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How to Build Trust by Association

This guest post is by David Edwards of www.asittingduck.com.

When I started my site I had no clue about animation, illustration, or online marketing. It’s almost three years since the site went live, so by now I could have started University again (I quit in the first term at the age of 20) and have an official qualification in one of those fields.

Let’s say I did that, and today I started my website. Would I still have to build trust and gain success by association? Yes! The good news is, if you haven’t got a degree and you want to run a successful website, there is nothing stopping you!

Even to this day people are intrigued to know how I managed to convince a small team of animators to trust me and build a viral series around a few doodles that I did on the back of a house bill. This is how I did it, and how you can do something similar within your own niche.

I started with one contact…

Out of my whole high-school year, as far as I’m aware the only pupil to leave and start a company was a mate of mine, Matthew Adams, who started Webfactore. That was the first rung on the ladder to success—a nice discount on the website!

Then I used the Facebook search box to hunt down an animator in Cardiff. Why animation? I like drawing and I was fascinated by a viral animation from America called “Charlie the Unicorn.” I thought it was amazing that one guy and a couple of mates managed to get millions of people to view their cartoon—it’s even been the topic of a question on “Jeopardy”!

Luke Hyde was the first animator I found and he was happy to meet me. It was luck, really, as he was the first person I asked, and at the time he had no contracts to work on. You can get lucky, but if you don’t, keep searching for someone!

Through Luke, I tapped into a creative world that I’d never been a part of.

I’ve always doodled and sketched—it used to help pass the time away when I worked in a telesales job. But I never knew that people actually made money from it. Through Luke I met Flash animators, illustrators, sound engineers … the list goes on!

When you start to build an online business it can feel overwhelming and you tend to think that everyone seems to be more resourceful than you. If you’re an avid reader and blogger, well, believe it or not, that’s a very powerful skill to have, and you can trade that skill with other people to get what you need.

Also if you have patience and show that you’re not just going to sap someones resources and run, you will have the chance to gain respect from the person and his or her circle of friends.

I never got complacent with networking

If you do gain a bit of success through association, keep going. I cemented links in the creative industry, then set my sights on the marketing industry. Why? Because these guys are crushing it when it comes to work ethic and connections. Five top affiliate marketers can reach out to tens of thousands of potential customers!

I did some more searching and eventually found Alex Jeffreys, who’s well know in the affiliate marketing world, having launched several successful coaching programs. I spoke to Alex on the phone and he was happy to help me. I also attended his seminar in London, which was an awesome opportunity to meet other marketers, and meet Alex in person.

Alex has taught me some key points to rapidly grow my presence online. Here are some of his tips:

  • Leverage each stage you’re at: If you only have five people that are helping you online, that’s not
    just five people! It could be 500 people, if each person has a social network of 100 friends. For instance, if you were friends with me on YouTube, and I liked your video, I have 10,000 friends to share it with. That’s very powerful leverage!
  • Don’t market to the whole world: Alex has built a very profitable business from looking after his confirmed subscribers. He very rarely reaches out to the masses on Twitter or Facebook, as lots of his subscribers do it for him.
  • Consistently add value: You should look to email a useful piece of content once a month and build up trust. Go from a blog post, to an audio podcast, to a video. Once people get a range of content over six months or so, they will absolutely love you!

Building trust by association will help with sales

Many bloggers and site owners try to make and launch products. There is a huge market and there are hungry buyers, but from my experience, you have to concentrate far more on networking and connecting with successful people, than on locking yourself in a room until your ebook is complete.

Once you have established yourself with people in your niche, then interact with your prospects, you’ll have a much better idea of how loudly your till is going to ring!

Have you tried to connect with other website owners face to face? I would love to read your stories.

David Edwards is an internet marketing consultant and the founder of www.asittingduck.com.

Creating Great Content for Today’s Social Web

This guest post is by Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting.

Welcome to an increasingly social landscape on the Web.  Social media started this shift from information to conversation, and now with the search engines increasingly using social signals to determine what to show searchers it’s a trend that, as a publisher, you have to get on top of to write and promote great content.

This post will discuss the movement of Bing and Google towards social search, and how that affects the organic search landscape. Then I’ll provide some tips on how this impacts your writing and promotion of your content.

Search and social integration

The integration of search and social media is already here.  Back in October 2010, Bing and Facebook announced plans for tighter integration. As I learned when I interviewed Bing’s Stefan Weitz, Bing is already using Facebook signals as a ranking factor:

“… if any of my friends anywhere have liked any (relevant) link across the entire world wide web, I am going to inject that link into my results page.”

Stefan refers to the notion of boosting a search result just because one of my friends Liked it.  But that is just the beginning, as we also can see that Bing is making use of the wisdom of the crowd, as per this example search on the New York Post:


Even if none of the 54 people that Liked “15 Best Dresses” are my Facebook friends, Bing thinks the article’s popularity is still noteworthy enough to show it to me.

Google does not have as close a relationship with Facebook, but is making use of other social services such as Twitter, and recently launched Google+

The bottom line is that social signals are a ranking factor in the search engines’ algorithms, and you can’t ignore this.

The social media revolution has much broader implications

We don’t know exactly how the Web will continue to evolve, but we know that more major changes are coming our way.  To get a perspective on why this is, consider the three major stages of the Web’s evolution so far:

  1. the initial failure of the Dot-Com Bubble from 1998-2000: too much focus on a land-grab mentality without understanding how to make money in the process
  2. the combined revolutions of ecommerce (Amazon, EBay, et al) and getting instant access to all the world’s information online (Google): this second stage is still unfolding and the third stage is already underway
  3. the social media revolution: this is driven by instant and continuous access to your friends, and the ability to communicate and engage simply.  Texting, Facebook, Twitter are the current driving forces, but more are to come.  People love these short communications so much that email is becoming passé, and the idea of making a phone call seems unnatural to many teenagers.

What has come with this third wave is a new way of communicating and a whole new emphasis on relationships.  People are beginning to associate online familiarity with your personality and who you are, and with trust. And trust sells, trust engages, trust makes people come back.

The implications of this on how you approach your writing are profound.  And, chances are that the importance of this social approach to writing will only become more important.

Impact on your writing: three critical concepts you must adhere to

1.  Build relationships with your audience

Social networks like a personal approach.  They want to see your personality.  They want you to share. They want you to evoke emotions.  These elements are key to creating engagement not just with your content, but with you.  Social networks make you more accessible to your potential readers and can play a significant role in growing your reach.

I remember when I first began publishing sites on the Web, the approach I used was dry and academic.  This was the strategy I used to communicate authority and trust.  I am beginning to think that this is no longer the right approach.  Do you trust the advice of a university professor that you have never spoken to?  Or does the combined opinions of your friends count for more?

The wisdom of the crowd is very much upon us and it is only going to get stronger.  As a writer, you need to accept the notion that trust comes from familiarity with you, and your ability to be approachable will enable you to communicate your message.

2.  Tell me why I care

The other big factor that emerges from the ability to get all the world’s information online is that there is too much information. We are more impatient than ever.  If I am going to spend the time reading your article, whether or not I trust you, tell me why I should read this article in the first paragraph.  Get to the point.

3.  Strive for uniqueness, not “me too”

Lastly, don’t waste your time writing “me too” content.  To see what I mean, consider this screen shot:

Making French toast is really, really easy.  I have not made it in 20 years, but I can still tell you how in two minutes.  We don’t need 2.54 million web pages on the topic!

For the search engines, showing multiple results with little distinction from one another is a waste of time.  For your average web surfer, reading more than one such article is a complete waste of time.  So even if I trust you, and even if you tell me what the article is about in the first paragraph, don’t waste my time with a useless review of something that tons of other people have already covered. Give me something new!

Mastering these concepts is essential for today’s bloggers.  Those who get there the fastest will be tomorrow’s authorities.

Promoting your writing

This may be the most straightforward part of this post.  You do need to integrate basic social elements into your posts.  This includes elements such as the Facebook Like, Send, and Share buttons, a Tweet This button, and perhaps a Google +1 button.  While the +1 button does not have the same usage level as the other elements yet, one can expect a meaningful integration into Google+ in the near future.

Going a little deeper, consider using Facebook Comments instead of the built-in comments capability of your blog platform. The content from the comments does not show up as search engine-visible text on your web page, but given that you are writing original posts, this is probably not critical.

But what it does do is function like a Facebook Share.  It shows up in the News Feed of the commenter, and the News Feeds of all their friends.  This is a great way to spread the visibility of your posts. It also provides some inherent spam protection, as no one will leave a spammy comment behind unless they have taken the trouble to setup a throwaway Facebook account.

Also, think of ways to entice your reader to engage more with your blog.   Ask a leading question at the end of your post to invite comments.  Install functionality that suggests other related posts they can read next.

The most subtle part of promotion is the way you use the social networks themselves as a direct extension of your blog.  Daily activity on Twitter and Facebook may prove to be a great way to build the personality and trust that people are looking for.  They both offer great platforms for viral spread of ideas you want to communicate.

Use these platforms to communicate the same types of messages as you do on your blog, but in smaller doses of course.  Use them to establish your personality and build the trust.

Is your content social-web-friendly?

Fully embracing the social revolution is key to the blogger’s long term success.  Based on the pace of the evolution of the Web over the past decade, it is reasonable to expect that the next major shift in web behavior is around the corner.

Three years from now, those of us who are centered on Facebook, Twitter, and texting, but have not yet adopted the next new thing that comes after them will be seen as being behind the times.  There will be many more paradigm shifts in our lifetime, and it will be important to stay as current as you can. Use the media that your audiences use to communicate with your audience.  It sounds simple, and yet it is critically important.

The first step though, is to adapt to the changes that have already taken place.  I could call this a requirement for survival, but I always use a positive mindset—I consider it an opportunity to excel.

Eric Enge is the President of Stone Temple Consulting, a 20 person SEO and PPC consulting firm with offices in Boston and Northern California. Eric is a crusty old veteran with 30 years working experience in technology and the Internet. STC provides Internet Marketing Optimization services to companies ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies.

Why Bieber SEO Copywriting Sex Doesn’t iPad Work Minecraft

This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash.

Today, I bring you heresy. Not on the scale of Galileo trying to convince Pope Urban VIII that the sun doesn’t revolve around the Earth, but close enough.

Stop believing the lies. SEO is a fool’s errand.

SEO copywriting is the worst invention since the vuvuzela, and does at least as much to drown out coherent thought. I’m not talking merely about the damage SEO does in the hands of independent bloggers like (presumably you) and me. Visit the landing pages of some major corporations and other business entities, and you’ll see particular words and phrases dispersed and repeated through the text so awkwardly that the finished product barely qualifies as English.

Here’s an excerpt from a famous American hotel’s landing page. Discretion forced me to substitute the name of another city for the hotel’s actual city, which will make it .002% more difficult for you to figure out what hotel the passage refers to:

Your Ultimate Cincinnati Experience Begins At Our Cincinnati Hotel Resort.

Elevate your experience at the (5-word phrase describing the hotel). See all the changes that make our Cincinnati hotel new – up down and all around. The best value on the Cincinnati Strip, the (5-word phrase describing the hotel) offers affordable dining, spacious hotel accommodations, exciting Cincinnati hotel casino games, headline entertainment and some of the best thrill rides in the world, all in a central location. Boasting the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States west of the Mississippi, this iconic Cincinnati hotel is recognizable all over the world. Visit the indoor and outdoor observation decks in the (5-word phrase describing the hotel) to see why our panoramic view of Cincinnati was voted the Best of Cincinnati for 2010 and 2011 by the Cincinnati Review-Journal. Dine in the city’s only revolving restaurant, Top of the World, offering 360 degree views of Cincinnati. Grab a drink at one of our many lively bars. Take advantage of our exceptional Cincinnati hotel deals and relax in our spacious rooms.

Wait, where are you located? And what type of establishment is it again? Thanks, I wasn’t sure. The accompanying photos of the hotel and the iconic skyline it inhabits weren’t giving me a clue either.

No one has ever read that preceding dreadful paragraph in its entirety, possibly not even the person who wrote it, ran it through an SEO program and then posted it.

The worst part is that the people responsible know that SEO “copywriting” results in non-syntactical gibberish, yet don’t care.

Why?

SEO devotees got trapped in the minutiae and lost sight of the ultimate objective: getting people to buy. Everything else is secondary, including intermediate and tertiary goals such as moving up in Google rankings.

It’s as if you were to make it your life’s work to keep your car’s license plate as legible as possible. You shampoo it daily, then buffer it with the most reflective wax you can buy, letting the plate serve as a gleaming reminder to the vehicle behind you of who you are and what state you live in. Meanwhile, you never bother to change the oil, check the tire pressure, fix the shattered windshield, or even confirm that you filled the tank and inserted your key in the ignition.

SEO not only shouldn’t be an end in itself, it runs counter to the more basic goal of getting people to hear what you have to say. The above paragraph could have read something like this:

The best value on the Strip boasts affordable dining, enormous rooms, casino games, spectacular entertainment and world-famous thrill rides, capped by the highest observation tower west of the Mississippi. Stand behind the glass, brave the elements, or even enjoy a gourmet meal, 1,149 feet above the ground.

It’s not Shakespeare, nor even Dickens, but it gets the point across. More importantly, it would get read. Perhaps not by Google crawlers, but by eyes connected to heads (and indirectly to wallets.)

If you’re writing for Google crawlers, or anything other than humans, the battle is already lost. Otherwise, who are you writing for? Literally no one. For people who preach SEO as a moral imperative, verbal resonance doesn’t matter as much as strategic keyword placement.

Oh, isn’t Greg being cute and naive. His right-dominant brain thinks that cold science is sullying his precious art.

No. SEO isn’t a hard discipline like chemistry or physics. It’s an attempt to codify a metric that has only a tangential relationship (and occasionally an adversarial one) with the more important one of attracting customers. You remember customers, right? The people who buy your products?

Telling a talented writer to write for SEO is the equivalent of someone having told Mozart, “Those concertos of yours are okay, but you should include at least one diminished seventh chord and a couple of appoggiaturas every ten measures.”

There are even better arguments for the death of SEO, one of which is an insurmountable little mathematical problem. Just as not all children can be above average, not all sites can be optimized. If they could be, then your definition of optimization is wrong. If every blogger in your field intersperses the same select words and phrases throughout her copy, the result is nothing. You can’t have everyone move up in the rankings. If you have 100 competing sites, and they all adopt the latest SEO practices, what remains are … 100 competing sites. When every blogger spends less time creating content and more time trying to please algorithms, the result is that no one benefits and readers now have a more difficult time sifting through everything. It’s the Tragedy of the Common Nouns.

And another thing. No one mentions that every time you Google something, the initial page grossly overstates the number of results. People see an intimidating 7- or 8-digit monstrosity that’s supposed to represent how many instances of the relevant phrase exist online, and then those people panic. 

For instance, entering “control your cash” (with quotes) ostensibly returns 8,410,000 results. (Fortunately, the top six that appear in the screen capture all happen to reference my site.)

Search results

Of course, I indeed searched for that phrase when I was thinking of names for my site. At that time, had I wanted to, I could have thought, “Oh my Lord. Even if I somehow add enough keywords in my copy that I reach the 99th percentile, there will still be 84,100 results ahead of me. Google displays them ten to a page, so unless a searcher is willing to press the arrow labeled “Next” at the bottom of the page 8,410 times, no one will ever see me.”

Try pressing that “Next” arrow anyway and see what happens. Go ahead, I’ll wait and meet you back here 8,410 clicks from now.

More search results

“Control your cash” doesn’t return 8,410,000 usable results. It returns 479 unique results. And that’s for a fairly generic phrase. If you want people to search for something more specific, such as (“heating ventilation and air conditioning” + “Fremantle” + “open Sundays”), you don’t need to season your pages with endless repetition of the same words. You just need to exist and be a little self-aware.

Writing is still the fundamental form of communication among literate people, last I checked. And those same literate people expect other literate people to speak to them as clearly and concisely as possible. That sound you heard was Strunk and White emerging from their graves, bloodied but undead, ready to tap a bony finger on anyone who thinks that doing the opposite of writing something compelling is going to boost business.

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

Why You Should Never Comment on Blogs. Ever.

This guest post is by David Hartstein of Wired Impact.

I’m sure you’ve heard well-reasoned, logical arguments for why you should be commenting on blogs:

  • “You can be a part of the conversation happening out there.”
  • “You can build your own authority.”
  • “You can drive traffic to your blog.”

But, while there may be a burned, unpopped kernel of truth in these statements, none of them take into account the many reasons you should never comment on a blog.

Well here are some of those reasons for your consideration.

First of all, you shouldn’t even begin to think about commenting unless you have something really profound to say.  If you merely express agreement, it is likely judgment will rain down upon you.  As, to be fair, it should.  There is no room for mere opinions in the comment section of a blog.  It is a blog after all.  No feelings, just facts.

Plus, there’s a good chance you don’t have the authority to be commenting on a post.  I mean, if someone is writing a post, they are certainly held in high esteem by all of the peers in their field.  The Internet won’t let just anyone publish.  And if you’re not an expert, you likely don’t have much to offer.  Sure, maybe you have some ideas, but are they the kind that are best kept to yourself?  Unless you have a graduate degree in the subject at hand, they should probably be filed away in your journal.

Additionally, if no one else has commented yet, you’re essentially lowering your head onto the chopping block.  You could write the first one, but doing so opens you up to being the minority opinion.  It’s very possible that just after you finish singing the praises of a particular post, a series of users will go on an angry tirade ripping the author apart.  You’d look really dumb.  Who cares what you thought?  Those other commenters probably know more than you anyway.

Also, don’t forget that browser spellcheck leaves something to be desired.  Sure, it will catch a word that you’ve butchered, but what about something more minute?  And forget any kind of oversight on your grammar.  Plus, there’s a very good chance that a misspelled word will leave whatever you have to say incomprehensible, leading to angry comments about the spam you are leaving behind.

Once you’ve waded through the murky waters of actually drafting your comment, you’re still faced with giving away your personal information.  If you’re anything like the average web user, you probably haven’t given out much personal info online before, perhaps with the notable exception of some obscure social networking site.

If you do feel the need to comment, you have the requisite authority to do so, and other people already have commented, consider taking the following action:

  1. Draft the comment in a word processor.
  2. Check the comment for spelling and grammar mistakes, both with the built-in tools and manually.
  3. Re-check.
  4. Send it to a family member or a friend for their thoughts (pick someone smart).
  5. Print it out, sleep on it, and revisit it at breakfast the next day.
  6. If you’re still feeling the urge, go ahead and publish it.
  7. Deal with the ensuing fallout.

If, after reading this, you are still wont to publish a comment from time to time, go ahead.  But consider yourself warned.  It’s a dangerous game. 

And, whatever you do, don’t you dare write a comment on this post!

David Hartstein is a partner at Wired Impact, a web design company that builds websites for nonprofits. You can connect with David on Twitter and the Wired Impact Facebook Page.

“Most Recommended” by Blogging Geniuses at WordCamp Boston

This guest post is by Marci Reynolds of marcireynolds.com.

The July 2011 WordPress WordCamp Boston rocked!  Hundreds of eager WordPress users gathered to watch more than 40 speakers who presented on topics from social media to themes to shortcodes to security.

WordCamp BostonI took detailed notes as I listened, watched and networked with blogging and WordPress geniuses and have gathered what I consider the most interesting tips and tricks.

Most recommended WordPress plugins

Plugins were a hot topic in every session, but only three rose to the top as the “most recommended”:

  • Yoast SEO: allows you to optimize page titles, meta descriptions, keywords, XML sitemaps
  • HubSpot Plugin: allows you to leverage HubSpot’s lead nurturing, website analytics and “call to action” post types
  • Google Analytics for WordPress: allows you to synch up information with your Google analytics account and allows you to track custom variables and meta data.

Most recommended WordPress SEO tips

In addition to the hearing about the importance of fresh, high quality content (“content, content, content”), a number of experts reinforced these WordPress SEO tips:

  • Change the Permalink default on blog posts to end with your post name, not the post number.
  • Use images to break up your content, engage readers and help with SEO.
    • Be sure you own the image, or choose them from “creative commons”, with appropriate credit (one of my favorites is www.freedigitalphotos.net).
    • Use relevant keywords in the image name and alternate text
  • Add an XML sitemap.
  • Monitor and improve your site loading speed.
    • Google’s Matt Cutts has stated that, “We want the web to be faster, we want sites to load quickly,” so it’s very possible that Google could be looking to encourage and reward this through their ranking of sites.
    • In May 2011, Google added a Site Speed Report in Google Analytics.
    • For more detailed info, check out the recent blog post on Search Engine Watch, Why Marketers Must Care About Site Speed.
  • Build link juice. Not random back links, but high quality links to and from other sites that offer relevant content. (One technique that has worked well on my Sales Operations Blog, is to build a page dedicated to linking to other sites with relevant, high quality content. Check out the Other Sales Ops Articles example. )

Social media … of course

I think it’s required that every 2011 conference, whether it’s about real estate, insurance, or cat food, must include several sessions on how to use social media, and WordCamp (WC) was part of that group.

However, there was an obvious division in the WC audience. Some WC attendees like me, were well versed in social media 101 and 102 and were looking for something new and advanced. The remaining attendees (seemed like 50% of humans) were beginners and were looking for advice on how to get started. One conference attendee was skewered on Twitter, hashtag #wcbos, for asking how to spell “Mashable.” Understandable!

The general themes on how to use social media to support your WordPress efforts were:

  • Make it easy for readers to share your blog content by including sharing buttons within your posts. There are many plugin options to facilitate that.
  • Use social media to share your content. You may only share it with 50 or 100 followers, but you need to consider the power of the retweet.
    • Per HubSpot, blog posts that are shared on Twitter have more page views, while blog posts shared on Facebook have more comments.
    • Try testing three headlines on Twitter and see which one gets the most clickthroughs.

Overall, WordCamp Boston was a great experience, and well worth the time and money investment. I saw some very talented speakers, networked with other WordPress users and learned many new things. I look forward to attending next year’s conference.

Have you attended a WordCamp event? What did you learn?

Marci Reynolds, based in Boston, MA, is an operations leader by day and an active blogger after-hours.

She enjoys writing about sales support, service operations, process improvement and social media best practices. Learn more about Marci.

4 Tips for Pitching Guest Posts Like a Pro

This guest post is by Aman Basanti of Ageofmarketing.com.

Since launching my blog in Mid-may 2011, I have guest posted on a number of A-list blogs in the blogging and online marketing niches (including ProBlogger, MarketingProfs, and Daily Blog Tips). In doing so, I have learned some important lessons in getting guest posts accepted on big blogs.

But rather than boring you with the usual advice (pick the right blog, research the blog, pitch quality content etc.) I will attack a specific aspect of guest posting—preparing the pitch. If you want to learn about other aspects of guest posting check out Ali Luke’s post, How to Get Your Guest Posts Accepted Every Time.

I’ve identified four important elements that can greatly increase your chances of having your article or pitch accepted.

1. Pitch multiple post ideas

I had been reading ProBlogger for over a year before I pitched them a guest post. By any measure, I had done my research. Still, my judgement of what would be accepted was way off.

The post I thought would be best for ProBlogger was rejected, as was the one I thought would be second best. The one I least expected to be published was accepted. Had I not pitched three post ideas at once, I would never have known. I’ve had similar experiences with other editors.

So the lesson here is to pitch multiple posts. You cannot guess what the editor will find interesting. Stop trying to be a mind-reader. Place your trust in probability.

2. Write solid outlines

If you pitch multiple pieces, do not simply include them as attachments. A-list blogs get a ton of pitches every week and do not have the time to read through them all. Make it easy for the editor and write a short description for each piece.

Here’s a sample outline:

The Pimp, the Grocer and the Hit Man: Magnetise Your Headings Using the Power of the Unexpected

An article about how humans are wired to pay attention to unexpected events and how bloggers can use unexpected details to write more attention worthy headlines.

Sending article pitches, rather than articles, also benefits you. You do not have to have the post written before pitching it. You pitch it, see if the blogger is interested, and then write based on their feedback.

Pitching multiple posts with outlines is the single most important thing that has helped me get more posts accepted. It cuts out the guesswork.

3. Use the right keywords

As editors are busy, they do not have the time to imagine how your post relates to their niche. Your pitch has to be specific to their blog from the outset. The simplest way to make your post appear more specific is to use the right language.

This is where your research will come into play. Most sites target specific keywords. ProBlogger, for example, targets blogging-related keywords. So if you are pitching to this site, use the word “blog” instead of “website” and “post” instead of “article.”

Even cosmetic fixes like these can make your pitches more appealing. As Georgina explained it to me: “I, like the search engines, like to see [keywords] used in the posts I’m reviewing. There’s plenty of content online that’s relevant to blogging, but unless it’s specifically and explicitly tied to blogging and bloggers, we can’t accept it.”

4. Show samples of your work

Include in your submission samples of your writing from around the web. Ideally, you want to list your top three pieces, with at least one of them (if not all) being on a site other than yours.

This will help the editor get a better idea of the quality and style of your writing. Even if they do not read it, it shows social proof. It shows that other blogs have found your writing interesting.

A sample submission

Here is the email template I use to submit my guest posts. This should bring the tips listed above together into an actionable plan that you can use next time you submit a guest post to a blog.

Hello [name of editor],

My name is Aman Basanti and I am a consumer psychology writer from Australia. I am interested in writing a guest post for your blog.

Are you currently accepting guest posts on your blog?

If yes, I have the following ideas for you to consider.

- The Christina Aguilera Error: Are You Saying Ironic When You Mean Coincidental?
An article on how many people confuse ironic with coincidental. It defines what ironic is, gives examples of situations that are often incorrectly identified as ironic. It then goes on to discuss why this distinction matters to bloggers, especially to those who submit their articles to other publications.

- The Pimp, the Grocer and the Hit Man: Magnetise Your Headings Using the Power of the Unexpected
An article about how humans are wired to pay attention to unexpected events and how bloggers can use unexpected details to write more attention worthy headlines.

- Idea 3
A short description of the blog post.

Also, you can see samples of my writing at:

- 4 Success Secrets of Infamous British Author, Jeffery Archer
http://www.problogger.net/archives/2011/06/18/4-success-secrets-of-infamous-british-author-jeffery-archer/

- The Joe Girard Method: What the World’s Greatest Salesman Can Teach You about Sales and Marketing
http://www.dailyblogtips.com/the-joe-girard-method-what-the-worlds-greatest-salesman-can-teach-you-about-sales-and-marketing/

- The Margaret Thatcher Effect: Does Familiarity Breed ConteMPT or ContENT?
http://www.ageofmarketing.com/The-Mere-Exposure-Effect

I look forward to hearing from you,

Aman Basanti
AgeofMarketing.com

There are no magic bullets to getting guest posts. Quality posts pitched to the right publications in the right way will increase your chances of scoring a guest post and reaping the associated benefits. Do you submit pitches to sites you want to guest-post on? Let us know how you approach pitching in the comments below.

Aman Basanti writes about the psychology of buying and teaches you how you can use the principles of consumer psychology to boost your sales. Visit www.Ageofmarketing.com/free-ebook to get his new ebook—Marketing to the Pre-Historic Mind: How the Hot New Science of Behavioural Economics Can Help You Boost Your Sales—for FREE.

Six Things I Learned in My First Six Months as a Problogger

This is a Guest Post by John Saddington of TentBlogger.

Like many professional bloggers, my journey started years ago, as I dabbled in blogging for myself and for my friends. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but it did—the date doesn’t matter much here. And, to be completely honest, I had really no idea of what I was doing at the time.

Nearly a decade later, I jumped into the deep end, going pro as a full time blogger. I decided that I’d try my hand as a professional blogger, “blogging for fun and for profit,” and seeing where it would take me.

So far it’s been everything that I had expected, but even moreso, it’s been extremely eye-opening, humbling, and down-right scary at times. I finally had the time to actually review that first half-year and here’s what I came up with. My hope is that I can pass these learnings on to you so that you can jump to that stage in your blogging (if you wish). Hopefully, you’ll be even more prepared for what lies ahead!

1. Count your pennies

Making the jump from a full-time job into professional blogging took a lot of patience, calculation, and financial management. Heck, I had mouths to feed (I already had one daughter, and a second on the way!) and I couldn’t afford to make a serious capital error on my finances. In other words, it just had to work and I had to stay ‘in the black’ as best as I could.

I was diligent, I was safe, and I was conservative as much as the next fiscally responsible person—and although I’d never call myself a professional financial accountant, I was confident in my ability to make the ends meet. But the importance of being on top of my finances kicked up a serious notch the moment my blogs became the number one source of income.

What I wish I’d done was to take into account every single penny that was going in and going out from the blog; yes, to that degree—pennies.

You see, I had general (and accurate) estimations of my earnings but without the exact penny figures I couldn’t completely optimize my earnings in the specific areas that needed to be optimized (like affiliate marketing, direct sales, etc).

I encourage you to start counting those pennies today, even if it is just pennies—you’ll be even more ready to make the jump when you do.

Practical application

  1. Make a list of your current costs, both from a week and month-to-month perspective. Start documenting today so that you’re aware of what’s coming in and what’s coming out.
  2. Share your list of expenses with those that know you best. Having accountability is one of your greatest weapons against over-spending.
  3. Always wait before purchasing—make a mental note and goal to never spend any money the same day that you feel like you need something.
  4. Share your list publicly! Your blog readers might actually enjoy walking with you through this neat part of your blogging journey.
  5. Set times for your to conduct monthly and quarterly reviews. You’ll find these times and activities very fascinating as you dive deep into your fiscal planning for your blog. You might even come away having learned some significant new lessons.

2. Go free or go home

I love the applications that I use for my work, and most of them have been paid applications. The challenge of being in the freelance world—and especially the problogging world—is that there are always newer and shinier programs out there that are constantly enticing me. Heck, some claim to make me money instantly so why not, right?

Wrong. My approach quickly changed to finding open-source or free alternatives to paid apps. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with paying for your apps, but every single dollar counts—especially in the beginning, as you work your way to a profitable blog. You need to save where you can save, and do it over and over again.

Take the time to find the right free apps. Develop a thick skin for those moments when you see advertisements for apps that say they’ll help your blogging more if you just buy them today (especially if it’s a “limited time only” offer). You can go pro without paying a dime—in fact, why not challenge yourself to do just that?

Practical applications

  1. Always do you your research. Find the best sites and blogs that cover open source apps and freeware. You can’t go wrong with being thoroughly equipped to make the right spending choices.
  2. Ask your network for solutions. Facebook and Twitter can provide valuable information and resources that may just end up saving you significant time and money.
  3. Blog about your apps and the way that you use them! I’ve found this to be not only a neat exercise, but also a great time for the commenters and community to share their thoughts on both use and other perhaps better alternatives.
  4. Think beyond apps: consider all the things you need to function properly as a blogger. For example, what about free wifi at your local hotspot and coffee shop? I know of many bloggers who go to the extreme in their attempts at saving, and they did it. Sure, they can afford wifi at home, but they still jump over to the free wireless often!
  5. This goes with the previous section on counting pennies but it’s worth mentioning again: never purchase on emotion or gut reaction to a felt need. Wait a few hours (days perhaps), ask a few people, and make the wisest decision you can.

3. Prepare for the emotional rollercoaster

problogging

Copyright AVAVA - Fotolia.com

The first six months have been riddled with fear, anxiety, doubt, and depression—pretty sweet, right? It’s exactly what you want to hear from a professional blogger! One can get seriously beat up on that emotional rollercoaster ride!

The thing is that these are normal emotions for anyone who has experienced a job change. I just didn’t expect that they’d come on as strong in a job that I had been wanting to dive into for so long. It’s like getting to your dream job and realizing that it’s not like your dream at all—well, it’s still a “dream” job but it’s different, right?

There is no perfect job, and if you’re looking for it, then don’t be surprised when the kryptonite called reality arrives and you realize that you must still manage the stress and pressure of providing for yourself and your family. But it’s still worth it.

There’s no coaching or preparation that I can give you for making a jump into professional blogging but I can tell you that it will be emotional and that’s okay.

Practical applications

  1. Prepare today for the ups and downs of changing your job, and adopting a lifestyle that’s entirely different than the one that you had previously. Simply being aware of this transition can make you all the more prepared.
  2. Get your personal network in order so as to provide support during the transition. Broadcast and share where you’re headed and get people involved. It’s much more fun that way too!
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is one of the healthiest emotional places to be: where you’re confident of your continued path, but humble enough to know that you’re not the first (nor the last) to travel that road and you might need some help here and there.
  4. Be completely okay with the expression of that emotion. I didn’t learn until much later in life that it was better to be completely honest with my emotions than to hide them, especially during tough life changes.
  5. Set up a schedule and a time to rejoice. Your career choices are exciting, but often we forget to simply celebrate and enjoy the ride, so to speak.

4. Remember: your environment is everything

Since I started my blogging as a hobby I didn’t really care about where I was when I wrote anything—the fact that I managed to get in front of the computer at all seemed like a feat, and there was no rhyme nor reason to my work environment or circumstance. This worked just fine.

As I moved closer to writing seriously, I still didn’t have the full appreciation for my environment: I was writing during my lunch breaks, at the kitchen table after a late-night meal, or early in the morning before the coffee finished brewing. I blogged where I was because that’s where I was when I had the free time to do so. Sure, I tried to find those “optimal” writing environments that I felt helped me stay productive effectively, but it was more of luxury than a necessity. I just wanted to write and I’d write anywhere.

Now, as a professional blogger, this is what I do and my environment is under my control—and it’s never been more important that I craft the right environment for optimal thinking, drafting, and publishing. I’m even sharing this experience publicly as I craft the perfect professional blogging office with my community.

The challenge, though, is that I wasn’t taking notes for all those years as I spent time in the many different places where I wrote. I wish that I’d been more aware of the places, circumstances, environments, and all of the related paraphernalia that came with those environments, so that I could more easily create that perfect problogging office today.

I’d encourage you to start taking notes today if you’re planning to head in the direction of professional blogging. Then, when you do get there, you’ll know exactly what you need to create that perfect writing environment.

Practical applications

  1. Obviously you’ll want to start documenting all that appears to help you be your most productive. Include the elements of the space, the artifacts, the tools, and anything else that just seems to “work.”
  2. Pay particularly close attention not only to the “where,” but also to the “who” in your environment—does a bunch of strangers help you feel motivated to write? Or are you always with people that you know intimately? This could be a critical part of your environment!
  3. Don’t just make a list of elements—begin to categorize and price them. This is exciting because it can give you an opportunity to set goals for yourself around when you’ll purchase them, and when you’ll get to use them.
  4. Share your ideas about your ideal work environment with your blog community and ask for their feedback, as well as their thoughts on particular environments and tools within those environments. They might even show you alternatives that can save you money. That’s a win-win in my book!
  5. Allow yourself to dream a little. There’s no perfect place for you to write until you get there and so a lot of the environment creation process will take place in your head. Just don’t let your head stay too close to the ground. without imagination, you won’t be able to craft the optimal environment.

5. Work smarter, not harder?

The well-known adage we hear from many gurus is that you should seek to work smarter, not harder. And I believe that is generally true … except that it’s often not, especially in the space of the professional blogger.

I’ve learned that I must do both, at the exact same time, at about the same pace, and with extreme prejudice. There are elements of writing full-time that require you to work a lot harder than you’ve ever worked previously when you were blogging as a side project or hobby. And you need to blog at the exact same time you’re developing new processes and workflows that allow you to work smarter as well.

For example, I’m not working fewer hours than I did before. I work about the same (if not more). But I’m also working smarter during those times, churning out blog posts while developing strategy for marketing, awareness, and social engagements that’ll increase traffic. I’m also bucketing time for building a business around the blog as well as doing the administrative tasks that are required of any small business owner.

If you make the jump to being a problogger don’t expect to sip pina coladas on a beach in Tahiti working two hours a day with your remote 4G external wifi connection. No, your head is down (in your awesome work environment) making as much progress as you possibly can. After all, there’s no guarantee that your community is coming back to your blog tomorrow.

Practical applications

  1. Start documenting your workflows so you can get to a place of good writing rhythm. Catalog them and spend time refining them.
  2. Invest in your existing toolkit, and master those tools. Even if you know certain applications well, I bet you could know them better if you spent the time learning such things as shortcut keys and optimal work patterns, for example.
  3. Act like you’re a problogger today, creating the exceptional content that your community deserves, and you’ll find the change of pace less disruptive.
  4. Become better at scheduling your time and batching your efforts. This is one of the most critical skills that I’ve learned: I had to become even better at time management and waste as little of it on things that wouldn’t bring value to my work.
  5. Remember that rest is a vital part of working “smarter,” and that you’ll need this every single day. Rest well and your work will be the best that it can be! Learn to do this today so that when you get to be a problogger, you’ll find rest just as natural as, well, sleeping!

6. It’s not about me: it’s about them

As I ramped up into full-time blogging as a career, I day-dreamed about what it would look like, what it would feel like, and how I’d wake up every morning with a feeling of intense personal satisfaction knowing that I’ve “done it.” It was all about me. What I quickly realized is that professional blogging is less about myself and more about the community that helped you get to this point.

And yes, we all know that already but it becomes even more apparent when you realize that your financial stability and generation depends on those that believe in what you write and what you have to say as important (or more important) than the many other voices out there. This truth brings humility and grace at the right time and reminds you that your blog is nothing more than a collection of passionate people that are headed in the same direction.

Practical applications

  1. Learn to appreciate your community even more today than you did yesterday. What this means is going to be different for each blogger!
  2. Dedicate time to engaging with your community. Most people don’t have a schedule around their community engagement and they end up doing it throughout the entire day. That ends up wasting a lot of time when you can learn to use a workflow and batch your efforts.
  3. Look into other ways to engage with your community, such as Facebook and Twitter. Even starting an email newsletter might be one way to reach a particular part of your community that you don’t typically engage with.
  4. Be explicit and thank them continually. Do this today and they’ll be with you tomorrow.
  5. Have fun with them—life’s better that way, and your blog will be better for it as well.

What have you learned?

Whether you’re a problogger, a blogging stalwart, a hobby blogger, or a newbie, you’ve probably learned a few lessons of your own. Share them with us in the comments.

Written exclusive for ProBlogger.net by John Saddington. He is a Professional Blogger who loves sharing his blogging tips, tricks, tools, and practical teaching covering SEO, WordPress and making money through your blog! You can follow him on Twitter too: @TentBlogger.

How to Be a Good Guest Post Host

This guest post is by LJ Earnest of SimpleProductivityBlog.com.

You often see articles about how to be a good guest poster: things you can do to make an impression and get your post published. But what about the flip-side of that? Do you have what it takes to be a good guest post host?

Guest posting is beneficial both to the writer and the publisher. It builds relationships, strengthens support, and generates publicity for the host while giving exposure to the writer. Here are eight things you can do to be a better guest post host.

Have an FAQ

FAQs are good ways to keep yourself from answering the same questions over again. For guest posting, have a FAQ that covers the questions you are asked, such as “How long do posts have to be?” and “What format should I use?” It should also cover things such as your blog topics and the frequency of posting, even though this should be apparent to those who have done their homework. Having a FAQ can save you a lot of extra work answering email, and gives a place to link to in response to general inquiries.

Even if you don’t accept guest posts, your general blog FAQ should say this outright. It will save the author a lot of trouble.

Make the FAQ easy to find

It does no one any good if you have a guest posting FAQ that no one can find. The link needs to be prominent and convey that it is about guest posting.

A great way to get your guest posting guidelines out is to put a link to it on each guest post you publish. A prospective author will find it more quickly if they are already looking at a guest post.

Respond when you say you will

The process of submitting a guest post is one where the poster submits an idea or article, and then it goes into a kind of freeze until the host blog accepts it or rejects it. The article can’t be submitted elsewhere, and it may possibly go out of relevance.

Part of the FAQ should be a timeframe when you will get back to your possible guest. Even then, you must honor what you say. If you say your timeframe is five days, make sure you respond in five days, even if it is a “I like the article, but I am swamped and need more time to look at it.” If you find yourself consistently missing your stated timeframe, change it in the FAQ to something you can meet.

Responding within a given timeframe builds credibility and makes people more likely to submit a post; after all, who wants to send a post knowingly into a black hole?

Have a clear way to submit a guest post

Having a separate email address or form for guest post submissions makes it easy for you to keep track of what is coming in. It also gives the author a feeling that his post will not be lost in other email. This information could be included as part of the FAQ.

Give some basic feedback

We all strive to improve at what we do. But without external feedback, it is very hard to figure out what we are doing right and wrong.

Who doesn’t like to have their work praised? If there was something that caught your attention in the article, tell the author. This form of community building will net you allies and readers.

On the flip-side, if you are rejecting the post, give some basic feedback why. If the post doesn’t meet the criteria set forth in your FAQ, let the author know (along with a link to the FAQ). Or if the post would require too much editing on your part, the author should know as well. This type of feedback will help them write better posts in the future, should they choose to use the information.

Be willing to negotiate

Sometimes a post doesn’t work on your blog because of timing or some other factor that has nothing to do with the article itself. In that case, ask the author to be flexible. I had a recent submission where the author did everything right—but the article was on the same subject as one due to go out the next week. I asked him if he would be willing to delay publication because of the timing, and he agreed. A possible rejection turned into a win-win.

Negotiating with the author can not only build relationships, but also a reputation for fairness.

Don’t compromise

It is your blog, after all, and you have the final say over content. If your blog is about widgets, and someone submits a post on elephants, don’t compromise your content quality by publishing it. Likewise, feel free to reject posts that don’t make the cut, even it they come from someone you know.

Be kind

Having creative work read by others can feel like having your skin removed. Remember that the person on the other end of the email is a person with feelings. Be as kind as you can.

Have you thought about what it takes to be a great guest post host? Share below.

LJ Earnest is a computer programmer by day, productivity geek all the time. Using the principles of productivity and simplicity at SimpleProductivityBlog.com, she helps people get through the stuff they have to do so they can get to the stuff they want to do. She can also be found at Twitter and Facebook. Remember, a productive life doesn’t have to be complicated.

When’s the Right Time to Start Selling?

This guest post is by k out Brandon Yanofsk of B-List Marketing.

If you’ve ever asked another blogger, “When’s the right time to start selling on my blog?”, you’ll know you never get a solid answer.

Some say as soon as you get one person visiting your blog.

Some say never to start selling until you’ve got at least 100 subscribers.

And some say selling before you have 10,000 people on your email list is premature.

However, I’m here to set the record straight and give you a solid answer.

But before I give you that answer, I need to explain something.

Don’t sell: provide a solution to a problem

Everyone thinks of selling as something nasty—something you shouldn’t do. They think of shady car salesmen or the cliched snake-oil salesman. Basically, someone trying to rip them off.

It’s no wonder then that people don’t want to sell on their blogs.

Instead of calling it “selling,” let’s call it what it really is: Providing a Solution to a Problem.

Now, let’s rephrase the original question:

When’s the right time to provide a solution to a problem?

selling

Copyright NatUlrich - Fotolia.com

If someone runs up to you and says, “Hey, I need your help”, would you reply with, “Sorry, I’m not selling right now.”?

Of course not. You’d jump right in and help.

So, the right time to start selling on your blog is:

As soon as you identify a problem and create a solution to that problem.

It doesn’t matter if you have one subscriber, or 100,000 subscribers. Once you’ve identified the problem your readers are facing, it’s time to create a solution to it.

I know of a blogger who has a very, very healthy following. Yet he can’t manage to make one sale. The reason is: he isn’t providing a solution to a problem his readers face. He’s just creating products and hoping someone buys them.

On the other hand, I’ve seen bloggers who have very few subscribers. Yet they have a very healthy business selling products. Why? Because they identified a problem their readers face, and created the solution.

So, don’t let people tell you there is a certain number of followers you need before selling products. It doesn’t exist.

Instead, ask yourself only two questions:

1) Have I identified the problem? and 2) Can I provide the solution?

Looking for more tips on creating a blogging business? Check out Brandon Yanofsky’s site B-List Marketing where he’ll show you how to create a blogging business your readers know, like, and trust.