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DISCUSS: Which Social Network Sends Your Blog the Most Traffic?

At PBEVENT last week I was having lunch with a group of 5 bloggers from quite different niches and for a few minutes the conversation centred around the topic of which social media sites send us the most traffic.

We went around the circle and shared the top sources of social media traffic for our blogs and it was fascinating to hear how for different blogs and niches the answer changed.

I thought it might make an interesting discussion post here on ProBlogger (and might help some of us to work out where to invest more time into social.

Social media traffic

While traffic isn’t the only benefit of engaging on social – I know for many bloggers it’s a big reason to be engaging in social.

So here are my 2 questions for discussion:

  1. what is your blog’s niche/topic?
  2. what social media site/s sends your blog the most traffic?

Let me quickly answer for my two main blogs:

For Digital Photography School

  1. the niche is obviously ‘photography tips’
  2. The top social media source of traffic last month was clearly Facebook with Pinterest coming in at number 2 (but not even close to what Facebook sent).

For ProBlogger

  1. the niche is ‘blogging tips’
  2. The top social media source of traffic last month was again Facebook – but Twitter came in as a closer 2nd.

Aside: I was actually a little surprised by the result for ProBlogger because last time I checked Twitter was the #1 and I do put more effort into building a presence on the ProBlogger Twitter account than on our Facebook Page (we also have a lot more engagement and larger following numbers on Twitter). It looks like I might need to rethink my focus a little!

Highlights from ProBlogger Event 2013 #PBEVENT

Images by Helen H and WonderWebby

Note: the Virtual Pass for PBEVENT 2013 is still available for purchase here.

It is hard to believe but this time last week, we were in the midst of our fourth annual Problogger Conference on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia.

Darren and Tsh

It was an amazingly emotional, nerve-wracking and yet exhilarating couple of days – and by the end of the event we knew that we had created something pretty special.

People weren’t just talking about their plans for their blog. They were talking about how the event had inspired them to make bigger changes, and think on a much larger scale. It’s almost unthinkable that this is the same event I created in 2010 in a small hotel on the outskirts of Melbourne.
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When Affiliate Marketing Can Be a WIN/WIN/WIN Situation

Several years ago on my photography site I was approached by a company who sold a software product for photographers. They wanted to run a banner ad campaign on my site to promote a new product.

Their product was a quality one from a source I trusted and it was relevant to our readers so I sold them a banner ad that would run in the sidebar of my blog for the duration of a month for the cost of $2000.

The month ran it’s course and I emailed my contact at the company to see if they’d like to renew the ad. They didn’t.

It turns out that the banner ad had not driven enough sales for them to justify running the ad again (from what I know the sales generated from the ad made the company about $1000 – so given they paid $2000 it was a loss).

A year later noticed that they’d released a new product so I emailed them to ask if they’d like to try another ad campaign – potentially something in a different position on the site or even a competition/giveaway to give them a different type of exposure.

They said now but mentioned that they now had an affiliate program and would be willing to give me a review copy of the software for me to review. The commission on this $100 product was 30%.

I signed up for the affiliate program – wrote a post that gave a fair review of the product and posted it onto the blog. I pushed traffic to that post in our weekly newsletter and via social media and we ended up selling around 300 copies of the software over the coming weeks – making a total of $9000 in commission.

A Win/Win/Win for All Parties

While affiliate campaigns are not always going to have this result – I think this is a great example of how affiliate marketing can actually be a Win for everyone.

It was a Win for Me

Obviously I was happy with this affiliate campaign. While it took a little more work to review and write a post than to put a banner ad in our sidebar the increase in earnings from $2000 to $9000 was great for the bottom line of my business.

It was a Win for the Brand

The beauty of an affiliate program when you’re the manufacturing a product is that you only pay out when you generate a sale. The risk is pretty much non-existent for the company.

Rather than making a loss of $1000 they generated $30,000 in sales and took 70% of that. It also would have brought them new customers that they could promote to in future.

It was a Win for My Readers

The other party in any affiliate promotion is the reader. I like to think that they also won in this campaign because instead of seeing a banner ad that was all ‘marketing’ from the company they had the opportunity to read a fair review of the product.

I go out of my way in these kinds of reviews to show the pros and cons of products and help readers to make an informed decision.

In this case we had a number of readers email to say that they’d seen products from this company being advertised previously but seeing a review had helped them to make a decision if it was something that would help them.

When Affiliate Marketing Works Best

Of course affiliate marketing isn’t ‘easy’ money.

While the above story might seem rather ‘seamless’ and an easy it is important to note that the result was only possible after several years of building up:

  • Traffic to the site
  • Trust/relationship with readers
  • Credibility/authority

The other factors at play were:

  • A high quality product
  • A product from a reputable source
  • A relevant product that matched the needs of our readership

DISCUSS: What Was Your Most Popular Post in the Last Month and Why Did It Succeed?

At our ProBlogger Training Event last Friday I had a great conversation with 3 attendees during a lunch break where we each shared a post on our blogs over the last month that gained more visitors and/or comments than normal.

We had to say what the post was about and why we think it ‘worked’.

The exercise was fascinating and revealed a few similarities between the posts. I enjoyed doing it so much that I thought it might make an interesting group discussion here on ProBlogger.

In comments below – please share a link to a post in the last month on your blog that got more visitors and/or comments than normal and tell us why you think it worked with your readership.

Once you’ve shared – have a look at the links others share and the comments that they leave. I suspect that by doing so we’ll all probably learn a thing or two about creating successful blog posts.

PS: Here’s my answer. The most popular post on ProBlogger over the last month was ‘Don’t Fall Into This Trap That Could Destroy Your Blog‘.

I think it worked partly because the title makes you want to know what the trap is… but also partly because the post is based upon a story and is on a topic that most bloggers can relate to.

Over to you!

Just 24 Hours Left to Get Your ProBlogger Training Event Virtual Pass

As this post goes live 450 bloggers from around Australia are boarding planes to head to the 4th annual ProBlogger Training Event on the Gold Coast, Queensland. They’re tweeting with excitement on the #PBEVENT hashtag – check it out.

There they will be lapping up over 30 hours of great blogging training from international guests like Trey Ratcliff, Amy Porterhouse, Tsh Oxenreider as well as Aussie bloggers like Shayne Tilley, Pip Lincolne, Nicole Avery and myself.

Attend Our Event With the Virtual Pass

While this event is happening in Australia – you’re invited to participate and access the same great teaching through our Virtual Pass (available for a short time only).

The virtual pass will give you access to audio recordings and the slides of all sessions at our event. Shortly after the end of each session we’ll be uploading recordings so you can listen to them just after live attendees – it is the closest thing to being here with us.

This year we’ve got 31 sessions planned (we run 3 streams at once during most of the days) on topics including:

  • Monetization Where to Start
  • Designing Your Blog
  • Blogging and Creativity
  • Creating Your First eBook
  • Launching a Speaking Career off Your Blog
  • How to Sell Stuff from Your Blog
  • Blogging for Beginners
  • Facebook Marketing
  • SEO for WordPress
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Building Community on Your Blog
  • How to Create Your Own Products to Sell
  • Video Creation on a Shoe String
  • DIY PR to Grow Your Blog and Brand
  • Creating a Professional Media Kit
  • Google Analytics for Bloggers
  • Growing Your Social Media Network

That’s just some of it! See the full schedule here.

What is Included in the Virtual Pass?

  • Over 30 hours of teaching about building a profitable blog. You get audio recordings of all 31 sessions of training (keynotes, workshops and Q&A lounge sessions). These recordings are yours to keep and listen to as many times as you like
  • Access to an exclusive one hour webinar after PBEVENT with the amazing Jonathan Fields
  • View all slides used in sessions at the live event (yours to keep).
  • Participate in a live and exclusive webinar with myself after the event for a post-event Q&A (and get access to the recording to listen to later)
  • A stunning, visual live social media feed, aggregating all Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ posts and more from live attendees and virtual participants in one place.

Grab Your Virtual Pass Today

Normally a package of teaching like this would be sold for upwards of $500 but thanks to our friends at Yellow Pages our Virtual Pass is available for a limited time for you to purchase right now for the price of $249.99 USD. That’s just on $8 per session (plus you get access to the two webinars).

So don’t delay – take advantage of this special price and Pick Up Your Pass here.

3 Varieties of Bloggers Block I’ve Suffered From [And What I Did About Them]

Where do you get ‘stuck’ in your blog writing?

Today – in preparation for my opening keynote for next weeks ProBlogger Training Event – I was reflecting upon some of the obstacles I’ve faced in my blogging over the years.

One of the recurring obstacles that I’ve tackled at different times has been ‘bloggers block’.

Most bloggers face it – the inability to write!

As I pondered the different bouts of bloggers block that I’ve faced I realised that there are actually a number of different types of bloggers block – or rather there are different stages of the blog writing process that I’ve had periods of getting ‘stuck’.

3 Varieties of Bloggers Block I’ve Suffered From [And What I Did About Them]

Here’s 3 types of bloggers block that I’ve suffered (please add yours to the list in comments below):

1. An Ideas Impediment

Two years ago I hit a patch where I found blogging really tough because I kept getting stuck on coming up with ideas of what to write about.

Post topic ideas eluded me at every turn!

I guess I had gotten to a point in the life of my blogs where I’d covered hundreds… no thousands… of topics and was looking for something completely fresh and new to share.

Solution: what ended up snapping me out of this bout of bloggers block was sitting down with a friend to brainstorm together some topics to blog about.

I found that with his encouragement that we quickly came up with a heap of topics/titles for blog posts. Once I got those ideas they just kept on coming!

2. Hitting the Writing Wall

Earlier this year I had a patch where I had plenty of ideas for blogging but found it difficult to get into a regular rhythm of actually writing.

Looking back I think it was partly because I was so busy that I’d gotten out of the practice of writing and had fallen for the trap of doing my writing at the end of the day when I was tired rather than in my golden hours (for me I am at my creative best between 9-11am).

Solution: the solution this bout of bloggers block was again pretty simple. I changed the structure of my week around a little to make more time for blogging and put aside two blog post creation times in my week (Monday and Wednesday mornings) where I switched off Skype, Twitter, Email and my phone and just wrote!

I also decided to mix up some of the places that I blogged to give me a little fresh motivation. It took a few weeks to get back into the groove but the more I did it the better things got!

3. Completion Constipation

A a number of years back I had a serious problem of starting but not completing blog posts. I had a serious backlog of unfinished posts… but I couldn’t get them out!

I’m embarrassed to admit it but at its worst I had 93 half written posts uploaded as drafts here on ProBlogger.

Add to that were the notebooks full of blog post ideas and half written posts in text documents on my computers desktop and you can see I had a problem.

I would get so excited with my new ideas that I’d start writing but halfway through a post I’d either get distracted by another idea or lose interest in what I was writing!

Solution: the solution to this one was pretty logical. I decided to put aside time each week to work on posts that I’d not completed.

At the time I decided to dedicate evenings to this task as in most cases most of the creative work had already been done in the posts and it was just a matter of finishing things off, proof reading and polishing the posts up before scheduling them.

Have You Suffered from Bloggers Block?

Have you suffered from a bout of bloggers block? What variety was it? What did you do about it?

Don’t Fall Into This Trap That Could Destroy Your Blog

NewImageLast week I spent time with a young blogger who was completely stalled with her blog (for the purpose of this post I’ll call her Sally).

Sally’s blogging had started with a bang and had put together 3 great months of content and had started to build a readership but then it suddenly all came to a halt.

I arranged to catch up for coffee to see what had happened and see if there was a way to get her moving again and she told me a story that I’m sure many readers will find familiar.

Paralysed by Comparisons

The reason Sally started blogging was that she had been a reader of another reasonably well known blogger. She had been so inspired by this established blogger that she simply had to start her own blog – which she did.

The problem that brought Sally’s blog to a grinding halt started a few weeks after her blog began when Sally began to compare her fledgling blog with her hero’s blog.

It started innocently enough with her noticing that this others blogger’s design just seemed to flow much better than Sally’s. However in the coming days and weeks Sally started to compare other things too.

Her hero seemed to blog with more confidence, she got more comments, she had a larger Twitter following, she was more active on Pinterest, she was getting some great brands advertise on her blog, she was invited to cool events…

Once Sally started comparing she couldn’t stop. She told me that she would sit down to work on her blog and end up on her hero’s blog and social media accounts – for hours on end – comparing what they were doing.

On one hand Sally knew it wasn’t a fair comparison – she had only been blogging by this stage for a couple of months and her hero had been blogging for over 4 years… but logic was clouded out by jealousy and Sally found her blogging beginning to stall.

She started second guessing herself. She would work for days on blog posts – hoping to perfect them to the standard of her hero only to get to the point of publishing them and trashing them instead for fear of them not being up to scratch.

Days would go by between posts and then weeks. Sally’s blog began to stall… and then it died completely.

The Comparison Trap

Sally isn’t the only blogger to fall into the trap of comparing oneself with others – in fact I’ve heard this story (or variations of it) numerous times. If I’m honest, it’s something that at times I’ve struggled with too.

I remember in the early days of my own blogging comparing my style of writing with other bloggers that I admired who wrote in a much more academic, heavy style of writing. I tried to emulate this over and over again and never felt I hit the benchmark that they set.

The temptation was to give up – but luckily I found my more informal and conversational voice through experimentation and persistance.

Comparing Is Never Fair

As I chatted with Sally last week a theme emerged in our conversation – the comparisons were simply not fair.

Sally knew this on some levels but needed to hear it again.

Her hero had been blogging for years. Sally had been blogging for months.

Not only that – Sally was comparing herself to tiny snapshots of this other blogger.

She could see her hero’s Twitter follower numbers, how many comments she was getting, how many times she Pinned on Pinterest and the instagram photos of this blogger at glamorous events – but she didn’t really have the full picture of this other blogger.

She didn’t know how many hours that blogger worked, she didn’t know whether that other blogger had people working for her, she didn’t know if that other blogger was actually happy with her blog or life and she certainly didn’t see the instagrams of that other bloggers boring, dull or hard moments of life.

I’m not saying the other blogger is hiding anything or doing anything wrong – just that the comparisons Sally was making were of everything Sally knew about herself (and her insecurities) with tiny edited snapshots of the life and work another person.

Run You Own Race

Sally is a remarkable person. I’d love to tell you her real name and story because she’s overcome some amazing things in her life, has some unique perspectives to share and has an inspirational story to tell.

My encouragement to Sally (and to us all) is run her own race. Yes she’s running beside others that at times seem to be running faster or with more flare… but nobody else around her has her unique personality, set of experiences or skills.

Nobody else can blog like Sally – so the sooner she gets comfy in her own skin the better.

Is Blogging Still Relevant in a World of Social Media? [6 Reasons Why I Think It Is]

“How relevant is blogging for today in a world of so many types of social media?”

I must hear this question – or a variation of it – at least once a week. So I thought I’d open it up for some discussion to the wider ProBlogger community.

What do you think?

My feeling is that blogging is a very relevant option for developing a web presence but as the question states – there are other legitimate options too.

Each option has their own pros and cons and depending upon your goals and your resources (including how much time you have) you may choose to do all of the options available or just choose some.

Why I Think Blogging is Relevant

A few of the main arguments why I keep blogging as opposed to just using social media include:

  1. if self host your blog and use a blogging platform like WordPress.org you retain full control over your blog and what it looks like, how you monetize it and what kind of content you can put on it
  2. a blog allows you a lot of freedom in terms of length of posts (as opposed to Twitter/Facebook which limit length) and the design of your posts (i.e. inserting images, sub heading, bolding etc (G+ does give you some of this control) etc
  3. As long as you maintain it and pay for your hosting your blog can stay up forever and is not there as long as the social network may operate or be a relevant medium for people
  4. For me a blog is a place that I archive and showcase my best longer form and meaty stuff – social is an important place for researching what I write, sharing it and building community with my readers
  5. Much of what is shared and discussed on social media is links to longer form content – I want to be a creator of that
  6. In my experience it is easier to monetize and make sustainable a business based upon a blog over a social media account

Note: there will always be exceptions to the above. For instance G+ does give you some formatting options, I do know some people who monetize social media well etc – but in general I think the above stands up well.

Note 2: I’m certainly not arguing blogging is the only way or that you need to choose between blogging and social media. I use both but if I had to choose just one (which none of us have to) I’d choose blogging.

Why Others Think Blogging is Relevant

When I asked on my Twitter account yesterday for why my followers blog when they could use social media I got some great responses along these lines like:

I call it “share the message own the destination” – from Gavin Heaton

because sometimes thoughts should be developed beyond 140 characters or less – from James Woods

most of the value I get reading anything online still comes from longer format – from Reuben

I blog because it gives my voice and content a home. #SM platforms can delete anything I say if they so choose. – from Jessica Cue

Because the content is owned by me, not subject to the fine print of the legal text of a socmed service.Scott Fitzgerald

I SM to support my blog, I like the fact my blog space is my own to be me in. SM has it’s own rules depending on platform. – by Jessie Reid

Add Your Thoughts

The above thoughts (both mine and others) are just scratching the surface of this topic – I’d love to get your perspective on the relevancy of blogging for today in comments below!

10 Hurdles I’ve Faced as a Blogger and How I Got Over Them

Last night while speaking at a small event here in Melbourne I was asked to identify the most common hurdles that bloggers face in building profitable blogs.

It was a tricky question to answer – not because there are not many hurdles… but because there are so many and each blogger seems to face their own unique set of them.

Here are a few of the hurdles that I’ve faced and some further reading on how I got over them.

Super Track and Field Meet

1. Technical Know How

When I started blogging I was using the web for email and occasional research for essays for the study I was doing. I’d used IRC chat but had never created a web page, had never ‘coded’ anything, had no understanding of how to register a domain or get a site on a server and had no ability when it came to designing a blog.

As a result I made a lot of mistakes in those early years with poor choices of blogging platforms, domain names etc.

The big lessons for me in this was that while there was a lot I didn’t know about blogging and there was always something to learn (and there still is 10 years later) you really don’t need to know it all at once.

Start simple and grow your knowledge and skills as you need them – and as you’re able you might also like to look at partnering with others or outsourcing to people who complement your skill set.

Further Reading: I’m not technical enough to blog: Misconceptions Bloggers Have #4

2. Fear of Looking Stupid

As a result of #1 one of the earliest challenges that could have held me back was looking stupid. I have distinct memories in the first few months of blogging where I would compare my very poorly designed and badly written blog (at least that’s what I saw) with other bloggers who seemed to know what they were doing – I remember wondering if people were reading purely for a laugh.

Luckily I got past this fear and kept working on developing my blogging voice and skill set and in time the fear subsided.

I think the other key for me in overcoming this fear was to focus my energies on creating content with my blog that attempted to solve tangible problems that I knew people had. I think by taking this constructive approach you create a useful blog that is pretty difficult to critique.

3. Finding a Focus

My first blog was one in which I talked about many many topics. It started out focusing upon my work (I was a minister) and so I used it to talk about Church, Theology and Spirituality but over time it broadened to talk about my other interests (movies, politics, photography, life in Australia and later blogging itself).

The more topics I wrote about the more I enjoyed blogging but the more push back I got from readers who didn’t always share my eclectic mix of interests. It wasn’t until I started new blogs for different topics that I began to find my groove and my readership really began to grow.

Further Reading: How to Choose a Blog Niche

4. Bloggers Block

A few years into blogging I had my first bout of bloggers block. The creative juices were not flowing and I would sit at my computer staring at an empty draft of a post and wonder if I’d ever come up with something to write about. The first time it lasted a week or so but I had numerous other bursts of it periodically over the years that followed.

Following are some tips on how I overcame bloggers block.

Further Reading: 11 Tips to Breaking Bloggers Block Through Solving Reader Problems

Also Check out: 31 Days to Build a Better Blog to help you kick start your blogging if it has lost motivation.

5. Bloggers Burnout

Similarly I also went through times when I almost burnt myself out with the amount of work I was putting into my blogging. At one point I had over 20 blogs running at once and was trying to post to them all each day. It was a recipe for disaster and the quality of my blogging suffered – as did my health.

The solution? I had to scale back. I decided that in order to be able to sustain my blogging I should have just a couple of blogs that I enjoyed writing and could throw myself into. This raised the bar in terms of the quality of what I was doing but also gave me more energy for those projects.

6. Personal Attack

Blogging has always been a medium where you put yourself ‘out there’ with your ideas and will from time to time get people critiquing what you do and write. This is all a part of blogging – however there have been a couple of instances over the last 10 years where the ‘critique’ of others began to feel more like a personal attack than a constructive and genuine dialogue or critique.

This takes its toll and you do wonder whether it is worth it all. This particularly was the case on one occasion where the attack became quite personal and physical in my ‘real life’. Not a nice situation but thankfully one in which things worked out in the end after a frightening encounter.

There’s no real ‘solution’ to this one – I guess you get thicker skin over time when you blog for years but you also develop positive connections with others that help to support you when times get tough!

7. Building Readership

When it comes to building a profitable blog there’s no escaping the need to build a decent sized readership. Every blog monetization strategy I can think of relies upon having people read your blog in order for you to make money and so this is something we all face the challenge of as bloggers.

This is a particularly frustrating challenge and I remember many times where I almost lost hope after many many hours of writing the best quality content that I could only to find that nobody was reading it.

Further Listening: Listen to the ‘Finding Readers for Your Blog’ Webinar for everything I know about finding readers for your blog.

8. Finding the Right Monetization Model

Having readers is not enough. I know of many bloggers who have built amazing readerships only to find that what they thought would be the right monetization model simply doesn’t work in their niche and with the type of reader that they have attracted.

For me I’ve found I’ve needed to be constantly experimenting with new ways of making money from what I do. I started with using ad networks and some basic affiliate marketing and as my blogs grew found that new opportunities would open up (such as selling ads directly to advertisers and creating my own products to sell).

Further Reading: Here’s my 12 blogging income streams and how I added each gradually over 10 years.

Further Listening: Listen to the ‘Monetizing Blogs’ Webinar

There is no one way to monetize a blog and over time what works might change. It can be a real juggling act!

9. Time Management

There are just not enough hours in the day some days!

Coming up with topics to write about, writing content, editing it, promoting it, answering comments, engaging on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, LinkedIn…. and more), commenting on other blogs… the list goes on of things you feel the need to do as a blogger.

Add into this mix having a ‘real life’ and the challenge of doing all this between your ‘day job’, family, social life and the logistics of running a household and it is not easy.

Time management is the #1 struggle I find most bloggers have – and it only gets harder as your blog grows!

Further Reading: Check out BlogWise – our eBook on becoming a more productive blogger that features advice from 9 successful bloggers.

10. Scaling Yourself

Related to time management is the challenge of trying to scale yourself.

With the right server set up a blog can pretty much have unlimited readership and reach and still keep running. The challenge of growing a blog isn’t so much a technical one – it often is more about how keep your blog personal and to stay accessible to your readers.

In the early days its relatively easy to answer every comment and reply to every email and tweet while also creating blog posts… but as your readership grows it can become more challenging and something usually needs to give.

The choice is either to just let some reader engagement go, or to bring someone on to help you manage it (and loose some personal touch) or to work longer hours (not sustainable in the long term).

I still don’t feel like I’ve got this challenge right – but keep working at it!

Further Reading: Making Yourself Accessible to Readers

What Hurdles Have You Faced as a Blogger?

As I wrote this post I realised just how many more huddles and obstacles I could have come up with (in fact I may just publish a post with 10 more).

Which of the above resonate most with you? What would you add?