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Blog Wise Tip 2: Know Your Motivations

Every blogger has different motivations, but the interviews we completed as we developed Blog Wise showed how important it is to know what your motivations actually are.

The bloggers we spoke to listed a range of motivations.

The first was community and audience. Darren told us he’s motivated when he sees the community here at ProBlogger getting energy from his ideas. He’s motivated even further when he gets energy back from you guys.

Amy Porterfield’s motivated when she hears about the results her readers have achieved using her advice. And Heather’s dooce.com motivated by providing a place for her readers to form firm friendships.

Another key motivation for the bloggers we met was their blog’s topic.

Gretchen Rubin, of The Happiness Project, said, “The more I think about happiness, and the more I learn about it, the more intrigued I am, the more fascinated I am, and the more directions it seems to lead in.”

She sees that motivation as a key to actually producing a consistent, lasting blogging presence: “The deeper I go into it, the bigger it gets,” she noted.

Anther key motivation was a sense of contribution. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits explained that he’s motivated by his desire to do meaningful work, to enjoy his life, and to question established perceptions.

“All the truths that we believe in as a culture and as a society—none of those are necessarily true,” he commented. “So you have to question them and test them. This is why I do experiments,” he added. Like Gretchen’s approach, Leo’s motives contribute to his very productive creative strategy.

One thing that really stood out about these bloggers is that, in each case, understanding their motivations has allowed each person to set priorities and directions for their blogging work—and to pursue something they love.

It’s your turn: what’s your blogging motivation? How do your motives help you get your work done? Tell us in the comments.

Tomorrow: planning for productivity.

Blog Wise Tip 1: Diagnose Productivity Problems

Over the coming days, we’ll be presenting a series of pro blogging productivity tips that we’ve compiled using the advice of nine A-list bloggers we interviewed for Blog Wise, our new ebook on blogging productively.

Today, let’s consider the question, “do you have a productivity problem?”

In the blogosphere, it’s pretty easy to compare your blog to others, and feel like you’re not doing enough.

But how can you identify areas within your own blogging work that aren’t as productive as they could be? These productivity problems may not be easy to spot, but they can really hold your blog back.

The bloggers we spoke to had a few pointers.

  • Emotions: Heather Armstrong from Dooce.com admits that when she ends the day in tears, she knows something needs to change. “That’s usually my body saying, ‘something’s out of whack… the balance is off.’”
  • Energy: Darren keeps an eye on his energy levels, and those of his readers. “If I’m doing certain things and people are responding well to them, then that’s a signal that I need to do that more,” he says. “And conversely, if I’m doing something and there’s no reaction or a negative reaction, then I’m questioning, ‘Is this something that I want to put time and energy into?’”
  • Quality and results: Amy Porterfield, of AmyPorterfield.com tells us “If you’re not meeting deadlines, if you’re not actually producing great work that’s getting great results, you have to look at that and think something is broken in your process.”
  • Progress: Brian Clark of Copyblogger.com has experienced that first-hand. Before he merged his five companies, he had, he says, “these separate satellites, and they didn’t share together in knowledge or expertise or teamwork or profits … I saw that the only way I was going to get to where I saw as a possible future vision, was to put all these smart people together.”

What about you? Do you have a productivity problem? What are its symptoms? Let’s share them!

Tomorrow: Motivation and productivity

Make Money Locally—and Globally—Through Your Blog

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

Our blog is less than a year old.

We started Firepole Marketing less than a year ago, and we’ve done pretty well with it over that time. A lot of people know who we are, and what we do.

I’ve even been dubbed the Freddy Krueger of Blogging.

And while we’re not at the scale of a major site like Copyblogger, we still do pretty well, to the point that we make a decent amount of money online, and occasionally even help others to do the same.

Connections

Image copyright Lvnel - Fotolia.com

We aren’t the only ones to have done that, and I remember that a year ago, when I saw others make the same sort of claim, I always wanted more information. I wanted to know how much money they were really making, and where that money was coming from.

All right then, I’ll tell you…

Where did we start? Where did the money come from?

Let me start with a bit of the back-story—who we are, and where we came from.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for longer than my adult life. I quit school when I was 15 to start my first business, and I’ve been doing it ever since.

For the last several years, in parallel with my various entrepreneurial ventures (some of which were successful, and some of which were less so), my regular income was earned by consulting for small businesses, usually in the zero-to-ten employee range. Sometimes I would get involved in an advisory capacity, and sometimes they would bring me in for something very specific (i.e. they need a new website)—either way, I would end up helping them make more money by tuning up their marketing and business strategy.

My partner Peter is a marketing and business coach, with similar expertise. We connected on the networking circuit, and while comparing notes over coffee, we agreed that while there were lots of businesses in our target market that were doing well enough to afford our services, there were also a lot of businesses that really needed help, but hardly had any money. We both gave away a lot of free coaching and advice, but that could only go so far.

So we decided to create our training program—that was the birth of Firepole Marketing.

That was more than two years ago. Fast-forward to last year, and the program was done—now we needed to get the word out about it, and that’s when we turned to blogging.

Obviously, my income started out completely offline. I had grown my consultancy to a six-figure business before we ever launched Firepole Marketing.

I think that’s pretty normal—very few people start their careers online, so it makes sense that you would start your transition into the online world still making money from offline opportunities.

Then we launched our product and blog, and half-expected the sales to start rolling in…

Disappointments and False Starts

Almost immediately after launching the blog, we announced it to our (small) lists, and did a small product launch. This was in the very beginning of 2010.

It flopped miserably.

We didn’t make any money at all from that launch, and in hindsight, it wasn’t hard to see why.

Nobody knew who we were, and our audience was very small (less than a hundred people on our list).

So who were we launching our product to?

Nobody—that’s right!

It was after that false start that we realized we need to focus on building an engaged audience first, and then worrying about product sales later.

So that’s what we did. I wrote lots of guest posts, landed interviews with major figures like Guy Kawasaki, participated in online conversations, and did everything that I could think of to:

  1. get my name out in front of as many targeted people as I could
  2. consistently offer as much value as I could, so that if people remembered me, they would remember me in a positive light.

And it started working. I built real relationships with lots of other bloggers, our traffic numbers grew, and we started seeing some really interesting discussion and debate on some of our posts. In less than a year, our Alexa ranking dropped from over a million to just about 85,000, where it hovers today.

And we figured that as the traffic numbers increased, we’d start seeing more people buy our training program. But we were wrong…

Next: Online Feeding Offline

We did start seeing product sales, but not as many as had hoped, and not as soon as we would have liked.

That was fine, though, because it turned out that there were a much more lucrative income opportunities that literally found us.

Those opportunities were offline opportunities … sort of.

It turned out that a whole bunch of people in our networks—some of whom we hadn’t spoken to in years—were reading our blog, and following our growth online. They were impressed, and started contacting us out of the blue, to engage our coaching and consulting services.

Once we noticed the trend, we put out a few feelers to our list (which had a couple hundred people on it by this point), asking if anyone was interested in working with us on a one-on-one basis.

More than a few people said yes, and working with us on a one-on-one basis isn’t cheap!

In other words, before we even started making product sales, we had generated something like $10,000 in extra revenues from new clients that found us through the blog.

But it didn’t stop there.

Product Sales and More Clients…

Eventually, people started buying our training program.

It was just a trickle at first—after all, this is a $900 training program, not a $17 e-book!

But people were buying, culminating in a big chunk of publicity that we got at the end of August, when we took the program off the market.

All in all, we’ve probably made another $10,000 or so from product sales, and we expect that number to grow dramatically each time we open the program to new students, which will probably happen once or twice per year (that way, we can focus on building our audience in between).

And in between launches, we get new coaching and consulting clients, which will realistically continue to make up the majority of the income that we earn online—at least for the next year or so.

So, how can you do the same?

Are you wondering whether you can do exactly what we did, and get the exact same results?

The answer is that no, you probably can’t.

I could tell you what’s worked for us—but that probably won’t be very helpful, because we’re different people with different strengths, we’ve had different experiences, and we’re in different circumstances.

What you really need is some hard data about what seems to be working, across the board.

Everybody talks about making some money locally and some money online, but there’s no hard data about what results large numbers of people are seeing, and how long it’s taking them to get there.

We wanted to change all that, so we created the Semi-Local Business Survey.

The survey will ask you how much of your income is generated locally, how much is generated remotely, and how you came to be where you are today.

Your answers are completely anonymous, and will be added to the answers of many others, so that we can see what the real trends in the industry are.

There’s no offer here, and nothing for sale—we just want to gather the data and share it with the community.

So please, take a few minutes and complete the survey!

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and proud co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the program that turns non-marketers into expert marketers. He wants to know where entrepreneurs, freelancers and small businesses are really making their money – help out by completing the Semi-Local Business Survey today!

Are You Blogging Just Like Everyone Else?

It’s a paradox. The pundits encourage bloggers to find a niche, think differently, and say something unique and valuable. Then they give us standard formulae for producing content, as if your unique voice, approach, readership, and topic will be neatly addressed by a preselection of three or four formats.

The formats

In editing the content at ProBlogger and FeelGooder, I receive posts in the same few styles over and over and over (and over). These are the most common.

The personal story

Personal story posts are characterized by an arresting opening, a fictional style, and a personal voice. Frequently they separate sentences that are intended to blow you off your feet into their own, single-sentence paragraphs.

Often they are long, requiring the reader to surrender to some degree, because to read this kind of post, you have to be prepared to be captivated before the author lets you in on the true purpose of the post, often with the words “How does this relate to [topic]?”

The news report

Generic cutouts

Image copyright Silkstock - Fotolia.com

The news report cuts right to the chase, relating facts, and linking to sources. Whether it contains the blogger’s opinion or not, it’s about alerting readers to something big, something immediate, something they need to know about now.

Fear and panic, or alternatively fun-poking, often have a role to play in bloggers’ news reports—that’s them injecting their own unique brand of [insert adjective here], the thing that sets their blog apart from the others.

The how-to

The how-to is a process, and is often presented as a list post. Most how-tos oscillate between carefully paced and plodding.

Often it seems the blogger really isn’t that interested in producing it, because by the end they’re all out of fervor and finish the piece without so much as a “Let me know if you have any problems”—let alone a conclusive summary.

The conglomeration of stuff

The conglomeration of stuff is usually pretty easy to pick—it’s got a title that includes the word “things” (e.g. Five Things You Must Know Before You Launch an Ebook), and on reading it, you find that it lacks a frame of reference, solid purpose, or strong angle.

All too often the conglomeration of stuff ends up being little more than a bunch of things, loosely linked, that need to be somehow mentally filed by readers. The only problem is that the author hasn’t told them how that mental filing should work, so readers are left with a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction.

Think differently

I’m not saying these approaches are bad, although I have pointed out above what most commonly happens when these post styles are used as out-of-the-box formulae.

The thing that’s important to remember is this: an established “approach” should not necessarily dictate the content you produce.

If no one had ever broken out of the established approach to particular kinds of content products, we’d never have had movies like Pulp Fiction, books like In Cold Blood, or series like The Sopranos.

You do not need to create content the traditional way.

Back to basics

You write a blog post because you have something to say. What is that message?

Most bloggers seem to start with that question and then, once they’ve ascertained the answer, turn their thoughts to the Official Blogger’s Catalog of Post Types and choose the one they feel will best communicate that topic.

That’s fine, but what if you did it differently?

What if the first thing you did after you defined your post’s message was to think about your audience, or a medium you’d never used before, or a technique you’d seen used elsewhere, in a different medium, that might work more effectively to communicate your message than any other? Maybe it doesn’t involve writing. Maybe it requires the input of others.

Joke and Biagio included a two-part script in their recent ProBlogger post. Macarongg used the language of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange in her retelling of her experience baking Korova Sables. What about blog posts posts that are comprised entirely of comics, or sound, or videos, or songs?

What’s the best way to communicate your message to your audience? The answer might lead you down some exciting avenues involving experimentation, collaboration, and new creative adventures. It did for Leo Babauta, who wrote his yet-to-be-released ebook The Effortless Life in Google Docs in a single day, with real-time input from his readers. It did, too, for Seth Godin, who redefined “pithy blogging” with his now-famous 57-word post.

What do you think? Is it time you stopped blogging like everyone else?

Seth Godin on Blogging and Productivity

With the launch this week of Seth Godin’s latest book, We Are All Weird, we wanted to share this interview we recently conducted with Seth on productivity and blogging.

Seth’s among the world’s most prolific bloggers, but he’s also a profuse book author and serial entrepreneur.

How does he fit it all in?

Seth Godin

Seth (image copyright Brian Bloom Photography)

One of his secrets might surprise you: “I’m America’s worst attender of meetings,” Seth reveals. “I don’t do any of that.”

“A meeting is a very special thing: it’s three or more people talking to each other about a decision that’s going to be made, and probably trying to get someone else to make it,” he explains. “And so I don’t have those. If I need information I have a conversation with one person. That’s not a meeting, that’s a conversation.”

He refers to Al Pittampalli’s book Read This Before Our Next Meeting, which was released in August through Seth’s publishing venture, The Domino Project, and which suggests more productive approaches to the traditional concept of the “meeting.”

Of course, that’s not the only way Seth manages to keep on top of things. As the interview reveals, his philosophy rests on a very clear vision of what’s important to him. It’s that vision that motivates him, helps him choose where to direct his energies, and enables him to make the everyday decisions that keep his media empire growing.

Our favorite piece of advice from the interview?

In a world where there’s not a lot of scarcity of ideas, and where digital stuff isn’t going to be able to be priced based on scarcity, ubiquity is a better strategy. If you can help change the conversation, if you can say stuff that’s worth saying, the money takes care of itself.
—Seth Godin

Start listening!

Or read the interview transcript in full:

Today I’m talking to Seth Godin of SethGodin.com. He’s a blogger, he’s a bestselling author of thirteen books including Poke the Box, he’s the inventor of permission marketing, and founder of Squidoo.com.

Seth, if there’s one word that could be used to describe your work, it’s prolific. You have six websites, you blog every day, you’ve written thirteen books, you do plenty of public speaking, you’ve founded dozens of companies and you carry the weighty mantel of “America’s Greatest Marketer.”

But when I emailed you about this interview, you replied. You set the appointment in Google Calendar and you sent me your Skype details. So I’m wondering, is it possible that America’s Greatest Marketer doesn’t have an assistant?

That’s correct.

How can this be? We imagine that you’re America’s Greatest Marketer, and America’s Busiest Man. Is that not the case?

Well, neither one of them is true, to be fair. I guess you make decisions about how you want to spend your time. What you didn’t mention is that I’m America’s worst watcher of television, cause I don’t spend any time doing that, zero. And I’m America’s worst attender of meetings, cause I don’t do any of that, zero. So I know people who do five hours of each every day. So right there I save myself ten hours a day.

The part about not having an assistant has to do with how permeable do you want to be to the world. You know, I don’t use Twitter, I don’t actively use Facebook, because I can’t do them justice. But if I hired someone to answer my email, it’d be better not even to use email. Cause what’s the point of having that filter? So I try to sort of strike this balance between doing some things at an insanely quick, prolific rate and doing other things not at all.

So in terms of permeability, you run a company, and you have publishers. I’m just wondering, if you don’t attend meetings, then how does permeability work with those kinds of operations that you’re working in?

Well, you know, we just published a book two weeks ago called Read This Before Our Next Meeting, and the author Al Pittampalli argues that a meeting is a very special thing: it’s three or more people talking to each other about a decision that’s going to be made, and probably trying to get someone else to make it. And so I don’t have those. If I need information I have a conversation with one person. That’s not a meeting, that’s a conversation.

If a decision needs to be made it gets made and then followup happens about what we’re going to do about the decision, but that doesn’t need to be a bunch of people around a table either. So there’s lots of interactions I have with people. I just don’t have those things that so many other organizations have where everyone sits around looking for the tallest poppy to chop down.

Fair enough. So can you tell us a bit more about what productivity means to you, and what motivates you to be so productive? Because obviously you are very productive.

Well you know, I think that it doesn’t count unless you ship it—that planning it and noodling it and refining it and thinking about it and keeping it in a drawer don’t count. You might as well do nothing. I think there are lots and lots of people who put in way more time than me, who may even create more than me, they just don’t ship.

No one calls up a plumber and says, “Wow, I can’t believe how many toilets you unclogged this week!” No one goes to short-order cook and says, “Wow, that’s your eight-hundredth hamburger of the week! That’s incredible!” Right? That’s their job. They ship for a living. If they don’t ship, they don’t get paid. And somehow we’ve seduced ourselves into thinking that it’s okay to hide. It’s okay for a playwright to write a play every five years. What was going on the other four and half years? I don’t know. If no one’s seeing your play, you’re not a playwright.

That’s interesting because I think many bloggers tend to see writing as a creative pursuit that does require shutting yourself away from the world, and having quiet time, getting in the zone, and noodling, as you say. And you’re not just writing blog posts—you’re writing book after book. How does the creative thing work for you? Do you take time out of your other work? Or is it just part of your regular routine? Are books and blog posts different for you? How does that work?

Okay well we need to be really careful here because a lot of times creative people want to know what other creative people do to do their work, as if using the same pencil as Steven King is going to do anything for you, ’cause it’s not. I know lots and lots of productive creative people and we all do it differently. So I think at its face, it’s not a particularly useful philosophy.

I will share one tactic which is that I write like I talk. The reason that’s important is that no one gets talker’s block. And so if you wake up in the morning unable to speak, then you need a physician. Everyone else doesn’t have that problem. So if you can train yourself to talk in complete sentences, and actually come up with thoughts that are worth sharing, then writing isn’t particularly hard—you just write down what you say.

That’s an interesting point you make about coming up with thoughts that are worth sharing. You’re a marketer so I’m thinking that you’re constantly looking at the market and looking at what people need to know or want to know or have a desire for information on. Have you trained yourself or honed your thoughts to meet those needs? Or are you just coming up with ideas every day? How do you make sure that your thoughts are worth sharing?

Oh they’re usually not!

What percentage would be worth sharing?

Five, maybe two.

Well how do you differentiate between the ones that are and the ones that aren’t?

Well, I notice things. That’s what I do. If I see something that I don’t understand I try to figure it out. If I see something that’s broken, I try to understand why it’s broken. And then you say either in writing or out loud what you noticed, and if it sticks with you for ten or fifteen or twenty minutes, maybe it’s worth writing down. And then you look at the ones that you wrote down and sometimes they’re worth sharing.

So in that regard do you use your blog as a bit of a proving ground, I guess, for ideas? ‘Cause a lot of bloggers would do that—they’d use their blog as a proving ground, and then they’d go away and write a product based on what they’ve honed over time on their blog. Do you do that or is your blog just as finished as a book would be?

In some ways it’s more finished because I get feedback as it’s going. I can fix something on my blog the next day, etcetera.

I don’t have products. I don’t think about products. And I’m not trying to monetize any of this. It monetizes itself, which is fine, and if it didn’t, that would be fine. So I think that when people start to think, “What can I hold back? What can I sell? How can I move people through a sales funnel?” they start getting themselves into trouble.

Why? Specifically why?

Because then who’s the customer? Who are you serving? In a world where there’s not a lot of scarcity of ideas, and where digital stuff isn’t going to be able to be priced based on scarcity, ubiquity is a better strategy. If you can help change the conversation, if you can say stuff that’s worth saying, the money takes care of itself. And too often the $59, $99, $499 special report is neither special nor a report.

It’s true. Well, we’ve talked about the writing a bit. Let’s talk about the bigger picture. It’s very easy to look at the Seth Godin we see in the media and say, “Okay, this guy’s in the business of content. He’s a content producer.” But you’re not that. You’re also a marketer, you’re a business owner, and the reason you’re a bestselling author is because you’re one of the most innovative marketing brains in the business. So I’m wondering what do you describe as being your true passion? And how important is that passion in your level of productivity?

You know, I have way too many conversations with myself about this. I would say that my passion is having people surprise themselves by what they’re capable of. And if I can be present at least a little bit for some of that internal dialog, that’s a privilege and a thrill for me. And when I hear from somebody who was working as a janitor for some company, and then four years later they own it, and they give me, right or wrong, some of that credit, I’m pretty pleased with that.

Because I think that people have way, way more potential than society lets them believe, and if I can help unlock that, that’s a privilege.

So that’s what motivates you when you get out of bed in the morning?

It is. It’s exactly what it is. I think if I was trying to make money, I would do something else for a living. There are certainly more lucrative ways to spend one’s time, and I think if I was trying to work on my tan, I wouldn’t sit indoors in front of a computer screen all day. So yeah, this is why I’m doing it. For that.

So how do you prioritize? That’s your passion, and it drives you to do a lot of different things, so how do you prioritize the different interests that you have? And how do you decide that you’re going to add something new to the list? Cause I’m imagining that the list is pretty full.

Yeah, I’m very bad at this. The answer is “poorly.” I decide poorly. That’s my only answer: I’m bad at it.

So what kind of internal struggle, if you like, do you go through when you’re facing doing something new. For example, if you were thinking of writing a new book. You’ve just written a book, but how do you decide when it’s time to start a new project?

Well, books are different. The only reason I ever start a new book is because I have absolutely no choice. There’s no excuses, delaying or anything else left. The book forces itself to be written. That’s been true for the last probably seven books. It’s such a long journey, it’s so frustrating, it’s such a hassle, so few people read it compared to my blog. There’s only going to be a book when the muse insists on a book.

Okay, so what about things like new businesses? Because you’ve started dozens of companies, so how did thy get onto the list?

I have, but I’m getting better at breaking that habit. The last company I started was six years ago, and Squidoo is doing really nicely—we’re the 76th biggest website in the United States. But I started that because there were some people I really needed to work with and they wouldn’t work with me unless I had something to work on.

But there’s tonnes of businesses that someone who was willing to work harder than me would start if they saw what I see; it’s just really hard to persuade myself to sign on for a ten-year project like that. I probably should get better at that.

Right, so I’m just thinking one of the things you mention is delaying, delaying projects and also the ten-year thing, the timeframe. So do you prefer to go for things that are a bit of a shorter timeframe or … I’m just trying to get an idea of how you would sift out these things. ‘Cause obviously you’ve got lots of ideas and lots of possibilities and I’m just thinking if, indeed, the average person has this great potential that you see, then that’s potentially overwhelming to have that potential. So I’m trying to get an idea of how you would prioritize.

Yeah, the book I wrote, The Dip, I take very seriously. I think that being the best at what you do is far more important than most people think. Which means that you need to make the thing you do small, so that you can be the best at it. And I also believe that we live in revolutionary times. Which means that…

You know, Henry Ford could have done anything he wanted once he got started. He could have started any one of 500 other businesses. And you know, he did cars, then he did trucks. But he could have done golf carts, he could have done boats, he could have done motor scooters, he could have done motor cycles—all these things. At one point Henry Ford had Ford shepherds who were tending Ford sheep so they could shear Ford wool to weave it on Ford looms to make fabric for Ford seats to put into Ford cars. Because he could.

You need to make the decision about what change are you passionate about making, cause it’s all a hassle. And there’s no formula. You just have to have an instinct, I think, for how hard are you willing to push to be the best at that thing. That’s why I don’t use Twitter, right? Because I get why people think it’s fun. But I also know that I couldn’t be as good as it as I could be and still do everything else I do.

Thinking about Twitter, and Facebook—you said you’re not on Facebook—and you don’t do meetings, are there any other tools or approaches or philosophies that you have to manage all the tasks that you do? Obviously not doing, not subscribing to certain things that you can’t give your all to is one of your approaches for getting through all the tasks, but are there any others that you can share with us?

Well I think, you know, I posted a couple of weeks ago about the Zig Ziglar Goal Planner that we published, and it really is my secret weapon. I mean, it saved me from bankruptcy. There were seven or eight years in a row where I was within two weeks of running out of money. That’s a really long time. 900 rejection letters from publishers everywhere. Window-shopping in restaurants cause there wasn’t money to buy a plate of spaghetti. And the Goal Planner saved the day.

We’ve update it; we’ve modernized it, but I don’t care which version you use: there’s something extraordinarily powerful. I have never met anyone who has seriously written down their goals, and done it properly, who is stuck or is considered a failure. Not one person.

Excellent. That’s great. Just before you go, I wanted to ask if you could share with us one piece of advice that you’d give to other bloggers who want to increase their creative productivity to a level that they can use to generate a full-time income.

Oh, I don’t think you should do that.

Excellent! And why not?

Because then you just, you’re doing it to generate a full-time income, aren’t you? And this is amateur media; this is not professional media. And every once in a while an amateur gets so good that people come to them and beg them to take money. But if an amateur sets out to be a professional, she starts making short cuts and she starts trading in relationships for cash. And I don’t know how to tell people to do that.

So obviously for you the relationships are where it’s at, not the cash.

Yeah, because if you do care about cash, sooner or later enough people who admire your work and trust you, it’ll turn into cash. But in the long run, we never ever keep track of how much cash someone has. We always keep track of what their reputation is.

Very true. Well, that’s an excellent note to finish our interview on. Thank you very much for your time, Seth.

Thank you Georgina, it was a pleasure.

Boost Your Blog #12: Create a “Best Seller” List

Continuing our discussion of things you should be doing right now to improve your blog, today’s tip is:

12. Create a “Best Seller” list based on Amazon Affiliate reports

If you promote products on the Amazon Affiliate program, why not dig into the reports, look at what your readers are buying, and create a “Best Seller” list?

I created one of these on my photography blog, and I update it every six months or so (see it at Popular Digital Cameras and Gear).

I link to it from the front page of my site, and it drives significant income each month in commissions. Read more about Best Seller lists here.

Do you have a Best Seller list on your blog?

Use External Links to Boost Your Credibility

Bloggers are always happy to link to a resource we think is good, or a product or service with which we’re affiliated.

But there are other kinds of external links that too few bloggers use:

  • links to sources of information we’ve found
  • links to creators of content we’re citing
  • links to more detailed information on a topic we’re mentioning, but not covering in depth in a post.

Citing sources is a basic element of professional writing. As well as reflecting your professionalism, it:

  • helps build your authority on a topic
  • helps you to gain profile and respect by association with quality sources
  • actively helps readers to benefit from your content.

Above all, citing external sources of information boosts your credibility. By linking to a quality, reliable external source, you show that you proudly stand behind the information you give your readers. And what blogger doesn’t want to do that?

When should a blogger include a link as a sort of citation? Whenever you’re relating information that you’ve learned elsewhere. Let’s look at the most common types of statements that require external links to their original sources.

Referencing quotes

If you quote someone else, you should link to the place where they said the words you’ve included in your quote.

After the legal implications of quoting someone without citing the source of that quote, the main reason for referencing quotes is really a logical one.

If you’re quoting a person, it’s logical that your readers may be inspired or intrigued by that quote, so you’ll want to help them out by providing them with easy access to the complete story. Right? Right!

Referencing ideas or concepts

If you make mention of an idea or a concept that someone else has come up with, include a link to the relevant person’s material on that topic.

So, for example, if you wrote a post that mentions Darren’s approach to social media, which includes “home bases” and “outposts,” you’d want to include a link to the article in which he explains those concepts.

Links like this:

  • show readers that you care about providing them with all the information they need to get informed on the topics you write about
  • have the potential to send traffic to the authors you’ve learned from—and love
  • show readers that you’re fair and honest, and that you’re not trying to pass off others’ ideas as your own.

Referencing research

This is the most common issue I see with external links: many bloggers present opinion as fact, often without even realizing it. On the FeelGooder website that Darren runs, we get plenty of submissions that contain prefectly reasonable-sounding claims that, when the authors are asked to provide references to the research or studies they’ve mentioned, turn out to be false.

Many’s the time entire articles have fallen through because the central claim the author was making has turned out to be mere Internet confection. Recently, we removed a section from an article claiming that smiling releases endorphins in the brain because, try as we might, we couldn’t find any substantiation—research reports and so on—for this claim. Sure, it’s written on web pages from one end of the Internet to the other, but that’s not a reference: not one of them pointed to any research (or even mention any researchers) who have ever proven this link.

Don’t believe what you’ve heard as fact. If you’re including information in a post, make sure you cite its original sources.

What makes a good reference?

A good candidate for an external link for the information you’ve included in your post is:

  • original, where possible (so if you find an article that links to the original source, link to the original source first and foremost, and the referencing article if you need to as well)
  • reliable and well-regarded
  • independent (not backed by a business pushing a certain agenda)
  • high quality—a source that’s complete, comprehensive, and links to other sources if required
  • specialized (not a content aggregator or generalist “answers” web portal).

Of course, some sources of information are (gasp!) not online. It happens! What do you do in those cases? Add a footnote. A perfect footnote was given by author Angela Irvin in her FeelGooder post, Developing a Mindset for Social Good. And her readers appreciated it, too.

Angela wanted to cite an article from a print journal. No problem: she gave a standard academic reference so that if her readers were keen to see the research themselves, they could go to their library and check it out. Pretty handy!

How are your last few posts looking? Have you cited references and pointed your readers to more information wherever that’s sensible, logical, or required? I’d love to know your approach to external informational links and citations in the comments.

Boost Your Blog #10: Create a Hire Me Page

Continuing our discussion of things you should be doing right now to improve your blog, today’s tip is:

10. Create a Hire Me page

This won’t relate to all bloggers but if you have a skill or service that you can offer your readers, don’t just assume that they’ll come knocking. Sometimes they need to see that you offer a service and hear about what it would entail.

A page linked prominently on your blog that shows the needs you’re able to help with, and outlines how the service might work (the costs and logistics) could be something that drives you significant income over the long term. Hat tip to Chris Garrett for this suggestion.

Does your blog have a Hire Me page? If not, should it?

The Five Worst Ways to Title a Blog Post

Post titling seems to be something of sacred territory for many bloggers. We feel that the title contains the essence of our post, and therefore, it’s the essence of ourselves—our personalities, our messages, our brands.

On the other hand, we see a lot of post titles on the Web, and there appears to be endless variation available to us. Many factors play into a title: the post’s topic, the angle we’ve taken, SEO and keywords, and so on. Even if you’re a my-titles-are-my-brand type of blogger, it’s not impossible to be stumped when it comes to titling a blog post.

A lot has been said about how to address titling from different perspectives, and each of us needs to find our own titling “groove.” Here I thought I’d give you five no-nos for post titling, and explain why they’re less than ideal.

1. Always follow a formula

Many writers use formulae to come up with post titles—Aman Basanti explained one such approach here at ProBlogger.

These titling formulae can be fun and give you extra impact if they’re used astutely, but you probably don’t want to fall back on formulae every time you write a title. If you do, your titles may all end up sounding similar. Readers may well get bored.

A better approach is to look to the content of your post to indicate a few suitable titling approaches. Start there, and you’ll soon have some strong starting points for developing a title.

2. Make a title that follows a fad

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of writers finishing titles with the words “Oh My.” Usually, the titles contain a list of items and the “Oh My” is used to imply that the author, and perhaps the reader, will be overwhelmed by this plethora of options.

The problem is that by hitching your wagon to a titling fad like this, your title just sounds like every other fad title on the Web at the same time. If you title sounds like everyone else’s, what does that say about your content? And how will it ever stand out from the crowd?

Instead, why not say something specific and relevant about your post, formulating a unique title that communicates the problem your article solves, or the help it provides? The article’s title is, after all, its hook or selling point. Make it unique—don’t take a me-too approach.

3. Write a really long title

We tend to stray into really-long-title territory when we’re trying to apply humor, or colloquial speech, to an article title. Neither of these reasons justifies a title that goes on forever.

Your title is a bit like your article’s USP or elevator pitch: it needs to speak plainly, clearly, and quickly. Make readers struggle through your title, and you’ll likely lose them. Even if you don’t, long titles tend to lack punch, direction, and focus, so readers are more likely to wind up confused or underwhelmed at the title’s end. And they’re a nightmare for mobile-device users.

Try to keep titles to the point, out of respect for your time-poor, weary-eyed readers.

4. Create a title that’s misleading

In an effort to hook readers, some bloggers create titles that mislead. Often, this happens unintentionally. Look very closely at the title you’ve given your post and consider whether the post delivers on the promise that title makes.

Look very closely.

Delivering on your titles’ promises is critical for your credibility, and for reader satisfaction. If you’re even remotely concerned that a title might be a bit over the top, rethink it. Try other ideas and approaches. Run it past a friend. Ask your Twitter followers what they’d expect to get from an article with that title—you’ll soon know if your title overpromises.

5. Focus on the cool, not the content

A couple of the points I’ve already mentioned reflect this approach, but it deserves separate treatment. Don’t become so wrapped up in writing a title that’s retweetable, link-baity, or trendy that you lose the sense of your article, or—worse still—damage your brand.

This is often how controversial or slightly offensive titles come into being. The author thinks, “I have a great post here—a post that could go viral! I need a viral-ish title to get it there!” And suddenly, stars in their eyes, they’re pulling out all stops to make that “viral” title.

Don’t apply a whatever-it-takes attitude to titling. It’s true that a title can make or break a post’s success. But it can also make or break your reputation, your brand consistency, and your readership. Don’t try to be cool with your titles—just be yourself, connecting with your readers.

The ideal title

There is no “ideal” title. But there are good and bad titles. To me, as both a reader and a blogger, a good title is one that communicates clearly and succinctly what the article delivers in a way that compels the reader.

Can you suggest any titles that you think are excellent—or terrible? I’d love to hear how you title your posts in the comments.