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Finding the Rhythm of Blogging

This guest post is by Stephanie Krishnan of guide2office.com.

I play the African drum: an instrument called the djembe. I’ve been playing it since 2005. Until last year I used to play it as often as four times a week with a local group. My husband requested that I reduce the frequency of my playing (as it took a lot of time away from our time together: he travels a lot for his work). Initially I resisted, however, now I play very infrequently—probably only once every three months when he’s out of town.

rhythm

Image is author's own

One of the things that made it easier to reduce the frequency of my drumming was fear. It wasn’t that I couldn’t play. Our teacher had a series of 20 rhythms of varying complexity and I did fairly well in mastering those. I could play them practically on demand (and still can). I even liked playing them in front of others at performances. The problem was that when it came to improvising and soloing, which was expected of everyone who had played for a couple of years, I believed I was terrible.

I tried various methods for overcoming this.

I would put together a “planned solo”—a rhythm that I could play when it was my turn to go alone. When it came to crunch time I would get nervous and forget it.

I tried to play the rhythm over and over again—on my car stereo, on my iPod, at home—and just play what felt natural to see if anything fit. Nothing seemed to fit together, or if it did, I couldn’t repeat it. Again, when it came time to perform I would go a brilliant shade of red, drum out a few beats and pass it on to the next soloist, convinced I’d just embarrassed myself royally in front of an audience and in front of other players whose opinion I cared about.

Now, I’m not an A-list blogger. I’m not even a P-list blogger (does the list go that low?). I have a passion for Office productivity software (eg. OpenOffice.org, LibreOffice, etc.). I love what it can do and I love the idea of open-source. I love the idea of developing something and giving back to the community. So open-source-office-productivity-software just plain floats my boat. I have also found that others don’t like Office productivity software. They see it more as a necessary evil. They use it because they have a task to do and want to know the best way to achieve that task without the software hanging or producing undesirable results.

I try to fill this gap.

So you would think that I had identified a problem and a solution to my problem?

Possibly—there is no guarantee. The problem I have is not with this. The problem I have is that now I have my “product”, I’m scared and I’m over-thinking everything. I’m back to the same problem I have with my djembe-playing.

Lessons from the djembe

My djembe teacher used to say that there are a few things that you need to do in order to solo well.

  1. Don’t think too much. If you think about what you are going to do too much, you’ll be slow, and you’ll miss the beat. Then your performance will sound as bad as you are afraid it will sound, and you will think even harder. It’s a never-ending cycle.
  2. Let yourself go. You have the knowledge and the skill. Now just let your body do what it feels is right. If it’s wrong, it will find its rhythm again and you will have an opportunity in the next beat to make it right.
  3. Find your voice. Think about what you want to say with your instrument and say it. Joy? Sadness? Love? Express it with your instrument!
  4. Practice. Often. Keep at it. Don’t give up. It will come and it will steadily get better.

I have intellectually known that I have not been applying this to my blogging. I have been letting fears that I am not expert enough, and that I don’t have enough information/expertise/whatever to put out the ebook that’s been sitting in the back of my mind.

I read blogs. I do research. I read on twitter. I read, read, read.

But I forget to write.

I see my figures on Google Analytics—the meagre 100 visitors that I used to get every month are dwindling – 80, 70 and now 60.

It’s time I learned to solo.

From drumming to blogging

Now I will put my djembe master’s guide into practice.

  1. Don’t think too much. I will commit to sitting down and writing Not reading, not researching. Just doing. A minimum of three times per week. Nike’s will be my mantra—”just do it.”
  2. Let myself go. I will start my ebook: first as a series of blog posts that will build into the full book. I can correct the mistakes based on feedback and I can put together solutions that people will be able to follow.
  3. Find my voice. I know what I want to say. I’ve just been afraid of what people will say. But you know what? There will be mistakes. There will be better ways to do things. And I can learn and grow and adapt as my readers do, and my voice can be one that shares this growth with others.
  4. Practice. And this means write. And keep on writing. And don’t stop. It will get better.

I can do this. I know I can. And then maybe I’ll get back to soloing on the djembe as well.

Have you found your blogging rhythm? Tell us how in the comments.

Stephanie Krishnan is passionate about Open Source and all Office Productivity Software, and her site at http://www.guide2office.com provides solutions, templates and tutorials on getting you the results you want from your Office software. You can follow Guide2Office on Facebook or Twitter.

Guest Posting and The Panda Update: Is Guest Posting the Problem?

This guest post is by Philip Rudy of www.inetzeal.com.

The recent Panda update has affected many websites, and not only the “content mills” of the Internet. Many bloggers are scrambling and wondering what they can do get their rankings back to where they were.

Side note: If you feel you have been wrongly effected by the recent update, let Google know about it here.

Many bloggers have even gone as far as to delete each and every one of their guest posts until their rankings bounce back, thinking that the guest posts they have allowed on their sites are what is affecting their rank.

However, guest posting is not a problem if it’s done right. If accepting guest posts is what’s keeping your web site at the bottom of the SERPs, then it’s time to start taking a better look at the guest posts your web site is accepting.

Let’s take a close look at the similarities between your sub-par guest post and the type of pages that were affected by the Panda Update:

Original content makes up a low % of content, either at the page level or throughout a whole site

Unfortunately, many guest post topics are rehashed over and over on the Internet. Is it always the guest poster’s fault? No, but when people are trying to build links rather than provide value through their writing, then topics become rehashed over and over again. If you have many guest posts like this then your web site starts to look like a duplicate content monster—and sometimes you wouldn’t even know it.

Solution: Research proposed guest posting topics and see what’s already out there. Let guest bloggers know that if they want to write on topic, then it has to be something completely different from what comes up in the SERPs.

Ads that don’t coincide with the content

Many times when you accept guest posts they may be a little off topic from what you are usually writing about. When you accept many off-topic guest posts, your site begins to look like a content mill—more like an article directory than a blog.

If you have advertisement on your site that’s the same on each page, you begin to have totally irrelevant ads on many of your pages. This is a sign of a poor-quality website—and one that is now measurable in Google’s algorithm.

Solution: Make sure when you are accepting guest posts that the topic is at least somewhat related to the ads that you run on your website. If you run a blog that covers a few or many different topics then make sure you place the appropriate ads to place on the pages that are guest posts.

High bounce rate and low time spent on the page

Low-quality guest posts ensure that the visitor will leave the site as soon as they land on it. Since many guest posts do not have the in-depth analysis on the topics that the visitor is searching for, and are usually just cover a broad generalization of the topic, a visitor will automatically assume that the rest of your website will be just as low quality.

Solution: At first glance the solution to this problem might be to require lengthier articles—but that of course is not a solution. It may in fact just add to the problem. There is no magic word count that will keep your visitors on your site longer—only good content can do that. A good solution to the problem is to require some type of study case or detailed analysis with each article—something to capture the readers’ eyes and keep them there.

Guest posting is not the problem

Guest posting should not be a link-building exercise first and foremost. It is a valuable tool, but one that can definitely be taken advantage of, and doing so will definitely leave your site susceptible to algorithm updates like Panda and others that will be similar in the future.

If you think submitted guest posts will increase the value of your blog, accept them. If they’re just filler, then you are probably better off without the unneeded content.

This article was written by Philip Rudy. Philip helps to run www.inetzeal.com, which is an Internet marketing company that provides a white label link building service.

Why Your Next Post Should Be a Short One

This guest post is by Martyn of Two Hour Blogger.

  1. It does not take long to write.
  2. It does not take long to read.
  3. It forces you to write efficiently.
  4. It increases the number of comments.
  5. It makes you stand out.
  6. It gets spread a lot.
  7. It builds your audience.

Get more from Martyn at Two Hour Blogger.

From $0 to $1000 on a Blogspot Blog

This guest post is by Sid of GeeksMakeMoney.

It has been a year now since an eventful day when I was browsing the Internet and clicked on an advertisement that seemed an obvious scam: Get 90% off a new iPad. “Yeah, right,” I thought. But I wanted to check it out anyway since I seemed to recall seeing the same ad previously, and I wondered if it was a new type of scam I should be aware of. As it turned out, it wasn’t a scam, just misleading advertising … and thus began my blog on penny auctions, which are a class of entertainment auctions.

I found the idea exciting enough to blog about. I was just getting interested in multi-player game theory and thought that auctions are a nice field to study. The problem was, I had no experience of problogging at all. Like so many others, all I previously had was a blog for my random musings but nothing serious. I had a very elementary knowledge of SEO which I gained working as a freelance writer. I knew nothing about how to rank well in Google or how to use backlinks effectively. As a writer, the only promotional tool I did know about was article marketing.

I started this blog in May 2010, and it’s been growing for one year now. Looking back, I have learned so much and there is still so much to learn. Here is my journey in a nutshell.

Blogspot is okay!

The thing that surprises people the most about my blog is that it is a Blogspot (or Blogger.com) blog. Yes, it is against the holy grail of problogging, but there is a very simple explanation—I didn’t know better! If I had waited to gain all the technical knowledge needed to have my own hosting, I know I would never have started, which would have been an even bigger mistake.

If I had a chance to create this blog all over again, I would of course choose WordPress and have my own hosting. That being said, I was just following the very fundamentals of blogging: sharing with others what I knew and what I thought. These details didn’t matter to me then.

Using Blogger is really convenient for me as I can spend almost all of my time writing posts instead of anything else. Since my primary purpose was just to share my thoughts rather than making money from the blog, Blogger was a natural choice. However, even now, it seems it isn’t as bad as it is made out to be!

The jump from blogging to problogging

No, I didn’t start the blog with the intention of making money from it. Truth be told, I didn’t even know how to at that time. I just started the blog because I felt intrigued by the niche I was blogging about and had a thing or two to share. I wouldn’t say I was passionate about the niche like a dog-lover is about his dog-related blog. However, I was certainly interested and curious and it was always a good learning experience.

The shift from blogging to pro-blogging for me was very gradual. As I saw more and more people visit my blog, I thought it would be a good idea to start monetizing the blog. As is common with beginners, I really had an information overload and didn’t really know where to start. The simplest was Google Adsense and I started off with it. Even now, I get about $100/month from one ad unit of Google Adsense on my blog although I have moved to better ways of monetization.

If you have a blog, you don’t need to monetize it immediately. You don’t even need to get started with that intention. It is true that it is all about the traffic. Once you build an authority in this area, there are a hundred ways to make money. The first step is not about making pennies and then dollars but about building an authority and brand that people look up to and trust.

Blogging in a new niche: advantages and disadvantages

When I started a year ago, there were very few blogs on penny auctions, if at all. There was just one famous forum on this topic and no well known blogs. This has plenty of advantages and disadvantages and it was a very different learning experience than blogging in Internet marketing, affiliate marketing, or other more common areas.

The biggest advantage that I can think of is the ease of ranking. When I started, I wrote a couple of general posts and then a strategy which would help people improve their winning chances on an auction. I didn’t have any backlinks to this post at all. It so happened that it was indexed and ranked within the first page of Google then (it would never happen today!) and I could see a small but steady stream of traffic. For me, without this initial encouragement, I would never have taken to problogging.

The biggest disadvantage was there was no community of bloggers. I couldn’t comment on related blogs, which is central to most other blogging success stories. Even today, I hardly know of five bloggers in my niche. Another disadvantage is that there is no precedent so you need to do your own research and take leaps of faith quite often. You do things that you think are right, which may be absurd for this particular industry. For example, when I first started banner advertising on my blog, I had no clue how to go about it or how to price them. I only learned through a series of failures, which looking back seem like obvious mistakes.

The importance of knowing how your niche is unique

I think it is very important to realize how your niche is unique and different from other niches. This is particularly so when you are blogging in a new area because there is ample scope to do things differently and be creative. Finally, it is all about creating value to readers and advertisers.

I figured out relatively early that there are plenty of new businesses opening up and they don’t have adequate ways to advertise except with Google Adwords. I gave them a very good alternative: advertise on my blog! I have had excellent advertiser feedback for the amount and quality of traffic my blog sends to their site, which is also why I charge more than what a blog in another niche would for the same amount of traffic. I also realized that featured blog posts, especially promotional ones with coupon codes are good both for my readers and my advertisers, so that was another area I was making money off.

It is very important to know what the readers of your niche are looking for and what the advertisers are looking for. By matching their two needs, you can create a good harmony and make good money off it in a sustainable fashion.

Knowing what to promote

Reading online about affiliate marketing, I wanted to enter the niche as well. Problem was, I didn’t have many products that I could promote. I found an ebook about winning penny auctions on ClickBank that I wanted to give a try, but I never liked the idea from the beginning—I thought my blog had superior information!

With time, I found some sites that gave me a percentage of sales that I make—CPA advertising. If my visitors registered at the site and bought a product, I would be rewarded. With experience, I figured out this would be the best way for me to make money from my blog and I was right. Today, more than half of my income comes from affiliate marketing but not from promoting a product but from promoting a website. Of course I need to be extremely careful that the site I promote is indeed good for my readers.

Earnings overview

In the end, I want to share with you my breakdown of earnings. As of now, I have three primary sources of money on my blog:

  1. Google Adsense: One ad unit near the header. For May, I made about $100 from this.
  2. Direct advertising: I contact advertisers directly and tell them how they can get value from my blog. I usually combine banners with featured blog posts (mostly coupon codes). For May, I made about $350 from this.
  3. Affiliate marketing: Out of a bunch of sites, I chose the one that I found the best fit for my readers. For the money of May, I made about $750 through this route.

Did you start blogging in a new niche? Do you run a Blogger blog as well? I would love to hear comments from you!

Sid is a freelance writer and blogger. He is one of the top Penny Auction Blogger and an expert in this niche. He is sharing his tips to Make Money Online and is the blogger at Geeks Make Money. He is always happy to connect to his readers through blog comments and ready to help those are beginning their journey online.

The Intimidating Secret Every Blogger Shares

This guest post is by Jamie Harrop of BloggingZest.

Like you, blogging often scares me and repeatedly takes me to a point of stale conversation and blocked fingertips. Tonight, I want to share my story with you; the story of how I admitted and overcame a fear so strong it stopped me blogging for six months…

I sit here tonight with the ever dimming light of day flowing over my garden behind me, and for company the slight bronze glow of my desk lamp and the 30 minute chime of the cuckoo clock on my office wall. It’s approximately ten years since I started blogging at this very desk. And tonight, I realized something that has taken me those ten amazing, fun, and delightful years to discover.

I deeply fear your rejection

My readers, I fear your rejection. I fear my ideas aren’t worthy of your eyes or your opinion. I fear others have written before me what I wish to write. I fear you already know the lessons I wish to teach. I fear the conversation my articles provoke, should they by some miracle provoke any at all, will be stagnant, old, and lacking in passion. I fear my voice is just one in a million million; a vast ocean of attentive writers; a vast mass of brilliance.

I fear rejection, and that is why I’ve been inconsistent in my writing. I’ve lacked a clear voice. Sometimes I’m sensitive. Other times I’m blunt. Occasionally I’m controversial. I’ve also lacked a clear schedule, often taking breaks from blogging of months at a time.

“I don’t have the ideas.” I said. “I don’t like where the industry is going.” I griped.

But tonight I realized I was wrong. I did and do have the ideas. I did and do like where the industry is going. And I did blog and I do blog and that is what my fingers were made for.

Tonight, I realized I wasn’t bored. I wasn’t lacking inspiration. I was scared. I was scared of rejection.

I’ve spent the past ten years writing online. I started with a static Web site, updating the HTML code with new text each time I posted something new. Then I created my own blogging software. Then I moved to WordPress, and in amongst all that I tried Blogger, WordPress Hosted, Journal, and TypePad.

Throughout those ten years, I wrote several times about the fear of rejection and the role it plays in blogging. I’ve read about it even more. It’s something I knew others experienced, but never thought I would. Surely, after ten years, I wouldn’t worry what I was writing wasn’t relevant? But I did, and that’s why I stopped blogging.

Throughout the past six months I had hundreds of blog post ideas, but they were all thrown in the trash for one reason; I didn’t think they were good enough for my audience, for my reputation, for the person that I and others had come to expect.

“Hands down some of the best blogging tips I’ve read this year”

Over the past ten years I’ve been told my advice is the best blogging advice to have ever been read. I’ve been told I’ve motivated people to start blogging or to reinvigorate their blog with new life. I’ve even had one of my blog posts taken by a parent and read to her children who were so captivated by it she took the time to tell me. It’s no wonder I’ve set my standards high, and it’s no wonder I began to fear rejection.

I’ve wrote hundreds of posts over the past ten years, and not a single one has been rejected. The occasional abusive comment or fiery debate? Sure. But nothing that has ever been rejected. So it came as a complete shock when, this evening, I finally realised that a fear of rejection has stopped me from doing what I love.

Admitting to myself, and dealing with the issue

It came as a complete shock, but that feeling lasted just a few short seconds. As soon as I realized what had been holding my creative self back for so long I felt able to deal with it. I felt a huge paper weight removed from my fingers. I can deal with it now that I’ve admitted it. I’m not lacking ideas. The industry isn’t falling flat on its face. Those were excuses, an attempt to blame somebody or something else other than my own trepidation.

If we wish to continue building our reputation as bloggers, we need to listen more to the very advice we give to others. So stop being scared of publishing that latest blog post. Stop thinking it isn’t up to scratch. Stop worrying it won’t get any comments, and stop throwing your ideas in the trash. The fact is it’s your job as a blogger to make any topic interesting, to bring your voice to even the most stagnant of tables, and to spark the invigorating conversation that blogs were made for. Go on, you can do it. It’s what you do.

This evening as I sit here with the final rays of sun shimmering behind me, the light warmth of the desk lamp on my face, and the occasional “Cuckoo” ringing out above me, I’ve let my fingers do the talking. My fingertips softly tap the keyboard as I let my thoughts flow, as I share my lessons, my wisdom or lack of it at times, my insecurities, and my story. This is what blogging is about. It’s about sharing with the world your vocal delicacies. And that’s why I love it and I could never stay away.

We all face rejection, but we only fall so we can learn to stand. I’m planting the flag of pride in this post, standing tall and asking you to share. Leave a comment, and let me know I’m on the right track.

Jamie Harrop has been blogging for nine years, tweeting for three years and now writes at BloggingZest. Today, with posts such as, How to Stand out in a Blogging Crowd he writes about blogging, online relationships, social media and SEO.>

Are Your Personal Stories Turning Readers Off?

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

You’ve probably heard that you should put some of your personality into your blogging. And you know that stories are a great way to engage readers—to capture not just their attention, but their hearts as well.

Perhaps some of your favorite bloggers are people like Naomi Dunford or Johnny B. Truant or Pace and Kyeli Smith—folks who write from the heart, who are open and honest, and who make you feel that you know them. You want your blog to be like that too.

The problem is, it’s easy to get personal stories wrong. And a blog that’s too “me me me” can be a total turn-off for readers. They might not even read a full post before getting bored and clicking away.

Copyright Anatoly Tiplyashin - Fotolia.com

Readers are put off by…

1. Stories that have no point

If you can’t think of what to post about, don’t just ramble about your life story or write about your day. Just as with any blog post—or any piece of writing—readers will expect some structure and a clear message from your post.

2. Badly-written stories

Of course, you don’t have to be the next Shakespeare in order to be a successful blogger—but you do need to be able to write. If your writing itself isn’t very good, then readers aren’t likely to stick around. Conversely, a brilliantly-written piece can be incredibly engaging, even if the subject matter doesn’t seem very promising.

3. Stories that leave no room for the reader

So often, bloggers write personal stories that seem to be nothing but a self-indulgent exercise. These stories might be of interest to the blogger’s own friends and family—but there’s no reason for anyone else to care. The reader feels ignored and sidelined: the story is “me me me” with no acknowledgement of the reader.

The biggest problem with your stories is that:

No-one cares about you … yet

When a new reader comes to your blog, they probably know very little about you. They might have clicked on a retweeted link, they might have found you via a search engine—chances are, they don’t even know your name.

Of course, personal stories are a great way to help readers start to care—but not if you hit them with too much, too fast. Your reader doesn’t just want to know about you: they want to feel a sense of connection. They want to know that you’re someone who they can like, or admire, or learn from.

How to use stories the right way

If you suspect that your own stories might be putting readers off rather than drawing them in, here’s how to turn things around.

1. Start with a mini-anecdote

A short anecdote can be a great way to grab attention at the beginning of a post—so long as you don’t drag it on for too long. You’ll ideally either want something so unusual that it grabs the reader’s interest, or so typical (for your audience) that the reader can feel “that’s me”.

(You might want to return to the story at the end of the post too.)

How to do it

Here’s an example:

“I wake up, hit snooze on my alarm clock, and lie in bed. The alarm goes off again—and now I know I absolutely have to get up.  I’m frazzled, and know I’m going to need to rush to make it to work on time.  I scarf down my breakfast and brush my teeth, trying to juggle priorities in my head because I don’t think I have time to look at my todo list—I know I’m already behind schedule.”

(From The 10 Minute Difference Between Stress and Happiness by Sid Savara.)

2. Break your story into chunks

In some types of blogging, you may have a long, in-depth story to tell. Perhaps you’re a mommy or daddy blogger writing about your kids’ early life, or you’re a personal development blogger telling the story of how you screwed things up in college.

Don’t try to tell your entire story as one epic post. Break it into a series – and make each part have a clear central point.

How to do it

On The Simple Dollar, a personal finance site, Trent tells his story in a series called “The Road to Financial Armageddon”:

“The best place to start is the beginning. I was born into poverty, a family in which both my mother and father had been raised in poverty, too. Both of my parents were used to the concept of living from payday to payday, never having enough saved for themselves to survive more than a week or two. To some degree, this was out of necessity; there was often not enough money to put food on the table.”

(From The Road to Financial Armageddon #1: The Earliest Mistakes by Trent Hamm.)

3. Put yourself on the reader’s side

(e.g. Writing about financial difficulties, early career problems: “I’ve been through it too.”)

As bloggers, we’re often writing about situations which we’ve been through or problems we’ve overcome. We may well have come by our knowledge the hard way. For instance:

  • If you’re blogging about parenting tips, you might have done a few things wrong with your own kids.
  • If you’re blogging about marketing, you might have had a disastrous launch or two in the past.
  • If you’re blogging about gardening, your early attempts may have made you seem a little less than green-fingered.

Your readers are coming to your blog to learn how to solve problems, yes—but if you present yourself as an all-knowing guru, people may be put off. Readers want to know that they’re not alone, so help them by sharing stories that say “I’ve been through this too.”

How to do it

Here’s how to share the less-happy bits of your story so readers can identify with your feelings:

“I had asked for feedback, and at the time, I sincerely meant it, or thought I did. The problem is, once I consider something finished, I can’t imagine anyone’s honest feedback being anything but “Stellar! Best thing I’ve ever read! I’ve been waiting for this all my life!” So this feedback, even though it was constructive and mostly positive, crushed me. As fried as I was by then, I couldn’t be see anything clearly. I was devastated, ready to quit writing and retreat to my cubicle.”

(From Writing an eBook: How to Get Started (and Finish!) by Cara Stein.)

4. Tell an embarrassing story

Sites like “Learn From My Fail” are popular for a reason: we like to read other people’s embarrassing stories. They give us a laugh—and often lift our mood (“at least I didn’t do that!”) They can even provide valuable learning experiences.

You don’t want to overdo it and come across as a bumbling idiot – but occasionally admitting to something embarrassing or talking about a failure can make you more human in your readers’ eyes. They can also gain sympathy.

(Just be careful not to write about any current failures. “My total business fail last week” isn’t likely to win you many new clients…)

How to do it

Here’s an example (with great use of dialogue, too):

“Hi, uh …. Mr. Bruise is it?” No. 1 said.

“Yes, it’s actually Bruce, but thank you, I …”

“All right, what do you have for us today?” No. 3 said.

He was looking down, rustling some outstandingly important paperwork into some sort of crucial order.

“Yes, thank you, I, I’ll be doing a short monologue from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and another from Sean Penn’s turn in Carlito’s Way.”

I heard one of them groan under his breath.

(From Why Everyone Hopes You’ll Be the Hero by Robert Bruce.)

5. Make sure your story teaches the reader something

Funny or heartwarming or engaging stories are all well and good—but what readers really want is an “aha!” moment. They want your story to teach them something new, or to shed new light on something they already know.

How to do it

You don’t have to be explicit in spelling out “the moral of the story”, but if it works for Naomi Dunford…

Moral of the Story: Marketing Begins In Product Development.

When you are building your product, think about the stupidest person you’ve ever met. That person is your customer. Think about what problems they could have with your product.

When you are a wine producer, you want your customers to be well aware of how much wine they have on hand at all times. (Please pardon the pun.) You do not want them at home, trying to bust a move on their wife, setting up candles and massage oils and doing whatever people without kids do, just to find out they’re out of wine.”

(From Moral of the Story: Marketing to Alcoholics Edition.)

Are your stories working for you, or do you need to give more value to the reader? I’d love to hear about your experiences with telling stories, whether they worked or not—the comments are open!

Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach, specialising in helping bloggers to take their writing to the next level. Her ebook The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing was described by Colin Beveridge as “full of the tricks the pros use so that bloggers like me can put together posts and series that look halfway competent.” Read what other bloggers said about it here.

Why “International” Bloggers Have an Unfair Advantage

This guest post is by Lucas Kleinschmitt of German Efficiency.

If you’re in the blogging business, not being a native English speaker can be tough. The market in your home country will often be small, there may not be a culture of buying things online, and it can be difficult to find guest posting opportunities in your native language.

Image copyright NASA Goddard Photo and Video, licensed under Creative Commons

On the other hand, blogging in English seems like an equally bad idea at first glance: How are you supposed to compete with an army of bloggers whose command of the English language greatly exceeds your own? Even if your English is really good, you will probably need to pay a professional editor to avoid the occasional English-as-a-second-language errors.

I admit it: all that sounds rather intimidating. But don’t despair! Fortunately, we “internationals” enjoy one huge, unfair advantage for which every American, Australian, or British blogger should envy us. In fact, all the hurdles we must face shrink to nothing when compared to this major benefit that comes with being an international blogger:

We can leverage our home country’s brand

I’m a time management consultant from Germany. My surname is as German as it can get—Kleinschmitt—and my blog is called German Efficiency. I teach personal productivity, made in Germany, to people from all over the world.

Is my command of the English language as good as that of the American probloggers? Of course not. But can they teach German efficiency? Of course they can’t.

And that’s my point: As a German productivity coach, I have my unique selling proposition built right into my nationality.

Who would you rather have teaching you about vodka: an Australian or a Russian?

Who would you prefer to learn the Salsa from: a Canadian or a Cuban?

Whose romance blog would you prefer to read: the British banker’s or the Parisian artist’s?

Your country’s unique selling proposition

You might be the guy from Switzerland blogging about watches, or the lady from Holland writing about cheese. You could be the Brazilian martial artist teaching us Capoeira, or the Japanese comic book fan keeping us up-to-date on manga.

Every part of the world is renowned for something. The advantage we internationals have is that almost nobody from our home country is blogging about it in English.

Yet, the global community is the one that cares most. I’m far keener to learn about romance from a Parisian artist than another Parisian artist will ever be. To the latter, the former Parisian artist is just another guy teaching romance. To me, he’s a Parisian artist teaching romance! How could I not read his blog?

Indeed, opportunities for us internationals are endless. There’s a giant market gap, and our unique selling proposition is handed to us on a silver plate.

Time to step up, don’t you think?

Lucas Kleinschmitt teaches you personal productivity, made in Germany, at his blog German Efficiency.

How to Keep Your Blog Active While Traveling

This guest post is by Norbert Figueroa of GloboTreks.

For many, keeping a blog is a full-time commitment, especially if you want to keep your readers active and engaged with what you have to say.  This often means spending long hours day after day creating content, commenting, promoting, and networking with other bloggers.

vacation

Copyright Ilja Mašík - Fotolia.com

Then the time comes when you need a small break to step back and relax.  A vacation sounds nice, right?  But, will taking that time off have a negative effect on your blog?  Will you lose your readers or will your traffic die during your trip?  Will it set you a few steps back on all the work you’ve achieved so far?

The answer is, not necessarily; and the key is preparation. Since you won’t want to spend your entire trip keeping up with the blog, or since there’s a chance you might travel somewhere with unreliable internet connection or no internet at all, you have to know how to prepare beforehand in order to keep your blog as active as possible.

1. Write and schedule your posts in advance

Before leaving on your trip, write and schedule all the posts you would like to have published while you’re away.  Also, try to write an extra post or two so that you can have a cushion after your trip, in case you return too tired to write a new post right away.

2. Bring guest bloggers

If you’re open to having guest posts, this is a great way to feature new content that will spark activity in you blog.  Ask guest bloggers to submit their content beforehand so you can schedule it before leaving.  Ask each of them to respond to comments in their post, and even in Facebook (if you promote there).  Just be sure that they are approved to comment, or else their comments will not go live until you moderate them.

3. Schedule or syndicate your social networks

Use tools like Hootsuite or su.pr to schedule tweets and Facebook status of your scheduled content. Personalize your tweets or Facebook posts with a sentence or question that sparks interaction that goes beyond just clicking and reading the promoted content.  Alternatively, you can syndicate your RSS content with RSS graffiti and Hootsuite so that it is promoted immediately after publishing.  The only down side of this method is the lack of personalization.

4. Promote others through your social networks

Your blog can be active even if you don’t produce new content.  Use tools like Hootsuite to schedule tweets and Facebook status of valuable content you’ve read on other sites.  This is to keep your profiles interactive because once you go dormant people will forget you easily.  In addition, it is always good to promote others; not only because it helps them, but it can also help you attract new readers to your blog.

5. Don’t be afraid to look back (promote old posts)

Schedule to promote some of your best “old” content through Twitter and Facebook.  There’s a high chance many of your readers haven’t read it yet, especially if you’ve grown your following consistently.

6. Keep an eye on your comments and status every once in a while

It helps if you travel with a smartphone, iPhone, iPad or computer, but almost everywhere you will be able to find an internet café where you could spend an hour every day or so to moderate comments, input your comments, and schedule a few tweets or posts if needed.

7. Know your peak times

Promote your content and post your new articles during your peak times to get better results from your efforts.  Use Timely (previously featured here on ProBlogger) to learn your best times to publish your tweets.  Likewise, use Clicky to know your blog’s peak traffic hours and su.pr to know your best times to promote your content through Stumbleupon.  If you’re going to spend time online while traveling, try to do it at the time you have the maximum impact.

8. Optimize your blogging time on the road

If you decide to blog during your trip, do it in a way that doesn’t take much time of your vacation.  Write your post during your down time, like when traveling on a bus, plane, or just sitting around.  Choose all your pictures, resize them, and write your excerpt, tags, and description before time.  The point is to have everything ready to just copy and paste at the time of scheduling, thus reducing your online time to the bare minimum.  This is essential if your destination has bad internet service.

9. Last but not least, enjoy your vacation!

Enjoy your time off and relax!  That’s why you’re traveling, right?!  It will give you a fresh energy that will be reflected in your blog, one way or another.

As you can see, it is extremely important to keep the traffic coming, even while you’re traveling, since you don’t want to make it easy for your readers to lose the attention and forget you.  But keeping your readers engaged and in the loop by staying active and visible through your blog and various social media sites will help keep their attention and promote interaction.

Do you have other ways to keep your blog active while traveling? Or ways to save time while blogging on the road?

Norbert Figueroa is an architect who shares his process of achieving a location independent and adventurous lifestyle through his travel blog, GloboTreks.  Follow him through his facebook fan page or subscribe to the RSS feed to inspire your wanderlust.

Top 20 iPhone Apps for Bloggers

This guest post is by Daniel Scocco of Next iPhone News.

The Internet changes pretty fast, and if you want to have a popular blog, you must keep up with it. What if you get an awesome idea for a new post while at dinner? What if an important news breaks while you are at a birthday party? The bottom line is: you should be able to work on your blog all day long, even if you are not sitting in front of your computer.

How do you do that? With an iPhone! The 20 apps below will help you blog on the go, find ideas and images for your posts, track your analytics, promote your posts on social media and so on. Enjoy!

1. WordPress

If you are reading this blog I am guessing you use WordPress, right? The WordPress app for iPhone gives you everything you need to make a quick post, edit previous posts, edit pages, reply to comments and the like. In other words, it lets you manage your blog even while you’re commuting on a train or taking a break from driving on a highway. Just recently, the app was updated to version 8, bringing one essential feature suited for mobile bloggers: the ability to post photos that you’ve taken using your iPhone’s camera. Perfect!

2. Evernote

Literature on being a successful blogger will always tell you to be organized with your thoughts and to keep notes for your ideas. With Evernote, which is a very popular getting-things-done application, you can do that quite efficiently with your iPhone. You’ll find it’s an awesome tool for organizing your digital life.

3. TypePad

Okay, so your blog is not on WordPress? Then it must be using TypePad. This app lets you do things that you can normally do on your blog using your computer—write new posts, post photos to your blog, and alert your friends when you’ve published a new post, You know what’s great? The TypePad app integrates with the desktop client, too.

4. PayPal

PayPal is a must-have for bloggers and online entrepreneurs. When you want to check your balance, withdraw your hard-earned money, or pay-off a contracting service, you can do so now through the PayPal iPhone app. I’ve used this app many times before, and it’s secure, fast, and reliable.

5. Instapaper

Instapaper is an useful app to keep track of interesting posts and pages you found online. I mean, being a blogger, I’m sure you do a lot of web surfing using your iPhone. Since you’re on the move, though, you won’t have time to finish reading all those articles, so using this app becomes quite handy.

6. Twitter

Find me a blogger who doesn’t have a Twitter account and I will quickly say that the person is not a true-blue blogger. If PayPal is the official financial service of bloggers, Twitter is the official microblogging service. In fact, it’s not a microblogging service anymore. It has become an official communication medium for online geeks. There are many Twitter apps for iPhone, but why bother with third-party apps if there is this official one?

7. Analytics App

Once you start using Google Analytics it’s easy to get addicted. If you already are, then you’ll certainly want to install the official Google Analytics iPhone app. This should also save you from boredom in those situations you have nothing else to do.

8. iEarn

Useful if you’re running Google AdSense on your blog, this iPhone app will let you check your earnings and statistics with all the AdSense aggregate data (including revenues for today, revenues for yesterday, last seven days, this month, and last month). The app also gives you statistics on your AdSense impressions, clicks, eCPM, and CTR.

9. Byline

A useful tool for getting the latest news from your favorite sites and blogs, which you can use as a reference for blog posts, new ideas and outbound links. What’s good about this app is that it syncs with your Google Reader account and delivers the latest and most updated news feeds to your iPhone.

10. Blogpress

If you need to manage several blogs hosted on several blogging platforms, you definitely need this app. It supports Blogger, WordPress, TypaPad, and others. It also integrates well with social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Picasa. The app lets you do most of the things that you will normally do while log-in to your blog using your computer. One thing that you will most likely appreciate from this app is that you can cross-publish a post to different blogs on different platforms.

11. CoverItLive

Sooner or later in your blogging career you’ll be prompted to live blog a certain event. If you don’t feel like bringing your laptop to said event, you can still cover it using your iPhone. Get this app and you’ll be able to launch and run live events, publish live commentary, publish photos, audio and video, email event links, and more.

12. ShoZu

This app is best described as a social media hub. That is because will let you connect with more than 50 social networking. For bloggers like us, this app also supports WordPress, Blogger and TypePad. It lets you upload photos and videos to multiple sites with one click, update status and tweets, and geotag photos.

13. Photoshop Express

We all need to edit photos and images once in a while, so Photoshop’s app for the iPhone comes in handy. It has several nifty features that we could otherwise enjoy only on our computer. This app gives you the ability to perform several photo editing functions to your images or photos—from simple cropping to filtering and applying special effects. It’s free as well.

14. Air Sharing

Let’s say you’re drafting a post while on your way home. When you finally arrive home, what’s the best and fastest way to transfer your draft to your Mac or PC to fine-tune the post some more? Well, this app of course. Air Sharing lets you mount your iPhone as a Wi-Fi device on your computer. Once mounted, you can drag and drop files from your iPhone to your computers and open them using the appropriate app.

15. Posterous

This app made it to the list because of its seamless autoposting feature that works with most blogging platforms. It’s useful to integrate different blogs, Twitter streams, and to make sure that your posts are going directly to all your online channels.

16. Tumblr

Tumblr is also known as the “other” microblogging service, which thankfully didn’t follow Twitter’s path and remained true to what it was created for. If you have a Tumblr account and you want to regularly update it with text, image, video or link posts, this app should be sitting on your iPhone’s app screen. It’s completely free.

17. WriteRoom

This app (which is the iPhone version of a popular desktop software) has one goal: to give you a distraction free writing environment. No fancy menus, options, formatting features and the like. Just plain and straight-out writing with an even more useful full-screen writing feature.

18. Photobucket

Not only is this app is useful for posting photos you’ve taken using your iPhone, but it also allows you to search for images and photos from the Photobucket website. And if you find something that you can use for a blog post, you can save the photo or image and then use it right after. It’s great for sourcing images.

19. iBlogger

The first thing you’ll notice when checking out this app from the App Store is the relatively expensive price (i.e., $10). However, this app has several nice features that make it worthy of its price. For example, it makes adding links to posts easier and it allows the integration with Google Maps and other location based services (using the iPhone’s GPS).

20. Facebook

We couldn’t leave the Facebook app for the iPhone out of the list, right? After all Facebook and blogging go hand in hand. With this app you can easily share links to your recent posts, write new updates for your followers and readers and so on.

Do you use these apps? What others can you share?

Daniel Scocco is the owner of Next iPhone News, a website that tracks the latest news, rumors and tips about the iPhone!