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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.

Hey Bloggers! Is it Time to Focus a little Less on Your Blog and A Little More on YOU?

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Blogging has been very good to me over the last twelve and a half years, but it’s come at a personal cost that I’m sure many can relate to.

Gradually over that time I’ve allowed myself to become more and more inactive. Gradually over time I became less and less fit and gained more and more weight.

Along with the weight gain and loss of fitness came a loss of energy and mental alertness. If I’m honest it also began to impact my mental health which in turn impacted numerous other areas of my life from relationships to my personal confidence and even through into my blogging.

Four months ago I had a bit of a wake up call after my annual doctors checkup, when I was presented with a list of areas I needed to do some work on. None of the things on the list were super-urgent or life-threatening but the fact that it was a list was enough to grab my attention and sparked a few changes in my life.

I recently wrote about my ‘slow decline’ and the changes I made in a post over on LinkedIn titled My New Project: Project Me.

In short I began to walk each day and made some significant changes to my diet (you can read the specifics in the post). The impact was pretty immediate.

  • Most importantly I’m feeling so much better within myself.
  • I have more energy than I remember having for a decade.
  • I’m thinking clearer and have more mental alertness and stamina.
  • My confidence has improved so much!
  • I’ve lost 13 kilograms (almost 29 pounds) and am in desperate need to go shopping to buy some smaller clothes!
  • My blood pressure is down!
  • I’m no longer out of breath when I play with my kids.
  • I’m getting more productive and the quality of my work is improving.
  • My mood and outlook has improved and I’m finding myself smiling a whole heap more

It’s Infectious

One of the other impacts that I had not expected of this journey is that as I’ve shared my story (with the above post) and in conversation I’ve noticed that it’s sparked others around me to make changes.

I was at a conference last week when three people told me that they’d started their own ‘Project Me’ campaigns. Each was doing it their own way and focusing upon a different areas of their life but each was sick of the ‘gradual slides’ that had happened in their lives and was doing something about it.

Join Us?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few weeks and have been wondering if there’s some way we could support each other more as a community in this area.

I’ll declare up front that I’m no expert in any of this. I’m four months into this journey and have been learning a lot but still have a long way to go. But I do know that I’m much more likely to have success if I’m doing this in community and have a little accountability from those around me.

As a result yesterday on the spur of the moment and without any planning or forethought, I decided to start a little group on Facebook for those who want to work on improving their health.

I’ve set the group up under the name of Feelgooder (the name of an old blog I used to have that I’ve never done much with) with the goal of it being alive for three months. On 19 August we’ll reassess whether the group is being of use to people and I’ll decide if we continue it or not.

The group is a closed group but you’re very very welcome to join it.

The objective is not to prescribe, teach or share any one way to get healthy. Rather it’s a place for support, share, be vulnerable and have a little accountability.

So far we’ve got 230+ people who’ve joined. People seem to be at all stages of the journey with their fitness, diet and other areas of well being. There’s also people from all parts of the world and different age groups.

So far the group is largely made up of bloggers or online entrepreneurs. There’s no rule on this but it’s who seems to be joining so I thought I’d open the invitation up to the wider ProBlogger community.

Whether this evolves beyond the group or ends up just being a temporary community I don’t know but I’m loving the first couple of days and hope that those of you who feel moved to do so might consider joining us.

Is it Time to Focus a little Less on Your Blog and A Little More on YOU?

I’d love to see you over on the Feelgooder Group on Facebook.

3 Places Your Best Ideas Are Hiding In Your First Drafts

Many bloggers write drafts and then ‘edit’ their writing – but ‘revising’ is a little different and is definitely a good exercise.

Today I came across a great short video by Beth Dunn from Hubspot that was recorded earlier in the year at the Inbound conference.

In the video Beth talks about ‘fixing your writing’ by learning to ‘revise’ your work.

There’s lots of take home points in this video but what resonated with me most were the three points Beth makes about the places in your first drafts that your best ideas often hide (at around the 9.30 mark).

These best ideas (or the ‘screws’ or the ‘points’ as Beth calls them) are often the things that you need to pay particular attention to and that you should make the centre pieces of your revised drafts.

These points regularly can be found:

The Change

The place in our writing where we hit a fork in the road and it changes course in some way. Some writers call this the pivot.

For me in my writing I find myself regularly feeling tempted to take a tangent in my writing halfway through a post and have trained myself to take note while I writing of these moments because they are often golden moments that can trigger me to completely change what I’m writing or that lead to followup posts.

The Laugh

The moment while you’re writing when while you’re writing something just ‘lurches out onto the page’ and you laugh out loud and wonder where it came from.

This reminds me of a post I wrote back in 2011 about ‘Listening to Your Inner Crazy Voice‘ where I identified that I’ve noticed that many times my best ideas have made me either laugh or gasp when I’ve had them.

As I wrote back then:

In each case, the reaction I had straight after having the idea was to either laugh or gasp. In most cases, the reaction was the same when I told those around me. I’m learning that the laugh and gasp reactions are good. They tell you that you’ve thought of something a little out of the box—something that will, at the very least, get noticed.

The End

The vast majority of your great ideas will be found at the end of your first draft.

This resonated with me very strongly. I regularly find that after banging out a post that the crux of what I say is in my conclusion.

This is logical in many ways – we spend a lot of time exploring an idea in our writing and after all that grappling with the topic we refine our idea to the point where they’re a lot better when we’ve finished than when we started.

In some ways the first draft becomes the opportunity for us to think out loud to help us get to ‘the point’ or the idea.

The mistake at this point is simply to publish what we’ve written. Rather – treat your first draft as the raw material for what comes next. Take that idea that you’ve refined and make it the centrepiece of your writing.

ProBlogger FAQ: How Often Should I Post?

ProBlogger FAQ - How often should I post Darren gives his answer : problogger.net

Post frequency is a topic that comes up often among bloggers. It doesn’t matter if you’ve just started or you’ve been posting for years – people change, algorithms change, and even your motivations for blogging change. No-one is immune from wondering if their schedule is working, or if tweaks can be made for more successful audience interaction.

As I said in my previous FAQ post on how long posts should be – it depends on several factors. The length of posts, the frequency of posting, and definitely post content all require trial and error, and for the blogger to know what their readers respond to best.

There’s been a shift I’ve seen lately – two shifts, actually – in posting schedules that work for certain bloggers posting certain content.

There’s the shift toward following the Upworthy/BuzzFeed model of 10-20 posts a day, and others doing slow, longer, deeper posts.

The choice can even depend on your monetizing model. If you are dependent upon banner ads, your’e going to need more posts. More eyeballs mean more clicks, which mean more money can be made that way.

If you’re selling a product or service, then you’ll do better with slower paced, deeper content. You’ll notice that’s what we’ve been experimenting with here on ProBlogger recently.

Finding a posting schedule requires some homework on the part of the blogger – checking their Analytics to see what posts work best, what times work best, and at what speed. You can canvass your audience for their opinion outright by asking them on Facebook, email newsletters or including the question in your regular surveys and make your decision based on their answer. You also need to canvass yourself – how many posts can you reasonably fit into your schedule before quantity overcomes quality?

In this post on How Many Posts Should a Blogger Post I go into detail about the pros and cons of daily blogging, which might help you make your decision. Of course there are benefits of both, and sometimes it can take a while of testing before you find which works best for you.

You might also find this post useful where our guest writer Ali Luke discusses the surprising answer she found to the universal question.

Have you struggled with this? Or have you found the perfect posting schedule? I’d love to hear in the comments.

The Only Business Training Resource I Promote Just Opened for Enrolments for One Week

Update: this course will be open for enrolments for just over 1 more day.

I only promote one blogger training resource each year and this is the only week this until 2016 that they have enrolments open.

I’m very fussy about what blogger training resources I promote (because there is so much hype and dubious practice in this space) but today have a recommendation for an authentic and valuable program that I know will help many ProBlogger readers.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Short Story

The Elite Blog Academy is one of the most comprehensive blogging courses I’ve ever come across – and it’s available to enrol in with an early bird offer for just the next 5 days with the coupon code PROBLOG (which saves you $50).

Check it out here

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The Longer Story

NewImageLast year I had the opportunity to meet a great US based blogger by the name of Ruth Soukup.

We only had the chance to grab a quick coffee while I was in Portland but in that time Ruth really impressed me with her story of starting and growing her blog Living Well Spending Less.

While like us all Ruth made her share of mistakes in the early days over the first four years of the blog Ruth managed to grow its readership to over a million monthly readers and to generate a full time income from it.

I was really impressed with both Ruth’s success but also the clear and strategic she applied to her blogging.

Numerous times as she spoke I wanted to take notes as she’d been experimenting with techniques I’d not come across before – particularly around Pinterest and social media.

At the end of her story I remember thinking ‘I wish we could bottle what you’ve done and share it with ProBlogger readers’.

No sooner than I’d thought this Ruth slid across the table a white folder with an outline for her EliteBlog Academy course. Yep – she’d bottled it!

The Elite Blog Academy: Enrolments Close in Five Days

Ruth’s Elite Blog Academy is literally her stepping you through her process for building a profitable blog in 12 wonderfully crafted lessons. You can learn more about it here (but use the coupon code PROBLOG to save $50).

Here’s a short video about the course:

The course is delivered through

  • 12 fantastic unit videos
  • 12 very detailed workbooks (with video outlines)
  • 16 helpful handouts, 30 assignments
  • a series of 4 live webinars with Ruth
  • weekly office hours to chat with the team
  • a weekly newsletter
  • a a Private Community forum where you can interact with Ruth and other attendees.

This course is not designed for the faint of heart – it requires work (as does successful blogging) and a willingness to really buckle down. That said, for those who are willing to do the work, it also comes with a 100% money-back guarantee.

Anyone who completes the course and has not seen measurable results in both traffic and income growth will get their money back, no questions asked. That’s a pretty incredible promise, but it means that you’ve literally got nothing to lose. 

If you are ready to finally take your blog to the next level, sign up now to secure your spot here.

Don’t forget to use the coupon code PROBLOG – it’ll save you $50 at check out. The code expires and enrolments close at midnight on 21 April.

Disclaimer: as stated above – I want to be clear that I’m an affiliate for this product but do so having checked it out and genuinely recommending Ruth it’s creator and the program itself. I’m also so impressed with Ruth’s teaching I’m flying her to Australia later this year to do some teaching at our ProBlogger Event – she’s the real deal!

ProBlogger FAQ: How Long Should Posts Be?

Over the years I’ve been asked many questions about blogging, but I find there are a few that pop up more often than others. While blogging is different for everyone, I have found that the conclusions I’ve arrived at after all this time still hold true.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting my answers to the most frequently asked questions here at ProBlogger. If you have any you’d like me to answer, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.

ProBlogger FAQ How long should posts be We go into the answers.

The biggest question I get asked though, is how long should a post be?

My answer to this is usually “write enough to be useful, and then stop”.

This, of course, means that a post can be any length, and I certainly don’t follow a set formula. You can be useful in 500 words, or you can be useful in 3000 – it all depends.

There has been talk recently about longer-form content and the way Google ranks it as opposed to the bite-size content usually recommended for time-poor readers. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so it’s best to consider what the topic is, who your reader is, and how much you have to say about it.

Longer-form content

Search ranking

Regardless of the fact we post on a constantly-updated platform, there is still a need for in-depth analysis. Google itself came to the conclusion after a reader experiment that people are looking for both quick answers and to learn more broadly about the topics that interest them.

Long form also content keeps people on the site longer, which seems to be increasingly a factor in Facebook’s and Google’s algorithms and how they rank content. They factor that time spent on your site into their ranking strategy – how long it takes you to get back to Facebook or Google and interact. Did you flick back almost immediately after not finding what you wanted? Or did you spend a few minutes reading, therefore proving the content useful and as something you wanted to see?

CoSchedule recently conducted an experiment on longer-form content and how it was ranked in search results depending on word length. They mentioned the correlations companies like Moz and serpIQ have found between long-form content and search result placement, and also number of backlinks. Garrett at CoSchedule tested key words and found that the 500-word posts rarely ranked at all. He came to the conclusion that Google doesn’t prefer long-form content simply because it was longer, but that length was one of the indicators of quality (out of 200 ranking factors). The point was still to create great content, as Google values value over all.

Virality

In his experiment on QuickSprout, Neil Patel found that his posts that were longer than 1500 words garnered significantly more social shares than the posts that weren’t. Buzzsumo went on to analyze 100 million articles last year only to discover the same thing – the longer the content, the more shares it gets.

 Usefulness

There’s no doubt you can cover much more ground when it comes to long-form content, and the likelihood that you will be providing the answer the reader is looking for, or solving a pain point for them, is higher.

Longer, in-depth, useful articles are still some of the most popular on ProBlogger – posts like Can You Really Make Money Blogging [7 Things I Know about Making Money Blogging]How to Consistently Come Up with Great Post Ideas for Your Blog, and The Ultimate Guide to Making Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program (which is a whopper at 7683 words). They provide value because they answer just about any question anyone would have.

Short Form Content

I’ve experimented with both long and short-form content on ProBlogger, and have sometimes turned what could be an in-depth post into series of shorter posts instead.

The good thing about a series of posts on the one topic is that it creates anticipation. While it’s never been as successful for me (share-wise) as long-form content, it’s still useful. The best response I’ve seen to a series of posts I’ve done is when I first published 31 Days to Build a Better Blog – where, by posting something every day, I built a community of bloggers all taking small steps in a month to create more successful blogs.

How to Decide?

As I mentioned earlier, the length of your posts depend on various factors. There doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all approach, and very much requires you take into account the topic, your blog, and it’s readers.

Benefits of long-form content:

  • Provides answers to questions
  • Is ranked higher in search results by Google
  • Get shared more
  • Asserts your authority (particularly the in-depth, heavily researched types)
  • Increases engagement
  • Increases the likelihood of quality backlinks
  • Provides value
  • Keeps readers on site
  • Easier to naturally use keywords more often
  • Convenient for readers – all answers in one go

Cons

  • It takes time and effort
  • People might not read as they don’t have the time as it comes through their newsfeed
  • People might save it to read later and then forget
  • It may overwhelm the reader

Benefits of short-form content

  • Easily digestible
  • Easily shared
  • Easily written
  • Helps you keep a consistent updating schedule

Cons

  • Might not be long enough to provide what the reader is looking for
  • Easy to read and forget
  • Could get lost in the busy internet crush
  • Doesn’t establish credibility the way a long-form post can

The idea is to weigh the pros and cons of each and come up with a formula that feels good to you.

Joe from The Write Practice breaks it down well in his post “How Long Should Your Posts Be? A Writer’s Guide” – giving common blog posts lengths and the best types of topics they’re suited to.

Neil Patel outlines the factors you need to take into account before deciding on post length in this post, but asserts that substance is the most basic consideration. “What are you trying to say? What’s the substance? If you can say it in 100 words, then you may want to do so. If it requires 2,000 words, that’s fine too,” he says.

It all comes down to content. Good, useful content that people enjoy reading. Write enough to be useful, then stop.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen short-form do well? Or are you more of a long-form writer? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Blog Post Idea: How I Do It Posts

Recently I shared a simple technique that I use to come up with ideas to write about on my blog – answering a beginner question.

While not really rocket science I had a number of readers contact me privately with thank-you messages appreciating the nudge to write that type of post.

Today I’d like to suggest another simple technique for coming up with blog post ideas. It’s simple yet is perhaps one of the most powerful types of posts I’ve used on my own blogs many times in the last 12 years.

I call these posts the ‘how I do (or did) it’ post.

How I did (or do) it

Over the years I’ve found that posts that walk people through processes of how you do things go down exceptionally well.

Giving someone the theory is good but showing them how you apply that theory takes your writing to a new level.

There are a couple of ways to do this.

How I DID It

Firstly you could walk people through how you did a one-off thing.

You could write a post on how you lost weight, or a post on how you made a dining table for your family, or how you wrote your first book, or how you overcame your fear of heights.

For example Vanessa (my wife) wrote a post on travelling to Bali with Young Kids that basically shared tips from our experience of a trip to Bali with our kids last year.

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She followed it up with posts on where to shop in Bali and where to eat and drink in Bali.

Each of these posts essentially took our experience of that trip and explained what we’d done and learned on the trip. They contain a heap of practical tips gained from real experience.

These posts have been used many many times by Vanessa’s readers who are considering similar trips.

A variation on this ‘how I did it’ post might be a ‘what I learned from it’ type post.

For example when I created and released my first eBook I wrote about 8 lessons I learned from the experience here.

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How I DO It

Secondly you could walk people through how you do something that is a normal part of your life.

For example I recently shared a screen cast of my social media workflow and how I keep my dPS Facebook page running and in another post shared an exercise I do in Google Analytics.

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These are things I do regularly without really thinking about it that it turns out readers are interested in.

One of my good blogging friends – Nicole Avery – does this regularly on her blog Planning with Kids.

For example here is her family morning routine, her kids homework boxes and how she preps food for her 5 kids’ lunch boxes each week.

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In each case Nicole has simply looked at her life and found a routine, system or process that works for her and has shared it on her blog.

These things might be so much a part of your day or week that you don’t even think of them any more – but you’ll often find that these are things that will help others incredibly.

Exercise

Brainstorm ideas for these two types of posts.

What are some big one off things that you’ve done in your life that you could write about?

What are some things that you do regularly in your life each day or week that could actually help others? (e.g. routines, systems, processes).

Hint: pay close attention the questions that you regularly get asked from family and friends about how you do things or about the experiences that you’ve had. If people in your ‘real life’ are interested in how you do these kinds of things you can bet others online would be too.

Grab Your Ticket for the 2015 ProBlogger Training Event

Yesterday we released tickets to the 2015 ProBlogger Training Event on 14-15 August here in Australia on the Gold Coast.

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As I write this post 560 bloggers, speakers and team have grabbed their tickets (400 of those went in the first 10 minutes) and under 150 tickets remain.

This year we’ve got attendees coming from all states and territories in Australia as well as attendees flying in from the USA, New Zealand, India and Fiji.

Attendees not only come from all over the place but come from a wide spectrum of niches (everything from bloggers blogging about Fashion, to Health, to Travel, to Food, to Small Business and much more) and also a wide spectrum of experience levels.

Here’s the experience levels of attendees broken down (this doesn’t include speakers or team which all come from the 4-5 years or 5+ years categories).

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There’s a heap more information about the event over on the PBEVENT page – check out details of the speakers and sessions already announced (more to come) and venue and location.

I’m particularly excited about our international speakers this year. We’re bringing out Heather B Armstrong from Dooce, Jadah Sellner from Simple Green Smoothies, Pamela Wilson from CopyBlogger and Ruth Soukup from the Elite Blog Academy.

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If you’re thinking of joining us the cost for bloggers is just $399 AUD (around $300USD depending on the exchange rate on the day) which includes the two days of training, lunches and refreshments both days, a networking party and slides and recordings of all sessions.

Many conferences of this type and length cost upwards of $1000 so we’re pleased to have Olympus on board as a presenting partner. Olympus have substantially subsidised the cost of attending for bloggers this year but will also be adding a heap of value to the conference with some training for bloggers on how to take better photos for their blogs.

If you’re thinking of joining us please don’t wait too long and grab yours here. Tickets will sell out for this event and we’d hate for you to be disappointed.

Blog Post Idea: Answer a Beginner Question

Stuck for content ideas for your blog? Here is a type of blog post that might spark an idea or two for you – it could even spark ideas for a whole series.

It is something that should be relevant to most niches and topics of blog so pick one, write it up, and when you’re done I’d love to see it in comments below.

A question I had when I started out

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Sometimes the best received posts are the ones for beginners on topics that help them really get started out in whatever pursuit you are writing about.

This is one of my favourite techniques for coming up with ideas to write about is to simply think back a year, two or ten and think about the questions and challenges that I had at that time.

Then I write the answer that I’ve since discovered to that question.

It might seem a bit silly writing about something so beginner or basic but you’ll if you were asking it you can bet others are still asking it today.

Beginners are often an ignored reader in many niches so paying them attention can be a powerful technique.

It’s also great for creating content that will potentially rank well in search engines as Google is a place many people go to ask the questions they’re too embarrassed to ask their friends.

Examples

Beginner photography question

On dPS some of our most popular posts of all time are answering really simple beginner questions. For example my How to Hold a Camera post was inspired by my own mistakes as a kid taking blurry photos.

As I’ve previously written on ProBlogger – that How to hold a camera post was something so basic I nearly didn’t publish it. But to this day it’s had over 600,000 visitors to it (with more arriving every day).

Beginner blogging question

A similar example here on ProBlogger is my ‘what is a blog?’ post. I wrote the post in 2005 and to this day it still gets traffic!

Exercise

So think back – what questions did you used to ask about the topic or topics you write about? Come up with a list and start working through them.

You might even come up with enough to start a weekly or monthly series of posts for those just starting out.

Once you’ve brainstormed get to work and write your post. Once it is published feel free to share a link below so we can see what you wrote!

Are You a Full Time Blogger with Small to Medium Traffic? Let’s Chat

One of the biggest misconceptions that many bloggers have is that you need MASSIVE traffic to become a full time blogger.

We often hear how many hundreds of thousands or even millions of visitors this or that blog has but the reality is that I’ve met many bloggers over the years who don’t have massive traffic – yet who are still making a healthy income from their blogging.

The problem is that these bloggers don’t always have the platform to tell their stories and so the myth that you need massive traffic goes on without being busted.

This year I want to smash that myth and want to tell the stories of smaller to medium sized bloggers who are making a living from their blogs.

Are you a Full Time Blogger-
If you’re a full time (or close to full time) blogger and would consider yourself to be in the small to medium category – I’ve love to hear a little about you and your blog and have set up a form to help gather your stories.

I can’t guarantee to tell everyone’s story (I’ve already had 80 responses) but I would love to hear it.

I’m looking for as many models of making money blogging as I can find. So whether you’re doing it through some kind of advertising or sponsorship or by selling an eProduct or membership or even if you’re using a blog to sell your services or to promote a brick and mortar business – I’d love to hear from you.

Note: I’m particularly looking for blogs that are NOT about making money online. While that’s a legit niche I got a load of those in previous submissions. I’d much prefer to hear from blogs who blog about fashion, travel, food, business, health, fitness, parenting, life… not making money. Sorry if that excludes you but looking for other niches right now.

Here’s the form for you to submit your details

PS: a few people have asked what I would classify ‘small to medium traffic’ as. While I’m open to your interpretation on that the examples that I’ve got so far that interest me the most are from people who have traffic from as little as 600 visitors a month (really, there are a couple of great examples) up to 20,000 to 30,000 per month (or 1000 or so per day).

Having said that – I’m open to hearing all kinds of stories!