to the vault.”

Such great advice. And this doesn’t just apply to speakers, but also to bloggers or any other form of content creators. If you can make people laugh, you’re golden. People will like you, trust you and want to do business with you.

Don’t believe me?

Just look at Frank Kern, Andy Jenkins, David Siteman Garland and Marie Forleo. All wildly successful. All notoriously funny.

Of course, you don’t have to use comedy. It is possible to persuade and connect with people without ever eliciting a chuckle (and to be honest, cliched or “cute” comedy probably won’t get you anywhere.)

But if you study and master the skill of authentic humor, people will flood to you with open arms.

Step 6: Captivate people immediately

The sixth and final strategy is to combine all of these tactics and hook people right when they land on your site. The second they arrive.

How?

Well, there are really only two steps:

  1. Understand the norms within your niche. Get a good idea of what most people are doing.
  2. Go out of your way to violate people’s expectations and do something surprisingly different.

It really doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.

If everyone has their blog on their homepage, create a nerdy presell page or ridiculously awesome music videos.

The key is to make people stop dead in their tracks and think, “Wow! This is so cool! I’ve never seen anyone do this before. I should learn more.”

Do something bold. Do something epic. Do it fast.

Bottom line

Ultimately, you gotta realize that creating average content and posting it on an average blog is not good enough. Not any more.

The blogosphere is too darn crowded, there’s too much darn competition, and the rent is too darn high.

As Glen Allsopp puts it,

People do not have the time to read your content. They really don’t. We’re busier than ever, have shorter attention spans and more people in our entire history own websites they want us to visit.

How many marketing bloggers do you think wrote something today hoping that you’ll read it?5,000? 50,000? I don’t know, but it’s a lot. If you did nothing but attempt to read all of the marketing content that is published today, you wouldn’t be finished this year. In other words, it’s no longer enough to be part of the top 1%. You have to be in the top 0.1%.”

In order to stand out today, you need a remarkable approach. You gotta innovate, get creative, and fascinate each and every person who visits your site.

And most importantly, you can’t let people doze off into a semi-conscious browsing state. Ever. You must hook them immediately, plaster their eyes to your content and suck them into an inescapable vortex of dramatic, suspenseful, hilariously entertaining awesome.

This is how the game is played. These are the new rules.

This is how you win.

Logan Marshall is on a mission to help aspiring entrepreneurs change the world with their message. If you’re one of them, check out the cinematic trailer to his upcoming blog.

The Shocking Truth about Consistent Blogging Success: How to Find Your Voice

This guest post is by Bill Zipp of billzipponbusiness.com/.

It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world!

You write something on your blog that goes viral. Likes explode, comments go crazy, tweets multiply, and open rates are off the charts.

That’s what’s great about blogging.

So when the dust settles and the warm feelings of success fade, you ask yourself, “How did this happen?” and, perhaps more importantly, “How can it happen again?”

Here are the usual answers to those questions:

  • The article had an amazing headline.
  • After the headline, there was a killer introduction.
  • Your content was both original and compelling.
  • Subheadings powerfully drew people into the post.
  • You told great stories that kept readers engaged.
  • Your call to action was irresistible.

And all of these things are important. They’re essential to our craft.

But I believe they are secondary to consistent blogging success. Consistent blogging success has at its very core this one thing: voice.

Everything else, as important as it is, flows from there.

When you find your blogging voice…

When you find your blogging voice, even posts with generic headlines get read without fail.

When you find your blogging voice, you build a community of readers who devour every word you write.

When you find your blogging voice, your community grows exponentially as more and more readers become raving fans.

And when you find your blogging voice, you unleash a source of passion that keeps you writing incredible content day after day, year after year.

What is a blogging voice?

Blogging voice is the intersection of two lines: your personal experience and people’s pressing needs.

If all you talk about in your blog is personal experience and never address the pressing needs of people, you’re really not blogging. You’re journaling.

Nothing wrong with journaling. I’ve kept a journal for years.

And I have friends who’ve gone on a trip or trained for a marathon and journaled about that experience on a blog. But the clear intent was to keep a circle of family and friends informed on their life developments, not to lay a platform upon which to build a business.

Conversely, if all you do is address people’s needs apart from your personal experience, you join the ranks of thousands on the internet selling stuff they never actually use themselves.

Sadly, I’ve bought a product or two from people like this. Halfway into a “revolutionary” training program, I’ve gotten the sinking feeling that I’ve been had. Not only is the material not original from the author, but it doesn’t work. Or it doesn’t work any more, and this person has moved on to other things (and I can move on too, for an additional $2,995).

So these two lines must intersect.

We learned all about this in high school geometry: a point on a plane is created when two line segments cross. And because they are your two line segments, and nobody else’s, that point is a unique place in the blogging universe.

So let’s add one more phrase to our definition: blogging voice is the intersection of your personal experience and people’s pressing needs that creates your unique contribution to online content.

How do you find your blogging voice?

There’s a two-step process for drawing these intersecting lines.

The first step involves one’s self—what I call looking in the mirror. The second step involves looking outside one’s self, through the window into the marketplace.

First, look in the mirror

This is, of course, the first law of great writing: write what you know. Unfortunately, like the pauper who dies in a freezing apartment with thousands of dollars stuffed in his mattress, we tend to ignore what we know. We don’t appreciate its true value.

Ask yourself these important questions:

  • What issues burn in your heart?
  • What challenges have you overcome?
  • What mistakes have you made?
  • What answers have you found that no one else is writing about?
  • What gets your attention in a way where you lose all sense of time?

If you’re like me, the two most difficult questions in that list have to do with the challenges you’ve faced and the mistakes you’ve made. Who wants to remember that stuff?

But that’s the stuff that voice is made of: real, authentic, genuine personal experience.

This kind of experience is not found on the mountaintop, but in the valley. It doesn’t take shape in the light, but in the darkness. It’s forged in adversity.

I love to cook. In my cooking I use various herbs and spices. Next to the oven sits a mortar and pestle. Before I put many of these enhancements into a dish, I first crush them in my mortar and pestle. That’s when their true flavor emerges and transforms an ordinary dish into something exceptional.

The same is true in finding your blogging voice. Where you’ve been crushed in life is where the greatest potential exists for you to help others.

Then look out the window

The second intersecting line in finding your blogging voice is uncovering the pressing needs of people. It involves looking out the window and seeing a match in the marketplace for the personal experience you possess.

Again, ask yourself these important questions:

  • Who needs what you have to say the most?
  • Where do these people live, work, worship, and play?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What gives them their deepest joy?
  • What are their biggest challenges?

I once accepted the position of General Manager at a radio station that was dead last in ratings for its market.

There was a clear reason why, as well. In the morning the station aired talk, mid-morning they played music, then live call-in shows, then some music, then more talk in the evening, with the occasional infomercial thrown in for good measure. No one knew what was going to air next, so they tuned out completely.

One of the first things we did as a management team is define our target listener. We gave that listener a name, Kelly, and put pictures of her and her family all around the studio. As a staff we became obsessed with answering this question, “What does Kelly care about?”

Not infomercials! We dropped them immediately.

But we also asked that question about one of the most basic radio programming elements: the weather. We came to believe that Kelly really didn’t care about raw data related to the weather, but rather how that data affected her life.

So when our jocks gave the weather, they didn’t thoughtlessly repeat the temperature and the forecast. They talked about how Kelly’s kids should dress in the morning for their wait at the bus stop, or the fact that she may need to put her car in the garage that night because the first freeze was on the way.

That’s what Kelly cared about.

Within a year we had moved into third place in the ratings, and in two years we were competing for first place in our demographic with a country music station that had dominated the market for decades.

Why you need Kelly

Most bloggers suffer from the same malady as that radio station.

They write about one thing one day. Another thing the next day. And a totally different topic the third. And people stop reading, because they don’t know what the blog is about.

Finding your blogging voice involves knowing exactly who you’re writing to and what they really care about. Creating a persona, like we did for Kelly, is a powerful way to focus your writing. Put a picture up of that person next to your computer monitor and talk to that person as if he or she were in the room sitting right next to you.

A blog persona will also help answer questions related to writing style. As in what stories to tell, whether you use swear words or not, or how much personal information to reveal in your blog. Simply ask yourself, “Is that what I would say if this person were sitting in the room right next to me?”

This isn’t easy work, and it shouldn’t be.

Take time to answer the ten questions above and talk with others about your answers. Write a first, second, and third draft. Then a fourth. When you do, you’ve begun to find your blogging voice.

But really, what difference does all this stuff this make?

Your voice can change the world

Finding your blogging voice is no mere exercise in artistic integrity or a way to finally quit your day job.

Your voice can change the world.

There are single mothers who need the inspiration you provide to get them through another impossible day.

There are struggling entrepreneurs, ready to give up on their life’s dream, who need the ideas you possess so the doors of their business stay open.

There are people with a dreaded diagnosis—cancer—who need the alternative treatments you know all about so they live long enough to attend their daughter’s wedding.

There are bored business men and women who need to be challenged to forgo their big bonus and another Caribbean cruise and do something that makes a difference in people’s lives.

You are the one with the words in your heart that can make these amazing things happen. And more.

In the words of Seth Godin in Tribes, “We need you to lead us.”

Go start a fire!

I have very few memories of growing up as a kid, but one is vividly etched in my mind. It was Christmas Eve and I was four years old. We were gathered in the basement of our church singing Christmas carols by candlelight.

For some inexplicable reason, I was given a candle and a carol book.

From the moment the wick was lit on that candle, I could think of nothing else than this: what would happen if the candle in my left hand touched the carol book in my right hand?

I pondered this dilemma throughout the service.

As festivities came to a close, I realized I would lose my opportunity to answer that question. It was somewhere during the singing of Silent Night that I found out. When the candle in my left hand touched the carol book in my right hand, the dry paper burst into flames.

I screamed at the top of my lungs and threw the flaming mess on the floor. My mom screamed as well, probably more in embarrassment than fear, and my dad jumped from his seat and stomped on the blaze in the middle of the room until it went out.

When we got home, I received the spanking of my life.

This is how you start a fire, and this is what delivers consistent blogging success. Take the flame that flickers in your soul and put it in contact with the real needs of real people. The blaze that burns will be your blog, alight with likes and tweets, comments and subscribers.

So go start a fire! There are people out there who desperately need what you have to say. These people will read everything you write and pass it on to others who’ll do the same. If, and only if, you find your blogging voice and stay true to that voice post after post after post.

And that’s the shocking truth.

Speaker, coach, and consultant, Bill Zipp helps busy leaders do what matters most in business and in life. He also helps other consultants build a thriving, successful practice. To learn more about Bill’s work visit: http://billzipponbusiness.com/consultants.

5 Steps to SEO Friendly Split Testing, Sans Stress

This guest post is by Justine Smith of FreshBooks.

Split testing.

For many bloggers, the very words inspire visions of code and feelings of stress.

Also called A/B testing, split testing is an art that allows you to divvy up your blog visitors so one group sees a slightly different website than the other group.

While split testing for Adsense has been covered on ProBlogger before, doing split tests for your blog can be just as beneficial to help ensure that you’re giving your visitors exactly what they want.

To start you off on the right foot, here are my top 5 tips for SEO-friendly split testing that won’t damage your blog or stress you out.

1. Keep your test pages from being indexed

The first thing you need to address is keeping those test pages from getting indexed by the “Big G” (a.k.a. Google). There are several ways you can do this. It sounds a little techie, but I promise it’s painless.

First, use canonical tags. Using the rel=canonical tag lets search engines know where your “original” page is located.

Next, use your robots.txt file. A robots.txt file is created to provide critical information to search engine bots, and is one of the first things they will look for before they crawl a site.

With a robots.txt file, you can keep them from crawling as well as indexing certain pages, including your test pages. Just be aware that SEO-savvy competitors will often look at your robots.txt file to get ideas from your secret test pages, so be careful of what you include.

Use the noindex meta tag on your variation page. Again, this tells the Google Bot to back off.

And don’t forget to check your work. You can input site:yoursiteurl.com into Google search to verify that your test pages aren’t getting indexed. You can also use tools like Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO to see if there are any external links pointing to your test pages. If there are, your site could get indexed—so be sure to check your work.

2. JavaScript doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to

JavaScript is a programming language that’s used to make web pages interactive.  In the context of a split test, it is a piece of code you place on a web page that enables you to actually ‘split’ traffic between your control page and your testing page.

Search engines aren’t supposed to see or index Javascript, and usually they don’t.

To split traffic between pages A and B, JavaScript is often used at the top of the control page. Common sense tells us that if search engines aren’t supposed to follow the JavaScript then they shouldn’t index the test variation URL.

Unfortunately, sometimes they do it anyway.

So once again, check your work. Do a site: search for your test URL every so often to verify the test pages aren’t being indexed. You can also segment your site analytics by search referrals and note the top entry pages as another way to see if any of your test URLs are getting indexed by accident.

3. Take steps if your test pages are indexed

Sign up for Google Webmaster Tools. Besides the option to remove your accidentally indexed pages, this toolset gives you a plethora of other free tools that’ll get your site much more search visibility.

Also, be mindful of:

  • Keyword cannibalization: This is where two similar pages wind up competing for the same rankings. Ultimately Google will arbitrarily favor one and ignore the other. There are several rank-boosting benefits that can be lost when this happens, so do your best to avoid it.
  • Duplicate content: This is another biggie that can have similar results to cannibalization. If you don’t keep careful tabs on this, test URLs that are indexed could result in your important pages getting de-indexed. Not exactly what you were hoping for, right?

4. Try testing SEO-safe page elements

This is a case where small changes can add up to big gains. Did you know a simple color tweak could make a big difference on your conversation rate? The bonus is these changes won’t affect your rankings in any way.

Consider testing:

  • Headlines and calls to action: Simple changes like text size or typeface can be a great way to shake things up and impact conversion rates. Different people respond to different things, so making changes will help you to gauge what your readers respond to best. Just be sure when changing text size not to use the header H1-6 HTML tags, as those are reviewed by Google.
  • Colors: Another great way to split test without messing with SEO is to play with colors on your site. Once you get a good look at all the areas where color lives on your landing pages, the possibilities will seem endless. Speaking of color…
  • Text color: This is also something that can be tweaked. Changing a few important words to another color can make a difference. Just remember not to use too much color, because then it just becomes distracting and folks are put off. You can also change highlighted text, both by changing the color of the highlights and also changing which words are highlighted.
  • Adding and removing graphics: Finally, manipulating your graphics can also effect conversions. Simple changes like removing graphics from your site altogether are easy to implement. Google does index photos but it’s not going to break your SEO if you no longer have them on your site. By the same token, you can also add photos to spark a change. People respond to social proof, so adding images like press logos and testimonials from people who adore you can go a long way in increasing response rates of your visitors. Just be sure not to mess with your existing photos’ ALT text too much, since this might already have been indexed.
  • Changing graphics: These can be simple changes. You can swap out an illustrated graphic for a photograph, or see if people respond better to stock photos or real-life snapshots. Or you can play around with the positioning and size of your images. If the thought of changing your graphics makes you queasy, you could try simply playing around with the things that compliment your graphics, such as using borders, overlays and text on top, just to see what happens. Oh, and tying in with the call to action tweaks from earlier, you can also tweak that Buy Now graphic you may be using. Rumor has it The Belcher Button with its orange hue, and credit card images make a huge impact on buyer numbers.

5. Give Content Experiments from Google Analytics a whirl

As the “artist formerly known as Google Website Optimizer”, Content Experiments might be of interest in your split testing fun.

This is basically a quick and relatively easy tool that you can use to create A/B tests without being overly technical or messing with a lot of code. You can test your main pages and even get email updates about how your experiment is faring.

A final word

Split testing is an essential long-term tactic for a variety of business types, including freelance bloggers and even bigger companies like FreshBooks, who use the results to make educated decisions about how to write and design for potential and existing customers.

Now that you’ve ventured over to the geek side, it’s easy to see that split testing isn’t nearly as scary as many people tend to think. As long as you know where some of the hiccups lie, there’s no hair pulling, code whizzing, or messing with your hard-earned rank required.

Justine Smith is the Outreach Manager at FreshBooks, the #1 Cloud Accounting Specialist for Small Business Owners.

Curate a Best-Of Post that Gets Read, Used, and Shared

One of the posts I’m featuring in the carousel on Digital Photography School at the moment is the Best of dPS.

dPS best ofIf you haven’t compiled a best-of list of your most-loved posts yet, you should.

  • It’s very sharable: Take your best posts, make them into one post, and you can be sure that your readers—current and new—will love it, and love to share it with others.
  • It supports your authority: Posts like this act as a scannable guide to your expertise and experience within the niche.
  • It provides enormous value: A best-of really is a valuable piece of content for readers. That almost goes without saying!
  • It helps you get attention to great, evergreen content: If your best works are languishing in your archives, a best-of can get them the fresh attention they deserve.
  • It helps readers access content they’ve missed: It’s inevitable that readers will miss some of your posts. A best-of brings your best, most helpful work to their attention in a single, easily bookmarked location.

Now, it might seem like putting to post together is as simple as looking through your visitor stats and working out which posts have gained the most traffic. But there’s more to it than that. Here are my tips for curating a really strong best-of post.

1. Weigh the stats

The way most of us work out which are our best posts is to look at our stats. But what does that actually mean?

I think it’s a good idea to look at social shares and comment counts as well as pageviews. Also, try to remember what type of social media buzz the posts generated when they were first published—the kinds of things people were saying, and why. Finally, look at how long the traffic to the post lasted, as a gauge of how much it drew readers back again over time.

Different posts have different statistical profiles, and not all traffic is created equal. Ideally, your best-of post will contain articles that attracted traffic that converted (for example, became subscribers or social media followers for your blog).

2. Consider your blog’s evolution

The dPS post covered posts that had been published in the space of six months. While these were evergreen posts, you might want to include more topical posts in your best-of. That’s fine—so long as these posts still reflect where your blog is at.

Industries change, and so do bloggers. Something you wrote six months ago—and which did really well at the time—might seem a bit dated or stale to you now. Maybe your opinions have changed, or perhaps it’s your writing style. If you’re not still excited by a post, don’t include it in your best-of list. You want this to be a post you can stand behind whole-heartedly.

3. Review hot topics in your niche

When you’re choosing between good posts that all look they might make the cut, one way to narrow down the options is to look at what’s happening in your niche at the time. Does one post suit the current niche “climate” right now? Does it play into a concern, dialog, or sense of anticipation, and might it draw more readers for that reason?

Including a post or two from your archives that tap into current trends in your niche can really boost the discussion around your best-of, and encourage sharing.

4. Consider reopening closed comments

If you close comments on posts after a set period, you might consider reopening them on the posts you’ve included in your best-of when the post goes live. Allowing new visitors to add to the discussion on these evergreen posts can bring new life—and present-day insight—to these older posts.

Then, when other readers come across the posts in future, they’ll find the discussions more relevant to them.

5. Make sure the linked posts are perfect

Of course, you’ll make sure that all the posts that appear in your best-of list are perfect. Even if you’re the kind of blogger who doesn’t let anything make it through to the blog that’s not perfect, go back over those old posts.

This will give you a chance to reacquaint yourself with the material, so that you can talk about it with readers who ask questions via email or social media. But I think you might also pick up on one or two things that you want to change in each post. It might be something as simple as a turn of phrase, or correcting a link that’s become broken. But these small tweaks will help you get the absolute most out of your best-of post.

Do have a best-of on your blog? Tell us how you put it together—and what benefits it’s brought you.

The Benefits of Being a Transparent Blogger [Case Study]

This guest post is by Ashley Bennett of Ashley-Bennett.com.

One of the most successful bloggers online right now is also one of the most transparent.

You probably know him as Pat.

Pat is the owner of the successful website and podcast entitled Smart Passive Income. Smart Passive Income is all about blogging and internet marketing strategies that can help people literally earn smart, passive income on their own.

Pat’s not the only one—there are plenty of other bloggers who do the same thing.

Transparent bloggers are open about who they are, what they do, and even how much they make. There are very few successful bloggers that have managed to remain anonymous online.

If you’re in this for the long haul, then you should be transparent too.

Here’s why—and how Pat’s Smart Passive Income (SPI) blog does it.

People connect with you more easily

The object of blogging is to connect with people. Ads and affiliate links mean nothing unless you have a connection with your audience. Your connection with them is what makes them trust you, and eventually buy from you or click on your ads.

People connect with other people, not websites. They become readers of certain blogs because they like the people that write them. Showing your picture will help people connect with you better and feel like they have gotten to know you. Share not only what you look like, but who you are and what you do.

Creating connection

Pat has a photo of himself right on the header of his website, so you know exactly who he is before you have to start reading the About page. There is also a video link that introduces him, and explains who he is and what his website is about for new visitors.

After watching his video and seeing his picture, readers feel like they just met him over lunch. His picture alone improves his credibility because you know there is a real person behind the website. This will make you more likely to listen to advice, buy stuff, and most importantly, engage with him.

Pat’s About page has a picture of him with his newborn son, along with a lot of information about his background and how he got started. He admits that he came to blogging after a layoff, and created a new life and career.

They trust you more

You are more credible to audiences when you are open and transparent. For example, you disclose that you have affiliate links and sponsors and you even discuss your own personal experiences using them.

Spammy tactics and sneaky affiliate links are pretty much useless. No one wants to buy anything from people that they’ve never heard of because they will think that it could be a scam or that the products might not work.

Being honest with your readers about these links actually improves your chances of earning money through them. This is because people want to know what will happen when they buy a product.

They need to know about the price, the level of customer service, and whether or not it does what it is supposed to do. Share both the good and bad things about the product and the company in your review.

People are more inclined to trust in more balanced reviews as opposed to overwhelmingly positive ones. It seems obvious that a blogger would say something positive about a produce if they’re getting paid to promote it. A balanced review shows you put your audience before dollars.

Building trust

Pat makes a point to use all of the stuff that he promotes on his website.

He never tells you exactly what to buy, but he does give suggestions about the things that worked for him.

He has unbiased reviews and videos that show how to use the products that he promotes. None of his links are hidden anywhere to “trick” people into opening them—they are posted on his side panel, and he also embeds them into relevant posts.

He will tell you what he uses, explain why he uses it, and admit that he will receive a commission if you purchase it from his link. Furthermore, he’ll even show you how much money he earned from his affiliate links in the income reports that he publishes.

They see themselves in you

People want to hear the story, they don’t just want to see the glory. Talk about how got you started, where you came from, and what worked for you.

Having relatable content and stories is what attracts people to a blog. Telling people about your story helps them engage with you—they will feel like they can do it because they know your story.

They know that what they want is possible, because they watched you do it.

Telling the story

Pat’s About page explains the entire story about how he got into blogging. It came out of necessity because he was laid off and he had to find another way to provide for his family.

Yes, he is successful today, but he does tell the entire story about how he struggled in the beginning. His success did not come overnight, and you can watch his progression through his blog.

He actually explains how he writes blog posts, ebooks, and even how he promotes his website. All of the moving parts on his website are explained and examined for your educational benefit.

It’s better for brand building

A brand is built upon trust and value developed over time.

You are building your personal brand online every time you connect with other bloggers, tell your stories, and talk about how you made it.

You can use the platform that you’ve created to write books, promote events, and to help people.

If people know you, they’ll be more likely to reach out to you. You could create strategic partnerships and gain access to a host of opportunities that you would normally never have access to through your blog.

It is about you, not the blog.

Creating a brand

Pat’s personal brand is strong because he connects with readers as well as other bloggers through his voice. Pat Flynn is the brand, not necessarily the website. It’s his name that gives the website its value.

Imagine what his website would be like if he had stayed hidden behind the virtual curtain. There’d be no social proof, no evidence, and probably few readers.

A plan of action for shy bloggers

Shy blogging is like taking a shower with your clothes on: you’re in the right place, doing the right thing, but it just isn’t working. Blogging anonymously probably won’t help you build a brand, help people, or even earn money.

Here is a plan of action made for shy bloggers who don’t want to come out of the closet.

Obstacle #1: I’m too shy to post a photo

Solution: Get a professional photo

If you are too embarrassed to show yourself, then that is a problem because anybody can look good in a photo. A simple personal photo will due in most cases, but a professional can make you look even better.

If you feel like you do not look up to par, then have your hair and makeup done, and get a new outfit to boost your confidence for the shot. If your personal photos aren’t what you want them to be, then go ahead and have a professional photo done. They don’t cost much, but if you are really budget-conscious, you could ask a photography student, or a friend who takes great shots to do it for you.

Do whatever it takes to become presentable online and off.

Obstacle #2: I’m not good enough! I don’t know how to do it

Solution: Improve your skills until you are good enough.

Some people are reluctant to reveal who they are because they are afraid that they are not good writers, not smart enough, or not as good as the other people online. If you feel like you are not good enough, then take a class, get a writing coach, read books, listen to podcasts, and most importantly, practice every day.

Most of the popular bloggers did not start out the way that they are today. They made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. Their websites didn’t look that good. Maybe their writing wasn’t that good either.

The thing is that they kept learning and practicing until they got good at it.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, you need to put in at least 10,000 hours to be good at what you do. Start clocking those hours!

Obstacle #3: I’m waiting for the right time to get started

Solution: Do something right now!

Paralysis through analysis is one of the biggest challenges for aspiring bloggers. They are always waiting until their website is perfect, waiting until they have time, or just waiting because they are too scared to take action.

The best thing you can do is to just get started. Just writing one single article, doing a guest post, or buying a website template can help you.

Force yourself to take at least one step forward every day or spend a certain amount of time to work on your blog every day. Putting in at least one hour day will eventually take you a long way.

Obstacle #4: What if people don’t like me?

Solution: Learn from the criticism

Criticism is a fact of life. Let’s face it: haters have computers too.

There are and always will be people who disagree with you or even dislike you online for no particular reason. Although they may be hurtful, you can’t take what they say to heart.

However, if someone does have some legitimate criticism then you can accept it and learn from it.

The key is to be able to distinguish between the constructive criticism and the negative criticism without getting your feelings hurt. That takes practice, but that’s all it takes.

Obstacle #5: I’m nervous

Solution: Be honest about your feelings.

Being transparent is also about exploring your emotional journey as a blogger and as a human being.

Everyone is usually a little nervous at first, so you may as well as admit it. Your growth as a writer and blogger stems from the fact that you can tell people about your mistakes, your failures, and your fears.

As vast as the Internet is, chances are that you’re not the only one that feels like this. Your audience will probably admit that they understand and support you. They might even give you some new ideas and help you stay motivated.

The bottom line is that you have to reveal something in order to get anything back from your audience. You can share whatever you’re comfortable with sharing, but just show your face to be present.

You might be surprised.

You might like what you see.

And if you like what you see, they will too.

Ashley Bennett is a writer and marketing consultant. She has recently written a book entitled The 7 Laws of Social Media Marketing. You can read more about her blog at Ashley-Bennett.com.

How to Blog In the Moment (or What Acting School Taught Me About Being a Better Blogger)

This guest post is by Tommy Walker of Inside The Mind

Editor’s note: We’ve broken ProBlogger’s ban on offensive language for this post, as we feel it’s necessary in this particular piece. If harsh language offends you, you may want to skip this one. 

 

In the Summer of 2005 I graduated from The New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts with a certificate in Film Acting.

Normally mentioning my training would be of no consequence, and to this point it’s been a loosely guarded secret; fearing you might confuse my degree with some glorified week long camp at your local community theater that said I was “certified” to act on camera, hurrr hurr.

No. My school was serious. I was one of 16,000 who auditioned, one of 154 accepted, and one of 60 who graduated.

The training was taxing. Twice a week we would access the kind of bared-soul vulnerability you feel after a long fight with your spouse—or the first time you undress in front of a crush.

The whole first year was about getting past the layers we use to defend ourselves. When someone says “F*ck you” for example, that has an impact, but you’ve trained yourself to not care. In reality, some part of you is bewildered. The school’s unofficial motto was “If we catch you acting, you suck.”

Every day was another exercise to achieve that emotional nakedness, but the most effective was also the most simple—Repetitions.

The Repetition exercise looks like this: you and a partner stand across from each other, gaze held, and wait until someone voices an observation. It’s not about who speaks first, or how clever the observation is, it just needs to be organic.

“You’re wearing a blue shirt.”
“I’m wearing a blue shirt.”
“You’re wearing a blue shirt.”

Our instructor, John Tyrell, was a first generation Meisner student. He sat at a small table at the corner of the stage watching the repetition move like a tennis match. He wore a black shirt with blue jeans. Outside of class, John was sweetest man you’d ever meet. But in class, he was always just this side of worn.  Maybe it was the cigarettes, maybe it was the burden of passing the teachings of one of the greatest acting instructors of our time, who knows?

He watched to make sure neither actor would sabotage The Moment. If we did, he would say “Bullshit!” throw his glasses onto the table, run a hand through his salt and pepper hair, then say, “Okay, look…

“Open. Vulnerable. Penetrable…

“There is never nothing going on. There is only this moment. This moment. This moment.” he’d say hitting his heart and tugging at an invisible thread.

“And it changes, one second to the next. It is not your responsibility to manipulate it, make love to it, or hold on to it, only to recognize it and let it work through you, then move on to the next.

Get out of your head! Again.”

Rookie actors live in their heads; they practice their looks and memorize scripts by reading aloud, training to say this line this way. They build the scene in their head, without regard for other actors or the director.

The outcome is inevitably the same; everyone plays their interpretation of the scene, missing moments, and delivering cardboard performances. It’s inauthentic, contrived, and a nightmare to watch.

What we learned through Repetition was to be open to the pure joy, uncontrolled laughter, and gut wrenching tears, or whatever else The Moment demanded. It was hyper-realism, volatile, and at times, terrifying.

But when it was done you’d take a breath, reset, and come back in two days.

For a year, unless you quit or were cut from the program.

Of course, as a blogger, and more specifically a blogger who talks about marketing, it can not be stated enough how relevant the “If we catch you acting, you suck.” mantra is.

See, like acting, blogging and marketing are meant to take the audience away and get them caught up in The Moment.

Bloggers like Jon Morrow and Derek Halpern understand this so well that it doesn’t matter if the article is 100 or 3,000 words, you’ll miss appointments to see how it ends.

Sure, a percentage can be attributed to talent, but if you asked either of them how they do it, I’m betting it would come down to repetition.

“If we catch you blogging, you suck.”

“If we catch you marketing, you suck.”

Sometimes I wish John Tyrell were a blogging coach.

If Meisner repetitions were meant to get us out of our heads; movement exercises were to get us out of our bodies.

Movement was primarily a weekly yoga practice, but the homework was to journal how random people carried themselves. In the next class, we would incorporate their physicality into our own bodies.

The major revelation was that taking on someone else’s physical characteristics meant your body would adopt the associated energy.

For example, rub your thumb repeatedly in circles around the outside of your knuckle on your index finger. Feel that? Do you feel anxious? Is your leg starting to bounce? It’s always a little bit different for everyone, but the principal remains: certain tics are triggered by emotion, but it’s possible to trigger an emotion by activating the tic.

Of course, we all have our tics (the example is mine) so for the exercise to be effective, it’s best to abandon your own physical tensions and become a blank slate.

To do this, we’d stand in alignment, in a neutral stance that allows the skeleton to support itself, free of its defenses from the world. For example, shifting weight to one leg, or pushing your pelvis, neck, or shoulders forward, or curling into your own back. Trust me, it’s harder than it sounds.

As an actor, it’s your job to become other people. How can you be believable as someone else if you don’t learn to first abandon yourself?

“Listen and respond. Listen and respond,” John would say, hitting his chest.

At the surface, this might seem like something one could incorporate into their routine after reading it in a book, or blog post. (Wouldn’t this make for a nice tips and tricks article?) But this couldn’t be any further from the truth. There was a reason we did these repetitions twice a week, every week for ten months. There was a reason more than half of the students were cut.

Repetition until it is etched into your bones is exhausting. Maintaining total mind body vulnerability while being told, “That’s bullshit!” wears you down.

Accessing The Moment at will doesn’t take weeks, or months, but years of constant dedication to the craft. You certainly don’t get there by reading a blog post or two.

I’m not just talking about acting. Whatever you consider your art, you have your own version of the Repetition exercise. If you’re lucky, eventually The Moment comes with less resistance, but it’s just a sign to dig deeper. Your willingness to do so is what really determines whether this is something you want to do.

Of the 60 that graduated, I can think of two—maybe three—who have pursued their career as actors. One did Burger King commercial and has been on Bravo. Another was in that Wendy’s Frosty Posse commercial. But that’s it.

The rest have gone on, like myself, to start families or businesses. One classmate is finding celebrity in the world of hairdressing (I’m happy to say he cut my hair more than once). Yet, everyone seems perfectly content with their path, even if we all said at one point, “I couldn’t imagine doing anything but acting! Acting is my life.” [Barf.]

My point is: saying you’re dedicated and being dedicated are two different things. It takes repetition and vulnerability like we’ve talked about, but it also means doing it full force, even if it risks finding out you don’t love it quite as much as you thought.

My classmates who work now don’t do it by sitting in coffee shops waiting to “get discovered,” but by sending out endless headshots and resumes, going on calls and facing constant rejection.

Once you’ve found The Moment, you must do the equivalent. This means sending endless emails asking for guest posts, and sharing your most intimate work with people you don’t know understanding full well they’re probably going to shoot you down.

The world is made people hoping to make it big without damaging their precious egos. They’re afraid of letting go of the “what it would be like” mindset and refuse to surrender themselves.

If you want to make magic, you can’t be one of them. You must expose your vulnerability and do so repeatedly. The Moment is magic, and the only way to harness its power is to let go entirely.

It won’t be easy, but don’t you owe yourself to yourself to try?

Tommy Walker is host of “Inside The Mind” a video show that aims to flip the world of online marketing on it’s head. He has been described as having an “infectious creative energy that is as rare as it is refreshing.” Currently he is guest posting on every popular site known to man in order to raise $100,000 in 30 days in an experiment in crowd funding designed to make online marketing accessible and fun to learn.

This Week, Try Something New

In the last few weeks I’ve had the privilege to meet a lot of bloggers at various on and offline events.

These have been great experiences that have really opened my eyes to what others are doing on their blogs, and with their audiences. It’s been a great time for learning.

Trying something new

Image courtesy stock.xchng user milan6

But one thing I know I can suffer from, and I suspect all of us fall prey to at some point, is complacency. How often do we see a tweeted link and tell ourselves “Yep, I know what that’ll be about”? Or read a post title and mentally let part of ourselves drift off into a daydream? Or see a product and think, “That won’t help me!”?

Whilst it’s true that not everything that’s available online will help us, these kinds of mental blocks can really prevent us from learning new things. In fact, the things don’t have to be that new—they just have to be different from what we’re accustomed to.

For example, YouTube. Hands up if you use it! If you don’t, you’re probably one of thousands of bloggers who tells themselves that video isn’t for them. They’re too shy; they don’t look good on camera; it’s too much hassle; their audience won’t use it.

Well, that’s all fine, as far as it goes. But thoughts like this often do more to hinder, rather than help, a blog. The reasons I just mentioned are common reasons bloggers give for not trying new things, yet none of them has anything to do with what’s good for a blog, or a blog’s users.

Stepping out

YouTube is one example, but there are all kinds of ways in which we limit ourselves and our blogs. Perhaps you hate list posts, so you never write them. Perhaps you don’t accept guest posts, thinking you’ll lose your readers’ attention. Perhaps you’re scared to monetize your blog, because you think you’ll put people off.

My message today is: give it a try.

You don’t have to go the whole hog, and overcommit yourself to something you might want to change or remove later. But blogging is about experimentation, stepping out of your comfort zone, and giving it a go.

It takes energy to do this. And determination. But I’ve found it’s the only way to see what works to grow your blog, and expand your audience. It also takes some humility—the power to admit that you don’t know what will or won’t work every time, and a willingness to try things out before you make a judgement. We might not like to think so, but it’s true that we bloggers don’t always know best!

It’s too easy to sit back and say, “That’s not for me (or my blog).” This week, I’m inviting you to pick one thing you’ve never done on your blog before, and give it a try.

Pick one new thing each week

This isn’t my idea. I once had a friend who decided she was going to do something she’d never done before every week for a year. It could be to try a new food, visit a new place, embark on a new experience—anything was fine, as long as it was new.

I think this could be a valuable approach for bloggers who want to improve, expand, and grow. Pick a new thing every week, and give it a go. Obviously, you’ll want to choose something that suits your blog, niche, and audience. But within that realm, I usually find a lot of scope to try new things.

To get your started, here are a few ideas:

  • try a new writing style or technique
  • try following all the advice in a single post right through to the end
  • try getting in touch with a peer in your niche who you’ve never met before
  • try tweaking some aspect of your blog design or layout, and tracking the results
  • try a new approach to finding readers—something you’ve always dismissed in the past
  • try a new type of promotion to reach more readers.

These are just a few ideas. We’ll be covering most of them in the coming week here on ProBlogger, so if you need inspiration or direction, you’ve got it!

Hopefully, that list piqued your interest. You can probably think of plenty of other things you’ve never tried on your blog, but would like to. Grab a pen (or open a new document) and make a list of those things. They—or a step toward each of them—could also become part of your New Things list.

Why bother?

What I’ve suggested here does take work. But the alternative is to keep doing what you’re doing, day in, day out. Where’s the passion in that? To grow, and help our blogs reach their full potential, we all need need to break through a few barriers, open ourselves up to new ideas, and put in some hard yards.

But of course, on the plus side, experimentation is fun. Trying new ideas, and having at least some of them succeed in some way—however small—is a huge buzz. Most of the stories we publish here on ProBlogger aren’t about bloggers who know what they’re doing all the time. These posts are the result of experimentation—in fact, many of them are experiments themselves.

What are you experimenting with? We’d love to hear about your plans to try new things in the comments below.

Find Yourself … and Find Your Niche

This guest post is by Kid In The Front Row.

I once watched an interview with Ricky Gervais, where he talked about how a lot of people don’t like his stand up comedy. He said he didn’t care. All he needs is 5,000 people in each town to fill a theater, and then he’s set. Whether the rest of the population like him or not is irrelevant.

It’s the same with your blog.

You might be extremely passionate about obscure German movies, or maybe you’re obsessed with antique books; or perhaps you happen to have an unusually large amount of knowledge about Mongolian fruit. Whatever it is, that’s your niche.

And sometimes you don’t even know your niche—at least, not at first. The important thing is to get writing—to discover your niche. What do I mean by “discover your niche”?

I mean: figure out who you are.

At first, I blogged generically about movies. I thought my passion was film. Turns out, I think most films are terrible. But I love it when you really hear a voice in the writing; when a film is actually saying something. When you feel you’ve witnessed a real piece of art.

Gradually, my blogging changed—it became more about auteurs, writer/directors, and about the incredible opportunities of independent film.

I found my niche. I found myself. And the blog exploded after that.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to write about, then you can really become an expert within your field. That doesn’t mean that you know everything; it means that you’re leading the quest.

On my blog, I interview screenwriters and directors who inspire me, in the hope that they can lead me further to the truth of what it is to be an artist. They help me figure out why the struggle to produce great films is worth it. They keep me on track.

I’m in a constant dialogue with the readers. Sometimes I inspire them with my insight. Other times, they shoot me down for talking nonsense—which in turn teaches me a lot. We learn from each other, and we’re on the same quest.

Having a niche is about that one corner of the world that is totally yours. Everything about it, you’re in love with. Lots of people might have blogs about how to make cupcakes, but your blog is about how to make cupcakes without sugar; or using only chocolate; or using leftover pieces of chicken—who knows? Only you do!

Whatever it is, you’ll figure it out along the way.

Once you truly focus on being yourself, you’ll stand apart from the rest, and the readers will flock to you, because you’re telling the truth, and your excitement makes them excited.

When that happens, you know you’ve found your niche.

Kid In The Front Row is a cult film blog with a more personal outlook. It’s not about reviewing movies, it’s not about criticising movies – it’s about loving movies. About loving them so much that still, after all these years, we’re just Kids In The Front Row, shoving popcorn down our faces as we stare up at those wonderful people on the big screen.