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Social Media: What’s it Good For?

Does social media drive sales?

I’ve been asked this question quite a few times lately from business owners trying to get their head around how to use social media in their online marketing mix. Many of them tell me that they don’t see a direct return on investment from their use of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

In response, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts on how social media benefits what I do. Keep in mind,  there’s no right or wrong way to use social media. I know of many online and offline businesses that use social media very differently.

For me Social Media is NOT Primarily about Direct Selling

Perhaps the biggest thing that I can say about how I’ve come to use social media is that I don’t see it as a primary avenue for selling.

I know some online businesses see substantial sales generated directly through their social media pages. In most cases, it is through offering coupons or running discounting sales. That said, the tests I’ve run have not seen a great deal of success.

In contrast, I see the vast majority of our sales of eBooks and events to be the result of our email marketing.

In a recent eBook launch, here’s a break down of where sales came from:

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Interestingly, over the 4 week launch of that eBook we sent/posted:

  • 4 sales emails
  • 3 blog posts
  • 17 Tweets
  • 5 Facebook Status Updates
  • 3 Pinterest Pins
  • 2 LinkedIn Updates
  • 3 Google Plus Updates

As you can see, we promoted the eBook quite a few times to our social networks. Those social networks have a combined reach of over 350,000.

In the same time we sent 4 emails (to around 700,000 people). The ‘return’ on sending a handful of emails far outweighed the effort in social.

That’s not to say we will stop doing sales related updates on social media – (there are ways to use it to sell) – it just isn’t our primary sales avenue.

Social Media – What is it Good For?

So social media hasn’t generated as many direct sales as other channels, and my business relies upon sales to be sustainable, so what is it good for?

I do invest a fair amount of time (and some money) into social media but for me, it is not a direct sales strategy.

Rather social media is largely about:

  • Building the Brand – by being useful, telling stories, answering questions, giving glimpses behind the scenes
  • Building Community and Engagement – asking and answering questions, listening to feedback, supporting the goals of those you connect with
  • Building Trust and Credibility – by showing you know what you’re talking about and an understanding of the niche you operate in
  • Driving Traffic – sharing links to new content (and highlighting the best bits in the archives)

By building a presence in places like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn (and more you) you create relationships with and create impressions upon those you connect with.

Those relationships may not directly lead to a sale but they have other powerful outcomes.

They all have an indirect long term positive impact upon the the bottom line of your business. In many ways, by building brand, engagement, trust and driving traffic you are building the foundations of a strong relationship. Once the time for selling comes, you’re much more likely to see a conversion at some point.

They also make business a lot more satisfying and fun to run!

What If We Put As Much Effort into Writing Blog Posts as Public Speaking?

In just under 2 weeks I’ll be standing on this stage at the beautiful Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, giving a keynote at World Domination Summit in front of just under 3000 people.

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It is an incredible honour to be invited to speak at this event and I’m very grateful to Chris for the invitation – but honestly – the thought of standing in front of 3000 to give a 45 minute talk make me a little nervous!

As a result, you can imagine that over the last few months I’ve been putting considerable time into preparation!

I have:

  • Filled many pages in notebooks with ideas and notes
  • Mind-mapped the talk many times, on whiteboards in my office
  • Spent hours fine tuning my keynote/powerpoint presentation
  • Talked with family and friends many times about the points I’m sharing
  • Read many articles, books and watched many videos on the topic I’m talking about
  • Started practicing the talk and honing how it flows. This is something I’ll do a lot more of.

I’ve already put 50+ hours into preparing for this 45 minute keynote and I’ll put more in over the next couple of weeks.

Yesterday, as I was working on the talk I found myself comparing the preparation of this talk for 3000 people to the process I go through when writing a blog post. There are some definite similarities (and I’ll cover them in a future post) but there is one difference that hit me like a tonne of bricks.

I spend considerably less time on blog posts, despite the fact that they have the potential to reach a lot more people.

Here on ProBlogger this blog receives around 20,000 visitors a day.

While a single blog post doesn’t get read by all of them… over its lifetime it has the potential to be read by many, many more.

However, I’ve never ever spent 50+ hours on a blog post!

A blog post certainly is different to a keynote. For starters, there is a lot less content. I have written some long posts in my time but none would take 45 minutes to read! Even so, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we put as much effort into crafting each blog post as preparing for a public presentation.

What do you think?

Blogger to Watch: Torre de Roche talks about her journey to big publishing deal

This is an guest interview by Jade Craven.

It is my honour to share the story of Torre De Roche, and her journey from blogger to author with an impressive publishing deal.

I first mentioned her on Problogger as one of the bloggers to watch in 2012. I was impressed with her self-published memoir and her creative approach to blogging. In 2011, she sold the rights to three publishers and sold the movie options.

Torre is a natural writer. Her memoir, Love With a Chance of Drowing, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. In this interview, I talk with her about her creative process and the books journey to publication. I recommend you check out the blog posts I’ve linked to; her story is really compelling.

You’ve previously said that you put a lot of effort into developing your personal brand. Can you walk us through the process?

Before I sold the book to publishers, I learned through my research that agents and publishers look for authors with platforms, like popular blogs. So I began brainstorming blog ideas that would:

(a) Fit with the theme of the book,

(b) Inspire, or offer the reader take-home value, and,

(c) Align with my voice and my self-deprecating sense of humour.

One day, while touring New Zealand by van, an idea struck out of the blue: the Fearful Adventurer! This theme would allow me to be open about my fears, while gently inspiring other fearful people to take leaps. Once I had that idea in place, I began designing a look and feel to align with that theme.

You write less frequently then most bloggers, but your posts are of a very high standard. How much effort do you put into the average blog post?

I don’t use a timer because that would be like weighting myself after a large, delicious meal, but yes, I always put a lot of effort into my posts. Some of my posts contain illustrations and when there is paint involved, a post can easily take me 16 hours or more.

I don’t plan them out—I let them evolve on the page. Sometimes that happens quickly over four hours, sometimes they’re created slowly over a week.

I don’t call it ‘work,’ though. It’s creative play.

Tell us more about the concept of creative play. How can non-artistic bloggers be more creative with their blog?

I don’t believe in the term ‘non-artistic’! Everybody is artistic. Creativity comes easier to those who embrace that trait in themselves and exercise it daily, but it’s a core part of who we all are.
Stephen Colbert once told a story about an epiphany he had in being able to fully be himself on stage: “Something burst that night, and I finally let go of the pretension of not wanting to be a fool.”
One more thing: ease off on reading How-To guides, and start filling your creative piggy bank with stand-up comedy, art galleries, books you wouldn’t usually pick up, and independent films.
To be creative, you have to surround yourself with creativity. There is no How-To guide that can replace that.

You’ve written about the difficulties trying to blog and travel at the same time. How do you manage to write such captivating blog posts while living a nomad lifestyle?

It’s tough to surrender into a ruminative creative headspace if you’re moving around a lot or worrying about where you’re going to sleep at night!

Travel gives me a lot of inspiration for what I create, but generally I have to wait until I’m fixed in one spot before I can process those ideas into any kind of art. I wrote Love with a Chance of Drowning a year after the voyage was over. By that time, I’d had a chance to process the experience retrospectively and make meaning out of the whole experience.

There’s a lot of value in fully experiencing the moment while you’re in it, and then turning it into art later on when you have the time and the headspace to spare.

Read:  The Problem with Being a Travelling Writer

You’ve talked about how you suffered from creative blocks, something that many bloggers would sympathize with. How did you overcome this?

Art is uncertain. Sometimes, in order to feel the delicious comfort of certainty, you might try to make art while grasping onto some idea or technique that seems safe. If you do that, your writing will come out stiff and contrived because you’re not creating, you’re imitating.

Loosen your grip. Let go of control. Embrace the freefalling sensation of having no idea where you’re going with something.

Good art comes from risk, experimentation, and play. A good way to discover this again is to take up a new form of art, one that you can’t control: sculpture, life drawing, ceramics… Squeeze some clay between your fingers, laugh like a child, and remember what it feels like to play without all that seriousness. Now, create from that space.

Read:  The Trouble With Blogging

The book

You were gaining traction for the self-published version of your book during 2011. What motivated you to accept a traditional book deal?

Before the book went to auction, I did some numbers to work out what the book was worth to me. I’d already invested a considerable amount into the self-publishing process, so it wasn’t good business sense to take a token advance just so that I could call myself a ‘published author.’ I also tallied up what I could reasonably expect to earn as a self-published author, factoring in all the limitations with distribution, etc. That’s how I got my magic number.

When the first offer came in, it was right on my number. I couldn’t believe it! We negotiated up from there. So I took the deal because the advance was considerably high, and because it was well above what I felt I could earn as a self-published author.

One of the things I loved about your book was that it was extremely polished. I’ve found that this is a rare quality in many of the self-published books and ebooks I read. How important is the design and editing? Was it daunting investing so much without knowing how people would react?

I spent several years writing my book and, while I doubted myself daily, I wouldn’t have written it if I didn’t believe in it. Investing at the end stages was a small price to pay on top of the time and energy I’d already spent writing the book.

Design and editing are extremely important! We live in an era of information overload, and people are now extra precious with how they spend their time. The cover has to immediately communicate one firm promise: This will be worth your time. Your purpose for getting the book professionally edited is so that you can come good on that promise.

You should strive to make your book worthy of the reader’s time from the moment they first lay eyes on your cover, to the moment they turn the final page. Otherwise you’re just creating noise.

 What role did your blog play in getting the book deal?

I wouldn’t have sold the book without my blog. It helped in several ways:

1. A Hollywood film producer randomly discovered my profile on Twitter two weeks after I self-published. He clicked through to my blog, read an excerpt of Love with a Chance of Drowning, and DM’ed me to request a copy of the book. I sent him a copy, and he ended up buying the film option.
2. A UK publisher chanced upon my book in much the same way: through random clicking that led her to an excerpt published on my blog. She also ended up putting in an offer to buy the book.
3. When my agent was pitching the book to Australia and the US, publishers could see that I had a blog and a following. This upped the value of the book. It has since sold to five publishers.

 More about her book:

What bloggers are you watching?

I follow a lot of blogs, but there are only a few that I visit regularly:

Hyperbole and a Half  – I discovered Allie Brosh a few years ago, and no other blogger has since made me spray tea out of my nose like her. It is, without a doubt, the most hilarious blog in the world.

Almost Fearless  – I’ve been following Christine Gilbert’s blog for several years now. Her life story is interesting to follow and she’s also damn good at the business of blogging.

World Tour Stories – This is a blog about a really, really good looking couple who are sailing the world. They are exceptional at telling a story through stunning photography.

A city girl with a morbid fear of deep water, Torre DeRoche, confronts her deepest fears after falling for an Argentinean man with a leaky sailboat and a big dream.

Set against a backdrop of the world’s most beautiful and remote destinations, Love with a Chance of Drowning is a sometimes hilarious, often moving and always breathtakingly brave memoir that proves there are some risks worth taking.

3 Ways to Get More Subscribers for Your Blog

I have hundreds of readers coming to my blog every day – but nobody ever subscribes to my newsletter. Help!?!

This request came in via email today and I thought I’d share my reply with the 3 suggestions I offered.

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Thanks for the question – I suspect you’re not alone with this problem. While a lot can probably be written on the topic, let me suggest 3 things I’ve found helpful increasing subscriber numbers.

Note: the #1 thing I did to building subscriber numbers on Digital Photography School was introduce a lightbox subscriber box. I spoke about this in my 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Blogging webinar so I won’t rehash it here.

1. Ask People to Subscribe

This sounds a little too simple to be effective but I’m amazed how many people do subscribe once you mention you’ve got a newsletter. I’m also amazed how many of our regular and loyal readers don’t know we even have a newsletter, despite it being promoted around the blog.

Some semi-regular calls to subscribe can be very effective.

You can do this in a number of ways, including:

  • Writing a dedicated blog post, every now and again, explaining you have a newsletter and the benefits of subscribing.
  • Mentioning your newsletter in passing in your blog posts. I don’t mean every single post, but a mention now and then will work wonders.
  • Promoting your newsletter across social media. I regularly mention our newsletters on Twitter, when I’m writing a newsletter and when it goes out.

The key to remember, when mentioning your newsletter regularly, is to find fresh ways to talk about it. Don’t just have the same tweet to subscribe every 2nd day.

  • Mention something that is in the next newsletter, that you won’t get anywhere else.
  • Mention that you’ve just hit a milestone number of subscribers to build social proof.
  • Mention that it’s a milestone newsletter. We recently sent out 250th on dPS and made a bit of a big deal about it.

2. Start a Series

Announce that you’re going to be doing a series of posts, on your blog, on a topic that you know will really be useful to your readers.

I remember the first time I announced that I was going to run the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series (the series that later became the eBook by the same name) I was amazed at how many people subscribed to my blog over the next 24 hours.

I was signalling to readers that I was going to do something that would serve them and in doing so, created anticipation among my readers. This anticipation (as I’ve written about in the past) is a key reason people will subscribe to your blog.

3. Place Calls to Subscribe in ‘Hot Zones’

One last tip is to identify some ‘hot zones’ on your blog, to place calls to subscribe. These zones are either places that your readers will be looking or pages that they’ll be visiting.

Let me suggest a couple:

1. Under Posts

I’m not currently doing this on my blogs, as I use the space under my blog posts for other things, but I’ve found over the years that the area under your blog post (and directly above comments) is a ‘hot zone’ where readers often look for what to do next.

Put yourself in the position of a reader. You’ve read the post and have found it useful. This is the perfect time to ask readers to subscribe because they’re hopefully feeling satisfied, stimulated and helped in some way.

A bold call to subscribe can work wonders here.

2. On Hot Posts

Dig into your blogs analytics package and identify which posts are the most read posts on your blog.

You’ll probably find that these posts are receiving traffic from search engines and are likely being read by first time readers to your blog – people that are often quick to leave again once they’ve got what they’re searching for.

These posts are a real opportunity to make your blog a little more sticky and to hopefully call some of those first time readers to subscribe.

You can do this either by adding a call to subscribe directly to the posts – or you might like to link from these posts to a ‘sneeze page’ (see below).

3. Sneeze Pages

Screen Shot 2013 06 20 at 1 25 12 PMLet me show you a page on dPS, which is a page that generates a large number of subscribers. It is our Photography Tips for Beginners page.

This page is a page in which I link to 33 of the best articles in our archives for beginner photographers. It is a page that ‘sneezes’ readers deep into our archives to good quality content.

It is a great page for driving traffic and getting readers deep into the site but you’ll also note we have a couple of strong calls to subscribe on that page. People click those calls to action like crazy because they can see on the page that we’ve created a heap of useful content.

We link to this sneeze page prominently in the navigation areas all around the site to drive traffic to it and regularly promote the page on social media (as I write this it has received over 90,000 ‘pins’ on Pinterest for example).

Take home lesson – create a sneeze page with a strong call to action to subscribe and drive as much traffic to it as you can!

Note: Sneeze pages are written about on day 18 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

How Have You Increases Subscribers to Your Blog?

I have barely scratched the surface here on how to increase subscribers to a blog and would love to hear your suggestions and experiences on the topic in comments below.

What has worked for you?

AdSense Turns 10 Years Old: Why I’m Grateful for it!

NewImageThis week Google’s AdSense program celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a post on their blog and a G+ Hangout.

While they launched AdSense in June of 2003, I first began to experiment with it on 7th October that year.

I had been blogging for around 11 months by that point and had begun to experiment with the Amazon Associates Program as a way to help me cover my costs of hosting, domains and design.

So I signed up as an AdSense publisher and set up my first ad to put on my blog.

I had no idea what I was doing and so put the ads at the top of my right hand sidebar to see how they would perform.

At that time the only way you’d earn anything from AdSense was if someone clicked the ads so I made them bright pink and green to stand out. Boy, were they ugly!

The next morning, I woke up to discover that I’d earned my first $7 USD from AdSense. I was pretty amazed by this as it was significantly more than I was able to make from Amazon. Over the coming days, I watched in amazement as I continued to earn a few dollars here and there.

It turned out that that first days earnings were artificially high as some of my loyal readers thought it was a good idea to click the ads repeatedly to make me money. Things quickly settled down and by the end of the month I’d earned $42 USD.

By no means was it spectacular money but it was enough to give me a little hope.

I began to experiment with placing a few more ads on the page and tweaking the design and colours I used. I discovered that blending ads into the design of the blog was better than making them stand right out. I also discovered that putting ads into the middle of blog posts worked well.

The results of my experiments were that I quickly saw my income from AdSense rising. The next month I made around $90 from AdSense, the following month – December – around $170 USD.

I began to experiment with a new blog in the months that followed – a camera review blog. This really helped things to grow a lot faster and blogging was fast becoming something I saw as a part time job.

  • May 2004 saw me hit over $1000 in a month for the first time.
  • 7th June saw earnings go over $100 in a single day for the first time.
  • By November 2004 AdSense had allowed me to go full time as a blogger with earnings of close to $10,000 for that month alone.

While there were ups and downs in my earnings over the coming months (in January it all took a big dive due to me falling out of Google Search results for 6 weeks) since then I’ve continued to earn a monthly income from AdSense.

The combined total of what AdSense has earned is well in excess of a million dollars! Yes – I’m glad I started using AdSense back in 2003!

In 2005, I posted here that Blogging had bought my family a house, something that a year before was not even in our wildest dreams. The bulk of that came from AdSense.

These days I don’t put as much focus on advertising revenue (Advertising revenue makes up about 25% of my business revenue these days) but the bulk of that revenue still comes from AdSense.

While I know AdSense is at times looked down on by some bloggers and online entrepreneurs – I for one am grateful for it.

Happy birthday AdSense!

Content Creation vs Content Promotion: Where is the Balance?

A few days ago we published a post on ProBlogger titled ‘Forget about Marketing: Concentrate on Blogging‘, which led to some interesting discussion on Twitter and in the comments.

I love the points author Nicholas Whitmore made in the post but I wanted to give a few thoughts, based on my own experience, on developing great content and promoting your blog.

Nicholas wrote some great arguments for focusing your energy on writing great content as the central way of growing your blog. He writes:

“When you write and publish awesome content on your blog, good things will come your way.”

I completely agree with this sentiment. As a blogger your #1 focus needs to be on producing content that is useful, engaging and of as high a quality as possible. Without it, all the marketing you might do will be wasted as you’ll just be directing people to something that is of no value to them.

As Nicholas goes on to write:

“When you write and publish boring content then spend hours on end building links to it, trying to force people to your website, good things will never come.”

Again, I agree with the sentiment expressed here.

However, on Twitter a discussion among some of my followers highlighted that some bloggers differ quite a bit on how much effort should be put into promoting a blog vs developing content for it.

  • On one hand, there were certainly people who felt that if you build a great blog that it markets itself.
  • On the other hand, there were people who felt that if you didn’t get out there and market your blog you ran the risk of all your hard work in developing great content going completely unseen.

While I think we all agree that the content on your blog needs to be of a very high focus, I’m also of the belief that if a blogger wants to grow their readership they also need to put effort into promoting that blog.

I like the idea of the marketing being taken care of by your visitors, if you have good enough blog post. In my experience, there are things you can do to promote your blog to help speed the process up, without compromising the quality of your posts.

In the early days of my own current blogs (here on ProBlogger and at dPS) I estimate I probably spent almost as much time writing content as I did working on growing the readership. In fact, I’m sure there were some weeks where I did spend considerably more time promoting my blog than writing content!

In short, I don’t see marketing and creating content as mutually exclusive – both are really important to me.

How did I grow my readership (or market my blogs)?

I recorded a webinar last year on this very topic with a load of tips in it. You can listen to it and see the slides here so I won’t rehash all of that but here’s a summary slide of the points I talked through.

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You can see that my process actually talks about the content that you develop as being a part of finding readers for your blog (both in points 2 and 8). But by getting off your blog to promote what you do you are certainly able to significantly grow your blog.

Point #9 shows that this is an ongoing thing.

For me, I’d say that the balance of creating content and promoting has changed over the life of my blogs over the years. This is probably partly because the life cycle of a blog but also due to my own personal circumstances and how much time I have available to work.

That said , I would always prioritise both on a daily basis… and would probably also add in that I prioritise other things too such as ‘engaging with readers/building community’ and also a focus upon ‘monetization’ (without which I can’t sustain what I do).

Where is the Balance of Promotion and Content Creation for You?

I’d love to hear how others get this balance right in your blogging?

Don’t Be Lazy: 9 Ways to Blog Smarter and Harder

This is a guest contribution from Eric Cummings who writes about art and philosophy for On Violence.

I’ve been writing this post for three years. What can I say? I’m lazy.

Or I should say, I used to be lazy.

That’s not the case anymore. Four years ago, my brother and I started taking our writing career seriously. I now write. A lot. On my days off from work, I regularly put in over ten hour days, just writing, editing and re-writing. I’ve learned how to work, both smarter and harder. You can too.

(Finally, an admission: though I wrote down an outline for this post three years ago, I resuscitated this idea for today’s post a few weeks ago.)

Tip 1: Forget the “To Do” List. Use Next Actions. 

“To do” lists don’t work because most people include “do’s” like “write a novel”, “pay bills” or “find web hosting”. I know, because that’s what I used to do.

Then I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Instead of “to dos”, Allen proposes “next actions”. “Next actions” answer the question, “What do I need to do next?” Instead of “start a blog”, your next action is “research domain registries”, “brainstorm blog title ideas”, and “list blog post ideas”. This way you know what you need to do next.

For every blog post I write, I have a “NA” written at the top, stating the exact next action, like “research the topic” or “edit post” or “proofread”. I can’t do the entire concept justice in a blog post, but I’d recommend everyone read Getting Things Done. If you can’t do that, when you’re writing a “to do” list, ask yourself, what do I need to do next?

Tip 2: Figure Out Where You Lose Time

A number of years ago, my co-writer started listening to a podcast on business advice called Manager Tools. One episode changed my whole perspective on time, the appropriately titled “Time Management”. Most importantly, I learned how to do a “time audit”.

A time audit records everything you did on a given day. For one week, every ten or fifteen minutes, write down what you just did. At the end of the week, analyze it. Where do you waste time? What did you actually work on? What can you differently in the future?

What’s our most valuable resource? Time. You may want to write, you just don’t have the time. Then figure out where your time is going. Trust me, this analysis will blow your mind.

Tip 3: Figure out Your Golden Hours

A few years ago, Darren Rowse keyed me into his principle of “Golden Hours”, the two or three hours of the day where everyone is the most productive. Some people work better in the morning. Others write better at night.

My golden hours occur between 9:00 to 12:00. Knowing this, when I have a day off, I make sure I’m writing during my golden hours. I do other tasks (chores, bills, answering comments) later in the day.

Figure out your golden hours and organize your day around them.

Tip 4: Break Up Your Writing…With “Productive Breaks”.

Ever find yourself doing chores before writing? It’s a common delay mechanism. Instead of delaying, solve this problem by planning out your day before you start writing.

If I know at the start of a writing day that I have chores to do, I plan on doing the chores in half hour chunks between bursts of writing. So I will write a guest post for an hour, then do dishes. Then I’ll research blog posts, then sweep. Then I’ll edit posts. Then go shopping.

Breaking up your writing day has two benefits.

First, you can clear your mind and recharge your batteries. Second, it frees your brain, which is still thinking about what your were writing about, to come up with new ideas. You can’t write straight for hours on end. Some people probably can, but I can’t. So I break up my day with “productive breaks”.

Tip 5: Break Up Your Writing…By Writing About Different Things

My co-writer and I write a lot of different things. Blog posts, guest posts, essays, research papers, screenplays and more. We do this because we like writing about different things. But more importantly, it breaks up our days. I can get more writing in if I write in different mediums about different things. If I only wrote screenplays, I’d get bored. If I only wrote blog posts, I’d lose energy.

Vary up your writing and you’ll work harder.

Tip 6: Monotask 

Multi-tasking doesn’t exist. Sorry, but your mind can’t input multiple streams of information at the same time. You can’t write an email and talk on the phone at the same time. It’s impossible. And switching rapidly between tasks takes away your energy and focus.

So turn off your email, Twitter and chat programs. Don’t answer your phone. Stay off the Internet, unless you’re doing research on a current project.

Tip 7: Use Email in Bursts

As I just said, email can be a horrific time waster, especially if you leave it open all day.

Try this instead: Check your email in one hour blocks throughout the day; hopefully once in the morning, afternoon and at the end of the day. This applies to social media like Twitter, Facebook and chat programs as well. While that seems like an outrageously small amount of time, with practice you’ll learn to get all your social media taken care of in these quick bursts.

Tip 8: Strengthen Your Will Power Muscle 

New studies show that “will power” is a muscle that we can train like real muscles. I’ve learned this the hard way. When I first started writing five years ago, I could only work for about two hours at a time. Every year that time has increased by two hours.

Today, for instance, I’ve already been writing for about five hours, give or take some five minute breaks and a twenty minute walk. I’ll probably write for another four hours, before I totally crash. I can only do this because I’ve been developing the writing muscle for a long time.

Another thought on will power: it will deplete itself. I lose energy at night, especially after I eat dinner. Understand this, and figure out when/why you crash and stop working.

Do something post dinner that requires less attention, like commenting or tweeting, than something you do during your golden hours.

Tip 9: Follow a Blogging Schedule!

My co-writer and I write our posts early, and schedule them ahead of time. When you’re blogging, force yourself to follow a schedule. Know that you’ll post two, three, or four times a week and stick to this schedule. It will make you a better writer and a better blogger.

There are no excuses for missing a week of posting. Write posts ahead of time, and create a folder of hold posts to use for emergencies. And write every week.

Eric Cummings writes about art and philosophy for On Violence, a blog on military and foreign affairs written by two brothers–one a soldier and the other a pacifist. Find him on Twitter, @onviolence.

Forget about Marketing: Concentrate on Blogging

This is a guest contribution by Nicholas Whitmore.

The title: What on earth does it mean?

Well, recently it seems like a lot of bloggers fancy themselves as marketers. You can’t read a post on a blog without seeing a load of other bloggers commenting at the bottom, with a link back to their own site. Of course other bloggers use black hat SEO tricks and other shady tactics in order to drive traffic to their blog. Each to their own you might say, but at the end of the day life can be much, much easier.

If you publish blog content that’s truly awesome, everyone else will market your blog for you.

If you seem to spend half your life trying to promote your blog with your efforts never coming to fruition, now’s the time to stop. There’s a reason why things aren’t working out – and you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s the actual content in your blog posts.

Sorry to have to break it to you, but your blog posts suck.

A man shocked at your lack of proofreading!

It’s time to go back to basics because if you’re guilty of trying to build links and force traffic to your blog, you’re trying too hard.

The art of blogging involves thinking up great topics and blog titles, performing research where required, then authoring great work.

Building links and driving traffic to your website does not fall under the blogging remit – that’s marketing, something different altogether.

Good things come to those who wait

Starting a successful blog is not something that you can do overnight. In fact, it can take months or even years before you start to see traction and those crazy traffic figures you’ve dreamt of. If you’ve got a short attention span or you’re incredibly impatient, the chances are that you won’t make it as a blogger.

Whilst some bloggers out there make a living from their sites, don’t go quitting your day job and blowing your life savings just yet – getting a blog to the point where it can be successfully and sustainably monetized takes a very, very long time.

Expedite success with more awesome blog posts 

The only way in which you can expedite the success of your blog is to publish more high quality content. Be careful not to inundate your visitors with too much content to digest though in your race to the top. Careful balances need to be struck between quality and quantity – a balance must also be struck between too many and too little blog posts.

Rarely will you see a sparsely populated blog that’s extremely popular. One of the core ingredients of a successful blog is frequent content – there’s no getting away from that fact. You don’t have to post 10 new blogs each week, but it would help in a lot of cases.

Hard work always pays off 

On my desk is a mug that my father used to drink out of. It says: “Hard work always pays off” – I find that little saying resonates around my head at least one million times each day. There are few things in life truer than this saying – and it can of course be applied to the world of blogging.

Be prepared to spend a good few months writing awesome posts that few people will read initially.

Keep plugging away – keep publishing great content and your blog will be recognized. The pay off comes when the recognition that your blog receives snowballs – links from other blogs start rolling in, and people recommend your posts on social media.

Recognition usually starts like a little trickle of water – gradually it will build up into a raging torrent. The more recognition your site receives, the more people will read it. As more people read your blog, it’ll receive further recognition. It’s an infinite loop of goodness for you as a blog owner!

In Summary 

When you write and publish awesome content on your blog, good things will come your way.

When you write and publish boring content then spend hours on end building links to it, trying to force people to your website, good things will never come.

Spend your time blogging – not marketing. The marketing side of things will be taken care of for you by your visitors if the blog posts that you publish are good enough to be recommended and shared across the internet.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing posts you publish via social media with friends and followers – it’s the ideal way in which to generate that initial buzz and interest about your blog. When the marketing of your posts takes longer than it does to actually write them however, you’ve almost certainly lost your way as a blogger.

 Nick is a freelance journalist and website content editor from http://www.contentwriting.org. He writes extensively about the art of blogging, as well as online marketing techniques such as SEO, PPC and SMM.

Why Your Blog Posts Are Falling Short of Greatness and What To Do About It

This is a guest contribution by Belinda Weaver, marketing copywriter behind The Copy Detective.

You’ve finished your latest blog post and it’s pretty good isn’t it, isn’t it?Boy looking confused

Are you sure?

 

Some bloggers think that coming up with ideas is the hardest part of blogging. Maybe you agree. Personally, I think it’s harder to turn an idea into blogging GOLD.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Writing a really great blog post isn’t simply down to your writing. Sure, you need to use language that will appeal to your reader, and all your verbs need to be the right way up but the secret to writing an exceptional blog post, every time, is the planning.

I know what you’re thinking. Planning? How time-consuming and boring!

I know some bloggers sit down and let the words simply pour from their mind. Others will agonise over each word. Whether you find blogging easy or difficult, planning your blog post for as long as it takes to have a cup of tea will bring you that much closer to bloggy GOLD.

Quick–fire planning process

The planning stage of writing a blog post – or any piece for that matter – is all about deciding what you’re going to say.

You might love to start a post and let the keyboard take you where it will. And that’s ok. Your post will be ok, but it won’t be great. If you want your blog posts to stand head and shoulders above the thousands of other blogs in your niche, you have to aim higher.

Step 1: Boil the kettle

My favourite way to procrastinate is to make a cup of tea and that’s the perfect way to start your planning process.

While the kettle is boiling, grab a pen and some paper, or the app and device of your choice, and set a timer for 3 minutes.

Write down the main point you want your readers to walk away with. Just one or two sentences about what you want them to learn or maybe how you want them to feel. That’s your blog theme.

It will depend on what you’re blogging about and your style of blogging, but setting a high-level theme to your post will help you assess whether you’ve nailed it once the writing is done.

Step 2: Dig deeper and explain it.

Your next task is to turn your theme into a more detailed outline.

Set the timer again – this time for 7 minutes.

Blog time

Image courtesy stock.xchng user colombweb

Create a list of specific points you want to make. It might be the elements of the story you’re telling, or the top takeaways on the topic you’re delving into or even the steps of a process (like this post).

It doesn’t have to be a long list. I recommend having no more than 10 points in your list. Depending on your topic, this might even take you a lot less time than 7 minutes.

Remember, you’re not writing the post during this time. You’re simply creating a list. Just like your blog post theme from step 1, this list will help to guide your ideas and your writing.

Step 3: Plan the introductions

How you open your blog post is pretty important. Actually, it’s very important as it’s in the first few sentences of your blog post that your reader decides whether to stick around, or lend their eyeballs to someone else. Not literally, of course.

Set your timer for another 5 minutes.

Write down the challenges your reader is facing, the ones your blog solves or even just talks about. You should also jot down why they would care about your post. What are you offering them?

These two elements will help you keep your reader in mind while you write. After all, your blog posts aren’t really about you… they’re about your readers.

Then you need to choose your approach. There are lots of different ways you can introduce your reader to your topic. You can ask a question or quote a statistic, make a claim or tell a story. Here are 10 great ideas from Darren or you could startle your reader with something a little more shocking.

Now, let’s see where we are.

You’ve got your theme. You’ve got the guts of your post mapped out and the introduction. And you’ve only spent 15 minutes out of your day!

happy_time

Image courtesy stock.xchng user lusi

Step 4: Plan the wrap-up

Now you need to plan the conclusion. Your conclusion is the final impression you’ll leave on your reader’s brain. It’s possibly one of the biggest influences on how much your blog post is shared and how many comments you get. So it’s worth a few more sips of tea, isn’t it?

Get that timer and set it for 3 minutes.

Inspiring your reader to take action is a really popular way to end your post. Think of asking your reader to share their story or their advice, or even setting them some homework. But you don’t have to set an action in your conclusion. Your wrap might simply spell out the main point you wrote down in step 1, leaving your reader feeling inspired.

Here are 7 powerful ways to wrap your post up. Choose one and make a note of it in your plan. 

Step 5: Name your baby

The final piece of the puzzle is the blog title. This might just be a working title until your blog post is written but your title is one of the hardest-working parts of your blog post. Before they even get to your introduction, many readers will have decided to read or ignore your post, based on the blog title.

Here are some of Darren’s tips on writing a blog title that gets noticed.

I often write a few working titles during the planning stages then choose one and adjust it once I’ve written the post.

And you’re done!

Sometimes, the best-laid plans will go to waste. In fact, they might just be thrown out the window and driven over a few times. And that’s ok.

Don’t feel that you have to stick to your blog post plan if inspiration pulls you in another direction. Go with it!

But, if you spend a little bit of time, your blog posts will:

  • Make the writing stage so much easier.
  • Make sure your points are clearly made, without rambling.
  • Give you more ideas for follow-up or add-on posts!

Now it’s over to you. I’d love to know how you approach your blog writing now, and whether you plan your posts out. If you don’t spend any time planning right now, can you find the time to have a cup of tea to lift your blogging game?

confidently walking the line between writing effective copy and creating an engaging brand personality. Get your FREE copy of her cheat sheet to incredibly effective copywriting or get Copywrite Matters on the job.