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Action! Can Our Hollywood Experiment Help You Make Money Blogging?

This is a guest post by Joke and Biagio of JokeAndBiagio.com

Setting: a busy production office in Hollywood, California. Joke stares at her husband Biagio in disbelief.

Joke: You bought another book from Darren Rowse?

Biagio: Well, uh, no…this one’s actually by the Web Marketing Ninja…

Her face goes blank.

Joke: Did you just say…Ninja?

Blogging for business: benefits not always obvious

ProBlogger, Joke, and Biagio

ProBlogger, Joke and Biagio

That kind of back-and-forth’s been typical ever since we tip-toed into blogging in 2009.

Sure, it’s always fun to think about monetizing the blog or read about ways to get big traffic.

But realistically, our blog for filmmakers who want to break into Hollywood has been more of a fun distraction than a tool to make us money.

Maybe you’ve felt the same about your own blog? Wondered if banging away on your laptop at 2am would have any (positive) effect on your business? Questioned if the “standard” ways to make money blogging were right for you?

We’ve had those doubts over the past few years.

Then the blogging money muse came along…

An idea struck. A new approach to cashing in on our blog that seemed obvious and frightening all at once.

In fact, just saying it out loud freaked out our friends and colleagues.

But we really believe this idea is a win-win scenario for both our readers and our company. It’s a concept that just might work for you, too.

More on that in a minute. First, some background…

We make film and TV

As working producers and directors in Los Angeles, blogging was not high on our “to do” checklist for Hollywood success. But we had a personal reason for writing: to create the film and TV blog we wished existed when we were starting out.

You know, back when we were banging our heads against Hollywood’s closed doors, trying to get noticed by anyone in “the game.”

Two-hundred posts and 2500 Twitter followers later, we found ourselves with a small but engaged group of readers who wanted to succeed in film and TV.

And no idea how we were going to monetize our blog.

A better way to earn money from readers?

Other than a few affiliate banners and the occasional Adword, we never embraced “selling” to a community largely made up of struggling artists (an accurate description of us just a few years ago.)

And, since blogging will never be our main income stream (we make a decent living in film and TV) the thought of turning our filmmaking blog into a six-figure sensation seemed pretty silly.

While the notion of being “top bloggers” was romantic, were we really going to:

  • create e-books?
  • promote affiliate programs?
  • find joint venture partners?

Or were we gonna’ keep chasing Oscars® and Emmys®?

Then, the crazy idea came along.

Provide readers with what they want most

The number one rule of a blog is to provide value, right?

We asked ourselves, “What’s the ultimate value we can provide to our readers? What do they want more than anything?”

In our hearts, we knew the answer: the same thing we wanted while living in our shoe-box, one-bedroom apartment not so long ago.

Access to Hollywood.

So after spending two years educating our readers on what it takes to make it in this business, we’re now opening the same doors that were closed to us for so long.

We’ve invited them to pitch TV shows to us.

When we do sell a project with an aspiring filmmaker (like we just did with our upcoming documentary series Caged on MTV) that person will be paid to work on the show, receive a producer credit, and take a giant leap forward in their careers.

Plus, selling just one series with a reader will instantly make us “six-figure bloggers.”

But wait, there’s more…

As a bonus for both us and our readers, anyone who submits a show must join our newsletter. We send out tips and tricks on turning ideas into concrete Hollywood pitches, as well as up-to-the-second info about the kinds of shows we think we can sell at any given moment.

When the day comes that we do take a little time off from making film and TV, that list will prove invaluable should we want to write a book or put up speaking events on working in Hollywood.

Make big money blogging by partnering with readers

How about you? Have you spent years educating your readers on a particular topic? Why not tap into the pool of experts you’ve created?

Most bloggers see readers as potential customers. Maybe it’s time to see them as potential partners instead. Are you:

  • An independent software developer kicking out posts on the Objective-C language? How about taking pitches from up-and-coming coders on new iPhone apps?
  • Blogging how-to posts about the furniture you craft by hand? Why not expand your line by accepting product concepts from your most accomplished readers?
  • Writing about designing and selling great widgets? Let your fans bring you valuable ideas for better widgets.

Just think: one great idea from a reader could be worth a lot more than your commission on that “weird old trick” affiliate product you’ve been eyeing.

Always use protection!

Of course, we had to have our lawyer draw up a proper submission agreement, and anyone wishing to pitch TV show ideas to us will have to go through a formal process. Before you open yourself up to pitches, make sure you’re not open to potential lawsuits. Consult your lawyer.

Back at the pffice…

Biagio: Not bad, right?

Joke nods. Her expression…a glimmer of hope?

Joke: Does this mean you’ll stop shopping at ProBlogger now?

Biagio: Well, uh, no…

Joke sighs.

Joke: Better sell some more shows quick!

Joke and Biagio are a married filmmaking team (Joke’s the wife, Biagio’s the hubby.) Their goal is to help aspiring filmmakers and TV producers break in to Hollywood by providing real-world filmmaking advice and taking TV show pitches from talented, hard-working dreamers. Their current film Dying to do Letterman has been invited by the International Documentary Association to qualify for 2012 Academy Award® Consideration, and they have numerous unscripted TV shows to their credit. Keep in touch with them on Facebook and Twitter.

The Science of Blogging

This guest post is by Farhan Syed of www.writeregion.com.

The word “science” comes from the Latin root “scientia,” which means knowledge. This is the reason why the word science is attached to many “non scientific” terms like “the science of theology.”

A blog is defined as follows:

A blog is a type of website that is usually arranged in chronological order from the most recent “post” (or entry) at the top of the main page to the older entries towards the bottom.—Darren Rowse, What is a Blog?

Most websites are intended to acquire or spread knowledge, hence science and blogs have a lot to do with each other.

The following scientists’ quotes do not refer specifically to blogging, but I think they can teach us a lot about it.

I am sure that I am not smarter than other scientists. Psychologists have said that my IQ is about 160, I recognize that there are one hundred thousand or more people in the United States that have IQs higher than that.—Linus Pauling; Nobel Laureate of Chemistry (1954) and Peace (1962), in an interview to the site Academy of Achievement, Nov 11, 1990.

An authority on blogging, Darren Rowse said in Blogging Takes Super Human Effort vs Blogging is Easy [Misconceptions New Bloggers Have #1]:

  • “Before I started blogging I had had 20 jobs in ten years, none of which were in anything to do with the online space and most of which were fairly manual/physical jobs.
  • “My only qualifications were half a degree in Marketing (which I failed half of the subjects in) and a Bachelor of Theology.
  • “I’d received a ‘C’ in English in my final year of high school.
  • “I was incapable of making text bold on my first blog for several weeks—I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed when it came to anything technical!”

Some people think that only people with exceptionally brilliant minds can become good bloggers (or good in anything). This is nonsense. Just work hard with devotion. You will make it. There are no magic people.

If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.—Sir Isaac Newton; English physicist and mathematician, in a letter to Robert Hooke, 5 Feb. 1675 or 1676

There are always good resources available on any niche you choose, and there are always some people who are “giants” (authorities) in that field. By “resources” I don’t only mean blogs. There will always be excellent books, magazines, videos, and so on in your niche. Utilize them.  I don’t mean copy their content. I mean learn from them, put your own voice in it, and produce fresh content. If you can do your own research and take the current material a step ahead, even better.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.—Albert Einstein; Nobel Laureate of Physics (1921)

To make a blog successful you must keep working on it regularly.

Despite the fact that there are thousands of articles on ProBlogger, I keep returning to this site to read the new ones. Though sometimes I read some old articles, mainly I concentrate on the latest material. I think most readers do the same, as the latest post’s comments are the most frequented.

If you make a blog and update it once in two months, it will collapse. Readers usually want new content on the latest happenings in your niche. Also, readers want regular replies from you. If they are taking the trouble of sparing some time and commenting on your blog, they want the favor to be reciprocated.

You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.—Albert Einstein; Nobel Laureate of Physics (1921)

To be a good blogger, you need to know a good deal about blogging. For example you need to know which is a good blogging platform, the methods of monetization, how to set up an email newsletter, how to use sites like Facebook and Twitter to your maximum advantage, and more.

The rest is mind game and hard work. Keep blogging diligently. You’ll learn many things practically that you will not learn by referring to blogging resources. Use this information to create better blogs than your competitors.

I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.—Galileo Galilei; Italian physicist

Do you think visiting “bad” blogs is a waste of time? Not at all! By visiting them you can learn why that blog didn’t do well. What mistakes did the blogger make? Pay attention to those mistakes so that you may not make them.

The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to.—Richard Feynman; Nobel Laureate of Physics (1965) in a letter to Koichi Mano, February 3, 1966

Though there are thousands of problems that humanity is facing today, you should select a niche of which you have a good knowledge. Then, write posts that can really help people live better lives by solving their problems. If you can solve their problems, they will visit your blog.

The lecturer should give the audience full reason to believe that all his powers have been exerted for their pleasure and instruction.—Michael Faraday; English physicist, as quoted in A Random Walk in Science (1973) by Robert L. Weber, p. 76

Give your readers the true impression that you really care for them and you have put up a lot of energy and hard work into your blog. Don’t try to fake yourself.  You must really make all attempts to please your audience.  If you yourself won’t take your blog seriously, don’t expect your readers to take it seriously.

Do you know quotes from other scientists that reflect and fit with blogging? Share yours in the comments!

Farhan Syed is a freelance writer who blogs on www.writeregion.com

7-point Checklist For Bloggers Who Want to Create a Profitable Blog

This guest post is by Peter G. James Sinclair of Motivational Memo.

Before I aggressively started to build my Motivational Memo blog at the beginning of this year I had already owned a web design company for over seven years.

During that time I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in web design, and now that I have entered the blogging industry I continue to see the same mistakes being made by many bloggers.

So use this quick checklist to analyze your own blog.

1. How well is your blog structured?

  • Have you clearly identified your audience?
  • What’s in it for the client when they come to your blog?
  • Do you have a call to action?
  • Is your blog outstanding? What do you do differently from others?
  • Do you sell the right things—most profitable and easiest to deliver?
  • What are the best things you are doing in your niche?
  • Have you a clear purpose for each web page?
  • What action do you want your visitors to take?
  • Do you provide quality information?
  • Are you building a list?
  • Are you selling a product or service?
  • Are you gathering referrals?
  • Are you building a relationship with your readers?
  • Have you built credibility and authority in your niche?
  • Have you promoted your success through a Press, Awards, or Featured-in page?
  • Do you realize that you are building an asset that you can sell?
  • Do you know that you need more than one website if you want to make money from blogging?

2. How good is your written copy?

  • Do you write headlines that are benefit driven?
  • Does your writing stand out amongst the crowd?
  • Do you provide proof either through testimonials, comments, featured articles, endorsements, and statistics—in text, audio, and video format?
  • Is your call to action clear?
  • Does your offer provide great value?
  • Does every page have a benefit-laden headline?
  • Do you demonstrate how you stand out in your niche?
  • Do you use proof of claims you make about products/services?
  • Do you provide one call to action with clear instructions per web page above the fold?
  • Do you make no-brainer offers even for opt-in?
  • Are you enthusiastic without hype, but rather provide enthusiasm with substance?
  • Do you write the way you speak?
  • Do you avoid jargon?
  • Do you use a double-readership path—provide headlines and sub headlines that make it easy for readers to skim your piece before reading the entire article?

3. How descriptive is your domain name?

  • Is your domain name clever, quirky, or meaningless?
  • Have you used your business name, unless you are well known?
  • Have you used your personal name, unless you are well recognized?
  • Have you used a .net where there’s a .com site available?
  • Have you used the Google Keyword tool to identify some of the keywords people are searching for on the Internet in your niche?
  • Have you chosen a domain name that grabs your attention through clear communication?

4. How professional is your layout and formatting of graphics?

  • Do you use white writing on black or colored background that makes it hard for people to read?
  • Do you have a cluttered or confusing layout?
  • Is your top banner large or complex and slow to load?
  • Do you use big blocks of text?
  • Do you write text in all-capitals?
  • Do you provide captions (where appropriate) on photos that are keyword rich and benefit-driven?
  • Do you use too many fonts, colors, and sizes?
  • Is your blog quick to load?
  • Do you have a clean, simple, narrow banner at the top of your blog that creates the right feeling on your site?
  • Do you break up text with sub headings, bullet points, and photos?
  • Do you have a white background and use colored headlines and black text?

5. How easy is it for your potential customers to buy?

For blogs to make money, there is usually an attached web page that will promote products, courses, etc. So you might need to analyze these pages as well.

  • Do you provide an obvious way to buy online?
  • Do you use a secure payment processor?
  • Do you provide a number of ways for people to purchase—credit card, ClickBank, PayPal, or even for some an printable form, depending on your demographics?
  • Do you provide a money-back guarantee?
  • Do you allow for payments in customers’ local currencies?
  • Is your offer obvious, providing clear instruction for buying above the fold?
  • Do you use a recognized payment processer?

6. Are your visitor details being collected?

  • Is your opt-in above the fold?
  • Do you provide an incentive for visitors to provide their name and email?
  • Do you ask for too much information?
  • Do you have our opt-in on your sales pages, and did you know that if you do this you could reduce sales by up to 75%?
  • Do you communicate regularly with those who opt-in to your blog or newsletter, and did you know that responsiveness will halve after each three months of no communication?
  • Do you get at least a 25% opt-in result?
  • Do you offer something customers desperately want in return for their name and email?
  • Do you make it easy and obvious to opt in above the fold—a single opt in requiring minimal details?
  • Do you use an automated way to follow up?
  • Do you make offers to your list—your own products/services or others in return for an affiliate commission?
  • Do you give twice as much as you ask by providing good value?

7. How well are you marketing your blog?

  • Do you believe in the concept of “build it and they will come”?
  • Do you only using one or two marketing methods?
  • Do you only use online-to-online marketing?
  • Do you outsource the marketing or manage the outsourcing properly?
  • Do you test, monitor, and fine-tune?
  • Do you use out of date marketing methods or only use the latest craze in marketing?
  • Do you use multiple marketing methods—free and paid, tried and tested, and new?
  • Do you use offline-to-online marketing?
  • Do you understand your marketing strategy well enough to train others to help you?
  • Do you collect stats on results weekly, or per campaign?
  • Are you marketing to your existing list—email, social media, sms, hard mail, etc.?
  • Do you use SEO, Google Adwords, Google Places?
  • Do you use paid traffic, Facebook PPC, banner ads?
  • Do you build or buy lists in your niche or even pursue joint ventures?
  • Have you ever thought of buying an offline list and developing an online list?
  • Do you write guest articles for other blogs in your niche and even other niches?
  • Do you submit articles to directories?
  • Have you used offline free publicity?
  • Do you seek out referrals?
  • Do you interact regularly through social media—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn?
  • Do you run competitions?
  • Do you give things away to your database?
  • Do you conduct surveys?
  • Do you partner with online thought leaders in your niche?
  • Do you help your readers to engage one with another?

So there you have it. Tick off all the things that you are doing well, and then begin to implement all the things that you could do better. You will be amazed at the results.

Peter G. James Sinclair is in the ‘heart to heart’ resuscitation business and inspires, motivates and equips others to be all that they’ve been created to become. Receive your free copy of his latest eBook Personal Success Blueprint at http://www.selfdevelopmentmastermind.com and add him on Twitter @PeterGJSinclair—today!

Behind the Scenes: How a ProBlogger Product Sales Page is Made

This post was written by the Web Marketing Ninja—author of The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing, and a professional online marketer who’s sharing his tips undercover here at ProBlogger. Curious? So are we!

I tweeted a couple of days ago how wonderfully evolutionary sales page copy can be as it passes between the different people who are working on it. At the time, I likened it to Chinese whispers with a happy ending.

It’s a tweet that culminated from the copywriting process for Darren’s brand new book on DPS, Click! How to take Gorgeous Photos of your Kids. The book’s sales page presented some interesting challenges for me and reminded me of some important lessons that I thought would be good to share with you all.

The process

Click! How to take gorgeous photos of your kidsThis is how the sales page for Click! came into being.

1. Thinking before writing

All of Darren’s sales page start with a semi-workshop, usually with Darren, Jasmin, and myself. We’re not at this stage thinking about the specific words we’ll use—we’re thinking about the core message we’re hoping to convey and how we’ll present it. We weigh up the core benefits of the product and pick which one we’re going to lead with. It normally starts with a bit of a brain dump and ends with us exploring more specific personas—the ones for which we created the product in the first place.

With Click!, we started with a simple audience definition: “those who wanted to take photos of kids,” but soon realized that it needed to run a little deeper than that. We came up with four target personas: moms, dads, grandparents, and pro photographers. Whilst the book is perfect for all of them, the key benefits of buying the book were distinctly different for each group. We discussed options to create a page that conveyed a message to all, but settled for focusing on moms. We felt they were more likely to respond emotionally to the sales page.

2. Engaging the word nerds

Often the hardest part in the copywriting process is to draw a line in the sand and put an initial draft into play. It can be quite daunting but among the team at ProBlogger we have a Georgina, and that always gets us off to a good start.

From a short brief from Jasmine, Georgina provided the first draft. This was always going to be a tricky one for her, as there was a strong emotional entanglement in the messages (Moms and capturing the memories of their kids), and that meant we’d need to tread a fine line between making an emotional connection and looking shallow. I think Georgina did a great job, and we could have run with this version right out of the box, however Darren and I always like to take things a little further.

3. The deliberation begins

I just realized something as I’m writing this post: I’ve known Georgina for over five years. She’s used to me pulling apart her copy. But all’s fair—she’s changed as many of my words in the past with her editorial hat on. So the deliberation stage usually takes place with Darren and myself shooting it our over Skype. Sometimes we’re only tweaking things here and there; other times we’re making wholesale changes. A couple of hours later, we end up with a second version of the sales copy loaded up on Darren’s blog.

With Click! I decided to re-write the whole first section, as I felt we could be a little stronger in our messaging, and a little shorter in words. I spent some time and came up with a version that Darren incorporated into the final sales page. There were a couple of things I wasn’t 100% sure about, and I was keen to see what would happen in the next phase—the field test.

4. The first field test

There is nothing scientific about our field tests. Depending on the product, we’ll usually pick a few connections from our networks, and get them to honestly tell us what they think of the sales page content. Formal tests would follow a more structured approach, with a little more thought put around specific questions, but we’re usually running out of time, and with true blogger spirit, do what we can with what we’ve got.

With Click! It was pretty easy to contact all the moms we knew that were online at the time. But that was where the easy part ended! The response we got was interesting. The couple of phrases I wasn’t sure about basically horrified every mom who saw them. It was back to the drawing board, pronto. Whilst I’d never call writing fun, all I can say is I’m glad we knew before we email a couple of hundred thousand people! Motivated by some of the suggested alternatives, we set about creating a second revision.

5. The second field test

Nine times out of ten we never get to this, however, in the case of Click! the moms had spoken, and we’d made some pretty extensive changes from their feedback—and hoped we were right. So we re-tested the copy. A few nervous minutes later, the feedback was much better and we had a sales page ready to ship.

6. Time to shine

Once we’re happy, all our sales pages go through some pre-flight checks. A final pass at the copy to make sure as many typos are corrected as possible. Then we check and double-check that all the order buttons work, and the images are in place. Once that’s done it’s off to launch we go…

Whilst the lead-up is quite extensive, it’s the result that matters. In the first nine hours of launch conversion rate of the sales page was around 10%—there’s nothing wrong with that!

The lessons

There are a few important lessons that we can take from this latest sales page evolution:

You are not your customers

I’m not a mom, and I don’t have any kids, so I need to be mindful that I’m writing a sales page for someone completely different from me. Seeing things from others’ perspectives is the key to writing sales pages that will convert more people than just yourself. If you’re ever unsure, seek feedback from others.

Small things can have a dramatic influence

Within the first version of this sales page, we included one sentence that struck the wrong chord with the reviews. There are over 500 words in this page, yet five seemingly innocent words could turn buyers away in droves. If there’s anything that can show you the power of copy, this is it.

Revisions can be a good thing … and a bad thing

Suffice it to say my initial revisions did more harm than good. But the second revision turned things around sharply. You need to be careful not make changes for their own sake, and if you do, make sure you take a step forward rather than backward.

So there you have the life and times of a team ProBlogger sales page. And we haven’t even started the A/B testing yet!

Stay tuned for more posts by the secretive Web Marketing Ninja — author of The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing, and a professional online marketer for a major web brand.

There Are 3 Thing’s Wrong With This Head Line

This guest post is by Greg McFarlane of Control Your Cash

As a blogger, you expect your readers to give you their valuable time that they could be spending elsewhere. If you’re going to ask that much of them, don’t they deserve your best effort in return?

When your posts are loaded with spelling and grammar mistakes, you’re telling your readers one or both of two things:

  1. I can’t be bothered to learn the language I’ve chosen to communicate in.
  2. My content is so vital and compelling that its form is unimportant.

Democratization has its advantages, and alas, its drawbacks. 572 years ago, Johann Gutenberg was the only person on Earth who could have his words disseminated en masse. (And even he was but the messenger, merely spreading others’ divinely inspired works.) Today, anyone with a Return key and an opinion can search for an audience. Does that mean that you deserve one?

Look at the most popular blogs, the ones with critical acclaim, and/or a large readership. Technorati lists The Huffington Post, Hot Air, several members of the Gawker family, Mashable and TechCrunch among its top 20. Even the inane TMZ is on the list. Regardless of how you feel about left-wing politics, right-wing politics, general snarkiness, social media news, technology or the lives of celebrities, all the blogs on the list have something in common that also-ran blogs don’t.

Proper, comprehensible English, delivered in sentences that you don’t have to reread to make sense of. In 2011, with so much of the world’s knowledge available to any of us, it’s astounding that there exist bloggers who’ve advanced past adolescence yet still don’t know that plurals don’t take apostrophes.

When I decry this (I’m the kind of person who thinks that Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson deserve their own Nobel Prize category), I’m often met with the standard responses. These fall into three categories:

  1. I didn’t have time.
  2. Who cares?
  3. (No response at all.)

In other words, correct English isn’t that important. My one-word response to that is: garbage.

Unlike most topics of debate, there’s no room for difference of opinion on this one. People on the other side of this issue are like those who defend flat earth theory or who argue that thiomersal causes autism. There’s no reasoning with them. To disagree here is to say that sloppiness and ignorance are of no consequence. That insulting your readers is fine. That the rules of discourse don’t apply to you.

If your defence is that you’re not some fancy-pants academic who obsesses over a set of archaic rules about how to communicate, maybe you should find something to do that doesn’t involve words.

One irony is that non-native English speakers are behind some of the most grammatically sound (and thus most readable) blogs out there. Take Aloysa of Aloysa’s Kitchen Sink. If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear she’d been writing in and speaking English her whole life. English is her third language, after Lithuanian and Russian. I’d cite examples of the opposite, native English speakers who each write like a cat walking on a keyboard, but they’re easy to find. Besides, I made enough enemies with my last ProBlogger post.

My site, Control Your Cash, hosts the weekly Carnival of Wealth. It’s a blog carnival in which I showcase what are ostensibly the best and most thought-provoking personal finance articles of the prior seven days. I need about 30 entrants for the carnival to be of a decent length. If I limited entry to those who spell and punctuate correctly, even if they had nothing interesting to say about their subject of choice, I’d be lucky to run three posts a week. The carnival would be less of a carnival and more of a quiet evening playing chess at the library.

I’m not talking about being able to articulate the difference between the pluperfect progressive tense and the ablative case. I’m talking about, at a minimum, activating and using the spelling and grammar features that come with MS Word, or Apple Pages, or whichever word processor you create your magic with. If you don’t know that you need to do this, then you almost certainly do. No thought is so profound that it can’t benefit from the right presentation. If you can think it and type it out, then you can spend a few minutes making it readable before you decide to unleash it on the universe.

This isn’t about you. It almost never is. It’s about your customers, i.e. your readers. They’re literate enough to have navigated their way to your site, and deserve to be written to in a clear, syntactically correct manner. Otherwise, why should they care about what you have to say?

Greg McFarlane is an advertising copywriter who lives in Las Vegas. He recently wrote Control Your Cash: Making Money Make Sense, a financial primer for people in their 20s and 30s who know nothing about money. You can buy the book here (physical) or here (Kindle) and reach Greg at [email protected].

Make an App to Engage Your Blog’s Readers

This guest post is by Leah Goodman of AppsGeyser.

A few months ago, when I started working for AppsGeyser, a friend asked me if I could turn her blog into an app, to which I responded, “Yes.” Then she asked me the more important question: why would she want to do that?

There are loads of reasons. Here are just a few ways you can use an app to bring new readers to your blog and give more value to your current readers.

Raise the level of engagement

Make a blog app

Copyright taka - Fotolia.com

Mobile users can read your blog on a mobile RSS reader, but reading a blog through an app means that they’re coming to your blog specifically. It’s a different level of engagement. They’re looking for this blog’s icon. They’re looking to interact with this blog each time. It’s not just one of a bunch of publications.

Be found where mobile users are looking

Regular readers will have your blog in their RSS feeds on their mobile devices, but new mobile readers are much more likely to find your blog by searching for apps than by searching the Web. Having an app gives bloggers a whole additional avenue for discovery.

Form a “secret society”

Once people have downloaded the app, you can engage them in some really great ways, too. Provide unique content for app users, creating the sense that they’ve joined a “secret society,” just by downloading the app. Utilize the fact that it’s not just an RSS feed, and have them vote, fill out forms, and leave comments without having to use a different interface.

Push your message

Last, but definitely not least, is the idea of push messaging. With an app, it’s easy to send messages to people who’ve downloaded your app—even if they’re not checked in.

Push messages are just like text messages to everyone who has the app installed. For a craft blogger, this might be the way to tell people that the project everyone’s been asking about is finally completed, and the instructions are up.  Are you a mommy blogger in her ninth month? Push messaging is a great way to instantly let everyone know it’s a girl! Financial blogger? This is the way to tell everyone the mortgage is finally paid off! The possibilities to connect more closely are right there, the moment a blog becomes an app.

How to make your blog into an app

There are a number of ways to make a blog into an app.

  1. You can have an app developer create a custom app for you. This is the most expensive option, but it will give you an app that looks perfect, works beautifully, and gives you all the special features you want to offer your readers.
  2. You can use a service that turns an RSS feed into an app, such as Android Apps Maker or Mippin.
  3. Our recommendation (and yes, we’re slightly biased) is to use AppsGeyser, because it gives you the full power of your blog in an app.

Distributing your app

Your blog app needs to be distributed in two main ways.

The first is on the blog itself. This is achieved by taking the app’s link information and adding it to the blog. It’s important to copy the QR code to make it easy for readers to download the app easily with just a click of their phone camera.

The second avenue of distribution is the Android Market. This is how new readers will find the app and, by extension, your blog. When adding the app to the Android Market, pay special attention to the app’s name and description. The name and description are what prospective readers will search when they are looking for new apps to download. Be especially careful about the name, as it’s a problem to change it later. You can change the description later if you’re not happy with it.

Don’t skimp on your icon and screenshots, either. We’ve put together a post on making an attractive icon without hiring a designer. An attractive-looking app is an important part of reaching a wider audience.

Does your blog have an app? How has it affected your readership? Share your experiences in the comments.

Leah Goodman is a Content and Community Manager at Abel Communications, managing the blog and community for AppsGeyser.com. She believes in a t-shirt economy and is an amateur juggler.

Bushido for Bloggers: What Samurais and Bloggers Have in Common

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

Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hagakure is the most famous text on bushido, the warrior code of the samuari. Written in an era when Japan was obsessed with warfare and martial prowess, the book offers instruction on how a samurai should live and die.

The most famous and misunderstood line in Japanese history

The most famous line in Hagakure is, “I have found that bushido means to die. It means that when one has to choose between life and death, one quickly chooses the side of death.”

Modern scholars find such a statement horrifying. The author’s obsession with death is disturbing. Even the Edo Confucians of the time condemned Tsunetomo’s morbid teaching.

Beyond first impressions

But if you look past the shock and absurdity of the statement, there is logic and sensibility behind Tsunetomo’s advice. In fact, once you understand what the statement is really saying, you realize that Tsunetomo is not preaching obsession of death; he is preaching freedom from its obsession.

What Tsunetomo is saying is that being afraid of death attracts it. Fear of death paralyses the warrior in battle stopping him from thinking clearly and acting correctly. When you accept death, however, you neutralise its paralysing effects. You become apt at dealing with the stress of combat. You become better at mobilising your martial skill, therefore increasing your chance of survival.

It is a great paradox that by accepting death you increase your chances of surviving in battle.

Samurais, bloggers and the fear of failure

But you are not a samurai. Why do Tsunetomo’s words matter to you?

No fear

Copyright Galina Barskaya - Fotolia.com

Whether it is dying in battle or failing as a blogger, fear of failure paralyses people. Like samurais in combat, would-be bloggers get so consumed by the fear of getting it wrong that it stops them from starting on their idea.

After the excitement of researching the idea, of thinking of the possibilities, of counting the potential dollars in your head, doubt starts to set in. Do I have the time to do this? Will the people I have to market to or network with like my products, ideas and style? Will I be able to make this blog successful in time to quit my job?

You put off the idea for a week, a month … before you know it, another six months have passed and you are not much closer to execution of your blog idea.

I certainly felt this way when I decided to start my blog. I wanted to get the design right. I wanted to get my strategy right. While some of the planning was important, much of it was just procrastination. I wanted to launch in November 2010, but I ended up launching in May 2011—six months behind schedule. In the end I stopped trying to get it perfect and took the plunge, and am glad for it. Improvement, like education, is a lifelong activity. You cannot wait till you know everything before you start.

Even after they get started, many bloggers do not give it their all. They do not work at it seriously enough. Why? Because that way they can still hold onto the mental comfort of, “I could have made it if I tried.” Just think of how many people you have met who will look at a successful person and say, “I could have been him or her if I tried as hard.”

Unfortunately, mental comforts do not put food on the table. They do not make you a celebrity. They do not win you interviews or awards. All they do is keep you ticking along until you are six feet under and not in a position to do anything.

If you are such an individual, Tsunetomo’s words could not be timelier. Accept failure. See it is as another aspect of life, as another season in the year, as another colour in the rainbow. Do not think of it as an end, but another starting point.

3 people who failed miserably before succeeding superbly

Don’t buy it? Then take a look at the list below. These are famous individuals who failed before they succeeded.

  • Abraham Lincoln went bankrupt running a general store. Had to surrender everything he had, including his horse and navigation gear. Then went on to become the President of America.
  • Walt Disney went bankrupt after his first film studio failed. Then invented Mickey Mouse and started the juggernaut that we today know as Walt Disney.
  • Henry Ford went bankrupt after starting his first car business, Detroit Automobile. Then founded Ford Motor Company and never looked back.

Failure is not the worst thing that could happen to you, it is mediocrity. Failure lets you move on, mediocrity just stalls you.

Is the fear of failure holding you back? Has it done so in the past? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

Aman Basanti has written for a number of A-list blogs including ProBlogger, MarketingProfs and Business Insider. He shares his secrets to getting guest posts on A-list blogs in his new FREE e-book – Guest Posting Secrets: 25 Tips to Help You Get More Guest Posts. Visit Ageofmarketing.com/guest-posting-secrets to download it now for FREE (No opt-in required).

Why Bloggers Should Pay Attention to the New Affiliate Tax Laws

This guest post is by Yasmine Mustafa of 123LinkIt.com.

The Business Insider recently reported that ten thousand affiliates were recently dropped from Amazon’s Affiliate Program with little warning.

How much income would you lose if you were no longer permitted to use the program?

This is an issue that bloggers in California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are currently facing. They were instantly cut from Amazon’s affiliate program due to a new affiliate tax law.

Update: Amazon dropped the ballot fight last week and cut a deal with California on the collection of sales tax. According to CNN Money, they have not stated whether or not they will reinstate their CA affiliates.

How did it happen? What can you do to avoid this law from passing in your state?

All about the affiliate tax law

Online retailers such as Amazon that do not have a physical presence are not required to collect sales tax like brick-and-mortar businesses. Big companies like Wal-Mart who are taxed see this as an unfair advantage and are paying lobbyists to push what is now called the “Amazon tax” or the “affiliate nexus tax.”

In short, this affiliate tax states that online merchants can in fact be taxed if they have a “nexus” or connection within the state. Affiliate marketers are one of the groups of people viewed as a connection. As a result, state governors in the above-mentioned states are signing a law that taxes Amazon and other online vendors through its affiliates. They are now being treated as having a physical presence and are subject to pay taxes.

Amazon has reacted immediately. Wanting to avoid being subject to costly tax inquiries from the government, they are cutting connections to every state that passes the affiliate tax by terminating agreements with all affiliate marketers, leaving many bloggers with decreased incomes and some with no incomes from their blog. As long as there are states that do not tax its sales, Amazon has stated that it will continue to avoid affiliate marketing in the states that do. As of June 30, 2011, California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have been affected by the nexus tax.

How you can make an impact in the Amazon tax battle

The war is not lost and bloggers can make a difference in fighting back or preventing the affiliate tax law from passing in their state.

  1. Visit the Performance Marketing Association (PMA) Tax Nexus site to further educate yourself and join one of their state-specific Google groups.
  2. Join PMA’s fight in the reversal of the tax currently underway in certain states. To learn more, visit PMA’s contribution page.
  3. Bloggers can write their state representative and explain how the legislation will harm their income. The best letters are concise and honest, and include supporting examples. About.com has a great structure on how to write letters to Congress that is worth checking out beforehand.

What are some Amazon Associates alternatives in the meantime?

If you have been affected by the affiliate tax, there are other options consider.

  1. Find other affiliate programs to join. Some of the most popular that can fulfill Amazon’s inventory include Barnes and Noble, Buy.com, Best Buy, Newegg, the Apple Store, Wal-Mart, Target, and Sears.
  2. Sign up for an affiliate tool that aggregates all the affiliate programs and automatically embeds affiliate links in your blog. These include 123LinkIt (Disclaimer: I am the Founder of 123LinkIt), Skimlinks and Viglink.
  3. Relocate. This is a drastic step but worthwhile if your revenue warrants it.

Questions to consider about the affiliate tax law

Will national standards for taxing online retailers be implemented?  How will all this affect bloggers and small businesses? Let us know in the comments!

Yasmine Mustafa is the Founder of 123LinkIt.com, a service that allows WordPress bloggers to earn affiliate revenue from product keywords in their content. It is currently the #1 downloaded affiliate plugin in WordPress.

Run an Awesome Blog Contest in 5 Steps

This guest post is by Kiera Pedley of Binkd.

Running a contest on your blog can be a great way to generate new readership, reactivate stagnant subscribers, and increase the engagement of your readers.

Competitions can be a lot of hard work for little or no results, unless you run them to a plan and have a clear objective in mind.

Here are five tips for running an awesome blog contest campaign.

1. Set a clear objective

As bloggers we love readers, we love engagement, we love community—a contest can help you achieve any or all of these things. When planning your contest, set a goal as to what you need to achieve.

Do you want more:

  • email Subscribers
  • RSS readers
  • social media fans
  • sales of your product
  • comments and engagement?

Set your goals as numbers—if you wish to increase your email subscribers, how many do you want?

The true measure of a successful competition is in its metrics, and without a clear, numerical goal in place, you won’t know if your hard work is paying off.

2. Don’t go it alone

If youíre hoping to attract new readership to your blog, you want your contest to be seen by as many people as possible. You can do this using a few strategies:

Use a third-party social media competition platform to help send the contest viral

Increasing your contest’s visibility is the key to success, and the easiest medium to send your contest viral is social media.

A third-party app helps you to encourage your fans to share their entries on social media. You can either use a blog plugin to run your contest, or use a Facebook based application such as Binkd or Wildfire App. (Full disclosure here, Binkd is my product!)

Joint venture with partner

Leveraging someone else’s list is a powerful way to attract a fresh audience. Team up with a non-competing colleague in your niche and share the rewards of your contest. In exchange for the cross promotion, you could allow them to market to the list generated by the contest.

Approach sponsors

Getting a high-profile sponsor of your contest to assist in the promotion or in the donation of a prize is another way to help market your contest. It also adds credibility to your contest by transferring trust.

3. Choose your contest carefully

If you’re using a competition app, there are several types of contests available:

Skills contest

A skills contest requires your entrants to perform a task to be elligible to answer. Short story contests, answer a question contests, and write a jingle skills contests are popular. Entrants can then either be drawn randomly, or encouraged to share their entries to get their friends to vote. Skills contests are similar to sweepstakes, but the entrants can influence their success or failure in the competition.

You can select to have the entrant with the most votes win, or have each vote count for an entry, and drawn similar to a sweepstakes contest.

Photo contests

A visual form of skills contest, here, your entrants upload a photo, and then appeal to their contacts to vote for the photo. This is a really good way to visually promote your brand. Getting a photo of your fans using your product, or performing a stunt related to your brand spreads the word about you far and wide!

Challenge contests

A challenge contest can send your entrants on a virtual scavenger hunt around your site and social media pages, searching for answers to your questions. This type of contest is powerful for creating engaged and interactive entrants.

Sweepstakes

Your entrants submit their entry, and the winner(s) are randomly drawn. Sweepstakes are a game of chance, not skill.

4. Build engagement

Increase the stickiness of your contest by increasing the engagement of your entrants.

Multiple entry steps

Statistically, contests with multiple entry steps deliver more engaged and sticky entrants. A challenge contest gives your entrants the opportunity to explore your site, and interact with various articles on your blog.

Achievable goals

Make the contest goals achievable for your entrants to complete. For example, if you’re running an article contest to generate some awesome new articles, don’t set word counts or criteria too high or tight.

Don’t make your challenge contest questions too difficult to answer, or be too cryptic in your clues.

5. Automate the process

You can effectively run a contest just on your blog, or by a forum and email management system, but it’s a lot of hard work and can be an administrative nightmare!

There are several applications on the market that automate running a contest and allow you to keep the list of entrants to market to during and after the contest.

Some of the most popular are:

  • Binkd a contest platform that offers a WordPress plugin and Facebook Sweepstakes and Challenge contests
  • Wildfire App, for Facebook Sweepstakes, Photo Contests, and Vote to Win
  • Bulbstorm, for Facebook Sweepstakes, Photo Contests, and Vote to Win.

Running a contest can really help you build up your readership and drive quality, qualified fans to your email subscriber list and social media platforms. You can simplify the job by using a third-party application to handle the grunt work of administering the contest.

Have you used a contest to promote your blog and engage readers? Share your experiences and tips in the comments.

Kiera Pedley is the CCO (Chief Caring Officer) at Binkd home of the Binkd Promotion Platform.