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Lookin’ Good! A Brief Intro to Inline CSS for Bloggers

This guest post is by Andrew Couch of Learningwebbasics.com.

As a website owner it can be really handy to know a bit of web coding. The HTML editor in most blogging platforms gives you enough power to do a lot of cool things without any risk of screwing up your site.

Adding inline styles to elements is one of the easiest.

What are inline CSS styles?

CSS is the style language of the web. It describes to the browser how web pages should look to the last detail. These styles can be packed together in a style sheet and attached to a site as a whole. Or they can be added to individual elements to affect only that element, not the entire site.

This second way of applying CSS styles is called inline styling. These pieces of CSS are inline styles.

Why can they be the blogger’s best friend?

1. They’re easy to use

You can add an inline style in the HTML editor of your platform. Just a few pieces of code can go a long way. And all without hacking into your theme.

The most common element to style is the paragraph. An inline paragraph style would affect all of the text in the styled paragraph. In WordPress HTML editor you need to add the tags <p …> </p>.

Type this into your HTML editor:
&lt;p style="border:1px solid red;padding:5px;"&gt; This is the text that I want to affect. &lt;/p&gt;

This is how it’ll look in the visual editor, and the post itself:

This is the text that I want to affect.

P is the name of the element. It stands for paragraph.

Style is the name of the element that lets you define an inline style.

So border:1px solid red;padding:5px; is the style in the example. It adds a red border around the paragraph and a bit of spacing to keep the border from running into the text. Pretty easy!

2. They’re safe

Since you are working only in one post instead of the theme itself, there is no chance you could screw up your entire site. This is often a worry of novice coders—that one mistake could take down their site. Inline styles can give you a safe place to play with your creations.

Using inline styles could at most affect the one post you are working on. However if you use your blog’s Preview feature to look at the post before it gets published, you can reduce even that risk.

Styles only affect how specific elements look, not how the site functions. At most, mistakes mean the effect you are going for won’t be seen; they don’t result in a loss of functionality.

3. They are powerful

Many effects can be created on a specific element using inline styles. They do not need to remain as bland as changing the color, or be as functional as spacing out paragraphs.

How about a box set aside as a tip?

This tip callout floats next to your text and lets you push something out of the flow of the text to highlight it. It looks impressive, but is just a slightly more complex inline style.

&lt;p style="padding: 10px; border: 1px solid #cccccc; background-color: #f9f595; width: 210px; float: right; margin: 0 0 5px 5px;"&gt; How about a box set aside as a tip. &lt;/p&gt;

Why aren’t inline styles used more?

Themes for blogs and custom-built websites include a set of CSS rules that are attached to the site as a whole. This style sheet dictates how the site looks. This means you don’t need to use inline styles to achieve effects that fit within the overall theme style.

At a technical level, these overall styles are more efficient than using inline styles on every element. This just means that you would never use them to build an entire site. But inline styles are still very powerful and often overlooked as a way to impact certain elements in a single post.

Give inline styles a try

Basic knowledge of CSS can help you make small changes to the appearance of an individual post. It’s a simple way to make important parts of a post stand out, it can make your post look more professional, and it can break up the monotony.

Best of all, learning a few basics of CSS isn’t too complicated.

If you are intrigued about what CSS can do for you, check out the extensive list of examples at w3schools and their entire CSS section. These move beyond inline styles and into stylesheets, but can give you an idea of what’s possible for your blog.

Andrew Couch is a career web developer and author of a tech e-book for non-techs called Web Foundations for the Non-Geek. He also runs a travel blog at Ctrl-Alt-Travel with his wife.

Get More Blog Readers Using Lessons from Email Marketers

This guest post is by Alana Bender.

Bloggers could probably stand to learn a few marketing tips from email marketers.

For years, email marketers have used all kinds of demographic email lists to build up customer bases. They’ve created lists aimed at women aged 40-plus, with kids, driving a family car, and working part-time from home. And there’s a list targeted to reaching those professionals who work in a particular field of industry or service. Another list for guys in their 20′s who are single and spend $500 a year on electronic devices.

Acquiring or developing these lists is the first step for a good email marketer. But it takes a bit more than that. Email marketers (or in-house writers) must be skilled in the practice of writing great subject lines (sound familiar?), catchy copy (know what I mean?), and an offer to buy (comments, please?).

Then they have to wrap their message into a great email marketing design, one emphasizing Buy now buttons and with a mobile-optimized view that’s readable on both Android and iPhone. Without a compelling visual to back up the content on offer, a particular marketing promotion might fall flat.

As it stands, email marketing isn’t fading away as a marketing tool. In fact, it’s likely growing in usage. Internet research firm eMarketer points out that email volume and revenue increased over the previous year. And customer retention and acquisition are leading priorities for marketers.

What does all this have to do with blogging, you might ask? Well, the same touch points that make customers respond to emails are the same touch points provoking your readers to comment on a post and/or email.

Simply put, customers reply to emails because they’re interesting and relevant to the customer. If a customer regularly purchases school supplies from a local small business site, the likelihood is that this person will be open to new, interesting emails about new school-focused items.

The same goes for blogging. If you write regularly about a topic that amasses a large amount of comments, why not return to that topic (if possible) on a monthly basis? You have proven the relevance (check) and interest to your readers (check) of that particular topic. Come back to it.

As a pro blogger, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I reach my customers (readers)?
  • Where do I look for new customers (readers)?
  • What tools do I use to retain these current readers, and what tools do I use to find new readers?
  • What can I learn from pros in the email marketing business?

If you’re unsure of how you’re building your base of readers, or you’re just blogging away happily without an idea of how to gain new readers, then maybe the lessons of email marketers will apply. That’s what we want to focus on in this piece.

There are email marketing tips that easily transfer over to your blogging strategies, to help build readers, find sponsors, and grow advertising. And, with the ease of email marketing software programs, you can learn how to create a great-looking email to help find new potential readers, and use repeated emails to turn an interested reader into a daily subscriber.

Let’s look first at creating a smart email marketing list for small business or blog sites. How can you get your site out to interested readers or customers using good email marketing practices in the most effective way possible?

In the presentation mentioned above, eMarketer suggested several key ways that email marketers can increase their success with finding new customers and retaining existing customers.

Customize email content

Personalization helps build relationships. We all want emails to be personalized to some extent. Sure, it doesn’t always mean, the Dear (Your name here) email will be fantastic every time, but it beats a completely anonymous email send.

You can do the same thing with blog posts. Address a topic you absolutely know is near and dear to your readers’ personal interests, or be open and transparent on your own blog about a personal issue that you feel might be applicable to others.

You’ll see that getting to the core of an issue at a blog can be a boon for social media pass-alongs and comments at your site.

Use email marketing software

Good email marketing software can help develop a professional and effective marketing campaign, to help you win over new readers for your blog. Most email software packages feature options to allow you to design and create an attractive email. You can fully import already-developed landing pages from your site right into the email template or use one of the email templates to create a new design.

Draw in new blog readers with pictures, video clips, background images and audio clips in your emails.

Customize landing pages

Can you customize landing pages at your blog? Sure you can. Offer a special deal or discount to existing readers (or use new subscribers) on a personalized landing page the reader can go from a link in the email directly to a page for the discount. One-on-one communications rule here.

Leverage customer data

Have you ever found who reads your blog, and more importantly, why they read your blog? Take a chance to survey readers once or twice a year to get to know some general knowledge about who they are, what work they do, and why they read your blog.

Learning why a large portion of readership cares about what you do can inspire you to blog more frequently about issues that matter most to readers.

Be personal (and personable!)

Let your blogging tone of voice be unique (all your own) and uniform (consistency is key). When readers see that your blog has a good release consistency, that it’s well-written, and more prepared than not, they’ll respond to your blog’s direct emails for special offers and joy.

Building a consistent readership, consistently

As bloggers, we all know the value of a consistent readership. Our readers not only keep us on our editorial toes, but help to serve our content with tips, ideas, and suggestions throughout the year. So it makes sense that we should continue to look for ways to keep existing readers on board, while using techniques from email marketing pros to acquire new readers.

How is your blog working to acquire new readers? Are you using customizing your email content? Are you developing special landing pages for new and existing readers for discounts on reports and case studies? Can you use your reader data to bolster your editorial efforts? Let us know in the comments!

After getting my Computer Science degree in NorCal, my interest in writing about technology took over and I started freelancing for various blogs and publications. I love the beach and Apple products!

How to Fill the Giant Guest Post Hole On Your Blog

This guest post is by Joel Zaslofsky of Value of Simple.

Is there a sign on your blog silently screaming, “Please don’t help me grow?”

It’s a shame that most of us put that sign up without even noticing.

From the newest bloggers to the most well-established ones, that’s what happens when you don’t have clear and public guest post submission guidelines.

Even if you don’t want guest posts right now, this is still crucial.

And it’s vital for publishing that first guest post on your blog or breathing some fresh air into a stagnant posting pattern.

There are surprising benefits to creating or updating your guidelines, not to mention huge perks in making them public. Here, I’ll share these hidden benefits with you and explain how even little blogging fish can become bigger, stronger swimmers.

A sad and frustrating story

I don’t need to remind you of the value in guest posting for others. But how many times have you wanted to guest post somewhere and given up because you had no idea:

  • what the submission process was (e.g. who to contact and how)
  • what topics they’re interested in
  • items to include in your pitch to increase your chance of a “yes”
  • when to expect a response and what will be in it
  • what the post specifications are
  • how they will promote your guest post if it’s published
  • whether they’re even taking guest posts right now?

It’s annoying when this happens, right? “Well, it’s their loss,” you think as you lament how much they’re missing out or resent the unnecessary barriers they put up.

Don’t make other people think this about you! Don’t scare away great guest posters and make people give up without you ever knowing.

My experience

When I first started guest posting, I was ripping out the little hair left on my very bald head. Why couldn’t someone take a few minutes to let me know how I should approach them, what to include in a submission, and if they even take guest posts?

You’ll never have to worry about this again by creating (or updating) your guest post submission guidelines.

Now, some people have accused me of going overboard in my own guest post submission guidelines.

Yeah, they’re long. But navigation is easy and I cover dang near any question someone could dream up. When I scare people off, it’s not because I didn’t set expectations or tell them how it could all go down.

Benefits of creating guidelines

As I fused my own guidelines from the best ones I could find—and with the help of the awesome resources for creating your own coming up at the end of this post—I became better at pitching guest posts.

How? Here are just a few ways:

  • Steve Kamb’s guidelines at Nerd Fitness say I should have credible examples and sources to back up my writing? I better promise my guest post will be more than just my opinion.
  • ProBlogger’s guidelines say it can take up to 10 days to review a submission? I better not annoy them with a quick follow up asking for a status.
  • Tyler Tervooren’s guidelines at Advanced Riskology say he does field reports instead of guest posts? I better prove how I’m a pillar in his community and explain the story I plan to tell.

I also became a better writer by seeing what was important to some of the best writers around. If writing a post in a certain style, voice, or format was essential to the top dogs, maybe it should be essential to me too.

As you explore other people’s guidelines, you better understand how certain topics are huge and why they’re  relevant to being a great blogger. Your knowledge about word counts, picture formats, writing a good by-line, and the appropriate use of links will skyrocket.

You also realize there are some mandatory parts of good guidelines—like how the submission process works and what topics you’ll consider—but much of this is personal preference. While there are many wrong ways to write your guidelines, there certainly isn’t “one true way” to do it.

So what about the benefits of publishing your guidelines?

Stellar perks of publishing guidelines

This is where the real magic begins. Polished guidelines have more perks than you can shake a stick at! I’m tempted to list them all, but here’s just a sampling.

1. Heighten legitimacy

If you went through all that trouble to write awesome guidelines, it must be because people are banging down your door to guest post. Right? *Wink wink, nudge nudge* And everyone wants to run with the cool and popular kids. Newer and smaller bloggers take note.

2. Reduce poor quality, poor-fit pitches

People know you mean business with your guidelines and therefore need to step their game up. You’ll still get an occasional poor pitch from someone who didn’t read the guidelines, but at least you’ve done your part.

3. Limit annoying back-and-forth

If a person gets the submission right the first time, you won’t have to exchange twenty emails setting expectations and getting what you need.

4. Avoid formatting hell

When you spell out how you want an accepted guest post formatted, you spend less time and generate less stress manually tweaking it.

5. Reject submissions using objective criteria

It’s much easier to say no to someone—and they’re less likely to be offended—when you rationally justify why their pitch isn’t a match for your blog. Just point them to the guidelines.

6. Get more breaks

Ultimately, getting more guest posts you want to publish means you can work on something else. Or perhaps do something we all need more of, like take a breather.

Amazing guideline resources

I promised some awesome guideline creation resources a moment ago and now I’m delivering. If you want to learn how to create the best dang guidelines in the business, you want to read all of these articles.

This isn’t where the story ends

After you publish your guidelines (which you’re going to do now, right?), don’t feel the need to justify them. Your blog is your platform. It’s your online home. And nobody comes into your house and tells you how to run it.

I’ll just add one more thing that Georgina pointed out to me in an email exchange.

Guest posts on your blog get shared, get noticed, and help you attract people to your community who might never have come otherwise. My first guest post hosted on the Value of Simple was humbly promoted by an author who just so happened to have a large community. And by following my guidelines, we knew his guest post was a perfect fit for my community and would have the greatest possible impact for both of us.

You could get amazing pitches for guest posts without guidelines, but the odds are stacked against you. Why cause needless pain and frustration when guaranteeing welcomed, qualified, and inspired submissions are just a guidelines page away?

Joel Zaslofsky is the architect of the free Personal User Guide and helps people like you Start Investing with $100. When he’s not enjoying nature or chasing his son around the house, he’s doing a Continuous Creation Challenge at Value of Simple to help you cultivate a simplified, organized, and money wise life.

Quality Vs. Volume: The Traffic Spectrum, and How You as Bloggers Can Harness It

As web usage grows, and we all become more connected more of the time, it could seem like getting traffic to your blog should be getting easier.

But as connectedness increases, so does competition. There are only 24 hours in a day, and the blogger’s job is to convince readers to spend a few precious minutes with us.

motorway_traffic_trail

Image courtesy stock.xchng user ansmedia

Attracting more readers to your blog

A lot of the time, it can seem like we have two options for attracting readers to our blogs:

  • entice them in, one at a time
  • “explode” your blog with “viral” content or promotions.

You can imagine these as two extremes on a spectrum; for most of us, traffic growth usually sits somewhere in between. Though for bloggers at the beginning of their careers, the one-at-a-time scenario is very real. And occasionally, any of us might hit on an “explosive growth” moment where our blogs get a massive volume of traffic for a brief moment (comparatively!) in time.

Of the traffic that comes once, only a portion will ever come back, and even fewer will subscribe. No wonder it can seem like an uphill battle to build a tribe around a blog!

I’ve found the best way to make the most of both kinds of readers is to cater to both.

Capturing attention—and holding it

If a blog has strong, targeted content that really gives value to readers, it’s off to a flying start. The design should also be easy to use, and attractive to the target group—that goes without saying.

So what is it that captures and holds the attention of individuals arriving at your site either as one-offs, or as part of a massive stream of traffic that you’ve generated through, say, some viral content, or great search positioning?

Let’s look at some of the tactics that suit each group.

The hard-won, single visitor

Perhaps this person’s found your site using a very specific search phrase, or they were having coffee with a friend who mentioned your blog. They might have seen the column you write for the local paper, and typed in your blog’s URKL out of curiosity, or had a contact share a link to a particular article on your blog that they thought would help this new visitor.

I think of these kinds of visitors as pre-engaged. When they arrive at your blog, they’re open-minded about what it has to offer, but they also have an expectation that it’ll solve a problem or answer a need that they have.

What can we do to capture the attention of these readers? Things like:

  • links to further reading on the same topic
  • signup forms/newsletter subscriptions
  • a contact form for questions they might want to ask
  • a free download targeting their need
  • an active community of commenters or forum members
  • links to social media/rss subscriptions.

The generic, viral visitor

By “viral visitors,” I’m talking about people who arrive at your site as part of a crowd sent by a viral piece of content you’ve published somewhere, or a big-name blog making mention of you.

We know that this traffic traditionally spikes and plummets soon after, and while the traffic can be strong for a short period, the majority of those visitors tends not to come back.

Every blogger wants to capture a larger slice of the viral traffic pie. How can we? I think that the answer here is a little more complicated. When I click a shared link on social media, I’m in either “entertainment” or “intrigue” mode. I’m wanting distraction, or a quick fix of new knowledge in an interest area. I’m not looking for a long-term relationship with a blog!

If I’m coming from a contextual link that’s on another site I’m reading, my motivation is usually a fairly specific kind of curiosity related to the topic in question, and my level of engagement will depend on how much I trust the site that linked to you, and the content I was reading when I came across the link. I’d guess that viral traffic that comes through contextual links is likely to have higher expectations of your blog than that coming through social media—I know this is true for me as a user.

So how can we capture viral readers with such different levels of engagement and motivation?

To be honest, I think that if the landing page for viral traffic convinces them to re-share the link, you’re probably doing a pretty good job. The fact is that a lot viral traffic coming through social media isn’t often strongly targeted.

If you can go one better and entice them to follow you on social media as well, you’re doing very well. To achieve this, you’ll need prominent social media buttons that allow them to follow you on every post. If they can also reshare the content direct from the page, so much the better.

To capture those coming through links from another site in your niche, you might consider extra tactics like:

  • making comments on posts prominent
  • offering a free download or subscription related to the content on the same page
  • following up with the linking site to see if they’ll accept a guest post, so you can further build your profile with the site’s readers
  • offering the linking site an exclusive piece of quality content (e.g. a whitepaper or report that links back to your blog) on the same topic, or one that’s related, that they can share with their readers.

How do you capture different kinds of new visitors?

These are just a few ideas that I’ve used to try to capture different kinds of new visitors to my blogs. Do you target different kinds of new visitors differently, or use specific tactics to try to grab their attention?

I’d love to hear how you’re handling things—and what’s working for you—in the comments.

Grow Your Blog Business: The Earn-Millions-in-Your-Flip-Flops Framework [Case Study]

This guest post is by Stephan Spencer of The Art of SEO.

Former mortgage broker and digital information business expert, Susan Lassiter-Lyons built her business online, and grew it to a six-figure income in only seven months.

She attributes her amazing success to a simple framework she developed and perfected over that time.

Recently, I met with Susan and she shared with me her “$1 Million digital business blueprint”. In this post, I’m going to show you these exact, replicable steps to apply to your business. If you’re serious about growing your business online, then you will want to read what she had to say.

Although Susan’s framework won’t make you a million dollars in fifteen minutes like common scams littering the internet, it can show you the simple, proven way to make millions if you put forth the necessary effort.

$1 Million digital business blueprint

Forced to close her real estate business in November 2008 because of the mortgage meltdown, Susan launched her digital information business in January 2009 with a mere $200 in startup capital.

Susan’s ebook, Mortgage Secrets for Real Estate Investors is where it all started. Published nearly four years ago, it still makes $600-$3,000 a month in online sales.

That ebook functioned as a launch point for her business that eventually reached six figures by July 2009. Living by her three-step framework, she is now able to work part-time, with no boss, in flip-flops. Some might call that a dream job.

The framework

Now, let’s break down that three-step framework for creating an online business around your passion.

Step 1. Create

  • Create a product of your own.
  • Acquire the rights to an already created info product to sell as your own.
  • Expand to a product suite.

Step 2. Campaign

  • Start a blog about your topic.
  • Start a Facebook page about your product.
  • Buy some cheap ads on Google to promote your product.
  • Ask others who have websites and subscribers in your niche to email their list about your product.

Step 3. Convert

  • Create a simple website that tells visitors all about the features and benefits of your product.
  • Offer a simple way for them to buy and download the product.

Let’s look at each step in detail.

Create

Before you jump right into creating a product, you should first take a moment to identify your expertise.

Take an inventory of your knowledge by asking yourself these questions:

  • What do people always ask you about?
  • What have you studied extensively?
  • What do you love to do?

The answers to these questions will give you a solid idea about what to cover with your product. Once you have your topic, search Yahoo! Answers for popular FAQs within your subject area. These can form chapters in your book, audio programa, or sections in any of the products you decide to create.

Creating a product of your own

The first obvious option for you to pursue with your info product is to create one of your own.

If you feel comfortable enough, you can create an ebook like Susan did, but there are plenty of other options to choose from to suit your specific skills and abilities: you could write a real book, record an audio program, record a video program, host a teleseminar, host a webinar, or host a seminar. The possibilities are endless.

Acquiring the rights to an already created info product to sell as your own

Most people don’t know this, but there are literally thousands of info products available through private label rights.

If you are having trouble creating a product of your own, this is a fast, relatively cheap way to start a digital business. Through websites like NicheEmpires.com you can browse through pages of private label rights products that you can edit and make your own.

These PLR products are available for around $67! Why reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to?

Expanding to a product suite

Once you have your expertise figured out and entry-level product created, its time to expand that into an entire sales funnel to maximize your potential revenue from customers.

There are five elements to a proper product suite. Susan likes to explain these through an example of a golf information product suite.

  • Front-end product: This is the first product you develop. It should be cheap and broad, yet enticing. For example, an ebook titled How to Add 120 Yards to Your Drive, priced at $37.
  • Mid-tier program: A moderately priced product that acts as the next step in expanding the customer’s knowledge about that topic. For example, a quick video course on pitching and putting priced at $200-$300.
  • High-ticket program: A high-priced product that would include all the knowledge you have to offer on the topic covered. For example, the “Ultimate Golf Package Extraordinaire” covering everything you want to know about golf, priced at $2,000.
  • Seminar: A live event with added bonuses, where you can sell your existing products and coaching program to qualified leads. This might take the form of a “Learn from the Pros” live event priced at $1,000 at the door.
  • Coaching program: An option for those that want even more than what your products offer. This can be priced as high as you value your time. Basically, we’re talking about one-on-one personalized training here.

The most important element of this product suite is the front-end product. Once you have the customer hooked, it becomes exponentially easier to sell them your follow up products.

Campaign

Start a blog about your topic

Susan started her blog, TheInvestorInsights.com. She identified her expertise (in this case, real estate investing) and created a forum where she could post and comment on current events and issues gripping the industry.

Through consistent posting she was able to foster a community of active discussions and engaged bloggers who were interested in what she had to say. These bloggers in essence became leads for her informational products, which she was able to effectively sell through this medium.

Start a Facebook page about your product

Word of mouth is by far the best form of promotion. When somebody likes your product, you want him or her to recommend it to his or her friends. A Facebook page can help you accomplish this.

If a person is particularly pleased with your product, they will like your page on Facebook, which will notify their friends. People view the opinions of their friends as much more credible than a traditional sales pitch.

Buy some cheap ads on Google to promote your product

Google offers the most targeted advertisements on the Internet. You can choose from various demographics, including location, and purchase keywords that you believe your target customer is searching for.

In addition, Google allows you to operate on a cost per click basis so that you can control your own budget and make sure you aren’t spending too much or too little.

Ask others in your niche to tell their list about your product

Identify third parties that deal with the same topics as your products. Then offer them a deal that if they will agree to email their subscriber list about your product, you will split the revenue generated with them. For example, you could split the revenue 50/50 with a website that mentions you in their weekly electronic newsletter.

How can a company not be excited about this? All they would have to do is mention your website, blog, or product, and they have the potential to generate income. They can’t lose.

This is definitely a tactic to try.

Convert

Create a simple website that explains the features and benefits of your product

Create a sales page. Make sure it has an intriguing video that explains the features and benefits of your product in a way that inspires the visitor to sign up for your newsletter or buy your product.

Offer a simple way for them to buy and download the product

Use Clickbank or PayPal to make it easy for the customer to purchase your product in one step.

Include an Add to cart button directly under your sales video so the customer can proceed to the checkout without jumping through any hoops.

Is it really that simple?

Susan Lassiter-Lyons has proven that these steps work. While the framework is simple, as you can see, there’s a lot of work in each step. But if you follow her example, while you may not make six figures in seven months, you will put yourself on a path to similar success.

Stephan Spencer is co-author of The Art of SEO (O’Reilly 2009), now in its second edition (March 2012), and author of Google Power Search (O’Reilly 2011). He is the inventor of GravityStream, the automated pay-for-performance natural search technology platform, and the founder of SEO agency Netconcepts. He is a Senior Contributor to Practical Ecommerce and MarketingProfs.com, and a columnist for Search Engine Land and Multichannel Merchant.

Stop Socializing! Auto-Share Social Media Updates and Get Back to Blogging

This guest post is by Fred Perrotta of Tortuga Backpacks.

As a blogger, you should be spending at least 80% of your time creating killer content.

The problem is that that leaves just 20% of your time to split between time-intensive (but important) activities like social networking, ad sales, new product creation, and marketing.

In this post, you’ll learn how to automatically share your blog posts to your social networks.

You’ll set up your system once and then never worry about manually sharing your posts again.

Now you can spend your time connecting with likeminded bloggers, responding to comments, and making money instead of copying and pasting the same update all over the web.

Your new best friend: IFTTT

Your auto-sharing system will use online connections service IFTTT (If This, Then That).

You may have heard of IFTTT from previous stories on Problogger, which showed how to use it for content curation and posting to WordPress by email.

IFTTT (pronounced like “lift” without the “l”) is a service that creates connections between your social networks, RSS feeds, and even email.

With IFTTT, you connect a “trigger” (like a new post in your RSS feed) with an “action” (like posting to Twitter) to create a “recipe”. IFTTT feed trigger

Read on to learn how to use existing IFTTT recipes to automate your social sharing.

Automatically share on Twitter

Use this RSS to Twitter recipe to automatically tweet new blog posts.

Note that you’ll need to customize this template to use your RSS feed.

You can also customize the tweet itself using plain text and “ingredients” like the post title and URL.

IFTT action tweet

Automatically share on Tumblr

IFTTT is even customizable enough to handle Tumblr’s multiple post types.

Use this feed to Tumblr link recipe to share a link to your latest blog post on Tumblr.

Sharing a link, rather than the full post, is good for your SEO and will prevent duplicate content issues.

Run an image-heavy photo blog? Use this RSS to Tumblr photo recipe to create a photo post.

Using the templates linked above, you’ll be able to customize the body of your Tumblr post, the source URL, and the tags. Even though you’re not posting directly from Tumblr, you can still utilize all of its functionality.

Automatically share on LinkedIn

LinkedIn sharing works much the same way as Twitter and Tumblr.

Use this RSS to LinkedIn recipe to share your next blog post on your LinkedIn profile.

Sharing on LinkedIn is highly recommended for B2B bloggers.

Why you can’t auto-share on Google+ or Pinterest (yet)

Unfortunately, neither Google+ nor Pinterest have a public write API, so IFTTT doesn’t have recipes for posting to either site.

For now, you can post updates manually or skip them altogether. Make your own decision based on the importance of these networks to your business and the relevance of their audiences to your blog.

The problem with Facebook…

Facebook is the hardest network to automate because its EdgeRank algorithm demotes posts made from third-party sites like IFTTT.

That’s right: if you’re not creating your posts on Facebook, your fans probably aren’t seeing them.

Even when you’re posting on Facebook, only 16% of fans see a given post. Don’t let this number slip even lower!

For Facebook, you have two options:

  1. Use Facebook’s new WordPress plugin to create a Facebook link post from within WordPress. You can even tag people and pages from within the widget, which is shown in your sidebar when you’re writing a new post. Since this is an official Facebook plugin, you don’t have to worry about your posts being penalized.
  2. Post to Facebook manually. Yes, this seems to go against the point of this post, but you can set up the rest of your sharing so that this is the only manual post you’ll have to make.

If Facebook drives a significant amount of traffic to your blog, manual posting is worthwhile.

The other advantage is that you can post a picture (with a link in the text) rather than just a link. Pictures are prioritized over links (which the plugin above would create), so more of your fans will see a picture post than a link post.

Darren himself had 18x better results from posting a picture rather than just a link.

Problogger Facebook image post

Have you automated your social sharing yet?

Using the strategies in this post, you can free up most of the time you used to spend sharing every post you published. Even for low-volume blogs, this is huge.

Have you automated your social sharing yet? If so, how are you spending your new free time?

Fred Perrotta is the co-founder of Tortuga Backpacks and a freelance marketing consultant.

3 Ways Cartoons Can Improve Your Blog

This guest post is by Mark Anderson of Andertoons.com.

Mark Anderson is the cartoonist behind Andertoons.com where he offers cartoon subscriptions and creates custom cartoons.

Tap User Psychology to Build an Indestructible Community Around Your Blog

This guest post is by Richard Millington of FeverBee.

Many blogs attempt to build a community, but few succeed.

At best, they build an audience. They build a following that reads and responds to posts, but those readers don’t meaningfully build relationships with one another.

If you want a blog that solely distributes information, this is fine. However, if you want your blog to be the hub of a major community, then you need to develop a strong sense of community.

There is decades of advice about building a sense of community. To simplify, we’re using McMillan and Chavis’ 1986 Psychological Sense of Community summary.

In this post I’m going to highlight how you can apply proven research concepts from social science to build a strong sense of community around your blog.

To build a strong sense of community, you need four elements:

  1. membership
  2. influence
  3. integration and fulfilment of needs
  4. shared emotional connection.

Let’s go through each of these in turn.

Building a sense of membership

Membership is how members know who’s “in” and who’s “out.” How would one member identify another? Membership comprises of four elements:

  1. Boundaries: these are the skills, knowledge, interests, experiences and assets that allow members to be accepted into the community. Communities with higher boundaries have a stronger sense of community. If you want to increase the sense of community, raise the boundaries. Write and talk about the elite people in the field.
  2. Emotional safety: in the community, members have to talk about their most difficult issues. You need to initiate and facilitate discussions about the most hardcore topics. Discussions about whether it’s best to use the ZT451.4 Transistor or the ZT452.3 instead are terrific for increasing the sense of community. So are skewing discussions to the most hardcore, deeper levels of self-disclosure. Your community has to be the place for members to discuss the most emotive and hardcore topics. Members have a social fear about discussing these matters at first, so you have to help them feel comfortable enough to do so.
  3. Personal investment: successful communities solicit active contributions from every member. It’s not enough to ask members what they think and respond to a few comments. You need to establish challenges, set goals that members can contribute towards achieving, and call for support on future topics you’ll tackle. Co-ordinate events with your members.
  4. Common symbol systems: members identify each other by their shared symbols. In the physical world, these relate to the way we dress, speak, and style ourselves. Online, these symbols include the words, images, ideas, and signs that have unique meaning to our audience. Identify these (interview your members if you have to), then use these within your content.

Give your members influence

To build a strong sense of community, your members need to feel they can influence that community. Most brands get this wrong: they give their members no influence. Our need for efficacy is at work here. We like to be able to shape the environment around us. You can encourage this.

  • Create opportunities for members to be involved: proactively provide members with opportunities to influence the community. Frequently call for opinions and ideas, and solicit actions. Have a Be more involved tab, recruit volunteers to send in the latest news, interview popular people in your sector, and actively recruit new people to join the community. Mention the opinions of members by name in your content—let members contribute their own content, as opinion columns, advice pieces, interviews, and more.
  • Feature contributions from members: prominently feature the contributions of members on your community platform. If a member makes a great contribution, mention it in a news article and encourage other members to respond.
  • Write about your members: use your content to write what members are doing. Talk about their milestones—it might be a work achievement, a topic-related success, or even a lifestyle success. If a member is getting married or has a child, congratulate them. This individualises the community. It makes it about the people who are interested in the topic, rather than just the topic itself.

Integrate and fulfil members’ needs

What needs does your community satisfy? If your blog is just trying to satisfy someone’s informational needs, that’s fine. However, it puts you amongst a lot of tough competition with little loyalty. If instead you try to satisfy users’ social needs, you attract members for life.

There are three key elements to this:

  1. Ensure your community is a status symbol. To be a member of your community should be a status symbol. You need to raise the profile of your community outside of the community itself. Ensure it’s featured in other channels—especially channels your members are engaged with. Set goals that your community can achieve. If you can’t think of any, then make it a simple fundraising goal. It’s important to give the impression of momentum around your community. It might also help, if the community is exclusive, to have a badge/Twibbon that members can display elsewhere.
  2. Attract and promote great people. We all want to participate in the community that the most talented, knowledgeable, popular people participate in. So you need to attract these people. Appeal to their egos. Let them have weekly columns, interviews, and other opportunities to feature. Write about their latest contributions to the field. Document the best practices your community has shared and uncovered. Make these documents sharable—ebooks where members share their best advice work well here.
  3. Shared values: Write down a statement of what you believe in, or what your blog stands for. You should attract others who share your values. If you like, let members sign a pledge committing to those values if they join the community. Proactively seek out and invite people to join that share these values.

Foster a shared emotional connection

The final element is to develop a shared emotional connection amongst members. Strong communities oscillate at the same emotional frequency. They think and feel the same things at the same time. They feel a sense of connection through those shared emotions.

Developing a shared emotional connection is perhaps the hardest and most important element of the four listed here. It comprises of several elements.

  • Regular contact: to feel a shared connection, members must regularly interact with each other. You need to provide a tool for that to happen. You need to sustain and drive those interactions. Events, challenges, and highlighting popular discussions within your community are good ways to do this.
  • Increase the quality of interactions: it’s okay for members to share information, but you also want to encourage bonding and status-related discussions. Introduce and highlight discussions that encourage high levels of self-disclosure from members. For example “What was your best experience in {topic}?” might sound like a simple question, but it creates a terrific way for members to bond.
  • Create experiences your members can share: Shared experiences breeds a stronger community. Organize regular events and activities. This doesn’t have to be an offline meeting (although those are terrific)—it can be online live discussions, quizzes, challenges, campaigns to change something in your sector, and so on.
  • Write your epic shared history: Ensure that the community has an epic shared history, not just an About page. Document who founded the community, who were the early members, and what were the big and controversial discussions and events. Imagine this as a story to tell new members, then send it to them!

You will notice with many of these tactics that you’re narrowing your audience. You’re deciding not to reach everyone but to turn the audience you have into a strong community. That’s a good thing, as it’s the more closely knit communities that are the most enduring and successful.

Have you built a community around your blog? How did you do it? We’d love to hear what you did—and how it worked—in the comments.

Richard Millington is the Managing Director of FeverBee.com and author of Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities.

Improve the Photography on Your Blog with these Great Resources [48% Off This Week]

201212070935.jpgOne of the elements that can really lift a blog is to include images in your posts.

The benefits of having great images on your blog are many, and include:

  • drawing RSS readers into your blog: a great image will stand out in your feed and make them take notice
  • drawing in readers from social media: particularly sites like Pinterest and StumbleUpon which are very image focused
  • giving your readers a visual point of interest: this can both get them to read your post but also draw them deeper into your article if you place your images down the page at strategic points
  • illustrating your points: a good image can help your readers to understand a point you’re making
  • higher converting reviews/affiliate promotions: a good image of a product you’re reviewing can be all the difference between someone taking action or not
  • images make your readers “feel” something about your blog and will often evoke emotion.

Images can be sourced from many places, but in my opinion the best source of images is your very own camera. Your own images will be unique and personal and can really add a lot to your blog.

Most digital cameras on the market today are capable of amazing photography. However most people just don’t know how to harness the power in their hands and rarely take creative control over their camera, leaving it in Auto mode.

Over at Digital Photography School we’ve put together a bundle of 3 eBooks that will help you to understand your camera and get creative control of your images. And for the next few days only they are 48% off their normal price.

The bundle is our best-selling Photo Nuts series and will give you:

  • Photo Nuts and Bolts: a comprehensive look at how your camera works and how to get it out of Auto mode. Written in everyday language, so you’ll have many “Aha!” moments with this ebook.

  • Photo Nuts and Shots: techniques and tools to get creative control over your camera. Building upon Bolts, this ebook will help you to get creative control and start taking the shots your camera is capable of!
  • Photo Nuts and Bolts: a guide to post processing your images. Again this builds upon Bolts and Shots which teach you to take the best shots possible to show you how to process those shots to take them to the next level. This guide comes with some great video instruction too.

By themselves, each of these ebooks is a great guide to different elements of photography. But together they are a little library of ebooks that has the power to transform the images you’re taking. They’re written by Aussie photographer Neil Creek and have helped thousands of beginner to intermediate photographers to make significant improvements to their shots.

I think they’re an ideal guide for all bloggers.

Get them today at 48% off the normal price as part of our 12 Days of Christmas Promotion at dPS (there are also some other great deals on offer this week).

Note: I’m also excited this week to announce that our iPhone Photography ebook (which is another great resource for bloggers) has just been released for Kindle over at Amazon. Check it out here.