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The Blog of Art

This guest post is by Tricia Lawrence of trishlawrence.com.

We’ve all heard the term “writer’s block” thrown around like it’s an actual medical or mental condition, and a few have attempted to coin “blogger’s block” even though it’s essentially the same thing.

It’s what happens when you open your laptop and as the cursor is blinking, your mind goes blank. Soon, you’re sure the cursor is mocking you and you slink away from the computer to eat some junkfood, play Nintendo, think evil thoughts about your ability to keep this blog going, and pretty soon, you’ve wasted four hours and the blog post is still not written.

Sound familiar?

We’ve all been there and we’ll all be there again. I, however, like to “light people up,” especially with regard to blogging, so here are some ideas to blow that writer’s block to smithereens and to get those fingers tapping away on your keyboard.

Make art by thinking about how you feel and how you want your readers to feel

This is a hard one, because most of us have numbed out to how we feel, so how in the heck are we supposed to know how we want other people to feel?

Art is where that edge is. It’s where you take a feeling and you explore it by creating something that takes people somewhere. A painting is like a blog. But too often, I think blogging has taken on this sort of half-robotic feel.

Too many of us recycle what has already been said, harp on someone doing something innovative because it makes us feel uncomfortable, or we hide from our readers and use our blogs to do it! We throw up all these fancy plans, or narcissistic “look at me” posts, when in reality, isn’t the goal of blogging to connect with readers? Isn’t it to share how you actually feel? Do you really feel good today? Do you really feel in control? There are moments we do not. That is where the art comes in.

Tell it like it is. Make art. Build it into the blog.

Make art by stepping away from the blog and actually creating something tactile

Cook something, sew something, paint something, or weld something. We’ve numbed out by sitting behind our computers and forgetting what it means to do anything else. Step away from the computer!

This activity doesn’t require the same blogging brain cells that have frozen up on you, and thus, as you make something awesome, those cells will begin to thaw out and suddenly, you’ll throw down the welding torch and rush to the computer. As they say, if you run a marathon, you’re more likely to also write a book. One thing begets another. But please take care! Don’t try to write a blog post while holding the welding torch.

Make art by dreaming big

This one fires me up. I can dream up huge results from my paltry blogging. Some days I want to be on America’s Got Talent because of a blog post, I want to get a book deal from the blog, I want to meet Richard Branson.

That sounds so huge and unreachable, but then if you put those goals in print somewhere, you are focusing yourself on them. Your brain will try to figure out how to make them happen. You suddenly see Richard Branson references everywhere. America’s Got Talent automatically TiVos every time it’s on and you have time to watch it, someone shows you a book that you swear you could have written yourself and the art begins to happen.

Perhaps you’ll hire a PR consultant, or you’ll outline the roughs of a book proposal. Perhaps we’ll one day see your welding-while-juggling (or blogging!) act scaring Nick Cannon half out of his wits! That’s doable! That’s making art!

The blog of art is more about you than about the blog. And that’s where the magic happens, I promise.

Tricia Lawrence is CEO of real/brilliant, inc. and blogs about the Create Now! Revolution at http://www.trishlawrence.com.

Going Gonzo, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Blog

This guest post is by Enzo F. Cesario of Brandsplat.

“We were halfway to Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

It certainly wasn’t the line that Rolling Stone expected out of sports and political columnist Hunter S. Thompson. He’d been sent to Vegas to report on a motorcycle race, and instead sent back a manifesto on the hollow glories of Sin City, the assorted pleasures of half the psychoactive drugs common to the American vocabulary, the inadequacies of the journalistic lifestyle, and of course the death of the American dream. Hard up against (okay, somewhat past) his deadline, Thompson resorted to pulling out rambling entries from the pages of his notebook and mailing them in directly. It was unprofessional, it was sophomoric, it was gonzo—and it worked. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a hit.

Opinions vary on just why it worked. I believe it was because Thompson was writing uncensored. He wrote openly about topics that still horrified American sensibilities. In the same year that the phrase “war on drugs” would first be coined, he boldly declared the incompetence of the politicians and police who would be prosecuting it. He mused about the death of the ’60s-style revolutionary zeal, the illusion of a freewheeling town that Vegas maintains over an undercurrent of hard-won respectability and so much more. He wrote honestly and didn’t limit himself, even managing to comment that the original assignment, to cover the motorcycle race, confused and bored him.

Had he been writing the same stuff today, it would have made a series of fantastic blogs.

The world is full of dull, sterile writing. A blog’s strength lies in its ability to be personal, and its ability to update at any time. Get on, log in, pontificate, click submit and it’s there, ready for the reader. People read blogs for the style as much as for the content—they want to know how, as well as what, the blogger thinks. They may show up for the content, but they stay for the personality.

Personality is where Gonzo thrives. Asked about the format, Thompson said, “I don’t get any satisfaction out of the old traditional journalist’s view: ‘I just covered the story. I just gave it a balanced view,’” and “you can’t be objective about Nixon.”

Well, that sounds like political blogging to me. There’s nothing wrong with being fair, but sometimes you have to be able to say, “The leading candidate reminds me of the worst qualities of my math and science teachers—boring, dry, inaccessible and rambling about subjects I couldn’t care less about while ignoring the ones I was interested in.”

So put that style into your blog. You don’t have to turn it into a gin-soaked journey through your chosen topic—in fact, there are very few writers who can actually write well while inebriated (Thompson happened to be one of them). No, what I’m talking about is writing something unedited and uncensored.

Let your inner lion out to play, the writing part of you that says, “I absolutely do not care what people think about this piece,” and go to town. Write hard—present your worst opinions, the strongest way you feel about things. Don’t set out to shock, just set out to be absolutely honest in a way that people cannot mistake for soft-pedaling or going easy on the subject.

Second, don’t edit. This may sound like sacrilege to the profession of writing, but it’s a good tip when you’re writing. Get the content down, write in a stream and let your topic go where it wants to. Try the first-person narrative that makes Gonzo such a joy. Sink yourself into the story. What do you think, feel, want out of this piece? Get that feeling, those essences down on paper.

Writing honestly can be hard. “Is it brandable? Is it too different? Will it generate traffic?” I’m not going to lie: Asking “Is it safe?” is a deep-rooted part of our way of looking at the world, and there’s nothing wrong with it. We want security, and there are the legendary tales of a weird and wacky change causing someone to shoot a good career in the foot, never to be heard from again.

But far more common is the tale you never hear, of the person who writes two entries, gets discouraged and never puts down another word. Or the countless thousands who say “I want to be a writer, but” and allow whatever comes after but to keep them from ever picking up the pen and putting form to their thoughts.

So do it. Go nuts this one time, write something ecstatic or satirical. Skip the conventions for a bit and reinvent your writing, just to keep your readers on the edge of their seats. I’ve got news for you: You’re not going to write the next American manifesto, so now that you know that, you’re free to write a really fun, snappy piece of blogging content that will get your readers talking.

And maybe you can even do it on a road trip to Barstow.

Enzo F. Cesario is an expert on blogs and social media for business and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, videos and social media in the “voice” of our client’s brand. For the free Brandsplat Report go to Brandsplat.com or visit our blog at http://www.ibrandcasting.com.

The Blogger’s Ultimate Guide to YouTube Success

This guest post is by Hasan of MarketingTheInternet.

YouTube, the second largest search engine right after Google, in 2010 broke the record of uploading more than 24 hours of video per minute! YouTube has also shattered the millstone of over 700 billion video views.

YouTube is an excellent platform for bloggers to build a brand, connect, and provide value to millions of people at once. It can ultimately help you increase traffic to your blog while quickening the process of building loyalty and trust between you and your audience.

After knowing all the stats and the potential, why don’t bloggers use YouTube more to build our blogs and to reach out to millions of people, free? It’s because most blogger are afraid to get behind a camera and show their faces, and share their voices with such a big audience.

Overcoming the fear of rejection

Most bloggers are afraid to create videos because of the fear of rejection—the fear that people will not like your video or think its not good enough.

The nasty thing about life is that you can’t be liked by everyone. Likewise, there are people in life who bring others down just because they don’t have the guts to do something themselves.

So to find success, you have to break away from this millstone and start believing in yourself and your work. Only then will you start seeing the fruits of success. There will always be a majority of people who will find your video interesting and will benefit from and eventually spread and share your work.

But how do you create an awesome, relevant, and interesting video that people share with their social connections, friends, and family? It all starts with brainstorming ideas that provide value to your viewers and get them to spread and share.

Step 1. Brainstorm and mind-map topics

To create a successful video that people will love and benefit from, you first need to sit down and grab yourself a piece of paper and a pen to start brainstorming topics you want to create a video on in the relevant niche you’re in.

Next, decide which format style you want to record your video on. For example: if it’s a screen cast recording, PowerPoint slides presentation or you talking in front of the camera.

After figuring out what topic and which type of recording you choose to use for your first video, you need to create a mind map of all the key points you’re going to talk about in your video. To create a productive mind map, first write down your topic in the middle of the paper and show arrows pointing outwards with all the key points you’re going to talk about.

Once you’ve drawn a simple, clean mind map of your main topic with the headline and all the key points you’re going to talk about, it’s time to gather the equipment required to record your first video.

Step 2. Gather your equipment

Depending on which type of video you’re creating, whether it is a screen cast recording, PowerPoint slide presentation, or you talking in front of the camera, these are some of the basic equipment you’ll need.

A video camera

To record your video, you need a camera. Any video camera should do the job.

A web cam

If you don’t have a video camera to record with, you can use a web cam to get the job done.

A microphone that’s compatible with your computer

You need a microphone to speak into for a clear recording. Microphones help block out all the background noises in your video.

Camtasia for screen casting

For a video tutorial or PowerPoint slides presentation you need screen casting software to record your computer screen from. The best software for the job is Camtasia. This is easy-to-use software with a very friendly interface for both beginners to advanced users.

Step 3. Record your video [draft version]

After deciding on the topic and equipment you need, it’s time to record your video! When recording your video, keep these tips in mind:

Rehearse your video

It’s a good habit to rehearse the whole video before actually recording, as it will eliminate the chances of things going wrong when you actually start recording.

Focus and speak clearly

Speak clearly into the mic while recording, and don’t go too fast. Take your time and speak with confidence.

While recording any video, it’s easy to get distracted and lose focus on what you’re saying. If your viewers realize that you’re loosing your focus and attention, viewers will loose interest in your video and end up leaving. So stay focused while recording.

Don’t be a perfectionist

Don’t think your video will be perfect. Nobody’s perfect and this is definitely not a “job interview”, so keep your video simple and just provide valuable content to viewers who can benefit from it.

Step 3. Edit your video [final version]

Once you’ve recorded your video, it’s time to edit it and create the final version. For Software editing I recommend:

  • Windows Users: Windows Movie Maker, which is an excellent free tool to edit and create high quality videos on windows.
  • Mac Users: iMovie, which is the best software for editing videos on your Mac. It’s easy and simple to create professional looking videos with ease in no time!

Three quick tips for video editing

  1. Create a simple Intro to capture the attention of your audience.
  2. Tweak and fix any mispronunciations and “muck ups” in your video.
  3. Create a logo of your brand on the top left or right corner of the video to get brand recognition (optional).

Step 4. Upload your video to YouTube

The final step is to upload your awesome creation to YouTube for full exposure.

First, log into your YouTube account and click on the Upload Button on the top right.

Now, click the Upload Video button to upload your video.

As the video starts uploading, fill in the form below it, describing your video with the relevant keywords.

Choose your keywords carefully—they’ll be used to rank your video in searches on YouTube. Don’t use any spammy keywords in your video, as this can violate YouTube’s terms and conditions, which could result in your video being suspended from YouTube.

Three tips for success

  1. Call to action: In your video always ask for people to comment, rate and subscribe your video as this will help your video to rank higher in searches on YouTube.
  2. Be active: Reply to every comment you get on the video to start conversations, as this will encourage more comments and interaction on your video resulting in a higher ranking on YouTube.
  3. Connect with others: After you have uploaded your video, connect and ask your social network, friends and family to watch, comment and share your video. Also start connecting with other YouTubers and ask them to watch your video to spread and share with their friends and subscribers on YouTube.

People love videos because it shows real people and real emotions, so start creating videos that people will benefit from, and build your online presence on YouTube by reaching out to millions of people who spread and share valuable content each day. Video is by far the best way to build your brand and increase traffic to your blog.

Share your experience with video marketing in the comments below!

This guest post is written by Hasan from MarketingTheInternet, Internet Marketing and Make Money from Websites Tips Blog. You can get started with his free Email “Make Money with Websites” Series. Stay in touch with him on twitter @Hasan_tw.

How to Build a Business By Supporting Bloggers: a Case Study

This guest post is by Jeremy Delancy of passivepanda.com.

Some people get struck by lightning, some people win the lottery, and some people make good money by blogging two hours per day in their pajamas. I’ve never met any one the above-mentioned people, but the snake oil salesmen of the Internet will try to convince you that you’ll be making millions in a few months if you buy their info products and start a blog.

The truth is, profitable blogging requires hard work. An even less accepted truth is that profitable blogging will, more and more, require a collaborative effort. In his ebook Partnering Profits, John Morrow likens the early days of making money online to the early days of computer gaming. The first computer games were so basic that one person designed and produced an entire game! Think about what is needed to create Runescape or Starcraft II. The time and effort is well beyond the capability of any one person.

A similar change is taking place in blogging. Readers now want multi-media content, social media widgets, great writing, and so on. Add in the marketing and promotion of your blog and it soon becomes more than any one individual can deliver without spending 80 hours in front of a computer. The job of managing research, affiliates, guest posts—all while learning new technologies—has already begun to overwhelm some small bloggers.

In this turmoil created by the growth and development in the blogosphere, I see opportunity. The possibility exists to create an additional income not by starting your own blog, but by helping other bloggers build a loyal readership, increase blog traffic and monetize their blogs. I’m starting to do just that and I’ll analyze the steps that I’ve taken so far.

Getting started

First, some background information: I’ve worked as a full-time speech writer for the last ten years. The job entails loads of research on all sorts of topics. Previously, I was an English Literature teacher. I began reading blogs on Personal Finance, Entrepreneurship and Lifestyle Design in 2009.

Since then I’ve come across blogs that had great, well-researched content and good design. I’ve also come across many more that were quite the opposite. It’s obvious to many blog readers that some bloggers need help. The questions I wanted answered were, “Are bloggers willing to pay for assistance?” and, “Is there a market among bloggers for my particular skill set?”

The process

In retrospect, I could have begun the process of finding out who needed assistance, and what kind of assistance was needed, quite differently. One alternative would have been to subscribe to blogs on blogging (ProBlogger) and read the comments to see what were the most common challenges faced. But, that would not have been true to my nature, which is to gain first hand information through research.

Instead, I developed a questionnaire, which I emailed to bloggers who specialized in: personal finance, christian living, entrepreneurship, woodworking, and eco-friendly lifestyles, all of which are areas of personal interest. Some of the questions were informational, i.e. “How long does it take to move from new idea to blog post?” Other questions were about the bloggers’ aspirations, i.e. “Where would you like to be in terms of blogging within the next six months to two years?”

Tip: When you’re doing this kind of research do not send more than five questions unless you have developed an excellent rapport with the other person. I found that sending seven questions in an email dropped the response rate to zero.

Tip 2: For an excellent article on what to write when emailing busy people, go here.

The answers were then collated and turned into A Report on Building A Better Blog which was uploaded to Scribd.com. By using Scribd, I was able to keep track of the number of downloads and the number of positive responses I received. To get a copy of the ten page report, which details my methodology, questions and suggestions, go here.

The service offering

The process of researching and writing the report, had several very important benefits. Primarily, it gave me an insight into the some of the biggest problems faced by bloggers.

Secondly, I had made a tangible product to showcase my research and writing skills.

Finally, and most importantly, the answers allowed me to focus on providing the following services to bloggers in personal finance and entrepreneurship:

  • Guest posts—Invitations to write guest posts are common but not every blogger finds the time to do so, even when it would increase their readership. I write and the blogger who hires me, posts to the blog he/she received the invitation from.
  • Ghost writing—Surprise! Bloggers are people too! They need time to attend to their families, take vacations, etc. Due to the nature of my full-time job, I know how to replicate the vocabulary, syntax and style of others. After a few days of practice, most readers won’t be able to tell the difference between me and their beloved blogger.
  • Research—Find entrepreneurial blogs with 50, 000 RSS Feed subscribers. I’m on it. Research the benefits of credit card X, compare to credit card Y, and write a post. Not a problem. Summarize guru A’s new book and email the finer points. With pleasure.

The major benefit, that I provide bloggers? Time. By spending less time researching and writing, they have more time to work on other projects and find new ways to monetize their blogs

Finding potential clients

When the time came to begin pitching bloggers with the above-mentioned service offering, I had a good idea of their major challenges, and was able to offer solutions because of my research. To find potential clients I searched Technorati.com for personal finance blogs with high to medium authority and then focused on those that announced a soon to be released information product (indicating a very busy blogger), or those whose Compete.com numbers had tumbled sharply (indicating that the blogger had missed several posts) and e-mailed them.

Some of you reading this will think that the process is far too tedious to emulate, but there is a major benefit. By putting 80% of the work up front, your chance of rejection goes down considerably. This is because you are in your customer’s head. You will have taken the time and effort to know their goals, their pain points, their likes and dislikes, and crafted your service to meet their needs. In return they will show their appreciation by giving you their business.

How you can get started today

Finally, for those of you interested in helping bloggers, I’d suggest skipping the research and focus on the following instead:

  1. Niche down and know what topics you will specialize in.
  2. Be clear on what problems you can solve … and those you can’t.
  3. Perfect your service offering via email as it will give you a foot in the door.
  4. Constantly strive to improve your skills.

Become the support network

Helping bloggers is essentially freelance work, and the first rule of freelancing is find your niche. The blogosphere is a big place and as it grows there are more and more opportunities for you to fill in the gaps. Spend some time thinking about how you could help a blogger and you may find yourself earning more freelance income as a blog supporter than many people do as a blog owner.

Could you support a blogger? Have you considered this as an income option? I’d love to hear of your experiences in the comments.

Jeremy Delancy writes for Passive Panda. To get more tips and other proven strategies for earning more money, time, and freedom join Passive Panda’s Free Newsletter on Earning More.

The Commonsense Time-saver We All Missed

This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

You’ve been wasting time in the blogging process, whether you know it or not. When I reveal this simple idea, it will figuratively smack you in the face with its clear benefits.

It’s not that your current method is bad. I just happened to stumble upon an intuitive time-saver that will help you. When I thought of it, I smacked myself in the face (literally this time) for not realizing sooner.

Use a dedicated bookmarks toolbar folder for new posts

All internet browsers have a bookmarks toolbar. (I hope) most of us use them, but when it comes to creating a new post, is your toolbar optimized accordingly? Probably not.

If you don’t have a bookmarks toolbar, you need to set one up immediately for a better browsing experience and to implement this advice. Do a search for “bookmarks toolbar (your browser)” for installation instructions.

1. Create a “New Post” folder

This folder will save time, keep you focused, and remind you of vital steps in the blogging process. To create a new folder, do the following (it may vary for different toolbars). I’m using Google Chrome in this example.

2. Add desired links

Once you’ve created the folder, the idea is to add link shortcuts to every destination page you always navigate to in the process of constructing a new masterpiece. You can see in the next screenshot that I have seven items in my New Post folder.

3. When creating a post, open your links with just one click!

When I right-click on the New Post folder, I can choose the Open All Bookmarks option. This opens each of my carefully selected items into tabs. Does one click instead of seven (or twenty for some people) sound good to you?

These links are the specific resources I use to when I create a post. Do not underestimate the value of this. It can save you at least a few minutes of time, and even more if you’re susceptible to mental blocks like I am. It makes it much easier to focus on your writing and the saved time/energy adds up.

Now I typically don’t have to navigate to any websites when I type up a post. I have all of my tools ready for me before I write the first line. There is even another benefit to doing this that I’ll get to later.

These are the seven tabs I currently use for my posts. I hope you find them as useful as I have. It should give you a basic idea of what to look for when adding bookmarks to your “new post” folder. Notice that they are in order of expected use. I use the keyword tool first and I share the post on Facebook last.

  1. Google Adwords’ keyword tool for SEO purposes. I can see what phrases are searched for most frequently. This is good for SEO and readers too as more popular phrases are that way for a reason.
  2. This is the direct link to the “Add New Post” option in my WordPress dashboard. This is where the magic happens. I don’t have to take the extra step of going to the admin page and then clicking on New Post—it’s just there!
  3. Google—the most powerful research tool in the world. Sorry Yahoo!
  4. Dreamstime —my favorite place for free or inexpensive photos.
  5. PunyPNG—the best (free) online photo compressor I’ve used. It can compress PNG, JPG, and GIF.
  6. My Facebook page and my fan page. I share my posts manually at both places after I publish.

Before, I would have to rethink this process for each new post. I’d be halfway through and remember SEO (distraction). I’d publish a post before adding the thumbnail (unprofessional). I’d forget to post to one of my Facebook places (lost traffic).

The other benefit of this system is when I’m finished with the keyword tool, I close the tab. After I obtain my picture from Dreamstime, I close that tab. Eventually there will just be the Edit Post tab (and the Facebook tabs to share it). This is great because it is an easy visual confirmation of what you have or have not completed.

Warning: only do this if you want to increase your speed, productivity, accuracy, and even your creativity by freeing up your mind. There is no downside and you can do it in less than a minute! Bonus: Apply this concept to other areas such as analyzing data on various websites. Any other ideas? Share them in the comments.

This post was manufactured in a house that contains peanuts by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence—where critical thinking is considered appropriate. If you know anyone who isn’t getting free Deep Existence updates, could you tell them about my puffer fish story? It might change their mind.

Why Your Blog Isn’t Making Money

This guest post is by Moon Hussain of Experiments In Passive Income.

This post comes from the bottom of my heart.  After coming in like a cowgirl blogging newbie and failing with making money online with my blog, I have figured out what lead to my blog bringing in $0.00 most months.  To think I came into the blogging world with a typical “make money online” blog and with the mindset that I’d blow everyone away with loads of affiliate income rolling in was foolish.

Pay close attention, because what I’m about to reveal here has the power to make you a full-time income.  The stuff we both have been dreaming about.  Make notes. I want you to walk away with a plan.

If you don’t think that’s such a bad thing, that’s probably because you are a new blogger, probably less than six months into blogging.  Let me tell you: after a year of providing good content and not making money, you will come to a stop.

Churning out quality content two to three times a week takes a lot of time.  After plugging away for over a year, I can tell you providing quality content is not enough!

It’s only one part of the equation.

If what you are reading right now is bringing you down or you think it’s “too much work”, then stop wasting your money on hosting fees and kill your blog now.  If you want to make money with your blog, it’s about to get good.

What phrase starts with “Busin” and ends with “lan”?

I hope you said business plan, I really do.  Instead of lecturing you on how bad you have been by not having a business plan, I’m going to show you with a real, live case study:  my own blog.

What was my business plan a year ago?

In the last year, I never had a business plan for my blog.  Not a written one, anyway.  Here was my thought process over the last year: “I’ll build niche sites, blog about my experiences, I’ll make money from these sites, people love to learn how to make money so they’ll absolutely, feverishly flock to my site!”

Forget an internet entrepreneur … I’d be an internet rockstar!

In my mind, this was the ideal plan that was supposed to take place:

Seem familiar?  Yeah?  In all honesty, you should be scared.

That was my business plan.  Officially one and a half years into blogging, I am in the process of formulating a much more concrete business plan.  And now I cry looking at my old “business plan”.

How to get specific with your business plan

Blogging about a topic, however passionate you are about the subject, does not make a business.  It is a platform that can help spread your expertise.  You can use it to connect with your ideal customers.  Here are some key questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How can I take my blog from “just a blog” to a blog that generates me business?
  • What do I know about my blog’s main topic? How can I showcase my expertise about this topic?
  • Why are people reading my blog? (Is it entertainment, education, a particular solution they are looking for)?
  • How can I take the answer from question #3 and answer it with my expertise (question #2)? (Result: a product or service you can serve your audience).

Before you jump the gun, before you can do much with any of the above, you need to figure out the missing pieces.

Let’s backtrack a bit and work through the process…

What are your missing pieces?

For me, it happens to be my email list.  I have a super-tiny email list.  My goal is to increase the number of people on my email list and to help them resolve something that I have experience with.

Sure, they say it’s not the amount of people on your email list but the type of people on your list (whether they convert or not) that matters. I agree. But no one can say that having a good number of quality people on your email list is a bad thing.

These people are the ones who want what you may have to offer.  Your work, your services, your expertise, your products!  I know this isn’t a new revelation but stick with me.  Trust me when I say this, I’m ahead of 90% of you…

In case you are one of those stubborn bloggers, read the next few lines carefully.

Name three big bloggers you know.  I pick Darren as one.  How about the other two big bloggers you have picked. Do they have an e-mail list?  You bet your inexperienced butt they do! An email list is how Darren launches super profitable ebooks and courses and leverages his traffic.

If you haven’t picked up on the importance of having your own email list, the rest of this post is useless.

We have backtracked one step. But we have more work to do.  If all of this seems overwhelming, grab a piece of paper and pencil.  I guarantee you will have a comprehensive plan before you leave this page!

How do we build our missing pieces?

The so-called “blogosphere” has evolved and people (smart ones, that is!) are no longer willing to give up their email addresses just because you asked.  No sir!  The only way you’re about to get those email addresses is if you have something people want.

For example, if by the end of this post I have helped you by constructing a cohesive business plan for your blog, you’ll want to read more of my content. Because I helped you. Because you liked what I had to say. Because you want more.

And if you haven’t noticed, it’s not just one guest post I’ll be publishing to build my email list.  You should be seeing me around.  In other words, after you create a free report, you need to find big hubs where your ideal customers are hanging out!

Create a list of five big sites and blogs where your readers are.  Expose yourself (*ahem* with your unique posts) multiple times.

I’m doing the exact same thing right now.  I am exposing my content to new readers who don’t know me.  If you have “kind of seen me around”, then the more I expose my work, the more chances I’ll have of getting your attention.

It’s how all of the big bloggers roll; you just weren’t paying attention or think that your blog will surely take off after one of your posts “go viral”.  Hah!

What I’m discussing with you took me a year to figure out.  Ignorance isn’t bliss, apparently.  Here I have my sexy, newly defined business plan:

You can bet my plan is even more specific than this.  It may seem exhausting but this is precisely what you need.  In fact, I have goals written down for how many people will join my list in June, July, and August, and how much money I expect to earn in each one of these months.  I’m also in the process of designing my survey and constructing my consultation reports.

Before you leave, answer the following questions and construct at least a rough diagram of your business plan:

  • Do you have an email list?
  • Do you necessarily need to grow your email list? If so, how exactly will you do that?  How many guest posts?  Start writing down guest post ideas.
  • What kind of service or product do you want to offer?  What would you be excited to provide people with?
  • Survey your growing email list.
  • Can you come up with a service, membership site, or ebook that you have experience with?

Write down your answers.  Get super specific.  No one else can do this for you.  If you don’t do this, your blog is dead.

After you write down your answers, you need to create and stick with a plan.  Remember, if you want to earn an income from your blog, you need to treat it like a business and must have some sort of business plan.

Reality check!

Would you rather create your own detailed business plan for your blog … or leave it to lady luck to make your content go viral?  (By the way, in case you didn’t know, viral traffic like Stumbleupon doesn’t convert and sucks.  Sure, it’ll make you feel cool for a day or two but that’s about it!)

I would love to hear your business plans in the comments section. Bring it!

Check out Moon Hussain’s blog, Experiments In Passive Income, where she discusses details about how to build your own income generating niche sites and blogs.  Download her free ebook, To the Moon & Back, in which she details all that she learned about niche sites over the course of a year.

Ignore the A-list Bloggers

This guest post is by Buck Inspire.

Okay, you must be thinking, I have a death wish for incurring the wrath of Darren Rowse and other A-list blogs like ProBlogger. But I believe I need to get the message out to all newbie bloggers. I struggled mightily myself when I first started. I almost quit blogging altogether.

If you want your blog to succeed, ignore A-list blogs at all costs!

Why ignore the A-list?

Income

Some A-list blogs do it more than others (show off how much money their blog brings in), but the result is the same. You will lose your focus and start obsessing over money. I guarantee it. I understand it’s all about the money and they need to show their expertise and success through their income statements. But don’t get entranced by the dollars. You will dilute your passion for writing and your own blog.

Metrics

Although their income is the measurement that stands out, don’t get sucked into their other metrics as well. Hundreds of thousands of fans, followers, and subscribers shows that the A-lister knows how to grow a community. But nothing makes you feel more inadequate than when you take a look at your ten followers, fans, and subscribers. Add to that their out of this world PageRank, mozRank, Alexa, monthly page views and visitors, and you’ll be feeling more inadequate than a teenage boy coming out from a cold swim. Compare at your own risk!

Advertising

What’s wrong with looking at their ads and banners? Nothing, but as you get more interested you will naturally find out what they charge for ad space. This ties with income and metrics and will fuel your inadequacy. You can’t even give your ad space away for a dollar while A-list bloggers easily command 500 times that amount.

Ignore if you dare!

Okay, you found me out. Of course you shouldn’t ignore A-list bloggers!

They all have been there and done that. They have many years of experience, a wealth of knowledge, and tons of great advice to help your blog succeed. However, if you obsess with their income, metrics, and advertising, you will get derailed and you can kiss your blog goodbye.

Content really is king

We’ve heard this mantra a million times before, but do you really know why? I came up with a few catchy corollaries, but they were too bland and generic. Luckily, I found Eric of Photography Bay and his guest post The Long Tail of Blogging: Why Content Is King. He presents a fascinating look at the Long Tail theory, how it pertains to your blog, backs it up with clear examples and graphs. After discovering why content really is king, I even learned a little about photography, too.

Community is queen

In my opinion, second behind content is community. After penning award-winning posts, what good is it if you don’t have readers to interact with you? Rather than bore you with my drivel, check out Darren’s 8 Tips For Building Community On Your Blog. I particularly enjoyed tips on accepting reader content, assigning reader jobs, and giving reader homework and plan to incorporate them into my own blog.

Develop your voice

There is only one of you and this fact makes your blog special. I thought I found my voice, but after reading Georgina’s 5 Ways to Build Your Blog’s Voice, I can improve this area as well. I was so focused on my content, I believed my voice was naturally flowing from my post. I neglected picturing my audience and watching my mood when I posted and unknowingly weakened my voice. Don’t let this happen to you.

Are you ignoring the A-list?

It does take time to gain blog success as this is not a get rich quick scheme. If this is what you are looking for, you’ve chosen the wrong path. But if you work hard and stick to your guns, before you know it, your income, metrics, and advertising will grow as well. Rather than envy A-List Blogs and their super-duper stats, heed their advice and apply it to your blog. Don’t forget to thank me when you join the ranks of the A-list bloggers!

Buck Inspire is living a fulfilled life within his means while delving into personal finance sprinkled with dining, entertainment, pop culture, technology, and travel. If you like what you see here, please consider subscribing to his RSS feed or following him on Twitter.

Why You Absolutely Need a Blogging System

This guest post is by Shaun Connell of Live Gold Prices.

People like things to be predictable. Formulas—or patterned systems—are all around us.

Many popular action movies have the same basic plot, every criminal trial is supposed to be run with the same basic principles, the planets follow the same basic paths, and billions of dollars are spent every day in stocks, futures, and currency trades using complex formulas. Long story short—formulas are important, and for a good reason.

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Formulas allow our world to be predictable, and then allow us to repeatedly get what we want out of the world by simply learning those systems.

In this post, we’ll be discussing what systems are, why you need some for your blog, and then discuss some ideas for systematic blogging in order to help you create a repeatable, actionable process for making multiple successful and profitable blogs.

Why you need a system

The world’s rich usually fall into at least one of the following two categories: lucky or systematic. If you inherit a billion dollars, then you’re lucky. If you have an investing strategy that works, like Warren Buffett does, then you’re systematic.

If you find yourself short on the luck scale, then the fact that systematic success is, well, systematically predictable should come as pleasant news. If you have the formula for success, then you’re able to take a one-time good thing and turn it into an effectually infinite number of good things.

This is why so many “investor” guides and tutorials try to focus on finding the holy grail of technical analysis—they know if they can find a predictable pattern, they can make a fortune trading on the basis of that pattern.

Of course, most of those patterns just don’t work anywhere near like they’re supposed to work and a lot of “technical analysis” is rubbish, but that’s another topic for another time.

An introduction to systematic blogging

While blogging is obviously more of an art than an exact science, the notion of systematic blogging also still usually works as well. If you look at most successful bloggers who manage more than one successful blog, you’ll usually see that they employ plenty of the same principles, methods, and systems that give them predictable, repeatable blogging success.

Let’s look at a few arenas where this should be evident:

  • Staff writers. Hiring multiple freelance writers allows you to automate your blog. There’s a reason most of the biggest blogs on the Internet often have multiple writers—this allows the blog to be a little more manageable by the owner, while also allowing a new, fresh perspective to be added to the website’s content.
  • Content patterns. The need for being systematic couldn’t be more powerful than when it comes to your content. Consistent posting, learning basic headlines that are powerful, keeping a repeatable style going, etc. Each of these both builds your brand, systematically keeps traffic coming back because they know what to expect, and lead to longer-term success.
  • Social media building. Creativity is obviously absolutely critical to getting content to go viral. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be systematic as well. Strategically adding a Share or Like button is an obvious first step, but hard-wiring in a simple line asking for readers to spread the word so you can keep your content free can lead to an incredibly high response rate.
  • Design principles. Web usability is something many bloggers completely forget to master. Having a professional looking web design is just step one. Having a functional web design that gets conversions and is easy to use is another matter entirely. There are entire blogs based on finding the most compelling way to build trust and relationships with different color schemes, textures, and other bits of design.
  • Newsletter marketing. Mixing a great newsletter offer with strong conversion-usability is probably the best way to get systematic success. Newsletter readers are often highly responsive, and you can reach them directly in their email box whenever you need to. To say this is “powerful” is an understatement. Mixing high-quality blogging with a strong understanding of email marketing is pure systematic, repeatable income dynamite.
  • Website usability. A pretty design is good, a usable design is better, and a beautiful and usable design is the best. Website usability is essentially the field of figuring out which little changes to a design/content get the most results. Using subtitles, figuring out where to put the sidebar, and knowing where to put ads can literally increase your traffic and earnings by 10 fold over time. I once spent some time buying smaller niche blogs, installing different designs, and then just updating them with content—it’s possible to double revenue with the same amount of traffic. That’s systematic success. This arena overlaps with design principles, but because of the nature of how usability is part of all of your content production, it includes a bit more than just the main theme of your blog.

As with everything worth doing in life, building a systematic, repeatable blogging model takes time, experience, and research. Learning how to do this correctly can thrust your blog into the realms of higher earnings, higher traffic, and even give you some extra free time without costing you a penny.

What are some ideas of systematic tactics that can make everything you do more efficient, more profitable, or more popular? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Shaun Connell has been a full-time professional blogger since 2008, and focuses his time at his newest blog Live Gold Prices, where he writes about investing in gold, predicting future gold prices, and finding financial security.

The Secret to Blog Popularity

This guest post is by Ankesh Kothari of SuccessNexus.com.

Psychologist Antonius Cillessen of the University of Connecticut wondered how kids became popular. So he started researching social behaviors and peer relations of early adolescent kids in American schools. And he found something very interesting.

He found that every school had a bunch of very friendly kids who are socially accepted and liked by everyone. But they are never considered popular.

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The kids who are considered popular are often just as friendly as these universally liked kids, but with one difference. The popular kids draw a boundary around themselves, and exclude a few “outcasts” from their circle.

Professor Antonius found that you can’t become popular unless you learn to exclude. He stumbled onto a truth that Chinese philosopher Confucius had described years earlier:

“Build small community and thousands will want to join.” – Confucius

It’s a truth high-end clubs have realized too. The harsher they are in excluding people from entering their premises, the more popular they get. Facebook grew when Friendster and other social sites didn’t. Why? because of their initial exclusivity—they only allowed folks with a .edu email address to sign up.

Apple. Rolex. Rivendell bikes. All of them are insanely popular because they focus on only one type of an audience and exclude others.

If you want to make your blog popular, you too have to learn to exclude. You shouldn’t cater to everyone. Only by creating exclusivity can you get the crowds to clamor for what you offer.

Creating exclusivity

  1. Decide who your ideal reader is. What is their one characteristic that you value above everything else? What are their peculiarities. What do they love? What do they hate? (Or if not hate, what are they indifferent towards?)
  2. Draw a boundary around yourself based on what your ideal reader loves and hates. Exclude writing posts on certain topics and catering to a certain group of people.
  3. Let the world know (from your about page or your sidebar) who you are excluding and why.

I used this process to create a sense of exclusivity around my own blog. The first thing I did when I started out was to focus on who my ideal readers would be. I zeroed in on people who would take action without making excuses, and who have achieved some success already and are hungry for more.

I know that if I can help my readers’ blogs grow, my site will grow automatically. And so I only wanted to focus on readers who are willing and able to put in the work to take action and grow their blogs.

That’s why I focused on excluding two types of audiences that are slow or inconsistent in taking action:

  1. Beginners: people who just don’t have the skillset or the resources yet to implement things and take action.
  2. Hot news chasers: folks who get excited by every shiny new thing that comes out and waste their time jumping from one thing to the next.

On the About page of my blog, I clearly mention that the above the kinds of audiences are not welcome.

The added benefit of this declaration is that it polarizes my audience to my liking. The beginners and hot news chasers go somewhere else. Meanwhile, the action-takers realize that there won’t be a lot of fluff on my blog, and subscribe in higher numbers.

Action points

  • How can you become popular? Simple: don’t serve everyone.
  • Target the right people. Don’t write for everyone.
  • Mention on your about page: which topics you will never cover, and which people you will never cater to.
  • Be choosy and selective, and your fame and influence will grow.

Have you tried this approach on your blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments.

Ankesh Kothari is the founder of SuccessNexus.com—an affiliate management application for blogs and forums. He also runs the Advanced Internet Marketing Strategy blog—which you should not visit if you’ve just started blogging or didn’t find value in this post.