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How to Make Your Blogging Dreams Come True

“ONE DAY I’ll be a full time blogger!”

‘V’ – my wife – must have heard that statement 100 or more times in 2003-2004.

Me posing for my first ever press photo in 2003. Out of shot all my neighbours were watching on and wondering why I was videoing a guy taking a photo of me while sitting in my front yard.

It would usually be accompanied by a spread sheet and/or chart in which I showed her how the earnings from my blog had grown from $9 per month to $11 per month and me excitedly talking about how if things kept growing like that I’d be full time…. in 9 years time.

Back in those days I spent a lot of time dreaming about my future as a full time blogger.

I remember laying in bed at night, hoping  it would happen and wondering what opportunities might open up to make it a reality.

Those of you who have read the ProBlogger hard cover book know the story of how ‘V’ heard me talk about my ‘dream’ one time too many  and challenged me to take my blogging seriously.

In short, she challenged me to start treating my blog as a business ‘today’ rather than hoping it might be one at some point in the future.

Note: I wrote about this in my post ‘The #1 Reason My Blogging Grew into a Business

That challenge changed my mindset and was a huge part of making my dreams and hopes a reality.

We CREATE our Future

I recently came across this quote:

“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” – John H. Schaar

We don’t arrive at our future… we create it!

I wish I’d heard that quote back in 2003 when I began to experiment with making money blogging.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with ‘dreaming‘ of ones future. I just keep meeting bloggers (and people in other fields too) who seem to be stuck in the ‘dream’ phase.

The reality is that nobody really gets anywhere just by dreaming. There needs to come a time to ACT.

Just Do It

Do you dream of your blog one day being bigger, better, more profitable, or bring you better opportunities?

Just Do It!

Your future isn’t something that will just magically happen to you – you make that future.

So the time is now to begin moving in that direction through action!

Is it All Too Big?

Of course, giving the advice ‘just do it’ might be the kick up the pants that some people need to get moving but many bloggers I meet feel overwhelmed by all that lays ahead in order to create their dreams.

I often here one of two things from bloggers facing this:

  • There is too much to do
  • I want to do it perfectly

Both of these statements can cause paralysis and put your future on hold. 

Here’s my advice to you… (and I’m really writing this for me as well… because I feel both of those things too)…

Start With Something Small

Choose one small thing to start with that will move you toward your dream and do it to the best of your ability (tweet this).

Let’s break that down:

  1. Choose One Thing – if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the many things you need to do, you can end up doing nothing or trying to do everything, but failing. Doing one thing well, and then moving onto the next thing, will take you further than either of those options.
  2. Do a Small Thing – if you’re currently ‘stalled’ you need to get momentum so choose a smaller thing to get the wheels rolling. Achieving that small thing will give you energy to tackle the next bigger thing.
  3. Choose something that will Move You Toward Your Dream - it’s so easy to be distracted by tasks that seem like a good idea but aren’t really important in the scheme of your goals. Choose something that is directly tied to your ultimate goal (I’ll give you some examples below).
  4. Do it to the Best of Your Ability – if you only ever do things  you can do perfectly, you may never do anything! Do it as well as you can now and perfect it later. By starting you’ll learn so much and in the long run will produce something great.

What I’ve outlined above has been a strategy I’ve used many times over the years. Let me give you some practical examples.

Example 1 – Starting dPS

I put off starting Digital Photography School for a couple of years before I actually launched it (I’ve never admitted that before).

I had previously had a camera review blog that did well but I always dreamed of starting a more ‘tips’ related photography blog. I thought it’d be more satisfying to write and would have more potential to grow a relationship with readers.

I had every excuse in the book not to start dPS. I already had too much to do. I didn’t have the money to invest into a custom designed site. I doubted my own ability to write content on the topic. I couldn’t find the right brand/domain name…

The list went on.

However, I had the dream and one day I realised that if I didn’t actually start the blog that I’d never have any chance of arriving at that dream. So I started small.

  • I made a call on a brand and domain name – It wasn’t perfect but it allowed me to start
  • I started on GoDaddy Hosting – I knew it wasn’t the best option but it allowed me to start
  • I started with a free WordPress theme – it wasn’t as professional or customised as what I saw in my dreams but it allowed me to start
  • I wrote a handful of posts – I wanted to have more in my archives but it allowed me to start
  • I started with comments switched off to allow me to focus on creating more content – doing so fell short of my vision for a ‘community’ driven site but it allowed me to get moving

The design of dPS when it launched using a free theme.

When the blog launched I remember looking at it with a mixture of:

  • Dissatisfaction at all the things  I knew I could have done to make it better
  • Immense pride that I’d actually got the ideas out of my head and had finally implemented something

With the ball rolling, I was able to improve and grow what I was doing.

I moved to better hosting (and have done so 3 times now). I moved towards a custom design (we’re about to launch our iteration of the design). I’ve since published over 3800 posts and developed a team of writers. I switched on comments and added a forum area to build community.

The site is now 10 times bigger than any blog I had at the time I started it. It is still not perfect by any means (I have a long to do list) but it is a lot closer to my dreams than ever before.

Example 2 – My First eBook

My First eBook (now no longer available as we updated it)

I shared this story at the ProBlogger Event last year but don’t think I’ve written a post about it.

After a year of starting and then evolving Digital Photography School I began to see the opportunity to create a teaching product to sell on the site. I wasn’t sure at first what format would be best (eBooks, courses, events or something else) but knew there was an opportunity there.

I gradually settled on the idea of an eBook to test the waters with my audience but procrastinated and made excuses on why I should delay doing it for another 12-18 months.

Again my list of excuses was long and I justified my inaction with things like:

  • not having time to write and develop an eBook
  • not knowing how to set up a shopping cart
  • not knowing how to design or format an eBook
  • doubts about knowing enough about the subject matter

I put off the creation of that first eBook for a couple of years but managed to snap myself out of the paralysis and decided to start.

I decided to write the eBook about Portraiture – the topic my readers asked the most questions about and the one that I knew most about.

  • As I was time poor, I decided to get up 15 minutes earlier every day to create the eBook. I would have rather been able to set aside a week or two to work solidly on it but I had blogs to run and a newborn baby at home. I had some major sleep deprivation already so figured 15 minutes less sleep a day wouldn’t hurt! It wasn’t the ideal way to write – but it allowed me to start.
  • I decided to use some repurposed blog posts as the basis for the eBook. I’d rather have written it all from scratch but this approach allowed me to start.
  • I decided to outsource the design but kept it as simple and clean as possible to save on cost. I’d have rather had a beautiful/rich design but it allowed me to start.
  • I decided on a relatively simple and inexpensive shopping cart set up. I used e-junkie (aft) and synced it with PayPal. It wasn’t the most feature rich solution but was relatively east to set up and didn’t hold me back on launching.
  • I hada relatively simple launch. We launched it over 8 days with a pretty simple sales page and sales email to my list. I made a lot of mistakes in that launch and have a much more sophisticated process these days but I got the product launched!

I look back on the creation and launch of that eBook now with a mix of embarrassment at how simple it all was and pride at what I achieved as someone with no experience in creating an eBook.

It could have been A LOT better on many fronts but it was the beginning of something that has transformed what I do.

That eBook sold 4800 copies during its launch (bringing in a total of $72,000) which at the time completely blew me away (in the years after it sold a lot more) but the income from it wasn’t the best bit.

The most valuable part of creating that eBook was the lessons I learned in doing it.

That eBook and its launch became the template for future eBooks. I have now published a total of 12 on dPS, 6 here on ProBlogger and 1 on SnapnGuides.

The creation process of our eBooks has changed a lot (we no longer use repurposed content, now use editors, proof readers etc and have evolved the design quite a lot) and our launches are a lot more sophisticated but it all began with 15 minutes per day and doing the best I could!

More Quick Examples

This pattern of small steps towards big dreams is something that I could give you many more examples of.

Like how I got the ProBlogger hard cover Book published. It started as a draft for an eBook and some content that Chris and I had published on our blogs.

And how the ProBlogger Event was started. This has grown to be an annual event for 400+ bloggers but it started as a hastily arranged day for 100 bloggers in a dodgy suburban hotel.

Like how I developed 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. It started as a series of blog posts that evolved into a quickly produced eBook which grew again into the best selling ProBlogger eBook that we offer today.

And how I developed the ProBlogger Queensland Competition. It started as a crazy idea I got while sitting in an airport. I tweeted something and it ended up being one of the biggest campaigns I’ve ever done with a brand.

I’m certain that others reading this post would have more personal examples – I’d LOVE to see them in comments below.

Choose 1 Small Thing…

Let’s return to the take home advice…

Choose one small thing to start with that will move you toward your dream and do it to the best of your ability (tweet this).

I can’t emphasise enough how powerful doing this has been in my own business (and my life in general in other areas).

Give it a go – I can’t wait to see what impact it has for you! Please let me know what you decide to do and how it works out for you!

Challenge: Update Your Blog’s About Page

Today I want to set us all a little homework – a challenge of sorts – to update your blogs ‘About Page’.

This challenge evolves out of the embarrassing realisation that my own about page here on ProBlogger was dated and in need of a refresh.

It had been well over 12 months since I’d last looked at it – in that time I’d ended some projects mentioned on the page but also started new things like the ProBlogger Event – embarrassing!

It is particularly embarrassing because a blog’s About Page is often one of the first places a new visitor to a blog goes to check out what the blog is about, who is behind it and to make a decision whether it’s a blog that they want to subscribe to!

Many bloggers I speak with report that their About Page is one of their most read pages on their blog – get it wrong and you could be losing readers, hurting your brand or just looking dated.

So today I did a quick update of the page to fix the obvious problems and have put a fuller rewrite on the cards for the next week.

I also thought if my about page was dated – there must be a lot of others out there with similar issues so lets do a group challenge of sorts and all refresh out pages together!

There is no right or wrong way to write your about page but if you’re looking for a bit of inspiration check out this previous post on the topic – How Your About Page Can Make or Break Your Blog which gives some practical tips including:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Remember the mantra: What’s In It For Me?
  • Sharing Who the Blog is For
  • Being Personal – but not too personal
  • Determine the goal of your About page
  • Always end with a call to action

Once you’ve updated your About Page – please link to it below in comments so we can see the approach you’ve taken (I’m sure we could all learn a lot about creating great About Pages through seeing how each other does it).

Set Your Blog for Success With These Simple Tactics

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer, Ayelet Weisz.

Blogging is hard work.

You need to come up with fresh, quality materials on a regular basis, promote them, connect with readers, network with peers and mentors – and that’s before you even see a single dollar for your effort.

I’ve put together some simple business tactics to help you set your blog for success, so you can live the pro blogger dream.

Set Inspiring (But Realistic) Goals

Now that you’re your own boss, you’ve got to set up internal motivation. The biggest success stories didn’t get there with someone telling them what to do every five minutes.

Dreaming goals

Mark Aplet – Fotolia.com

A great way to keep yourself motivated is to set up goals. Of course, I don’t just mean any goal. Making a million dollars by the end of your first year as a blogger might not be the most realistic goal you could think of.

The truth is, you have no way of knowing what will happen by the end of your first year, and you have no control over of others’ choices – Will they read your blog? Will they buy your products?

However, you can eliminate some of these unknown factors by conducting research about the possibilities your market contains – and you can increase the chances of realising your dreams by setting a different type of goal.

Focus on what kind of content you’ll write, how much content you’ll write, how you’ll promote it and when.

Focus on numeral items, like 8 posts a months on your blog and 8 guest posts that you’ll pitch to big blogs. Don’t set a goal of publishing 8 guest posts, only of submission. If someone says no, you’ll still have the confidence boost of reaching your goal. Then, you can exceed it by pitching that guest post to an additional blog.

Track Your Progress

The next step is to get the gold stars out track your progress. Write down what you are doing, what your productivity rate has been and notice what times a day or situations support you in getting more work done.

Set a meeting with yourself – be it once a week, once a month or once a quarter – to see how well you did, to discover your strong points. It’s important to be honest on where you need to be more accountable or get support.

Encourage yourself to ask questions, to say “I don’t know”, to ask for help. Sometimes, that help will come in the form of adjusting your expectations or re-shaping your schedule. Embrace your humanity as you embrace your new blogging journey.

Give yourself time, be gentle – and leverage your failures

Starting a new venture is never easy. Acquiring an abundance of new skills and tools takes determination, focus and accountability.

You will make mistakes.

Give yourself a time of grace and don’t be hard on yourself. People around you might pressure you. They could be your friends and family members, they could love you and want the best for you – and they might not believe your blog is what’s best for you. If it takes you time to monetize your blog, and it probably will, they’ll doubt it even more.

Don’t get carried away with that. It will take time. Embrace it as an opportunity to show yourself you can do the impossible.

Support yourself through this time. Join professional online and offline groups, share your challenges with people who understand rather than with people who don’t, and plan ahead financially.

It might work best for you to save a few months’ or a year’s worth of salary, then take that time off paid employment and market like there’s no tomorrow. Alternatively, it might be best for you to start building your blog slowly, as you keep a part time or full time job.

Expect to make mistakes. 

These mistakes will be your guiding points to grow your blog even more as you go on. They could be transformed into guest posts on big blogs, case studies you can use to show your expertise (and how you turned failure to success) – and they can even turn you into a good mentor one day!

If nothing else, you’ll be able to look back one day and have a really good laugh. You’ll also be able to see how far you’ve come.

Socialise

Starting out at the blogsphere can be intimidating.People already know each other and the job.Friendships and communities have already been formed. Relationships with influencers are being shaped and re-shaped every single day.

Linked

Image copyright stock.xchng user lusi

This experience becomes easier once you feel there’s someone you could turn to. You, of course, need to have communication tools and the courage to connect when entering a new environment.

If you’re fearful about connecting with industry members, start small. Post comments on their blogs, then connect with them on Twitter or Facebook. Join online communities and reach out to one person at a time in a personal message.

Ask for their help, or offer a solution to a challenge they brought up. If they happen to just start out as you are, perhaps you could be a force of empowering support to one another, sharing tips and encouraging each other when one loses sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe you’ll even find you have additional interests in common!

Did you face any of these challenges when you were starting out? How did build your blog? Or perhaps you’re just starting out and picked up some great tips for the road ahead. Share your story!

Ayelet Weisz (www.AyeletWeisz.com) is an enthusiastic freelance writer, blogger and screenwriter, who focuses on business, technology, travel and women’s issues. Get her free report, 48 Must-Live Israeli Experiences, on her travel blog, and connect with her on Twitter.

Are You Ready to be a Full-Time Blogger?

This is a guest contribution from freelance writer, Ayelet Weisz.

A big part of the pro blogger dream is to be your own boss. No more office politics, competitions with colleagues or having to prove yourself to someone who reaps all the benefits of your hard work. You’ll set your own rules and live life your way.

Yet if you’ve never had to be accountable to yourself on a large-scale, long-term project, you might find yourself overwhelmed.

1. Unrealistic expectations. If you don’t know your own limitations, you could end up planning to invest too little time or leaving too little flexibility in your budget. You could also work yourself to exhaustion.

2. Getting lost. Being a full-time blogger leaves you plenty of opportunities to get lost – online, in sleep, in your own fears.

3. Missing tools and skills. There are lots of skills to master and tools to learn – not only in your chosen field of blogging, but in business management, time management, marketing – and the list goes on.

Boy looking confused

Do You Have The Skills?

Fortunately, tools and skills to be a successful full-time blogger are learnable. You need to incorporate the process of learning into your business plan, and don’t despair if you find yourself taking longer in one step or another. Instead, relish in your blogging journey and, as you challenge yourself, remember to give yourself a break.

Would You Hire You?

Few jobs will take you in without an interview – and your blogging business should be one of them. You must define the job before you can find out if you’ve got the right stuff.

You need to research what it means to run a full time blog and own a business, how to live on fluctuating income, what kind of marketing strategies are usually used, and where you could break the marketing rules to help your blog shine.

Read sites and magazines about your chosen niche, as well as general sites about professional blogging (like Problogger!), entrepreneurship and small businesses.

Once you have a vision of what your daily and annual life could look like, ask yourself the tough questions:

  • Are you ready to get started on the job?
  • Which areas require more learning, practise, tools or expertise?
  • What could you do with the skills you have right now to start building your blog?

Just as importantly, put on the interviewee’s hat – and ask yourself if you even want the position.

Go on at least one good course

Getting educated is valuable in gaining a deeper understanding of what you’re getting yourself into, as well as to speed up the process. Your chosen course, or several courses, might be about getting certification or about improving through feedback you’d get from professionals on your creative work. It might be about writing, marketing, business management or creating more self confidence in your life.

You could choose to learn all these aspects or some. You could learn them one by one or mix them together. You could decide learning is another business task, like marketing – or you could set aside a concentrated learning time before you take your first practical step in building your blog.

While you’ll likely keep on learning as you develop your blogging business, it’s easy to get caught up in the learning and never take a step beyond that.

Give yourself a deadline for when you absolutely have to go register your business or pitch a guest post for the first time.

Do You Have The Budget?Piggy bank

Importantly, remember that you need to save money in advance and put it aside to cover the cost of the course and the hours of paid work that you might miss.

Don’t forget to budget enough time for implementation either – homework tends to take longer than what you first expect.

Do You Need a Mentor?

At times, it’s recommended to hire a mentor even if you took a course or few. With a mentor, you’ll be able to ask questions you might not feel comfortable asking in a group, get a sense of direction and compile a list of actions it’s best to take for your specific blog and situation.

You might choose to keep this mentor on payroll for longer, yet sometimes even an appointment or several will do. Then, you could go on your merry way and sign up for another session when you feel one is needed.

Another option is to join a community of peers or top professionals, or one that’s combined of various levels of skills and successes. These can be paid or free, an online message board, meetings in your community or networking organisations’  gatherings.

Either way, that personalised attention will enable you to learn the inside world of launching and managing a blog, of marketing, of communicating with readers and of being the best blogger you can be.

Have you got more tips to test if you’re ready to start pro blogging? Share them with us in the comments!

Ayelet Weisz (www.AyeletWeisz.com) is an enthusiastic freelance writer, blogger and screenwriter, who focuses on business, technology, travel and women’s issues. Get her free report, 48 Must-Live Israeli Experiences, on her travel blog, and connect with her on Twitter.

Discover The “Can’t Miss” Email Technique To Bring Attention To Your Blog

This is a guest contribution by Frank Angelone.

It’s safe to assume that you want your blog to succeed, right?

It’s easier said than done, but whenever you’re trying to market your blog to others, it can be a very discouraging process.  Not only that, as bloggers, we continually suffer from the inability to get in touch with those we aspire to be like.

It’s not that those individuals don’t want to connect with us, but their email inboxes are full to the max and the Internet is flooded with content.  Tough obstacles ahead of us to stand out from the crowd I’d say.

Obviously, email marketing is an effective way to communicate with our readers, but more often than not, a well known blogger is not signed up to your email list.  The thing is…being associated to these well known bloggers in some capacity can help build the authority your blog needs to get attention.

So how are you suppose to grab the attention of these people?

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

I’ve learned, from my experiences, the best way to grab the attention of others is to keep my enquiries simple and straight forward. 

Granted, in reality, I am marketing to them.

It’s true, whenever you email someone and you wish to market yourself to them, it’s never a good idea to just email them a link to your blog.  You can be sure you won’t be contacted at that point. You want the email to capture their attention from the subject line.

Since you only have a short period to grab their attention, what can you do?

The Subject Line Is The Magic Potion 

Before you start trying to think of creative headlines, let me stop you right there. That kind of advice you’ll see many people give for blog posts and email newsletters.

This doesn’t apply when you’re trying to encourage a well known blogger to open your email. 

In fact, it’s much simpler and easier than you may think. On top of that, you may have used this tactic before and never even realised what a POWERFUL strategy it is.

Tell Me What To Do Already!

This brings me to my personal sure fire way to grab a response…

The magic answer is…

Use the subject line – “Quick Question.”

Really?  That’s it?  Yes, that’s it.  It’s worked for me many times. It’s how I’ve published guest posts on sites like CopyBlogger and here on ProBlogger.

The goal is to create a relationship. Quick Question lets them know…”this won’t take long.” This is what I use all the time.

I can’t believe I’m giving this away because it’s my best kept secret, until now!

How Does This Apply To My Blog?

Interestingly enough, I’ve used this little subject line to build my blog’s credibility. 

I’ve been able to leverage my podcast to build authority for my blog. An authoritative blog is something all bloggers strive for.  By using that “Quick Question” subject line, I’ve brought guests onto my podcast like Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Pirillo, Brian Clark, Seth Godin, and Robert Scoble to name a few. 

I can officially say that all these great people in some way are associated with my blog.

I’m not throwing these names at you to brag, but rather show you that by having these relationships, I’ve been able to connect with new readers / listeners and provide advice to others on how to go about podcasting.

This additional layer of my blog that started with a simple subject line also gave me the freedom to not have to rely on writing blog posts. Writing can be tiring, time consuming, and writers block can occur frequently. Doing audio interviews was my way of overcoming these obstacles and in the process I’ve developed relationships with well known bloggers.

You may not be able to build the readership that you want at this point. You may not be able to get a ton of comments on your posts. However, you can start finding other avenues to build that authority for your blog.

Don’t believe that just because it’s a blog that you’re restricted to only written content…you’re not!

Even though podcasting isn’t what I talk about on my blog, because of the well known bloggers I’ve connected with, I was able to talk to Chris Pirillo’s mastermind group in a webinar on bringing guests to your podcast and wrote a blog post about it too.

So, try this in your next email and let me know how this works out for you in the comments and if you’re able to build some new authority for your blog.

Frank Angelone teaches people how to use social media in business and how to adapt to technology.  He’s also coupled these teachings by interviewing well known entrepreneurs like Chris Pirillo, Robert Scoble, Brian Clark, and Leo Babauta to name a few, on the STZ Podcast.  Be sure to subscribe to be notified of new episodes!

What is Your Posting Rhythm to Social Media?

social-media-update-frequencyLast week I was on a panel discussing social media at a conference here in Australia and a question from the floor asked about how often is ideal to post to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest?

I was fascinated to hear the range of answers we gave as panelists and I thought it might be a good discussion to have here on ProBlogger.

What frequency do you publish to the social networks that you’re active on?

I’ll kick things off:

Facebook Pages: On the dPS Facebook page I try to update 3-4 times a day with posts spread out over a 24 hour cycle. I find if I do it too much more regularly that the posts don’t get as much engagement.

Twitter: On my ProBlogger Twitter account I find I can post at a higher frequency on Twitter as tweets tend to have a shorter life. Having said that most of my tweets are done live when I have something to say (and time to tweet).

Tweets go up automatically when I post a new post here on the blog or when a new job goes up on the Job Boards and I’ll often share another link to a blog post 12 or so hours later. The rest of my tweets are more personal/conversational and not scheduled.

Pinterest: on the dPS Pinterest account I’ve employed Jade to update our board.

Google+: My Google+ account is something I don’t update with great frequency. I use it more when I want to test an idea that I’m thinking through, ask a question or share something I’m excited about.

As a result there are days when I might post 2-3 times and then it might be 2-3 days before I post again! My posts there can be as short as a link or up to 2000 words!

LinkedIn: I’m a dismal failure on LinkedIn. Status updates are largely new posts on the blog and automated. I feel like I could improve a lot in this area.

What about you? What’s your posting rhythm on to social media? Do you update them all the same or have different strategies for each one?

Google Hangouts: Turning Bloggers into Broadcasters

This is a guest contribution by Sarah Hill, the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network.

Blogging no longer has to be a text based conversation. Google+ has allowed bloggers to become broadcasters, adding a visual component to each blog post, and all you need to become a “Blogcaster” is a webcam, an internet connection, and Google+.

Understanding the Basics of Google+

Narrow-minded individuals have been quick to dismiss Google+, seeing another Facebook; however, the true functionality of Google+ goes beyond keeping up with friends. This platform offers a unique feature that allows you to live-stream face-to-face video chats to the masses through a feature known as Hangouts.

Google’s Hangout feature is unfolding into a product that is changing how people collaborate and learn, providing real users with the tools and information to accomplish real-world tasks, and the ability to display it for all to see via YouTube.

This free broadcast tower is deepening relationships between bloggers, businesses and personal users through face-to-face interaction, setting the social network apart from all others and creating a fresh way to experience the web.

Hangout Preparation

Starting a Hangout can be done in a few seconds, just by clicking the “Start a Hangout” button; however, before diving in head first, it is best to prepare.

When you start a Hangout for the first time, you will be prompted to install a quick plugin. All you need to do is download Google’s voice and video chat plugin, ensure you have a webcam with a microphone and a decent internet connection. Ethernet is preferred but I’ve done lots of Hangouts over Wifi and even 4G as well.

In addition, it is best to check your lighting and background beforehand to make sure people can clearly see your face.

Once you’re confident in the set up and have ran some practice Hangouts, it’s time to promote a live event.

Announce the hangout

First, create a Google+ public event announcement a few days to a couple weeks before your Hangout. You want to give users time and create awareness of the Hangout.

Set to stream the hangout

Also, when creating the Google+ Hangout, be sure to open a “Hangout on Air” as those Hangouts stream live on YouTube and are then automatically recorded to your YouTube channel after you hit “end broadcast”.

Promote your hangout

Next, build awareness by posting in related Google+ communities, as well as other social channels. Don’t stay only on Google+, but cross-pollinate your live event to all your social platforms. Also, consider using a specific hashtag for your event.

Over Memorial Day, Veterans United partnered with Google+, the 9/11 Memorial and Virtual Photo Walks for a live Hangout. We used #honortheheroes to promote it to the public. Search that hashtag for examples of how we promoted that event.

Becoming a Blogcaster

Hangouts fuel the possibility of bloggers to become blogcasters, allowing up to ten users to video chat at a time, with the ability to broadcast to the entire world through “Hangouts on Air.”

So what would you talk about when you host a Hangout?

What are you passionate about? Original ideas, quality content and social sharing are the goal, and if you are posting interesting, thought provoking content on a frequent basis, you have the ability to gain followers and grow your authority – and this is no different through Hangouts.

Common Hangout topics include education, interviews, product demonstration and, more recently, customer service. However, when blogging, consider taking your hottest blog post and invite other authorities in the space to join in on the Hangout panel, providing multiple angles on the topic.  This lengthens the life of your blog beyond just the initial post.

Preparation is a must. Put together a list of questions that you can ask members in the Hangout, know who is speaking, on what topic and how long. Also, be sure to keep the conversation flowing by having transition topics so that you don’t permit awkward downtime.

And, no matter what method is used when producing a Hangout, remember to monitor social channels, blog comments from people who couldn’t attend the Hangout. You should also point users toward a social feed that they can post questions, essentially making them a part of the Hangout as well.

As with blogging, when you engage with your users on a frequent basis, user interaction and discussion becomes much easier. With Hangouts, that interaction is deeper as it’s now face to face via webcam.

Claim Your Work

The larger your presence is on Google+, the more likely it is that Google will see you as an expert or authority in your personal niche. And, to ensure that you’re capturing all the authority given from your Hangouts – especially when you post the URL to another site – be sure to claim the content through Google+.

“Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman at Google, recently said that future rankings will be determined by verified author profiles,” said Matt Polsky, an organic search strategist. “If you haven’t realized it yet, authors are already verifying their content on Google+, which is more than enough of a reason to get started.”

As Matt said above, bloggers are already verifying their broadcasts and content, providing users with not only a picture snippet in search results, but with additional authority for your specialized niche – especially when you branch out and write for other authority publications.

To verify your content, you can add the rel=author tag to your Google+ link in your byline when you create and post content.

With some forethought, time, and effort, you can grow your online presence and authority so people can discover your content. Broadcasting isn’t just for TV stations anymore. If you have a blog, you too can become a Google+ blogcaster.

Have you already used a Hangout? What was your experience?

About the Author: Sarah Hill is the Chief Digital Storyteller for Veterans United Network – a leading hub of news and advice on veteran and military issues. Connect with Sarah on Google+ to start a Hangout, or chat with her on Twitter.

How I Turned a Guest Post into 3 Million Visitors and Over 150,000 Social Media Shares

Yesterday, I shared a practical exercise for diving deeper into your blog’s analytics to discover how you can use the last month of blog action to plan for the future.

Today, I’d like to show you an example of just how powerful this discipline can be when it comes to building traffic to your site. In fact, this simple exercise led to a series of events that generated:

  • 3 million unique visitors
  • 131,000 ‘pins’ on Pinterest
  • 25,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook
  • 19,000 RT’s on Twitter

It all started with a Guest Post Submission

This story all began in March of 2012 when I received an email through the contact form on dPS, outlining an idea for a guest post. The author wanted to write a post with some examples pictures of how to pose women for portraits.

I liked the idea and agreed that the author could write the post. He submitted it a couple of weeks later and I scheduled it to go live late on the 28th.

The post was titled Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You started with Photographing Women (note: on the blog it says ‘Part 1′ but at the time of publishing it was a stand alone post).

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Initial Results

I thought the post would do well as it was on a topic we’ve had good responses to in the past i.e. posing techniques. It was also an image based post, which we’ve had quite a bit of success with.

Four days later (on the first of April), when I was doing my ‘deep dive’ into Google Analytics, I was excited to see that the post had done very well indeed.

The day it was published the post had over 17,000 visitors, which was higher than an average post on its first day. Around 30% of that traffic was coming in from Facebook, which was surprising as I didn’t promote it on our own Facebook page until the day after.

The second day after publishing, the post saw around 8,000 visitors but day 3 saw it reach over 42,000 visitors.

This spike was partly due to the post being featured in our newsletter, which normally spikes traffic to the site, but that day also saw some great traffic from social media including StumbleUpon, Facebook and Pinterest.

Over the following few days it continued to do really well so by the time I did my analyse it had already received around 150,000 visitors – considerably higher than other posts on the site in their first week.

Other than the raw traffic numbers I was interested to see that:

  1. The number of sharing events the post was getting on Facebook, StumbleUpon and Pinterest. The post had some great visuals that seemed to stimulate this.
  2. The number of comments and emails we were getting from readers asking how to pose men and kids.

Building Momentum

I saw an opportunity and immediately emailed the author to see if he’d be interested in similar followup posts on posing men and children.

He had also noticed a spike in traffic to his own site as a result of the post, was keen to do more and immediately began work.

Within a week we published Posing Guide: 21 Sample Poses to Get You Started with Photographing Men.

This second post did about 75% of the traffic of the first post but the patterns were very similar. The difference was that we didn’t see traffic from StumbleUpon but instead saw it from Reddit.com

10 days later we published a Posing Guide for Photographing Children with very similar results.

While traffic wasn’t quite as spectacular on posts #2 and #3 they were still well and truly out performing most other posts on the site. Naturally, I commissioned the author to write more!

Post #4 was a Posing Guide for Photographing Couples is an interesting case study in and of itself because while it spiked in traffic over the first week it didn’t drive as much initial traffic. However, since publishing it last May it has gone on to become our most popular post ever on Pinterest and continues to drive great traffic to the site ever since.

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To this day, that post has over 83,000 ‘pins’ and has been visited just under half a million times in the last 12 months!

Over the coming months we published more followups in this series:

Each post has not only gone on to drive its own traffic but every time we post another addition to the series we see a surge of traffic to previous posts (as we interlink them all). So now, because we’ve published six followup posts in the series, our original post has received around 850,000 visitors and they’ve had over 2.5 million visits between them all.

Take Home Lessons

The take home lesson for me is it’s not only important to create useful content, you need to take note of what works. You also need to attempt to find ways to build momentum on your site and followup with more of the same!

While the traffic levels may not be the same as what we do on dPS (we have the benefit of having build decent traffic to the site since 2006) the same principles can apply for a blog at any level.

The success of this series of posts has generated a lot of future ideas for dPS. We’ve commissioned the author to create another series of posts (the first of which went live on the blog in the last hour) which will also include ‘real photos’ based upon the poses previously covered. This was something we had requests for in the previous series of posts so I’m hoping it goes well.

EXERCISE: Deep Dive into Your Content Analytics

Today I spent a couple of hours doing my monthly deep dive into Google Analytics.

While hardly a day goes by that I don’t check my blogs stats (usually just to see traffic levels and sources of traffic etc) I try to set aside a longer period of time, at the start of each month, to do a little more in depth analysis.

I find these deep dives are always insightful, and they often shape the coming month’s blogging.

So here’s a little exercise for you to do today.

It will require you to have an analytics program. If you don’t yet have one, installing one is your first exercise for the day. I recommend Google Analytics.

If you already have some analytics installed, look at your stats for the last month. Looks at which blog posts were the most popular, with the objective of learning something to inform your next month’s publishing.

There’s any number of things you can do this analysis including looking at:

  • What was the post about – can you do a followup post?
  • Was there something about the content that made it attractive to readers? A provocative title,  a great image, the voice/style of the post?
  • Where did the traffic come from? Is there an opportunity to build relationships with other sites to see this happen again?
  • Did traffic come from a social media site? What made the post shareable? Can you replicate this in future posts?
  • What kind of comments were left on the post? Were their questions you could follow up on in a new post?

 

I did this same exercise earlier today with content on Digital Photography School. Here’s just a taste of some of the observations I made on my top 5 most visited posts on the site last month:

1. 3 Stupidly Simple Reasons Why Most People’s Photography Does Not Improve

This was an older post I updated and reposted on the site.

  • The lesson: sometimes posts from years ago can be given a new lease of life.
  • I suspect the title on this post had a ‘curiosity factor’ that intrigued people into clicking to see if they made the mistakes being talked about in the post.
  • The post had a strong call to comment with directions on the type of comments I was looking for. The result – loads of comments.
  • The post was not advanced reading – it was 3 simple ideas/tips that many people could relate to. Sometimes simple posts perform the best.
  • Traffic came from a spread of sources but it did particularly well on Facebook with little more than a link on our Facebook page. We also saw 2000 visits from a photography forum that I’d not heard of before that I’ll go exploring in.
  • There were 30+ comments with questions asked – I’ve made a list of these to consider for future articles.

 

2. Getting Landscapes Sharp: Focus Stacking

This one was a bit of a surprise for me when I saw it ranking as the #2 most visited post in the last month because ‘Focus Stacking’ is a topic that is a little more nichey/specialised than many of the posts we cover.

  • My suspicion is that the title probably saved the day on this one as it states a clear benefit of reading the post in ‘getting landscapes sharp’. Benefits in titles often work well!
  • When I looked at the stats, I noticed it had two quite distinct spikes in traffic coming into it. This is unusual. Digging deeper it seems that the first spike was due to our newsletter being sent and the second spike, almost a week later, was when it saw a rush of traffic from StumbleUpon.
  • A few of the comments on the post ask for tips on the same technique in other types of post production software – these could make good followup posts.
  • People reading this post stayed on the site about 40% longer than the average visitor to the site – it seemed to get people reading through the post at a deeper level.

3. My Most Common Portrait Mistake

I had a feeling when we published this post that it would do well.

  • The reason being… the posts about the mistakes I make seem to draw readers into the blog.
  • This post did pretty well on Facebook. I’m not exactly sure why but I suspect it was shared by someone with a good following as Facebook sent quite a bit higher numbers of traffic than a typical post.
  • The idea of ‘mistakes’ posts has given me ideas for a series like this but with some of our other regular writers.

4. 20 Photography Tips Every Travel Photographer Must Know

This post succeeded for a number of reasons.

  • Firstly – Travel photography is a hot topic for us on the site. We try to slip in a travel related post every couple of weeks.
  • The title was another reason this post did so well. It signals a ’20 tips’ post, which sounds comprehensive and it makes a claim of everyone needing to know what it contains. These kind of claims always makes people come to see if they know all 20 (you need to be able to back up the claim though with solid content).
  • This post also had some strong imagery, which always enhances the post and helps make it more shareable.
  • Traffic sources were pretty typical on this one (Newsletter and Facebook were most) although it also did quite well with Google+. I managed to track down who shared it and have followed up with that person to thank them.
  • Traffic was also strong because another travel related blog linked to it. I contacted that blogger to see if they might be interested in us writing a guest post for them – it could be a good relationship to have for both sites.

5. 15 Fantastic Freckle Photos

  • These ‘image collections’ always do quite well on dPS so I’m not surprised to see it in the top 5. Our readers love inspirational photos.
  • Having said that, I am a little surprised it didn’t do even better. We often see quite good traffic on these types of posts from Pinterest and traffic from that site was next to nothing. I guess freckles don’t hit the spot over there!
  • Again, this post saw some nice traffic from another blog that I’ve not heard of before which gives me a great opportunity to get to know that blogger and explore how we can work together in the future.
  • Interestingly the ‘time on site’ for those viewing this post was about half an average viewer. Obviously people just scan the post and then move on so while they can be good for traffic they don’t stick around as long as a text heavy post.

That’s just one of the areas that I dig into when I deep dive into Google Analytics. I’d love to hear what you do when you look at your stats and to hear what you’ve found today by doing a similar content related deep dive.