Close
Close

7 Simple Steps to Writing Great ‘How To’ Content on Your Blog

Yesterday I announced our ‘How To…’ group writing project and issued readers of ProBlogger with the challenge to go away and write a ‘How to‘ post for their blog.

On Twitter a number of people told me that they were having a little trouble with writing a ‘how to…’ post because it wasn’t their normal style of writing on their blog so I thought I’d jot down a few tips for writing ‘how to…’ content (something I’ve been creating for 10 years now on my blogs).

How to Write ‘How to’ Content on your Blog

What follows is how I personally tackle writing ‘how to’ or ‘tutorial’ style content. By no means is it the only way to do it – if you do it another way, please tell us about how you approach it in comments below – I’d love to learn from you!

1. Start with a Problem

Perhaps the best advice I can give on writing effective ‘how to’ posts on a blog is to put some time aside to identifying the problems that your readers have because the most effective how to posts are written about actual challenges that your readers might face.

As I’ve already written 11 tips on how to identify reader problems I won’t rehash them all here again – read this post!

2. Break it Down

With a problem or challenge that you want to solve for readers identified now is the time to break down the process for solving that issue.

With a problem in mind I generally take a little time before I start writing to come up with a list of steps to overcome the problem. I personally do this usually but jotting down some bullet points in a notepad (retro of me I know) or in a text document on my computer).

If the problem I’m writing about is more complex I also occasionally will break down the process for solving it using a MindMap (I use MindNode either on my iPad or computer).

I find by identifying what I want to write about before I start writing that I’m much more effective in writing the post because I know where I’m headed!

I also find having this helpful because as I’m actually writing I will often have other ideas for the post (or for followup posts) on the fly and I jot these down on the list so I don’t lose them.

3. Writing Tips

With bullet points jotted down and an idea of how the post is going to shape up I then begin writing. I usually start with a title and an intro (however they rarely end up as I write them at first as I usually go back to it at the end and make it fit what I’ve actually written).

With a basic intro in place I then take each bullet point and begin to expand them.

As I write I begin to get into the flow for the post and make a decision on what style of post it’ll be.

For example with this post I’m writing now I decided as I was writing my previous points that I would break the post up in to sections because I had enough to write on each point that I’d probably be writing several paragraphs for each one.

Alternately if as I started writing I found I only had a sentence to write on each post I probably would have written the post more as a short ‘list’ post with lots of short sharp points.

Or if what I had to write leant itself more to an ‘essay’ style post I’d have written in that form.

I know some people probably determine what style of post to write before they write – but for me I find that evolves after I’ve begun to write!

The writing takes time for me – I will usually have a go at writing the whole post in a sitting but will often then go back to it later and add more, edit some parts and rewrite others.

4. Give the Post a Critical Review

With the bulk of the post written I then give it a read through with a ‘critical eye’.

I don’t want to publish a post on my blogs that isn’t useful on some level to readers – posts just for the sake of posting don’t cut it with me so I read through what I’ve written with a critical question at the forefront of my mind – the question is ‘SO WHAT?’

I got this idea of Chris Garrett who shared at an early ProBlogger Event that he asked himself the question constantly as he wrote to ensure that his posts actually had a point and mattered.

Other questions to ask at this point might include:

  • What’s the Point of this post?
  • What impact will this post have my reader?
  • Will this actually solve my readers problem?
  • What questions will my readers still be asking at the end of this post?
  • Have I clearly communicated what I’m trying to say?

I find that in asking these kinds of questions of what I’ve written that I’m often driven to rework the post to make it more useful.

5. Add Depth

The post is hopefully shaping up at this point and is getting close to publishing but there’s an opportunity at this point to add more depth and really blow your readers away but making it KILLER CONTENT!

Here are a few ways to take a good post and make it great by adding depth to it!

  1. Give Examples – if you’ve got a practical example of what you’re teaching – give it! It’ll take your post out of ‘theory’ land and show readers that your post is practical!
  2. Add Illustrations/Charts/Screenshots/Videos – if there is some visual way to illustrate what you’re teaching you’ll significantly increase the effectiveness of the post by adding them. It’ll also give your post a visual point of interest that grabs their attention draws them into the content.
  3. Add Your Opinion – theory comes alive when you inject a little opinion into your post. It shows that you not only know ‘how’ to do what you’re talking about but that you ‘feel’ something about the subject matter too! Opinion is also great at drawing readers into commenting on your post.
  4. Suggest Further/Related Reading – adding links into your posts gives readers the option to read more. You can do this by adding links into the body of the post when you mention points you or someone else has written about or perhaps create a ‘further reading’ section at the bottom of the post.
  5. Add Quotes – if you can find someone else having said something on your topic – add it in – it’ll add another perspective to what you’re writing.
  6. Interview Someone – can’t find a quote that someone has said on your topic? Ask someone for a comment/quote to add! Send a few people a question or two on your topic and add in their responses. It takes a little effort but can add a lot to a post!
  7. Tell a Story – often ‘how to’ posts can be a little dull if they’re technical or theoretical – so adding in a short personal story or anecdote (a relevant one) can personalise the post.
  8. Add a FAQ Section – during your ‘critical review’ attempt to identify what questions your readers might be asking at the end of reading your post. Add a FAQ section to answer these questions (you might add to this if readers ask more questions in comments)!

Adding depth to a post takes time and effort – but it really can lift a good post to make it great!

6. Format Your Post

My style of writing is one where I tend to be thinking a little about formatting the post as I’m writing. I generally write posts adding in the html heading tags, bolding main points, adding lists as I write – however before publishing I will often give the post a bit of a review to make sure it looks right.

At this point I’ll often find an image or two to give visual interest, add or edit headings and think about how to make the post more easily scannable.

7. Tightening Up the Top and Tail

First and Last impressions count for so much!

Your title needs to grab attention and draw people to read your first line. Your first line is almost as important and needs to draw people to read your next line.

I think about my title and intro before I start writing, while I’m writing and then after I’ve written the post. It is crucial and worth giving time to.

A good introduction should give readers an understanding of what they’ll learn by reading on – however I also think it’s important to give readers a ‘reason’ for them to read on. Personalising the need and helping readers to see why overcoming it is going to give them much more of a reason to actually read what you’re writing.

Further Reading: check out these 8 tips for crafting great blog titles. and check out this post which gives you 11 techniques for writing your opening lines.

Also important is thinking about how you end your post.

With ‘how to’ content one effective way to end a post is to think about calling your readers to some kind of ‘action’.

If you’ve just taught them to do something your post will be SO much more effective if your reader actually implements the things that they’ve just learnt – so call them to DO it.

Giving readers homework or some kind of challenge or practical assignment is going to really do your readers a big favour – which in turn will make them more grateful for the post (and your blog). Encourage them to do something with what they’ve learnt!

Write Your ‘How To’ Post

OK – the time has come to write your ‘how to’ blog post. The only way to improve writing this type of content is to practice it again and again so get to it!

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed – I suggest choosing a small problem to solve. ‘How to’ posts need not be 5000 word tutorials – they could be as simple as a list of 10 steps – each one a simple sentence!

Once you’ve written your ‘How to’ post please share a link to it in yesterdays Group Writing Project so we can see it!

Group Writing Project: Write a ‘How To…’ Post

Update: the competition aspect of this project is over. I’ve listed all the posts submitted (and the winners) here.

Years ago here on ProBlogger we used to run ‘group writing project’ where I’d nominate a style of posts and then all readers would go away and write a new post in that style to practice their blogging… and then would come back here and leave us a link to the post.

The Project had a few benefits:

  1. first and foremost it gave us all a chance to practice a certain style of writing
  2. secondly it was an opportunity for bloggers to show off what they could do
  3. bloggers reported seeing more traffic arrive on their blog
  4. bloggers reported making great new connections with other bloggers

So… it’s time for another group writing project!

This week we’re going to do one of the most popular ones from the past – the theme is ‘HOW TO…‘.

Yes – your challenge is to write and then come back and share a link to a ‘How to…’ post. Update: I’ve since published a 7 step guide to writing How to content on a blog.

Please note – for this project to be of any real benefit to you as a ‘writing’ project it is about writing a new post – not just sharing a link to an old ‘How to’ post that you’ve already written.

Feel free to write a ‘how to’ post on anything that is relevant to your niche.

Prize

To give you a little added incentive to participate I’m going to put up a little prize for one participant who submits a NEW post (sorry but you’re ineligible if it is an older post).

One person who writes a new post and who shares a link to it in comments below before Friday 22nd March at midnight (US Eastern time) will be randomly drawn to win the full library of 6 ProBlogger eBooks (worth $250 if you bought them all separately).

Here’s How To Participate

Here’s how to participate and put yourself in the running for the prize (please note – one entry per person – not per blog and please only submit NEW posts).

1. Write a ‘how to’ post

  • Be as creative as you’d like – take it in any direction you want – it can be on any topic (keep it clean and ‘family friendly please), it can be any length, it can be serious, funny, it can be a list post, a rant, an essay, a pictorial or video post… etc
  • Give your post a good title. Once all the posts are listed it’ll only be your title that sets it apart from others. It doesn’t have to have the words ‘how to’ in the title – but if can if you wish.
  • Feel free to write your post in your own first language – I’ve previously included a number of non-english posts and am excited by the prospect of making this a multi-lingual project.
  • Please consider putting a link back to this post on your post so that your readers know you’re participating. You don’t have to do this – but it’d be appreciated to help grow the project.

2. Let us Know about your post

  • Once you’ve posted your How To post let us know about it by leaving a comment below. Please make sure you include your name, your post title and the URL to your How to post.
  • Comments must be received by midnight on Friday 22nd March to be included in the prize draw.

3. Surf Surf Surf

  • This is where the project has potential to get pretty cool. Surf the submissions received in the comments. Leave comments, make connections with other ProBlogger readers and enjoy reading what others have to say. By surfing each others links you’ll hopefully find some cool new blogs but also make some new connections (which may well lead to people visiting your blog too!

4. Link, Tweet, Share

  • There is no formal ‘judging’ of the ‘how to posts’ received as this is not a competition. Instead – I encourage you to surf through the links left in the comments below and not only comment but share those with your own network that you like the most. Link to them on your blog (you might even like to write a ‘top 5′ post), Tweet out some links to the ones you like or share them on Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn etc. Share a little love and you might find it comes back at you!
  • Probably the best part of the last group project was the amount of inter-linking I see happening between participating bloggers as a result of their posts. It’s obvious that people found new blogs through it and that the benefits of participating was way beyond getting a link here on ProBlogger me but flowed on to a lot of new connections and links between other bloggers.

5. Prizes

  • Over the weekend after this ends I’ll randomly draw a winner and announce them on the blog. Depending how many submissions we receive I may even try to compile them all into a list (although last time we had ALOT so that may be beyond me).

I can’t wait to see how this week’s project goes – your time to start writing starts…. now! Have fun!

Update: the competition aspect of this project is over. I’ve listed all the posts submitted (and the winners) here.

Financial Planning for Bloggers

We all strive to have our personal finances in order.   Managing our financial resources wisely brings peace, security, and allows us to utilize our financial resources on in ways that are important to us.

Proper financial planning requires work and diligence and tends to be more of a continuous process rather than a one-time event that you can check off your list and be done with.

Financial planning is also full of pitfalls for the unwary.  This is especially true for those who have taken the leap to start a small business or become self employed, such as many bloggers.

I discuss below some of the most important financial planning issues faced by bloggers and in particular how those issues change and become more complicated once you become self employed.

Although I am specifically referring to financial planning issues faced by American bloggers, many of these principles will also likely apply to bloggers in other countries as well.

Cash Flow & Budgeting

Managing cash flow is something that many people struggle with, especially those who are self employed.  Salaried employees generally receive a regular pay check that they can count on.  When you are self employed though, your cash flow is likely much less certain and may vary from month to month.  To ensure that you always have the cash necessary to make ends meet, consider doing the following:

  • Set up a budget.  During higher earning months, make sure you are putting money aside to be used during lower-earning months.
  • Create an emergency fund that can be used in the event of a large, unexpected expense so you don’t have to go into debt or pawn your wedding ringThis fund should be liquid and easily accessible in the event of an emergency, but should not be used for any other discretionary spending.  Conventional wisdom says to save at least 3-6 months worth of living expenses in your emergency fund, but the appropriate amount will vary by person.  For the self employed, it may be wise to have even more saved up.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process of putting in place legally effective arrangements whereby a person can accomplish important goals, such as the following:

  • Plan for incapacity
  • Reduce or eliminate potential fees and taxes
  • Plan for business continuity
  • Avoid probate
  • Appoint guardians for minor children
  • Protect assets
  • Spell out healthcare wishes
  • Ensure an efficient distribution of assets

Just about everyone should have an estate plan in place.  It is one of the most important components of a good personal financial plan, yet it also tends to be one of the most neglected.  I can’t tell you how many new clients I have met with who haven’t had an estate plan in place.

This is especially true for the self employed business owner/blogger.  Sadly, it is not uncommon to see people work hard during their lives to create a valuable business only to throw it to the wind at their death.

We may never have our houses burn down and we may never become disabled, but we will all die some day.  Hopefully this is not news to anybody.  If you have worked hard to create a valuable blog, what will happen to it should you suddenly die or become incapacitated?  Additionally, who will take care of your minor children and how and to whom do you want your assets distributed?  Put in place leally effective arrangements so that your personal affairs and your business will be in order no matter what the future holds.

Risk Management & Insurance

We all face certain risks in life.  Some of these are best avoided, while others may be hedged against using insurance or other appropriate risk management strategies.

If you are a self employed blogger, many of the financial risks you face in life are no different than those faced by employees, and many of the commonly used strategies to protect yourself are also the same:

  • Death – Life Insurance
  • Auto Accident – Auto Insurance
  • Fire, Damage, Accident at Home – Homeowners Insurance
  • Health Care Expenses – Health Insurance
  • Disability – Disability Insurance
  • Long Term Care – Long Term Care Insurance
  • Personal Liability – Umbrella/Personal Liability Insurance
  • Dental Care – Dental Insurance

The difference, however, lies in how you obtain this protection.  Employers commonly provide certain types of insurance to their employees as part of their employee benefits, including the following:

  • Life Insurance
  • Health Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Dental Insurance

If you are self employed, you likely still face many of the same risks in life, but you must obtain this insurance on your own.

Small business owners may also be subject to additional risk that an employee may not be, such as certain types of legal liability.  Forming an appropriate legal entity or obtaining additional insurance for your blog/business may be appropriate methods of dealing with these risks.

Retirement Planning

We all know the importance of saving for retirement.  Many employers provide their employees with a retirement plan such as a 401(k) as part of their benefits.  Employees generally have the option of automatically contributing a certain percentage of each paycheck to their 401(k).  Employers may even provide matching contributions up to certain limits.  Most of the work in setting up and administering the plan is done for the employee, so there is very little that the employee has to worry about.

It’s a different story for the self employed.  If you are self employed, you must generally open up your own retirement account or plan.  Nobody will do that for you.

The most common types of retirement plans for the self employed include the following:

  • SEP IRA
  • SIMPLE IRA
  • Solo 401(k)

Each of these retirement plans has its pros and cons, so use one that is appropriate for you.  Learning how to invest and diligently saving for retirement can help you achieve your retirement goals.

Taxes

Taxes are the single biggest annual expenditure for many people.  Taxes significantly affect just about every area of financial planning.

Doing some simple tax planning and understanding some basic tax principles can go a long way in reducing your tax bill and keeping more of your hard earned money in your own pocket.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe we should all obey the laws of the land and pay whatever tax we legally owe.  However, I also know that with a little bit of foresight and planning that amount can oftentimes be reduced.

As a CPA, I spend a lot of my time helping clients stay tax compliant and finding ways to legally and ethically reduce their tax liability.  Unless you enjoy paying for the alcohol at the White House holiday parties, I suggest you also take a close look at your taxes.

Taxes tend to be a huge pitfall for the self employed in particular.  Here are just a few of many issues to consider:

  • Choice of entity:  Are you using an appropriate business entity for your blog?  This will likely affect your taxes as well as other important issues, such as your legal liability.
  • Estimated tax payments:  If you are a self employed blogger and your blog is profitable, are you making periodic estimated tax payments to the government?  If not, you could potentially be charged interest and penalties depending on your situation.
  • Financial and tax recordkeeping:  Are you keeping proper tax and financial records?  If you were audited by the IRS, would you be able to substantiate the positions you took on your return?
  • Employer Identification Number: Are you splashing your social security number all over the internet?  Depending on your particular situation, it may be appropriate to obtain an employer identification number that you can use instead of your social security number.

The Bottom Line

We all strive to manage our personal finances wisely.  Financial planning requires knowledge, diligence, and work.  It is full of pitfalls for the unwary, especially those that have taken the leap to start a small business or become self employed like many bloggers today.

Disclaimer:  It is impossible to give specific professional advice in an article written to a general audience.  The above article is therefore provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional legal, financial, or tax advice.  Should you need such advice, seek out and consult a qualified professional who can give advice on your specific situation.

This post is written by LD, a CPA and CFP® who blogs at Personal Finance Insider. You can sign up for his free personal finance e-course, which covers all of the major topics in a good personal financial plan (including those discussed in this article) here.

Making Money Online – The NEW Standard

A Guest contribution from Nick Thacker from www.LiveHacked.com.

I’ve been a leech for most of my life. By “leech,” of course, I mean I’ve basically existed online as the type of person who consumes considerably more than I’ve created.

But this year things changed. I was, and still am, a student of the Internet age, and I hope to always be. But in January of 2012, I decided to begin giving back to the world that’s educated me for the past ten years.

I started a blog and focused on asking the right questions, rather than finding the right answers.

At first it was a simple “living better” blog, through which I would provide the little “hacks” here and there that helped me get more done, live better, and generally enjoy life to the extent we should. After a short while, though, things started leaning more in the direction of “helping writers write better, and sell more books.” Actually, our catchphrase right now is “On living and writing well,” and we’ve (in my mind) lived up to that mantra quite well.

For me, this blog post is a reflection of my blog’s transition from a moneymaking blog that makes money through helping people to a blog that helps people and generates income on the side. The difference is in some ways minute; semantic even, but the implications are major:

I have been experiencing the “new standard” of making money online in the current world we live in.

Let’s first look at the “old standard,” for comparison’s sake:

The “Old Standard”

Flashy sales pages. You know what I’m talking about – these types of sales pages were “flashy” in the “pay-attention-to-me-or-else” way, and not the “good-looking” way.

Sure, they worked. But the expense was the lowering of credibility toward these site owners – the chase after a quick sale, in lieu of a long-term customer.

These sales pages got the job done – they sold product extremely effectively, and still do. But take a look at the number one grossing sales company in the world (Apple) and show me where they’re using this strategy.

Blogging was used as a means to drive traffic. Nothing more, nothing less. The usefulness of blogging was probably equivalent to the current usefulness of social media – it can certainly help, but it’s a way to drive traffic toward already established sales and lead-capture mechanisms.

Blogging has had a precarious upbringing, however. As some of you “older” bloggers might recognize, the word itself is a mashup of “web” and “log” – literally a log of a person’s current activities; a way of “keeping tabs,” not unlike the type of update Twitter now eloquently provides in 140 characters at a time.

Somewhere along the way it changed into a “reverse-chronological list of information,” ranging from video content to short, sweet, to-the-point rants (props, Seth Godin!).

This transition was great for the industry of blogging, but it hasn’t quite caught hold in corporate boardrooms – heck, even at my last company I was given a project to “generate leads through blogging.” Facepalm.

Emphasis on short-term problem solving. Think back to the last “Internet” product you purchased: was it a teaching or education-based course, or was it a one-stop solve-all-your-problems infoproduct? If it was the latter, it falls into the “old standard” of Internet marketing:

Give the customer the answer, in the form of a one-size-fits-all product that can be sold over and over again, at little to no cost.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this business model. Heck, many companies thrive on this model. The problem for bloggers, however, is that bloggers exist – by definition – in an information-dominant world.

This information dominant world is new, but it’s unfortunately not the same as the “old world.” We can’t rely on telemarketing, direct mail campaigns, and slick TV commercials to sell our products. ­­

Great. So what’s the “new standard” of making money online? What’s the “new way” to create products, generate leads, and make a living?

The “New Standard”

Like most “new” standards, the “new standard” of making money online isn’t really new, nor is it something revolutionary: it’s simply something that’s been working better for its implementers than the models of yesteryear.

Let’s break down this “new standard” in comparison to the old:

Beautiful, web standard design

The new design trend we’re seeing springs from the Web 2.0 style of five years ago, with even more emphasis on beautiful, minimalistic design, focused on getting the information to people as quickly as possible.

Instead of relying solely on the information presented, the current trend in the “new standard” conveys the messaging through super-simple, easy-to-read text in a beautiful, well-presented design. The effect is that we get an idea of that blog’s (or company’s) level of professionalism, which leads to trust.

Beautiful design is a far cry from “showing off,” at least in my opinion – it’s the expectation. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, our readers, site visitors, and our customers expect this level of quality from us.

And why shouldn’t they? They usually have a plethora of options out there to choose from; there’s no reason they’ll purchase from you if your design isn’t attractive or standards-compliant.

Social Triggers

SocialTriggers.com – a perfect example of beautiful, web-standard design.

Emphasis on long-term problem solving.

By reaching out to people, engaging, interacting, and gently pulling people toward your offerings, you’re creating not just a strong focus on them, you’re creating a long-term solution and a full pipeline.

When you focus on always adding value, you’re not just adding value for other people: you’re adding value to your business. Sure, it’s indirect and sometimes takes a while to gain traction,  but the long term benefits of continuing sales, happier customers, and an increase in trust far outweigh the “quick” sales you might otherwise gain.

Copyblogger

Copyblogger.com’s homepage (below the fold). Plenty of easy-to-understand solutions and offerings.

Blogging is used as a means to build trust.

Rather than being used as simply a catalyst for traffic and attention, blogging is now used as a way to further perpetuate the trust that you’ve built up. You’ve done the difficult deed of attracting people to your website; your blog “closes the deal” so to speak by offering amazing, epic content that people highly value.

Your blog is your means to an end, not the end. Driving traffic to it is just a piece of the “trust puzzle,” followed by offering great advice, help, support, or whatever at a great price (free), and then gently reminding people that you’re in business – they can hire you for more of the same awesome stuff!

Think Traffic

ThinkTraffic.net is the epitome of a website dedicated to helping people build trust and noteworthy content – and they’re pretty good at it themselves!

The takeaways, and how to implement this “new standard”:

Here are a few things to focus on as you go about implementing this modern standard of making money from an online business:

1. Focus your design on what the market wants and expects.

I made the mistake long ago of building a site using a template that I thought was cool. It was grungy, new-age, and was a well-designed WordPress theme. Later, I decided to go with a straight-up Thesis theme, unaltered. It looked fine, but it didn’t do anything to help me convey the message of what my site was all about:

Nick's original homepage

NickThacker.com, the predecessor to my current site, LiveHacked.com.

The problem?

I was trying to build a business around my being a “professional,” when well-respected professionals in my field “looked” completely different. Their websites were slightly more corporate, minimal, and didn’t focus on them – they focused on the visitor.

As you can expect, it didn’t turn out so well. I changed my theme, focusing this time on what my target market expected (whether consciously or subconsciously), and the results were stellar.

Nick's new homepage

More of a focus on what LiveHacked.com is about, with a simple yet impossible to miss call-to-action at the top.

2. Focus on “solutions,” not “fixes.”

There was (is?) a wildly successful ebook on the market quite a few years ago called Desperate Buyers Only, and it taught a very important principle: focus on people who are desperate for a solution, in the form of a “quick fix.”

Basically, offer them the “immediate fix” to their problem, and you’re a hero.

This model can work, but what about those of us who are in a market where our target customers aren’t exactly desperate? Maybe they’re struggling with something, or aren’t sure what they’re struggling with, but they’re not quite ready to make a purchase.

In that case, you need to focus on providing long-term solutions. Rather than screaming, “I have what you need!,” try grabbing their virtual hand and walking them through – for free – how you overcame the same problem they’re currently facing. [GL3] For my own blog, I wrote an in-depth “hand holding” post on my favorite piece of writing software, Scrivener.

When it’s all said and done, and they’re emailing you “gee, thanks”-type comments, you can gently mention that you have further support available for an attractive price. It may not be the Glengarry Glen Ross (language) [GL4] solution (it won’t win you “used-car-salesman-of-the-year” awards), but it’ll probably win you a lifelong customer.

3. Focus on creating a massive, amazing resource with your blog – for free. [GL5] 

Keep in mind that there is always another option out there for your clientele. Maybe it’s not exactly what they’re looking for, but rather than trying to persuade them to use your service because it’s the ultimate answer, seek to help them so much it hurts.

Seriously. Focus on providing more and more and more until they give up. “Fine,” they’ll say, “this is clearly amazing stuff you’ve got here – how can I start to work with you?”

That will be the easiest sale you’ll ever make.

I tried to do this with my totally, 100% free fiction-writing course. It’s 20 weeks long, and I tried to pack as much content into it as I could, keeping it actionable (read: immediately usable), valuable, and something that will provide ongoing “replay value.”

Most salespeople (and all of us are in sales) focus so much of their energy and time on sales tactics, tricks to persuade, and conversation segments that are designed to circle around to your solution – “tricking” people into buying from you.

In some markets, this is the expectation, and while it’s usually never fun to buy in those markets, it’s understood as the norm.

The Web has changed to a new norm: a place in which buyers and sellers both have something to lose and something to gain. Don’t smear your brand and reputation on chasing a sale, learning sleazy tactics, or wasting your time with people who won’t benefit from what you have to offer. Focus instead on how you can help, and then – and only then – remind them that you’ve got even more available to them if they ever need it.

The exceptions that prove the rule

Before you think to yourself, “yeah, but” – remember these words:

The “new standard” is already here. You might be in the lucky position of having an outdated marketplace, but know that times are changing. Be willing to adapt, accept that the new status quo might not be what you’re used to, and be ready to change.

The few industries that might not need to bother with this are the exceptions that prove the rule, not the other way around. Truth is, they’re not in an unchanging industry anyway – just one that’s a little slow to accept new things.

Be a leader in your area, especially in the way you’re offering your wares to your people, and you won’t have anything to worry about!

Nick Thacker is a blogger, marketer, and author who writes about self-publishing and selling books at www.LiveHacked.com. He also has a free 20-week course on planning and writing a novel.

What’s Your Reaction to the Retirement of Google Reader?

Yesterday Google announced the retirement of their Google Reader RSS reader product.

I’ve tweeted a little about it but thought it might be interesting to see the response of readers to this news. it seems at least some people are concerned (with thousands signing this petition already).

For me it is annoying to lose the RSS reader that has become a part of my daily reading of new content on the web – however what is of greater concern to me is the impact it could have upon blog readerships.

Last time I surveyed ProBlogger and dPS reader Google Reader was the #1 reader for subscribing RSS feeds among our readers. While there are many other options out there and some of our readers will no doubt switch to another RSS reader I suspect that some will simply give up on RSS.

Last time I checked ProBlogger’s Google Analytics stats around 7.5% of our traffic was classified as ‘Feedburner/Feed’ traffic. By no means the majority of our traffic – but significant (more than comes from either Facebook or Twitter).

While not all of the 7.5% of traffic will be the result of Google Reader it’ll be interesting to see how much of it is once Google switch it off in July!

What do you think?

  • Do you use Google Reader?
  • If so will you stop reading RSS feeds or will you switch to a new reader (if so, which one)?
  • As a publisher are you concerned that many of your own readers will be lost due to the retirement of Google Reader?
  • If you’re concerned – what steps will you take to try to ensure readers transition to other ways of following your site?

ProBlogger Training Event: A Last Release of Early Bird Tickets Today

UPDATE: the 2nd round of early bird tickets (100 in all) also sold out in about an hour. We’ll have more full priced tickets in the coming months. Please sign up below to be notified when they go on sale.

This post was intended to let you know that last night we released a round of Early Bird Tickets for our upcoming Training Event on the Gold Coast in Queensland (Australia).

However the 100 tickets we released yesterday all sold within an hour of us releasing them (without really us promoting it beyond the email list of people who’ve attended before and who expressed interest a couple of months ago).

Tickets sold out so quickly that we’ve had a heap of emails and Twitter messages from people who missed out so we’re going to release one last batch of Early Bird tickets today at 11am (Australian Eastern time).

We will release more full priced tickets in the coming months but if you’d like to come to our event and would like to save $50 add your email address to the form below and we’ll email you with a link to the ticket sales page when they go on sale in a few hours.

About the Event

  • Dates: 13-14 September (that’s a Friday and Saturday)
  • Where: QT Hotel Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia)
  • Price: Early Birds today at $299.99 (see what that includes below). Full price is $349.99 
  • What: 20+ sessions of content on many aspects of building profitable blogs, networking events, a digital pass (audio recordings of the event) and much more.

The price for these Early Bird Tickets is $299.99 (a saving of $50 on full priced tickets) which will get you:

  • 2 full days of training (20+ sessions to choose from)
  • Digital Pass – audio recordings and PDFs of presenters presentations – so if you miss a session you’ll get to hear it later
  • a standup networking breakfast on the first morning
  • lunch on both days
  • morning and afternoon tea on both days
  • networking event in the evening of Day 1 (including drinks and some food)
  • an opportunity to network with hundreds of other Aussie bloggers

Speakers

We’re still locking on our schedule but you can see the announced speakers on our Speaker page. They already include:

  • Jonathan Fields
  • Amy Porterhouse
  • Tsh Oxenreider
  • Shayne Tilley
  • Clare Bowditch
  • Bernadette Jiwa
  • Justine Bloome
  • Darren Rowse

We’ve still got a lot more to announce though!

This year’s event will include a mix of keynote/single speaker sessions, a handful of panels, a few workshops and we’ll also be doing a few short case studies where you’ll hear from bloggers on interesting successes they’ve had in the last 12 months.

What you will Learn at PBEVENT 2013

Topics that we’ve got in our soon to be released schedule include:

  • Building Community and Deepen Reader Engagement on Your Blog
  • Facebook Marketing for Bloggers
  • How to Create Your First eBook
  • How to Create an Effective Media Kits
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • The Keys to Telling your Brand Story and Building an Iconic Brand
  • Blog Design and User Experience
  • How to Build an Editorial Strategy for your Blog
  • Advertising Models – from AdSense to Your own Ad Network
  • What Product to Sell from Your Blog
  • Using Video on Your Blog – Creating, Editing and Publishing
  • The Nuts and Bolts of Selling Products From Your Blog
  • Google Analytics – Understanding Metrics

Plus much more – we’ll have 20 sessions in total!

So if you’re interested in coming along – add your email address below and I’ll shoot you an email when the tickets go on sale:

Lastly – a special thanks to Virgin Australia who have come on as an Event partner this week.

Watch this space for an exciting opportunity to win flights with Virgin Australia!

How to Get More Content for Your Blog

This is a guest post by Kristi Hines.

One of the biggest challenges that bloggers face – whether they are blogging for themselves or their business – is creating enough content. Most people can’t just write a blog post in 15 minutes. Creating quality content takes a major investment of time and resources. If you’re struggling to create enough content, then here are some great ways to get additional content for your blog.

Supplement with Content Curation

If your challenge when it comes to content creation is coming up with original blog topics, then one way to fill up your editorial calendar is by adding curated content.  Curated content is simply compiling and organizing content from other sources into one post. The Ultimate Resource Guide to Guest Blogging and Blogger Outreach is an example – it is simply a list of networks and posts from other sites on how to have successful guest blogging and blog outreach campaigns.

Note that these kinds of posts are not time savers – you still have to find the best pieces of content to curate, organize everything logically, give each piece a description, and compile it all together. But it can be a lifesaver when you’re having trouble coming up with new ideas while giving your audience some awesome content to chew on.

Tips for Great Curation Pieces

  • Don’t only use curation pieces. It might give the impression that you have nothing original to say. For example, if you have five new posts a week, you could consider one curation post per week. If you have one new post a week, you could consider one curation post per month.
  • Think about curation topics that could include one or more of your own posts. In the above-mentioned example, I included a post from the KISSmetrics blog on how to do guest blogging. This can help you highlight your own content as well as others.
  • Use Google Reader to subscribe to your favorite sources. Google Reader has a great search function, so if you wanted to curate resources on a particular subject, you can use the search to find posts from every blog you are subscribed to via RSS.

I’ve found that content curation comes in handy in a couple of ways. For my blog, it gives me a weekly roundup post to rely upon with no inspiration needed. Even blogs like HubSpot and Social Media Examiner have their own version of weekly curated content. And for the blogs I regularly contribute to, it was easy to find content related to their niche to group together in a large lists like 45 Posts on A/B, Multivariate, and Usability Testing and smaller lists like 8 Useful Recruitment Infographics.

Repurpose Content

Another way to create content for your blog that doesn’t include coming up with all new post ideas is by repurposing your pre-existing content. This simply means that you refresh, reorganize, and recreate content that has worked for you in the past. You can also take content in one format (such as video) and repurpose it into another format (such as a slideshow).

Tips for Repurposing Old Content

  • Find your most popular blog posts that are over a year old. You can do this by sorting your WordPress posts by going to All Posts and sorting them by the number of comments. You can also use your Google Analytics and look under Content > Site Content > All Pages. This will show you your top content based on number of views.
  • Break overview posts into several detailed posts. For example, I could take this post and create five individual posts that include in-depth details about content curation, repurposing content, attracting guest bloggers, hiring freelance writers, and connecting with businesses for content.
  • Turn a series of detailed posts into an overview post. As opposed to the above tactic, if you have a series of detailed posts on one theme, you could create an overview posts that summarizes each and links back to the detailed posts. This way, you have a new piece of content and you get a chance to highlight your previous work.

Tips for Repurposing Other Formats of Content

  • Transcribe your videos. If you are creating video content (vlogging, video interviews, video testimonials, video tutorials, etc.), then you can easily turn your videos into blog content by embedding the video into a blog post followed by a transcription of what is said throughout the video.
  • Transcribe your podcasts. Similar to video content, if you are a podcaster, you can transcribe your podcasts in a blog post.
  • Add commentary to infographics. This one you can with your own infographics or infographics made by others. Infographics usually include a lot of information that you may – or may not – agree with. Embed the infographic into a blog post (giving credit where credit is due) and then add your commentary above or below the infographic. Talk about the points you agree with, the points you don’t, and add some additional information that may not have been included. You can see an example of this in my post on Top 25 Hosting Companies that includes an infographic plus additional details.
  • Summarize presentations. If you speak at conferences or simply create presentations for Slideshare, you can embed those presentations into a blog post and further explain the bullet points and slides.

One of my goals for 2013 is to produce more eBooks, but I find it hard to commit to any piece of writing longer than a blog post, especially now that I’m a new mom. So I’m looking at repurposing as the answer by staring my next eBook as a series of blog posts. So far I have 40+ post drafts ready to be written. Once they are done, they will be repackaged nicely into an eBook.

Attract Guest Bloggers

If you don’t have time at all to create yourself, you can look towards outside resources to create content for you. The first (and free) resource for blog content is guest bloggers. Guest bloggers will provide content in exchange for exposure with your audience – they usually just want an author bio that includes a backlink to their website.

Tips for Attracting Guest Bloggers

  • Create a page on your blog with guest blogging guidelines. Title the page “Write for Us: Guest Blogging Guidelines” or similar – this includes keyword phrases that guest bloggers typically search when looking for guest blogging opportunities. Be specific about exactly what you want when it comes to content submissions so you can get the content you want and have a quick response when you receive low quality submissions.
  • Link to your guest blogging guidelines often. Link to it in your blog’s navigation bar or sidebar. Also include a quick link at the end of posts that your blog is open to guest post submissions. If you’re publishing guest posts, include a link at the top where you say, “This is a guest post by…”
  • Share your guest blogging guidelines on social media. If you have a good-sized audience that happens to include bloggers, sharing your guest blogging guidelines page on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ can help you get more guest bloggers.

Tips for Working with Guest Bloggers

  • Be sure to quality check incoming guest posts.  Some guest bloggers are marketers in disguise, and there are bad marketers out there that will submit poor quality content or content that has been published elsewhere. Read the post thoroughly and do a quick Google search for a sentence or two to make sure it is unique content.
  • Make sure you stand by the information presented in the guest post. If you are adamantly against something, you don’t want to publish content by someone else that is for it. If facts are presented without reference, make sure they are true. The last thing you want is to have to defend guest content yourself. This also includes checking the website that the guest author is linking to – make sure it is something you wouldn’t mind your audience visiting.
  • Encourage the guest author to participate in the community. Specifically, encourage them to revisit the post and answer comments. This way you are getting content and community management all in one.

Last year, when I was fully focused on client work, I depended on guest bloggers to keep my blog afloat. And that they did – I had regularly scheduled guest posts two to three times a week. Although I am changing up my blog strategy this year (similar to the ProBlogger evolution), I was grateful to have such great content on my site from many talented authors.

Get Completed Articles

If you want to bypass interacting with writers for content, your next best bet is to look for networks that offer ready to go content. Networks like MyBlogGuest and GuestBlogIt allow you to connect with guest bloggers as well as browse through completed articles that you can publish on your blog.

If you don’t have time to browse through lots of articles, networks like PostJoint let you choose topics and then sends you a daily email when new content is available for you to browse. The email includes the content titles and the first sentence so you can preview them right in your inbox.

Tips for Getting Great Content

  • Quality check. Just like you would do with guest blog posts, you need to quality check articles you are getting from any network for value, accuracy, and whether the content has been published elsewhere. Just because most networks require writers to submit unique content does not mean that they all follow the rules.
  • Visit the websites listed in the author bios. While some article submissions are by bloggers looking for more exposure, others are from businesses looking to market their website. Be sure to check out their links to make sure they are websites you would be OK with your audience visiting.
  • Be prepared to answer comments. Since you are getting whole articles, you won’t be getting the author who wrote them to participate in your community. Hence you will need to be prepared to answer your comments and discuss any points in the articles you post.

If your blog isn’t quite at the stage of attracting guest bloggers, then this might be a good route to go. I also found it useful to grab pre-written, unique content for my blog on the days where my scheduled guest blogger missed their submission deadline. This ensured that my blog didn’t go silent on a day people expected a new post.

Hire Freelance Writers

If you have some money to invest in your blog and are not having luck with guest bloggers, then you can always hire one or more freelance writers. The advantage to freelance writers is that you have more control over what they write and can insist upon edits when necessary.

Tips for Finding Freelancer Writers

  • Invest in quality writers. Depending on your niche, you probably won’t be able to hire $5 article writers. When it comes to quality content, you really do get what you pay for.
  • Look for freelance writers who write for similar blogs. Run a Google search for site:domain.com “freelance writer” where domain.com is a blog that contains content similar to what you need for your blog. This will help you find experienced freelance writers in your niche and give you a chance to see how well their work is received. This will ensure you have writers who understand blogging etiquette and community participation, something you may not get out of the average article writer.
  • Contact prolific guest bloggers. Use a similar searches such as site:domain.com “guest blogger” or site:domain.com “guest post by” to find guest bloggers in your niche who may be looking to earn extra income through freelance blogging.

Tips for Working with Freelancer Writers

  • Be specific about your needs. Unlike guest bloggers, you can be really specific with what you need from your freelance writer since you are paying for their services. Suggest topics, give editorial guidelines, and let them know what you expect from start to finish.
  • Set a schedule. If you want a steady supply of content, you need to set a regular schedule for content delivery. Otherwise, you may contact your writer for a post you need ASAP to find they are already committed to other projects.
  • Pay on time. Just like happy employees produce quality work, happy freelancers are going to do the same. The best way to keep your freelancer writers happy is to pay them on time, otherwise they will spend the time they could be using to create content for your blog to play bill collector.

Though I’ve never hired a freelance writer for my blog, many blog owners and businesses have hired me to create content for them. It works out great because then they can focus on monetization and revenue generating tasks while ensuring their blog is kept up-to-date with quality content.

On to you…

Have you used any of these strategies to get content for your blog? Please share your experiences plus additional tactics for increasing your blog content in the comments!

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and professional blogger who writes about blog marketing strategy at Kikolani. She has also contributed to well-known online marketing blogs including Social Media Examiner, KISSmetrics, Unbounce, and Search Engine Journal. Follow her on Twitter or Google+.

Broaden Your Blog’s Reach Through Innovative Content [Case Study]

This guest post is by Tommy Walker of Inside The Mind

Back in November last year, we ran a crowd funding campaign to bring back Inside The Mind for a second season.

Even though we didn’t reach our overall campaign goals, we learned two very important things:

1. Unexpected success

Our campaign converted at 5.6%. Our goal initially was to raise $100,000 and even though we didn’t reach that, what we did learn was that the people who were watching were very happy to support the show.

When we looked at the sponsors list, we saw many names that we recognized, but there were also quite a few we didn’t. This let us know that we had broken beyond our initial reach with the show, and people who we’ve never interacted with on a one-to-one basis believed in what we were trying to do.

2. Expanding our reach

When we looked at the conversion rate for that campaign, compared to the overall traffic numbers, it started to look a lot like a basic algebra equation.

The “X” that we had to solve the equation for in this case represented broader reach.

The primary way to expand reach, I believe, is through content.

The concept

One of the things that I’ve seen work very well for others in expanding their own reach is to conduct killer interviews, so I decided to give this a try.

My concept, The Mindfire Chats, is a way to conduct multiple interviews at the same time. Here’s an example.

Our panelists come from a variety of backgrounds, yet discuss a subject that shares a core principle with online marketing. This is very intentional as I want to dig into deeper truths about online marketing principles but without the industry bias, jargon, mechanics, or politics.

My brand mission is to bring the concepts of online marketing into the mainstream. Inside The Mind does this by fusing internet-generation humor with top level online marketing advice.

And The Mindfire Chats follow on well from this—it takes that ethos a step further by taking a deeper thinking approach on core principles.

Getting inspiration for the idea

One of the things I realized about half-way through filming the first season of Inside The Mind”was that at the core of all of this, I am an artist.

Yes, I’m an online marketing strategist, but I’m also an animator, composer, on-air personality, writer, video editor, comedian, PR person, and so on.

Because Inside The Mind itself was an experiment (and one I was terrified to try at first), and it went well, I think that gave me a freedom that many bloggers in the online marketing space don’t feel.

I don’t believe my core audience follows me necessarily because of “what I know” and what I share. Rather, they watch because they want to see what I do next to push the bounds of what content is and what it means to be in this space.

That being said, I make a point to interact with most anyone who’s on my email list, so I’ve learned a great deal about who they are, and what they want.

Part of what made me think this content approach would work was that it follows a similar blueprint to what’s proven to work, but it’s different enough to make it unique to me and my brand.

Setting content goals

I have a few goals for The Mindfire Chats. Firstly, I want this content to dig into the core concepts of online marketing from as many different angles as possible.

On our second chat, we had Brian Clark of Copyblogger discuss storytelling with Emmy Award-winning documentarian, Doug Pray, and John Jacobsen, a very well known script doctor who hosts his own show with over 30 million viewers.

Really, no matter what any of these guys say on the subject, it’s not going to be wrong. How could it be, if they’ve achieved what so very few others have?

What makes it interesting though, is when their field experiences start to differ, and tell a different story. It’s even more fascinating when the panelists start asking each other questions about each other’s experiences and you can tell they’re learning from each other.

It shows our audience that even when you’ve “made it,” you’re never done learning. To be able to facilitate the kinds of connections that could potentially push the space forward in a more positive direction is very fulfilling.

Of course, from a purely selfish standpoint, my goal is to cause a ruckus, build a viewership, and get more people turned on to my brand.

We’re also using the chats as an entry point for sponsorship relations for both The Mindfire Chats and Inside The Mind.

The practicalities

I can’t take all the credit for getting this content idea off the ground. My producer Nate Wright of Small Biz Triage is the other half of this, and he’s really the one responsible for the organization of it all.

Because I’ve been active in the online marketing space for the past few years, I’ve built a pretty solid professional network. So basically, setting up the chats was really just a matter of sending out some emails.

In truth, though, getting to the position where that was possible has meant guest blogging like a professional over the years and making a good enough impression with people to the point that they at least know my name (which is important for standing out in the inbox).

When Nate approached me about getting this concept off the ground, we basically compared our rolodexes and started mashing up the panelists.

After sending out the first couple emails saying, “Hey, you interested?” Nate works out the schedule, and gets our panelists all savvy with the Google+ Hangouts. Meanwhile, I’m researching the panelists and coming up with the questions.

That way, when it’s show time, I’m not being pulled in a million different directions, and everyone gets to look as professional as possible.

Technology

The technology that we use to produce this content is pretty simple:

  • webcam
  • microphone
  • broadband connection
  • headphones
  • Google+ hangouts on air (with the Hangout toolbox plugin)
  • Gimp 2.0 for the lower thirds.

Right now I’m using the onboard webcam and the built-in microphone on my Mac for the chats—you can get by with what you have.

I imagine as our sponsorship revenue grows, we’ll invest in better versions of everything, so we can have a consistently high level of broadcast quality, but for the time being, it’s not necessary.

Everything I’m using right now is either built into my computer, or is free, open source software. At most, I might consider using my external webcam, but even that costs less than $100.

It doesn’t have to be expensive to create compelling content.

Getting the word out

When you come up with a new content idea like this, you want to get the word out to as many people as possible.

Right now, in these early stages, my promotion strategy is pretty low-key. I email the list, update the Facebook pages, Twitter, and Google+, and I send a few emails to a few key influencers I know who may be interested.

I tried doing a blitz to some of the bigger online news outlets like Mashable, TNW, RWW, and so on, but I didn’t hear anything back. So instead of trying to do that a million times over, I’d much rather keep a low profile and let this grow more organically.

That said, since I’ve shifted my focus more towards The Mindfire Chats and Inside The Mind, as I work on the guest posting portion of my outreach strategy, I’m asking host blogs permission to embed the relevant content within my posts—but even that is permission-based.

I do what I do because I love making things click for the people who interact with my stuff, not necessarily because I’m looking for manufactured fame. While the goal for the chats is to extend my brand’s reach, I would much rather that be a natural by-product of the content we’re creating than by an aggressive “hey, look at me” strategy.

Sharing the love

When bloggers develop new content ideas, they’re often tempted to keep the content on their blogs, and not to let others use it. But as I said, I’m asking other blogs I guest post on to let me embed a selected chat in the post on their blog.

I think the question of whether you share your content—as in my case, allowing it to be embedded on other sites—has a lot to do with the type of content that’s being published.

I talk about this in the content development episode of Inside The Mind where there are basically four types of content:

  1. viral: content meant to be spread and shared
  2. discussion: content that drives comments
  3. lead: content that gets people to subscribe or fill out a lead generation form
  4. sales: like lead content, but drives people to a purchase over everything else.

That said, both Inside The Mind and The Mindfire Chats are meant to be shared and start discussions. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me where that discussion is going on, as long as it’s happening.

As we saw a moment ago, I have some very specific goals for the video content, and part of that is for it to be shared, so making it easy to decouple The Mindfire Chats from my blog was very intentional.

My thought on the video content is that it’s very difficult to fake being me. My face, my energy—everything about what I do in the videos really … well, it would be really hard for someone else to try and pass that off as their own. On that same note if I point to a URL in the video, it’s much harder to replace that text on the screen, or change the annotations that link to the other videos on my Youtube channel.

So I really don’t mind if someone tries to embed the chats elsewhere—ultimately Youtube gives me more credit for simply having the content embedded.

Of course, if someone were to rip off my lead content, I would be furious. However, by design, my lead content is put in the “less sexy” parts of my website, and takes a little work to get to. I trust that people who want to work with me privately are able to navigate a website if they’re really interested in taking our relationship to the next level.

As a writer online, I believe it’s nearly impossible to avoid someone else stealing, remixing and taking credit for your work. It’s sad, but it’s also a losing battle to try and fight.

On the other hand, as I’ve started to mature as a writer, I’m learning how to allow a real vulnerability into my work and give it it’s own unique voice.

My goal now with the writing that falls into the “viral” and “discussion” categories is to be so good that people want to rip it off.

Quite honestly, when I saw my work get scraped for the first time, I felt a sense of accomplishment that what I was saying was powerful enough that someone else tried to take credit for it.

Now I just make sure I have a strong interlinking strategy so that in case that does happen, I get those links from external websites.

The progress so far

So far, we are meeting our goals with The Mindfire Chats.

We’ve already engaged a potential sponsor, and by the time this post is published, we’ll probably be well on our way with them.

Our second episode is already scheduled to be embedded on some pretty high-profile blogs, and we’ve gotten extremely positive feedback from the people who’ve attended the live sessions.

It’s still all fairly new right now, but it looks like we’re headed in a positive direction that will let us take everything to the next level.

For now, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed, focusing on the next panelists, and asking questions that unearth truly valuable insight.

That’s the secret to creating truly great content—in any format.

Tommy Walker is an online marketing strategist and the host of Inside The Mind and The Mindfire Chats, fresh and entertaining shows that aim to shake up online and content marketing.

11 Tips to Breaking Bloggers Block Through Solving Reader Problems

Problems are OpportunitiesHave you ever had bloggers block? If so – you’re not alone. Almost every blogger I’ve ever asked has admitted to having it at least once!

Below is some practical tips on how to break through it (including a little homework to action it).

Recently I was speaking with a blogger of a ‘how to‘ type blog who told me that he’d been struggling over the last few weeks with coming up with things to write about.

We chatted for 15 or so minutes about a range of things he could do to break through the problem but one that we kept coming back to was the idea of identifying problems to solve for his readers.

“Each problem has hidden in it an opportunity so powerful that it literally dwarfs the problem. The greatest success stories were created by people who recognized a problem a turned it into an opportunity.” Joseph Sugarman

It’s not rocket science but almost every time I sit down to write any blog post on my blogs I start off by identifying a problem that I or my readers have and then try to write a post that solves that problem.

In my experience – when you solve a person’s problem you’re going to create an impression upon them and have every chance of them thinking of you (and your blog) next time they come up against a problem.

Solve enough problems over time for a person and you’ll find them coming back again and again… and bringing others back with them too.

Of course for some bloggers identifying a problem that readers have is easy but for others coming up with a problem every single day to solve is tougher. 

7 Ways to Identify Readers Problems to Solve

In my ‘31 Days to Build a Better Blog’ eBook  Day 16 is all about solving a readers problem and in it I share 7 ways to identify these problems.

Here’s the headings (I write more on each one in the eBook but hopefully just the titles will give you some clues):

  1. Solve Your own problems (what problem did you have a year or two ago that you’ve solved?)
  2. Look for questions in search referrals (what people search Google for to arrive on your site can give insights)
  3. Analyze internal searches (use a tool like Lijit to track the internal searches on your site)
  4. Ask Readers for their Questions (run a survey, poll or even a focus group with readers)
  5. Look on other Sites in your niche (the questions people ask on forums can be particularly good)
  6. Use Social Media to Gather Questions/Problems (this is a gold mind – just do a search on your topic)
  7. Ask Family and Friends (the people around you will often give you great ideas on this)

4 More Tips to Breaking Bloggers Block Through Identifying Reader Problems

Here’s four more tips on how to identify problems among your readers that I’ve not written about previously:

  1. I personally find that coming up with ‘problems’ to solve is easier done when you put aside half an hour or so and come up with a whole heap of them. Put aside time to ‘Brainstorm’ or ‘Mindmap’ the problems your readers might have and come up with a list of them so that you’ve always got a supply of them when you need to write a post. 
  2. I would also highly recommend that you create some kind of system for capturing and recording the problems you see your readers having. I have a folder inside dropbox that I constantly am adding notes to which contain topics, questions, problems etc that I could write about one day. I know other bloggers use physical notebooks while others use apps like Evernote. 
  3. As you’re writing posts be on the look out for tangents or questions you ask yourself while you’re writing. I often find that when I’m writing a post that there are ideas hitting me that I can’t include in the post that I’m writing but that could be good to do a followup post on – capture them!
  4. It is more than ok to come back to an idea that you’ve written about before to build upon. In many ways that is what I’m doing with this post. I took 7 ideas I’ve written about before above but am also adding new material to it based upon what I’ve learned since writing previously on the topic.

HOMEWORK for Bloggers with Bloggers Block

If you have bloggers block I challenge you to put aside 15-30 minutes to go on a ‘problem hunt’.

Choose a couple of the 7 places I mention above (my favourite is starting with identifying my own past and present problems) and see how many you can come up with.

In doing so you’ll also be creating a list of posts to write.

Let us know how you go in comments below!