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The ProBlogger Infinite Scroller WordPress Plugin

Last week we made out first plugin available on the ProBlogger Community: an Infinite Scroll Wordpess Plugin. It’s a plugin we’ve been using on Digital Photography School since we redesigned it late last year.

With each of these plugins we release we want to share why we’re using it on our own sites, and also give you some options on how you can the techniques yourself (community member or not).

The infinite scroll plugin is does one very simple task: as you reach the bottom of a page (typically an archive of posts), it will automatically load in some additional posts. Once you get to the end of the new list, it will load more until you run out of posts.

For a demo, scroll to the bottom of this page on dPS. If you want a super crazy version check out the front page of mashable.com

With an infinite scroll, you’re essentially doing away with the need for ‘pagination’ which are those “next page” and numbered buttons you often come across. Sites like Google Image Search, Facebook, and Pinterest all use this infinite scroll technique.

It’s something that has actually been around for quite a while, and I’m often surprised it’s not as widespread as perhaps it should be. This is because are both downsides and upsides for a plugin like this.

The upside:

  • When a user is browsing a list of posts it can be bringing in new posts without the user need to click (or think).
  • It’s a quicker to show new content (the user doesn’t have to load a whole new page).
  • It’s more friendly for touch devices (tablets and phones) as you’re not asking your readers to zoom and touch those tiny numbers.

To put is simply: your helping expose more of your content to users for less work.

The downside:

  • People can’t get to your footer unless its sticky (or you run out of posts)
  • With an endless stream of posts there is no point of reference for people to go back to: “I remember seeing that on page X”.
  • If it’s not backwards-compatible (ours is) it will affect how your site gets indexed by search engines.

Over the last few years there have been a number of very detailed reviews by user-experience experts about the pros and cons of the infinite scroll. Of course with varying opinions.

At the end of the day you’ll just need to make the choice yourself!

So how do you add and infinite scroll on your WordPress blog?

Obviously if you’re a member of the ProBlogger Community you’ll get free access to our infinite scroller. One of the handy features of ours, that I’ve not seen any others, is the ability to include infinite scroll of related posts at the end of a actual blog post, not just an archive page (see the video at the end for a demo).

There is an infinite scrolling plugin in the wordpress plugin directory that looks like it was updated only a month or so ago with some nice features.

If you’re using a theme from WordPress, some of them actually have the infinite scroll built in.

Of course if you are a developer of have access to one, they can make one for you too!

Here’s a demo of our scrolled that will give you a better idea of how to set it up and how it works.

This is just a first of a many of plugins we’ll be releasing over on ProBlogger.com. If you’ve not signed up yet, we’d love to see you there!

Any if you’ve got any questions or experiances with this approach I’d love to hear them in the comments too.

The Stephen King Drawer Method for Writing Better Copy

Image by Flickr user Mo Riza

Image by Flickr user Mo Riza

This is a post from ProBlogger.net Managing Editor Stacey Roberts

When I was studying journalism, it was pointed out to us very early on that our first drafts of anything were never going to be printed. They just weren’t. They were to be edited by professionals with no emotional ties to the content, and we were to accept the final product as it passed through their experienced hands.

If we were going to get precious about our words and our bylines, we were in the wrong profession.

As a result, I learned to detach from my writing. To write well, but also to see it from another’s perspective, and to be able to take edits and cuts with no offence. The subs weren’t trying to be cruel, they were doing their job by making my copy better.

When I began blogging, and had no editor or filter to pass through before I published my work, I still would read back over my work with a sharp eye to tidy it up a bit before launching it into cyberspace. What journalism taught me was to write cleanly, boldly, and in the least amount of words possible. I could no longer waffle, and I wasn’t precious about cutting my copy where I thought it might be extraneous.

But what about blogging?

The nature of blogging and journalism means you’re usually in a rush to get your content in the hands of readers while it is still relevant. We’re staying on top of trends and we’re riding the waves while we can. But for more evergreen content, or things that aren’t time-sensitive, then Stephen King’s editing method is one of the most useful things I’ve ever practised: the art of putting time and space between you and your words.

In his book On Writing, King describes the methods by which he creates fiction novels.  A manuscript should take a season to write, he says. Then he will put a physical copy of it in a drawer and forget about it for at least six weeks.

What does that do?

  • It puts just enough time between you and your writing to ensure you’ve become somewhat unfamiliar with the words and can read it with less bias.
  • It ensures you’re looking at the work with fresh eyes, not in the heat of the moment where your brain autocorrects the errors it reads so they fail to register.
  • You disassociate yourself somewhat from what you have written so it doesn’t hurt to cut it.
  • Your brain has had time to percolate on some of the ideas and thus can flesh them out more.
  • You can immediately see simpler and clearer ways to convey your message.
  • You can finally remember those things niggling at you in the back of your mind that you wanted to include but couldn’t quite put your finger on what they were.
  • You might have learned something new you could add.
  • You might decide you hate it all and start over again.
  • It means you have a deeper feel for what works and what might be received better by your readers.
  • You can publish knowing you’ve produced the best work you’re capable of.

Now, obviously there are small differences between a behemoth fiction manuscript and your blog post. You might not want to wait six weeks, and you don’t think it’s necessary to print it out. That’s not important. What is important is that you are distancing yourself from your work in order to come back to it with a more professional attitude.

Your blog might be personal, and your words an extension of yourself. It is ok to feel a bit of emotional attachment to them – this method only ensures you’re editing with a clear head as well as a full heart.

The takeaway:

Save your work and close your laptop. Forget about your writing as fully as you can, and put as much time as possible between you and it. Re-read your copy with an open mind and make quick notes about edits you’d like to make as you go. Then you can go back and change. Don’t be afraid – be bold and decisive. These are words to be molded, sentences to be crafted. Go with your gut and rearrange what you want until you feel it is right. Then hit publish.

Tell me – do you let your posts rest for a bit before going live? Or are you churn-and-publish kind of blogger?

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor at ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found writing, making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

 

7 Reasons You Should Pay the Haters

This is a guest contribution from Matt Cumming.

I Messed Up.

Okay, this is embarrassing, but not-so-long ago I signed up for Reddit and without too much thought I dropped a simple attention-grabbing title and link to an article on my website within the first five minutes. Yes, I hear you — bad form — but I wanted to test the platform out. Sure enough, within a few short hours I had a more respectable, long-term member jump on it, click the link, check my site out and then come back and publicly tell me exactly what he thought about my link-bait tactic.

But he didn’t stop at a short rebuke. He didn’t just say “hey, crap tactic” and move on. Instead he took the time to meticulously craft a long, scathing and deeply bitter essay that totally slammed me, the link title (which he referred to as ”[dropping] a turd in the punchbowl”), my book (which he hadn’t actually read), my understanding of marketing and my motives in general. Even if he was a fast-typing genius, it still must have taken at least half an hour of his precious time.

He Tore Me Limb From Limb

“Are you offering genuine illumination… or just dropping cherry bombs in the toilet like a misguided child?”

“…One cannot adequately express the titanic misunderstanding you’re attempting to propagate by screaming shit like, MARKETING IS DEAD on the cover [of your book] in some effort to manufacture sensationalism, as if that isn’t horribly insulting to any of the people who take this shit seriously… And if there’s one thing that irks me to no end, it’s charlatans and hacks who proclaim something that works as dead without actually testing it.”

“…Writing an ill-conceived reductive ass grab… It’s a hackneyed backslide into the shite that kills every good methodology available to the marketer who doesn’t forget the face of his forefathers.”

“…If you’ve never heard that before, you should go back to whatever misguided teacher didn’t disclose such a thing to you and either demand a refund or a complete re-education. Or go back to bed and figure it out.”

Initially I was shocked. Dismayed even. But then it dawned on me… It was a gift. Firstly, I realised that he probably had no sense of humour (the “Marketing Is Dead” text on the cover is quoted from article titles published on the Forbes, HBR and CNBC websites — not a statement I would ever make personally) and I felt sorry for someone who felt compelled to take life so damn seriously.

Secondly, whilst he was in the broader audience I was speaking to (people interested in marketing and branding), he was firmly entrenched in the ‘old school’ marketing philosophy — so he was NOT within my niche target audience. My book, Polarize, is intentionally a light-hearted, easy read for smart startups, small business owners, entrepreneurs and ‘growth hackers’ who want to make their brand more visible and effective in this very crowded marketplace. It’s about an innovative approach marketing (polarization), because the traditional marketing approach can sometimes be slow, expensive and simply not viable for some businesses.

“Traditional marketing wasn’t working. We were spending $300+ to acquire customers for a $99 service.” —DropBox (who then gained 4,000,000 users within 15 months without further ad spend)

Thirdly, his tirade confirmed my belief: that the ‘haters’ (detractors) can offer great value to a brand. This is particularly true when they’re not your ideal prospect (in a psychographic and/or demographic sense).

So I Paid Him

I paid him with my time and attention, I paid him with my thanks and compliments, I paid him with exposure by sharing his essay via social media, I paid him with a free copy of my book and I even paid him with my dollars (gifting him a “gold level” subscription to Reddit).

Should I do this for all detractors? Yes, but not always in the same way. If the complaint was about a specific problem with the actual product or service I’m offering, then I would certainly respond and thank them for alerting me to an issue that clearly needs reviewing, and I might pay them with a discount voucher or even a refund (if they’d purchased), but I would think twice about promoting it or making too much of a big deal about it on public channels. However, if the ‘hater’ was voicing opinions about the ethos of my brand — particularly something to do with the brand personality or psychographic preferences — then I’d be happy to respond, promote and even pay them in some way as a thank-you.

7 Reasons You Should Do the Same

1. They talk a LOT

The more people hear about you and see you, the more they feel like they know you… and consequently trust you. The way our brains work…  It’s the reason we still eat McDonalds (over a lesser-known local restaurant) despite everything we’ve heard and seen. Without trust there’s no sale, so what would you say is the value in that for you? It’s unknowable, but massive nonetheless.

2. They’re often passionate

It’s simple: passion is a sure-fire way together people’s attention. Get people’s attention and they’ll at least have a chance to decide if they want to consider your product or service. Without their attention in the first place, there’s no possibility of conversion. People have become adept at ignoring many forms of traditional marketing. Those people who we assume are ‘on the fence’, may actually be unaware of us — they haven’t had a reason to consciously consider our brands, let alone engage. Passion is a flag that flies high above the millions of humdrum, everyday conversations and interactions that otherwise occur.

3. They tend to be in your market

I’ve noticed that detractors often share a crucial commonality with the brands they’re ‘hating’ on — the target audience. This is particularly true within social media channels. If you can respond appropriately (with respect) to the ‘hater’ statements, you’ll have the opportunity to connect positively with that broader audience. They often provide contrast and clarity to your true niche audience about who you are NOT for (and thus making obvious that you are indeed for them).

4. They give you an open invitation to share

Nobody likes to be ‘sold’ to without permission, that’s clear. But a conversation is totally different. It gives you an opportunity to share the benefits of your product or service in response to a negative statement. In fact, often passionate detractors will voice things that other audience members won’t, so it’s not just the loudest detractor you’re speaking to — it’s all those on the ‘fence’ of indecision.

5. It’s WAY cheaper than advertising

Admittedly it is now possible to have a much higher level of targeting with your ads than in the past, but think about how you typically respond (or, more accurately,don’t respond) when you see a promoted post on Facebook, or a sponsored tweet within the Twitter mobile app? Unfortunately, poorly-targeted ads (which is the vast majority of them) have ruined it for smart marketers who know their real audience intimately. Just like the majority of ads in traditional media, our brains have tagged them as irrelevant and phased them out of our conscious awareness. So, with that in mind, it’s possible that a series of passionate public conversations might bring more genuine exposure and engagement than a ‘big’ ad campaign.

6. They can make you look good

Detractors sometimes make wild, accusatory statements that seem angry or spiteful. But a well-voiced, professional response from your brand contrasts against that ‘hater-speak’ and casts doubt in the readers mind about whether they should even believe what the detractor is saying at all. If you witnessed an argument on the street with one person throwing stones and screaming “You’re a dumb-ass idiot who knows less than nothing about anything!” and the other calmly responding with “I hear what you’re saying and see you feel strongly about that, but I do have a Harvard masters degree, so I’m not sure ‘idiot’ is completely accurate” — who would you believe?

7. They might be highlighting a grievous error

Sometimes detractors are the only ones who will give you honest feedback about an error you may have made. Such was the case for me and my mindless ‘link-bait’ mistake and I was genuinely grateful for such a clear reminder to carefully considerall messages — not just promotional, but casual conversational messages as well.

“The data has shown that brands with plenty of animosity can still succeed in a big way … Very polarizing brands like McDonald’s and Starbucks are far and away outperforming their less polarizing counterparts (perhaps the biggest worry is that people feel nothing when thinking about your brand).” —Gregory Ciotti, HelpScout

Of Course The Real Goal is To Create Tribes, Not Troublemakers

Putting your focus solely on turning people into detractors never a good idea in itself. Extreme differentiation — or polarization — is a better way to look at it. Make your message so sharp you cut through the noise and connect with your ideal prospects immediately. The result of polarizing your audience is that you’ll fast-track the decision your fence-sitters will invariably make at some point — “Should I commit, or should I leave?”.

The idea of speeding up this decision-making process is incredibly valuable to a startup, entrepreneur or small business who doesn’t have huge resources of time, money or patience. Those people ‘on the fence’ of indecision are costing your business in some way or another (unless you’re completely ignoring them of course). Wouldn’t it be simpler if, when people were introduced to your brand, they immediately became a passionate advocate — rather than having to gently romance them over time with the vague hope of getting them to like you enough to buy something?

The assumed downside of polarization is that if they’re not a ‘lover’, it’s likely they’ll become a ‘hater’. But is it really a true downside? Considering the 7 reasons above, I don’t think so.

“Polarizing your brand is a strategy with nothing but upside.” —Erika Napoletano, Brand Strategist.

 

As for the hater who tore me limb from limb? Well, he gave me a platform and an audience, then disappeared like vapour. It’s often the way… Perhaps he’s too busy reading my book to get back to me right now, or — having read it — he has decided to stay quiet just to spite me!

Matt Cumming, author of “POLARIZE: Fast-Track Marketing For Growth Hackers”, has over 15 years experience working with startups and businesses of all sizes as a designer, brand manager, web developer and startup consultant. See www.Polarize.cc for further details.

Conversion Case Study: How I Made $7115 From 85 Unique Visitors

This is a guest contribution from Marcus Maclean, of The Million-Dollar Case Study.

Image from DryIcons

Image from DryIcons

Over the years, I’ve created and sold several “how-to” information products online, but none have been as successful as The Million Dollar Case Study. Within days of launching the site, I made $7115 from the first 85 unique visitors.

Since then the site has continued to grow steadily, and I’m still amazed at the conversion statistics. Currently, the squeeze page converts at 67% and the video sales letter at 8.2%.

If you’re struggling to convert browsers into buyers, here’s the exact strategy I’m using. It works in any niche, but it’s particularly effective in competitive, popular niches.

First Off, Your Product And Market Are Everything

Without a doubt, the number-one factor in my success so far is the product and market. The reality is, people in the “make money online” niche are ready and willing to spend money on products they like. Case studies are generally popular in most markets, but especially so in the internet marketing sphere.

If you have lots of traffic but very few conversions, I would take a good long look at your niche and product or service. Ask yourself honestly, “Are there enough interested buyers around?”

If you’re not sure, I highly recommend paying a visit to the ClickBank marketplace to find out. Simply find the category you’re involved in and see if there’s lots of products with a decent gravity (more than 20-30). If there are, you’re in a good niche; if not, that’s your basic problem.

Ignore The Crowd

The single most important factor in improving your conversion rate is your sales letter. If it works, you have a license to print money. If not, again, you’re fighting a losing battle.

The good news is, it’s very easy to get a sales letter or video to convert, but the key is to go against the grain. Most internet marketers copy each other and that simply doesn’t work anymore.

This is the simple process I use that works very well:

First off, I interrupt the same old, same old. Most people expect to hear a long boring sales pitch or a hyped up motivational success story. So I do the exact opposite. I get straight to the point and reveal exactly what my product does, and more importantly, who it can help and who it can’t.

I’m honest about my intentions. I have no idea why most marketers “hide” the sale until later in the sales funnel, when all you have to do is let people know that you’re in business to make money. Everyone knows that anyway, and it makes it a lot easier to ask for the sale.

Authority, customer advocacy and hope are my most powerful weapons. I’m not afraid to assert myself as a leader, let people know that I have their best interests at heart (because I actually do) and inspire them to take action.

My product is unique, different and interesting. If you’re just another “me too”, it’s very difficult to stand out in today’s marketplace. That’s why I created a case study; instead of teaching people how to make money online, like most people do, I’m just showing what works.

Finally, I use an ultimatum. This strategy is controversial, but it works. I force people to make a decision by giving them a deadline to buy. If they remain indecisive or on the fence when the time limit expires, I simply take them off my list.

The Real Money Is Made On The Back End

Membership sales have steadily grown since launching The Million Dollar Case Study, and it’s nice to have a regular, passive income, but the real profits come from coaching fees.

The truth is, your front end offer very rarely makes much money, especially if you’re paying for traffic. So the key is to offer a high ticket product or service on the back end to make up the difference.

As long as you’re providing genuine value to your customers, and you’re being open, upfront and honest about your expertise and how you can help them, it’s a fantastic way to earn a living.

One Other Thing – I’m Passionate About My Niche

I’m a firm believer in selling products and services you care about, that you’d personally buy yourself. If you’re not successful online, that’s something you should definitely think about.

In the past I’ve sold products in the weight loss and search engine optimization niches. They sold well, but it was always difficult to motivate myself during the tough times.

Once I started doing what I loved, and selling products and services I believed in, it made my job a lot easier. And besides, your customers can pick up on your enthusiasm, so I believe this is one of the most important factors in determining your conversion rate.

And That’s It

As you can see, it’s not hard. If target the right market and sell what people buy, that’s 90% of the battle. Of course, split testing different elements on your page is important (headline, sub headline, benefits, testimonials, the call to action button and so on), but at the end of the day, if no one wants your products or services, you’re fighting a losing battle.

Marcus Maclean is the founder & CEO of The Million Dollar Case Study, a live video case study detailing exactly how he’s building a brand new million dollar membership website from scratch. To watch the case study unfold, click here.

All You Need to Know About Using Exclusivity for Better Product Launches

This is a contribution by our very own Shayne Tilley.

Image by Flickr user EricaStLeonards

Image by Flickr user EricaStLeonards

Launching products and campaigning can be fast-moving and complex beasts. There are so many layers, and even the best-laid plans can be scrapped in an instant as it all goes amazing well, or horrifically wrong…

Two promotional tactics we use in our product launches and special campaigns on both ProBlogger and Digital Photography School are the notion of “exclusivity“, and “limiting factors“.

I thought today I’d share with you the how and why of this approach, and what we’ve learned along the way.

So what do I mean by “exclusivity” and “limits” in the context of a launch or promotion?

Exclusivity:

Exclusivity is about creating a proposition that will not be available to the general public. It’s an offer specifically for you, because you meet some sort of criteria. It might be because you’re an existing customer. It might be because you showed early interest in a product. It might be because you are a newsletter subscriber, or a member of a community. It can be anything as long as you can define it.

By me giving you this offer I’m making you feel special. You’re acknowledged and rewarded and hopefully rightly so! This can then drive two responses:

1. the “nah-nah-na-na-nah!” response

We like to brag. Sometimes it’s about how much we paid for something, sometimes it’s about how little we did. When I make you this exclusive offer, it means when you take advantage of it, you’ll have something the chump next to you paid way more for and it’s only because you were you. It’s like winning without having to even play the game! Of course you’ll head to the checkout.

2. the IOU response

By giving you this exclusive offer you immediately think that you owe me something. I’ve taken the time to create this special offer and reward you for some reason. That I value you so much I’m willing to give you something that no-one else can have. The only way you can pay me back is take up the honour in which I bestowed upon you and head to that checkout.

An example we’ve used recently on ProBlogger.com:

We soft-launched the new ProBlogger Community in the last couple of weeks, and before making it available to all, we exclusively launched it to existing members first. We provided with exclusivity in two ways: offering members the chance get into the community early and establish themselves in addition to receiving a great price as a foundation member of the site. Why? Because no matter how great the content and site technology is, it’s the people there that make it special — and we wanted to ensure our loyal problogger.com members were part of the new site. A real win-win situation.

This idea of exclusivity has been one the tech start-up community has really embraced. Take Pinterest for example: it had an ‘invite-only’ sign up process for some time. You had to request access, and when you were given it, (because you’d been ‘approved’ by them), you are much more likely to actually use the service. There are secret back-door and referral systems built-in to make you feel even more special.  Whilst you’ll see what sound like legitimate reasons for this, trust me –  it’s a marketing tactic. One that’s designed to create an emotional debt with the product, person, or service you are using. Which makes you more likely to stick around.

And it’s quite effective.

Limited:

When limiting your campaigns, you are communicating some sort of restrictive factor. It might be stock, it might be seats, or it could be time.  By doing this, you are creating a sense of urgency. A sense that “if I don’t act now, I might miss out“. These responses are driven by our past – we’ve all missed out on something because we waited too long, and it made us feel bad.  It’s the desire you have to avoid that negative emotional trigger I’m pulling by limiting an offer in some way.

How we use this on Digital Photography School:

Every single new product launch we run will have a limit. For the most part, it’s in the form of an earlybird special. For a time-limited period, readers will receive a special discount, or a special bonus for a few weeks. Over the launch period, we up the focus on this to increase the urgency.  The first week we’ll focus on the product or offer and just mention that it’s Time-Limited.  The next week, we will announce the cut-off date with a little more prominence, and the final email we’ll send 48 hours before that date will be the core message of the product.

With this urgency we often see more sales on the last day than we did when we first announced the product. This of course goes up a new gear when we run our 12 days of Christmas Campaign, where each deal only lasts 12 hours.

It’s not about making the sale, it’s about closing it.

With both of these techniques, it’s not about making the sale. Your products benefit and the offer still needs to do that too (sorry). What limits and exclusivity will do is just give the potential customer that little extra nudge to head on through the sale process.

Digital vs Actual

These techniques have been around longer than the internet, and digital content is actually just an adaptation of what retail stores mastered a long time ago. If you’re selling a digital product, such as a book or a video course, then as long as there’s power you have an infinite amount of stock.  However if you have a service, or a course, or a physical product, you don’t just have time up your sleeve to use as a sales technique – you also have ‘While stocks last’ – just as powerful, maybe even more!

The ProBlogger team recently witnessed action that a stock/seat limitation can create. After putting a limited number of tickets (450) on sale for this years ProBlogger Event, within minutes, half of them had sold.  That creates a bigger, more urgent call-to-action, as people realised they only had a short time to make a call to attend or not. If they waited they’d miss out!

… and it snowballed.

This accumulation of momentum resulted in all tickets being sold out in 6 hours and a re-engineering of the event set-up for us to allow another 100 people to attend. Which sold out quickly again!

Time and its subtleties

If you can’t use stock as a limiting factor, then time will be your best friend – just like it is on Digital Photography School.

With time there are some subtleties in language you need to take into account.

Ends in two weeks‘ is much stronger than ‘soon

7 days only‘ is much stronger that ‘next week

In the next 48 hours‘ is stronger than ‘In the next two days‘.

When putting your copy and messaging together, you need to think about which time terms feel closer; and ensure that you are giving specific time periods rather than just writing generic terms like ‘soon’. As I mentioned earlier, we tend to get more specific and forthright as we get closer to the end.

Be prepared to shift gears

In your campaign and launch planning, you’ll have a nice start and end time for your offer. You’ll communicate that clearly as suggested above, but you also might find yourself in the situation where you need to change things up.  We’ve done so a few times when:

  • Our readers demand it: Because you have a limit and things change back to normal after it’s reached, some people will miss out.  If you have enough of them you might, ‘by popular demand’, bring it back if possible for a little while longer.
  • Because something broke: If something goes wrong, your website might crash – or in the case of us in the last product launch on dPS, our email provider went down – you’ll have people that missed out through no fault of their own.  In this case you’ll have little choice but to extend the sale for those that missed out.

Truth is better than fiction

These techniques are powerful motivators, and you might be tempted to ‘manufacture’ them. Which is essentially lying to your readers.  Now I can’t stop you doing that, but in the interests of a long-term relationship with your customers, truth is much better than fiction.

If you never intended to raise your early-bird price don’t call it an early-bird offer. If you’re thinking about putting up an out-of-stock sign on your product with a warehouse full of them, just don’t.

Eventually, people will figure it out.

When we put 450 tickets up for the ProBlogger event, we only ever intended to sell 450. As a result of what we witnessed, we were fortunately able to react quickly and find room for some more.  It’s that authenticity that help build the demand in the first place, and lying will break that over time.

So that’s my take on exclusivity and limits, and how we use there here at ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. I’d love to hear if you’ve used these on your own blog and how it went.

Shayne Tilley is the marketing guy for ProBlogger.net and Digital Photography School.  The author of the PB Guide to Online Marketing and a long time contributor to the blog.  When he’s not thinking of new and interesting ways to grow the ProBlogger sites, he’s either bashing up developers or hanging out with the swiftly.com team.

Announcing the NEW ProBlogger.com [Grab this Early Bird Discount Today]

Today I’m excited to announce that the NEW ProBlogger.com has been launched! You can learn more and join today with a special early bird discount here.

New ProBlogger

Our Journey to Create the New ProBlogger.com

In 2004, I created this blog on ProBlogger.net as a place to share what I was learning about making money from blogging and in the hope of connecting with others on that same journey.

I had just reached my goal of making a living from blogging and had a suspicion that in the coming years we’d see more and more bloggers aiming for and reaching that goal.

It turns out that my suspicions were on the money (no pun intended).

In the last decade we’ve seen many tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of bloggers have found ways to make a living from blogging.

While not all reach a full time level, it isn’t the rarity that it once was.

Alongside this trend we also have seen a whole industry spring up around blogging. Companies have been birthed to create plugins and tools to help bloggers do their jobs, hosting and design companies have been created solely to focus upon bloggers, many conferences have sprung up to serve bloggers of different niches and geographical areas…

It’s been an exciting decade!

Changes at ProBlogger

Since 2004, things here at ProBlogger have been through a variety of stages of evolution.

What started out as a blog where I shared my story and learnings has grown into something far beyond what I imagined. I’ve published over 7200 free tutorials in that time, co-authored the ProBlogger Book, published 6 ProBlogger eBooks, added the ProBlogger Job Board, held many free webinars and run 5 ProBlogger Events in Australia.

A number of years ago I also created a small paid private forum for bloggers on ProBlogger.com. It was a place for a couple of years where many bloggers came together to share what they were learning, network with other bloggers and collaborate on projects.

While there were some definite benefits from the first version of ProBlogger.com I always knew it could be much more and together with my little team here at ProBlogger HQ started dreaming of what it could be around 12 months ago.

The NEW ProBlogger.com

That dreaming has become a reality in the last week and today we’re publicly launching the new ProBlogger.com

Here’s a quick video on what it is:

As I say in the video – the new ProBlogger.com is based around 4 key benefits to members.

1. Practical Teaching

Members will be invited to two private webinars each month where you get access to myself, my team, and other experienced bloggers from around the web.

These webinars will be a combination of teaching, Q&A, case studies, and interviews with experts.

We’ll be focusing these webinars on four main areas:

    1. creating great content
    2. finding readers for your blog
    3. building engagement with those readers
    4. monetizing blogs

Of course we’ll also run webinars on other topics such as the technology behind blogging and other related topics. All webinars will be recorded for members to listen to if they miss a live session and to keep coming back to over time.

I’ve been running webinars now for 18 months on ProBlogger and they always get great feedback, so I’m excited to be creating these!

When you sign up to ProBlogger.com you’ll also get access to over 10 hours of previously recorded webinars, as well as a few sessions that we recorded at some of our live events.

Screen Shot 2014 03 19 at 10 31 09 am

Our next webinar is on Wednesday and will be on the topic of Creating and Selling eBooks. Following it we have a Q&A on using Social Media, and a teaching webinar on developing an Editorial Calendar.

Check out the webinars we’ve got coming up and the recordings already in the library here.

2. Private Community Area

This private forum is where members have opportunity for mutual learning, networking and collaboration.

problogger community

Again we’ve already set up areas in this forum for the 4 main areas mentioned above:

      1. creating great content
      2. finding readers for your blog
      3. building engagement with those readers
      4. monetizing blogs

But there’s also a ‘review my blog’ area and ‘general chat’ section for other topics.

While we’ve only had the new community area open for a week or so we’ve already seen a fascinating array of members and discussions and I can’t wait to see what collaborations emerge out of these new relationships.

3. Powerful Tools

This is an area that I’m particularly excited about in the new ProBlogger.com.

Over the last 12 months I’ve hired a small team of developers to help me improve the design and functionality of my own blogs (particularly over at dPS).

As part of their work they created a number of custom-made WordPress plugins that are unavailable anywhere else. It struck us a few months ago that these plugins would be quite useful for other bloggers and so we’ve decided to make them available to all ProBlogger.com members.

So far we’ve only released one – the Infinite Scroller which we’ll talk about in the coming days here on ProBlogger.net but there are more that we’ll release in the coming weeks to ProBlogger.com members.

Our intention is to continue to create WordPress plugins not only based upon what we’re doing on my blogs but based upon the suggestions of ProBlogger.com readers. In essence my developer team will become yours, as a member.

Also along the lines of ‘powerful tools’, we have begun to reach out to other blog-tool and service providers to get you access to what they offer at some great discounts.

problogger discounts

Our members discounts area already has some great discounts on all ProBlogger eBooks, hosting from Bluehost, a free design task from Swiftly and a $99 upgrade from 99designs.

We’re also working on negotiating some other great deals currently for ProBlogger.com members.

Keep in mind that we’re not taking any affiliate commissions on these discounts – which is why we’re able to negotiate some great prices.

Sign Up Today At an Early Bird Rate

The new ProBlogger.com will cost $27 USD per month to participate in.

We think this presents great value given the teaching, community, and tools it gives you access to but to celebrate the launch we’re offering members who sign up in the next couple of weeks lifetime access for just $17 USD per month.

Sign up today at this rate and you’ll get this discounted rate for as long as you stay a member – even as we continue to add value in the months and years to come.

If you don’t find ProBlogger.com to be what you’re expecting you are free to cancel your membership at any point but our intent is to keep adding so much value that you wont!

This Early Bird offer is for a limited time – so grab your membership today here and we’ll see you at the new ProBlogger.com.

What The Most Unexpected Gold Medal in History Can Teach Us About Successful Blogging

Image by Flickr user jungle_boy

Image by Flickr user jungle_boy

In 2002, Australian speed skater Steven Bradbury was lining up for the 1000m final at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Among his competitors for the gold medal were the some of the best in the world at their sport: multi-medallists and world champions. He, by his own admission, was the oldest and the slowest competitor – and while he was going to give it everything he had, he really didn’t expect to win.

A few minutes later, he found himself casually coasting to victory from 15m behind the pack as every single skater in front of him fell over just metres from the finish line. You can see the short video here.

The result was even more unbelievable given the exact same thing had happened in the semi-final, allowing Bradbury to get to the final he didn’t expect to earn a place in.

And what does this have to do with blogging?

Perseverance.

What do you do when you’re chugging along on your blog, seeing other people achieve success faster than you? You persevere. What do you do when you feel like giving up, like you’ll never win anyway? You persevere. Because you can’t predict the future and you don’t know what is going to happen. And when others are falling away or giving up when it all gets too hard – you are still there, blogging, and giving it your all.

Bradbury had worked his whole life to represent his country at four Olympic Games, he had suffered an horrific injury to his thigh, and even broken his neck in the quest to be the best. And he finally earned gold right at the very end when circumstances nobody could predict meant he finally had his chance.

It’s one of the biggest pieces of advice I give newbie bloggers who ask – persevere. I tell them that blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. Getting readers takes time. Feeling comfortable takes time. Building networks takes time. Gaining respect takes time.

Where others give up, you do not. You adjust your expectations, you adapt to your environment, you find what works for you, and you forge connections with other bloggers and your readers. You might go through phases with your blog where you’re motivated and excited one day, dejected and needing a break the next. You take a break and you regroup, but you do not give up.

You never know when someone before you will pave the way for your success. I’m not saying you should hope your blogging peers all fall over so you can snatch their golden dreams, but, you know, it’s OK to keep your mind open to unexpected possibilities! Blog from your heart, be useful, be there. You might just be the last man standing.

Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the blogger behind Veggie Mama. Can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.

3 Critical Questions To Answer Before You Take Your Blog On The Road

This is a guest contribution from Kelly Edwards.

If you’re a blogger, then there are many benefits that can be gained from getting out from behind the keyboard and attending real world events: from raising awareness, sourcing new talent, and increasing overall readership.

Of course, attending an event is an investment, particularly if you’re intending to travel and especially if you decide to present your blog via a stand – so you need to make it count.

road-trip.jpg


Question One: Is this event the right fit for my blog?

In recent years the number of blogging events has increased dramatically and events like the Problogger Training Day are getting bigger and better every year.

If you’re part of a blogging community then it’s very likely that you’ll discover a regular event being held to encourage the platform to meet. There are also publicised blogging events for all keyboard junkies, complete with networking and talks to help bloggers hone their skills.

Meeting with fellow bloggers may be immediately tempting but if your end goal is to increase readership within a relevant audience then you need to ensure that the audience is there in the first place. If you write about a particular niche subject, then attending a very broad event might not gain your blog the meaningful attention you’re hoping for.

There are many niche blogging groups that hold networking events or meet ups. If your aim is to look for relevant bloggers to work with then this is a lucrative field to find those within your topic of interest.

Relevant events don’t necessarily come from blogging platforms, depending on your niche. Blogs can promote themselves at real-world exhibits to increase readership. This could include beauty blogs at skin care conventions, business blogs at their local business exhibitions, and literature blogs at art festivals. By looking out for events that are relevant to your blog and will be attended by people who will be interested in your blog’s message, then you are more likely to gain a return on investment by attending that exhibition.

Question Two: Is my blog memorable and branded?

Does your blog have a brand? Do you utilise that brand throughout your promotional advertisements? Are you preparing a stand or stall that takes advantage of your unique identity?

Creating a brand from your blog can seem like a complicated task if you’ve never given it thought before but if you’ve taken time over the appearance of your blog then you’re likely to already have the beginnings of a style that you feel represents it.

Spend a few hours considering how you would introduce someone to your blog in two sentences or less. Each person you meet at this event might be seeing dozens of other people so consider what you can say or do to firmly affix your blog in their mind.

If you’re intending to have your own stand then think about what you can offer attendees so that they can fully understand what your blog is about. This might involve a tablet or laptop so they can physically look at your blog, perhaps a clearly visible web address and encouragement for people to give your blog a look on their smart phones (if you intend to do this then ensure your blog has an attractive mobile template). Promotional displays announcing your blog, URL and brand can also announce your blog on your behalf, attracting more interest.

Question Three: How do I know if it was worth all this effort?

Prepare for your networking event or convention attendance by coming up with a series of goals that you hope to work towards. These can be entirely unique to your blog but here are some general behaviours that you will most likely want to track:

  • People taking your business card
  • People signing up for your newsletter (if you have one)
  • People taking your flyers
  • Business cards that you receive from relevant parties

You can also assess these factors at the end of the day and over the coming weeks/ months:

  • New likes/followers on social media channels.
  • Increase in views on your blog.
  • New comments on your blog.
  • Increase in subscriptions/ member sign ups/ followers on your blog.

Your goals for attending an event may differ greatly from other blogs and it’s important that you properly assess and track what you hope to gain from attending. Though ensuring you achieve a return on investment is more complex via a blog than for someone selling a product, it is essential to measure the effectiveness of event marketing for your blog’s brand. Which of these ROI’s would make the biggest difference to your blog?

When you tie all these steps together you should end up with an event that is relevant to your blog, an idea for how to brand your blog effectively and a variety of ideas regarding how to track conversions and increases in traffic. Of course, this is only the first step.

Getting your blog out into the real world for the first time is just the beginning and even the most well-planned event is likely to have snags, problems and at least a dozen lessons that you’ll learn for next time. Improvements never have to end and you’ll soon find yourself a well-oiled event machine, always primed and ready with business cards and your elevator pitch.

These steps are a great guideline but every blog is different, so jump in with both feet and start planning. Which step will be most important to you and what has this post revealed about your blogs needs? Feel free to tell us your story in the comments below!

Kelly Edwards writes for Marler Haley and is passionate about promoting businesses however large or small, and offering her tips to succeed.

Are You Making These Mistakes With Your Guest Posts?

This is a guest contribution from Alex Strike, writer and blogger.

During my writing career, I’ve had the good fortune to have appeared on many cool and informative blogs and websites – but it hasn’t always been this way. Writing for blogs appeared to be not as easy as I at first thought, and I must confess that the more I learned the nuances of guest blogging, the more the fear ate at me.  There were a few moments when I just wanted to give it all up despite the fact I liked the process of writing itself. But there are no results without trying, and I’ve improved over the years I’ve been guest blogging.

Now as I look back, I can see my mistakes were so obvious and easy to avoid. If you are a newbie to the world of guest blogging, or you are going to start it in order to get your name out there, you should know and remember some of the unwritten rules to follow. I am here to share my biggest mistakes and help you avoid the same traps.

Give me more! More blogs! 

The first mistake: I wrote guest articles for everyone. Literally. I believed, that the more articles of mine were published – the better results they would bring to my websites. Every blog, even if it had low PR and DA, had a chance to get a guest article from me. Moreover, the majority of these blogs were full of ads, they had a bad content, awful (let’s be honest) design, and no social presence at all.

Remember: quantity does not mean quality. If you want to become a good and respectful guest blogger, you should always pay attention to blogs you are going to write for. The main aspects to pay attention to:

1. A blog’s traffic (it’s easy to check on SemRush): pay attention to all ups and downs, and the ideal variant is no downs at all (of course!). The great example of such a website is essay-all-stars.com:

screenshot-12. Is this blog clean? (How many ad blocks are there? How often is the content being updated? Are the comments moderated there?)

3. A quality of this blog’s content (just take a look whether all articles have affiliate links and are built to sell something or not. Never write for those websites, as backlinks from them will bring nothing good to your own blog).

4. Does this blog have a niche? It’s better not to write for those blogs that do not have any specific niche: it means they do not take care of their content at all. Yes, it will be much easier for you to publish your article at such blogs, where one article is about blogging, and another one is about selling TVs or e-books, but such backlinks will not bring you any good reputation at all. When I speak about reputation, I mean both your reputation as a guest author and the reputation of your own website for search engines.

5. What are this blog’s Domain Authority and PageRank? It would not be a good idea to write for websites with DA less than 30. As for PR, we all know that the bigger it is – the better, but I can say from my personal experience, that a big PR does not guarantee a blog’s authority: if you see, that the content of this blog is not good, but its PR is still high, the big chances are that this PR was created falsely.

A Topic? Whatever…

My next and very serious mistake was writing guest articles on ALL topics, even if they had no connection with the niche of my own blog. Example: my blog is about essay writing, but I write an article for the blog about fashion or concept gadgets.

Yes, these tech or fashion blogs were really good and informative; they were clean, they had high ranks, they were authoritative, but… my link did not look natural there, and search engines found it artificial as a result. Yes, it was unfair, because I KNEW all my links were naturally created by me, but… c’est la vie. The more such backlinks you have – the bigger your chances are to be banned by Google.

Who Needs E-Mails?

I am sure you know that many blogs or websites have a Contact Us page. Yes, it’s good and logical of course, but very often such a page looks the following:

screenshot-2

I must say, that when I contacted bloggers via such forms, only 1 out of 20 could give me a reply. Now I know that a good website will always share some exact contacts with its visitors (it may be e-mails of support teams, this blog’s founders, editorial teams, etc., but you will definitely find EXACT contacts there).

Hello Admin!

The very important moment of guest blogging is outreach and your pitches. And here was my BIGGEST mistake probably. Just take a look at the screenshot above, and you will understand what I mean.

Mistakes:

1. Too general (a blogger receives 100 letters a day. Why should he pay attention to yours?)

2. No names (do not be lazy, and read About Us pages of websites, as you can always find bloggers names there). I think you will agree, that “Hello John!” sounds much better than “Hello Admin!” (moreover, big chances are that this person is not admin actually).

3. No information about yourself. Always tell them who you are (but there is no need to describe every moment of your biography), give them some examples of your previously published works (links I mean) to see your writing style.

4. No pitches. Take a look at a blog’s content and try to provide a blogger with some posts ideas that would work well for him. Try to offer something up-to-date, exclusive or unusual, that was not published at other blogs 100500 times before. Take into account the general style of this blog: if it is known for its “Top 10…” lists, it would be strange to offer them something like “Dos And Don’ts Of Writing A Paper” for example.

Here is the example of my outreach letter for today:

screenshot-3

Certainly, you are free to create your own outreach letter that will work well for you. Just try not to repeat my mistakes described above.

By-line Is My Savior 

Yes, some websites allow you backlinks only in your by-line (author’s bio). I do not want to say that it is bad, but you can always use a chance to put your link to the body of your text, where it will look natural, and it will fit the content of this article itself.

One more mistake of mine was the usage of keywords as an anchor. Please, compare these two by-lines, and try to guess which one looks more suspiciously for search engines:

screenshot-4And

screenshot-5It is always better to promote your brand and make it recognizable, than use keywords to please Google (it is not as stupid as some of us still believe). Moreover, you can always use keywords in the texts of your article itself where they will look good and natural.

Summary

If you want to become a good guest blogger, always pay attention to WHAT you write and for WHOM you write. Proofread your articles (my sin is spelling mistakes, and I am still trying to defeat them all), try to provide only interesting content to your potential publishers, be polite, look and write professionally, and never be in a hurry!

It is always better to spend more time on writing and publishing your article at one cool and respectful blog than kill your precious time on writing a content and building backlinks that will not bring you any profit at all.

Alex Strike is a passionate writer of Lifehack and a blogger who writes on the topics of education, content marketing, writing, and lifehacks. You can always find more of Alex’s work on .