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FeedBurner vs. Aweber: Do You Really Need an Autoresponder for Your Blog?

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

When it comes to turning casual visitors into regular readers there are two main options—FeedBurner and Aweber.

FeedBurner uses Feed-based technology (RSS and Atom) to send updates to your blog subscribers. Owned by Google (Google bought it in 2007 for $100 million), FeedBurner is one of the biggest feed syndicators on the Internet.

It works like this: a site visitor subscribes to your feed and every time you add a new post, a message is sent to them alerting them of the addition. The subscriber needs special software (a feed reader) to access the feed.

For more information on feeds, see Darren’s post, What is RSS?

Aweber is email-based technology that allows you to send automated email messages to your subscribers. It works similarly to a feed but does not require special feed-reading software, only an email address to subscribe to a blog.

Aweber is the most popular autoresponder software system on the Internet. Other popular brands include Infusionsoft, MailChimp, and GetResponse.

Advantages of FeedBurner

  • FeedBurner is free, Aweber costs money: The key advantage of using FeedBurner instead of Aweber (or other auto-responders) on your blog is that FeedBurner does not cost anything. Aweber, on the other hand, can cost $20-$100 a month depending on the number of subscribers you have.
  • FeedBurner take less effort: Most popular blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger, TypePad etc.) publish feeds automatically. There is nothing more to do on top of publishing a post. With auto-responders, however, you have to manually setup the messages and sequence them (but you can now set up a blog broadcast in Aweber, which creates an automatic email newsletter).
  • FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email subscribers: The key advantage of auto-responders like Aweber used to be that you did not need special software to subscribe, only an email address. As millions of people still do not have feed readers or prefer email, this meant that you still needed an aut-responder to capture those readers. But FeedBurner changed all that by allowing people to subscribe to a feed using an email address. This means that while an autoresponder only supports email, FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email.

Given that FeedBurner is free, easy to set up, effortless to use, and supports both feed readers and email, why would you want to pay for an auto responder?

The fatal flaw in feeds

The key thing that you cannot do with a feed is sequence messages: you cannot create a series of messages to be sent to your subscribers. This means that your subscribers only get alerts for posts that are added after they subscribe.

For example, say you post four articles over four weeks, and a visitor subscribes to your blog after week three. This means they will only get alerted about the fourth post, and will not receive posts one to three, as shown in the image below.

Feedburner alerts

In FeedBurner, you cannot send alerts for older posts

Now, if you post time-sensitive information (news or latest developments) on your blog, this doesn’t matter. But if you publish evergreen content, or you want to take your blog readers through a specific set of messages, the ability to sequence is crucial.

Autoresponders allow you to do just that. You can create a sequence of messages, set how long the wait is between each message, and the autoresponder will execute that for you for each subscriber, regardless of when they join, as shown below.

Aweber sequencing

Aweber allows you to create a sequence of messages

Then there are the other benefits of auto-responders like Aweber—customization of look and feel of emails, personalization (“Hi John”), controlling the wait period between messages, solid delivery rates, split-test multiple lead capture forms, and so on.

The audience factor

A third factor in deciding which system to use is your audience. If you have tech-phobic audience, then an email-based system like Aweber is likely better for you.

For tech-savvy audiences, on the other hand, FeedBurner may be better. Technically inclined people are more likely to use and prefer to get their blog updates through feeds. Feeds also have the added benefit of allowing another blogger to include your feed on their blog, creating free exposure and traffic for your blog.

The best way to find out what your audience wants is to have both options on your site for a month and see what your readers prefer. You may even find that it is useful to have both.

The bottom line

If you have a small budget, publish time-sensitive information, and/or cater to a tech-savvy audience, FeedBurner will be sufficient for your blog.

If, on the other hand, you want to take your subscribers through a sequence of messages and control the wait periods between the messages, then Aweber is better suited to your blog.

What are you using: Aweber, FeedBurner … or something else? Tell us how you do it in the comments.

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.

How Offline Promotion Landed 300 New Blog Visitors

This guest post is by Kyle Taylor of The Penny Hoarder.

I’ve been blogging for six short months and I’m bored.

I still love writing new content, but like many of you, I have spent so many countless hours commenting, tweeting, and begging for backlinks that I’m simply too bored to keep it up.

What makes the situation worse is that I have spent months establishing myself as a unique brand in my niche, yet I’ve been employing all of the same marketing strategies as my competitors. My marketing is the first impression I give potential readers and, by reusing old strategies, I have been leaving readers with the impression that I was just another personal finance blog. Sure, the traffic has grown, slow and steady, but I decided that I needed to do something different this summer; not only to grow the site faster, but to make marketing more enjoyable for myself.

My experiment

My first move was to step offline. Offline is a scary place, but there happens to be millions of people out there that have never heard of my blog. And these are the kind of people who aren’t trolling comment threads and message boards like the rest of us. I wanted to reach them and I was confident that once they found me, I could hook ‘em.

bumper sticker

My bumper sticker

I once read in a ProBlogger article that when advertising online, you shouldn’t necessarily send people to your homepage. Rather, you should sent them to a page deep within your blog. I decided to run with that advice and apply it to my offline endeavor. Instead of promoting my entire blog, I picked a popular article on my site titled, “I Get Paid to Buy Beer,” bought the domain iGetFreeBeer.com, and permanently redirected the domain to the article hosted on my blog.

Maybe it wasn’t quite what Darren had in mind when he shared that advice, but what the heck?

It had all the makings of a page ready to go viral offline:

  • A rather juvenile web address. Check.
  • An article that represented my blog well. Check.
  • And, well … free beer. Check.

My hope was that some of the new visitors would like what they saw in the article and start exploring the rest of the blog. The downside of promoting a separate web address was that we wouldn’t be promoting our actual brand or website. However, I was hoping the novelty of “free beer” would successfully launch our regular website to stardom, or at the very least, bring about world peace.

Naturally, this type of article and domain address was perfect to market to the under-30 demographic. To promote the new domain, we had simple bumper stickers made and hired willing college students from Craigslist.com and Fiverr.com to put the stickers up around their college campuses, apartments, and hangouts.

Results

All told, we spent about $120 dollars. The printing cost us $45 for 250 bumper stickers. And five college students were paid $15 each to put up 50 stickers in their towns.

The campaign is only in its second week, and we have already had more than 300 new visitors come from our bumper stickers. At $0.40 per visit, our costs are certainly cheaper than an AdWords campaign, and there is no telling how many more visitors we will get in the coming weeks.

It’s also easy to track our campaign using Google Analytics, because the visitors show up as a “referring site.” Plus, using the Advanced options, we can look at our visitors’ cities to see if word-of-mouth has found us readers in locations other than the ones we targeted with our stickers.

Get creative

Start brainstorming ways you can promote your website that you haven’t seen done before. Get crazy. Have fun with it.

Maybe you could make a video of yourself planking and post it on Youtube? Maybe you could give out free lemonade at the beach and put your blog’s logo on the cup? What about passing out flyers at the farmer’s market?

The strategy you choose will largely depend on your site’s niche, but if you want to be different then everybody else, you are going to have to start thinking differently about your marketing.

Have you ever completed offline marketing—or done something completely outside the box? Let us know how you went in the comments.

Kyle Taylor is a personal finance blogger that blogs about weird ways to make money at The Penny Hoarder. Connect on Facebook or join the newsletter and get our “5 Wackiest Ways to Make Extra Money.”

How to Recruit Evangelists for Your Blog

This guest post is by M.Farouk Radwan of http://www.2knowmyself.com.

Today, every successful blogger knows that diversifying traffic sources is a practice we can’t afford to ignore. Search engines update their search algorithms all the time, social media sites keep rising and falling, and new traffic sources keep appearing and disappearing.

In order to ensure your long-term continuity on the Web, and in order to be able to live through these changes, you need a team of evangelists who can help you market your content whenever a new traffic source appears.

For example, if you had a blog before the time of Twitter, and then Twitter came into existence, you need loyal evangelists who can help you develop strong presence on the social network, who tweet your posts, retweet your tweets, and follow you.

In this post I will tell you about powerful and effective methods that can help you recruit evangelists for your blog.

Recognize potential evangelists

How many times you ignored a mail, a comment, or a request of help from a reader? Each of these people can become potential evangelists when you provide them with the help they need.

When I get a mail from someone asking for help I do my best to answer him on time. If he replies to say something like “thanks,” or if he doesn’t reply at all, I don’t consider him an evangelist. But if he replies saying that he is very thankful, I then ask him to become an evangelist for my blog.

Of course I don’t ask him to do this in a direct way; instead I tell him something like, “You are most welcome. If you want to help me as well, then you can do that by sharing my content.”

People who send you thank you emails are evangelists. When they use powerful words, you know they are already existing evangelists who are eager to do what you ask. Never be ashamed to ask someone for a favor if you really helped that person through your blog.

Never block all communication channels

I often come across blogs that have no content forms, no method to comment on a post, and no communication method that can help you reach the owner of the blog.

Of course you might want to disable one or two features for technical reasons, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t keep at least one communication channel opened between you and the people who might become evangelists. After all, if those people can’t reach you, you will never be able to recruit them.

Spend more time communicating with people

Before understanding this fact, I used to spend no more than 30 minutes answering emails, and sometimes I allowed many messages to accumulate in my Facebook inbox. After understanding my mistake, I started spending more than one hour per day answering emails and searching for potential evangelists.

Post an announcement

Even if you keep all communication channels opened between you and your readers, there will still be many potential evangelists who won’t offer help unless you ask them to do so.

Post an announcement that states that you need help from loyal readers in your forums, on your blog, or on your Facebook page.

Assign tasks to your evangelists

  1. Once you have a team of evangelists, you can ask them to share your content and to promote it on the newest potential traffic sources.
  2. Keep an excel file with the names and emails of your evangelists, so that you can reach them whenever you want.
  3. Keep looking for potential evangelists and keep increasing their numbers all the time.

Remember: successful blogging is all about connecting with your loyal readers on a deep level so that they can help your blog come into the light.

Avoid overburdening your evangelists with tasks

People who believe in you should be treated as if they are precious treasure. You don’t want to overburden those people with tasks and have them turn away from you.

If you asked one evangelist for help, make sure you don’t ask her again for a reasonable period of time. In the Excel sheet where you keep the names and contact details of your evangelists, make notes so that you can check which ones have been contacted before, and which have not.

Also, repay the favor your evangelists gave you, even if you have initially helped them. For example, if you sell products or have membership areas, give those people free access to some of your products.

This will help to increase their loyalty even more, and they will never turn away from your blog. The key point to keep in mind is to not ask for more than those people can tolerate, or else you will risk losing them.

And the next time you need help, ask those loyal evangelists indirectly, for example, by announcing on your fan page that you need help with a task. Only those who really want to help another time will get back to you, so you can be assured you’re not overburdening anyone.

Does your blog have evangelists? How did you build up a core group of loyal followers? Share your tips in the comments.

Written by M.Farouk Radwan, the founder of http://www.2knowmyself.com, which gets more than 600,000 page views per month.

Blogging Without a Computer

This guest post is by Janek Makulec of paylane.

Blogging is actually a set of activities, but writing is always fundamental. Promoting your blog or presenting an outstanding layout is one thing, but you always have to offer good content first. Otherwise, the best you can achieve is being “the master of the form.”

What’s wrong with a computer?

Nothing, of course. People are the problem here, computers are just tools. It’s our psychology, the human nature.

So what should we use, if not a computer? There’s no good general answer. It depends on what you prefer. My choices are: pens and pencils, paper, a typewriter, and brains.

Whoa! Is it 1940 or something? Where do you even get a typewriter from?

Okay, such reaction is surely understandable, but let me explain how I find such “oldschool writing methods” more effective and easier to use.

Improving your style

There’s a well-known story about F. Nietzsche. It’s said that when he got himself a new typewriter and learned to use it, his writing style changed. It became more concise.

Of course typewriters or pens (like computers, text editors, etc.) are just tools, but it’s not like they’re not altering our writing style. When you can add, delete, or copy and paste every sentence or paragraph with pretty much no effort whatsoever, you stop concentrating. You lose your self-discipline.

Having the comfort of going back any time, repairing something, and keeping such corrections untraceable makes your mind more likely to lose focus. Less concentration means less creativity, and worse writing. And you’re done, thank you very much—there’s the door.

Furthermore, it’s more likely you’re going to write longer pieces, which are usually … well, boring. People would rather scan web articles than read them—a long text might scare them away. Mark Twain once said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” He was talking about the very same thing. Writing short pieces is more difficult, but the effects are better. You have to tell the same thing in fewer words, but this way you’ll keep your reader’s attention.

Of course, it’s just a psychological trick. We somehow feel more responsible for what we write directly on paper—there’s physical evidence of what we’ve written. But if it works, why not use such a fact?

Getting rid of distractions

A computer is the greatest digital distraction center, especially when connected to the Internet (which is every computer nowadays). And I’m sure that’s obvious.

Of course you can turn off all notifications, and even disconnect, but be honest (not to me—to yourself): will you really be able not to think about checking your email or Twitter until you finish your work? You’re always one click away from doing this. Why keep being tempted or get distracted and waste time?

There’s no minesweeper or Facebook on a piece of paper! Turn off your computer and just write. Do you even remember what your handwriting looks like? I mean apart from your signature on the credit card!

The worst thing that may happen to you here is that you either have a pen that shows a lady getting undressed when it’s turned upside down, or you start drawing silly stuff. If you do, get a typewriter—there’s no drawing there. And it requires you to concentrate more on the writing itself, which is another advantage.

Of course there are fullscreen text editors that turn off all notifications and are supposed to keep you concentrated on your writing. There are even ones that simulate a typewriter. If this works for you, great! You’re one of the lucky ones. But if you have to use your will and fight not to use Alt+Tab, try a pen instead of a keyboard.

Fewer mistakes, better quality

I assume you’ve read some articles on proofing and correcting—you can find such posts right here on problogger.net. It’s very important to reread your texts—you always find something to correct.

But it’s even better to rewrite it. Even a few times, if it helps. Leo Tolstoj rewrote War and Peace seven times (my edition of this book is ~1600 pages). But it was simply worth it.

So here’s the trick—if you write the first version on paper, you’ll be forced to rewrite it. And that’s it. Nothing fancy, but honestly, how often do you rewrite a blog post? You probably read it once or twice, edit it, and hit Publish. Maybe you even wait a day or two before that. That’s good, but I’m saying there’s a good chance to make it even better. If you won’t rewrite your text strictly mechanically, you’ll probably have better results.

Creativity and motivation

Yes, you can even affect your thinking with the tools you use—not any particular ones, but with a variety.

Whenever you create a habit, you lose a part of your creative thinking. Or you show your brain how to do so—just work out a rule that works, and repeat it. This way, nothing new will ever happen, only a routine will be born.

Try to write with a pen in a red notepad, another time use a typewriter, later make notes with a 2B pencil on a lined (or maybe plain) piece of paper, then make an exception and use a computer…

This way, each time you write something, it’s different, and it makes you feel like you’re attempting something new. It doesn’t matter how silly all this may sound, the important thing is whether it works for you.

There’s one last advantage of writing with your computer turned off. Eyes. If you’re blogging (which means doing research, commenting, using social media, etc.) and spending much time in front of the monitor, you should use every opportunity to take a break from the screen.

What tricks do you use to mix up your blogging? Share them with us in the comments.

Janek works as a copywriter in the online payments industry, but writes also on many other topics on Across the Board.

Being Relevant and Reputable—Google’s Sweet Spot

This guest post is by John Hoff of Blog Training Classroom.

I’ve written many articles online over the years. Many deal with WordPress, blogging, and making money online; however, there’s one subject I’ve noticed which consistently takes the “most popular” topic award … search engine optimization.

The concept of search engine optimization at times can really make your head spin. In one respect, it seems like a concept which is extremely complicated to understand and implement because there can be a ton of moving parts which you have to consider, like:

  • keywords
  • keyword density
  • attaining backlinks
  • who you link to
  • duplicate content
  • how to structure your link text
  • heading tags
  • meta tags.

And now with terms like Panda and Google +1 getting tossed into the mix, I feel like grabbing our buddy Googlebot by the shirt and saying, “Really? I mean, come on. I’ve got way more important things to do online then trying to understand how your Google brain works!”

But then there’s the simplicity of search engine optimization.

The simplicity part comes when you start thinking about Google as if it were a human. By thinking of it like a human, we can better understand what it wants in terms of concepts we understand and use in our everyday lives.

The human side of Google

The above list shows all the mechanics of SEO. Google is not a human, it’s an algorithm.

Now to throw you for even more of a loop: it’s an algorithm which is trying to act like a human. You ask it something and it wants to be the smartest guy on the block.

How does it get to be the smartest guy on the block?

By giving you the best answer to your question.

And that, my friends, is what Google wants.

While Yahoo! and Bing give “okay” answers, Google wants to give you the best answer, just like your most trusted friend would, because if it can do that, you’ll keep asking it questions.

So what is the human side of SEO?

It’s the concept of helping Google get what it wants in terms of how we humans think. And by giving it what it wants, it will reward you.

How to give Google what it wants

Here’s where all those mechanics of SEO come into play. They are the way in which Google tries to determine two very simple concepts. Is a site or article:

  • relevant
  • reputable?

Now those are concepts we humans can understand a little more easily.

The relevant part is the easy part—all you have to do is stay on topic. It’s the reputable part which takes a little more work, but we’ll talk about that in just a moment.

Case study: Problogger.net

Let’s take a look at how Darren Rowse and his site are giving Google what it wants.

As of the date this article was written, Problogger.net has a PageRank of 6. Not too shabby. This tells us that Google thinks this site is important.

How then would Google see that Darren and his site are both relevant and reputable?

The “relevant” part

When you arrive on Darren’s blog, it’s obvious his site is all about the concept of blogging. Here’s a quick list of how he shows Google his site is relevant to blogging:

  • He offers products on the subject.
  • He’s got an incredible number of articles written which relate to blogging.
  • The word “blogger” is in his URL.
  • The word “blog” is sprinkled throughout his website.
  • His site’s home page title clearly tells people what they will find here (blogging tips).

And the list goes on.

Okay, so that was the easy part: just stay on topic and show Google what your site is all about. But what about being reputable?

The “reputable” part

Back in the day (years ago), simply being relevant was good enough—remember those keyword meta tags?

But being only relevant these days just doesn’t cut it and the reason is because the Internet has grown from a few thousand websites to millions of websites, with many talking about exactly the same thing.

So tell me then, who’s article would you rather read and trust?

Someone who knows nothing about blogging but wrote a “how to make money blogging” article, or an article Darren wrote which was about “how to make money blogging?”

Both articles are relevant to making money through blogging, but whose article would you trust is more correct?

Take that evaluation you just did in your head, and that’s exactly what Google is doing.

It sees that both articles are relevant to the topic but then, just like you, it makes a decision at who is more trustworthy.

And that’s where the reputable part comes into play.

Darren and his site Problogger.net are reputable for these reasons:

  • People (a lot of people) link to his site.
  • People mention his name and site even when they don’t link to him.
  • He’s like seriously everywhere: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (how do you do it, man?).
  • His articles get retweeted, Liked, Stumbled, appear on Digg, etc.

In other words, he’s mentioned everywhere online … and in a good way.

So Darren has shown Google, just as he has to you and me, that his site is both relevant to blogging and a reputable resource people can use. By showing this to Google, he has attained decent search rank.

That’s the simple side of search engine optimization. It’s not about the mechanics, it’s about the human side of SEO.

How to get into Google’s good graces

In my opinion, the way to achieve the best search engine success is by concentrating the majority of your time on the human aspect of SEO.

Don’t get me wrong—if you’re really wanting to dive into search engine optimization, then you’re going to have to learn the mechanics. There’s no way around that. You can think of the mechanics (keywords density, header tags, etc.) like tools.

But tools don’t build buildings, people do.

Chances are that many of you want to rank your articles in Google, but have better things to do with your time than become SEO experts.

If that’s you and the idea of studying search engine optimization is as appealing as watching reruns of Rocky III all day long, then I’d suggest at the very least familiarizing yourself with a few of the more important mechanics of SEO, and then focusing the rest of your time on just building epic stuff.

Concentrate on people, and do what entrepreneurs did back in the day before the Internet.

Create that epic stuff—articles, blogs, ebooks, tweets, etc.—and then get out there and hit the digital pavement. Share your epic stuff with other people and they will like you.

And when other people like you, Google will like you. Hence Google +1.

By the way, what the heck do we call Google +1? Twitter has “tweets” and Facebook has “Likes”, but what do you say when you +1 something?

And how important do you think this tool will be after reading this post?

John Hoff the blog training instructor at Blog Training Classroom and is an Internet Marketer. If you’d like to learn more about SEO and how he ranks sites and articles in Google, he’s got a free SEO brain dump download – no email address required.

How to Use Blogging to Get Clients Flocking after You

This guest post is by Onibalusi from YoungPrePro.com.

I have been writing for others as a freelancer for over seven months now and within that period I have made over $20,000 just by writing for others. I keep on getting new client requests every month and due to an agreement with my current and main clients, I have rejected almost ten clients in the past six months.

I have also noticed that in the blogosphere and in the freelancing world, less than 20% of the people get 99% of the results, so I decided to write an article on how to use blogging to get more clients to your business.

Before I continue I’d like you to know that the tips in this article won’t help you get “cheap clients” who really don’t care about the quality of your work. I’ll be giving you tips that can help you get high paying, recurring clients that you can choose from.

I’d also like you to know that every aspect of this article is essential. Don’t think you can skip my first point to go to the next and then expect the results to come. This is definitely not the ultimate guide on getting clients—I’m far from someone to write an ultimate guide on the subject. The tips in this article can also be modified to give you better results than I’m getting, but some people like to skip the main parts and try to rush into it for the money, then expect the results to come. That just won’t happen!

Okay, let’s get to the tips.

Focus on what you’re best at

Try to put yourself into the shoes of your client first. Let’s say you’re a small business with a tight budget and you want to get the word out about your business. You think the best thing to do is to hire a marketing consultant to give you advice based on your business model and you decide to go out in search for one.

You came across two people—the first is someone who is really desperate to make money and is therefore claiming the title of a “marketing consultant” because he hears that others with that name are making it big. The other, however, is a dedicated marketing consultant who lives, eats, and breathes marketing and who has helped several people with marketing their business. Which of the two will you go with?

You might try to play smart and think clients won’t be able to see through you but as someone who hardly advertises my service but keeps on getting client requests regularly, I will tell you that the best thing to do is to focus on what you’re best at. Doing so won’t only increase your chances of getting a lot of clients, it will ensure you’re paid double what you’re worth, and it will also ensure your clients stick with you for a very long time.

After all, the only thing your clients want is results, and once you can give them a lot of those, they will happily stay with you forever.

Know which kinds of clients you want and tailor your blog posts to them

I’m not trying to tell you to start writing blog posts every day inviting clients, or to be writing aggressive blog posts with the sole aim of getting clients. I’m taking about being specific about what you talk about, and letting potential clients see you as an expert on your subject.

Take a look at Darren Rowse, for example. If a big client is looking for someone to give the best advice about building successful blogs, you can be sure they will hire Darren. Not only does Darren have three very popular blogs in different niches, he also has the most successful blog in the blogging niche (which has been the most successful for several years now). That alone speaks a great deal to show that this guy knows what he’s talking about.

If you want clients to hire you to do their website design work for them, you need to be blogging about web design, and doing case studies that help analyze other people’s blog designs for better results. The more you can show someone that you know your stuff, the higher their chances of hiring you will be.

I try to know how my clients have found me, and I have noticed that every single one of them discovered me through my blog posts about guest blogging, which assures them that I know my stuff as far as writing is concerned.

Be a living example of what you have to offer

If you’re a web designer who wants to have clients flocking after you, having a very poor website design won’t help you go far. The best way to get clients is by letting them know that you know your stuff—and what better way to do this than to be using your services yourself?

Why will people ever hire you to write for them when you don’t even have a blog? Why will people hire you to help design their websites when you have never designed for someone else and the website template you use is one of the worst they’ve ever seen? Why will people hire you for SEO when you hardly get any visits to your blogs from the search engines? Why will people hire you to write their copy when you can’t even convince them to use your service?

Since I’m human, just like you, I’d like to tell you that my number one concern isn’t my mother, it isn’t my siblings, it isn’t you either. It is me, and since every human thinks alike, I’d like to believe this is the same for everybody. Our major concerns are ourselves, and we think about ourselves before others. No one will hire you if you can’t prove to them that you’re an example of what you have to offer and that hiring you will be their wisest decision.

Market yourself

You will notice here that I’m not actually saying you should market your service.

I’m not against marketing your service altogether, but my point is that being a living example of what you have to offer is enough marketing of your service in itself. So spreading the word about yourself will let a lot of people see you, and will result in them asking to buy your services.

Look for the best tactics that those who are getting results in your industry are using, and start making use of them yourself. Don’t just rush after guest blogging because people in the IM niche says it is working for them. Facebook might be what’s working in your niche. Search engines might be the best friend of those getting the most results in your niche.

So instead of following the general approach to marketing, try to take a look at how some of the people getting the most results in your field are marketing themselves. Then, start marketing yourself using the same approach.

Use your blog

Getting clients flocking after you isn’t as difficult as most people think. It isn’t about joining one freelancing site or the other. Blogging is the most powerful tool at the disposal of everybody, and you can easily make the best use of it to your own advantage. Utilize the tips above to get clients flocking after you—and let us know how you go in the comments.

Onibalusi Bamidele is the founder of YoungPrePro.com, a blog where he teaches people how to write for traffic and money. Get his free 7 series eCourse on How to Build a Successful Online Writing Business

Take 5 Minutes to Make WordPress 10 Times More Secure

This guest post is by David Wang of The ClickStarter.

Hacktivist groups Lulzsec and Anonymous are on the prowl again. Their actions have generated lots of attention for hacking, and you can be sure that many bored kids and shady characters are interested to start hacking too.

What if your blog was the target of a rookie hacker, honing his skills to make it to the big leagues? All of your hard work building a better blog, growing traffic and readership, and making money with your blog would be jeopardized—or, worse, lost forever.

Thankfully, WordPress is pretty secure out of the box and they provide frequent security updates. Even better are the following super-simple actions that you can take to make WordPress ten times more secure. (Not scientifically verified! Your mileage may vary.)

Move wp-config.php up one level

The wp-config.php file contains all of your WordPress configuration information and settings. It’s game over if hackers gain access to this file—they would be able to inject malware into your blog pages, or *gulp* delete all of your blog content.

A little-known feature of WordPress is that you can move the wp-config.php file one level above the WordPress root. On most Linux servers, wp-config.php would be located in:

~/home/user/public_html/wp-config.php

Simply FTP into your server, and then move wp-config.php above the public_html directory so that it is located in:

~/home/user/wp-config.php

This way, wp-config.php is outside of the public-facing web root, and no longer accessible to scripts and bots that hackers may employ over the Web.

There are no other settings to configure—WordPress will automatically know to look for wp-config.php one level above. Easy, right?

Caveat: This tip will not work if you install your blog in a subdirectory (e.g. public_html/blog) or as an add-on domain in cPanel (e.g. public_html/yourblog.com).

Time required: 1 minute

Delete the ‘admin’ account

The default Administrator account on WordPress has a username of ‘admin’. Every n00b hacker would know that, so using ‘admin’ as the username is like having a back door to your house that every thief knows about. Do not ever use this as the main account. Choose a different username when installing WordPress.

If you have been using the ‘admin’ username, go into the Dashboard » Users » Add New User screen. Create a new user with the role of Administrator. Now log out, and log back in as the new user.

Go to the Users screen again and delete ‘admin’. You can transfer all of the content created by ‘admin’ to your new user account before confirming deletion.

Time required: 1 minute

Update WordPress, plugins, and themes

WordPress makes it so easy to update itself, plus plugins, and themes, to the latest version. It’s so easy that you (almost) deserve to get hacked if you don’t stay updated. Spending one minute installing updates will save you hours or days of frustration and headaches if you ever do get hacked.

Plugins and themes should also be updated regularly. All plugins and themes from the WordPress directory integrate with the automatic update feature. Many premium plugins and themes also have automatic updates, which is another great reason to invest in a high-quality theme framework for your blog.

Time required: 1 minute

Install WP Security Scan and Secure WordPress

Finally, plugins that deal with security are another great way of reducing the likelihood of your blog getting hacked. Two really good plugins that do this are WP Security Scan and Secure WordPress by WebsiteDefender.

WP Security Scan comes with several tools to help make your blog more secure:

  • The Scanner checks the permissions of the WordPress files and highlights any with the wrong permissions. FTP into your server and change the permissions accordingly.
  • The Password Tool tells you the strength of your password, and also generates random and super-strong passwords that you can use.
  • The Database tool allows you to backup the WordPress database and change the database prefix. Use it to change your database prefix to something like ‘7yhj2_’. This makes it difficult for hackers to guess your database table names when trying to perform SQL injections.

Secure WordPress takes a different approach and helps improve security by removing clues that can help hackers detect vulnerabilities in your system. The plugin’s settings screen is a simple list of checkboxes that do everything from removing login error messages, removing WordPress version numbers and even blocking malicious URL requests. I recommend activating all the checkboxes, unless you have a specific need for one of the features that it blocks.

Time required: 2 minutes

Stay vigilant

The steps above will drastically improve your blog security and prevent it from becoming a target of opportunity for rookie hackers. However security is an ongoing process, and also involves practicing security as a habit.

Stay vigilant and make it a point to keep up with the latest security news for WordPress, especially if you use it to run your business. You should also learn as much about security as you can. The ProBlogger archives are full of great posts that contain much more information on keeping your blog hacker, spammer and spyware-free and even planning for a blog disaster!

Now, please take five minutes and perform all of the steps above. I wish you good luck and hope your blog stays hacker-free!

David Wang blogs about his journey to generate the majority of his revenue online at The ClickStarter. He is also a WordPress evangelist and recently launched a free online course called Getting Started with WordPress. Follow David on Twitter – @blogjunkie

15 Indirect Affiliate Marketing Tricks that Work

This guest post is by Harrison Li of Blog Lectures.

If you have ever bought something online, with no doubt, there have also been times when you rejected buying a certain product. And if you won’t buy it, the seller loses money.

What about when you do buy something? As usual, you check out the item, all excited, and make sure it ships to your place as soon as possible.

But, behind the scenes, there are tricks that naturally go unnoticed that were used to magnetically entice you to purchase. Those are what I’ll be teaching you today.

1. Increase your font size

This is what turns off a particular group of Internet users who are potential customers but don’t purchase. And it’s due to one little issue: the font size. If the font is too small, customers will definitely hate reading from the monitor. Turn it up—use at least 14-point font. It’s the new regular font size.

Now, I’m not just talking about blog posts, squeeze pages, or sales pages. These changes will have to be made where ever your customers are reading—even emails are not an exception.

2. Utilize a squeeze page

Whenever you’re trying to capture your customers’ email addresses, you need to use a squeeze page—a page where you offer a freebie and capture the lead, so you can promote products to him or her in the future. Optimize Press is an essential tool here.

3. Focus above the fold

“Above the fold” is a term referring to the top area of the website, which you don’t have to scroll down to see. People these days have short attention spans; you must make sure what you say in this section of the page is attractive and enticing enough to actually get a person to read every single word.

4. Write attractively

You’ve got to get your visitors reading what you have to say word after word. But of course, give him some space, don’t jam a full paragraph in there! A successful technique is by crafting attractive headlines that drive the reader insane wanting to know what you have to say in the words that follow.

Repeatedly tease your customers and finally capture their emails with a freebie. This is exactly what you need to do—make them go crazy—but in short paragraphs so your communication can stay on readers’ short-attention-span radars.

5. Always offer a freebie

Most of the times, bloggers offer a free ebook. This isn’t always the case, but if you’re an affiliate for an ebook, it is recommended that you write a short book review or jot down some of the valuable information you can find inside the actual book, and give it to your readers free. (This is when you get them to join your mailing list.)

6. Remove the Name field

When you offer a particular freebie in exchange for your customer’s name and email address, leave out the name field and just offer the email address field. You may be shocked to see your conversions move up by over 20%. This is due to the nature of laziness, and the idea that “less is more.”

7. Change the action button

In case you didn’t know, it is possible to change what the sign-up button says and how it looks. If you have a dull and boring sign-up button that said “Join” or even “Sign Up” then, trust me, you’re leaving plenty of potential revenue on the table.

It’s a fact that changing the submit button to something attractive can yield higher conversions. Ideas: “Instant Access,” “Instant Digital Download,” or “Free Entry”. The ideas are countless. Test each one out and see which performs the best for you.

8. Less is more

This concept applies every time you try to get someone to perform an action. Consider squeeze pages. If your visitors see a Captcha box, an “I agree to the terms and conditions” box, or a zip code box, then obviously the customer is going to panic and wander away. Rather than displaying all those boxes that are not importantly necessary, take them off the page. The fewer options you provide, the more actions you’ll receive.

9. Affiliate links: to cloak or not?

There are two types of customers: those that know about link cloaking and those that don’t. If you cloak your links, over 70% of the visitors who know about it will definitely not click on your affiliate links. My suggestion is don’t cloak links. Let everyone know they’re affiliate links, explaining it with reverse psychology if you like!

Here are some interesting poll results. The question was, “Do you disclose affiliate links?” Check out the results.

10. Introduce yourself

This is in fact a law of selling goods: you as the salesman have got to introduce yourself to the customers, so they know and trust who they are buying from. No one wants to buy from a random stranger they found on the Web. A great thing you could do is upload a picture of yourself in a positive mood to your About page, or your site’s sidebar.

11. Speak from personal experience

This step is not entirely necessary but is recommended if you want to increase your conversions. If you review a product that you have not personally tried yourself, then it’s technically not a review and if your customers know about this, it becomes an instant turn-off to some of them. Make sure you test out something before you recommend it to others.

12. Use testimonials

This plays an important role in sales, as it creates social proof. If a customer doesn’t see anyone else buying the product, she might wander off and buy from other well-known sources. On the other hand, don’t display too many testimonials—that’s a mistake I see a lot of times. All you need is quality, not quantity. If you have been featured on CNN news or something like that make sure you let your customers know about that, too.

One more thing: on each separate testimonial, include a picture of the person who wrote the testimonial. It would be even better if you could get them to hold the product in the picture if possible. Another word of advice: at the end of the testimonials, write a short message that says something like, “Once you’ve tried this product, I can feature your testimonial here!”

13. Use a human voice

Please, talk in a personal manner—as if you were talking casually to your friends. This is the key to winning your readers’ hearts, and getting them naturally coming back. Whether it’s on sales pages or in emails, talk like you were chatting to your friends. Not only does this help enhance your relationship with potential customers, it also increase trustworthiness and brand awareness.

14. Use visualization

We’ve all heard of the old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. That idea also applies to places where you promote affiliate products. You need to let your customers feel comfortable on your site. So your blog design in particular, as well as images you use to decorate your product, are important. Consider using premium photos—Fotolia might have what you want.

If you are providing an ebook as a freebie, then you will definitely need to use a 3D cover maker. I recommend MyEcoverMaker. Give their free templates a try, and see for yourself.

15. Readers first, promotion last

Whatever you do, make decisions for the readers first, and lastly for your own good. Whilst making any promotions or launching any products, a good rule of thumb is to list out the benefits and advantages to the customer. That’s it—nothing else. Remember, people are only reading your blog because they believe you have the solutions they need. And you will always have to hand out free “samples” of the product you’re promoting before you actually promote it.

In other words, don’t rush for the money-making bit. Wait for it, and be patient.

Action summary

I’ve said a lot. Now it’s time for you to either take actions or remember the advice for your future needs.

  1. Use a bigger font size for your content.
  2. Always use a squeeze page for capturing leads.
  3. Optimize your “above the fold” to counter people with short attention spans.
  4. Write with wise words that attract readers to read everything you have to say.
  5. Always offer freebies as a “bribe” for capturing leads.
  6. Remove the Name field from your signup box for higher conversions.
  7. Change the Submit button to something more appealing.
  8. Apply the “less is more” concept to your work.
  9. Don’t cloak links and use reverse psychology to get the most sales.
  10. Introduce yourself to the customers, with a photo.
  11. Tell your personal experience with the product you’re promoting.
  12. Display quality testimonials and invite new customer testimonials too.
  13. Talk in a friendly and casual manner, and don’t use difficult academic words.
  14. Blend your content with images and decorative designs.
  15. Get straight to the fact and let your readers know what you are on about, then sell.

Additionally, here are some great reads from the ProBlogger himself:

Got any extra words of advice you would like to add to this list? Feel free to add them in the comments.

Harrison Li is a 14-year old teenager blogger who is often disrespecfully looked upon due to age, he offers in-depth blogging advice and marketing strategies that you’ll find no where else, see for yourself why it is worthwhile by joining the other readers who love the Blog Lectures newsletter.

How I Made it onto Freshly Pressed 3 Times in 6 Months

This guest post is by Hassan Osman of TheCouchManager.com.

Less than a month after I launched my blog, one of my posts got featured on Freshly Pressed—Wordpress.com’s homepage where each weekday, ten posts are selected from around 450,000 new blog posts.

I didn’t even know what Freshly Pressed meant until I saw an email from one of the WordPress editors congratulating me on being featured.

As you might imagine, the traffic results were huge. In the following day or so, I received over 12,000 hits, 150 comments, and 200 new subscribers. I almost fell out of my chair as my inbox filled up with hundreds of “Please moderate” and “New subscriber” messages.

In the six months that followed, my blog was featured again, and again—a total of three times for only eight posts that I had written since I started the blog. It seemed like I was doing something right.

Freshly Pressed

Featured on Freshly Pressed

Before sharing the reasons why my posts got selected for Freshly Pressed, there are a couple of things to note.

First, I am still relatively new to blogging and don’t have any “connections” in the blogosphere. I never asked for a favor, had my tweets endorsed by a celebrity, paid a single dime for marketing my blog, or even guest blogged (in fact, this post you’re reading right now is the first guest post I’ve ever written).

Second, the title of this post should really say why I think I made it on Freshly Pressed. I didn’t solicit nor receive any feedback from the WordPress editors explaining why they selected my posts, so the following reasons are only my own assumptions.

Why my posts were featured

I chose quality over quantity

I write an average of one blog post a month, partly because I have a really busy schedule but mainly because I don’t want to publish something on my blog that doesn’t add value. You’re probably sick of reading “content is king,” but I took that advice seriously.  Given that I’m a slow writer, it takes me a good ten to 18 hours to research and write a single post. I could certainly publish a lot more frequently, but the quality of my content would definitely suffer.  Had I flooded my blog with low-quality posts, the good-quality ones would have been lost in the crowd, and I might have fallen off the WordPress editors’ radars.  If you’re a part-time blogger like me, then you’ll most likely have to choose between either quality or quantity—and my vote always goes to quality.

I used list posts

Here are the titles of the three posts that made it on Freshly Pressed:

The one thing that’s common to all of them is that they’re list posts (posts that have a number of list items in them). I think people love reading those types of posts because they have a lot more structure than free-form ones. They’re also much simpler to scan through for readers who don’t have a lot of time to read. If you look at the top viral articles on sites like Digg, Reddit, and Delicious, you’ll most probably find several list posts on their front pages, so they do get shared more frequently among readers.

It is worth noting that not all of the Freshly Pressed selections have been list posts (in fact, the majority of the ones that were selected along with mine were not), so this is not really a rule of thumb, but it certainly worked for me.

I created custom images

I’m a highly visual person, and I love using images to illustrate my ideas. Most bloggers (including A-listers) use stock image photographs in their posts to break up text and to support content. While using stock pictures is definitely more appealing than using no pictures at all, I think that you need to differentiate yourself from the masses by using customized images.

For my blog, I use either an illustration or a picture that I create myself—and I don’t need to use any sophisticated software to do so. For the illustrations in these posts, I hand-sketched them using plain paper and colored pens, and then scanned them into my PC. For the pictures, I use plain old Microsoft Paint to tweak and type some text on them. Of course, it takes a bit more time and effort to create customized images, but that, apparently, pays off.

I focused on a niche, but targeted a mass audience

This sounds counterintuitive, so let me explain. My blog is about increasing productivity and saving time while working from home, so I focused on a niche that targets professionals who work remotely.

However, for the posts that got selected for Freshly Pressed, I didn’t focus purely on that niche alone. Instead, I allowed for some flexibility by targeting a broader audience. For example, my post about building a productive home office primarily helps business owners and managers who telecommute, but it also helps a greater demographic, including regular office workers and college students, in organizing their workspaces. By targeting a mass audience while keeping my niche in mind, I increased my chances of being selected.

Not just for Freshly Pressed

As an added benefit, those four reasons also helped increase my subscriber base because they made my blog more “sticky.” When I analyzed the site statistics after every surge in traffic, I noticed that there was a relatively high click-through rate for my other posts. This meant that visitors were not directly leaving after reading one post, but they were sticking around to read other posts and eventually subscribed. So even if you don’t get featured on Freshly Pressed, following those tips should help your blog grow!

Hassan Osman is a Senior Program Manager at Cisco Systems and a graduate student at Harvard. He runs large and complex projects while working from home, and blogs about increasing productivity and effectively managing virtual teams on www.thecouchmanager.com (views here are his own).