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How I Got Two Job Offers and a $200-an-Hour Consulting Gig from Blogging

This guest post was written by Joe Bunting of The Write Practice.

So you started blogging to make some money. Adsense, advertising, and affiliate sales looked like a pretty good way to make a living. You thought you could make money while you slept at night.

Sounded good at the time, right?

But where’s the money?

You set up your Adsense account but you’ve only got pennies trickling in. No one wants to buy your banner ads. And the only affiliate sales you’ve landed are a few Amazon books that earned you $1.13. You’ve slaved on your blog for months, years even, working for a pittance. You thought it was going to be easy making money online.

Now you’re wondering if you wasted your time.

This is where I was a few months ago. And then something happened that changed my blogging strategy forever. Someone offered me a job.

Your blog is your resume

Pretend you’re an employer, a marketing firm with 100 employees, and you’re looking to hire the 101st.

Who are you going to choose? All the candidates look the same: similar educationa; backgrounds, similar experience. But one of them has a blog with 500 subscribers, a Twitter account with 1,000 followers, and is already an expert with Google+. The other candidates don’t. Who are you going to hire?

Here is a strange but true thing I heard an actual employer say:

“The blog is the new resume.”

Resumes are outdated and growing irrelevant to today’s employers. Your blog gives a much fuller picture of your identity and your expertise. Nowhere else can you so quickly get a sense of a person’s skill, experience, and ability to engage others around what they know.

The other model for making money online

In only six months, I got two job offers, three requests for consulting work (one for over $200 an hour), and was asked to work on three paid projects. On top of that, I generated hundreds of leads for high-priced, hourly work.

How?

Just by blogging to a group of people who needed services, in my case, to creative writers. The best part is that you can do this, too. Anyone can. It’s very simple.

1. Who: Define your audience

Who is your audience? You need to know who your audience is because you need to figure out what services they need. Define their:

  • career
  • hobbies and interests
  • age
  • demographics
  • annual income.

If you’ve been blogging long with any success, you probably have a fairly good idea of this already. I didn’t need to do a survey to realize most of my readers were over 30, well educated, and wrote novels and creative non-fiction as a hobby.

If you don’t know this yet, make it your top priority. If you can figure out how they think, you can sell to them (and in this business model, what you are selling is yourself).

The best way to define your audience, in my opinion, is simply by meeting them. When someone begins to comment regularly, email him. Ask to chat over the phone; if you live nearby, meet for coffee. By interacting with your fans you solve two problems at once, you get to know your audience and you turn them into friends. Once they become your friends, you get the opportunity to make them into your customers.

2. What: Identify what they need

If you don’t know your audience, you won’t understand what they need.

My audience is creative writers, so I developed a site that I thought would interest them. Slowly, as I began to understand who was reading my blog, I realized there was a huge need for editing. My readers liked to write, but they didn’t like to edit. I found my opportunity.

As you get to know your audience, identify what they like to do and what they hate. What are they good at? What are they terrible at? And how can you help them be better?

As you do this, you’ll begin to spot opportunities for your services. They might need:

  • Education: You could develop a course teaching them what they don’t know.
  • Consulting: You could sell your time and expertise helping them solve their problems.
  • Complimentary services: You could sell services that your audience needs.

Let’s break down the complimentary services section a bit more because I think this is where this blogging model becomes really interesting. For example, I realized my audience—creative writers—needed editing services. So I began to pitch this to some of my friends and they loved it. Some of them even approached me!

If marketers are your audience, on the other hand, offer design or copywriting services. If homebuyers are your audience, offer listing services. If your audience needs a lawyer, then offer your legal services. If your audience blogs, you could offer ghost-blogging, design, editing, or copywriting services.

3. How: What if you don’t have any skills to offer?

Now, let’s say you’re writing to people who want to get better at internet marketing. You think your audience needs help writing copy, but you don’t have any experience in copywriting.

I had this problem. I knew my readers needed editing help. I had some expertise with editing, but I didn’t feel comfortable selling my services to the guy who comments on my blog every day. What if I do a bad job and he gets upset and leaves?

So I started reaching out to editors, asking their advice on how to be a better editor. I emailed, called, and met face to face with them. This is when the most surprising thing happened.

One of them, an editor who has worked with bestselling authors, offered me a job. So not only did I get some practical knowledge to help (and sell to) my readers, I had his name to back me up. And one of the reasons he hired me was because my blog was my resume. He saw I was already passionate and talented. It was an easy decision.

After that, selling my services became much easier. And a much better way to earn money with my blog than selling Adsense.

This is a very quick overview. Do you have any questions about how to sell your services and use your blog as a resume? Have you done this with your own business?

Joe Bunting is a professional writer, fiction editor, and platform consultant. You can follow Joe on Twitter and download a copy of his eBook, 14 Prompts, for free.

Writers Block? Try this Quick Tip

Recently on Twitter I was asked by a follower how to overcome an extreme case of writer’s block.

My answer was:

“Think about a problem you had three years ago and write a post that solves that problem.”

Writer's block

Image copyright JRB - Fotolia.com

The reason I find this technique helpful is:

  • It identifies a real need that someone will have—if you have had the problem others will have it too.
  • It identifies a topic that you have personally had, which makes your post more personal and empathetic.
  • It identifies a problem that you’ve overcome or at least have some wisdom on, so hopefully your post is constructive and helpful.

Try it today—identify a problem that you’ve had and then solve it with a post. Once you’ve done it, share a link to your post in comments below. I’d love to see the problems that you solved today!

From Blogger to Book Author: The 4-Step Guide

This guest post is by Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer.

Some bloggers don’t start a blog to make money. They start blogging, because they have a message that the world needs to hear. In other words:

Some bloggers blog to get published.

Recently, I signed a contract with a book publisher. I had always hoped to one day publish a book, but I never thought it would happen in a few months.

What made this possible? In a word: blogging.

Planning a book

Image copyright Lasse Kristensen - Fotolia.com

If you want to go from blogger to book author, you’ll need to do a few things. But the pay-off can be significant.

Why you should publish a book

With the rising popularity of ebooks and self-publishing, why should you go with a traditional publisher?

Why even write a book at all? Doesn’t a blog suffice?

Well, no. Not always. In some cases, self-publishing (especially your first book) may not be a good idea.

Reasons to work with a publisher

Although self-publishing can work just fine, there are still some legitimate reasons to go traditional:

  • Marketing: A publisher will offer its resources and knowledge to help you not only promote your book, but consider the marketability of it before it’s published.
  • Editing: A publisher will help you with the actual writing, as well as proofreading and copyediting. Normally, you would have to pay someone to do this or do it yourself.
  • Authority: There is still a great deal of social clout when it comes to having a published book from a reputable publisher. Publishing a book will make you more of an authority in your niche.

Of course, some authors make good money off ebooks without ever going through a publisher. So this may not be for everyone. But it’s at least worth considering. (Even Darren and Chris G. released their Problogger book through Wiley. It’s not about money as much as it’s about influence.)

If you’re interested in becoming a published author, there are the three steps you’ll need in your path to publishing.

Step 1: Build a platform

All publishers want to know the same thing: Do you have a platform?

In other words, are you “legit”? Do you have the audience and authority to speak on a particular topic? Money is so tight in publishing that if authors don’t bring their own marketing chops, they have little hope of succeeding.

A platform can range from a podcast to a television program; however, in our case, we’re going to assume it’s a blog.

Why a blog is a great platform

Blogs are great for authors, because of the following reasons:

  • A blog allows you to practice writing.
  • A blog allows you to capture email addresses (with a service like Feedburner or Aweber).
  • A blog allows you to communicate a core message over time.

My blog has been instrumental in helping me find my voice as an author, as well as providing some content that I’m actually re-purposing for my upcoming book.

Step 2: Release a manifesto

Once you’ve built a blog and starting building a decent audience, you can now work on something that articulates your core beliefs: a manifesto.

A manifesto is a short, actionable ebook that you give away for free. The point of it is to spread idea and help you connect with your tribe (i.e. people who share your beliefs).

This can also be a great way to capture attention, by exchanging the ebook for people’s email addresses. I grew my email list from 75 to 1000 subscribers in a week, thanks to a manifesto. And it also caught the attention of my publisher. It works.

If writing a manifesto sounds hard or overwhelming to you, don’t worry. It’s not.

The DIY way to publish a manifesto

  • Find the content. Dig up an old blog post or series of posts that resonated with your readers.
  • Develop it. Build upon your original idea and edit out what’s irrelevant.
  • Finish writing. Shoot for 1000-10,000 words long. It needs to clearly communicate one, important idea. The shorter you can make it, the better.
  • Create it. You can do this through a program like Word or Pages (for Mac), or you can use a slide presentation program like PowerPoint or Keynote and export as a PDF. Michael Hyatt also has a great seven-step tutorial for how to do this. (Note: This may create a huge file, depending on the length of your e-book. If you get something that’s over 10 MB, you can use the program PDFshrink to make it smaller.)

Alternatives

If you’re looking to spread an idea quickly, you can even publish the manifesto through a site like ChangeThis.com. Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, and Guy Kawasaki have all done this. Only the best ones make it, though, so this doesn’t guarantee you’ll get an ebook published through them. (See mine here.)

You can also hire someone to do it for you, if you have the budget.

Step 3: Connect with people through social media

Social media is a great way to find fans and create advocates that will spread your work for you.

The great thing about social media is that it’s social (obviously), which means it can lead to other meaningful interactions, including real-life relationships.

From follower to friend

I’ve connected with more people through Twitter than any other way. This has led to grabbing coffee with other writers, picking up freelance gigs, and even getting to meet some of my heroes. It’s the best networking resource I’ve found.

Starting a Facebook page for my blog has also been a great way to share content and connect with my audience.

The people you connect with through social media may begin as followers, but they can quickly become friends and even patrons of your work. If you do it right—by adding value to your readers and followers—these people can become life-long supporters of you.

What better asset to have before publishing your first book than an already large and growing fan base? The publishers will be fighting over you.

Step 4: Establish your brand by adding value

Every author needs a brand—an established voice that makes his or her content unique.

Blogging can help you do this, because it allows you to practice in public. It also attracts an audience, which can help you in defining (and building) your personal brand as a writer.

Serve your way into influence

The best way to earn trust and establish a brand is to serve people.

Do the grunt work. Hustle to help people, and you will get noticed. In a world full of self-promoting sleaze bags, if you add value to people’s lives, you will never have a marketing. People will come find you.

This is a great way to brand yourself as an author, too. Someone who serves others doesn’t have a hard time selling books. People know you’re going to help them, so they’re eager to pay money to hear what you have to say.

And if you can demonstrate that, a publisher will be honored to work with you.

Interview experts

Another way to do this is by interviewing experts. You can seek out other authors and bloggers in your niche and ask to interview them. Do this over time and you’ll not only deliver value to your readers, you’ll also build relationships with influential people.

Pretty soon, people will come to think of you as the expert—which is exactly what publishers are looking for.

All of these relationships (if founded on serving others) will come back to help you. It’s true what they say: what goes around comes around.

You’ll be publishing a book in no time.

Jeff Goins is a soon-to-be-published author, blogger, and nonprofit marketer. You can connect with him on Twitter @jeffgoins and Facebook and get his free, weekly newsletter. You can also find out more about his path from blogging to book contract by getting his eBook Every Writer’s Dream: How to Never Pitch Your Writing Again, which is free for a limited time.

Why I Haven’t Made a Dime From My Blog—and How You Can

This guest post is by Alexander Heyne of Milk the pigeon.

When I first started my blog, I wrote a series of posts I was sure would resonate with thousands all over the world, create a movement, and bring massive traffic over to my site.

Except when I published the posts, they went to the black hole of the Internet.

No one heard them. No one saw them. Just a couple Facebook friends and maybe my mom.

Frustrated blogger

Image copyright Renee Jansoa - Fotolia.com

Suddenly my idea of writing about what I enjoy, and making a living (however small) off it was shattered. It was time to regroup and start over.

A model for making money

Just as you need to have a serious game plan to ensure your success blogging, including a master plan and many smaller plans, you need to have a model to work with for monetization.

You need a simple path that gives you a general idea of where to go and what to do, and in what order.

Following the next six points will ensure you’ll be six months ahead of where I was when I started, and you’ll no longer be writing for “someone”. You’ll be writing for your future massive, engaged audience willing to buy your products.

1. Create a list and engage your audience

This is blogging 101 to most bloggers now—especially those who are planning to release a product or course to their audience. But it wasn’t to me. I mean, I figured I would just write some good stuff, and maybe some advertisers would contact me, and then I’d somehow end up making $2,00 or $3,000 a month from advertisements.

Rookie mistake.

Make an email list as soon as you start your blog, and start collecting subscribers. But unless you have an established reputation people most likely will have a hard time forking over their email address to you, so what do you do?

Give them a reason to subscribe, like a free ebook or a mini course. The sooner you start building your email list, the better. Because the sooner you have a list the sooner you can start building trust with your audience and establish yourself as having expertise in some area.

What I did: waited until month three to make an email sign up list, and offered no incentive to subscribe.

What I should’ve done: I should have signed up on day one with an email subscription service like Aweber, and offered an ebook or mini course for subscribers.

2. Fine-tune your content

Sometimes your niche is pretty clear—blogging, marketing, or running, for example. But sometimes it’s not and covers a wide range of things—lifestyle design, location-independent work, or self-help.

Assuming you fall into the latter categories, you are probably going to need to do some content fine-tuning. That means testing a variety of closely related topics and seeing which ones resonate best content-wise and message-wise with your audience. You can test those qualities based on re-tweets, views, shares, and comments, although these metrics alone should not be the be-all end-all.

Just remember that in the beginning it’s going to be harder to work out what your audience likes and doesn’t like, because you may not have an audience yet! Just have fun at the beginning and experiment a lot.

What I did: Wrote about a variety of topics, and kept no analytics on what was popular or why.

What I should have done: I should have deliberately tested various types of content with my audience and used those results (Google Analytics) to hone in on what I should’ve written more of in the future. It also gives you potential product niches.

3. Show some link love

One of the worst, most sinful mistakes I made was not reaching out and trying to connect with others in my niche, not trying to follow people who had already achieved the goals I wanted, and not establishing other relationships with people in the online world.

It goes pretty much without saying that you can’t make it alone in the blogosphere—and that nurturing genuine relationships will be the single most beneficial thing you can do to help your business take off.

The following three types of people you should make a list of and establish friendships with:

  • people in a niche somewhat similar to your own (peers)
  • people who are doing what you hope to be doing one day (mentors)
  • people who you see will be up and coming and need to be heard (pupils)

What I did: Believed I could succeed alone, and made no effort to connect with others.

What I should have done: I should have networked until my eyeballs hurt, shared as much as possible with my peers, share posts by people whose mission I believed in, and established several people as mentors who have attained the goals I am striving for.

4. Consciously build your audience and list

There are three ways you can deliberately build your list and audience more rapidly than letting them organically grow:

  1. getting better exposure via guest posting
  2. holding a webinar where people need to subscribe to participate and get more information
  3. offer exclusive content or a free additional course that requires a sign up. For example, on your products page you can have a “free marketing 101 course.” You could then have a ten-part auto-responder course (or ebook) that gives great content, for free. And in return you get someone’s email address added to your list.

What I did: Thought that the “crawlers” would just find my content and it would go mainstream.

What I should have done: I should have guest posted as much as humanly possible, combined efforts with other bloggers to hold webinars, and given away tons of free, extremely valuable content (in various forms).

5. Do some spy work (probe your audience members’ brains)

At this point you should be asking yourself, “What am I doing with all these people? I have been giving them great content, building relationships with others around me, and now have a list of quite a few people. What’s next?”

Here’s one of the next steps to take: find out what specifics your audience wants and what problem of theirs you can solve.

I’m going to work with the assumption that you don’t have three to six months of free time to make a product that flops, so here is one way to test for demand. Offer free or paid consulting. At this point, your audience hopefully respects you and sees you as somewhat of an authority. So why consult for free?

  • You will acquire some experience which you can later use to transfer into paid consulting.
  • You’ll realize patterns of problems that your audience has, and you can begin to develop a product tailored directly to their needs.

What I did: Assumed I knew what my audience wanted.

What I should have done: I should have done a number of things: given out a questionnaire, consulted (free/paid), asked directly (via a blog post), or researched what other people are selling in the same niche.

6. Make a product or promote a product

As far as products go, the historic route that people have taken is to make an ebook. Ebooks work well and lend themselves to automation, but there is one other product recommendation that tends to work better for some others.

Launch a limited-time program or online course, for example, once every four months. The reason I suggest making an online course is that it helps you jump exponentially over time (both in terms of influence as well as financially).

Every time you launch your course, you build your email list, you get feedback, and you find out what updates your audience wants. And then you can launch the course again—and, assuming you have received feedback, you can update it. And, assuming you did a good job developing your product, you now have a bigger list, more exposure, and a larger audience. The benefits grow over time.

The other option is to promote someone else’s product. I know quite a few people who made their first dollar online by promoting a product they tried and thought their audience would like.

If you know of a product (ideally that you have tried) that genuinely provides a solution to a problem your audience has, write a post reviewing it. State clearly what your audience will get from the product, let them know that you’ve tried it, and keep your promise. Afterwards, you can keep a smaller banner advertisement or list it on your products or resources page.

What I did: Got half way through an ebook, realized it probably wasn’t going to sell as much as I wanted, and went back to the drawing board.

What I should have done: I should have #1 followed through, because even if your product only makes five sales, you are getting some feedback and now have experience making a product.

I should also have decided if I wanted to make this an ongoing product with support and feedback options. If you want a product that requires no updating and support, go with an ebook. If you want a product that has much more potential for growth but will require a larger time investment, go with an online course.

What next?

So why go through all these steps? Why bother with an elaborate checklist of things to go through?

The reason is because if you don’t have a model, you’ll be taking shots in the dark. Your work is going to be all guesswork, and guesswork is going to lead to disappointment. You’ll be running your blog with the same intentions I had: “Do a couple posts here, a couple posts there, maybe get some ads on there, write an ebook, and then I’ll be making $5,000 a month.”

Save yourself from the same silly assumption I made: otherwise you’ll end up like me—never making a dime from my blog.

Milk the pigeon is about killing that lost feeling, standing out in the crowd, and living a life of greatness.  Download a free copy of Milk the Pigeon’s manifesto here: Killing Your Old life and Living the Dream

12 Essential Tips for Revitalising Your Blog in 2012

This is a guest post by Gregory Ciotti of Sparring Mind.

As 2011 comes to a close, now is a better time than ever to evaluate your blog, its performance, and most importantly, what you can do to improve your blog in 2012!

A point I always like to drive home is that you will never find blogging success by turning into an “eternal student”, one who always consumes information but never creates or takes action.

Toolbox

Image copyright mipan - Fotolia.com

As I am in the process of taking a step back from my own blog to reevaluate what things I could do better, I wanted to present Problogger readers a list of actionable tips that they could act on right now to improve their blog for the new year.

So check this list out, bookmark it for later (or tweet it out to your fellow bloggers), and make sure you go through and see what quick actions you can take to improve your blog!

1. Optimize (or start) your email list

Had you email list become stagnant, with a slow trickle of subscribers rather than a huge flow of new signups? Have you not even started building a list yet?

Now is the time to take action, because your mailing list is the most important aspect of your blog’s long term success. So if you haven’t already, create one now.

If you have a list, let’s think of a few ways to optimize it…

  1. Make sure sign-up forms are in the best locations (sidebar, feature box, at the end of posts).
  2. Create a “toolbox” of freebies that only subscribers get access to (think of it like the free ebook strategy, only kicked up a notch).
  3. Create newsletter only content just for subscribers (makes the newsletter more worthwhile for them).

Last but not least, make sure there is an option to subscribe on the pages of your site with the most traffic. I’m talking about your intro/about page, your resource pages, and any other pages that visitors often visit from your homepage.

Start building your list now the right way. You won’t regret it in 2012!

2. Make a list of every blogger (who writes quality content) in your niche

You might be wondering why bother to do this. Certainly if you at the intermediate stage of blogging, you already know about the power of guest blogging and the kind of traffic and subscribers it can bring you.

The thing you have to realize though is that as powerful as guest blogging is, it is only one part of being good at networking in your chosen niche.

In order to truly succeed as a blogger, you are going to need important people who are truly rooting for you. The best way to do that? Network.

Most bloggers are afraid to start, so by creating a list like this, you are already on your way, and it takes far less time than you might think. Simply use sites like AllTop and Technorati, along with the blogs that you regularly read, and create a comprehensive list of the best ones in your niche.

Plan on emailing each one, maybe breaking the ice with a completed (and awesome) guest post. From there, stay in touch, actively support the other bloggers in your niche, and in time, you’ll find yourself getting links naturally, it won’t take a guest post for your fellow bloggers to mention you…

They’ll be doing it because they support you. And that is an essential ingredient to growing a popular blog.

3. Re-evaluate your blog’s unique offering to readers

What about your blog makes it distinct? What are readers getting there that they simply cannot get on the hundreds to thousands of other blogs in the same niche?

For 2012, you should take a look at your blog, and really evaluate what you are adding to the web that nobody out there is doing exactly the same.

The key word there is “exactly”, because your blog doesn’t have to be a totally unique experience that is doesn’t compare to anything else, it just has to be a twist on existing topics.

For instance, there are a lot of blogs for people who love blogging, but how about people who love Tumblr? Heck, your twist can just be what medium you use to create content.

For instance, there are a lot of personal fitness blogs that use video, that makes sense. But what about a finance blog that uses a lot of video? What about craft blog that uses a lot of video? How about a marketing blog that focuses on podcasts? How about a personal development blog that utilizes SlideShare?

The point is: it’s not too hard for you to put a “twist” on your niche, making it something that adds value and that also helps you stand out from the sea of others.

4. Try new content types to keep your blog fresh

Speaking of different content media, a lot of bloggers get so overwhelmed with different traffic methods and writing techniques that they fail to realize that they could be putting their efforts to a medium they might be better (or more comfortable) at.

Maybe writing posts really is the thing you feel most comfortable at, but I’d definitely suggest giving a few other mediums a try. They can bring extra traffic from being hosted on the parent site (like YouTube videos) and can give your blog a appeal by creating content in an unusual form.

Here are some great content types you can try:

  1. video (on YouTube or Vimeo)
  2. audio on SoundCloud (or by starting a podcast)
  3. ebooks
  4. slideshows on SlideShare
  5. workbooks
  6. infographics
  7. webinars.

See if some of these suit you better from time to time, and you’ll likely be one of few blogs in your industry doing them!

There’s also another great post idea I want to discuss…

5. Interview someone influential in your niche

Interviews are a blog kickstart technique that seriously work for any niche—at least, I’ve yet to encounter one in which they don’t work well!

Interviews are great for a few reasons:

  • The person you are interviewing will notify their following of the interview, bringing you traffic.
  • People will respect you more for getting the thoughts from an influential person, and be more inclined to check out your self-made content.
  • Interviews add instant social proof to what you are saying, and if you can even add small parts of an interview to back up your own claims, readers will appreciate it.

Scared to ask someone for an interview? Don’t be! Research has shown that people are more likely to help you out than you think.

They key: keep your emails short and your requests reasonable. Also, never send the questions in the first email, ask for permission first!

I’ve used interviews with people like Brian Gardner (owner of StudioPress) and popular musicians on my electronic music blog to get, literally, thousands of new visitors in days, not weeks or months.

And this is on entirely new blogs!

Trust me, finding a good person to interview (an interesting or unusual expert is always good) and creating great questions for the interview will likely be a huge benefit for your blog. It’s a must-try technique in 2012.

6. Clean up your sidebar: show what matters

If there is one part of a blog that typically turns into a complete mess, it’s the sidebar in the typical content/sidebar blog layout.

Bloggers (especially newer bloggers) are tend to add way too many widgets and sections on their sidebar, and instead of making their site better, they end up making it far worse!

How? The first thing is site speed. I’ve written about how to speed up WordPress before, and the conclusions you can draw from other website owners and SEO experts is this:

  1. People won’t wait for slow loading sites, general wait time is as little as a few seconds (that’s single digits).
  2. Site speed has an impact on SEO, affecting your rankings.
  3. A fast-loading site is apart of a great user experience, and users appreciate fast page loads far more than you realize.

Those are some pretty important reasons to be concerned about your site speed… But there are even bigger concerns that you should be worried about!

In addition to slowing your site down, the results from this research study have shown that too many choices can actually decrease conversions!

What that means is that a cluttered sidebar is likely to decrease your conversion rates on new subscribers! This is bad, bad news for your blogs potential success.

Fortunately, this can be fixed quickly, by scrapping all of the junk in your sidebar and including only the essentials, which are:

  • sidebar opt-in (must be at the top!)
  • list of popular posts (shows readers your best content, right away!)
  • resource sections (these sections showcase a lot of info on a single topic, or including things like what blogging tools you are partial to using)
  • …nothing else!

Honestly, having only these three items in this list might make you think I’m crazy, but hear me out: those really are the only essentials!

Of course, if you blog offers a product, service, or advertising, these need to be included, but for most people, the three I mentioned will increase your conversion rates after you get rid of the junk.

Unless your blog as 1000+ posts, you don’t need a search bar, categories—none of that stuff. What you do need is a fast loading site that converts well, so make it happen.

7. Improve your knowledge of SEO and SEO copywriting

If you are running a WordPress blog, understanding the fundamentals of WordPress SEO is essential to succeeding as a blogger (I’d highly recommend starting with SEOMoz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO, it’s a great read that’s highly detailed and includes great visuals).

More importantly though (and non-platform-specific), you need to learn more about SEO copywriting if you don’t know about it already.

The process of effective SEO copywriting is far less confusing than you think. In fact, even if you just learn the basics of good interlinking habits (linking to old posts of yours in new posts, naturally) you’ll already be more skilled than most bloggers in your niche.

It is essential to understand good SEO copywriting as a blogger because it allows your site to do better in search rankings, offers a better user experience for readers by involving your old content in a natural way, and adds a new skillset to your blogging knowledge—one of great importance.

8. Add social proof where it matters

Bloggers sometimes get too caught up in social networking proof, rather than what social proof really means (and when it’s actually useful).

Social proof can be as simple as quote from one of your readers/fans on what a great blog you are running, how you helped them, or how your content has benefited them in some way. This type of social proof is often as powerful as a big Facebook following, and it’s much easier to get legitimately!

Here are a few easy ways to get a powerful statement for your blog:

  1. Ask! Ask one of your readers if they’d mind giving you a quote to use on your blog as social proof. Most people will be glad to provide one!
  2. Use a comment. Take a comment from a reader on your site that states something positive, and use it as social proof.
  3. Quote someone else. Has anybody else mentioned your blog or writing before? Quote them, whether it’s from Twitter or their own site, people will usually have no problem with you quoting them for social proof.

Okay, so we have some ways to get social proof that’s outside of a big social networking following…

Where should we put it? Here are the two best spots to put social proof:

  1. anywhere there is an “opt-in” form
  2. anywhere you ask users to purchase something.

Simple, clear use of social proof boils down to this: any time you need someone to trust you (to opt-in to your list or to buy something from you), social proof is king, and those are the locations in which you should use it.

9. Start a “post ideas” journal

I’ve discussed the importance of using journals (or some storage device) in order to break through writer’s block, as they can serve as a growing list of ideas (that may come at any moment) you can access when you need to write a new post.

Writing down great posts ideas as they come in your head will not only benefit your own blog, it will help with writing all of those guest posts to get your name out there!

The thing is, great posts ideas could come to you at any moment. The problem? You are not always in a position to expand on those ideas or to see if they’d really make for a great post. The solution? Write any decent ideas down, and save them for another time.

This way you can keep any ideas that you might have lost if you relied on your memory, and you also get to work on great ideas later that might turn into dynamite posts.

10. Guest blog using the “funnel” technique

If you are going to utilize guest blogging to build your blog (and you definitely should be), you should start approaching your guest posts with an actual strategy, rather than relying on blind writing.

The best (and easiest!) strategy to try is the “funnel” technique of guest posting. The funnel method involves writing a guest post that has to do with one of three big aspects of your blog:

  1. your blog’s unique offering (discussed above)
  2. a free ebook/guide you’re giving away
  3. an opt-in webinar or course you’re offering.

How and why does this work so well? Simple: you are priming readers with a post about a specific topic. Then, you offer them additional content (via your email list) by offering one of the three options listed above.

In case you still don’t get it, think of it like this: I’m a personal fitness style blogger, but I only focus on writing about high-intensity interval training (HIIT for those familiar with the acronym).

So, it would make sense for me to post on fitness blogs, but to focus on writing an article like “5 Reasons Why HIIT is the Best Form of Cardio.” The reason this makes sense is that anybody interested in Fitness and HIIT would go to check out my blog, where they would be greeted with more content on the subject. This would make them more likely to subscribe.

This also works with the other two methods: offering a freebie such as an ebook or Webinar on the topic that my guest post was about. Try this and I guarantee your blog will see maximized conversions for all of your blog posts in 2012!

11. Evaluate your social media buttons

What do I mean “evaluate” your social media buttons? Simply put, you need to take a step back from your blog and look at the buttons that you are using on your site.

Many bloggers just plaster up whichever buttons they can without really evaluating what’s been working in their niche. The key point here is that you most likely don’t need all of those buttons! It’s been proven time and time that too many options can decrease conversions, and this applies to social sharing too.

The reason bloggers get misled is because they see big sites like Mashable using every button under the sun, but what they don’t seem to get is that Mashable is about social media, so a majority of their traffic and “subscribers” are social media users.

It makes sense for them to have tons of social media buttons, but for a blog like yours, which is most likely concerned with growing a stable and profitable email list, you need to evaluate which buttons work best for your audience.

For instance over on my electronic music blog, I immediately removed the LinkedIn and Google+ buttons when I found out that they weren’t being used. It made sense, but I wanted to test things out first.

The thing was, my audience was younger, and not interested in tech or business aspects as much as most LinkedIn and Google+ users are. Generally, they stuck to Facebook, and used Twitter slightly less.

So I updated the social sharing buttons to include only those two, and guess what? My traffic didn’t drop by a single visitor. In fact it increased, all while I was speeding my site up!

Make sure your social buttons are actually being used by your readers.

12. Utilize the most powerful social network of all

When most people think about networking these days, they tend to think about social networks.

While social networks (especially those like Twitter) are indeed extremely useful for establishing connections, in reality they better serve as icebreakers for real planning on the most powerful social network of all…

Email.

That’s right. All of your guest post submissions, all of your interview requests, collaborations, joint ventures, product launches, everything will be happening behind the scenes through email (or at least the important stuff!).

What else will you be doing to revitalize your blog in 2012? Share your plans in the comments.

If you are a blogger who wants to tap into the psychology of successful content marketing, you need to check out Sparring Mind, where Greg prefers to write about what works (backed with research and data) and avoids the fluff. Find out more here and start marketing your blog the right way.