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The Mottos that Landed Me a Post on Problogger.net

This guest post is by Magz Parmenter of Tangerine Turtle.

Close your eyes for a minute and think about the biggest goal you have right now. Is it becoming a full-time blogger? Would you like to speak at a conference? Maybe you want to sell advertising on your blog. Whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve, you need to take the advice in this post. It’s how I succeeded with one of my biggest goals this year: to write for problogger.net…

I was going about my business, writing a post for my blog when I got a little pop-up message in the corner of my screen. It was Darren Rowse, you know, the Darren Rowse, from Problogger. Here’s how the conversation went:

Darren: “Hi Magz, I read your blog and liked what I saw. How about doing a guest post on problogger.net?”
Magz: “Wow! I’m flattered, Darren! Of course, I’d love to!”
Darren: “Okay, that’s great. Send me something and I’ll make sure to send it through to Georgina (the Content Manager at problogger.net).”

Okay, I’ll confess. None of the above actually happened. But wouldn’t it be awesome if it did?

The truth is, if you want to guest post for anyone, particularly an A-list blogger, you have to submit your ideas to them. Let’s be honest, they get thousands of emails asking them to please, please, please consider their amazing post. Particularly if you’re a new blogger, or even if you’re not (I’ve been blogging since 2005), getting to grips with pitching the big guns with your ideas can be daunting.

I’ll be the first to admit, it took me a good six months of reading and researching, interacting with Darren on Twitter and learning as much as I possibly could from heavy-hitters like Brian Clark, Jon Morrow, Pat Flynn, and the Blog Tyrant before I got the courage to pitch my ideas to the guys at problogger.net.

I. Was. Terrified.

To make matters worse, I sent my pitch on a Friday, and because of various factors like the time difference from the UK to Australia and Georgina’s work schedule, I didn’t get an answer until 1.30am on Sunday (Monday). I was sweating it that weekend!

So, How Did I Get that Elusive ‘Yes’ to Guest Post on Problogger?

In my former life, I used to be a counsellor. I’ve always been interested in psychology and what makes people do the things they do. I’m now a Personal Coach and I love helping people find ways to be more productive and successful in their lives, whether that means organizing their homes and offices, or organizing their thoughts.

I’m also addicted to Google. (They should give me shares, really. No … really.) Finally, I love inspirational and catchy quotes. Put these things together, and it should come as no surprise that I used the marketing slogans of four major companies to help me reach my big goal of guest posting here.

1.  Impossible is nothing (Adidas)

If you’re struggling, this motto might seem as believable as a pink elephant flying. But here are a few thoughts that will help you:

  • Your thoughts are influenced by words.
  • The words you tell yourself become your reality.
  • “Impossible” is a word.
  • So is “possible.”

If you tell yourself (or someone else) something over and over, eventually they will believe it. That is why parents are warned about the things they say to their children. If you tell a child continually that they are no good or can’t do something, they will start to believe it whether it’s a fact or not.

This is just as true for adults. In January of this year I did a productivity course and it changed my life. To see what I accomplished in just six weeks after the course, click here. One thing the speaker said really stuck with me:

There is nothing you can’t do that someone has already done before you.

Read it again, and then read it again a few times. When I saw the Adidas slogan “Impossible is Nothing” it immediately reminded me of that same thought. I realized these two statements were both extremely powerful tools to help me achieve my goals and be successful. I started repeating both of them to myself whenever I could. Every time I started feeling fearful or doubtful of my abilities, I would say one or both of them over and over until the feeling passed.

Do you know what? Over time, I found that I was doing it less and less. In other words, it had become my reality. It was no longer a strange sentence that I was just repeating, I actually believed it.

Impossible really is nothing: it’s just a word. It has no hold over you.

2.  What’s the worst that can happen? (Dr. Pepper)

It’s no secret that one of the main thing that holds us back from achieving our goals and dreams is fear. It may or may not come as a surprise to you to learn that many of the biggest experts out there also struggle with fear. We’re all human. We all hate the thought of failure or rejection.

The difference between successful people and the rest of the world is that successful people don’t let the fear win. They go for it anyway.

When you’re gripped by fear, ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” The Dr Pepper people took that thought and made a joke out of it, showing outrageous scenarios of things going wrong in their ads. If it helps you to remember those ads, do it. Sometimes it’s good to visualize the “worst” and then make a joke of it in your mind. (That won’t be appropriate for every situation, of course!)

When I was preparing my pitch to Problogger, as I said before, I was terrified.

But to conquer it, I asked myself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” The worst that could happen was that they would say “no.” Okay, the worst that could happen was that they would say no and then tell me how I had no talent whatsoever and that I should find a different job and never write again. But I was banking on them being more professional than that, and from what I knew about Darren, I thought it would be unlikely that he or any of his staff would be so soul-destroying.

As it happened, I got a “yes.” But if I had let the fear win and not even tried, I would not have achieved one of my big goals for this year, and you would not be reading this right now.

So, the next time you’re afraid to make a move that will push you towards success with your blog, or in your life, ask yourself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” The chances are, it’s not as bad as you think and even if it is, do it anyway—that’s what the big guns do!

3.  Because you’re worth it (L’Oreal)

After fear, the second biggest reason that people don’t achieve their goals and dreams is lack of self-confidence and self-worth.

They don’t believe they can do it, and more importantly they don’t believe they deserve it!

When I was younger and the L’Oreal ads would come on TV touting “because I’m worth it,” I used to smirk just a little bit. It was a catchy little slogan; I could see how women justified lots of purchases using this mantra. But really … how many of them really believed it?

Sadly, not many I would say. Research has shown over and over how low women’s opinions of themselves are. The issue isn’t confined to just women either; many men suffer from the same lack of self-belief.

As I’ve said before, what we tell ourselves becomes our reality, and unfortunately, too many of us tell ourselves that other people are better and more talented, smarter, more beautiful, and frankly, more deserving than us. To make matters worse, we tell ourselves this over and over and over, until eventually, it’s all we believe.

The fact is, none of us is more deserving than another. (I’m talking about hard-working people here; I’m not saying you can just do nothing and expect to get everything just because “you’re worth it.”) I am no less deserving of success in my life than Darren Rowse or Brian Clark or any other expert out there. I remind myself of this every day.

So the next time you think you deserve less than someone else in your niche, or in the blogosphere, tell yourself “I’m worth it.” Tell yourself over and over until you actually believe it.

4.  Just do it (Nike)

The last motto is one that really speaks for itself.

Just do it.

This is the last piece of the puzzle that will get you where you want to go.

After all the thinking and talking and preparing, you have to just go for it. You have to take the leap and take a chance. Doing nothing will get you exactly that: nothing.

When I was preparing my pitch, and indeed, this post, I went through all of the things I’ve talked about above. The hardest thing was just clicking the Send button. But that’s what you have to do.

When you’ve done everything else you can, all you have to do is:

Just Do It.

So, there you have it. Take the advice in this post and you’ll be guaranteed to achieve just about any goal you set for yourself and your blog. When you do, stop by and leave me a message, I love hearing about people’s successes!

Magz Parmenter is a Freelance Writer, Blogger, Personal Coach, Organizing Addict, and Author-in-Training. She specializes in writing about personal development, organizing for success, home and family management. She’d love to hear from you on her blog Tangerine Turtle, on Twitter: @magzparmenter or Facebook.

My Secret Formula for Creating Super-engaging Blog Content

This guest post is by Kiesha of WeBlogBetter.

Many of my readers have asked how in the world I come up with such creative ideas for my blog content.

If you’ve read:

  • “The Walmart Guide to Increasing Time spent on your Site,”
  • “Can your blog Pass the Salad Test?”
  • “Attract Readers to your blog like Mosquitos
  • “What the Sims Taught me About Social Media”
  • “How to Solve the Blogging Puzzle” (a post that compares blogging to a jigsaw puzzle)

…then you’ve probably figured out by now that there are no limits to the subjects I’ll squeeze a blog post out of.

I often challenge myself to find the most unlikely subject and see what blogging lessons I can squeeze out of it. While some things are a complete stretch and really won’t work, there are some surprising lessons you can pull from just about anything, if you’re creative enough.

I’m going to be honest: I’m using the phrase “creative enough,” but really what I mean is this. If you have a brain that has the capacity to think deeply enough to write a coherent paragraph or two, then you’ve got “enough creativity” to pull this off.

I’ll tell you how, but first let me tell you about a book that I read that really informs how I write today. It’s called The Medici Effect. This book talks about how it’s not completely new ideas, but the intersection of two seemingly unrelated ideas, that make a real difference in innovation.

I’m really simplifying the complexity, so you’re going to have to check this one out yourself to really get this and fully grasp the secret to creating meaningful and engaging content.

Here’s my secret formula for creating those zany analogies and surprising comparisons that I write about.

1. Pay attention to the surrounding environment

Every good writer is so because they pay attention to the details of life around them. They use those details and describe them with words that evoke the five senses: sight, smell, taste, sound, and touch.

Being able to describe an experience is key to hooking readers and keeping them engaged.

2. Squeeze lessons from personal experience

This is a direct extension of step one—if you’re paying attention your environment, you’ll discover that life’s lessons are everywhere. Blogging, like Kung Fu, is in everything!

You can pull lessons from any subject and then think about the ways they are similar to your blog topic.

This is easier if you make a list. For example, think of all the ways your experience in college is similar to your blogging experience. If I were to list mine I’d say:

  • Both were baffling at first.
  • Both required time studying alone.
  • Both required commitment and dedication to a schedule.
  • Both required one to stretch his or her thinking beyond the ordinary.

This list could go on and on. I might start with a really long list, but then I would narrow it down to the most important points, since only so much can go into a blog post if it’s to remain engaging.

3. Overcome fears and ignore the inner critic long enough to write

This step is extremely important. If you’re sitting there worrying about how crazy people will think you are or how much someone might think your analogy sucks, you’re not going to be able to do much writing. When you kick your inner critic to the curb and decide to just have fun with writing, it will come through in your writing. Confidence or lack thereof can be sensed and can weaken your credibility and authority.

4. Brainstorm catchy titles

If you’ve selected an interesting topic, then half of the work is done for you. At this point you just need to think of ways you can capitalize on those phrases that people love and that are also search engine friendly.

5. Revise and polish

This works best if I’ve allowed the post to sit for a couple of days. This gives me fresh eyes and since the mental load of revision is far less than writing, it also allows me to think of ways to inject humor, think of details I’ve left out, choose better words and also consider ways to extend the post if possible.

6. If you canít think of ideas to combine, try a dose of randomness

Randomly pick two items and think of ways they are similar and can complement each. Then boldly consider ways you could use the combination to your advantage. You may need to try this exercise a few times before you arrive at something you believe to be true genius that you can passionately use to separate yourself from your competitors.

It was the combining of seemingly random, unrelated ideas that sparked the idea to change up the blog contest game and do something different. I suddenly got the idea that I should host a reality blog contest where bloggers will team up and work together while simulaneously competing for a Grand Prize. I got that idea while reading The Medici Effect, specifically a passage that talked about what makes a good contest. It discussed the evolution of the game show over the years until it eventually turned into reality contests and shows—that immediately sparked a eureka moment for me!

That’s what combining unusual ideas should do for you and your readers. It will help you create super-engaging content that your readers won’t be able to resist.

Kiesha blogs at WeBlogBetter, offering writing, social media and blogging tips. She’s currently holding an exciting new type of contest on her blog—the first ever reality blogging contest called “Surviving the Blog”. Visit her blog for details.

The Warren Buffett Method for Building a Successful Blog

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

Billionaire Warren Buffett’s method of deciding which companies to buy and invest in is not only instructive for share investors, but also for bloggers. His strategy can be used in the blogging world to create a successful blog—especially instructive for bloggers who are short on time and need to make every post count.

Buffet’s “Durable Competitive Advantage” concept

When Buffett analyses a company for potential, he looks for what he calls a “durable competitive advantage.” A durable competitive advantage is a unique product that has a strong competitive advantage in the market and does not have to change over time. In other words, he looks for a product that he can profit from over a long period of without changing it much.

Coke, for example, has a durable competitive advantage because it does not change over time. The same can be said for Budweiser, DeBeers Diamonds and OPEC. A car manufacturer, on the other hand, does not have a durable competitive advantage because cars change in design every few years.

Companies with a durable competitive advantage like Coke enjoy the following advantages over other companies:

  • They spend fewer dollars on research and design.
  • They do not need to retool their production line to cater for new models.
  • They have a long life span in the marketplace.

This means that more money is available for profits and re-investment, allowing more to be achieved with less.

Applying Buffett’s principle to blog strategy

Buffett’s strategy is a great strategy for time-deprived bloggers. Simply put, it states that rather than buying companies that have time-sensitive products—or writing posts that are time sensitive—buy companies who products are evergreen—or write posts that are evergreen.

Rather than building a news site, which is what many bloggers do, build a resource. Build a source of information for your chosen topic. Write posts that focus on principles rather than techniques. That way your posts will be as relevant in four years as they are on the day you write them.

On my blog, for example, all the posts are about principles of consumer psychology. Each post adds to other posts and completes the overall picture. When I am done, I will have covered most of the principles of consumer psychology.

Exceptions to the rule

This does not mean that you cannot write about time-sensitive topics. You absolutely can and should from time to time (topical posts can bring you a spike of traffic in a short period of time). But the bulk of your blog should comprise of posts that are timeless. This way, if you are only writing one or two posts a week, you are making every post count not just for that week but for months and years to come.

If your skill lies in acquiring and communicating breaking news and trends, this strategy is not optimal for you. Similarly, if you can find ways to generate a lot of content quickly through crowd sourcing (think Huffington Post, Wikipedia, and ProBlogger), this strategy is not necessary for you. If you have the time, skill and strategy to write time-sensitive posts, by every means do so.

But for the rest of us, who are short on time and need to get the maximum mileage out of our posts, concentrating on evergreen content is a winning strategy.

As Buffett once explained, “There is a huge difference between the business that grows and requires lots of capital to do so and the business that grows and doesn’t require capital.”

Translated into blog strategy, this means there is a huge difference between the blog that requires breaking news to stay relevant and make money, and the blog that grows because its posts are as relevant today as they were two years ago.

Which strategy do you use on your blog, and why?

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).

How to Use Conversion Optimization to Grow Your Blog

This guest post was written by Alex of ToMakeALiving.

It’s pretty well established that to grow your blog you need to write well, and you certainly wouldn’t struggle to find a dozen or so posts which offer suggestions that mostly boil down to “learn to write good content.” Well, duh…

But assuming you can write, there is plenty of other stuff you can do to improve your blog.

So rather than launch into yet another checklist about how to make a nice looking, effective blog post, I am going to share with you a more scientific method: conversion optimization.

What is conversion optimization?

Quite simply, conversion optimization is the process of using measurable behaviour data and testing small or large changes to see what effect they have on the page or site.

Basically, you can change absolutely anything on your site and actually test it to see what works best. So rather than spending hours umming and ahhing over exactly what shade of grey to use for your text, you can test a number of shades and get a precise result.

Why is it so awesome?

Well, as I hinted at above—and I’m sure you’ve all done this once or twice—most bloggers design their sites based on how they like them; this is totally missing the point, though. Assuming you want to grow your blog, it is your users that matter, not your own personal tastes.

Your personal preference on how to lay out your navigation might turn out to be less desirable than a layout that you would have rejected. Small things really can make a big difference, and I don’t know about you, but I would rather pick the setup that gets and keeps the most readers.

How to get started

Like I said, we are going to do this scientifically, no guess work involved. So we are going to start by finding the right application. Google have a free Website Optimizer, which works just fine if you are on a budget.

If you can afford it though, I highly recommend Visual Website Optimizer—it is far easier and faster to use, which means you will use it more, and that’s a good thing.

What can you track?

All manner of things. But we are talking about your blog here. So what matters most for your blog? Well here are the things I tend to track:

Bounce rate

If you can reduce your bounce rate, you will retain more visitors. That’s got to be good, right?

Signups

You are hopefully trying to get people to sign up to your mailing list. The better your sign up form works, the more subscribers you will get.

Key pages

You can track specific pages and navigation paths from one page to another, for instance, from a particular post to a page which tells people about one of your affiliate products.

Once you get to grips with the process, you can start testing other elements, but these are good things to start with because they are simple to test and they will make the biggest difference to your blog.

Setting up your first experiments

Actually using the software is simple enough, and you’ll soon get to grips with it, so I’m not going to go through the nitty gritty. The biggest challenge starting out, though, is thinking up some experiments to run. So here are a few ideas.

1. Look and feel

How many times have you been torn about what color to make your text? What font to use? What background image looks best? Well, for our first experiment we are finally going to answer that question.

For my first experiment, I created three different backgrounds—one was just plain light blue (this was the original one), one was busier, with black swirls, and one had a color gradient. I ran the experiment with all three backgrounds being split equally among users.

The aim of the experiment was to see which background produced the lowest bounce rate across the entire site.

The results were actually pretty surprising—the swirly background came out with the lowest bounce rate, at 51%, and the second-best was the plain blue, which came in at 62%. So overall this one experiment helped me to reduce my bounce rate by 11%.

2. Signup form

For my next experiment, I decided to test whether a popup would increase my sign ups, and also whether a popup would increase my bounce rate. My main concern was that I didn’t want to push away or annoy my visitors, but I did want more people to subscribe to my blog.

I created a simple signup form, and set it so that it wouldn’t keep appearing for repeat readers. Then I ran an experiment that tested this popup against pages where the sign up form appeared as a widget in the side bar.

As expected, the popup increased signups; the shocking thing was by how much—across just over 1000 visits, the popup form produced 72% more signups. Even more surprising was that the bounce rate was actually 0.5% lower than the signup form.

3. Key pages

For experiment number three we are going to target a specific page. One of my key navigation pages is 8 ways to make money. I wanted to experiment with how best to lay out the page in order to get people to click through to a relevant strategy, and not exit the site or go elsewhere.

I tried a grid layout of 2×2 panels against a simple list. I also tried pages with and without small descriptions for each section, and I tried different bullet points. All in all there were about 6 or 7 alternatives, so I let the test run for a while so that I could be sure I had enough data.

The results showed me that a 2×2 grid layout worked best, short descriptions did help, and bullet points didn’t make any discernable difference either way (so I got rid of them). Overall, I was able to improve the goal rate (visitor clicking on any of the eight “strategies”) by 46%.

Building your own experiments

So there you have it: three experiments to try out. As you can see, these are all pretty simple. The key is that you are testing them with real visitors so that you don’t have to rely on guess-work.

Sometimes you might find that the best layout is the one you already had, but if you keep testing different variations, you can really improve your blog, one small change at a time. I started with things like background images and other simple changes, but you once you feel confident you can change headers, tag lines, navigation—or whatever you want.

Just imagine if you could halve your bounce rate and double your signup rate; wouldn’t that help you to grow your blog much faster?

Targeting specific pages

Just a final thought: once you are happy with your overall site layout, you can start trying to improve individual pages. I always start by looking at my analytics—one option is to look for any posts that have a relatively high exit rate.

These are pages which are losing you traffic, so again, if you can reduce your exit rate, you will retain more traffic and increase the time that people spend on your site.

Your actual experiment can involve changes whatever you like. Simple things might be adding/removing/changing images. You could also play with headings and subheadings, and you can even try a complete re-write of the page or test long copy vs. short.

Summary

I hope this post has given you some inspiration to go and get started with your own simple experiments. You can do a lot to improve your blog by simply getting in the right mindset. Results vary and you can never be totally sure what will and won’t work, but when you can see the numbers in front of you, and a clear improvement, it is very encouraging.

Have you tried conversion optimization experiments? Share your experiences in the comments.

This post was written by Alex from ToMakeALiving a site dedicated to showing you how to earn money online. The site covers all kinds of money making strategies and gives you the complete guide from planning to monetizing.

3 Reasons I’m Proud to Be an Amateur Blogger

This guest post is by Dan Meyers of Your Life, Their Life.

You  push the Submit button to introduce your next great thought to the world.  Finally, this might be the one that pulls in some real traffic.  Up until this point, the majority of your visits have come from you and your parents.

Amateur golfer

Amateur golfer (image is author's own)

Your bubble bursts when you check your web traffic and realize this wasn’t the one.  If you could only get your Facebook friends to like your blog page, then you’d have some legit numbers!  However, you’ve asked time and time again and most of them don’t come through.  Your subscriber count remains the same.

Life as an amateur blogger isn’t fun, but it reminds me of my experience as an amateur golfer.  I say aloud that my sub-par abilities (pun intended) aren’t worthy of my anger. But that doesn’t prevent me from getting ticked off with every ball that bounces belligerently into the brush.  Check out the picture: I’m that bad!

I’ve only blogged on my current site for a few months.  Of course I shouldn’t expect great traffic or a large subscriber base.  However, that doesn’t numb the pain of a harsh reality!

Are you embarrassed to admit that you’re an amateur at something?  Admitting so can make you feel worthless.  Our culture teaches us it’s better to lie than admit you’re not good at something.

My name is Dan, and I’m an amateur blogger.

I started blogging in 2007, but it was one of those one month blogs.  You know the kind: you get all fired up, pay for a website or sign up for a blog account, write three blog posts, and quickly become discouraged when you don’t get any visits. That’s what mine was, but I appreciate my parents, brother, and friend Ryan for clicking on it!

I’m back at it again and now I’m not afraid to admit I’m an amateur blogger.  It’s easy to start a blog, but it’s not easy to make a blog successful.

I’m now convincing myself that life as an amateur blogger should be relished.  Here are the reasons why.

1.  Death to my best ideas!

Life as an amateur gives me room to grow, and the humility to accept that my first ideas probably won’t be my best .  It will allow me to kill some of my ideas without feeling like I’m killing part of myself.

This is relevant for more than blogging.   Charlie Munger said, “If Berkshire Hathaway had made a modest progress, a good deal of it is because Warren [Buffett] and I are very good at destroying our own best-loved ideas.  Any year that you don’t destroy one of your best-loved ideas is probably a wasted year.”

I’m an amateur. Of course I’m going to have some bad ideas!  Ben Graham made an investing observation that is analogous to real life when he said, “Good ideas cause more investment mischief than bad ideas.”  Are your good blogging ideas causing you more pain than your bad ideas?

2.  Standards? What standards?

Acknowledgement of my life as an amateur allows me to not hold myself to the high standards of a professional.  However, I am forced to know I must strive relentlessly to get to that point.

Professionals got to where they are because of many years of hard work.  As I mentioned in my previous problogger.net guest post, Malcolm Gladwell puts that amount of practice at 10,000 hours in his book Outliers.  If you attempt to instantly match the professionals, you will become frustrated quickly, which might lead to an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy.

However, you must realize that it is possible to get to that point just as they did.  If you are unwilling to put a lot of time into it, you’ll probably join the death of my first blog.   As they say, problogger.net wasn’t built in a day.

3.  I love something enough to do it even though I’m not a pro!

This is my favorite part of life as an amateur.  I’m passionate about helping others get out of debt and take control of their life.  I do it even though I’m not a professional; I don’t currently make money doing it and it’s a lot of hard work.

In his book, The Call, Os Guinness explains it as the following, “To our shame we moderns have taken the word amateur, opposed it to professionalism and excellence, and turned it into a matter of tepid motives and shoddy results.

“But amateur, as G.K. Chesterson never tired of saying, means “love.”  Man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.”

This doesn’t give you a free pass to do sub-par work and shouldn’t cap your ambition to strive towards excellence.  However, it should prevent you from not doing something just because you’re not a professional.  Your message is important because you can help others, and because it’s worth doing.   G.K. Chesterson also said, “If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly!”

I can guarantee you one thing:  if you doing something badly long enough, but you try to improve and are passionate about it, soon it won’t be bad anymore!

These are three reasons that I’m proud of my amateur title, but it doesn’t mean I want to continue with it any longer than I must!  I’m so passionate about my subject that I know I can become a professional; it just takes time.  If I continue to work hard and not get discouraged, then I can make it and help many people.

Are you willing to live life as an amateur in hopes of one day becoming a professional?  You have a voice, don’t be afraid to use it!

Dan Meyers started Your Life, Their Life to help you take control of your life.  Read how he paid off $50,000 of debt in two years and how his strategies can help you.

3 Tactics I Used to Develop a PageRank 5 Blog in 5 Months

This guest post is by John Saddington of TentBlogger.

We all know that having a blog can enhance your freelancing business and serve as an effective marketing tool for your products and services—that’s given. And although it’s easy to get a blog started (and to start a freelancing business) it’s much harder to make a dent in search engine rankings so you can win those viewers (and new customers and clients).

And sure, we all know that every blogger starts on day number one, but it seems that some bloggers have a lot more going for them than others, right? There are some bloggers (and freelancers) who seem to hit it out of the park, achieving some phenomenal traffic and financial return very early on.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to grow as fast and as effective as “those” bloggers until I tried it myself—and boy, did it work.

Within a few months, between Google’s PR update in January and the most recent on in June of this year, I was able to achieve a PageRank 5 (from a PR 0) blog that sees 20-35% organic traffic on any given month, and is just inches from clearing 100,000 pageviews per month. It’s not a boring blog, either, with an average of 45 comments per post!

You think I’d killed someone or bought a “sleeping giant” blog with mega keywords, but that’s not the case at all—in fact, I’ve been able to boil down the last few months’ successes into a number of systems and strategies that I’d love to share with you.

I honestly don’t think it’s too hard to achieve a highly trafficked, highly profitable, and attractive freelance blog for marketing. Sure, it’ll take some hard work and serious dedication, but with the right strategies in place, it can be done. Here’s what I did.

1. Have a serious content focus

TentBlogger wasn’t the first blog that I’ve created and it won’t certainly be my last, but it was the first blog that I took very seriously the element of focused content.

I took it to the extreme and used my categories to guide me. In fact, I realized that anything more than eight categories would seriously cramp my efforts to create a compelling array of content around specific and targeted keywords.

A number of my previous blogs had many more categories than this, and never achieved the amount of success that I’ve seen already. I’ll never dilute my efforts again.

Key takeaway: If you’re going to make a serious dent in the blogging universe (and the freelancing world) then you have to create compelling and unique content around a focused set of keywords, instead of expanding your blog into areas that you don’t have unique expertise or even sustainable passion.

Let your categories be your guide and if you’re finding it difficult to concentrate your efforts, you can believe that users (and search engines) are having the same challenge.

2. Become a linking master

One of the things that I’ve never done or really paid much attention to previously was becoming a link architect and a master of my own content architecture.

You see PageRank, one factor of about 200+ that Google considers when they rank and place you in search engine results pages (SERPs), requires that your blog becomes a paradise of links, both inside and outside.

The part that you can control is the internal content areas, and making sure that every blog post that you write has links to other resources and other pieces of content in your blog. Linking to historical resources that haven’t seen much “sun” is always a great strategy—I call this the art of curation.

The part that you can’t necessarily control is the number of links that are coming to your blog from the outside—that is, from other websites and blogs that have decided to link to your site. But what you can do is create content that is so in-demand, and so amazing, that the community at large can’t help but link back to you. Focused content is certainly something you can control.

Key takeaway: Every blog post that you create has the potential to be a link magnet, yet most bloggers simply don’t take the time to curate them and add the necessary link-love that they need.

And it’s okay if you didn’t start with that in mind! You can always go back and re-engineer and edit previous blog posts to add more links. You might as well update them with fresh content, too!

Your users and the search engines will love you for it.

3. Consolidate the Brand

Your blog’s brand (and freelancing business) is whatever you make of it and I never thought much of it until I seriously made a run as a full-time blogger. When I took stock of what I had created previously, I realized how random and unfocused my efforts had been in terms of creating a compelling and memorable brand!

What I had was a Facebook page, multiple Twitter accounts, and more than a few social networking accounts as well as media distribution properties like Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, and more.

What I needed was to consolidate so that a singular and powerful presence emerged, and it was tough! I had to create a lot of new accounts, letting go of years of historical content so that I could truly consolidate. I even changed my Twitter handle, which had over 10,000 followers!

Was it worth it? Absolutely. I’ve never had a more focused online blogging brand, and it’s really paid off. People recognize my handle and avatar on multiple different properties and it’s still a treat to see people who didn’t know I had an account on one website say, in effect, “Hey, I know you! You’re TentBlogger! I love your blog!”

Key takeaway: If you’re going to be serious about growing your blog’s presence and your freelance efforts online, then you have to also seriously consider your brand presence on secondary websites and corollary social networking properties.

It might be a difficult choice (or near-impossible for some of you) but if you’re going to make a run at becoming a professional blogger, or simply taking your blogging efforts to the next level, then I’d seriously suggest taking it into consideration.

Do you use these approaches on your blog? I’d be interested to hear what’s worked for you in the comments.

This is a guest post by John Saddington. He is a Professional Blogger who loves sharing his blogging tips, tricks, tools, and practical teaching covering SEOWordPress and making money through your blog!

The Humble Telephone is Making a Comeback … for Bloggers

This guest post is by David Edwards of www.asittingduck.com.

I’m not sure why, but when you start blogging, you forget all about how businesses run.

It’s true that there are bloggers out there who wake up to full PayPal accounts and affiliate cheques flying through their doors. But if you’re in the early days of blogging, this may not be the case for you. What could you use that’s sitting on your desk every day, and could help you make serious cash?

A telephone!

What I have done, which has set me up for a very profitable year, is built a sales funnel to increase the amount of revenue in my business.

I have guest posts and viral videos published, which get me some traffic. Then, I have an email subscription list that lets me build those relationships further—to the point where a phone call from me to a subscriber would not be intrusive at all. In fact potential clients, even if they didn’t buy from me, love to receive a call. Some have said it was great to talk to someone that has a good perspective on how to make money online.

This technique may not be for everyone—I know cold calling can be daunting. It really doesn’t feel like cold calling to you or your subscriber, though! Imagine Darren Rowse phoning to ask if he could help you at all with your blog. What would you say? “Not interested, Darren!”? Probably not!

Do it right, and you’ll enjoy a positive reaction for your call. You may think that because you only have a few subscribers, you’re not worth as much to your fans as a big player. But you have the advantage, because a big player doesn’t have time to call his subscribers.

Here are my tips for making successful sales calls:

  • Work on giving a free gift to subscribers that will whet their appetites for future products. I use a very short PDF on traffic generation.
  • Send out an email once a week or once a month to build your relationship with your subscribers.
  • Offer further free training videos or helpful blog posts and give them a chance to email you directly.
  • Once you have a few emails in, offer to call them.
  • Once you have made the calls and spoken to your subscribers, let them know about your more highly priced services.
  • Repeat the process.

The humble telephone is making a comeback, and I would love to hear that some of you still use it to build businesses from your blogs.

David Edwards is a freelance marketing consultant and the founder of www.asittingduck.com.
His character “Candy The Magic Dinosaur” will be starring in his very own iPhone Game this Christmas!

The 7 Cs of Business Communication: Make Your Posts Shareworthy Every Time

This guest post is by Marya of Writing Happiness.

When I finished my MBA degree about a decade ago, I undertook a course which taught me how to write great content for my blog.

Sceptical? I know what you are thinking: blogging wasn’t even around then! I know. Allow me to explain.

Doing MBA, I did many subjects like Marketing and Management which are great for anyone who is a webpreneur or looking to become one. That being said, Business Communication was, by far, the most enjoyable subject of the whole course. And I knew it would come in handy one day.

I just didn’t know that blogging would be the area that would benefit the most from it.

Time to dig through the dusty old boxes, locate the Business Communication textbook and revisit the well thumbed pages once again!

Blog writing is effective communication

We all agree that at the heart of great content lies effective communication. If you don’t, you are almost guaranteed to fail at whatever you are trying to accomplish with your posts.

To compose effective written or oral messages, there are certain principles that we need to apply. These also provide guidelines for your choice of content and style of presentation, be it a post or a video on your blog.

These are 7 Cs of communication:

Completeness

Your post is only complete when it contains all the info that your reader requires in order to have a reaction you want them to have.

Remember when you are writing a post, only you are aware of what’s happening inside your head—the readers don’t. They don’t have access to all the voices in your head. For them to interpret the message as you intend, make sure you provide them with all the necessary information.

That could be a back-story to your post; it could be the questions you were contemplating while that thought popped into your head to do your post. Readers need to know what motivated you to write your post. Answer all the questions that are bound to come up and relate to your purpose.

Give your readers the whole picture, laying down the benefits, and talking about the results to convince them. Bring your reader to the page where you begin, or much context will be lost or misinterpreted.

Conciseness

Ahh… I am really partial to this one—it’s easily my favourite child of them all!

Conciseness is saying what you have to say in the fewest possible words—without sacrificing the other C qualities. Pay attention to the last bit as this is gold. It won’t help you to write briefly if you haven’t provided complete information, lack clarity, and are not courteous.

A concise message saves time for both you, the blogger, and for your readers. By being concise you are showing respect for your readers’ time. You lay emphasis on important ideas by eliminating unnecessary words, including only relevant information and avoiding needless repetition.

Wordiness has been the bane of writers for ever. So avoid long introductions to your post, omit unnecessary explanations, and don’t insult your readers.

Cut down pompous words, trite explanations, and gushy exclamations. Stick to the purpose of your post. When combined with the “you view,” which I’ll explain in a moment, concise posts are that much more interesting to your readers.

Consideration

Write each post with your readers in mind. What do they need? How much of a difference will your post make in their lives? Be aware of their desires, problems, circumstances, emotions, and expectations.

Put yourself in their shoes. This is “you view.”

Most new bloggers are actually surprised to find that the most important word in their posts is you and not I. Yes, it might seem contradictory; I mean, you started blogging to air your thoughts, right? Well, that’s probably not entirely true. Don’t let your posts become an exercise in navel-gazing: write with the goal of helping your readers in some way, be it educational or entertainment.

Show them the benefit of reading your posts, and gently encourage them to take the desired action—sharing your post, commenting on it, or buying something from you.

Clarity

Getting the meaning from your head into the head of your reader—accurately—is the purpose of clarity.

Choosing the right words to convey your message will work wonders for your writing.

Be conversational, and avoid being superior in your writing. Your writing doesn’t need to be pretentious to be taken seriously. It doesn’t matter how big your vocabulary is, you won’t achieve any results if nobody understands you. Use familiar language, and words that you are well versed in, and are appropriate for the situation.

Use short words if you have a choice between using long or short. Avoid using technical jargon and, when you have to, explain it once for people who might be beginners in this area.

Construct effective sentences and paragraphs by laying emphasis on the main idea. Generally, short length works best, and be sure to have unity and coherence in your sentence structure. Look into style elements if you feel you need some help in this regard.

Courtesy

Do you reply to your comments? Do you thank people for sharing your posts, tweeting them, and linking to them?

Your sincere “you attitude” makes you courteous—and it makes you likeable. Courtesy is politeness growing out of respect and concern for others.

Be thoughtful, appreciative, helpful, and truly respectful to your readers. Remember you are building a community here, so you want to promote values that define you as a person.

Concreteness

Be specific, definite, and vivid in your writing, rather than vague and general.

Use active verbs rather than passive, and choose image building words. Use analogies to make comparisons when appropriate, and avoid dull language. Show off your personality and your voice—that’s what makes readers hang on to every word.

And lastly, an extension of that is the final C.

Correctness

This issue is the easiest to fix, and should never ever see the light of the day—there is simply no excuse for it.

Use proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Check the accuracy of facts, figures, and words. For oral presentations, substitute spelling with speech etiquette. Enough said—you are a bright reader, I can tell.

Do you follow these 7 Cs of communication when you write your blog posts? Tell us your approach in the comments.

Marya is a communicator of ideas, exploring the human face of blogging. She offers quirky insights into personal development for bloggers. Catch more of her posts at Writing Happiness.

Online Success Need Not Be Measured in Enemies

This guest post is by Margie Clayman of margieclayman.com.

One of my favorite Elvis Costello choruses goes like this:

“What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding?”

I have always liked that song, but I never really thought I would live in a time where that question would resonate. I always thought, “Well, that was written when peace and love seemed hokey, perhaps, or maybe impossible. It was more than a rhetorical question when Elvis first sang it.”

And yet, as I sit here in the year 2011, I have to ask the same question. What is so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding? It sure seems like all three concepts are running into a PR crisis in the online world.

“You’re nice. That’s so boring.”

I have gotten picked on a bit over my year in the world of social media. Why? Because I’m nice. I’m lovey dovey. People have told me that it’s really boring listening to someone like me because I never ruffle any feathers.

To put it kindly, I think that’s a totally ridiculous sentiment.

Sure, you get a powerful response if you call someone out, bash someone, hurl insults, or say that someone is really stupid. There’s no question that ruffling feathers tends to be great for attention-grabbing and traffic spikes. So what?

If you want to entice people to read your blog posts, what about the concept of writing really good content? Really thought-provoking content? What about writing about something people aren’t writing a lot about? Like, I don’t know … like being nice, maybe? Why does excitement in the online world, or interest, have to be synonymous with cruelty or malicious intent? I’d rather be boring and nice than enjoy a modicum of success at the expense of others.

“If you don’t have haters, you’re doing something wrong.”

This is another phrase I’ve seen a lot in the online world over my year navigating the wild Internet waters, and I also think it’s utter nonsense. Why are we measuring success by how many people hate us? There is no other realm that I can think of in the human world where we measure success that way.

“Congratulations, Daisy. Everyone in your department hates you so we’re going to promote you now!” That just doesn’t happen. So why do we need to pull out haters instead of a yardstick when we talk about measuring online success? What is this need to have people attack us all about?

How do I measure my online success? I look at how many people say they enjoy my posts. I look at the solid relationships I have built. It’s not exactly a revolutionary concept, folks.

“Women can’t be successful because they can’t be narcissistic morons.”

My friend Sean McGinnis ran into a post that made this claim: that women may not find as much success in the world because women just can’t be egotistical or selfish enough.

First of all, let me tell you about some of the women I’ve encountered in my life. If you want to know about knife stabbing, in-it-for-herself, ruthless, downright cruel women, I could spin ya a yarn, sonny jim. That’s not an issue.

Second of all, what?!? Are we really saying that success rests on how much you make people want to throw up when they see you? I mean, that doesn’t sound like success to me. That sounds kind of like, I don’t know … crazy-sauce?

The glorification of “Ick!”

Next to the glorification of failure, I find the glorification of crassness or cruelty to be the most nauseating thing I’ve encountered on the Web. You should not be applauded for breaking your Censor button. You should not gain accolades because every other post has an f-bomb in it. Surely there is more to online success than being someone who invites comparisons to male and female genitalia? I mean, really. Can we aim a little higher?

Then again, maybe I’m just a boring nice person.

You tell me what this is all about.

Margie Clayman represents the third generation at her family’s marketing firm. She is the resident librarian at the Blog Library and is the resident blogger at www.margieclayman.com.