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Six Ways to Get Feedback On Your Posts and Pages (And Why You Need To)

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Are your blog posts working well, or leaving readers unsatisfied? Is your About page enticing, or confusing? Does your Hire Me page do a great job of selling your services, or is it too bland?

Often, the only feedback that you have comes in the form of numbers. Maybe readers aren’t spending long on your blog. Maybe you rarely get comments. Maybe no one’s ever hired you.

The problem is, it’s hard to tell why. Without any feedback from readers, you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.

Honest, constructive feedback isn’t the same as a comment saying “great post!” Good feedback:

  • tells you exactly what’s working, and what isn’t
  • offers suggestions on how to fix any problems
  • encourages you to make the most of your strengths.

Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking no one will give me any feedback. I don’t have any readers yet. Or maybe your blog isn’t even online—you’re struggling away with your posts and pages, trying to get your core content together before you launch.

Don’t give up. I’m going to give you six easy ways to get feedback.

Six ways to get feedback

1. Look at your current comments

If you’ve received any comments on your blog, look at the following.

  • Which posts have the most comments? These will, in some way, have struck a chord with the reader.
  • Are there any suggestions that you can use for future posts? Sometimes, commenters will tell you exactly what they’d like to read. Other times, they’ll mention what they’re struggling with—and you can use that as the basis for a post.
  • Did any posts get negative or confused comments? If a reader leaves a comment to say that they didn’t understand, you might want to take another look at that post and make sure it’s clear.

2. Ask around on Twitter or Facebook

If your blog is new, you might well have a bigger following on Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks. Try asking there for feedback: post a link to a particular post or page and explain that you’d welcome any constructive criticism.

You’ll be surprised at how generous your friends—and even complete strangers!—can be. Don’t discount the opinions of non-bloggers, either; they might not “get” the technology, but they’re likely to be representative of your general audience.

3. Find a blogging partner

Some bloggers like to swap posts with one another. If you’ve got any blogging friends, ask around and see if anyone would be interested. A blogging partner can do a lot more than just read your posts, too—check out Find a Blog Buddy [Day 15 – 31DBBB].

If you don’t know a single blogger yet, try looking in the comments sections of relevant blogs (ProBlogger might be a good place to start). Find someone who seems to be at a similar stage to you, and drop them an email.

4. Post a message in a forum

When I’ve been looking for feedback, often on sales pages, I’ve posted in the Third Tribe forum. I’ve always had great responses from other members, with plenty of insightful feedback. When you put out a request like this, it’s often helpful to specify what particular areas you want feedback on. You might ask questions like these:

  • Was my About page clear?
  • Did it encourage you to read on?
  • Is there anything you think I should add?

If you’re not currently a member of any blogging or business-related forums, you might want to take a look at ProBlogger’s own community site: ProBlogger.Community.

5. Join a blogging-related course

Many ecourses will include some element of interaction—that might be live calls with the tutors, or forums where you can easily interact with other members. There’ll often be a chance to ask questions and get specific feedback.

Even if it’s a big course without any individual instruction from tutors, you’ll find that other members are very willing to help out. People taking an ecourse are often more engaged (and at a slightly further stage) than your general audience on Twitter or Facebook.

6. Hire a writing coach

For really in-depth, expert feedback, look for a writing or blogging coach. They’ll work with you to help you shape and polish up your content, and a good coach will be careful to preserve your own voice and style.

Coaching is definitely an investment, but many bloggers find it a very worthwhile one. That applies even if you have a strong writing background. One of my own coaching clients, Prime Sarmiento, is an experienced journalist. She wrote about the benefits of getting coaching in a guest post for Men with Pens: Why Hiring a Writing Coach Can Help You Build Your Business.

The review

So, you’ve found someone willing to give you feedback. What should you ask them to look at?

I think there are several key areas where you’ll want to make sure your writing (and formatting of posts) is as good as it can be.

Your cornerstone content

If you’re creating a series of posts as cornerstone or pillar content—posts that readers will go back to again and again—then you want them to be as good as possible.

It’s worth asking someone to read through the whole series, so that they can help you both with the small details (like typos and clunky sentences) and the big picture (making sure that all the posts fit together well).

Your About page

Did you know that your About page is probably the most-read page on your blog after your home page? (Check your Google Analytics if you’re not convinced!) It make sense—new readers will often read a blog post or two, then click on “About” to find out who you are and what the blog’s purpose is.

A great About page can turn a casual visitor into a subscriber. A poor About page might lose you that visitor completely. About pages are really tough to write, so it’s definitely worth getting feedback and even some help with the drafting.

Your Services or Hire Me page

If you’ve got any services (or products) for sale, you want to make sure that your sales page does a great job of drawing potential customers in. That means, at a minimum, being totally clear about what you do and who you work with.

I’ve read lots of incoherent and confusing sales pages—and even decent sales pages often don’t sell the blogger as well as they should. You should always get feedback on a sales page, to make sure that your offer is totally clear.

Your next steps

Pick one page or post on your blog, and find someone who can give you feedback on it. That might be a friend, a forum member, a coach … the important thing is that you get a second opinion. Ideally, it should be someone who understands your audience (even if they’re not part of that audience themselves).

And if you’re not sure who to ask, why not pop a comment below? You might just find a new blogging friend…

Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach, and author of The Blogger’s Guides series of ebooks. She has a weekly newsletter for writers and bloggers, and has just released a mini-ebook How to Find Time for Your Writing click here and sign up for her newsletter to get your free copy.

5 Crucial Questions to Ask Before Deciding to Blog in Another Language

This guest post is by Stephanie Hetu of StephanieHetu.com.

Most of us international bloggers learned pretty much everything we know in English, just because the community of bloggers is there, huge, active, and available. We don’t have to search very far to learn all sorts of little tips and tricks to make our blogs more appealing, to write better content, to interact better, etc.

listening

Copyright Vladimir Voronin - Fotolia.com

So we should all blog in English shouldn’t we? The market is huge! Nahhh it is often much easier to blog in our own native language because the words flow better, we know the local expressions, and we know what makes people laugh (or not!).

Personally, I discovered the Web in 1999, learned everything I could in English (and still do every day), started my online business in English, and left my day job in 2003. But then I decided to take a 180-degree turn and build an online presence in French, and it works very well.

The decision to do it was not an easy one, but I don’t regret it for a second! And today I help entrepreneurs make the same decision when it is to their advantage.

Starting, growing, and monetizing a blog in another language than English is not for everyone, so I have compiled a list of five questions you can ask yourself before you make the decision.

1. Do you speak the language?

I know, this sounds like a really dumb question, but it is important! Sometimes, bloggers want to start a blog in another language just because they think it will be easy to get lots of trafic (SEO is usually easier in other languages). But often it’s a bad idea!

Why? Because if you decide to start a blog in French when you don’t speak French, you will be faced with these problems:

  • Customer service: How will you manage the emails you receive from the blog asking you questions? They will be in a language you can’t read … not easy!
  • Comments management: How will you decide if a comment is a good one to publish on your blog or not if you can’t read and understand it?
  • Quality of content: Same problem here: how will you write good-quality posts if you don’t speak the language? I know some bloggers use an automatic translator, but that is not the way to go for long-term profit!

There is a workaround: to outsource everything. But what’s the point when you are just starting out? Especially if it’s your first blog, you want to learn all the ropes of building, promoting and monetizing it, so you don’t want to outsource work you don’t even know how to do in the first place!

2. Is there a market?

Even though starting a blog in another language is often a very good idea because there is less competition, it does not guarantee success! You still need to do some research to see if there is a market for the subject you want to talk about on your blog.

The nice thing is that some tools that work great for research in English also work in every single other language out there! For example, you can use the Google Keyword Tool External to research your niche and select a specific language and a specific country. This way you get an idea of the demand for your subject in your own local market.

3. Will you be able to monetize your blog?

Next, you need to look at monetizing options. This is important because being in a smaller market with no competition is great, but if there are no affiliate programs to help you monetize your blog, you’ll have to think of something else to make money!

First, look for affiliate program in your own language, because they are easy to use on a blog to make money. But do not despair if there are not many good quality affiliate programs—it does not mean you can’t monetize your blog!

If affiliate marketing is not an option, you can always turn to selling advertising space, adding Adsense to your blog, and (my favorite) selling your own products/infoproducts on the site.

4. Will you be able to find JV partners to grow your audience faster?

One way to build an audience faster for your blog is to create joint ventures with other bloggers by writing quality posts that will be published on other blogs in your niche as a guest author. To be able to do that, there must already be some influential blogs in your niche!

Even though it would not personally stop me from starting a blog in a specific niche, if there are no other blogs in the same niche or in the same market you can guest post to, it could take longer to build traffic and authority for your blog.

5. Are you in a niche where you can leverage the fact that you speak English?

If the answer is yes, than it could be a very lucrative idea to start a blog in another language!

Let me explain.

If you are blogging in a niche where there is a huge time gap in knowledge between the English-speaking market and your other language, you have a real advantage: you can learn everything in English before everyone else, and then look like a hero by teaching it in another language and be the first one to do it.

What will you choose?

Blogging in another language can be fun and lucrative, if you are in the right market or the right niche. If you have been blogging in English and you wish to take advantage of the fact that you speak another language to build blogs on the same subject, why not?

Just make sure you understand the situation and you could be on your way to adding new income streams to your online blogging business!

Stephanie Hetu has been blogging in French since 2003, helping small businesses grow their online presence using blogs, email lists, infoproducts and social networks through her own “Internet Success System”. You can reach her at http://www.StephanieHetu.com or follow her on Twitter (@stephaniehetu) and Facebook.

How to Create Emails with a 47.8% Open Rate and a 28.3% Click Rate

this guest post is by Moon Hussain of Experiments in Passive Income.

Contrary to popular belief, you need great copywriting skills to make a successful income online.  For over a year, I thought publishing good material would not only help me go viral but also hurl me and my blog towards Planet Success faster than Superman gets rid of Kryptonite every time it’s in his sight.

No.  Such.  Luck!

In fact, very recently, I sent an email to my small email list and conducted a split test using Aweber.  The idea came on a whim.

Since I was releasing my new free report, why not also alert the people on my email list of it, and get a few more downloads, re-tweets, and Facebook likes from them? After all, these so-called gurus keep yelping that the money is in the list.  I decided to give it a go.

Here are the only details you need to know:

  • I have a super-small email list.
  • The only difference between the split tests was the email subject line.
  • The main email message was exactly the same for both versions, word for word.

Check out how my message fared with both groups:

The full subject line for Group 1 reads, “You Won’t Find These Details Anywhere Else [Free Report].” The second subject line reads, “I Think This Could Help Your Rankings Tremendously [Free Report].”

What is really interesting to note is that while the percentage of opens is very close (47.8% versus 41.6%), it’s the percentage of the actual clicks within the email that’s really surprising: 28.3% vs. 5.1%.

The nerd within me is ecstatic and has learned a valuable lesson here.  What if I had not tested with two different subject lines? I would have received a small number of actual clicks and would have been quite bummed that I didn’t get a good response.

For some reason, even though both email messages are the same, the subject line alone triggered the first group to take action.

Could this make or break someone’s product launch? You bet. Pay attention, small bloggers.

Do the math, kid!

Suppose someone has 500 people on their email list.  Assuming their product is in demand and their copywriting skills are top notch, this person of course would love to sell as much of their product as possible—especially on launch day.

47.8% versus 41.6%?  Who cares?!

If this person didn’t test their subject lines, and even achieved the open rate as I managed, that would mean that out of 500 people, only 210 people would open their product-targeted email message (42% * 500 = 210).

Out of 210 people only 5% would click the link to the product page.  That results in 10.5 people, rounded down to ten.  How many of those people actually buy is a mystery … but we can agree that the more people click, the better.

But now let’s image the better case. In this version, 48% of 500 people open your product email, which amounts to 240 people.  Of those, 28% bother clicking the link to your product page, resulting in about 67 people checking out your slick product page.

What sounds better?  Ten people checking out your page or 67?

Yeah, I thought so! That’s almost seven times more people!

You can use this data to tweak your sales page as well, making a huge difference in sales numbers!

If you have a blog and a small email list, and want to transition to an income-generating blog, you need to pay attention and follow these four ultimate copywriting rules… you know, so you can buy the latest tech gadget that will light up your social life (like the commercials show!).

#1.  Create hounding curiosity with your email subject line

Consider both these headlines: “You Won’t Find These Details Anywhere Else [Free Report]” and “I Think This Could Help Your Rankings Tremendously [Free Report].”

The second subject line makes the reader think a little, bit but in the MMO niche, people are tired of the same old thing.  Perhaps this subject line alludes to something these people think they’ve already read about.

The first headline hints to exclusivity (details that can’t be found anywhere else), which gets people excited and curious.  Seems like they were more curious to find out these exclusive details through my report, which is indicated by the number of clicks the link within the email received.

Send a boring subject line to your email list and you’ve failed at the start line.

#2. Tell people what’s in it for them

Of course you want fame, fortune, and money, but you can’t come off as a money-grubbing fool who uses his or her email lists for pure profit.  You have to serve your readers first, or your actions will come back to haunt you.

These people are on your email list for a reason: they want to learn something from you. Here’s an excerpt from the email that I sent to the people on my list:

“I’ve been pretty busy the last few weeks, which is why you may have noticed that I’ve scaled back my posting frequency on my blog, EIP.  However, I’ve also taken that time to create a free mini-report for you that details how I’ve managed to rank several sites in the top 10 and top 20 of Google.

“I don’t like wasting anyone’s time, especially yours.  But, you’re reading this for a reason.  You are trying to rank your sites and need some powerful information. There are details here that I thought twice about sharing but I’m really glad I did.”

Not only do I indicate what my report is all about (ranking sites) but I also remind the readers that I’m only sharing this with them because they are on my list for this type of information.

It’s a win-win. The readers get a free report and I get the traffic I want.

#3. Direct people where you want them to go

Stop being shy! It got me nowhere, and it’ll do the same for you.  Here’s how I asked people to check out my report:

“Here is the direct link to my free mini-report: [link].”

To be honest, I could have done a better job here.  This is a soft pitch.  I could have directed them a bit more aggressively by rephrasing the call-to-action to “Download my free report…” or “Check out my free mini-report…”  Words like “download” and “check out” not only tell the reader what to do, but also give the reader a mental command to go ahead and take action.

#4. Build on the curiosity to the point where readers can’t resist

If you read the two paragraphs from my email, you’ll see three key sentences in there that really made people curious.

Phrase 1: “I’ve also taken that time to create a [free mini-report] for you that details how I’ve managed to rank several sites in the top 10 and top 20 of Google.”

My readers come to EIP to see how my niche sites are doing and how I rank them in Google.  I know that they are interested in this information because they are interested in doing the same thing! I created a highly relevant report for them and enticed them by sharing the fact that I’ve managed to rank my sites in the top ten and 20 in Google.

Phrase 2: “I don’t like wasting anyone’s time, especially yours.  But, you’re reading this for a reason.  You are trying to rank your sites and need some powerful information.”

I reminded readers why they’re on my email list. I reminded them of their own need to do well with their niche sites and blogs.  If I have something powerful to share (especially for free), they could use it to do well with their own sites and blogs.

Phrase 3: “There are details here that I thought twice about sharing, but I’m really glad I did.”

That’s not some slick phrasing for the sake of a few clicks—I’d think more than twice about using that phrase again.  When I was writing my report, it’s quite true that I did think twice about going very in-depth with the details.  At this point, the readers were really curious about what I had in store for them.

What’s so smart about split testing?

Not only is split testing necessary, but writing with a purpose goes hand in hand with testing.  If you are going to put hours and hours into growing your email list, and creating autoresponder emails and guest posts, you may as well work hard to demand the utmost attention from every reader who comes across your work!

None of that will happen in great numbers if you don’t improve your copywriting skills.

Copywriting skills are the difference between making $50 a month or $5000 month online.  In other words, your copywriting skills will either make you or break you.

Moon Hussain lives in sunny Southern California and loves exploring passive income ideas.  Check out her blog, Experiments In Passive Income, to read all about her niche site experiments or download her free ebook, To the Moon & Back, in which she details everything she has learned about ranking niche sites.

Tactical Tips for Building an Online Community

This guest post is by Jim Nelson of Tripawds.com.

With all the wonderful feedback on my guest post about how we utilize WordPress multisite and discussion forums to build community for our rather niche market, I thought I might offer some detail about specific tactics and network plugins we use to keep members informed, active and increasing in number.

Here are just a few social media nuts and bolts that keep the Tripawds Blogs community together. These methods work for us, as proven by growing membership and increased traffic to featured blogs and archived content.

My recommendations are by no means the only solutions for generating measurable success, though. Please do comment below with your own recommendations for encouraging social interaction on membership sites.


How to build community on membership sites

  • The freemium model: Make it free, with perks for paid members. Offer free blogs and use a Supporter plugin to enable enhanced features, or set membership levels for accessing premium content.
  • Create featured blogs: Post regularly to a set of sites targeting specific topics. Example: Tripawds followers will find weekly posts in separate blogs for Gear, Gifts, Nutrition, Downloads, and Amazon Reviews.
  • Install Recent Global Posts widgets: Display recent posts from all blogs across your network, and bump your featured blog posts to pin them throughout the day.
  • Update topics for featured blogs: Create specific forum topics for each of your sites and reply whenever your blog posts get kicked out of recent posts widgets. Encourage subscribing to topics for notification of new blog posts.
  • Include member and blog directories: Provide searchable directories of all users and blogs. Edit directory pages to include descriptions and avatars of featured blogs and site administrators.
  • Provide global site search: The WordPress admin bar only allows searching of the blog being viewed. Use a plugin that enables searching of all blogs and provide instructions for searching discussion forums and member or blog directories.
  • Create a blog ring: Show network-wide global content in the headers and footers of all blogs across your network. Include links to your forums and directories or featured blogs. Here’s how we did it.
  • Create a default New Blog template: Install a plugin that lets you activate a default theme for all new blogs complete with with settings, blogroll links, and text widgets, and use a Supporter plugin that lets you enable premium themes for paid subscribers.
  • Welcome all new bloggers: In addition to customizing the default first “Hello World” comment from your WordPress settings, reply to the first real post published on new blogs. Also create a forum discussion for welcoming new bloggers, and update the topic after first posts get published. Encourage members to subscribe to topic for notification of new blogs.
  • Thank paying members: If you offer paid premium accounts, create a forum topic for announcing all new Supporter blogs.
  • Encourage commenting on blogs: Create global RSS feeds for all blogs and comments to facilitate the following of member activities.
  • Display recent posts in the Dashboard: Use the Multisite Dashboard Feed Widget to show recent posts from all blogs in every user dashboard.
  • Create a custom menu: Use a theme that supports custom menus and link to featured blogs and specific forums to make network navigation easy.
  • Foster friendships: A Friends plugin can be used to help members connect and show their support of others with widgets on their blogs.
  • Provide technical support: Create a forum dedicated to answering tech support questions, and have a featured blog for posting announcements of new features and how to videos.
  • Use a discreet pop-up: Direct new visitors from external sites to valuable content or welcome them with encouragment to join using a Popover plugin.
  • Branch out: Offer podcasts of interviews with community members or discussions about pertinent topics with the tools available at BlogTalkRadio. Direct traffic to a dedicated forum or featured blog for all show archives and the upcoming program schedule.
  • Keep it fun: Start an “Anything Goes” forum for allowing members to rant and rave about whatever they wish. And consider creating a fun blog offering some sort of comic relief. Tripawds has the KillBarney blog which follows the travels of our dog Jerry’s favorite toy as it visits members and their dogs.
  • Teach members to help: Encouage members to engage in all aspects of the community by showing them how to post in forums or publish a blog. Provide information about RSS feeds and how to use a reader, tell them how to subscribe or watch forum topics, and provide them with links to popular posts that should be shared with all new members.

Most importantly, engage with your community. Maintaining a multisite network for any cause can be time consuming. The more passionate you are about your work the easier it will be. Lack of passion is easily identified by members—especially paying ones—and can result in quick burnout. I have certain boilerplate comments with links to our most frequently recommended content, but I rarely use them and always edit them when I do to avoid appearing disingenuous.

Epilogue

Examples for all of the above tactics in use can be seen at my blog. The BuddyPress plugin is also available for building community among WordPress multisite members, complete with groups, forums and activity streams.

For those like me who have never played around with BuddyPress, however, I hope the tips above help you make the most of your multisite network. The vast majority of plugins I use to accomplish everything I’ve discussed come from WPMU Dev. If others have suggestions for different plugins or arguments for using BuddyPress, please share them in the comments.

Jim Nelson is co-founder of the Tripawds Blogs community and an active member of the WPMU Dev discussion forums. He and his wife Rene were featured in “Nature, Why We love Cats and Dogs” on PBS with their three-legged dog Jerry.

Is Collaboration the Key to Blogging Success?

This guest post is by Onibalusi from YoungPrePro.com.

I was looking up to the skies a few days ago and what I saw made me see how organized even animals can be. I saw around 50 birds flying from one tree to another and by the time they returned, each had a stick in its mouth—they were working on building a house.

This taught me a very important lesson about blogging, and made me realize that every single thing around us can teach us to be a better blogger.

If those birds could work in groups just to be able to build their house, then what about us bloggers? Why can’t we effectively use the power of collaboration to build our blogs?

The truth is that the number of new bloggers trying to build a successful blog single-handedly nowadays is stunning. We know that there are over 152 million blogs in the blogosphere, but we just can’t figure out how many are successes—as far as we’re concerned, the majority of blogs online are failures.

How do we then stand out as bloggers? What can we do to boost our blogs’ success rates, and differentiate our blogs from the 152 million other blogs in the blogosphere? The truth is we’ve heard the answer to this puzzle a gazillion times, but we’ve really never considered it to be that important.

The key is collaboration.

The importance of collaboration

You’ve probably heard that you should collaborate to build a successful blog at least once, but why on earth should you even try that? After all, you can claim all the credit for building a great blog alone!

Build a successful blog with super-human power

That power could be speed, strength, or everything else that’s involved. If you take a look at the case of the 50 birds I was talking about, you’ll notice how easily these birds can build whatever house they want to build in a much shorter period of time than if the work was done only by one of them.

It might be difficult for you to kickstart your blog, but the strength, cooperation, and wisdom of 50 additional bloggers can’t be compared. I know it is almost impossible to get that many bloggers to support you, especially if you’re very new. But the truth is that you don’t need 50 bloggers to support you to build a successful blog—three bloggers working with you towards the success of your blog will make a whole lot of difference.

Increase your reputation overnight

A lot of people will have told you it takes a lifetime to build a reputation, but do you know you can build a great reputation in a matter of years with the right tactics?

By associating with the right groups of bloggers at the right time, you can easily build a successful blog without moving an inch. Sometimes, all you need is just the endorsement of a highly successful blogger in your niche. Even if you don’t get the endorsement of an A-list blogger, getting the endorsement of two or three bloggers who are at the same level as you will make a whole lot of difference.

Social proof

The funny thing about getting people to endorse you is that you don’t need hundred people to endorse you before you succeed. You only need one or two targeted people.

We human beings are made in such a way that we are easily influenced by things and people around us, and you can use this to your advantage. If you can get the support and endorsement of two to three other bloggers in your niche, you can easily use that as social proof to get more bloggers to endorse you, and that endorsement from those two bloggers might mean the difference between readers thinking you’re cool, or that you don’t know what you’re talking

Ways to collaborate with other bloggers to achieve success

When people hear about collaborating with other bloggers in their niche, the first thing they try to do is send an email to a few bloggers asking them to be friends or asking the blogger to set up a regular link exchange campaign with them. If that’s what you’re about to do, then you might as well forget it. Below are a few ways you can collaborate with other bloggers in your niche.

Be there for them

We bloggers are one of the smartest people (okay, I’m a blogger and I’m baised—but my point is we also have common sense), so we take notice when people do something for us.

If you tell me to link to you today, and you tell me to tweet your post tomorrow, and you tell me to review your product next week, but I haven’t seen you share my posts or do me any favor in the past two months, do you think I will do that for you? The next thing I will tell you is, “No thanks, that’s a great offer but I don’t think it will work with my audience”—even if it will. But when you’re “always” spreading the word about me and telling people how awesome I am, even if I have a million followers and you only have one, I will be happy to spread the word to my followers about you.

Appreciate their work

When was the last time you sent an email to a blogger thanking them for their blog post? Just try to do it once or twice and you will notice that you will be able to get the attention of that favorite blogger of yours.

We bloggers love it if people say good things about us. We love to be appreciated, and some of us even love to be flattered. Giving us what we want will only put you on our radars.

I’m not trying to say that you should email a blogger and start telling him or her that they’re your god—that will only raise an extra flag and put you on the “beware-of list” for that blogger. The best thing to do is to send a simple and polite email, perhaps highlighting interesting points in one of their articles so as to show the blogger that you really read their posts.

Even though there are media like Twitter and Facebook, I still think the best medium to use for this kind of contact is email. I know that Twitter might be the easiest way to get in touch with your favorite blogger, but that is also its weakness. A lot of people use it, but very few people use email to send heartfelt thank you messages to bloggers (or at least, few compared to Twitter). The end result is that it might take sometime for the blogger to get to your email, but since you don’t really need a reply, it’s okay. And it’s enough to get the blogger to notice you.

Beware of this!

Those birds were helping each other.

We must do the same as a blogger.

You won’t go far by trying to exploit your fellow bloggers for attention, or links, or anything else, so don’t even try to go that route. It might work in the beginning, but it will end up biting you.

The best way to succeed in your endeavors as a blogger is doing everything you’re doing genuinely. When you focus your efforts not only on contributing value to your readers, but also to your fellow bloggers, you will end up getting great results for it.

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

Dancing Naked Down the Street

This guest post is by Carol White Llewellyn of Family, by Choice.

On July 7, Going Gonzo, or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Blog, by Enzo F. Cesario, struck a chord with me.

dancing naked down the street

Copyright Sergey Peterman - Fotolia.com

His post reminded me of a creative writing course I took with the indomitable Dr. Abraham Rothberg, who passed away earlier this year. Dr. Rothberg was a wise man who advised, “when you write well, you’ll know it. You’ll feel more naked than if you walked nude down Fifth Avenue in New York City.” The Bronx native went on to assert that few New Yorkers would even notice. I’d add that writing well is really more like dancing naked down the street. When you do that, people do notice.

Cesario speaks about the importance of writing honestly … writing uncensored … writing naked. I admit that I have a hard time doing this. It’s only in rare and unguarded moments that my writing dances naked. But I always feel it when it happens.

Sometimes writing naked means voicing criticism. For those of us indoctrinated with the adage “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” criticism may never become integral to our writing. I like to think that’s okay. I can’t help but feel that if one writer doesn’t feel comfortable in critique mode, there’s probably all too many who relish it.

Sometimes it means sharing personal information and feelings. Like mine, your family mantra may scream, “It’s nobody else’s business what happens in our family.” To write “the truest sentence you know,” as Ernest Hemingway always advised, you have to overcome this.

Often, it means breaching your own privacy. I had my online identity stolen a year ago by hacks trying to scam funds from friends and followers, so I fear opening myself to more of the same. Jump the fear.

As for editing, sorry Enzo, I disagree. Less is more. It polishes the diamond. There was one adoption post on my blog, Family, by Choice that I rewrote three times before I felt okay to share it.

There are some topics, and some posts, that lend themselves more to openness. It’s the very rare writer whose words are an open door to their soul. At best, most good writers have to be satisfied with a swinging door.

Be prepared for the sting. You can’t dance naked without running into some hornets. The very first post I wrote on adoption was slammed by an anti-adoption advocate. She’d been adopted by an abusive family and she was vehemently opposed to the institution. After I got over the shock, I was delighted that she’d taken the time to write. I invited her to offer a counter-view. She didn’t. At least I knew the post hadn’t been met with apathy.

All you can do, day after day, week after week, is put yourself out there, warts and all. And on occasion, when the weather’s right and there’s a song in your esprit, your words will dance naked down the street. You’ll be surprised how many will notice.

Does your writing dance naked down the street?

Carol White Llewellyn writes the blog Family, by Choice for which she also produces a cable and online TV program, and The Finger Lakes Travel Maven (travelmaven.wordpress.com), which incorporates occasional video and for which she has begun producing cable TV specials.

What Do Fishing and Blogging Have in Common?

This guest post is by by Kevin Cullis of MacStartup.com.

“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” —Benjamin Franklin

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime; sell him fishing supplies and a fishing guide and you’ve got a business.

Most of us start a blog with not much thought other than just to begin writing. But at some point you say: “I’m putting in all of this time into my blog, how do I make money from it?”

There are two parts to any business, including blogging: there’s the craft of your business (graphic art, doctor, lawyer, blogging), then there’s the business of your craft (making a profit from your craft).

Starting a blog first requires answering three main questions:

  1. Why are you writing a blog, what is your purpose for writing?
  2. How will you get it done, what specific actions will get you the results you want?
  3. What will be your expected results of writing your blog?

So what do blogging and fishing have in common? Let’s take a quick look at points 1 and 3, and a longer look at 2.

Question 1: Why?

Ask anybody if they’ve been fishing, and most people will say “yes.” However, when asked, “what are the steps to take to go fishing?” most people are stumped.

Blogging is no different. While you can start a blog and begin writing posts, it’s much like casting your fishing line in the nearest puddle, pond, or stream with no fishing lure, bait on your hook—or even a hook. You need a good reason to be out there.

Question 3: What?

If you’re fishing for fun or the love of fishing, that’s one thing: grab some fishing equipment and hang the “gone fishing” sign up. If you’re fishing because you’re hungry, this takes on a whole new perspective and you’ll hopefully put in some serious thought, or search for answers to help get food onto your kitchen table.

Getting results happens in two ways:

  1. taking action and learning from your mistakes and finding out what is the better way to get results, or
  2. learn from others and their mistakes, thus cutting down the time it takes to get the results you want.

Question 2: How?

Learning the how means having the right answers, and implementing them in the right sequence, to increase your chances of catching your fish (writing your blog). Even then, there are no guarantees. So here are those steps to a more successful blog (and catching fish):

  • Step 1: Who is your ideal customer/blog reader? Describe who your ideal customers are, and in some detail. You have to know the “fish” that you are fishing for, whether that ideal fish is salmon, tuna, or rainbow trout. If money is no object, you can pay the money to travel to Alaska and begin fishing for salmon. However, most of us don’t have that kind of budget, so we grab a fishing pole and head to the nearest fishing hole to cast a line out. Blogging is no different in that you need to know who your audience is and have a small enough niche to become the expert that everyone goes to.
  • Step 2: What problem does your solution/blog solve? What is your audience looking for? What is their ideal solution? In other words, what are your “fish” hungry for? What a salmon eats depends on age, species, and location, and fishing is about finding the right four or five baits or lures that work to increase your chances of catching salmon. Blogging means providing answers your audience is looking for. You can write blogs and guest blogs all day long with no focus, but you’ll go business- or results-hungry if you don’t watch the results of your blog and make the necessary changes. Sometimes blogging, much like fishing, requires trial and error to become successful. I blogged about how to create initial and drop caps in iWork Pages for my book because I worked out the solution, and within weeks it became one of my top viewed posts. If you don’t cast the line, you’ll never get a “bite.” Keep testing and changing to get results you want.
  • Step 3: Where are your customers/readers? Where do they visit, hang out, and connect with other readers of their tribe of offline and/or online connections? You have to know where are the ideal locations or “awesome fishing spots” for your customers/readers. Try fishing for salmon in the backwoods of Kentucky and you’ll go hungry. Write a guest post about Typepad for a WordPress web site and you’ll be rejected because it may not connect with their readers. So, fish where your ideal fish are.
  • Step 4: Why would your customer choose your product/blog over a similar one? What makes your product different, better, or makes it stand out? Choose the best “bait” at your local fishing store or what’s in your tackle box that works for salmon. Your blog “bait” is having an ideal message for ideal reader’s problem. What are the differentiating benefits of your blog from others? What’s your hook?
  • Step 5: How do your customers make buying decisions about your product? What makes them tick about how they choose your product? You have to have the ideal technique to lure your “fish.” Just plopping the hook into the water may not attract a fish. It takes a different technique to “hook” each type of fish. Blogging is no different in that your audience is different from those that read books or magazines. Google Analytics gives you the advantage to change your content overnight to meet your audience’s “starving” needs.
  • Step 6: When is the best time to promote your product to your customer? How often do you have to talk to your customer to get them to consider and then buy your product? You have to know the ideal time to “cast” your line to “hook” your fish. Fish have specific times they feed, which is no different to marketing during holidays, birthdays, or special events like weddings. In this case, as with most any audience or customer, you need to cast your line when they are ready to buy, not when you’re ready to sell. The great thing about blogs is the internet guest blog “chum” you can spread around the internet “waters.” Then upload a relevant post (casting your line and lure) and watch the “chum” guest post lead traffic to your blog site.

These six W’s—really five W’s and one H—are the basis for creating a successful blog. While it is easy to “spray and pray” your blog’s content with the hope of being successful, it’s better to watch your post results to see where your “hungry” blog reader’s are taking you. If you get a blog post comment nibble, “Hook ‘em, Dano!”

Kevin Cullis is a former US Air Force officer and considers himself an Entrepreneur, Mac Evangelist, Business Geek, Husband, published author of a Mac business book, readaholic, analytical, balding. He is the founder of MacStartup.com.

How to Silence Readers From Commenting on Your Blog

This guest post is by Ramcel Gatchalian of Meek Watcher.

You wake up one day and check your mobile phone for any new email notifications. There are none. Surprised, you quickly turn your laptop on and glanced at your latest blog post comment status. You can’t believe it. No comments whatsoever. Zero as in zip, zilch, nil, nothing.

silenced

Copyright Artsem Martysiuk - Fotolia.com

You open your Google Analytics to check your blog’s stats. And you feel a bit relieved to learn that you do have a number of pageviews. At least somebody saw your recent post. But how come your visitors left without leaving any comment on your blog? Not a single one!

Your blog is turning into a “ghost town” as far as I can tell. People just pass by, leaving no trace. The worst part is you have been blogging for several months now and it has been the same ever since.

“So, what seems to be wrong?” you ask yourself. Well, you may have honed the skill of silencing your readers. And just how did you refine this flair? Let’s count the ways.

1. You don the cloak of invisibility

You may have published a number of articles and achieved traffic of some kind, but unless you relentlessly promote your blog you will simply be a little spark in the blogosphere. No matter how great your content is.

2. You don’t extend any invitations

It may sound silly, but people usually won’t do something if you don’t ask them to. In fact, even if you turn out the best article you can craft, if it hasn’t been written to actually inspire interaction, people will have no reason to comment. So why don’t you invite them to comment on your blog, literally?

3. You don’t tickle their fancies

Readers love to think—especially if they find your article interesting, relevant, and engaging. It encourages them to wear their thinking hats and add their thoughts on the subject matter. If you don’t entice conversation and close your topic with a few questions, then why are you expecting answers?

4. You are such a party-stopper

Why, oh why do you force your readers to register or log in to your blog? Do you think they find it fun to type valuable insights in that comment box of yours, only to hit a message that says they’re not signed in and they need to register? You wasted their precious time—something that cannot be brought back.

5. You just give them a reason to leave

Readers came, but felt lonely since nobody was commenting. Why should they be the first? It isn’t fun to go to a party with no people at it. And you are not a DoFollow.

Something to muse about

Now that you came to realize these “talents” of yours, are you ready to go to the next level? I hope not. Let’s go for an open session: how can you counter these pitfalls? If you are a budding blogger, what advice you can give to bloggers who are in this situation?

Luck is only important in so far as getting the chance to sell yourself at the right moment. After that, you’ve got to have talent and know how to use it. —Frank Sinatra

Ramcel Gatchalian is a blogger who writes about Blogging and a food critique on his Food Blog. Checkout his blogs where he shares his finds about blogging and how he can tease your food craving.

Understanding Blogging Arbitrage

This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of WordPress Mods.

As I used to run a few poker discussion forums and information websites, a large part of my income over the last several years has come from poker referral commissions. Commissions have dropped every month over the last few years, which is not a big shock since I sold my last gambling related site about five years ago. What was a big shock was the recent poker ban in the USA, resulting in thousands of dollars being taken away from me every month.

Strangely, this has not necessarily been a bad thing for me—quite the opposite. Having a constant stream of income every month for several years was great, though it did make me lazy in many respects. With these commissions gone from my monthly income, I have found myself really focused to get things done and get things done sooner.

The first thing on my agenda was to reduce outgoing costs. Sadly that meant letting two regular writers of my blog go (for the time being) until I can reassess where income can be improved. I enjoy writing so I don’t mind taking on extra writing responsibilities for my blog, though it did make me analyze my own duties more.

What is your time worth?

One of the biggest questions I had to ask myself when my income dropped was, “How much is my time worth?” If you make money from a number of different areas online (e.g. affiliate commissions, blogging, flipping websites and domains, etc.), this isn’t an easy thing to answer, particularly if your schedule changes from day to day.

If you are a blog owner and spend a lot of time writing articles for your own blog, there is a more suitable question to ask: “How much is my time worth as a blogger?” This is something I asked myself when thinking about the long-term posting strategy for my blog. Is some of my time better spent writing for other blogs and websites?

Consider a blog owner who writes one 1,000 word article for his blog every single day but unfortunately has no money to spend on writers. If he were able to find a good writer it would be in his interests to hire him if he was able to secure a writing job for himself at a much higher rate.

For example, if the blog owner got a blogging job that paid him $50 for every 1,000 word article, they would have the funds to hire a blogger at $25 per 1,000 word article. The blog owner would of course expect that the articles were of an equal or higher quality of his own. The outcome being another article being published on his blog plus $25 in profit from his own writing position.

In economics this is known as Arbitrage. Arbitrage is the concept of taking advantage of the difference in price between two markets. If someone can exploit this, their profit will be the difference in prices. Those who have dabbled in PPC marketing will be aware of this concept, as it’s used by many affiliate marketers to make money through Adsense. (In short, they bid low for certain keywords on PPC services and hope to make a profit when the user clicks on an Adsense advertisement which pays out more.)

Therefore, blogging arbitrage could be described as:

The difference in price between the rate you personally charge as a blogger and the rate you can pay to other bloggers to take over your writing responsibilities.

There are some things to bear in mind when applying this strategy:

  • You need to take a note of the time you are spending writing articles for others. Getting paid twice the rate you pay out is irrelevant if the articles are taking you three times as long to write.
  • A little time needs to be set aside when hiring writers for your blog, as it can be time consuming emailing them with advice and guidance, proof reading their posts, and then arranging payment.

Taking advantage of blogging arbitrage

I don’t believe that any blogger should spend more time blogging for others than on their own site. It’s important to have an input into your own blog and not let additional work slow your blog’s progress.

There are benefits of using blogging arbitrage, though. Not only is it an extra way of making money, it also helps promote your own blog. Most blogs have an author bio at the bottom of each article where some information about the author and a link to their website can be found. Therefore, writing for other blogs will bring you some extra money and traffic back to your blog.

The additional income is something that is vital for bloggers who are starting out and are looking for ways to increase their profits, so the benefits of using blogging arbitrage will decrease as your blog becomes more successful.

Nevertheless, I think that it is an important principle to understand. Have you ever used blogging arbitrage? Does it sound like a tactic that could help you make your blog more profitable?

Kevin Muldoon is a webmaster and blogger who lives in Central Scotland. His current project is WordPress Mods; a blog which focuses on WordPress Themes, Plugins, Tutorials, News and Modifications.