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Make Business Blogging Fun: Write About Holidays, Anniversaries, and Other Milestones

This guest post is by Lindsey McCaffrey of Absolutely Write.

Business bloggers: do you consider every day Labour Day?

Take a breather: finding things to blog about doesn’t have to be hard work.

In light of the upcoming Labour Day weekend, I’m going to share a little tip I like to tell clients who blog: consider holidays, anniversaries and other observances.

By relating your blog post to an occasion, you can come up with some creative, timely and fun pieces.

Blog about holidays

Here’s one example of giving your writing a holiday spin: leading up to last year’s Christmas season, I compiled my PR pet peeves into an article, Dear Santa—a PR expert’s Christmas wish list.

Tip: Don’t just think about the holidays you celebrate: consider those of other cultures and countries. You just may find an interesting rite or ritual to write about.

Blog about milestone anniversaries and events

Mark a milestone anniversary or event such as:

  • a birthday, birthday year, or death day/year of someone famous, infamous, or otherwise (it doesn’t have to be someone your readers would know, provided there is relevance to the article)
  • the anniversary (day or annual) of a particular historical event
  • the year of the release of a book, album, movie or otherwise—something that perhaps you have learned a lot from, or that resonates strongly with you.

Tip: For more impact, it’s best to mark a “milestone year” (think 5, 10, 15, 20…you get the picture) rather than something like the 53rd anniversary of X, Y or Z.

Blog about weird and wacky observances

There are also less-serious, not-at-all officially recognized days, months, and milestones observed worldwide. For example, in the United States:

Tip: Before writing about a particular observance, you may wish to qualify it. Ensure it’s something that at least a few people actually acknowledge, and not something that Joe down the street conjured over beer with the guys.

Find an occasion to write about!

Here are just a few websites to use as resources:

What are some fun holidays, anniversaries and observances you have written or read about?

Lindsey McCaffrey is a writer, editor, blogger and communications consultant based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Visit her Absolutely Write blog at www.lindseymccaffrey.com/blog.

The Fail-Proof System to Score National Magazine Publicity for Your Blog

This guest post is by Melissa Cassera of www.casseracommunications.com.

You write a blog post. You post it. You tweet, Facebook, Digg, Stumble, and perform every other type of online promotion to supersize your presence.

What are you missing?

Promoting “offline” using a major influencer like a national magazine can bring a blizzard of traffic to your blog. Not only is it great for exposure to have your name inked on the glossy pages of a national magazine, it lends the credibility and endorsement of a national magazine claiming you have the best blog on the block.

Read on to learn how you can get national magazines to sing your praises from the rooftop.

Why should I use national magazines to promote my blog?

magazines

Image used with permission

Magazines have millions of readers. Literally millions.

National magazines are also nationally-recognized brands. They’ve cultivated a reputation of excellence and wield a substantial amount of power for those that are fortunate enough to grace their pages.

Bloggers have leveraged national magazine publicity into six and seven-figure book deals, scored high-paying speaking engagements, attracted fancy corporate sponsors, and commanded top-dollar for coaching and consulting services.

Magazine publicity is like winning an Emmy, Tony, Grammy, or Academy Award. It provides instant credibility and high profile status.

How do national magazines feature blogs?

Some magazines highlight bloggers individually. Other magazines will interview bloggers as expert sources for their story. (Example: Melissa Cassera from Casseracommunications.com said that national magazine publicity brings droves of new readers to your blog).

For example: Glamour Magazine’s August 2011 issue featured seven fashion bloggers in their article “Dress Like a Do Every Day.” INC Magazine’s July/August 2011 issue also featured several bloggers throughout the issue as expert sources.

How do I contact national magazines and ask them to feature my blog?

  • Understand lead times. Magazines work anywhere from three to six months ahead of the issue. That means you should be pitching for the December issue in August. So, get crackin’!
  • Find the right contact. Check the masthead toward the front of the magazine to note the appropriate section editor (beauty, fashion, technology, food, etc.). Always work from the bottom up (contact the associate or assistant editor rather than the executive or senior editor).
  • You can also peek at the bylines for individual articles. Magazines hire freelance writers to produce content, and these folks are always interested in good sources and stories. Google their names and get in touch.
  • Put as much effort into your pitch as you do writing your blog posts. Read the magazine and highlight the sections that would feature your blog and/or use you as an expert source.  Know the magazine’s tone and readership inside and out. (Quick tip: search online for the magazine’s media kit which includes demographic and other readership info as well as an editorial calendar highlighting specific topics they will cover in future issues).
  • Build a relationship. Your goal is to get ongoing publicity for your blog in these offline channels. Your first contact with an editor should be a warm introduction to you and your blog and a newsworthy angle that would pique their interest to write about you. (Example: I’m a career blogger and would love to discuss the latest trend of unemployed people being told not to apply for jobs. My take on this is….).
  • Offer to cover the magazine on your blog. Ask the editor if they would participate in an interview for your blog. This is a great way to build a budding relationship and to offer them a bit of promotion. (Example: A fashion blogger might interview a Vogue editor on the three hottest trends for Fall).

What do I do when I get national magazine coverage?

Promote away! First things first—you want to blog about your national magazine coverage.  Don’t automatically assume that all your readers will see it. Let them know how super fabulous you are to be featured in [insert favorite magazine name].

Add a “fame cluster” to your homepage. If you have no idea what that is, check out my homepage and look at the little cluster of media logos. You can also start a Press page that lists all of your media shout-outs.

Last, welcome your new readers. If you know your feature in Entrepreneur Magazine comes out in November (which means it will likely hit newsstands in mid-October), add a little line to your homepage near your RSS feed or opt-in offer that says, “Welcome Entrepreneur Magazine Readers! Sign Up Here to Stay in Touch.”

Take action: post the #1 magazine you want to feature your blog in the comments below. Then use the above advice to make it happen.

Melissa Cassera is a publicity expert that helps bloggers and other small business owners score millions of dollars in free advertising using the power of publicity. You can download her free eBook on How to Pitch the Media Like a Pro here: http://casseracommunications.com/newsletter/

9 New Productivity Tools to Simplify Your Online Life

This guest post is by Leo Widrich of Buffer.

After Google+ entered the social networking scene not so long ago, the number of online distractions hasn’t really decreased.

At the same time, innovations and smarter solutions to handle your actions online have fortunately continued to thrive too. Instead of the usual to-do lists, news readers, or sharing tools, they tackle things in new and more helpful ways.

What’s most important for me, is that they slot right into my workflow, and allow me to become more efficient without changing my behavior. A few apps recently managed to do so brilliantly.

Here are my favorite new tools to help you stay focused and use the Web more innovatively.

1. SimpleNote

Do you ever have that feeling of random thoughts and ideas floating around in your head, but there is no optimal solution to jot them down? With SimpleNote, I found a fantastic way to finally write down things in a very intuitive manner. The Chrome extension lets me write things down fast and easily. On top of this, it stores it very intelligently in folders, simply by adding tags.

Workflow tip: The app integrates with a lot of already existing apps to make note-taking inside them even easier.

SimpleNote

SimpleNote

Try it out here: SimpleNote

2. Let’s Crate

If you think the likes of Dropbox or Box are making filesharing easy already, you might be surprised as what Let’s Crate can do. Without any signup or signin process, you can start adding your files right on the landing page. The service automatically generates a link that you can share, embed in blogpost, or send via email. It truly simplifies my online life.

Workflow tip: If you do decide to get an account with the app, you can easily turn it into your online storage system, add folders, and use it as a backup.

Let's Crate

Let's Crate

Try it out here: Let’s Crate

3. Coolendar

This is one of the smartest inventions I’ve seen recently. The app is actually a to-do list that automatically turns into a calendar based on the entries you make. It uses super-simple syntax to understand the time and creates a calendar as you type a new to-do item. So, say for example, you write “Tomorrow, 5pm, blogpost due for Mrs. White” and the app automatically detects it and creates an entry in your calendar as well as a to-do item.

Workflow tip: The best part here is that you can set up a bot inside Google Talk, which will remind you right inside Gmail whenever a task is due.

Coolendar

Coolendar

Try it out here: Coolendar

4. Mockflow

As a full time blogger, my skills in design and programming are very limited. Yet, being able to express myself clearly is more vital than ever. A better blog layout is a crucial component of blogging success these days. With Mockflow, you can create powerful wireframes that facilitate working with designers and programmers a great deal. There exist a wide range of tools and templates to make them look pretty, and are easy to implement.

Workflow tip: What I like best is that the app also works offline, so if you are wireframing on the go, you never have to worry about connectivity.

Mockflow

Mockflow

Try it out here: Mockflow

5. StrawberryJ.am

As a blogger, my main focus is to produce the best content I can write each day. Of course, keeping up with the great posts my favorite blogs write is vital here. Yet knowing what the really good bits are is sometimes tricky. Help comes from StrawberryJ.am. The app orders all the Tweets from your stream on the basis of most mentioned and retweeted. So at one glance, you will see the hot and most-discussed news items in your timeline.

Workflow tip: If you really don’t want to open another site each day, simply subscribe to your own top news and the app will deliver updates straight to your inbox.

StrawberryJ.am

StrawberryJ.am

Try it out here: StrawberryJ.am

6. Do it Tomorrow

This is a piece of innovation I would never have thought could be useful. Yet Do It Tomorrow slots perfectly into my workflow. I am usually the kind of person that puts way to many to-do’s on the list for one day. With this neat Android app, I create a simple to-do list of the things I need to get done and never worry about putting too much on my plate.

Workflow tip: By simply tapping on the little arrow, a to-do gets pushed onto the next day. You’ll never lose to-do’s you didn’t get to.

Do It Tomorrow

Do It Tomorrow

Try it out here: Do it Tomorrow

7. Oh Life

You will most likely know that the benefits of writing are plentiful. One of the most important factors for me is to order my thoughts. Oh Life takes a very new approach to making it easy for you to write down your thoughts about life. Every evening, the app will send you an email asking “How did your day go?” By hitting Reply, your entries will be safely stored as an online journal.

Workflow tip: Going through my personal Oh Life stories every once in a while helps me a great deal to focus and recap what I am working on.

OhLife

OhLife

Try it out here: Oh Life

8. Rapportive

I found that one of the most important things when speaking to someone via email is to really understand what the person is all about. Rapportive is a Chrome extension that slots right into Gmail and gives you a new tab of information all related to the person you are speaking to. This includes recent tweets, information from Facebook, LinkedIn data, and much more. You can build a rapport with them immediately and fully understand what they are all about.

Workflow tip: Very recently, the app has added a functionality to allow you to reply to tweets right from inside Gmail. This facilitates interaction a lot, I’ve found.

Rapportive

Rapportive

Try it out here: Rapportive

9. Skinnyo

This is my extra tool for you, as, different from all the others, it focuses on your physical shape. For a healthy online workflow, the Latin saying of “Mens sana, in corpore sano” (healthy mind, healthy body) is something I follow very closely. The app allows you to enter into online challenges with others, keep track of your weight, and have fun staying in shape with others. You can create teams, challenge each other, or use it strictly for personal use to keep track of your exercise.

Workflow tip: I particularly like the Social Network behavior of Skinnyo. It makes it easy to see how others are doing and keeps me motivated.

Skinnyo

Skinnyo

Try it out here: Skinnyo

These are my favorite tools to make the most of my day online. How about you? Do you think some of them could be useful for you too? Are there others you can add?

Leo Widrich is a blogger and Co-Founder of Buffer, a tool to share Tweets and Facebook Updates at optimal times to get 200% more clicks and engagement. He writes more Social Media Tips here. Reach out to him @leowid anytime.

Monetizing Your Blog with a Clean Design, Tribal Headhunter Warriors, and Fine Art Nudes

This guest post is by Glen Allison of www.GlenAllison.com.

This is a case study outlining my three-step website development and the graphic design aspects of my blog monetization.

As a visual artist, when I finally decided to start monetizing my blog, one of my primary concerns was to maintain the clean graphic design of my website without the clutter of “in-your-face” advertisements screaming at the viewers, whom I didn’t want to overwhelm with my monetizing endeavors.

Naga warrior

A Naga warrior

I’m a travel photographer and during the past couple of years I launched three related blogs: one for travel stories, another for fine art photos and one for lighting tutorials to describe my portable lighting setups for shooting unusual tribal characters in exotic, remote locales. Why three blogs? My goal was to build website traffic as fast as possible in an effort to increase my Google search rankings. My website has an embedded ecommerce feature using a Photoshelter platform to market my travel stock photos. High site traffic is crucial to these sales since I’m competing with the world’s largest stock photo agencies, several of which I’m also a contributor.

My three-step website development strategy for blogging, augmenting traffic, and monetizing is as follows.

Step one: redesign

My primary blog audience is other photographers, who are not going to be my main stock photo and fine art customers but these photographers will serve as a base to build readership that will augment my website page rank.

Initially I created three WordPress.com blogs but since they functioned as entities separate from my main website, the traffic they generated wasn’t aggregating toward the SEO of the main site I ultimately wanted to promote for stock photo licensing. My first step was to completely redesign my website by moving away from a Photoshelter readymade template into a design that incorporated the Photoshelter eCommerce and the three blogs into the site architecture in the background of my one primary website. By applying a few SEO strategies, my page rank rose from zero to one during the first year.

Step two: targeted social media

After wetting my feet and honing my skills with these three blogs my target shifted toward augmenting site traffic by using social media, primarily Twitter, where I created three separate but related accounts. Then I started following the followers of a few well-known photo pundits of portable location lighting since I decided to use my Stroborati lighting blog as the primary traffic driver to my website.

Photographers seeking lighting tutorials would be my targeted audience and I chose to follow the followers of top lighting photographers in the industry, who had more than fifty thousand Twitter followers themselves. At first I tried to do this manually and believe me it was the world’s worst nightmare. What a boring, time-eating task.

A couple of months ago I discovered TweetAdder and soon automated much of my Twitter activity. What a godsend this software has been. I programmed it to follow eight or nine hundred followers daily for each of my targeted groups, one for each of my three Tweeter accounts so I wouldn’t be following the same people with each account. Now I’m getting three or four hundred reciprocal followers daily. I’m not using an overly aggressive campaign so building up my own huge following will take several months.

I’m also a novelist and, yes, I blog well-written quality content with dramatic photos from my travels to keep the viewers coming back for more.

I set up TweetAdder to automatically send a thank you message to each person who followed me back and in this message I suggest they might be interested in seeing my Stroborati blog where I feature location lighting setups for fierce Naga headhunter tribal warriors and fine art nudes. I also include links to those blog pages. Naturally this message attracts curiosity. Just about everyone who follows me winds up hitting my site. Remember I’m following a highly targeted audience that is keen about lighting details. My unique, eye-catching photo subjects peak viewer interest since most lighting tutorials on the Internet cover rather mundane subjects by comparison .

I might add that if any new follower sends me a direct message with questions, praise or comments, then I immediately correspond with them one-on-one in an effort to create personal interaction. As a result, my time spent on social media endeavors has skyrocketed. I must also manually fill out the captcha info for all the TrueTwit validations.

In only two or three months, however, my page rank jumped from one to three. So the social media campaign was really paying off.

Step three: monetization

In retrospect I should have installed my site monetization prior to my blitz social media campaign, but better late than never. So I spent the last month signing up for affiliate relationships with Amazon and a couple of top online photo equipment dealers and several companies selling Photoshop third party plugins, products that would interest my targeted audience.

I also developed several of my own Photoshop action sets that I sell from the site as well. Before I knew it, I had a slew of monetizing links and immediately realized I had to minimize the clutter. As an image artist it’s extremely important to me that viewers have a stimulating visual experience when they visit my site.

I decided to include AdSense and have placed three discreet, 125x125px, ad blocks on each blog page: one at the top left corner of each blog post and one in the bottom left corner plus one in my sidebar. I chose a color theme for the ads that matched the design of my website and I only use text ads with small black text and with no blinking photos, which I find extremely distracting.

AdSense automatically selects ads in context with topics in the blog post and the selections are often amusing. For my fine art nude lighting tutorials from Bangkok, the AdSense bots frequently make surprising choices like, “Date Sexy Thai Women” or “Thai Girl Massage.” Oh, well, at least I’m getting lots of clicks for hot chicks.

For my Amazon links I initially used their default, somewhat garish colors for text and prices, which adds clutter. So I decided to mute this visual assault by toning down the text colors and deleting the price info altogether.

In the text of my lighting blogs I mention the photo gear I used for that particular setup. In the past I created links for this gear back to the manufactures’ sites so my viewers could learn more if they desired. Now I’ve changed all those links to have my affiliate code embedded. Also at the end of each blog post I added small, clickable photos of this gear (with no text but viewers can hover the images for info) and each is now linked to Amazon for my affiliate sales. Here’s a sample blog page.

Many of my viewers are interested in the awesome array of photo and lighting gear I travel with and the specific software I use to create my dramatic images. So I set up a “Gear Links” page and a “Software Links” page both with clickable sample photos of the items, each embedded with my Amazon affiliate code. And while I was at it, I created a “Glen’s Favorite Photo Books” page. You will see that eliminating the prices streamlines the page design with minimal eye flicker, especially with so many items to peruse. The links for these three product pages are listed near the top of my blog sidebar to make it easy for viewers to find them.

When I include fine art photos in my blog posts, the images are linked to RedBubble where viewers can purchase prints, calendars, greeting cards and posters. Another monetizing feature that’s not in your face.

And finally, in my blog sidebar I’ve included the small but intriguing cover photos of about a dozen great photo books by famous photographers. There are no prices showing and no text, just a cleanly designed column of exciting book covers to draw attention as the reader scrolls through my blog post. If they want more info about a specific book, they can hover over its cover photo.

Am I potentially reducing my click rate with these toned down design choices? Probably, but design is more important to me while still incorporating passive income opportunities. In the first month I sold fifteen books through Amazon with a conversion rate of approximately one in eighty clicks. My website is currently getting about 12,000 hits per month.

Augmented site traffic will surely increase my newfound passive income endeavors that don’t scream out at the viewer. I certainly don’t want to run people off with my overnight, blitz monetization campaign.

Glen Allison has embarked on his second marathon 10-year, nonstop vagabond odyssey across the globe to photograph extraordinary destinations. His images have been published more than 60,000 times in most of the world’s leading travel publications. Visit his website, www.GlenAllison.com and follow his escapades on Twitter.

White-Hat SEO + Social Media = Link Bait Magic

This guest post is by Ben Jackson of SEODiscovery.org.

You’re a blogger.

You want traffic.

You know between nothing and a lot about SEO?

Perfect.

Most people are intimidated by SEO and just as many have no clue what it’s all about. This is exactly why corporations waste thousands upon thousands of dollars every year on useless SEO practices that produce lackluster results—they don’t understand what is happening! Well here is my proposition:

Whether you already understand SEO or know nothing about it, I am going to present a strategy to you right now that will have you getting lots of links and traffic to your site, and here’s the kicker…

You won’t even realize you’re building links! You can follow this process, concerning yourself only with creating great content and establishing a great reputation in your niche, and the links and rankings will follow.

Enough talk. Let’s get to it!

One of the only SEO tactics that is actually considered to be white-hat is link bait. Link Bait is a piece of content or feature on a site that is especially appealing and worthy of attention. Visitors like what you’ve shared so much that they link back to you, thus “link bait”. You do the work upfront creating something awesome and then sit back as the links pour in for you. This is also referred to as natural link building and is 100% white-hat.

Step 1. Create your link bait

We are just getting into the entire promotional/SEO campaign we’re going to be developing and this is by far the most important part. You need to have something really great to share and you need to use the magic word—it needs to be FREE (always capitalize FREE). I’m sure we all know already that people love posts with lists: Top 10 Article Directories, Best 5 Tips for Weight Loss, and so on.

You want to create really usable and exciting content for your niche. Compile a few lists together into one comprehensive directory, create a list with an angle that hasn’t been done, share a secret actionable tip you have been waiting to share—something that your viewers will want to come back to and share with others. You can get creative and provide value however you want (I did it with a free software program you can see here: FREE OnlyWire Account Creator).

Bonus tip: If you really want to kick it up a notch, think of something people never give away for free, and give it away for free. Software or an ebook without an opt-in can work well, and you can also put affiliate links and links back to your site in your product.

Step 2. Make sure it’s shareable

The Internet and how we share online has changed a lot over the last few years. We don’t get so many forwarded emails with jokes in them anymore (that is so 90’s). These days, social media has become the analogy for word of mouth on the Web, and we want to let the people talk!

While we are creating “link” bait and we want to get links from webpages, we cannot ignore the fact that most people will opt for a tweet instead. Many people don’t have a real online presence or won’t write a relevant blog post in order to share your link, so they’ll just tweet it or like it on facebook instead.

This is why it’s very important that we place sharing buttons prominently on our page with our link bait and also refer people to them. Every tweet will expose your link bait page to more people who may also retweet or link to your page. Basically, you have an opportunity to greatly expand your popularity and potentially go viral off this process.

SEO reminder: getting a lot of links to this one page on your site will give it a lot more authority and this link juice will spread through your internal links and help other pages on you blog rank higher as well.

Step 3. Create the spark

Part I: Getting ready

At this point you’ve got your awesome link bait setup on your site, catered towards your niche, and ready to explode. The sad truth is that if you build it, they will not come: you still have to promote this page to get the ball rolling. If you have a big Twitter following or an email list, you can contact these people about it to get things started.

A lot of us don’t have those assets built up yet, but thankfully there is a lot you can do to ignite the fire on your link bait. We are going to accomplish three different things all at the same time:

  1. Build dofollow backlinks to your site.
  2. Build links to your link bait.
  3. Establish/build a positive and professional reputation in your niche.

This is all done through blog comments. Here’s how:

  1. Go to www.dropmylink.com.
  2. Enter a very broad keyword for your niche like “seo” or “cars”.
  3. Choose to search for “KeywordLuv” blogs.
  4. Click Search.
Drop my link

Drop my link

This will help you find tons of blogs in your niche that use KeywordLuv on their comments. In case you’re not familiar, KeywordLuv blogs are “dofollow” which means they pass link juice, they allow you to use your keyword to link back to your site, and a lot of the time they link back to your most recent post too. Your goal is to first amass a list of popular KeywordLuv blogs in your niche.

Part II: Here comes the magic

It’s time to reveal how this all comes together now. You’re going to visit each of these blogs one-by-one and leave a comment on their most recent blog post. You want to comment on the most recent blog post because it will have the most activity which means the most potential for people to click through your links and find your link bait.

Also, these pages are linked right off the homepage so they should have some PR (No you can’t see the PR because “Toolbar PR” isn’t updated often, but the page does have PR). When you comment, you can leave a link with anchor text to any page of your site you want to rank. I know you don’t have all page #1 rankings, so choose a keyword you have been working on and leave an anchor text link to the corresponding page (there’s the link building part).

When you leave a comment you will also automatically get a link to your most recent post. The idea is that you make your link bait your most recent post. This way, you get an anchor text link to a page you want to rank and you get a link promoting your link bait. These “most recent post” links stand-out and get clicked on more often as well.

Most recent post

Most recent post

When blog commenting, take the time to read the post (you might learn something from it) or at least skim it so you can leave a comment that adds value to the page. If you leave stupid comments like, “Wow, great share thanks!!” you will fail in two ways:

  1. Your comment won’t get approved.
  2. You won’t look authoritative and won’t build a solid reputation in your niche.

Make a meaningful comment because this will cause discussion around your comment and it will make people want to click through your link. To recap, you will visit a popular blog in your niche with KeywordLuv enabled and leave a comment on their most recent blog post. You are not spamming, you are adding value to their page and sharing your links.

This way, you can establish yourself as an authority in you niche, build “dofollow” anchor text links to your website, and promote your link bait so that it catches on and gets links to your website on autopilot.

Bonus tip: When someone in your niche comments on your site, follow their link back to their site and comment on it too and even tweet a post of theirs. This goes a long way for building strong relationships and networking with relevant web masters.

SEO is becoming less and less about traditional link building, and spamming becomes a dumber idea every day. If you focus on sharing quality content, creating a great user experience, and integrating social media, you are bound to grow your traffic and increase your rankings. You can repeat the above strategy over and over again for repeat results. Instead of worrying about the newest link building schemes or paying for an expensive new SEO program, you can focus entirely on creating great content and building your reputation—every blogger’s dream.

Master the SEO basics for FREE with Ben Jackson’s SEO Course (No opt-in) and be sure to follow Ben on Twitter and “like” the FB page too!

11 Blog Proofreading Tips You Can’t Afford to Ignore

This guest post is by Luke Palder of ProofreadingServices.Us.

It should come as no surprise that writing for a blog is different from writing for other types of media. Blogs are free to read and there are tons of them, so people tend to decide very quickly if they’d like to move on to the next one. Only great content will cause a new visitor to read beyond the first paragraph of one of your posts, but there are many ways to scare a new reader away. Publishing content with glaring errors is one of them.

Git my pointe? (Don’t run away just yet. Instead, find out how easy blog proofreading can be.)

The aim of blog proofreading is to build credibility with new readers as quickly as possible so that they stick around, share your content and maybe even throw you a link or two. Below are 11 actionable proofreading tips for bloggers that are going to help you polish your posts quickly and effectively.

1. Walk away

Bloggers usually write a post and then immediately publish it. Don’t. Wait instead. When you’ve stared for too long at the same draft, any proofreading you undertake will be ineffective. Step away from your keyboard for half an hour or an entire day (gasp!) if you can and then check your work. This way, you’ll spot more errors.

2. Ask a friend for help

No matter how sharp you are at spotting errors, your eyes naturally skip over errors in your own work. Enlisting a friend’s help to read a draft post and point out your mistakes can help you correct them.

3. Use a spell-checker

You might be a flawless speller, but everyone includes a typo here and there, especially when hurriedly typing, which is the modus operandi of many of my blogging brethren. Always run your blog posts through a spell-checker or use a browser that detects spelling errors. This is one of the quickest proofreading tips you can implement, and there’s no reason not to use a tool that’s so widely available.

4. Use a grammar-checker

Like spell-checkers, grammar-checkers are immeasurably useful, but only if you actually use them (for many word processing programs, this means you’ll actually have to click “start”). A grammar-checker will scan your post for issues such as parallel structure errors, comma splices and run-on sentences, all of which are easy to miss when rushing to publish. Grammar-checkers aren’t perfect, but they’ll point out sentences that may need more work.

5. Read your post backward

Scan your blog post in reverse to spot spelling errors that your spell-checker didn’t catch. Going backward lets you concentrate on individual words, so you can focus your attention on finding elusive spelling errors without getting distracted by other writing issues.

6. Proofread multiple times

Reading your post through to catch major errors is a good first step, but once is not enough. It’s best to go through your draft several times and to look for a specific type of error each time. For example, you might look for run-on sentences in one scan, and check for proper spelling after that.

7. Ensure you’ve been inclusive

If you write for geneticists, then using terms like “genotype” and “phenotype” without defining them is okay; however, if you’re writing a post for the general public, cut down on jargon and find inclusive ways to communicate. Write out abbreviations and acronyms unless they’re common like “IRS” or “CBS.” While you don’t have to strip your writing of personality, use specialized terminology sparingly. Your blog about anime and manga might describe a new character as “kawaii,” but avoid writing half of your blog in romaji Japanese so your less experienced readers can follow along easily.

8. Print it out

What your eyes miss on the screen, they’ll see on a printed page. Print your draft out and read it on paper to find elusive errors.

9. Choose a different font

Just as printing your post will force you to examine it differently, so will changing fonts during the proofreading process. Select a new font that’s easy to read, and see how your post looks in Times New Roman or Courier instead of your usual Arial.

10. Triple-check proper nouns

If you want your blog to have a chance of becoming lucrative linkbait, you must spell the names of people, products and companies correctly. Correct spellings attract search engines’ notice and will make you trustworthy in your readers’ eyes. Spell-checkers do a great job in general, but they’re terrible with proper nouns, so pay extra attention to how names are spelled.

Pro tip: Enclose proper nouns you’re unsure about within quotation marks and Google them. Google sometimes suggests an alternative spelling based on what is searched most often. Sometimes you might even know that the spelling you have is correct, but that it’s not the most popular version (e.g. how many ways are there to spell Muammar Gaddafi?). When you’re trying to spell a proper noun that doesn’t have a universally agreed upon correct spelling in your language, this quotation mark technique is a great way to compare the number of Google results that different correct spellings of a proper noun yield. It’s that easy.

11. Read it out loud

Saving one of the most effective blog proofreading tips for last, read your post out loud, especially if you’re in a rush. Blog posts typically take on a conversational tone, and how better to proofread the quality of that tone than to read your draft out loud? Reading out loud also helps you find subject-verb agreement errors and other awkward phrases with great ease.

These 11 proofreading tips will help you build instant credibility with your readers. What didn’t I include? I think we can make a much longer list.

Luke Palder is the founder of ProofreadingServices.Us, a San Francisco-based proofreading service. ProofreadingServices.Us provides online proofreading, manuscript proofreading and other proofreading services.

Take Vacation Time From Your Blogging Business

This guest post is by Stephanie Foster of Home With the Kids.

I did something recently I haven’t done in a long time. I took a vacation from my blogging business just about entirely. For once on vacation, I didn’t spend the evenings making up for lost time. I didn’t write blog posts. No tweeting, no blog commenting, none of that stuff, for an entire week.

Sure, I still used my computer for fun. I brought it along and I even had internet access most days. I just didn’t use it for work, and did relatively little leisure stuff on it. I was too busy at the beach, the zoo, places like that to bother with my computer.

Blogging vacation

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Taking a vacation from my blogging business is something I do too little of. My laptop always travels with me, and most times I spend my evenings working. The only problem with that is that I don’t give my mind enough of a break from business, so eventually I get tired and even head toward being burnt out on the whole deal.

Many home business owners do the same. It’s all to easy to work long hours and rarely take a break to refresh your body and mind, even for a few minutes during the day, never mind a whole week away. Yet it’s necessary.

Getting ready for a vacation

Taking a vacation from your blogging business isn’t something you can just do on a whim. Well, you could, I suppose, but most times it’s not that great an idea. You need to figure out how things are going to go without you.

What about email? Cleaning out spam blog or forum comments if you have those on your site? What if your site goes down or gets hacked?

You need to figure out how much stuff you can drop from your business for a week or so, how much you can handle in a few minutes each day while you’re on vacation, and what should be handed over to a virtual assistant or trusted friend or family member while you’re gone.

The great thing about many home businesses, especially if they’re online, is that you often can drop quite a bit of what you’re doing to take a vacation. Many things will wait. Others won’t.

You can schedule blog posts to run in your absence. I always like to do this, even though it means extra work while preparing for a vacation. It keeps things running just a little bit and then I don’t have to feel rushed to prepare blog posts when I get back because I’ve been gone a week and there aren’t any posts ready for the next week either. I can take a little time and ease back into my work with only a small gap in my posting, or even none at all if I get so far ahead that I can schedule some for just after I get back.

Use self-control while on vacation

It’s not always easy to leave your home business alone once you’re on vacation, especially if you love what you do. There’s always that temptation to do just a little work during your downtime.

Don’t do it. Find some other way to enjoy your downtime. Read a book for pleasure. Play with your kids if you have some. Go out with your spouse, significant other, some friends or just on your own. Keep your mind off your business. It will still be there when you get back.

If you must check on your business, try to keep it to just a few minutes a day, maybe first thing in the morning so the rest of your day is clear. If you’re having to get too involved in things, maybe you didn’t plan well enough for your break and need to rethink how you can get away for a time.

The benefits of taking a vacation

I feel great now that I’m back from my vacation. It was wonderful not thinking about that next blog post for a time. When you don’t take real breaks, all the stuff you know you should be doing is more like clutter in your head. It’s there and you really can’t deal with it effectively. A vacation gives you time to sort it out, even if you aren’t actively thinking about it at the time.

A vacation can also freshen up your ideas. Work too long on a project, and you get stuck with certain sorts of ideas. A vacation gives you time away from all that, and you might find new ideas come more easily after, even if it’s only a new perspective on the same things you were working on before.

You should also be more relaxed after a vacation. It’s a time when you shouldn’t be focusing on whatever stresses are in your life. Most of the things that cause stress in your life can wait that week too.

Taking a vacation from your blogging business isn’t always the simplest thing to do, but it can be a great idea. You don’t have to bring your business along every time you go on vacation. Sometimes it’s best to leave it all behind.

Stephanie Foster runs Home With the Kids, a resource for work at home moms and dads. She writes about running her home business, work at home scams and being an at home mom on her blog.

Spice Up Your Blog with a Virtual Blogging Team

This guest post is by Luis Cruz of Pepper Virtual Assistant.

Blogging is simple. You produce quality content, react to commenters, watch your stats grow, rinse, repeat.

Blogging is also labor-intensive, time-consuming, and tiring. Producing quality content regularly can be draining, managing comments can get exhausting, and don’t even get me started on dealing with spam.

Fortunately, blogging doesn’t have to be a solo affair. In fact, quite the opposite is true, and many of the biggest blogs are written and managed by teams of bloggers, not individuals.

One problem, of course, is how to build and manage of team when you don’t exactly have a ton of resources to throw at your blog. One solution: get a virtual assistant (or a bunch of them) to help you blog.

ProBlogger visited this idea a few years back when a reader asked Darren how he felt about VAs, and we’ve mentioned VAs every so often on the blog. The general consensus seems to be that VAs are great at administrative tasks for your blog, but have you ever considered having a VA write for you?

It might seem like a strange thing to do, but trust me, it’s not that uncommon. In fact, it’s something I’ve been doing, or rather, something I’ve been hired to do, for quite a while now. You see, I work as a virtual assistant, and one of my jobs, on top of administrative duties, is to produce content for some of our clients’ blogs.

Of course, you can’t just hire somebody to blog for you, leave them to their own devices, and expect great results. You need to do a few things to help us serve you better. Here a few things that, from my experience, you need to do in order to build an effective virtual blogging team.

Set your expectations

Are you looking for a team of bloggers that will churn out a half-dozen posts a day? Perhaps you’re searching for somebody to contribute one or two posts a week. Maybe you’d like to keep your blog a mostly solo affair, and you just need somebody to help moderate comments, do research on new topics, and handle a few other tasks. Whatever it is you want, you need to communicate it to your team.

Explain who you are

If your blog were a person, how would he or she sound? Is he a snarky, sarcastic, snob, or is she a bright and cheerful optimist? Does he jump from one idea or topic to another, or does she ramble on and on on specific topics? How does he like emphasizing certain points? Does she like lists?

Hundreds of different questions can pop up, but the main idea is to set the tone, or voice, of the blog. Each individual writer should still have a different personality, but it should be consistent with the voice of the blog in general.

Go for a test-drive

When you’re shopping around for a car, you don’t buy a car without going for a test-drive, do you? The same idea applies to your blogging team. You don’t hire a team until you have an idea of what they can (and can’t) do.

One way to test prospective members of your team is by inviting them to guest on your blog. Their guest posts tell you a few things: how well they write, how readers react to their voice or style, and how well they interact with your readers. I wager some people can learn a few more things about potential writers for your team, but I think most will learn about these three things.

Be an editor

If you find talented writers among your guest bloggers, you can promote them from guest bloggers to regular contributors. With a team of writers working for you, you now have a new role: editor. As editor, you need to make notes on your team’s writing, and advise them on what they’re doing well, as well as what they need to change.

Don’t forget the little things

Even if you’re not very comfortable with hiring other people to write on your blog, you can still benefit from having a virtual blogging team. Some of the simpler tasks my team has handled include doing research for new posts and monitoring trending topics. Even if your virtual team doesn’t produce new posts for your blog, they can still help you create fresh content.

Do it your way

This isn’t another tip, but rather, an invitation. How do you get your virtual assistant or team to help you create fresh content for your blog? Share some of your tips in the comments.

Luis Cruz is a writer for Pepper Virtual Assistant, a virtual assistant firm based in the cities of Manila and Davao in the Philippines.

How to Email Your Blog Updates Like a ProBlogger

This guest pst is by Martyn Chamberlin of Two Hour Blogger.

“When you work with words … words are your work.”—Don Knotts

I assume you know a lot about blogging.

You know how to set up a blog, you know how to write. You know how to tweet and share.

Most importantly, you know how to build your email list.

Maybe you’re not as fanatical as I am. Maybe you haven’t hidden your RSS feed. Maybe you offer alternatives to email. But you understand the best results come from your emails. You baby your list.

email

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The email list is important … but what are you doing with it? You’re sending your blog broadcasts to it? How are you doing it?

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion you aren’t doing it right. Don’t take it personally—some of my most brilliant clients weren’t either. It’s not your fault. No one’s ever told you how, that’s all.

Are you handling your email subscriptions in Feedburner?

When people subscribe to your blog via email, where’s that email address going? I hope it’s not going into Feedburner.

See, Feedburner is pretty lousy when it comes to email marketing.

  • You can’t easily customize the subject line
  • You can’t customize the design
  • You can’t utilize auto-responders
  • You can’t know who’s subscribing in real time
  • You can’t know the open rates
  • You can’t completely control when the broadcast goes out

Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t care that much. Feedburner’s free. This is deep and scary, and I’m not going to worry about it. I’ll just blog.”

Let me remind you that your blog’s success hinges on how effectively you master email marketing.

This is important. Quit using Feedburner.

What are the other options?

I’ve worked with a lot of email marketing tools, but the best are MailChimp and AWeber. There are other options out there, but I recommend one of these two.

Which one should you chose? Mailchimp’s free for the first 500 subscribers while AWeber costs from from the start. They’re both excellent tools, but if you can possibly afford it, go with AWeber. It’s slightly better, and after all, ProBlogger uses AWeber.

Once you migrate your list to one of these services, you’re ready to send emails. Whenever you publish a blog post, you want to send it to your list.

You can always do it manually, of course. Whenever you publish content, you can copy and paste the article from your WordPress dashboard and blast it away. While it’s fun doing it this way for about two months, it starts getting old after a while. Really old. Trust me.

Here’s a better way

Unfortunately, this is where most bloggers run into trouble. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll frustrate yourself.

Luckily, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you. After successfully implementing this for myself and clients, I’ve put this article together for you. You’ll be rocking with the big boys in no time flat. I’ll even help you in comments if you get stuck. Deal?

Step 1: Prepare thyself

If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to burn a feed for your blog at Feedburner.com.

Okay, I told you to quit using Feedburner. You’re probably confused.

While Feedburner is lousy at email marketing, it’s a great tool for creating a feed URL. You’ll use this feed’s URL in your email campaign, so this step is important. Since Google owns Feedburner, you only need a free Google account to use this service.

You may have already created a Feedburner feed and don’t know what the feed URL is. Log into Feedburner and click the grey RSS icon to the left of the feed title. The link it sends you to is your feed URL.

Make sure your feed URL shows the full content version of your posts. If you only see excerpts on this page, it means your email subscribers will only get excerpts in their inbox (usually a bad idea).

To change your blog’s feed to full content, log into WordPress and head over to Settings > Reading Settings. Make sure you’ve selected Full text instead of Summary. It can take Feedburner up to fifteen minutes to recognize these changes, so be patient if you don’t see immediate results. (Yes, I’ve learned this the hard way!)

If you’re using MailChimp …

  1. Log in.
  2. Click the large, orange button in the left column titled Create campaign. A drop-down menu will appear. Select RSS-driven campaign.
  3. This will take you to a page where you enter your RSS Feed URL. Paste your Feedburner URL and hit next.
  4. Select the list you want to send your campaign to. Hit next.
  5. In the Message Subject field, paste this:

    *|RSSITEM:TITLE|*

    That pulls the title of your latest blog post into the email subject line. Fill out the other details and hit Next.

  6. Select your template and edit the body copy. The default prose says “Heading 1 Heading 2” etc. After deleting all this, select the Source tab and paste the following:

    <a href="*|RSSITEM:URL|*">*|RSSITEM:TITLE|*</a><br /><br /> *|RSSITEM:CONTENT_FULL|*<br /> <a href="*|RSSITEM:URL|*">Click here to leave a comment</a>

    This funny-looking code dynamically pulls the the content from your latest blog post into the email. To see the magic in action, just hit the preview button to view how it will look in your inbox. Nifty, isn’t it?

    Hit Next.

  7. Finalize your plain-text version. Hit next.
  8. You’re now looking at your entire setup with all the glamorous details. Scroll to the bottom of the page and hit the orange “start RSS campaign” button. You’re all set!

If you’re using AWeber…

  1. Log into AWeber
  2. Hover over the Messages tab and click Blog Broadcast.
  3. This sends you to a page with a green button that says Create a New Blog Broadcast. Click it.
  4. Chose the list you want to use and prepare your email template. I recommend keeping the design as simple as possible, but you’re welcome to customize it to your heart’s content.
  5. In the RSS feed URL, paste your feed URL you got from Feedburner.
  6. In the subject line, paste this:

    {!rss_itemblock}{!rss_item_title}{!rss_itemblockend}

  7. In the HTML message, paste this:

    {!rss_itemblock} <p style="font-weight: bold; font-size: 30px; margin-bottom: 0px"><a href="{!rss_item_link}">{!rss_item_title}</a></p><span>{!rss_item_content}</span><br /> <h2><a href="{!rss_item_link}">Click here to leave a comment</a>.</h2> {!rss_itemblockend}

    Be sure you’re on the Source tab when pasting this content. It won’t work in the design tab.

  8. Hit the save button and you’re off!

Let’s wrap it up

In case you’ve wondered how the pro bloggers do it, now you know. It’s not that difficult, but no one tells you how to do it. Funny, isn’t it?

Let’s face it—getting your email campaign off the ground can be tricky. I remember when I first started doing this stuff, I had so many questions and I couldn’t talk to anyone (for free).

But today, it’s different. If you have any questions, I’ll answer them in comments. Let’s get started!

Martyn Chamberlin is a full-time web guy who blogs about the importance of web design and builds web sites that enhance great blogging. Learn what it takes to succeed online and join the growing number of passionate writers becoming better bloggers.