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About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

How to Promote Your Blog Without Letting The Rest of Your Blogging Slide

Recently I shared the stories of how my two blogs grew. One (ProBlogger) had a ‘tipping point’ early on which grew traffic almost overnight and the other (Digital Photography School) had slow but steady growth over several years with no real tipping point.

There were some great comments on that post including this one from Steve:

I have seen a recent increase in traffic, but it didn’t happen by accident. I spent a good deal of time promoting my blog in various ways. I suspect your increases resulted from similar efforts.

I ran an experiment to see what would happen if I made a concerted effort to promote my blog. My readership increased, which is extremely gratifying. But it came at a cost. My marketing diverted time away from producing high quality content.

I want a lot of readers, and I want them to see my best work. I have yet to figure out how to do the marketing and still have enough time to produce my best content. Do you have any thoughts on this?

I wanted to publish Steve’s comment for a few reasons.

Firstly – I think a lot of us could learn from Steve’s observation that growing traffic to a site almost always is the result of time and effort spent intentionally trying to grow your blog.

I don’t know how Steve went about growing his traffic but there are a couple of ways I’ve seen bloggers work hard at doing it:

1. prolific networking – we’ve all seen bloggers do this. They are on every Twitter chat, commenting on many blogs, attending meetups and events, participating in forums and Facebook groups, emailing other bloggers and generally putting themselves out there many times every single day. The result is that they seem to be everywhere and are on the radar of everyone.

This approach takes MASSIVE effort!

2. guest posting – I can think of numerous bloggers (I’ll share one example later in this post) who have used strategic guest posting to grow their profile and traffic. Those who do it best write amazingly helpful content and usually appear on multiple blogs. They usually also pay a heap of attention to the comments sections on those guest posts (answering every single comment left) and social media.

Another approach that probably fits into this guest posting approach are those who put themselves out there constantly to be interviewed or to interview others. Also in this category are those who put themselves out there in speaking at events.

This approach takes a MASSIVE effort!

But it Doesn’t Stop There

The above two strategies are not the only two that can be used to grow traffic to a blog (and they are not mutually exclusive – many do both) but I think you’ll agree that they illustrate this idea that growing traffic is not a passive thing – it takes significant work.

But it doesn’t stop there… and this is the second reason I love Steve’s comment.

To grow a successful and well read blog takes a lot more than just putting yourself out there to promote your blog prolifically.

As Steve observes – it also takes time to create high quality content for your own blog.

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This is where the juggle begins because as we all know, creating great content for your blog on a regular basis takes a MASSIVE effort!

Of course the work doesn’t stop at the creation of content, there’s also serving those readers who come as a result of your promotion who are reading that content.

Many of the most successful bloggers that I’ve seen rise to prominence over the past few years also have an incredible focus upon building community with and serving the readers that they currently have.

They respond to comments on blog posts, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email etc.

This takes a MASSIVE effort!

Throw into the mix the challenge of monetising your blog, the technical challenges keeping a blog up and running can throw at you, paying attention to your blog design and the challenges of having a family, ‘real’ job, social life and staying healthy and you can see why many bloggers feel quite overwhelmed and disillusioned with blogging!

“Do you have any thoughts on this?”

Steve finished his comment with a question… one that many of us ask. What’s the answer to this massive tension that we all face?

To grow our blog’s traffic takes us away from creating content. To focus upon one thing means a ‘cost’ in another area.

I don’t have THE answer to this question but as I responded to Steve’s comment a couple of thoughts came to mind.

Firstly – Pay Attention to the Tension

It is very easy to get out of balance. Over the years I see bloggers often falling into one of two camps.

1. Focus Upon Content at the Expense of Promotion

This sometimes comes as a result of feeling too shy to put yourself out there but can also be the result of a ‘build it and they will come’ mindset and a belief that great content will attract readers.

This is a half truth.

Great content does help to attract and retain readers – but it’s a lot easier to do that if you’re ‘out there’ promoting that content in some way. This is especially true when you’re just starting out.

As your blog gets older and you do have an established readership you’ll find that they do share great content for you – but in the early days it’s you that needs to do that work!

2. Focus Upon Promotion at the Expense of Content

I’ve seen a number of bloggers lately who are ‘everywhere’ and doing an amazing job of networking, growing their profile and just generally being a fantastic contribution to their niche on social media.

The problem for them is that they do this at the expense of building their own blog. There comes a time where if you want to build a business around your blog that you need to get people engaged in what you do on your blog.

If you’re not paying attention to creating great content there and engaging the readers who come – much of your promotional effort will be wasted.

Pay attention to the tension – spot when you’re getting out of balance and adjust your approach as you do. It’s really important!

Secondly – Try a Promotional Burst Approach

It strikes me that some of the bloggers that come to mind who used guest posting to grow their blogs a few years back didn’t use the strategy indefinitely.

One of the bloggers who I marvelled at with regards to how he built his audience was Leo Babauta from Zen Habits.

Leo seemed to burst onto the blogging scene – seemingly from nowhere – back in 2006-2007. I don’t remember the first time that I came across him but I’m pretty sure it would have been in a guest post on someone else’s blog because Leo was prolific as a guest poster.

Leo would have these bursts of guest posting over a few weeks. It was almost as if every day over these weeks he’d be on a different blog (including here on ProBlogger). The result of the accumulation of all these posts must have been great traffic back to his blog.

The thing was that these bursts seemed to have quite inentional starts and ends to them. He’d be published everywhere (including publishing posts on his own blog) for a few weeks and then he’d pull right back and just focus upon his own blog.

I remember emailing him at one stage when I was going on holiday to see if he’d be interested in writing something for ProBlogger and he said no because he was just focusing upon writing for his own blog at that time. A few months later he was open to writing a guest post again.

I’ve never talked to Leo about this strategy but it strikes me that he must have worked really hard for a month or two before his burst of guest posting to either produce all those guest posts or have a backlog of posts to publish on his own blog and then he must have switched into ‘promotion mode’ and let it all loose.

The key though was that it was for a defined period before he got back to serving the readers he’d attracted.

I saw him do these bursts of promotion several times over a couple of years in which he built himself an amazing audience and real momentum. At this point he didn’t need to guest post so much (if at all) but his established audience began to promote him through word of mouth.

My Final Advice for Steve

There are a couple of things that I think we as bloggers always need to pay attention to – these being publishing regular high quality content on our blogs and looking after the readers we already have (community).

These activities are like a baseline. Take the focus off these at any point and your blog is likely to suffer fairly quickly.

Promoting a blog is something you should also have some baseline activities and rhythm around. For example sharing new content to social media (whether through automation or manually doing it) is good practice.

However I do think there are times where it’s probably well worth having a burst of concerted promotional effort to grow your blog.

Whether it be through guest posting, reaching out to mainstream media, attending/speaking at events or even paying for advertising – a burst of intentional promotional activity for a defined period can have some real benefits.

Giving it a ‘burst’ means that you’re able to plan for it and hopefully the baseline activities don’t suffer too much. Also by giving it a burst you can potentially get that ‘she’s everywhere’ effect that gets on people’s radar.

What’s Your Advice to Steve?

I’d LOVE to hear your advice for Steve on how to keep this balance between promotional activity and paying attention to the rest of your blogging right.

Over to you!

What to Do BEFORE You Launch A Product On Your Blog

Over the last 5 years there has been a shift in the way that many bloggers try to monetise their blogs.

Rather than relying upon advertising and working with brands to make money – many have started to develop their own products to sell directly to readers (whether it be by selling virtual products or physical ones).

There are many reasons why selling your own product is a good thing to do. No longer will you be sending people away from your site – but they’ll be staying with you. You can also ensure that the quality of what you’re selling is high and you end up taking 100% of the profits of sale – not just a small part of it for the traffic you send.

Of course selling products on your blog takes a lot of work – more than many bloggers realise when they dream of doing so.

If you’re thinking of creating your first product – get ready to get focused!

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For one you need to develop your product. At dPS our photography eBooks take a minimum of 3-6 months to write, edit, proof, design and launch (and we have a team working on it around the clock).

But it isn’t just a matter of creating a product. There’s a lot more that you should be working on BEFORE you launch a product that will help to ensure it is profitable.

The Sad Tale of a Blogger with a Great eBook and No Sales

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I spoke recently to an eBook author/blogger who couldn’t work out why her eBook hadn’t sold well. She’d read of the success of other eBook authors making big money with eBooks and decided to create one of her own.

She worked hard for months on producing the best eBook that she could. Her problem was that she focused so much upon creating the eBook that other things too a back seat for the months it took to produce it.

  • Rather than publishing five high-quality weekly blog posts, she slipped to being lucky to publish one mediocre one
  • Her twitter account became a ghost town
  • She stopped emailing her newsletter list
  • Her Facebook page posting dropped away
  • She stopped interacting with other bloggers in her niche

On the day she launched her eBook she did so with a fantastic product but a blog with very little engagement or reader goodwill. Her eBook barely made any sales as a result.

The Other Scenario I See - the other situation I’ve seen many times are people who create products and then when they’re ready to launch start researching how to find people to buy it which results in them starting a blog, email list, social media accounts the day they want to launch their product!

Believe it or not I’ve had quite a few confused emails from people in this boat over the years!

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They end up starting out even further behind than someone with a blog that they’ve ignored to develop a product.

Having a Great Product Is Only Half Of the Profitable Product Puzzle

I’ve heard these kinds of story from bloggers many times in the last few years – in fact it is a challenge I faced in producing my own first eBooks (when I had to do it all myself).

There’s so much work involved in producing a product like an eBook – writing, editing, designing, marketing – that it is easy to let everything else slip.

The problem is that having a great product to sell is only half of the profitable product puzzle. The other half is having people ready to buy it.

Non profit for profit blend 45793589 © Sergey Nivens

If the sacrifice you make to create a product is looking after your readership then your efforts will be wasted.

If anything – in the lead up to launching your product you should INCREASE your efforts in serving your readership, deepening engagement and growing a positive relationship with those who could potentially buy what you’re developing.

Here’s what to Focus on BEFORE you Launch a Product on your Blog

Before I suggest some areas to work on before you launch a product let me say that this is always a juggle and it’s hard to get perfect.

Not only are we working on creating a product, keeping a blog running and engaging readers – on top of that there’s ‘life’ (family, other work etc).

It’s not easy but being prepared is so important!

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Other than creating the product itself, here are four things I’d be working on to help me be ready for a profitable product launch.

1. Growing a ‘Warm’ Email List

NewImageBy far the biggest source of sales for our eBooks have been email. Yes your blog and social media will product drive sales too – but email is likely to convert better. I’d estimate over 90% of our eBook sales come from the emails we send to our list.

There’s two parts of this task.

A. having people sign up to your list – promoting your email list is really important.

B. keeping your list warm – don’t just email when you’ve got something to sell. Keep your list ‘warm’ by sending them regular useful information. On dPS this means we send them a weekly newsletter with all our latest tutorials every Thursday night.

Regularly emailing your list with useful content grows the relationship, builds trust and gets them used to hearing from you.

It’s so important!

2. Growing Your Blog Archives

NewImageMost of the people who subscribe to your email list (and social media accounts) will have found you as a result of reading a post on your blog. Keep producing great content on your blog to keep them engaged.

This will give you content that you can email to your list but also will help you to keep growing that list (fresh content gives people more to share on social and via word of mouth).

Also use your blog to take your readers on a journey towards your product launch. For example:

  • Telling your readers that you’re working on something for them
  • Involving them in the journey of creating your product
  • Using blog posts to research and test ideas in your product and building anticipation of your launch

3. Building Your Social Presence

NewImageWhile I’ve not seen a heap of sales coming directly from social media for our eBooks I do find social media to be a great way to keep our readership engaged and to build our brand – all of which can help when it comes time to email our list and launch a product.

I also love using social media to understand our readers and research products.

In the lead up to a product launch I quite often ask questions that relate to our product to help me understand what our readers needs and problems are and what might trigger their interest. This is golden information when creating sales/marketing material (sales pages, emails etc).

I don’t tend to sell too hard on social at the time of a product launch but do include a little messaging on our social accounts to support our emails.

NewImage4. Grow Your Network and Affiliate Relationships

Your readership, list and social network is probably where most of your sales will come from but there’s also potential to go beyond that if you have relationships with other influencers.

This might simply be friendship type relationships (another blogger who simply wants to support you) or commercial relationships (where you offer commissions to those who sign up as your affiliates).

Either approach works best if those relationships are warm and engaging ones.

Think about when you would promote what another blogger is doing? If you’re like me you’re more likely to promote then if they are engaging, friendly and communicating regularly with you.

So keep interacting with other bloggers in your niche in natural ways (don’t overwhelm them). This might simply be by engaging on social media but it could also be private industry groups on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Also consider promoting what they are doing to help grow trust and relationships. Find win/win ways to benefit from supporting each other.

How to Get your Dreams Into Reality

Again – I understand the juggle it takes to create a product without letting your blog suffer. It isn’t easy but let me finish with two pieces of advice from my own personal experience.

1. Take Action

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve met bloggers with a dream to create a product that they’ve not actioned.

Get that dream out of your head! I spoke at World Domination Summit on how to do this (the video is below) but the #1 thing you need to do is ‘take action’ – even small actions.

I put off creating my first eBooks for over two years because I couldn’t see how I could keep my blogs running AND create those products. I was juggling a lot (we were also starting a family and newborns/sleep deprivation didn’t help).

So for over two years I took no action on my dream and in doing so missed out on two years of a new income stream and learning.

When I finally did take action and launched my product my first feeling was one of regret that I didn’t find a way to do it earlier.

Don’t allow yourself to be paralysed – you need to take action, even if it is very small steps. Which leads me to my next point.

2. Take Your Time: Small Steps Can Still Get You There

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Telling your to ‘take your time’ might seem at odds with my last point of ‘taking action’ but I think it can co-exist. Let me explain.

If creating product means you need to sacrifice the relationship with your readers – don’t do it. Find a way to take action that doesn’t cost you that relationship.

After two years of taking no action on my dream of creating my first eBooks I decided I needed to do something – anything – or give up the dream.

The only way I could do it was to get up 15 minutes a day earlier every day and get it done.

15 minutes a day isn’t much (although when you’ve been up settling babies in the night it feels like a sacrifice) but it is more than 0 minutes a day. Over time it adds up – 15 minutes a day over a month is 7.5 hours (an extra work day a month) and over 3-4 months you’ll be amazed what you can achieve!

In 15 minutes a day I took small but steady steps toward my goal of launching an eBook. I initially spent it on writing, then on editing, then on design, then on researching and setting up shopping carts, then on writing sales copy etc.

It took me months to get there but in 15 minutes a day steps I launched that first product WITHOUT sacrificing the relationship I had with my readers.

In fact I grew the relationship I had with my readers even stronger – so when those first eBooks launched (here on ProBlogger with 31 Days to Build a Better Blog and on dPS with a Portrait eBook) they blew my mind with the sales that they achieved.

You don’t need to make a choice between creating a product and looking after your readers!

5 Sources of Ideas for My Blog Posts

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On a recent webinar over at ProBlogger.com I was asked by John:

“Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?”

It’s a question we get a lot so I thought it might be a good one to write up here on the blog.

Discuss: I’m also keen to hear your experience on the question because I’m very aware that my approach is just one of many ways to go about generating blog post ideas.

1. Questions from Readers

Perhaps the #1 place I get inspiration for blog posts is the inspiration for this one – a question from a reader.

As I look back at the most popular posts here on ProBlogger I can see this pattern over and over again. While I might not always start with the actual question (as I’ve done above) questions often stimulate me writing a post.

If one person is asking a question you can bet that it is something that others are wondering about too.

Questions come from a variety of sources including:

  • Emails from readers
  • Comments on blog posts
  • Webinar Q&As
  • Real life events (both in conversations and in Q&As)
  • Social Media
  • Conversations
  • My own questions (both present and past ones)

Taking note of questions is something that you need to get in the habit of noticing, capturing and responding to – once you get into this mindset you’ll have a never ending supply of ideas.

Example: How to Convince Someone to Be Interviewed on Your Blog

2. Reader Surveys

One of the most powerful things I’ve ever done to collect reader questions and understand what topics I can write about that will solve readers needs is to set up surveys.

Over on Digital Photography School if you sign up for our email newsletter you get an invitation three months after joining to do a short survey.

The survey has a handful of demographic questions to help us get a picture of who is reading but also has an optional open ended question that asks readers if they have any questions, problems, challenges that they’d like us to write about.

Since setting up this survey we’ve had tens of thousands of people complete that question which gives us invaluable ideas.

Here’s a screen shot of the question we ask and some of the most recent responses.

Blog post ideas survey

This survey gets new responses every day and is ongoing but the other option is to do a one off survey. Here on ProBlogger we tend to do this as an annual ‘census’ where we invite readers to complete a similar survey all at the same time. This gives us a snapshot of the readership. It also enables us to compare where our readers are at today as compared to last year and the year before.

Updating Previous Topics

Once you’ve been blogging for a few years you’ll potentially have hundreds (if not thousands) of posts in your archives – some of which will become dated or even obsolete.

Going back through your archives to examine old posts that are out of date can serve as great inspiration for new posts.

Perhaps you’ve changed your opinion on the topic, or maybe there’s fresh information you can share, or maybe there is a new trend, technique or tool that you can write about.

In some cases you might want to delete the previous post (if its now completely wrong) or you might also want to update it or link to a new post on the topic.

Either way – your old dated posts will quite often give all kinds of inspiration for new ones so go hunting in your archives!

Related Reading: How to Repurpose your Content and Why You Should Do it

3. Stories/Experiences/Experiments/Learnings

Another source for many of my own most popular posts over the years have simply come from my own experience.

This has been especially the case here on ProBlogger where many of my posts have simply been me sharing what I’m learning.

Take for example some recent posts here I have shared:

How Our eBook Launches Have Evolved (after 235,000 eBook Sales) – reflections on what I’ve learned over the last 5-6 years
My Experiment with Starting a 2nd Facebook Page for My Blog – a case study on a little experimenting I was running
Tapping into Joy and Disappointment: Lessons from Our Biggest eBook Launch Ever – lessons learned in a recent launch
Spend 10 Minutes Doing This Every Day and You Could Transform Your Blogging – sharing an activity that I do that helps me
My Top 5 Mistakes as a Blogger – don’t just share the good experiences and successes!

4. Evolution of Previous Posts

Pay particular attention to previous posts that you’ve written and how people respond to them because this is often a source of great inspiration for future posts.

Let me give you an example.

Recently I noticed that an old post that we published on Digital Photography School was getting a surge in traffic from Facebook.

The post was titled How a Humble 85mm Lens Became my Favourite and was written by one of our regular paid writers.

Blog post ideas example

The post had been popular when we first posted in back in 2012 but after I’d shared it again on our Facebook page (I highlight 1-2 posts in our archives every day) it had been really well received by our Facebook community.

It struck me that perhaps we could get some of our other writers to write similar posts about their favourite lenses.

We have a private little ‘group’ on Facebook for our dPS writers so I posted the idea there.

Ideas blog posts

Our other writers liked the idea and began nominating the lenses that they’d write about and got to work on writing the posts. We’ve already published the first of these favorite lens posts and have got another 7-8 of them being written to be published over the coming months.

Want another example? Check out this post I wrote on ProBlogger last year on how I turned a simple guest post into a series of posts that generated over 3 million visitors to dPS.

This principle of watching how people react with your previous blog posts can be extended to see how people react to your previous social media updates.

A good example of this is a post I published earlier in the year here on ProBlogger titled 10 Quick Tips for Entrepreneurial Bloggers which was actually based upon some of my most popular Tweets. I looked back over the previous years of tweets from my ProBlogger twitter account to find the most retweeted and liked updates – which then became a blog post.

5. Talks/Presentations/Twitter Chats

Another source of numerous recent blog posts that I’ve written have been talks and presentations that I’ve given.

I invest many hours on preparing to speak at a conference or event so it makes sense to take that work and turn it into a blog post (or series of them) wherever possible.

An example of this would be my recent post – How to build a Blog that has Lasting Impact Upon its Readers in which I took a reader question (point #1 above) and shared my answer to it using some ideas from a recent talk I gave.

Creative control broken down

I also included some of the slides (like the one above) from my talk as graphic in the blog post to give it some visual punch.

Another example of this is a post I wrote here on ProBlogger recently titled – How to Build a Blog Worth Monetizing – in which I shared a series of tweets from a Twitter Chat that I’d co hosted (the #BlogChat twitter chat). In fact many of those tweets also had slides from a previous talk also!

Where Do You Get Ideas for Blog Posts?

I’m scratching the surface of this topic here and know there are many more ways to generate ideas – but I’m keen to hear your experience!

Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?

Google Introducing ‘Mobile Friendly’ Tags in Search Results and Signal It Will Start Impacting Search Rankings

Over the last couple of years any blogger who has paid attention to their analytics will know that how people are reading blogs is changing.

No longer are people simply arriving on your blog on their desktop computer or laptop but on tablets, mobile phones and more.

Today I took a look at the change in how people arrive on my blog (Digital Photography School) over last 3 years.

I doubt the results will surprise anyone.

dPS Mobile Desktop Trafic

The growth in mobile/tablet traffic has been remarkable.

When I look at the last period in the chart in more detail and look at just this month (November) the trend continues

dPS Mobile Desktop Trafic 2

Another month or two and we’ll be hitting a 50/50 split of those on desktops and those on mobile devices.

Every blogger I speak with tells me a similar story. While the breakdown might vary a little the day is coming (if it hasn’t already) where most bloggers will have more readers consuming content on mobile devices than desktop.

Google Launch Mobile Friendly Tags and Testing Tool

Google have been encouraging those with websites to make them mobile friendly for a year or more now but in the last week Google made an interesting announcement that is aimed at twisting the arm of those with sites even more.

They announced that they’ll be rolling out ‘tags’ in search results that mark sites as ‘mobile-friendly’. In the coming weeks when you search Google you’ll start seeing this next to those sites Googlebot considers to be fit for mobile consumption.

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What makes a mobile friendly site in Googlebot’s eyes? What it is looking for is sites that:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

Google also made available an easy to use ‘test’ that enables us to add our URL and test if our blog fits the criteria.

Simply plug in your URL and it’ll analyse your site and give you a tick of approval or a cross with suggestions on how to fix any problems

Google to Start using Mobile-Friendly Criteria in Ranking Sites

Also of interest in Google’s announcement this week is this line:

We are also experimenting with using the mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.

Take note: Google are officially letting us know that if your site isn’t mobile friendly that it could hurt how your site is ranked in Google.

Note: last year we completely redesigned Digital Photography School with a mobile friendly responsive design.

We’ve also gradually been rolling out responsive designs on ProBlogger.com, ProBloggerEvents.com and in the coming month hope to finish overhauling the ProBlogger suite of sites by making ProBlogger.net and our Job boards similarly design. It’s a big job but well worth the effort!

Where I’ll be Speaking in 2015

I’ve had a few people asking in the last few weeks where I’ll be speaking in 2015 – I can’t believe the end of the year is so close!

I love speaking and am excited by some of the opportunities next year. I hope you’ll consider joining me both here in Australia and Internationally.

World Domination Summit 2013: Photo by  Joshua Seaman

World Domination Summit 2013: Photo by Joshua Seaman

Next year I’ll be speaking twice internationally (so far):

1. March 25-26: Social Media Marketing World in San Diego.

I’m really excited to get to Social Media Marketing World this year. I’ve jealously watched it from afar the last couple of years as many of those that I admire have attended and spoken.

All that I’ve spoken to who attend say it’s one of the best organised and most practically helpful conferences that they’ve been to.

Here’s a little recap of what attendees thought of last years event!

It was a real delight to be invited by Mike Stelzner to speak in the blogging stream this year.

What a buzz it’ll be to attend an event with 2500 bloggers and social media enthusiasts!

$500 Off! Social Media Marketing World

Until Friday you can grab a ticket to Social Media Marketing World at a whopping $500 off!

Note: I am an affiliate to this event but am also genuinely endorsing it (I wouldn’t travel for close to 24 hours to attend it otherwise).

2. May 9-14: Chris Ducker’s Tropical Think Tank in Cebu, the Philippines.

I’ve not been to the Philippines for 12 years so I’m really looking forward to this one.

Chris has assembled a great lineup of speakers for this intense but intimate event (there are only 50 attendees) – I’m honoured to be one of them.

I’m told there are a handful of tickets left – join me at TTT here.

In Australia: ProBlogger Event

My main focus in speaking next year will be within Australia. I’m still in talks with a couple of conferences and hope to announce them shortly but many ProBlogger readers have also been asking about our ProBlogger Event.

We hope to announce more details of dates and venue for our main event before the end of the year but I can tell you that it will be mid August 2015 and we will be in a new venue that will allow us to grow beyond the 550 attendees who attended last year.

I can also tell you that we will be running a full day event this year in Perth on Saturday 21 February. We hope to release tickets for this event by early in December.

Lastly we will be running some shorter events in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in March.

To be notified of all of these Aussie events the moment we have more news to share please join our Aussie Events email list here:

Need a Speaker for Your Event?

9226361525_3dc3aa965e_b 2I am open to speaking at a small number of other events in 2015. I particularly enjoy keynote style presentations but have a variety of workshops that I can run also.

I’m comfortable speaking to audiences of thousands right down to smaller groups and would love to discuss how I can serve those attending your conference.

If you have an event that you’d like me to come to please check out my speaker page for more information and some examples of me speaking.

Did Your Blog Have a Tipping Point? Here’s How My 2 Blogs Grew

Time for another reader question from a recent member webinar on ProBlogger.com.

Did you experience a “tipping point” in readership at some point or was it just steady growth?

This is actually a question I often ask full time bloggers who I meet because I love to hear the back story about how their blog broke through to have enough readers to make a living from.

What I’ve found in asking the question is that there are many different pathways to full time blogging.

This can perhaps be illustrated by sharing how my two main blogs grew in terms of readership because they could not really be more different.

Let’s start with ProBlogger

I wish I could show you an actual traffic chart of ProBlogger’s growth but when I started it back in 2004 I didn’t have Google Analytics installed (it didn’t come along until 2006, from memory).

However if I were to recreate it’s growth the chart would have looked something like this in the first couple of years.

blog traffic ProBlogger

You can see the first few months were particularly slow but within the next two months things boomed very quickly.

This ‘tipping point’ came as a result of me mentioning (without any forethought) in an interview that I’d reached a level of being a full time blogger and earning a six figure income from my blogging.

This caused quite the stir back in 2006. While blogging had been around for a few years and the idea of making money online was not new – there were not too many bloggers experimenting with making money from blogs.

The interview in which I mentioned making a six figure income from blogging went viral and was linked to from a number of big sites (one in particular was Slashdot which sent hundreds of thousands of visitors in a day).

Some people saw making money from blogging as controversial (blogging was seen by some as ‘pure’ and not to be monetised) and it also stimulated a lot of other bloggers to become interested in making money from blogging.

ProBlogger was the only real place to talk about making money blogging so subscribers shot up almost overnight and the term ‘ProBlogger’ quickly became a term those making money from blogging began to use to describe what they did.

While I didn’t set out to cause the ‘tipping point’ with that interview my blog here at ProBlogger was never the same after doing so.

A Different Story at Digital Photography School

Digital Photography School was a very different story to ProBlogger in terms of traffic growth.

If I had to chart the first two years it’d have looked more like this (in comparison to the yellow line of ProBlogger).

blog traffic comparison

It took around 2 years to get to the point where dPS was larger than Problogger (today it is 10 times bigger than ProBlogger is) and there was no real ‘tipping point).

I didn’t have Google Analytics on dPS until 8 months after the site began but here’s how growth has looked since that point (this is monthly visitors).

traffic-blog-dps

You can see that there were certainly some months were traffic spiked a little but the growth was fairly steady with no real breakout month that would classify as a tipping point.

The spikes in traffic were usually the result of being featured on other large blogs (usually the result of me networking and pitching other bloggers with links that their readers might find useful) or getting lucky with getting to the front page of sites like Digg or Reddit.

However it is worth saying that while spikes in traffic like these are fun… they rarely convert to long term traffic and are quite fleeting.

As I’ve written about in the past – this gradual but steady growth really came about as a result of a number of different factors:

    • Regular useful content: Daily “how to” posts that solved problems, showed people how to achieve their goals and improve their photography. This has been the main focus of the site since day 1 (I’d estimate over 90% of the content I’ve published fits into this category).
    • Shareable content: Content that I knew was more likely to be shared (inspirational posts, breaking news, humor, controversy (I didn’t really focus on this), grand list posts, and so on. This type of content has never been my main focus but I have mixed it into the publishing schedule at probably around 5% of what we publish.
    • Community: The other 5% of posts was more focused upon community activities like reader discussions, giving readers a chance to show off their photos, debates, polls, etc. We started a forum in time, too, to build this community further.
    • Email newsletter: If there’s one thing that grew the site more than any other, it was that we started collecting people’s email addresses early and began sending them weekly updates/newsletters. Email now sends a bit spike of traffic every Thursday night when we send our newsletter. Read more on how I use email to drive traffic and profit here.
    • Promotion: I defined who I wanted to read my blog and did the exercise of asking where they gathered. This lead me to sites like Flickr, other blogs, and some social networking sites where I developed presence, was useful and in time shared our content. Facebook is the #1 source of social traffic to the blog as a result of some of the strategies I’ve previously written about here and here.

SEO – I’ve never put a massive effort into search engine optimisation but one of the flow on effects of producing daily helpful content, regular shareable content, building community, and actively promoting dPS has been that the content we produce ranks well in Google. This doesn’t happen overnight but naturally grows as you add more content to your site and as your site becomes an authority in the eyes of Google. Knowing some basics of SEO helps but most of it for dPS has come about very naturally simply by trying to create the kind of site that people want to read (which is what Google tries to rank highest).

Further Reading On Content that Drives Traffic: I’ve talked a fair bit about content above – here is a post I wrote on ProBlogger last year that analyses 5 posts I published in the first year that generated a heap of traffic since that time which will illustrate the kind of content that has generated great traffic on dPS since the beginning.

How Did Your Blog Grow?

As you can see – my two blogs have had quite different journeys. Most full time bloggers I meet tend to have growth more similar to dPS than ProBlogger but no two are the same.

What has your blog’s growth been like?

Free Webinar: How to Start (or Reboot) Your Blog Right: 8 success factors that determine your blog’s future

UPDATE: this webinar is now finished. Check out other upcoming webinars at our Problogger Webinars page.

This coming Tuesday/Wednesday (depending where you live) I’m running a free webinar with Chris Garrett.

The time of the webinar is:

Los Angeles: 5pm Tuesday 28th
New York: 8pm Tuesday 28th
London: 12am Wednesday 29th (sorry my UK friends!)
Singapore and Perth: 8am Wednesday 29th
Cape Town: 2am Wednesday 29th
Melbourne and Sydney: 11am Wednesday 29th

Note: we will record the webinar but you need to register to receive access to it.

The title of the webinar is – How to Start (or Reboot) Your Blog Right: 8 success factors that determine your blog’s future

Chris Garrett is long term blogger, the co author of the ProBlogger book and Chief Digital Officer at CopyBlogger Media.

Here’s a short description of what will be covered:

The world of blogging has gone mainstream, and this has introduced both opportunities and also challenges. Today you need more than passion and technical know-how, you need a plan.

How can you break through the noise and get started in 2014? If your blog is stumbling, how can you get it on the right track? In this webinar, Chris Garrett takes us back to fundamentals and talks us through the planning and research that lead him to his new forthcoming blog.

Normally our webinars are for paid up members of ProBlogger.com only but as this topic is so applicable to a wider audience we thought we’d open it up for free.

To register you’ll simply need to sign up for a free account to ProBlogger.com and register for the webinar.

Here’s the process:

1. Head to the webinar page here.

2. Click the ‘register’ button.

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3. A popup box will appear with a button to create a free account. Click it.

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4. Add your details and click ‘continue’.

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5. You’ll be now taken back to the webinar page where it should show you’re now registered for the webinar. You’ll get an email confirming your registration and another reminding you of the webinar as it approaches.

Can’t wait to see you in the webinar later this week!

Remember, we will record this for those unable to make the live webinar but you’ll need to register with the above process to gain access to it.

Note: your free account on ProBlogger.com only gives you access to upcoming the live ‘public’ webinars including one with Jeff Goins next month and one with Elise Cripe in December.

Paid up members also unlock a heap more in ProBlogger.com and gain access to recordings of all webinars (currently 31 in our archives), future monthly private webinars, our ProBlogger plugins, a private forum area etc.

3 Ways to Define What Your Blog Is About

What is your blog about?

It’s a question all bloggers get asked from time to time. How do you answer it?

It’s also a question I know many ProBlogger readers wrestle with – particularly when starting out.

What is my niche? Do I even need a niche? How do I define my niche?

Every time I run a Q&A webinar over on ProBlogger.com, I get questions around whether bloggers need a niche. I thought I’d put a few thoughts into a blog post and suggest three ways to define what your blog is about.

1. Niche

Lets start with the most obvious one – choosing a ‘niche’ to blog about.

Most bloggers I know would classify their blog in this way. I often do!

ProBlogger – at it’s most basic level is a blog about blogging (sad but true!).

Digital Photography School – it’s a blog about digital photography.

Everything that happens on my blogs comes back to these core topics – they’re very much niche blogs.

There are many other examples of great ‘niche’ blogs. For example Chris Hunter’s BikeEXIF.

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2. Demographic

Most ProBlogger readers fit fairly and squarely into a ‘niche’ but I know from experience that there’s quite a few of you squirming in your seat and resisting the urge to scroll to the comments section to tell me that your blog doesn’t fit into a niche.

Perhaps thinking about ‘who’ your blog is for rather than the ‘topic’ it is about is a better approach for you.

Over the last 10 years I’ve seen more and more bloggers developing blogs around a certain demographic of readers.

Gala Darling was one of the first I came across doing this on her blog (although there were others doing similarly.

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A quick look over Gala’s blog and you can see she’s talking about a range of topics – Style, Beauty, Travel, Self Love are 4 categories but over the years she’s talked about relationships, horoscopes and much more. While her blog doesn’t really fit neatly into a ‘niche’ Gala seems to have a clear understanding in her mind of who she is writing for.

There are many examples of bloggers targeting particular demographics. Some are focused upon men or women, others are aimed at a generation, others are aimed at a lifestyle.

3. A Fight

At this year’s ProBlogger Event in Portland Oregon Jeff Goins gave a talk that presented another way to think about what your blog is about that I know many attendees found really helpful.

He suggested picking a ‘fight’.

For a gentle shy guy like me, this at first sounded a little confronting – but as he spoke, I realised I’d already picked a fight in my blogging!

By picking a fight Jeff was not suggesting you attack another person or choose something to blog about that is necessarily controversial – but rather to centre your blog around a struggle in some way that readers might identify with.

While I’ve already mentioned above that ProBlogger is a ‘niche’ blog, I realised that as Jeff spoke that when I started ProBlogger it was definitely centered around a ‘fight’.

When I started ProBlogger back in 2004, blogging was seen as a very ‘pure’ medium that was supposed to be used largely for self expression. To suggest that blogs could be used to make money was something that polarised people.

Some argued blogs should never be used for commercial purposes and suggested that to do so would be to slimy/scammy and others doubted that it was even possible to make money blogging.

Starting ProBlogger was me putting a flag in the sand and saying that not only was it possible to make a living from blogging (I was almost full time at that point) but that you could do it without selling out or entering into sleazy territory.

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That was my fight and it turns out that while it was a little controversial at the time, a lot of others who shared my belief and who got some kind of inspiration from that same fight. Others gathered around that flag in the sand and ProBlogger gained momentum.

As I think about the three options of niche, demographic, and fight, I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong way to go about it. Each has its advantages and disadvantages but I do wonder if having a ‘fight’ might be a particularly powerful way to go.

A fight galvanises people and is something that you and others can get passionate about. These things are good for a blog.

Niches, Demographics and/or Fights?

The above three options for classifying a blog are certainly not the only ones, and I wouldn’t want to argue that they’re mutually exclusive.

In fact as I think about some of my favourite blogs, I see some that have niches, demographics, AND fights!

A prime example of this would be Vanessa’s blog Style and Shenanigans (Vanessa is my wife) who has a blog about ‘style’ (niche), which is written for women (demographic) and has a fight. Her fight is that you can retain a sense of style despite having three little boys running around your home destroying everything (as we do).

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How Do You Define What Your Blog Is About?

Do you have a niche, a demographic or a fight? Or do you think about what your blog is about in some other way?

I’d love to hear your take on this!

How Our eBook Launches Have Evolved (after 235,000 eBook Sales)

This week on my main blog – Digital Photography School – we launched our 24th photographic eBook (a guide to post production of portrait images) and it got me thinking back about some of the changes in my blogging since I started back in 2002.

Over the last five years I’ve completely changed the way that I monetise my blogs. Up until this point my focus had very much been about making money through advertising (with some affiliate marketing) but in 2009 I began to experiment with eBooks (read more on this evolution in my blogging income in this post).

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A Few Stats on our eBook Sales

  • On ProBlogger, SnapnGuides and Digital Photography School we’ve now launched 34 eBook based products (including two printable collections).
  • Last time I checked we’d made over 235,000 individual sales of these products.
  • This 235,000 sales includes quite a few ‘bundles’ of eBooks so the individual number of eBooks sold would be much higher.

To say that I’m happy I took a step out of my comfort zone and created my first eBooks back in 2009 would be an understatement!

I still monetise my blogs through advertising and some affiliate marketing – but to have this newer and larger income stream is a bonus (although, it’s worth emphasising, was a lot of hard work).

The Biggest Lesson I’ve Learned In Selling eBooks

While that’s a lot of products when you look at them all together I’ve learned heaps since 2009 when I launched my first two eBooks and have many many mistakes a long the way.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve had is that the ‘launch’ of a new product is super important.

Today I looked back on my first product launches and was amazed just how much the approach to launching our products has evolved.

Note: Next week we’ll be running a fuller webinar for ProBlogger.com members on this topic that will walk you through the way we launch eBooks on dPS and ProBlogger.

My First eBook Launch

In 2009 when I launched my first photography eBook I wrote about the launch here on ProBlogger. To save you the read – the launch was pretty simple.

Once the product was created and loaded into our shopping cart system with an early bird 25% discount we launched with:

    • an email to our newsletter list
    • a blog post
    • a handful of tweets and Facebook updates

emailing a handful of potential affiliates to ask them if they wanted to promote the ebook

  • halfway through the 10 days I mentioned it in our weekly newsletter – very subtly
  • 10 Days later I ended the launch I again emailed and wrote a blog post saying that the discount period was coming to an end.

 

The result in sales looked like this with two spikes of sales around the two emails/blog posts:

E book sales

I was pretty amazed by the launch – 4800 eBooks sold and an income of around $72,000.

I wrote about some of the lessons from this first launch in a post on ProBlogger after the launch – in that post I wrote about a few ways that I’d change it next time – one of which was to not only have an email at the start and end of the launch but more in the middle – to try to stimulate sales in the middle (and to change the shape of the chart from a U to a W).

This is exactly what I began to experiment in the launches that followed. In fact today as I look at a typical launch of an eBook things have evolved a lot!

Our eBook Launches Today

Typically now when we launch an eBook our launch happens over a 4-5 week period (as opposed to the 10 days of that first launch). This enables us to promote the product numerous times in different ways over the month.

Note: if we go for a five-week launch it usually means we have a week off in the middle of the launch – so after week two, we wouldn’t email on week three. We do this if a product is going well naturally just to let our affiliates have a bit more time to promote it.

Here’s a graphic from a recent talk that I gave that lays out what a typical launch might look like (click to enlarge):

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You’ll notice some of the same elements as the first launch outlined above but see that we’ve added a few new things including:

Pre Launch

Preparing readers for what is to come can build anticipation and whet their appetite for your product. Also getting readers familiar with the author/creator of the product (if they are not already) is important.

Showcasing the Author/Creator

If the author is not you – the blogger – getting them involved on the blog during the launch is important – it can help you build credibility and gives you natural ways to mention the product. As you’ll see in the graphic above we involved the author in guest posts and interviews on the blog but there might be other ways to showcase them including webinars, videos etc.

Competitions

We don’t always do a competition but will sometimes introduce one in week two which puts anyone who purchases our eBook in the draw to win a prize. Note: this is something you’ll need to check your local regulations on as not all countries allow competitions that require a purchase.

Testimonials

Week 3-4 usually involves an email and/or blog posts that involved testimonials that we’ve received from readers who bought the eBook. This of course relies upon you getting them – we typically find them in reviews that people have written or comments people have left on social or on the blog.

Mix it Up

Each of the weeks have a different focus. So instead of each week us emailing the same message ‘check out our eBook’ we’re emailing some kind of update that gives a different message and hopefully hits a different trigger point to purchase.

  • Many of our readers simply buy everything we launch so week one is all it takes.
  • Others need an incentive of a competition so week two hits the spot.
  • Others like to see what others think about the product so the testimonials work best.
  • Others still just need the incentive of the price rising, a competition ending or a bonus offer finishing to get them to buy.

Minimise the Annoyance Factor

It’s also worth noting that if someone buys the eBook that we are able to stop them receiving further emails – so they’re not being emailed another 2-3 times about something they’ve already bought. We do this simply by putting any purchases of the eBook into a new list on Aweber and then excluding that list from the next emails we send.

It’s also worth noting that over the launch period I’m very conscious of keeping everything on the blog as normal as possible.

Over the launch we still do the same amount of regular blog posts, our newsletters continue to mainly be about sharing great tips and tutorials and the vast majority of our social media updates are not about the product.

This means anyone who is not interested in the eBook still can be engaging with us in the way that they always do – so as to minimise the annoyance factor.

What Have You Learned About Launching Products?

The way that we launch our eBooks has evolved a lot over the last five years and will no doubt continue to change. It’s also something that we no doubt do differently to others.

So… I’d love to hear what you’ve learned about launching products on your blogs? What have you tried that has worked well for you?