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Announcing the New Sticky Top Bar Plugin: A ProBlogger WordPress Plugin

A couple of weeks ago we launched the new ProBlogger.com – a private membership site that not only has a community/forum area for bloggers to network, collaborate and learn but one which provides members with regular webinars as well as exclusive access to some tools that my team have been developing for my blogs.

Recently we released our Infinite Scroll Word Press Plugin, and then we released a Sticky Top Bar Messenger plugin.

You can see this plugin in operation here on ProBlogger but also on my site at Digital Photography School (on dPS we don’t have it showing on the front page – so you’ll need to look at single posts like this one).

On dPS it is currently driving the blue bar at the top of the site that has a button linking to our latest portrait posing eBook. It looks like this when he page loads.

10 Photography Hacks that will Dramatically Improve Your Photos 10

As you scroll down the page it sticks to the top of the post.

Here on ProBlogger when you load a page you’ll see sticking at the top is a bar that currently invites readers to subscribe to our email newsletter like this:

3 Important Questions To Ask About Posts in Your Blog Archives ProBlogger 13

The difference with the sticky bar on ProBlogger is that after a while the bar changes to a grey one that calls readers to join the new ProBlogger.com community.

3 Important Questions To Ask About Posts in Your Blog Archives ProBlogger 3

These two sticky bars rotate on a timed basis.

I asked my developer team to work on this plugin almost a year ago now as a result of wanting more flexibility than I could get from other such plugins that are available.

Ours has been designed so that you can

  • change the colours of everything (background, text, buttons). If you set up multiple bars to rotate each bar can look completely different to draw attention to the rotations.
  • add in multiple rotating messages and set your own time delays (so you can show different calls to action set to show after a reader has been reading a post for a certain amount of time). You can set up unlimited messages to rotate through.
  • add in your own custom HTML, including email forms and even images
  • show specific bar messages on specific pages on your blog (so you could set many different calls to action for different landing pages on the site)

Note: our developer team is already taking this plugin to the next level based upon ProBlogger.com member feedback. You can bet it’ll continue to be improved to add even more functionality and flexibility.

The applications for these sticky bars are endless. We’re currently using them to drive people to sales pages and sign up subscribers (when we added the call to action (CTA) to subscribe here on ProBlogger our subscribers went up 25%) but you could use them for many purposes.

For example you could include CTA’s for people to view some of your most popular posts, you could drive people to follow you on Twitter, Facebook etc), you could call people to vote in a poll or take a survey, you could use it to drive people to a forum area, you could use it to call for guest posts, you could share site news, you could use it to help show social proof… the possibilities are endless.

We’ve also designed the bars that show so that they are mobile friendly (so it’ll work with your responsive blog design if you have one). You can even show shorter messages in your bar to those viewing on mobile.

Readers have the option to minimise the bar if they don’t wish to keep seeing it using the arrow on the right of the bar:

Banners and Alerts and 3 Important Questions To Ask About Posts in Your Blog Archives ProBlogger

Lastly – our bar is also unbranded (many others as you to upgrade to remove the logo of the developer company) and very importantly to me this is all hosted on your own site so you’re not dependant upon a third party service being working for your bar to work). You control everything from within WordPress so you never have to go to another site to set it up.

Get Access To This New Plugin Today

This bar is available for all ProBlogger.com community members to download and use for free with your membership. Signup today to get access to this plugin plus all the other benefits of the new ProBlogger.com (including more plugins that we’re getting ready to release). Don’t forget you can currently sign up for the Early Bird price of $17 per month (you’re locked in at this discounted price forever) – however this discount ends in the coming weeks so don’t miss out.

Here’s a video from Shayne that shows you a little more of what the bar can do and how you can install it if you’re a ProBlogger.com member.

I’m really excited about releasing this plugin and can’t wait to see how members use it!

My Top 5 Mistakes as a Blogger

w__darrenrowse-_66.jpgOver in the ProBlogger.com forum last week, I issued members with a challenge to complete this week on their blogs. The challenge was simple – to write a ‘top 5’ post on any topic they wanted.

This is my own contribution to the challenge!

My Top 5 Mistakes as a Blogger

I’ve been blogging 11 and a half years now, and while I pinch myself everyday at where blogging has taken me, that time has been littered with mistakes and failures along the way.

While we often talk about the good times here on ProBlogger, today I thought I’d share 5 mistakes I made (or to put a more positive spin on it… 5 lessons I learned the hard way).

1. Choosing Profit over Passion

My first blog was a personal blog and an extension of who I was. I only wrote about what I was interested in and profit was not on the radar as nobody made money blogging back then.

My second blog was an extension of my first, and a blog on a topic that I was interested in (cameras/photography) – but which also became profitable.

After I saw that my second blog started to make money I began to dream about ‘going pro’ as a blogger. One of the routes I saw I could take to achieve this dream was to start more blogs.

I thought if my camera/photography blog could make money, then I could replicate the model with other niches and topics. At the time, I took two approaches in researching what topics to create these new blogs on:

  1. Popular topics which could potentially attract a lot of traffic
  2. High-value topics – which I could earn good money on through AdSense (some niches of ads were paying higher rates than others)

I started 30 blogs in that next year, and each fit into one of the above categories.

For example in category one was a blog which I started with a friend on the Athens Olympic Games. We knew there’d be a heap of people searching for information on the topic (particularly people wanting the results of events), so we created a blog with hundreds of posts on every single event in the games. We had all these posts live and indexed by Google weeks before the games happened so that when each event happened and people typed in ‘event name gold medal’ or ‘event name results’, we’d come up.

As each event happened we added the results to the event.

Fitting into the second category (profitable high value topics) was a blog I started on ‘printers’. My research revealed at the time that some of the highest paying ads going around were for print cartridges. So I started a blog on the topic of printers. I reviewed printers and I posted about new ones on the market.

I had absolutely no interest in the topic of printers – and it showed in my content.

Both of the above blogs made money but neither were topics I was particularly passionate about (although the Olympics is something I have an interest in the content we were producing wasn’t that stimulating to create).

I got away with the Olympics one because it was a short-term project and it was quite a buzz to do on some levels, however the discovery I made about almost all of the other blogs I created in that period was that it was both mind-numbing and spirit-sucking work to sustain a blog on topics you had no interest in at all.

That year almost ended my blogging dreams because while I made enough money to call it a full time job – it left me very uninspired.

Luckily at this time I also started ProBlogger – a blog I’m passionate about – and later started Digital Photography School and found that it was a heap more enjoyable to create blogs that you actually enjoyed writing for. I abandoned the other blogs soon after and a weight was lifted from my shoulders!

2. Being Slow to….

I’m going to roll a number of regrets and mistakes into one here and put them all under the ‘being too slow’ banner.

I’m not a fast-paced person. It takes me a while to make decisions and to jump into new things. I watched everyone else jump into Twitter for six months before I did. The same happened with Facebook, the same with investing time into starting an email newsletter.

While I did jump on some thing pretty quickly (like blogging itself – which I started doing two hours after reading my first blog), I sometimes wonder where I’d be if I’d acted faster in some areas, particularly at adopting new technologies.

On the flip side of this though is that I feel like by being a little ‘slow’ I probably jumped in with more information and having watched what others were doing – which hopefully meant I started things ‘right’ from the start.

3. The Wrong Domains

I’ve made almost every mistake you can with domains. For starters I didn’t get my own domain when I began, later I got an Aussie domain for a blog with a global audience, then I got a .net domain instead of a .com, then I ran a whole heap of different topic blogs on the one domain and then I got a domain with hyphens! I wrote more about all these mistakes (and more here!)

4. Business Regrets

A number of years ago I started blogging network by the name of b5media with three other bloggers. While the experience was amazing on many levels and I learned SO much, I have many regrets about some aspects of the experience also.

I won’t rehash them all but if I could go into that business venture again I’d have spent more time at the beginning as a partnership working out goals, expectations, roles and thinking about the model. I’d probably have wanted to ‘meet’ my partners before starting the business too :-)

I’d also have avoided going down the path of giving up equity in the business in order to take on capital. My experience with venture capital was not overly positive. While it does enable you to grow and expand – it means less control. In my case it meant I ended up with nothing at all after several years of work. It works for some, but I’d avoid it in future.

I learned a lot from that business and bear no grudge to any of my partners in it, but wouldn’t do it the same way again!

5. Trying to Do it All Myself

It’s only really been the last three or so years that I’ve begun to develop a team of people to help me run my businesses.

The 3-4 years preceding bringing on team members almost killed me. I stretched myself way too thin and it impacted my health, relationships, and the business itself.

While expanding the team means changing my role (which brings challenges), it also has led to many new opportunities and a lot more enjoyment! The business has grown as a result and I hope has helped me provide a better experience for those whom I serve also.

What Are Your Biggest Blogging Mistakes?

There you have it – my biggest mistakes as a blogger (note: I didn’t say my ‘only’ mistakes). I’ve shown you mine… how about telling us some of yours?

Creating Product Week: How to Create and Sell Products On Your Blog

Theme Week (1)Welcome our ‘Creating and Selling Products’ Week – a week of content here on ProBlogger completely dedicated to helping you to create and launch profitable products on your blog.

Over the past few months we’ve done a number of theme based weeks that take a more intense dive into topics relevant to bloggers. Most recently we’ve had Beginner Week, and Content Week, but this week we wanted to turn our attention to monetization – specifically through creating and selling products.

My Journey With Creating Products (and why this week is important)

While I’ve been blogging for just short of 12 years, my own journey with creating products to help monetize my blogs only goes back five years since launching the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog eBook and creating my first Portraits eBook on dPS.

Before that time I had collaborated with someone on a product but never monetized my blogs with one a product of my own.

Previous to these first experimentations with eBooks, the income generated from my blogs was almost all from advertising revenue (from ad networks like AdSense and also a few ad sales direct with brands) and affiliate revenue (like Amazon and a few smaller programs). I also did a little speaking, consulting and had written a hard cover book.

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In 2007 I was making a comfortable living from the above income streams but was a little worried about the economy and relying so heavily upon advertising income (which comprised more than 80% of what I was making).

I also had been watching the growth in popularity of eBooks and had for a year or so been dreaming of creating one myself.

My big issue was a severe lack of time. Between juggling two growing blogs and a growing family (we had just had our first child), I wasn’t sure how I’d ever write an eBook. I also had a long long list of other excuses to put it off.

I’d never written, designed, marketed a product of my own before… I didn’t have a shopping cart system… I didn’t know if my readers would buy…

In short – the dream of creating and selling an eBook of my own stayed in my head for two years until 2009. Ironically by that point I’d become even busier (we’d just had our second son and my blogs had continued to grow) but I knew if I didn’t bite the bullet and do it that I never would.

In 2009 I created my first eBooks – 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (which I’ve since updated into it’s second edition). That eBook generated $80,772.01 in 2009.

Later in the year I created and launched my first Portrait eBook over at dPS. That eBook generated $87,088.21 in sales in 2009.

As I regularly say when speaking at conferences about this experience – on the launch of these eBooks I was obviously very excited but also couldn’t believe how I’d put off creating this new income stream on my blogs for two years!

While obviously these two eBooks were financially profitable that immediate monetary reward wasn’t the best part – what was most valuable to me was that it sparked a whole new side to my business.

Dps ebooks

Since 2009 I’ve published 17 eBooks and 1 Printables set on Digital Photography School, and 6 eBooks and kits here on ProBlogger.

While I still sell advertising and do some affiliate campaigns on Digital Photography School, eBook sales now make up over 50% of my business today. Since that time we’ve also added two other income streams – membership (for ProBlogger.com) and Events.

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I tell this story because many times I come across bloggers who are a little stuck in the mindset that the only way to generate an income from blogging is to sell advertising.

While it’s certainly possible to build profitable blogs through a variety of types of advertising and affiliate promotions, it’s not the only way.

There are a few other benefits of creating a product for your blog other than the obvious income stream that they provide.

For starters by using your blog to sell your own product rather than sending your readers to buy other people’s products (through advertising) you’re keeping your readers on your own site and within your own community.

Secondly when you create a quality product that your reader loves – you’re going to make a much bigger impact upon your reader. I’ve personally found that when I meet readers face to face at conferences that the ones who’ve bought and read my book or eBooks seem to feel a lot stronger connection with me. They often talk to me as if we’ve had a shared experience already.

Lastly – I find that when you’ve created a product of some kind that it seems to help in the authority that people seem to perceive you as having. I guess there’s something about having intentionally sat down to create something of note that people seem to admire. While having an eBook or course doesn’t mean you ARE an authority – it all goes to help build your profile.

Creating Product Week

This week on ProBlogger we want to walk you through a number of posts that will help you to work out:

    1. what you need to do before developing a product for your blog
    2. work out what kind of product might be best for your blog
    3. how to create your product
    4. how to launch your product

To walk us through this process I’ve asked one of my core team (and author of one of the ProBlogger eBooks) – Shayne Tilley – to lead us. He’s prepared four posts that will come in the following days that will tackle these topics.

I’m also going to chime in on each post to give my perspective and as always am keen to hear your perspective also, as I know many ProBlogger readers have created their own products too.

Have You Created a Product?

My story is just one of many many in the blogosphere. While I’ve majored on creating eBooks there are certainly many other directions to take (and much of this week will be relevant to them all). I’d love to hear your experiences.

Have you created some kind of product on your blog? What kind is it? How did it go? What did you learn?

Read More the Rest of this Series on Creating and Selling Products

Below we’ll share the rest of this series of posts as they’re published.

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.

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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.

3 Important Questions To Ask About Posts in Your Blog Archives

Image via Flickr user theunquietlibrarian.

Image via Flickr user theunquietlibrarian.

Here’s a quick exercise that I encourage you to do every now and then.

Identify a post in your archives (preferably something that is a year or more older) and then ask yourself these three questions:

Can I update it?

Many times the posts in your archives can do with a refresh. While you might not want to do this with every post – if you have an older post that gets traffic from search engines it can be well worth doing!

It might be that you can add newer or up to date information, fix broken links, add some further reading to other articles you’ve since written, correct errors etc.

Can I Promote it Again?

Many of the posts in your archives could probably be promoted in some fresh way. The key is to find ‘evergreen’ content that hasn’t dated (or to update older posts with fresh information).

Late last year I wrote a post about how every day I try to find at least one post in my archives at Digital Photography School that I share on social media.

Can I Do a Followup Post?

The posts in your archives can be a great source of inspiration for future posts on your blog.

There are many ways to extend a post without simply rewriting the content you’ve already published. These might include:

    • Writing a post that explores an opposing view
    • Create a discussion post that asks readers for their thoughts, opinions and experiences on the topic
    • Write a post that gives an example, case study or tells a story on the topic
    • Repurpose this content in some way. For example as a slide share, infographic, podcast, webinar, report?

In each case above you not only are creating an extra post but you also can link back to the previous post to give readers a more holistic perspective on the topic. By doing so you also potentially are taking your readers on a bit of a journey through your archives and creating some momentum with your content over time.

Beginner Week: My 43 DOs and 25 DON’Ts of Blogging

Theme WeekEleven and a half years ago when I hit publish on my first ever blog post, I had little idea what I was doing and what was going to unfold for me over the coming decade.

As I prepared for a recent mini ProBlogger event event in Perth, I created a little list of some of the ‘dos and don’ts’ of blogging that I wish I’d known back in 2002 when I started. As it’s Beginner Week here on ProBlogger, I thought it might be appropriate to share them here on the blog today:

Note: these are MY dos and don’ts, and reflect my own style of blogging. I am not putting them forward as ‘rules’ that apply to all. I’d love to see your dos and don’ts in comments below.

My 43 DOs of Blogging

  1. Do create a blog that is meaningful to you
  2. Do set yourself some goals and objectives for your blog
  3. Do ‘write’ something every day (note that I didn’t say ‘publish’)
  4. Do as much as you can to get in your readers shoes and understand who they are
  5. Do use surveys and polls to help you understand your reader
  6. Do create content that meets your readers’ needs, answers their questions, and solves their problems
  7. Do write in an engaging voice
  8. Do start an email newsletter
  9. Do pay attention to the design of your blog – first impressions count!
  10. Do communicate clearly what your blog is about into your design
  11. Do spend time ‘off’ your blog engaging in the places where your potential readers gather
  12. Do go to the effort of registering your own domain
  13. Do create visual content
  14. Do model the kind of community that you want your blog to have
  15. Do install analytics and track the results of what you do
  16. Do find some blogging buddies who you can bounce ideas off and have mutual support with
  17. Do make sure you have ‘real life’ friends too – they’ll ground you
  18. Do become hyper-aware of problems (yours and other people’s), and obsessed with solving them
  19. Do create something to sell from your blog
  20. Do think beyond what you’ll write today – develop an editorial calendar
  21. Do set aside time to learn the skills you lack
  22. Do set aside time to brainstorm topics to write about
  23. Do read other people’s blogs – you’ll learn a lot from them
  24. Do share your opinion – it is what often differentiates you
  25. Do share stories – your own and other people’s
  26. Do back up your blog!
  27. Do blog with passion
  28. Do look for ‘win/win/win’ relationships with brands where you, the brand and your reader benefit
  29. Do show your personality – be yourself
  30. Do pay attention to what is energising you and do more of it
  31. Do pay attention to what is energising your readers and do more of it
  32. Do spend time refining and perfecting post headlines
  33. Do think about what ‘action’ you’re calling readers to take in your content
  34. Do make peace with the fact that there will always be more that you can do
  35. Do learn how to prioritise and focus upon activities that take you closer to your goals
  36. Do pay attention to your archives – update and promote them regularly
  37. Do push through bloggers block
  38. Do spend time analysing what types of content are being ‘shared’ in your niche – publish this kind of content semi-regularly
  39. Do use social proof
  40. Do take breaks from blogging – weekends and vacations are important!
  41. Do ask your readers a lot of questions and listen to what they say
  42. Do treat your blog as a business today… if you want it to be one tomorrow
  43. Do create content that Informs, Inspires and Interacts

My 25 DON’Ts of Blogging

  1. Don’t be afraid to hit publish
  2. Don’t feel you have to publish something every day
  3. Don’t publish when angry (or drunk)
  4. Don’t become a comment spammer on other people’s blogs
  5. Don’t publish just for the sake of publishing content
  6. Don’t use other people’s stuff without permission and credit
  7. Don’t focus so much about the readers you don’t have – have a big impact upon the ones you do have
  8. Don’t stretch yourself too thin (too many posts, too much SM) – do what you do really well
  9. Don’t become too promotional
  10. Don’t hit publish without one last proof read
  11. Don’t write purely for search engines
  12. Don’t sell out
  13. Don’t engage in every type of social media – analyse where your readers are and do those mediums well
  14. Don’t look for a ‘blueprint’ for successful blogging – forge your own path
  15. Don’t publish large chunks of text – break it up and make it scannable
  16. Don’t hide your mistakes – be transparent
  17. Don’t feed the trolls – be polite, kind, and firm
  18. Don’t let the negative things people say about you sink in – it’ll pull you down
  19. Don’t let the hyped praise people give you sink in – it’ll over-inflate your ego
  20. Don’t expect to get rich quick
  21. Don’t compare yourself to others – compare yourself to you when you started
  22. Don’t spend all your time ‘learning’ about blogging at the expense of actually blogging
  23. Don’t think there’s just one way to monetize your blog
  24. Don’t become so obsessed with blogging that you forget to have a real life
  25. Don’t give up too quickly – building a blog takes time

Of course I’m scraping the surface in this list but I hope for those of you starting out it gives you a few starting points. Also keep in mind that these are not ‘rules’ and that the do’s don’t guarantee success and the ‘don’ts’ don’t guarantee failure. In fact I’ve written many of the don’ts as a result of my own mistakes but things turned out ok in the end for me despite those failures.

If you’d like to go deeper on some of these themes check out the recording and slides of my webinar – 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Blogging.

Also don’t forget we are having a 50% off sale on the ProBlogger Guide to Your First Week of Blogging during Beginner Week. Simply enter the code BEGINNERWEEK at the checkout.

ProBlogger Training Event Tickets are Available to Purchase Now

In the last few minutes, tickets have gone on sale for this year’s ProBlogger Training Event on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia on August 29-30 of this year.

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You can get your tickets here.

It’s Our 5th Birthday

It’s hard for me to believe but this year will be the fifth annual event that we’ve run.

The first was for just 100 Aussie (and 1 New Zealander) bloggers and was hastily arranged in just a few weeks. Our speaker lineup was myself, Chris Garrett, and a handful of other local speakers.

Year two we saw 200 bloggers show up and we ran a streamed event with three rooms running at any one time, and featured more international guests like Sonia Simone from CopyBlogger, and Tim Ferris (4 hour work week), as well as a growing number of bloggers making a part-time living from their blogging.

Year three we grew to 300 attendees and enjoyed the company of Chris Guillebeau, but also saw a marked increase in the number of full-time Aussie bloggers speaking at our event.

Last year saw us move the event out of Melbourne for the first time up to the Gold Coast in Queensland. We had 450 in attendance and were joined not only by international speakers like Amy Porterfield, Tsh Oxenreider, and Trey Ratcliff, but also a growing number of international attendees. We also featured 20 or so Aussie bloggers as speakers – many of whom are doing really innovative things with their blogs to build profitable businesses.

Here’s a little video recap of last year:

And so we come to 2014.

This year we’ve decided to keep the size to the same as last year and are keeping the event at the wonderful QT hotel on the Gold Coast. Our hope is that by limiting the size at 450 we’ll retain some of the intimacy and community that we’ve built.

We’re supported this year by partners Tourism and Events Queensland, Virgin Australia and the QT Gold Coast.

2014 Speakers

This year I’m really excited about our speaker lineup. We’re very much focusing upon putting together a schedule that gives attendees very practical and actionable advice.

Speakers

Our international speakers this year include Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income, Rand Fishkin from Moz, Geraldine DeRuiter from Everywhereist, and Chris Ducker.

In addition to these amazing international speakers I’m very proud of our Aussie lineup, which includes Lucy Feagins (the Design Files), Chantelle Ellem (FatMumSlim), Shayne Tilley (my right hand man when it comes to Marketing), Nikki Parkinson (Styling You), Stacey Roberts (managing editor of ProBlogger), and many more that we’re continuing to announce on our speaker page.

This year tickets are $399 (that’s Aussie dollars) which includes the two full days training, morning and afternoon tea both days, lunch both days, a Friday night networking event (including your drinks and some food), recording and slides from most sessions as well as 8 months’ access to the brand new ProBlogger.com (which will be launched in the next week) which contains regular webinar teaching, some great plugins, and much more (worth over $200).

Tickets in previous years have always sold out ,so don’t delay your decision to grab one for too long as we’re unable to offer more than we do today in our first release, and we already have over 400 people on our Facebook page indicating that they’re coming.

Outside Australia?

Every year we run this event I get people from outside Australia saying that they wish they could come.

You can!

While it’s a bigger investment of time and money to fly in for this event we’re seeing more and more bloggers do it every year. In the last two years we’ve had attendees from the USA, UK, India, Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand.

Here’s a couple of pieces of feedback I got this week from two of our wonderful international attendees from our 2014 event:

I came, I saw, I was humbled… by the passion that Darren’s team has towards helping the blogger community. The core principle that I learnt, is that ‘Our blog should make a deep personal connect with the reader, and for that to happen the blogger should be honest, transparent & truthful about what He/She blogs. ” – Prashant Karandikar from India

I thoroughly enjoyed PBEVENT in Gold Coast. I knew there was a reason why I journeyed from the U.S. Just the networking alone was totally worth it. It was great to mingle with other bloggers and understanding what makes them click in person. Plus I had a chance to learn more about that region of Australia with Tourism Australia and fellow travel bloggers. I enjoyed the speakers as well, especially Trevor Young, who gave me tips on setting up my speaker page. Thanks Darren for having the event, looking forward to the next one.” – Kerwin McKenzie from the USA.

No Virtual Tickets This Year

Please note that this year we do not intend to release a virtual ticket for this event. While we have done so in previous years to enable those not at the event to get access we’ve taken the decision this year to focus our efforts upon providing those attending the LIVE event with 100% of our attention this year.

More information on this decision on our Facebook Event Page here.

Grab Your Ticket Today Here

There’s more information our Event page here but don’t take too long to make your decision as demand this year seems to be high.

Tickets are now available for you to purchase here.

I hope to see you on the Gold Coast in August!

Spend 10 Minutes Doing This Every Day and You Could Transform Your Blogging

Today I want to suggest an exercise that has the potential to improve your blogging profoundly if you build it into your daily routine.

Look at another blog

Image by zev

Image by zev

OK – this may not sound that profound – most of us read other blogs every day but it doesn’t revolutionise what we do – but stick with me for a second while I explain HOW to do it in a way that could have a big impact.

Here’s what I do every day

I choose a blog and then spend 5-10 minutes reviewing it. My aim is not to ‘consume’ it as a reader…. but rather to review it with the view of learning about blogging.

What I’ve found is that my spending 5-10 minutes every day looking at another blog in this way that I learn so much! In fact I’ve learned so much over the last few months that last week in my team meetings I’ve introduced the idea of us doing this as a group – each week we’ll review a blog to see what we can learn.

The objective is not to do these reviews to copy what others are doing – but rather I find in looking at other blogs I often find inspiration and insight for my own blogs. The learnings cover a wide range of areas – from design, to product ideas, to content, to increasing engagement, to use of social media, to marketing etc.

Let me dive a little deeper into how I do it:

Choosing a Blog to Review

I review a blog every week day so over a year I’m potentially reviewing 260 blogs so I don’t have a single criteria for choosing which blog I’ll review.

When I started doing this a few months ago I started doing it mainly with photography blogs (those in my own niche) but I’ve since moved outside my niche too. While it is great to know what competitors in your niche are doing there’s a much to learn by going beyond it too.

Not only do I mix up the niche but I’m also trying to mix up the size of the blog. There’s a lot to learn from the biggest blogs who have lots of readers, staff, developers, professional designs etc – but you can learn a lot from medium and smaller blogs too.

Also I like to keep my eye open for those blogs that are up and coming – those that seem to burst onto the scene quickly – because these blogs are often doing something new or innovative.

Lastly I like to try to mix up the style of blogs. While I mainly focus upon creating ‘how to’ content blogs I also regularly review blogs that focus more upon ‘news’, ‘reviews’, ‘personal’, ‘opinion’, ‘entertainment’ etc.

So if you’re just starting to do daily reviews – do start with blogs in your niche – but mix it up too, and you’ll discover a lot that you can apply in your own blogging.

Tips on Conducting Your Review

I don’t have a set routine for reviewing the blogs that I look at, but there are a number of things that I tend to do.

I usually start by viewing the blog on my desktop computer which has a nice, wide, 27-inch display. However I also try to view the blog on my iPad and phone which is often quite illuminating from a design viewpoint.

I generally will start by reviewing the front page of the blog and pay particular attention to my first impression and feelings about the site (first impressions are often lasting ones), but will always dig around deeper into the site and review ‘posts’ (both recent and those in the archives) and also any ‘pages’ (about page, advertising page, contact page, etc).

Questions to Ask As You Review

There are a variety of areas that you can review when looking at another blog. I tend to break things down into the following areas and find myself asking questions like those that follow.

Note: I don’t ask all of these questions every time I do a review – but I hope by presenting them you’ll get a feel for what directions you can explore.

Content

  • what voice/s are they writing in?
  • what is their posting frequency?
  • how long are the posts that they write?
  • what type of posts are they majoring on (information, inspiration, engagement, news, opinion, etc)?
  • what style and medium of posts are they using (lists, imagery, video, podcasts, etc)?
  • what blend of original vs curated content are they using?
  • what topics/categories are they majoring on?
  • what type of headlines/titles formulas do they use?
  • do they use multiple authors/guest posters or a single writer?

Community

  • how do they engage readers?
  • what calls to action do they use and what is being responded to?
  • what type of posts get the most comments, shares, likes?
  • do they use tools like polls, surveys, quizzes or other engagement triggers?
  • what social media sites are they using and how they using them for engagement/community building?
  • do they have a newsletter – how do they incentivise signups? What type of content do they send?
  • how much do the writers of the blog engage in comments?
  • do they have a dedicated community area? (forum, membership etc)?
  • do they have ‘discussion’ posts or ‘assignments’ or ‘projects/challenges’ that give readers something to DO?

Finding Readers

  • where do they seem to be putting most of their energy in terms of generating readership (social, guest posting, media etc)?
  • which social media sites are they primarily using for outreach and what are they doing their?
  • what type of content seems to be being shared the most on their site?
  • how do they try to ‘hook’ new readers once they’ve arrived (newsletter, social, RSS etc)?
  • what type of reader is this blog attracting?
  • how does the blog rank on Alexa? What does Alexa say about sources of traffic, type of reader that the blog has?

Monetization

  • how are they monetizing?
  • if advertising, what advertisers are they working with directly?
  • are they using an ad network like AdSense?
  • how many ads are they showing per page?
  • where are they positioning ads on their pages?
  • what size ads do they offer advertisers?
  • do they have an advertiser page? Do they publish their rates, traffic or other interesting information on it? Do they have a media kit? What is their main selling point to advertisers?
  • if selling products – what type of products seem tot be selling the most?
  • what can you learn from the way they market their products?
  • what affiliate programs/products are they promoting?
  • do they offer premium paid content or community areas on their blog?
  • do they have a disclaimer/privacy page? What can you learn from it about how they monetize?

Design/Tech

  • what layout do they use?
  • what navigation/menu items do they have?
  • what first impressions does their design give? What is the first thing they seem to be calling people to DO when arriving?
  • have they used a designer or blog template for their blog?
  • how do they communicate what their blog is about (do they have a tag line)?
  • how are they using their front page? Is it a traditional blog format, portal or something else?
  • what do they have in their sidebar?
  • do they have a ‘hello bar’ at the top of their site? What are they using it for?
  • what do they put in ‘hot zones’ on the blog (above the fold), below posts, etc?
  • what type of blogging tool do they seem to use?
  • what can you observe about their approach to SEO?
  • what kind of commenting technology do they use?
  • what widgets and tools do they have that make the reader experience more interesting?
  • how do they use images in posts?
  • what’s their logo like?
  • what colours are they using in their design?
  • how do they highlight ‘social proof’ in their design?
  • do they have an app?
  • is their design responsive to mobile/tablets?
  • do they use any techniques to increase page views?

Email/Newsletter

  • do they have an email newsletter?
  • if so – how are they driving people to signup? Popups, forms, hello bar etc?
  • are they incentivising signups with something free?
  • signup for the newsletter and watch what kinds of emails they send. Is it an auto responder or more timely broadcasts?

Social Media

  • what social media accounts do they promote on their blog?
  • how are they promoting their social media accounts?
  • are there social media mediums that they are ignoring?
  • which type of social media seems most active/important to them?
  • where are they getting most engagement?
  • how often are they updating their accounts? what times of day seem to get most engagement?
  • what techniques are they using on social that seem to get most engagement and build community?
  • what techniques are they using on social to drive traffic?
  • what techniques are they using with social to monetize?
  • what feedback is this blog getting from readers on social? What are they known for (both positive and negative)?

Other Questions to Ponder

  • are there opportunities to network or partner with this blog/blogger?
  • do they accept guest posts – could you write with them?
  • do they have products that you could promote as an affiliate?
  • do you have a product that they could promote as an affiliate?
  • if they are in your niche – what ‘gaps’ in their content could you be filling in your own blog?
  • what are they doing poorly that might provide you with an opportunity to have a competitive advantage?
  • what are they doing well that you’re not doing to the best of your ability?

What would you add?

The above list is not something I systematically work through for every blog that I look at – rather it is the type of questions I find myself asking as I review a blog and might be useful as a starting point for you to work from.

I’m sure there are other areas you could dig into further and I’d love to hear your suggestions in comments below.

Learn From The Actions of Others

Let me finish by coming back to the motivation for doing blog reviews like this.

What I’m NOT suggesting is that you review other blogs to simply steal other peoples ideas and replicate what they do.

What I AM suggesting is that you will learn a heap by looking at how others blog.

It might sounds odd coming from a guy writing a blog about blogging but I think you’ll actually learn as much – if not more – by doing the above exercise each day than by filling your RSS reader full of blog tips blogs. There’s only so much theory you need to hear – much more can be learned by watching people practice their craft.

A side note about Blogs about Blogging: The reality is that most ‘blog tips blogs’ are written by bloggers whose most successful blog is a ‘blog tips blog’. While this doesn’t discount them as people to listen to, it’s worth keeping in mind as you ponder their teaching and calls to purchase what they sell.

It also strikes me that the vast majority of successful bloggers going around are quietly going about building amazing blogs and not broadcasting their tips and learnings. Their focus is building their blogs – not teaching others how to blog. While it’d be great to get inside their heads the great thing is that almost everything they do is live on their blogs for all to see – hence the opportunity in spending time learning by watching what they do.

My Challenge to You

For the next week, review a blog every day. It need not include every question above – but put aside 10 or so minutes each day over the next week to look at another blog and see what you can learn.

I dare you! It could just be the most valuable 70 minutes of blogging learning you ever have!

If you take the challenge, I’d love to hear in comments below what you learn!

Passion – Do You Have It?


Recently on Twitter I was asked for some tips on what sets ‘great’ blogs apart from the rest.

With millions of bloggers creating blog posts every day – how do you stand out?

It’s a big question, and the reality is that there are many ingredients to building a successful blog.

A variety of words came to mind as I struggled to come up with my 140-character guide to ‘standing out’.

I started to list them:

  • Credibility
  • Share Your Opinion
  • Great Writing
  • Ability to Connect
  • Understanding Readers
  • Injecting Personality

As I brainstormed, I realised 140 characters was not going to cut it:

  • Great blog design
  • Tell Stories
  • Use Great Visuals
  • Network with other bloggers
  • Be prolific
  • Be funny
  • Be smart
  • Be first
  • Write great headlines

I started to think of the blogs I love and what makes them stand out:

  • Be Useful
  • Be Entertaining
  • Take note of your readers
  • Have a different spin on things
  • Be Original

The list continued to grow and with it my heart sank a little.

“There’s no one way to stand out…”

But then I had two realizations:

Firstly – I love that there’s no one way to stand out! There are no rules. There is no blueprint – and that’s what is so simultaneously exciting and frustrating about blogging.

That’s why I love what I do. Constant experimentation, learning, testing and trying new things.

The second thing I realised is that there actually was a common feature about all of the blogs that came to mind as ‘stand out’ blogs.

Passion

There are plenty of bloggers that do the things in the lists above. There are bloggers sharing opinions, writing well, with a heart to connect, with great personalities…. bloggers who are smart, funny, prolific, original, entertaining and bundles of wonderful!

But something that seems present and that shines through in the blogs that I read and love is passion.

They are created by people with passion for the topics being covered, passion for the process of creating content, passion for their readers, passion for learning, and passion for pushing the boundaries of thinking and creating.

They love… they enthuse… they delight in what they do. By doing so they somehow draw others into their passion too, which is where the real magic seems to happen.

This isn’t to say that passion is the only ingredient needed for success – but maybe… just perhaps… it’s what binds it all together and helps a blog just click.

Are you passionate about your blog?

Happy Valentine’s Day.