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The Science of Storytelling: 6 Ways to Write More Persuasive Stories

Guest post by Gregory Ciotti.

When it comes to crafting “words that sell”, the research shows us that stories are among the most persuasive forms of writing out there.

Persuasive writing is an essential part of blogging—there’s no two ways about it. So if you plan on selling anything, connecting†deeply with your readers, or going viral with a post that bares all about your life (like Jon Morrow did), you better be prepared to create stories that actually move people.

Why do stories work so well?

They work because “transportation leads to persuasion,” and as such, if you can capture your reader’s attention, you can nudge them towards being a customer or a brand advocate who supports your business at every turn.

That’s all good and fun… but how exactly can you write more persuasive stories?

Today, I’ve got some academic research that will show you how!

The six elements of better stories

According to some fascinating research by Dr. Philip Mazzocco and Melanie Green, called Narrative Persuasion in Legal Settings: What’s the Story?, stories are powerful because of their ability to affect emotional beliefs in a way that logical arguments just can’t touch.

That is to say, stories get in “under the radar” because we are so open to hearing them. We tend to block out sales pitches or “do as I say” styles of dictation, but stories are inviting, personal, and capture our imagination.

The researchers looked at persuasive aspects of stories in the court room, which is certainly one of the hardest places to craft stories, as you have another person (the other lawyer) trying to shoot down your arguments at every turn.

From their research, Mazzocco and Green found six consistent elements that are apart of startingly effective stories…

1. Audience

As a blogger, you have far more control over this aspect than a lawyer does, so pay attention!

Above, I mentioned a post by Jon Morrow than went viral here on Problogger.net. While the story was an amazing one, a key element of that post that many might miss is that Jon constructed it for a very particular audience: those looking to do what he’s done (i.e. turn blogging into a lifestyle-sustaining business).

Picking Problogger.net was perfect because he knew the audience would be receptive to such a story. He’s done it time and time again—here’s another post on Copyblogger in a similar vein that addresses fighting for your dreams.

How can you implement this critical technique in your own efforts?

The answer lies in finding your target customer (or reader) and crafting your message and content entirely around them. What are their hopes, fears, and dreams? You better know if you hope to stay with them after they leave the page.

If you can’t identify this ideal reader, then who are you really writing for? Without this information, it’s much harder, if not impossible, to tell a really persuasive story: you need to have the right audience in mind first.

If you’re going “off-site” (via a guest post) like Jon did, then you also need to be careful in choosing another blogger’s platform: be sure to write for their audience.

2. Realism

This one may seem surprising, but it’s actually not if you look into the reasoning.

Although fiction stories are popular, the best ones are always easy to relate to on some level. Although you may not be a WWII spy or a dragon-slaying knight, you can relate to the emotions, struggles, and thoughts of the characters.

Roger Dooley put this best when he said:

Even if you are painting a fictional picture with the story, its elements need to relate to the reality that the audience is familiar with, for example, basic human motivations.

Make sure your stories have something the audience can relate to on a deeper level, beyond the events that are being told.

For instance, in Joel Ryan’s article titled, An Unexpected Ass-Kicking, he relays the tale of meeting the inventor of the computer.

The story wouldn’t have gone viral without another element, though: Joel connected the tale to his readers’ own psyches by relating how it’s important to not be afraid of things that “haven’t been done before”, because if Russell Kirsch had believed that, we wouldn’t have the computer today>

3. Delivery

In the same way that a comedian’s timing is practically everything, Mazzacco and Green found that story delivery was critical to crafting a tale people could get wrapped up in.

Delivery is a mix of pacing, flow, and hitting readers with heavy lines at the perfect moment.

One of my favorite examples (in fiction) is how George R.R. Martin, author of the A Song of Fire and Ice series, ends his chapters with a surprising close or a startling realization.

This example isn’t a story, but it perfectly demonstrates my point: Brian Clark’s post called, The Writer Runs This Show is a fantastic demonstration of using dramatic pacing throughout a post.

Note how he interrupts the manifesto with “The writer runs this show,” over and over to drive his point home.

4. Imagery

Did the sun rise, or did the sun’s rays reflect rainbows off of the crisp morning dew?

Interesting research on the matter says that your stories should be describing the latter: the human mind gets swept up in stories only when the visuals are painted clearly.

Transportation (the key to story persuasion) cannot happen if you use vague details and boring language.

You have to craft the scene with startling detail to wrap your reader up in your message: they need to share in the struggle you went through, the joys you encountered, and the doubts you battled.

If you read Benny Hsu’s post on his first iPhone App store feature (and his subsequent $30,000 week), you can feel his excitement with every word; you’re not just getting the play-by-play of what happened.

Let readers see what you’re “seeing” in your tale, and they’ll be more willing to go along with the journey.

5. Structure

While some movies, like Memento, can get away with switching things up once or twice, the classics always follow this one golden rule: keep story structure simple.

People prefer stories that follow a logical manner, for example: elements of suspense are most effective when they’re established early to keep people engaged, plot twists are best saved for the climax, and having a strong ending makes a story more memorable.

This is especially true for writing in the business world. Let your creativity shine through the actual story being told, not in how you decide to structure it.

When you try to get cute with plot structure and other storytelling staples, you’ll risk losing people rather than creating something memorable.

In all of the most popular story-related blog posts I’ve come across, I’ve yet to see a story that defies the classic story structure that focuses on being enticing in the beginning, building up in the middle, and finishing with a satisfying conclusion (and a powerful message).

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

6. Context

While the study referenced the storyteller and the physical environment as important factors in how persuasive the tale was, for online storytelling we have a different set of variables…

For the storyteller, the author of the tale still matters: elements of trust established with the audience and social proof play roles in making a tale believable and easily digested.

As a blogger, you should already know about the powers of social proof, but are you utilizing it in your off-site features? A persuasive story on another site should always include a brief introduction explaining why you’re qualified to tell it, otherwise people will glaze over and block you out.

For surroundings, we now have to turn to a element that strictly applies to the web: design.

According to a fascinating research study entitled, Trust & Mistrust of Online Health Sites, it’s your blog’s design that is most likely to influence first-time visitors about the site’s trustworthiness, not the quality of your content.

A bad design makes people feel like your site isn’t trustworthy, and any storytelling efforts that you attempt will be greatly hindered, so clean up your surroundings!

Your turn

Here’s what to do next…

  1. Let me know in the comments what you thought of this research.
  2. Tell me about one of your favorite stories that you’ve read on the web, and let us know which blogger told it.

Gregory Ciotti is the content strategist for Help Scout, the invisible customer service software for solopreneurs and small-business owners. Get more from Greg on the Help Scout blog.

Increasing Traffic and Engagement … with Fun and Games

This guest post is by Danny Iny of firepolemarketing.com.

When you blog all the time about a certain topic…

…even if you’re still completely passionate about it…

…it can sometimes get a little boring.

You feel it as a blogger, and your readers may feel it, too.

Now, of course, your readers can go elsewhere on the internet for new stimulation, but wouldn’t it be better if they stuck with you?

Or better yet, what if they had such interesting and engaging experiences on your site and with you that they wanted to tell their family and friends about it?

And what if they shared your content with their networks because doing so made them look really good?

This scenario is absolutely possible.

If you can keep enough novelty, challenge, and inspiration coming, your readers will want to spend more of their online time with you, giving you more opportunities to strengthen your relationships and make sales.

But before we talk about all of that, let’s explore why this usually doesn’t happen—even when we’re working our hardest and doing our genuine best to make our blogs worthwhile for our readers and subscribers.

Why the same old stuff gets stale

Do you have a certain route that you follow a lot?

It could be your drive to work, or to your Mom’s house. It’s a path that you travel frequently, and know intimately.

There’s nothing surprising or unusual that happens along this route; it’s the same every day, and if it weren’t hideously dangerous because of other drivers and pedestrians, you could do it with your eyes closed. It’s so boring that you don’t even think about it.

The same thing can happen with any task that you do again and again. Brushing your teeth. Putting on your shoes. And even reading your favorite blogs.

It’s so common—such a habit—that you do it automatically, and don’t really consider what it is you’re doing, or pay attention to the details.

As a consumer of blogs, this is kind of a shame.

As a producer of blog content, it’s absolutely catastrophic. You need your readers to be riveted! And as a reader of Problogger.NET, you’ve made sure you’re not making any of the common mistakes that bloggers make.

So how do you fix the problem?

What you need to do is shake things up a little bit—change the process of engaging with you on your blog from one of providing content that gets read and maybe commented on, to an experience that happens that gets your readers thinking and motivated to act.

One of the best, most fun and most effective ways to do this is through a contest, challenge, or game.

Do it through contests, games, and challenges

What makes a contest, game, or challenge fun?

Well, it lights up areas of your brain that you don’t usually get to use every day—and that’s interesting. Moreover, it’s exciting—your mind has to sit up and take note because, “hey, you’re making me work!”

There are some principles that are common to all successful games, and I’d like to go over them quickly here. The four principles are:

  1. motivation and loss aversion
  2. status and competition
  3. surprise and hope
  4. feedback and reward

Get them to start and keep them going with motivation and loss aversion

When you think about running a contest or challenge, I bet that the first thing you consider is the prize—it’s got to be amazing if it’s going to get people to play, right?

Not necessarily. People are more likely to act because they’re afraid of losing something they already have, then to gain something new.

You can apply this technique when you’re introducing your challenge. Paint a vivid picture of how wonderful winning and participating is. Outline all the benefits participants stand to gain. They could gain the prize, or knowledge, or networking, or glory—just make sure to make them feel like they already have it when you’re writing your description. If you do a good job at this, they’ll play to keep that feeling.

Status and reputation will help them take it further

Once people are playing a game or challenge, they’ll be dying to know how everyone else is doing, and how they stack up against the rest of the competitors. (Even if they’re too cool to admit it, or are just “playing for fun.” They want to know—trust me.)

Take advantage of this by providing frequent updates to contestants, and emphasizing again how wonderful it will be to win—and how possible that is for anyone. Someone who starts out with a strong lead will be desperate to keep it, and those who are only a few points behind another player will want nothing more than to inch up in the rankings.

Keep everyone involved with discovery and surprise

Obviously, not everyone is going to be occupying a top spot—that’s unavoidable. But the people who aren’t can be kept equally passionate and engaged with a little sense of discovery, surprise, and the possibility that this kind of excitement will happen again.

Think in terms of bonus challenges, opportunities to do a little extra, a funny note, a contestants-only joke. These kind of unexpected treats get people excited to be doing what they’re doing, and happy to keep going, even if they don’t expect they’ll win.

Make it worth their while with feedback and rewards

We all like to know that we’ve done a good job—and most of us are mature enough to at least grudgingly accept constructive feedback when we could have done better.

It’s no different in a contest than in life. If you can immediately, or very quickly, give someone feedback on how participants are performing, both on a personal level and as a part of the group, they’ll either want to continue to do well, or prove that they can do better.

Leaderboards and other tracking systems are good for this, as are personal emails, and contestants-only updates. Think of how valuable feedback is in your day-to-day life, and double that amount for your contestants.

Now you are the games master

Yes, the games master. Congratulations—you’re calling all the shots.

…But what shots are you calling, exactly?

Well that depends on what you want.

If you need more comments on your blog post, then run a comment competition. Let your readers know that for the next week or so you’re going to be looking at all of their valuable comments, picking a few favourites, and letting everyone vote on a winner. More comments will come.

If your social media presence isn’t that great, then run a guest post contest with the winner being the post that garnered the most Tweets or Facebook Likes. We did this recently on Firepole Marketing, and generated thousands of social media shares. (Not to mention a record traffic month!)

If your traffic is slow, create a wonderful new piece of giveaway content (for an opt-in!), and let your readers know that whoever directs the most people to it will win a fabulous prize—possibly in the form of your products or services.  For this option you’ll need to set up individual links for readers, but plugins like PrettyLink make that a snap!

A never-ending source of competition

You can use this idea in almost every aspect of your content calendar. You can promote a new product or series, you can use it to make your training and content more interesting and relevant, and you can use it to deliver content and training.

You can do it to teach, to engage, and to just have fun.

That’s what we’re trying to do right now with our Great Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt for bloggers and business owners; we’re using all of the gamification elements I’ve talked about here to teach contestants new marketing skills, to get them to experiment different technologies and techniques, and to help them extend their reach online.

So what are you going to do? What games will you play to boost your traffic, engage your readers, and keep them coming back for more?

Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a the “Freddy Kreuger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works over at Firepole Marketing. Right now, there’s a hugely exciting Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt going on over there, and it’s not too late to get in on the action, expand your reach online, and engage with an amazing community of marketers.

Blog Design For ROI: Keep On Fixing, Keep On Fixing

This guest post is by Gab Goldenberg, author of The Advanced SEO Book.

If you choose to redesign your whole blog in one go instead of adopting little improvements on a regular basis, the odds are that your redesign will be a brutal chore.

Blog redesign

Instead, I’d like to encourage you to review the posts in this series on Blog Design for ROI and pick one area in which you’d like to improve. We’ve covered literally every area of the blog, from your homepage to category pages to posts, to individual elements like sidebars and social aspects like your community, so there’s bound to be something to appeal to you:

Once you’ve chosen where you’d like to improve, do the following.

  • Measure where you stand currently. For example:
    • Use usability testing with three friends to see if they can find your email subscription, and get their feedback on how appealing it is to sign up to your newsletter.
    • To simplify your sidebar, header or navigation use Feng-GUI to get an idea how visually loud they are.
    • Try a tool like CrazyEgg to measure how much and where people are clicking your archive pages, as well as how far they’re scrolling.
  • Write down your theory of why your performance is at its current level.
  • Brainstorm different ways to improve and write all the ideas down (don’t reject ideas at this point, as that will discourage creativity). See which of the tactics in the above articles you can apply, and how.
  • Choose one option to improve and test it out.
  • Measure results and repeat the above.

From my own experience, I can tell you that testing numerous small things and making incremental progress is a much easier—and more effective way—of improving your blog’s design, in comparison to the traditional ‘grand redesign’ method. Similarly, the crowd at Wider Funnel make a good case for the “Evolutionary Site Redesign” process instead of the “Revolutionary Site Redesign” process.

Now it’s your turn: in the comments, tell us which area of your blog’s design are you going to focus on improving? Why did you pick that? And what changes are you thinking of making? Share your goals with us in the comments.

Gab Goldenberg and Internet Marketing Ninjas are developing a book based on this series – get your free copy at http://seoroi.com/blog-design-for-roi/ . You can also get a free chapter of Goldenberg’s The Advanced SEO Book.

 

How to Leverage Blog Comments to Increase Search Rank

This guest post is by Jonathan Solis of NutraSol Natural Center.

When the topic of getting blog comments for SEO comes up, your first thought would probably be to get links to your site by commenting on other blogs.

Well, I usually don’t waste my time with that technique, because most comment links are no-follow anyway.

And I want to bring focus to the comments on my own blog.

Having user-generated content on your site has always been an easy way to gain search engine traffic from long-tail keyword queries.  Comments are a good source of user-generated content containing those keyword phrases.

For the last two years, I’ve been conducting SEO experiments for all types of websites, ranging from my blogs to local business directories, and I have found that user-generated content from the comments section in my health blogs has increased my traffic tremendously.

The site that’s producing the best results for me right now is the Spanish health blog, Informe Natural. I apologize for using a site in a foreign language as an example, but this is the site I reached my conclusions from, and the idea will apply no matter what language you’re blogging in.

How it works

It all started when I began marketing Alpiste Seeds for sale online and featured an article about where to buy them on the Spanish health and nutrition blog.  As people found the page, they began to ask questions in the comments section.

Without realizing it, they were adding to my on-page search engine optimization efforts.

They would ask questions with keyword phrases like, “where can I buy the alpiste seeds in Georgia?” and I would reply with another comment answering the question in a complete sentence that contained the keyword phrase.

For example, I would write “you can order the alpiste seeds by the phone and we would be happy to ship it to you in Georgia”.  I would continue this technique with all the comments and the results were very rewarding.

I ended up getting a high ranking for the Spanish keyword phrase of where to buy alpiste seeds and also the long tail keywords derived from the conversations in the comments section of my blogs.

This technique made that page the second-most popular page on the entire site after my home page.

SEO Blog Comments

How can you do it? Let’s see.

5 Ways to increase search engine rankings with blog comments

1. Provide a call to action

Some people will not comment unless you entice them to.  A good technique is to write a call to action at the end of your article that tells readers to feel free to leave any questions or feedback in the comments section of your post.

2. Reply to all the comments on time

If you give a prompt response and reply to the comments, other users will see that you are involved in the conversation and they will be more likely to ask questions too.

3. Know your target keywords before writing your comment

Make sure you know what your target keyword is before you respond with your comment.  This may seem obvious but it can easily be overlooked.  Do keyword research to find the words that are used more often by searchers.

4. Use complete sentences in your comments

As I stated earlier, answering in complete sentences gives you a reason to use your keyword phrases more often naturally, which helps you avoid making it look like a spammy attempt to increase keyword density.

5. Reply to comments with another question

When you reply to the comments, try to reply with questions so that you will get another response and, therefore, more user-generated content.

Are you using comments for SEO?

Leveraging blog comments is an effective way to get more traffic from search engines.  They are a great source of long tail keywords which account for about 85% of search engine traffic. And best of all, they are acquired from the users directly.

Do you use your blog comments to boost the search rank of your posts? Let me know in the comments.

Jonathan Solis is the owner of NutraSol Natural Center and Director of marketing for Expert Building Services, inc.  He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and he also has a blog where he often writes about professional business strategiesProfessional Tactics.

The Dos and Don’ts of Weight Loss Blogging for Beginners

This guest post is by Karol K.

There’s a popular trend on the internet these days among people who have taken upon themselves to lose some weight. I’m talking about starting a weight loss blog.

The idea in itself is perfect. You get a place to document your progress, talk about the things you’re doing, get additional motivation by interacting with other people through comments (also great for getting additional tips from them), and finally, you’re making your journey public, which is sure to improve your success rate all by itself.

There are some problems, though. The weight loss blogging space is really heavy on purely promotional sites, deceptive sales messages, or even scams desired solely to earn some quick money.

All this makes it really hard to build a credible brand that stands out from the crowd.

That’s why I decided to create this quick tutorial to show you some things you can and should do ASAP, as well as other practices that are better left alone—unless you want to be mistaken for a spammer.

The light side of the force

Before I get to that, let me take a minute to list some people who do this the right way. Here’s the light side of the force (so to speak), just as an example on how weight loss blogging should be done.

  • MindBodyGreen.com: MindBodyGreen was founded by Jason Wachob, Carver Anderson, and Tim Glenister—all wellness experts and enthusiasts. Their team is one of the best in the business. From top yoga instructors to wellness gurus, and weight loss experts, there’s something for every interest and ability level on this blog.
  • NowLoss.com: A very successful blog in the weight loss niche by Andrian Bryant. NowLoss.com now helps over 1.5 million monthly visitors look good naked by losing weight, getting curves, and/or building muscle. NowLoss.com is the #2 weight loss website in the world behind commercial giant Weight Watchers.
  • WorkoutsForHome.com: In her blog, Susan invites us to join her in Operation Awesomeness and lose weight fast, right from home. She is here to teach you everything she knows about becoming awesome…
  • Does This Blog Make Us Look Fat: A blog founded by Rebecca Regnier—an Emmy-winning television journalist and author of “Your Twitter Diet,” available on Amazon. The blog’s mission is to teach you how to lose weight in a way that’s suitable for you individually (whatever weight loss steps you take, Rebecca supports you).
  • A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss: A blog where you can join Erika in her journey from 330lbs to personal trainer. Everything she shares comes from her personal experience. An great blog with lots of personal touches.

Now, let’s focus on how you can join the ranks of these quality weight loss blogs.

Do use your own name and personality

These days people don’t have that much trust reserved for websites talking about weight loss. With so many poor affiliate blogs around—blogs publishing low quality content purely to promote other products through affiliate links—you never know who’s for real and who’s in it just for the quick buck.

One of the common things such marketers do is that they never use their real names. Instead, they showcase some lame brand name, like LoseWeightTacticsBlog, or something.

The easiest thing you can do to differentiate yourself from this crowd is to prove that you’re a human being by using your real name. Then, go one step further and display some actual photos of you (either taken by you or your friends; nothing too professional-looking).

When your audience sees your face on the blog, they will know that you are a real human being who genuinely cares about the content they publish.

Don’t promise

Whenever you want to endorse something (a product or service) be careful about promising any kind of results. This is something spammers do every day. They publish loads of promises, great looking success stories, and even fake before-and-after pictures.

People are very careful now when it comes to believing any sort of promises. Whenever you say that something will bring massive results you’re immediately becoming suspect.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t endorse anything. But do it only when you are absolutely sure that the product is of great quality. You have to experience the results yourself, otherwise you won’t be believable.

Do pick the right name

This is about the name of your site.

Now, you can take one of two possible paths here:

  1. Get a custom domain at godaddy.com (or some other registrar) and your own hosting account.
  2. Register your blog at wordpress.com and get a free subdomain.

Both approaches have their pros and cons. The first one is obviously more expensive. You have to spend $10 a year for the domain, and around $6 per month for hosting.

But what you get in exchange is better credibility and a more serious look from the get-go.

The second path is quick and cheap. You can set up a new blog within minutes, but its address will end with .wordpress.com.

This is up to you, but make sure to go with a good name. Whatever you do, don’t make it seem spammy. For instance, WeightLossTacticsBlog is spammy. MagicWeightLossToday is too. LosingWeightWithKaren is not. There’s no rule of thumb here. Always go with your gut feeling.

The consequences of getting this wrong can be serious. If people see your blog’s name as spamm—as a hidden marketing pitch of sorts—they won’t believe a thing you’re saying.

Do build credibility

As I said before, trust is the rarest commodity in weight loss blogging. If people don’t trust you, they won’t listen to your advice, and might even find it hard to believe your stories.

There are some ways to boost your believability rate, so to speak, and your trust:

  • Use your real name and display pictures of yourself (already discussed).
  • Try storytelling and sharing personal insights. This is where you get to describe genuine stories that are taking place in your life (related to weight loss, obviously). People love stories, and it’s the ultimate way to prove that you are real. If people can relate to what you’re saying, they will surely pay attention. Make every post you publish personal to some degree.
  • Display trust elements. “Trust elements” sound fancy, but what I mean is quite simple. Whenever other website mentions you in one way or the other, put their logo in your sidebar and label it “Websites talking about me” or something similar. The point is to prove that other sites see you as a real, credible person. If you don’t have any of those yet then don’t worry, the day will come.

Don’t talk only about good things

One of the main giveaways that we’re dealing with a weight loss marketer rather than a real person is the fact that each post only touches upon the positive side of things.

As in life, in weight loss, too, there are good and bad days. Good and bad products. Good and bad people.

You can create much additional credibility when you share a message that’s not that positive, but is still 100% real.

Only the strongest people are able to share a negative story and be confident about what they’re saying at the same time.

Don’t use too many ads

Advertising is the most intuitive way to monetize a website. Essentially, I’m not against advertising. If there is a possibility to earn a couple of bucks from your blog then I believe you should take it.

However, be careful not to make your blog overloaded with ads. Such situation will bring your credibility down very quickly. Just one block for AdSense ads (or any other provider) in the sidebar is really enough.

Do publish only real reviews

You can skip this if you’re not planning on publishing any reviews. If you are, keep reading…

The main problem with reviews online is that a big chunk of them is simply fake. Every day countless marketers publish reviews of crappy products without even having those products in their possession.

This is especially visible in the weight loss space where, as we all know, there are hundreds of products available … pills, diets, training programs, training equipment, DVDs, you name it.

That’s why if you’re going to write a review, you should remember a handful of things:

  • Always list the bad sides of the product (there surely are some).
  • Provide pictures of the product taken by you (or better yet, pictures of you using the product if that’s possible).
  • Get in depth to the core benefits the product delivers.
  • Don’t quote any of the information from the product box or the official website.
  • Give an honest final opinion.

Do publish different types of content

Most of the time, spam-bloggers publish only simple 400-word blog posts providing no actual advice. You can differentiate yourself pretty easily by looking at the topic of blogging much more broadly.

Some examples, besides the traditional blog post:

  • Your progress update. If you’re on a weight loss program yourself then you can share your weekly progress updates. I guarantee that your readers will love those.
  • “Meal of the week” or something like that. Provide a complete recipe.
  • “Task of the week.” This is where you can set a goal for the week and update your audience on how well it went. For instance, your goal could be to exercise at least 20 minutes a day.
  • Interviews. If you can have a talk with someone knowledgeable about a given weight loss-related topic, your audience will surely be glad you shared this.
  • Reviews, as discussed above.
  • Off-topic posts. This is where you get to connect with your audience more broadly, by sharing something that’s not related to weight loss, yet still relevant to you as a real person.
  • “Ask the readers.” This is where you ask a question and your readers respond through comments. Then you can round up the most interesting answers and publish them in another blog post. You have to have a big enough audience to make this work, though.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think about using a blog as a way to document your weight loss story? Are you a weight loss blogger? What tips and advice can you share?

Karol K. teaches how to save on the popular Flex Belt, and discusses the basics of TRX training (learn more). He contributes articles on fitness training, working out, and losing weight in general. He also enjoys writing occasionally for WeightLossTriumph. He’s a fan of healthy living and being in shape no matter what. In his personal life, he proves that one doesn’t have to struggle to be healthy.

The New Writer’s Guide to Evaluating Websites for Guest Posting Opportunities

This guest post is by Traian of Pitstop Media Inc.

Almost every article written after the infamous Panda and Penguin updates has suggested guest posting as a viable and effective technique to increase authority with search engines, improve organic search visibility, generate leads, and build authorship.

As you can see, there are quite a few benefits to guest posting, but you have to do it right—start small and then grow big.

What most people don’t realize is that it’s almost as easy to go wrong with guest posting as it is with any other content marketing technique. There is no guarantee that just because a website is accepting guest posts, it is reputable or credible.

It’s also now evident that Google has no love for low-quality sites and inbound links from them.

So, when it comes to guest posting, you have to ensure that you associate your name and brand with authority, or at least quality, sites only.

If you want to guest post the right way, you need to know from the beginning that it’s a time- and resource-consuming process. But it’s also one of the best investments you can make to build your reputation online.

Evaluating guest posting opportunities

Finding the most valuable guest blogging opportunities on high-authority sites takes time. You have to nurture a relationship with the blog owner, and that means human interaction, not automated emails.

But if you’ve just started building your reputation, you can’t approach authoritative bloggers yet, because you’ll have no evidence of what you can write about, or how well. If you approach them at this stage, you will probably get a low response rate.

Instead, focus on blogs with small and medium levels of influence (Twitter followers, blog subscribers, likes, +’s and so on).

Contrary to what many believe, finding such guest posting opportunities does not have to involve hours of research. When approaching small blogs, you don’t have to put yourself through the cumbersome process of pitching your guest posts to famous bloggers in niche-related blogs. You will get refused, but it won’t hurt as much as being refused by an online influencer.

Once you build a bit of a reputation and learn from your mistakes and feedback, you can gradually approach the bigger players.

For the lowest hanging fruit, register on popular sites like MyBlogGuest and BloggerLinkup that offer members a platform to announce niche-specific guest posting opportunities and to solicit proposals. Keep in mind that these are also populated by offers that are not worth considering.

Once you have shortlisted a few guest posting opportunities with influence, the next step is to make sure that the site you agree to write for is credible.

The following checklist will help you determine their standing.

Check the site’s integrity

While you cannot guarantee that a website will always stay online, or that a link from it will never be de-valued, there are precautions that you can take to minimize the chances of those things happening.

Integrity checklist

  • Check the website’s PageRank. Don’t automatically dismiss lower PR sites. Sites with low PageRank (below 3) should be checked for other metrics. Dismiss anything that’s not ranked, has a PR of 0, or gray PR on the toolbar.
  • Ensure the website is backed or owned by an organization/individual with a physical address.
  • Ensure the website has clearly stated editorial or business objectives.
  • Ensure the website has a clear design and a sitemap.
  • Ensure that the About page clearly states who the owner is.
  • Check site:sitename.com in Google to see if the site is banned from the SERPs (no results means a Google ban).
  • Check for the site/business name. If it’s not showing, there’s a problem.
  • Ensure that the website is not a blog network. Blog networks don’t usually have contact details and viable About pages.

Look for social signals

Check for the website’s presence on social media sites. For instance, it should have an active Facebook page with a decent number of Likes, and the owner should have a respectable number of Followers on Twitter and/or G+, and/or have an active LinkedIn profile.

Of course, these are no guarantees of credibility, but they can certainly be considered points in the website’s favor.

Find the number of RSS subscribers

To accomplish this, either refrence the data displayed on the blog, or identify the number of subscribers using Google Reader (this is not as accurate a method, though).

To use Google Reader: login, go to Browse for Stuff, and then Search:

rss

For an in-depth article on how to find this number you can read the article Using Blog Subscriber Metrics for Better Outreach Decision Making.

Check content quality

A look at the top two to three posts hosted on the website will give you an idea of the blog’s quality. If most of the posts look spammy, are badly structured, or are just generally low quality, you should be wary.

Also, if you see more ads than content on the website, it’s a good idea to give the site a miss.

Check competitive data sources

Try Compete, Quantcast and Alexa, but be aware that none offer completely accurate data. Look for absolute numbers, but also for trends.

This alone will give you a lot of information and help you decide whether or not the website is worth guest posting on.

Checking Alexa rank

Trending shows that this site is growing (wonderful, that’s our site J)

Alexa.com reveals metrics like:

  • Social Reputation: the number of inbound links a site has
  • Time spent: how long visitors stay on the website, and how many pages they view
  • Demographics: the profile of visitors that frequent the website
  • Keywords: the list of keywords that people have used to search for the website.

The demographic and keyword information will help you decide if a particular site’s visitor base matches your blog’s target market profile.

Visitor time investment and social reputation will give you further clues about the quality of the website.

It’s worth the time

Putting every potential guest posting opportunity through the full checklist might sound like a lot of work. But, in practical terms, all you’ll have to do is this:

  1. Enter the website name +Facebook/Twitter/G+/LinkedIn to check social signals.
  2. Check if the website has a working About page and a contact address.
  3. Spend five minutes reading through the website’s content.
  4. Enter the website URL into Alexa.

The whole process won’t take too long. In any case, it’s better to spend ten minutes on the checklist, than to waste hours writing for a website that is penalized or banned, or doesn’t have an audience.

Keep records

This comes last on the list, but it’s actually critical. Every interaction with a site owner has to be recorded for future reference. Nowadays I use Buzzstream to keep track of my guest blogging initiatives. I used to use Excel but things get very complicated very quickly.

This article is just the tip of the iceberg for guest blogging, but it should at least provide a quick checklist for selecting the right guest blogging partners.

Writing the content to win them is the other part of the story and one that’s been covered here at ProBlogger many times.

Traian is Director of SEO and co-founder of Pitstop Media Inc, a Canadian company that provides top rated SEO services to businesses across North America.

Partnering With Another Blogger: The Complete Guide

This guest post was written by Yoav Vilner of Ranky.

“Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”—Hellen Keller

If you are a genuine pro blogger, then I shouldn’t waste your time explaining just how important it is to co-operate with your competitors.

It’s been mentioned around here over and over, in so many different variations.

It’s crystal clear how beneficial a blogging alliance would be for you: you can grab your partner’s traffic, social followers and social signals in return for letting him or her borrow yours.

Sounds like a treat, doesn’t it?

But much like trying to produce a mega-successful content marketing campaign, most of us can see the benefits in doing it, yet can’t put our finger on just how to get there.

This tutorial won’t toss reckless slogans in the air; it will turn you into a partnership expert, and teach you how to ignite that one relationship that could change your blog forever.

We’re all human

Your first and most basic takeaway from this piece of content should be to understand that we’re all human.

I am not going to drive you into bugging big shots on Twitter just for the sake of equality, but try remembering that even Pete Cashmore started off as a one-man-with-a-laptop-show, blogging about his passion, before unleashing his brilliant networking skills and creating the empire known as Mashable.

So you might not see the point of re-tweeting his keynotes from where he’s standing now—you’ll just be another fish flapping around the gigantic ocean, right?

But just for fun, imagine if you offered him a fascinating opportunity for co-operation right before Mashable’s big breakthrough.

Imagine you’d messaged him when Mashable was still a medium-sized blog, seeing a mere 10,000 visitors a month, only to get the green light: “Sure man, let’s do this!”

Where would your blog be today?

Remember: don’t be afraid nor shy to address bloggers who you might think are bigger than you. Our blog has an overall of 12K adorable social followers; do you think that it could keep us from partnering with a blog that carries an audience a third of that size?

Don’t research

Hear ye, hear ye! I hereby deny the research phase of finding your future partner! Read all about it!

Logic says that if you are blogging right now, it’s probably because you have followed blogs for at least a year, and have developed an appetite for blogging.

You’ve done enough “researching” when Googling for popular blogs, finding the ones that captivated you and made you follow them on Twitter—or better yet, contained posts that you shared to your Facebook buddies and tried creating discussions about.

They taught you all you wanted to know about your niche, whether it be social media marketing or deer hunting, and made you dream about becoming a blogger yourself one day.

You can’t think of two or three blogs that captured you right from the start? Then I would suggest you hold on to your blogging dream for the moment, until you become a more active follower of the blogosphere.

After all, you wouldn’t go and open a restaurant if you’d never actually had dinner in one, right?

I’m not writing this tutorial for people who plan on sending 100′s of automated Emails to all the blogs in their niche, but to a lot more focused bloggers.

It takes two to tango

So you have in mind a few blogs that you fantasize about partnering with.

Now, most of the blogging alliance articles online consist of tips on how to address that future partner of yours.

I find them to be completely useless. We aren’t in second grade, and we don’t need anyone to teach us how to compose an email.

I can summarize 100,000 words that I’ve personally read about writing a winning email to these obvious pointers:

  1. Make it personal: no “Dear Sir\Madam.”
  2. Prove that you are an actual follower of the blog: state just what value the blog has provided you so far, and which articles within it actually made you think.
  3. Get to the point quickly: no story-telling!
  4. Remind the blogger that it takes two to tango, and both of you should benefit from the partnership.

I just saved you hours of reading these tips in many different variations. The truth is, you don’t even have to follow them! Just remember one simple rule: be honest.

In a world dominated by one search engine, we all know Google rewards bloggers for being honest with their readers, but tend to forget that actual people can reward us even more for keeping it real.

Points of partnership for a blog the same size as yours

So you emailed the blogs that you dream of partnering with, and one of them replied asking for more details.

Great! Already you have showed more progress than 80% of people who do it wrong and don’t get a single reply.

Now, you need to elaborate on what you had in mind. Let’s take a look at the most popular ways of co-operating with a blogger.

Writing content for each other

I’m going to start with the most obvious idea, just to get it out of the way.

Google wants to see that your site is ever-growing content wise. Meanwhile, we are all very busy, lazy, and constantly seeking inspiration, and that’s where some co-operation could help out.

Though writing your own stuff is the only way to earn your crowd’s trust, just imagine how great it could be to have your partner-blogger help you out with your writer’s block and the content gaps that appear when you’re not able to write for a few days.

He’ll write an article from his angle, and once it’s up he’ll promote it to his social followers for you.

Then, when he gets stuck the next time, you’ll help him out the same way.

Both of your blogs’ readers will appreciate the diversity—sometimes it’s quite refreshing to read someone else’s opinions when following a single-author blog.

While you use your content to brand yourself as an expert in the field, uploading articles to the partner’s blog will get your “brand” in front of a new group of readers.

After exposing them to your name for the first time, you’ll start writing for the other blog on a monthly basis, say, and they will slowly realize that you know what you are talking about.

Social co-operation

We all need social signals on our articles.

They increase the chances of getting the post to go viral, they expose thousands of people to your headline and thus to your site, and in overall they just make your content seem more believable. (Would you believe an article that has been re-tweeted twice, or one that has been shared 200 times?)

Other than driving traffic, social signals have a direct affect on your site’s Google Authority, as Google started measuring these metrics in its algorithm.

If you have 2,000 social followers, and your future partner has 1,500 social followers, this would be a perfect case for a social alliance that will help you both cross the 3,000-4,000 line just by sharing each other’s stuff.

Assuming you both have social bookmarking profiles, use Reddit, Digg and StumbleUpon to bookmark each other’s posts. Use Facebook, Google+ and Twitter to share your partner’s articles to your own followers.

Not only will you help him reach more readers, but that way you can get his article to be indexed by Google much faster and help it rank higher for its keywords.

A bonus benefit of a social co-operation is that most of us share our own content 90% of the time, without realizing that a better practice would be showing our followers that we aren’t a bunch of boring narcissists—we are also open to other people’s opinions.

Remember: making your partner’s blog socially stronger will directly make your own blog stronger!

Comments

It’s not enough to socially adore your partner’s blog: it’s also important to light up discussions within it.

It takes only one real comment on a post to ignite a viral discussion, and agreeing that you will both start or contribute to discussions on your articles can do wonders for your blog’s traffic and engagement levels.

This is social proof at its finest.

If you’re traveling and you need to decide whether to have a coffee at the empty place in front of you, or the packed place next door, you will probably choose the one that has the crowd.

Customers bring more customers, and the same goes for comments.

Make a rule to leave a genuine comment on each new post your partner writes, and you will see the results for yourself.

Mentions

This is my favorite idea, and it comes in two forms: backlinks and Thank you pages.

Backlinking to your partner’s relevant pages from within your new articles can do wonders for their Google rankings, and you can also benefit when they return a link.

Just remember to keep it clean and natural, as Google’s Penguin update from last August has massively increased the search engine’s ability to identify unnatural and low-quality reciprocal linking patterns.

The other kind of mentions that I like are those that come through Thank you pages.

Your readers get (or at least should get) to a Thank you page after they register, login, subscribe to your newsletter, or perform any other desired goal.

Imagine how beneficial it could be for you and your partner if you mentioned each other’s blogs as a recommendation each time a user completes such a goal.

Points of partnership for a blog that’s bigger than yours

Blogs that are at a higher traffic level than yours will likely need a lot more convincing to agree to an alliance offer.

After all, if you’ll be tweeting their content to 1,000 followers, while they’re tweeting yours to 30,000 followers, it can be difficult to see what they’ll get out of the partnership.

It’s important that your points of partnership are unique, as the bigger a blog gets, the more similar requests its owner will get per day.

Offering a free service

Do you have expertise besides blogging? Great!

Use that expertise to offer the bigger blog free services in exchange for a blog partnership.

You will naturally have to donate more time and effort at the start of the partnership, but when you’re calculating long-term ROI, both sides can gain much from this alliance.

Are you a graphic designer? Throw in a few free graphics to save the partner’s cash when they’re designing their next landing page. You know solid SEO? Awesome: make them a nice SEO report for their site at no charge.

The list goes on: you could be a social media expert, a mobile App developer, or even a t-shirt provider.

The bigger your partner blog is, the more you should be willing to provide at no cost in return for an alliance.

Volunteer to be the blog’s editorial assistant

If you got a reply from a blog that’s significantly bigger than yours, you might want to consider volunteering as an editorial assistant.

If they go for it, you will save the blogger a load of time answering to guest post requests, editorial emails and different kinds of inquiries. You can be the one answering all the guest posters, supplying them with the guidelines, and making sure their submissions are up to par before passing them to the editor.

Extra benefits

So you’ve started co-operating with another blog, and you’re doing great. You get twice as many social signals, your traffic has jumped and your brand is growing beyond your wildest dreams.

The good news is that it doesn’t end here.

Life is unpredictable, and you could end up running into amazing business opportunities just by forming a simple online alliance.

If you and your partner come up with a really creative partnership or a mutual product co-operation, it could be so newsworthy that it gets picked up by major news outlets in your niche—and that’s when you’ll see some serious traffic spikes.

If you and your partner blogger are both social media experts, and your alliance has earned you both more business leads, you might come to the conclusion that there’s something to it, and start a new business as real-life partners.

If you have been volunteering as an editorial assistant for a massive blog for a few months, gained their trust, and shown that your own blog is also growing, your blog might be acquired by theirs—giving you the chance to earn more money from the deal than you ever imagined.

Last but not least, partnering with a blogger can earn you what money will never buy—a new best friend.

Have you got a blogging partner? Tell us how you work together in the comments.

Guest post was written by Yoav Vilner, co-founder of Ranky.

The Beginner’s Guide to Outsourcing Video Content Production

This guest post is by Leslie Anglesey of EssayTigers.

Does it make sense for blog owners to include video in their posts? It sure does!

Your posts should include all types of interesting content to engage and entertain readers, and this can definitely include videos.

But rather than trying to do all of the work yourself, get smart about your time and consider outsourcing your video content by partnering with a reliable provider.

Research for reliability

How can you find a reliable service? You do your homework.

  • First of all, consider how much content you will need each month, as this will help you determine the costs you can expect to pay for each service.
  • You will also want to ask about content storage volumes and delivery.
  • Support is an important issue. Find out whether you would contact the provider by email or phone, and how long you would have to wait to get a response if you need to rely on email as the preferred contact method.
  • Price is another important consideration for any business owner, and you need to make sure that you are getting good value for the money you’re spending. Consider the following services if you are interested in outsourcing your video content in addition to writing posts.

In finding companies to consider, ask other bloggers for recommendations. Word of mouth can be a great way to find the service that you need.

The companies you are considering should have samples of their work posted online that you can review. When you are checking them out, make a point of looking at the quality of the sound and lighting. These two factors will tell you whether you will be getting a good quality product.

A few options

Here are a few outsourced video services that I’ve come across, and which you might like to consider.

Viddler

The Viddler video platform allows users to upload videos one at a time or in batches. You can record your video from your webcam directly into your Viddler account.

It’s an easy and convenient method for getting your message out to your readers. This company has been in business for six years and has processed over 22 million minutes of video since its inception.

It offers iTunes syndication and RSS feed, as well as embeddable widgets, so you can imbed your videos into your posts.

Pricing starts at $42.00 per month with an annual subscription. You also have the option of paying $50.00 on a month-by-month basis for this service. At this level, you would be provided with email support. Customers who choose a higher level of service would be entitled to email and phone support.

ReelContent

ReelContent is a UK-based company that offers video production services on location or in its studio. The company also offers editing services to its clients.

If are looking for highly polished video content to complement the blog posts you are writing, you may want to consider this type of option. The company has experience shooting content for news items, reviews, interviews, guides, and product demonstrations.

BlissMediaWorks

BlissMediaWorks targets the small and medium-sized business market. The company offers flexible video services that can be adapted to suit your needs.

Services include adding real footage, graphics, and animated text into a video. They can even include music and sound effects if you wish. The company will even post a video direct to YouTube as a special service to drive traffic to your blog.

Audio Concepts

Audio Concepts offers web videos as one of its services. If you are looking for a way to establish yourself as an expert in your niche, adding a series of videos to your blog is an effective way to enhance your online reputation.

Invite visitors to visit your blog to view the next installment to get more information about the topic you are discussing. This is an excellent way to tell a story and really connect with your visitors.

SmartShoot

If you know what you want in a video service, and are prepared to review multiple quotes for your video project, you can post it on SmartShoot.

This online marketplace will connect you with filmmakers and photographers who will put up bids for your job. You then choose who you want to work with.

What are you waiting for?

Adding video to blog posts is an excellent way to give your writing a boost. You can connect with your readers in a new way, and give the search engines something different to index from your blog.

This type of content is, of course, very popular with readers and may result in more shares on social networking sites. If your goal is to have more people liking your posts on Facebook, stumbling them on StumbleUpon, or tweeting them on Twitter, you will want to include video content on your blog more often.

It’s a good idea to get in front of your audience to let them see and hear from you, too. People want to know what you look and sound like so they can get to know you.

If your goal is to be seen as an expert to promote your business and get higher conversion rates for a product or a service, you need to be seen as someone your readers know and trust. The video messages are a good way for you to accomplish this goal.

Finally, remember: your videos don’t need to be lengthy. Anything from 30 seconds to three minutes will give viewers a chance to get to know you. And focus on one main theme per video.

Over time, you will feel more comfortable making videos. Just pretend you are talking to a friend, which is exactly what you are doing. You’re just speaking to your readers instead of writing your message.

Leslie Anglesey is an educational specialist and editor at EssayTigers - service that provides professional paper writing tips for the students.

Internet Freedumb: Are You Falling Prey?

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

I can explain why you’re not making any money online in one word: Freedumb.

The irony of my writing a free post aimed at curtailing your misuse of free offers is not lost upon me. While your eyebrows fuse together and you determine whether reading this information is really worth your time, let me assure you that there is a valid reason for not charging any money for this work.

I absolutely believe that it’s worth quite a bit, but the people who need to read it (you’re in that group) would only purchase such knowledge if they already understood the concepts within it! Ironies abound, and you’ll realize just how ironic this entire volume is the further into it you get. In the end, I know my audience, and this article will target them, which is a skillset you need to learn to for yourself as well.

The greatest danger to entrepreneurs worldwide is the concept of Internet Freedumb. It is more lethal than the IRS, writer’s block, and months of poor sales figures combined. When you allow this cancerous notion to enter into your brain, it becomes the equivalent of quicksand beneath your feet. What’s really scary, and the reason it is remarkably deadly, is the fact that it sounds so damn appealing. Yet nobody seems to address it or feel the need to warn entrepreneurs of its affects.

I refuse to sit back and watch your internet dreams fly out the window. You owe to your business and yourself to read this entire document in a single sitting. Enough words of warning, let’s dive head-first into a word that you see every day but have never had access to the vernacular necessary to properly identify it.

What is Internet Freedumb?

Internet Freedumb is difficult to describe—much like the word “pornography.” I can tell you when I see it, but it’s a struggle for me to nail down an all-inclusive definition. Let’s focus on the result of Internet Freedumb in order to help define it.

The effect of Internet Freedumb on an entrepreneur, when you boil it down, is the entrepreneur thinking that making his or her content entirely free is the only way they can compete in the marketplace. It’s also the belief that creating 100% “free stuff” will lead to lots of traffic. This devolves into the use of advertising as the primary source of revenue, which is almost always done poorly, with little foresight.

Instead of building a business model, victims of Internet Freedumb literally set themselves up for bankruptcy.

The most confusing part about Internet Freedumb is the misconception that giving everything away for free makes people’s lives easier. No, it most certainly does not. How much garbage do you have downloaded onto your desktop? How many pdf’s, links, and videos? Probably far too many. We are bombarded day in and day out by the results of Internet Freedumb. Keep in mind, entrepreneurs ironically do this because they believe it will help them to stand out.

You know what does stand out? A paid product that removes the fluff and filler that makes up most Internet Freedumb giveaways. A $37 price tag sticks out. But even better, a $99 price tag really sticks out. As long as you deliver excellent content that both reduces Internet Freedumb inspired garbage down to manageable levels, and adds your own two cents, you will have a product that truly stands out.

By charging people money, you actually are helping them place a value on your work.

Think about when you want to ask the internet for help, and compare that with times when you want to purchase instructions. When you Google something, it’s usually a single question with a very basic answer. For example: “Dear Google, who invented electricity?” Conversely, you don’t go to the internet for a tutorial on how to learn AP Physics. Instead, you’ll spend your money on a concise, structured book about the subject or, even better, attend a course on it.

If you want to make money online, you need to focus on creating the manuals and video courses that teach people something. These must be objects of value, things that stand out above the wasteland of Internet Freedumb-inspired rubbish. It is only then that you will be able to make a living online.

You must not listen to the skeptics who believe that Internet Freedumb is the only way. Most importantly, you must build a new series of experiences that disprove the Internet Freedumb concept we all seem to initially believe in.

Let me clear up some initial confusion: this disease is not the same as the objects it spawns. Remember, we’re talking about entrepreneurs following a doomed-to-fail mindset, and it’s important to distinguish the cause from the result. The reason for this should be obvious: not all free stuff is dumb. There certainly is a time and a place for free pdf downloads and products. Problems arise when entrepreneurs take this too far, and usually they think that they will solve the puzzle of earning money from their free stuff later.

That “later” doesn’t ever come.

So Internet Freedumb really is just a mentality. It’s a losing mentality that makes you feel like a winner. You’ll think to yourself: “Yeah, I’m giving away lots of great stuff for free and everyone will love me for it!” Unfortunately, you’re just peddling more garbage amongst the gigantic pile of everyone else’s garbage online. You’re not building a business, and you’re certainly not making enough money to justify your hours worked.

Everything we do as human beings is aimed at helping someone (especially ourselves). In most cases, we make the wrong choice for the right reasons. Someone who succumbs to the Internet Freedumb mentality believes that they will help their readers. This is a great reason. Unfortunately, the choice of how to deliver that content (all free, all the time) does not lead to making that reason a reality. This someone also believes that giving everything away for free will get them traffic and money. Sorry, it just never works out that way.

Let’s say you have a really amazing product and are getting ready to price it. All too often, you will drop the price down to ridiculous levels, and eventually give it out for free, because you keep telling yourself that no one is going to pay for it. When someone sees the option to download your product for free or pay $50 for a well packaged tutorial on the subject, you instinctually believe that you’ve made their decision easy.

Unfortunately, our minds tend to consider paid products on a higher quality level than free ones. By giving your masterpiece away, you are devaluing it in the eyes of the reader to the point of possibly not even being worth glancing at.

If you find yourself making pennies from hours of hard work, then you have Internet Freedumb sickness. Don’t for a second believe that this only affects “losers.” In many ways, I myself have been bitten by this bug. Any time you cut corners and produce less than optimal quality content, you are falling for Internet Freedumb. It truly is a disease that destroys your work ethic and the ability to read what your customers want from you.

In the end, subscribing to Internet Freedumb means that you are truly selling out. At first you will think that I am lying to you. “No, selling out would be selling a product.” Actually, by giving away more free garbage, you are basically telling your audience that they aren’t worth creating a quality, paid product for.

The cure

How do we cure ourselves of this deadly disease?

The hardest part about defeating Internet Freedumb is the fact that our heart and brain tell us it’s the right way to go. You cannot defeat these forces without the will to experiment. By being willing to try something new and go outside of your comfort zone, you will have a shot at experiencing the opposite of what you thought had to be true.

Let’s say you ask your audience what kind of product they want you to create, and you actually make it beyond their expectations. If they spend money on your product and love you for it, then you will have a real experience to fall back on anytime someone tells you the Internet Freedumb lie, especially yourself.

Here are four actual steps you can take to experience truths that dispel the lies behind Internet Freedumb.

1. Start using a list

The money is in the list, but for technical or psychological reasons, you’ve been avoiding getting one started.

Let’s cut to the chase and actually get to work on the most important part of your online career. Get a list going!

I recommend Aweber for their “$1 for the first month” deal and easy-to-use tools. If you utilize my tactics outlined in the video course, So You Think You Can Blog, then you should be making a hundred to eight hundred dollars per month in no time.

2. Sell outside products

If you want to disprove the Internet Freedumb mentality sooner than later, you’ll need something to actually sell to your audience. Since creating a high quality product takes time, while you wait to implement one, you can sell someone else’s online product.

I would suggest finding anything above $10 and starting there.

I don’t just want you to disprove Internet Freedumb, I want you to remove it from your brain forever. It’s going to take a bunch of sales from your grateful audience to do that. Thinking along those lines, make sure that you pick a product you both use and love yourself before attempting to sell it.

Now, when you go to sell it, make sure that you don’t just slap a banner on the page and say “Buy this awesome product, I recommend it!” Give it some thought and dedicate your time to writing a review or presenting the product in a more colorful light.

3. Work on your own products

Use video software and a camera to produce at least some raw footage about your niche. Focus on featuring yourself because nobody else can be you. Yes, free has been done before, but a product that you create with your voice, and comprehensive thoughts within it, has definitely not been done before.

Be a new voice even if you’re sharing old information and you’ll be shocked at how much money you can make. At the very least, use a microphone like my Blue Snowball and record high quality podcasts. Just do something, even if it’s not the best presentation the first dozen attempts. But be sure to charge money for it.

4. Surround yourself with winners

Stop hanging out with just the crowd of people who believe in Internet Freedumb. Get out there and meet the entrepreneurs who actually are successful in selling products. Maybe you’ll even learn when it’s okay to use free stuff.

Follow my advice and you will quickly find yourself building experiences which contradict the Internet Freedumb mantra. After a short while, you’ll realize just how stupid it is to follow such a suicidal ideal.

What will it be? A real business based on value or a fake business built on free garbage? You decide.

Chris The Traffic Blogger. Creator of “So You Think You Can Blog” – A video course showing how to make $100,000 per year blogging.