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Ignore the A-list Bloggers

This guest post is by Buck Inspire.

Okay, you must be thinking, I have a death wish for incurring the wrath of Darren Rowse and other A-list blogs like ProBlogger. But I believe I need to get the message out to all newbie bloggers. I struggled mightily myself when I first started. I almost quit blogging altogether.

If you want your blog to succeed, ignore A-list blogs at all costs!

Why ignore the A-list?

Income

Some A-list blogs do it more than others (show off how much money their blog brings in), but the result is the same. You will lose your focus and start obsessing over money. I guarantee it. I understand it’s all about the money and they need to show their expertise and success through their income statements. But don’t get entranced by the dollars. You will dilute your passion for writing and your own blog.

Metrics

Although their income is the measurement that stands out, don’t get sucked into their other metrics as well. Hundreds of thousands of fans, followers, and subscribers shows that the A-lister knows how to grow a community. But nothing makes you feel more inadequate than when you take a look at your ten followers, fans, and subscribers. Add to that their out of this world PageRank, mozRank, Alexa, monthly page views and visitors, and you’ll be feeling more inadequate than a teenage boy coming out from a cold swim. Compare at your own risk!

Advertising

What’s wrong with looking at their ads and banners? Nothing, but as you get more interested you will naturally find out what they charge for ad space. This ties with income and metrics and will fuel your inadequacy. You can’t even give your ad space away for a dollar while A-list bloggers easily command 500 times that amount.

Ignore if you dare!

Okay, you found me out. Of course you shouldn’t ignore A-list bloggers!

They all have been there and done that. They have many years of experience, a wealth of knowledge, and tons of great advice to help your blog succeed. However, if you obsess with their income, metrics, and advertising, you will get derailed and you can kiss your blog goodbye.

Content really is king

We’ve heard this mantra a million times before, but do you really know why? I came up with a few catchy corollaries, but they were too bland and generic. Luckily, I found Eric of Photography Bay and his guest post The Long Tail of Blogging: Why Content Is King. He presents a fascinating look at the Long Tail theory, how it pertains to your blog, backs it up with clear examples and graphs. After discovering why content really is king, I even learned a little about photography, too.

Community is queen

In my opinion, second behind content is community. After penning award-winning posts, what good is it if you don’t have readers to interact with you? Rather than bore you with my drivel, check out Darren’s 8 Tips For Building Community On Your Blog. I particularly enjoyed tips on accepting reader content, assigning reader jobs, and giving reader homework and plan to incorporate them into my own blog.

Develop your voice

There is only one of you and this fact makes your blog special. I thought I found my voice, but after reading Georgina’s 5 Ways to Build Your Blog’s Voice, I can improve this area as well. I was so focused on my content, I believed my voice was naturally flowing from my post. I neglected picturing my audience and watching my mood when I posted and unknowingly weakened my voice. Don’t let this happen to you.

Are you ignoring the A-list?

It does take time to gain blog success as this is not a get rich quick scheme. If this is what you are looking for, you’ve chosen the wrong path. But if you work hard and stick to your guns, before you know it, your income, metrics, and advertising will grow as well. Rather than envy A-List Blogs and their super-duper stats, heed their advice and apply it to your blog. Don’t forget to thank me when you join the ranks of the A-list bloggers!

Buck Inspire is living a fulfilled life within his means while delving into personal finance sprinkled with dining, entertainment, pop culture, technology, and travel. If you like what you see here, please consider subscribing to his RSS feed or following him on Twitter.

Why You Absolutely Need a Blogging System

This guest post is by Shaun Connell of Live Gold Prices.

People like things to be predictable. Formulas—or patterned systems—are all around us.

Many popular action movies have the same basic plot, every criminal trial is supposed to be run with the same basic principles, the planets follow the same basic paths, and billions of dollars are spent every day in stocks, futures, and currency trades using complex formulas. Long story short—formulas are important, and for a good reason.

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Formulas allow our world to be predictable, and then allow us to repeatedly get what we want out of the world by simply learning those systems.

In this post, we’ll be discussing what systems are, why you need some for your blog, and then discuss some ideas for systematic blogging in order to help you create a repeatable, actionable process for making multiple successful and profitable blogs.

Why you need a system

The world’s rich usually fall into at least one of the following two categories: lucky or systematic. If you inherit a billion dollars, then you’re lucky. If you have an investing strategy that works, like Warren Buffett does, then you’re systematic.

If you find yourself short on the luck scale, then the fact that systematic success is, well, systematically predictable should come as pleasant news. If you have the formula for success, then you’re able to take a one-time good thing and turn it into an effectually infinite number of good things.

This is why so many “investor” guides and tutorials try to focus on finding the holy grail of technical analysis—they know if they can find a predictable pattern, they can make a fortune trading on the basis of that pattern.

Of course, most of those patterns just don’t work anywhere near like they’re supposed to work and a lot of “technical analysis” is rubbish, but that’s another topic for another time.

An introduction to systematic blogging

While blogging is obviously more of an art than an exact science, the notion of systematic blogging also still usually works as well. If you look at most successful bloggers who manage more than one successful blog, you’ll usually see that they employ plenty of the same principles, methods, and systems that give them predictable, repeatable blogging success.

Let’s look at a few arenas where this should be evident:

  • Staff writers. Hiring multiple freelance writers allows you to automate your blog. There’s a reason most of the biggest blogs on the Internet often have multiple writers—this allows the blog to be a little more manageable by the owner, while also allowing a new, fresh perspective to be added to the website’s content.
  • Content patterns. The need for being systematic couldn’t be more powerful than when it comes to your content. Consistent posting, learning basic headlines that are powerful, keeping a repeatable style going, etc. Each of these both builds your brand, systematically keeps traffic coming back because they know what to expect, and lead to longer-term success.
  • Social media building. Creativity is obviously absolutely critical to getting content to go viral. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be systematic as well. Strategically adding a Share or Like button is an obvious first step, but hard-wiring in a simple line asking for readers to spread the word so you can keep your content free can lead to an incredibly high response rate.
  • Design principles. Web usability is something many bloggers completely forget to master. Having a professional looking web design is just step one. Having a functional web design that gets conversions and is easy to use is another matter entirely. There are entire blogs based on finding the most compelling way to build trust and relationships with different color schemes, textures, and other bits of design.
  • Newsletter marketing. Mixing a great newsletter offer with strong conversion-usability is probably the best way to get systematic success. Newsletter readers are often highly responsive, and you can reach them directly in their email box whenever you need to. To say this is “powerful” is an understatement. Mixing high-quality blogging with a strong understanding of email marketing is pure systematic, repeatable income dynamite.
  • Website usability. A pretty design is good, a usable design is better, and a beautiful and usable design is the best. Website usability is essentially the field of figuring out which little changes to a design/content get the most results. Using subtitles, figuring out where to put the sidebar, and knowing where to put ads can literally increase your traffic and earnings by 10 fold over time. I once spent some time buying smaller niche blogs, installing different designs, and then just updating them with content—it’s possible to double revenue with the same amount of traffic. That’s systematic success. This arena overlaps with design principles, but because of the nature of how usability is part of all of your content production, it includes a bit more than just the main theme of your blog.

As with everything worth doing in life, building a systematic, repeatable blogging model takes time, experience, and research. Learning how to do this correctly can thrust your blog into the realms of higher earnings, higher traffic, and even give you some extra free time without costing you a penny.

What are some ideas of systematic tactics that can make everything you do more efficient, more profitable, or more popular? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Shaun Connell has been a full-time professional blogger since 2008, and focuses his time at his newest blog Live Gold Prices, where he writes about investing in gold, predicting future gold prices, and finding financial security.

The Secret to Blog Popularity

This guest post is by Ankesh Kothari of SuccessNexus.com.

Psychologist Antonius Cillessen of the University of Connecticut wondered how kids became popular. So he started researching social behaviors and peer relations of early adolescent kids in American schools. And he found something very interesting.

He found that every school had a bunch of very friendly kids who are socially accepted and liked by everyone. But they are never considered popular.

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The kids who are considered popular are often just as friendly as these universally liked kids, but with one difference. The popular kids draw a boundary around themselves, and exclude a few “outcasts” from their circle.

Professor Antonius found that you can’t become popular unless you learn to exclude. He stumbled onto a truth that Chinese philosopher Confucius had described years earlier:

“Build small community and thousands will want to join.” – Confucius

It’s a truth high-end clubs have realized too. The harsher they are in excluding people from entering their premises, the more popular they get. Facebook grew when Friendster and other social sites didn’t. Why? because of their initial exclusivity—they only allowed folks with a .edu email address to sign up.

Apple. Rolex. Rivendell bikes. All of them are insanely popular because they focus on only one type of an audience and exclude others.

If you want to make your blog popular, you too have to learn to exclude. You shouldn’t cater to everyone. Only by creating exclusivity can you get the crowds to clamor for what you offer.

Creating exclusivity

  1. Decide who your ideal reader is. What is their one characteristic that you value above everything else? What are their peculiarities. What do they love? What do they hate? (Or if not hate, what are they indifferent towards?)
  2. Draw a boundary around yourself based on what your ideal reader loves and hates. Exclude writing posts on certain topics and catering to a certain group of people.
  3. Let the world know (from your about page or your sidebar) who you are excluding and why.

I used this process to create a sense of exclusivity around my own blog. The first thing I did when I started out was to focus on who my ideal readers would be. I zeroed in on people who would take action without making excuses, and who have achieved some success already and are hungry for more.

I know that if I can help my readers’ blogs grow, my site will grow automatically. And so I only wanted to focus on readers who are willing and able to put in the work to take action and grow their blogs.

That’s why I focused on excluding two types of audiences that are slow or inconsistent in taking action:

  1. Beginners: people who just don’t have the skillset or the resources yet to implement things and take action.
  2. Hot news chasers: folks who get excited by every shiny new thing that comes out and waste their time jumping from one thing to the next.

On the About page of my blog, I clearly mention that the above the kinds of audiences are not welcome.

The added benefit of this declaration is that it polarizes my audience to my liking. The beginners and hot news chasers go somewhere else. Meanwhile, the action-takers realize that there won’t be a lot of fluff on my blog, and subscribe in higher numbers.

Action points

  • How can you become popular? Simple: don’t serve everyone.
  • Target the right people. Don’t write for everyone.
  • Mention on your about page: which topics you will never cover, and which people you will never cater to.
  • Be choosy and selective, and your fame and influence will grow.

Have you tried this approach on your blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments.

Ankesh Kothari is the founder of SuccessNexus.com—an affiliate management application for blogs and forums. He also runs the Advanced Internet Marketing Strategy blog—which you should not visit if you’ve just started blogging or didn’t find value in this post.

Are You a Creative Blogger?

This guest post is by Chris Kahler of bloggeritus.com.

It doesn’t take a genius to stroll around cyberspace and quickly find that the World Wide Web is littered with junk. There is a lot of “stuff” out there, most of which isn’t very good.

On the flip side, though, there are still many amazing gems hidden beneath the rubble. The magical ingredient that marks the divide is creativity. Creativity isn’t just part of a fairytale that only children believe in. It really exists, and is the one thing that will polish you into a masterful blogger.

The gems you will find online are from the few bloggers who have found their own creative abilities and applied them masterfully towards the many processes that grow a blog. They have their own special style that everyone instantly recognizes.

“Run of the mill” is a term used to describe work done by others who try to imitate someone else’s style—their work becomes obscure and much less effective.

Originality is not attempting to be different, but rather doing what you want to do the way you want to do it. Originality is only effective when approached with creativity.

A blog is created through many small steps, wouldn’t you agree? Depending on how you approach them, these steps can either produce “run of the mill” results and put your blog in the pile of rubble, or they can produce results of original creativity and polish your work to be one of the few gems to be found.

What are the benefits of creative blogging?

Blogging is a medium thriving on the expressions of originality. Those who can create their own unique style stand out.

You create your own style by being creative with your content and unique with your presentation. The creativity in your content will act as your originality, and over time your style will resonate with people.

For creating a unique style you must quit following trends, trying to fit in with specific groups, or attempting to fit a personality mold you weren’t made for; rather, embrace the idea of creative imagination and flow where you really want to be.

When you become creative with your ability to express your thoughts, your style will carve a path of its own.

As you practice being creative many drastic changes will occur in your life. Here are some of the more noticeable changes creativity can bring:

  • Creativity can reduce stress (if you learn to enjoy it).
  • It helps to unlock hidden potential in your brain.
  • Creativity helps rejuvenate your vigor.
  • It boosts your motivation.
  • It will help you build and maintain stronger focus on what you need to get done.

Another main benefit, which in my opinion is one of the best, is the fact that you will actually grow to enjoy the process of creating. There is a fine line between work and play that produces the most efficient results toward any goal.

Creators of great achievements walk along this line.

They understand the importance of focused objectives yet are able to have fun during the time they spend “at work” getting them accomplished.

As you learn to be more creative you will grow to enjoy creating just for the sake of it. Results are just results and shouldn’t be the focus of your efforts.

Creators focus on the creations, not the potential rewards

It helps to provide real value when your overall focus is applied in the right places. If you have a goal in mind that you want to reach, by all means remember it constantly.

However, when you find yourself in the trenches trying to make the life you want to happen a possibility, don’t work with possible results as your main focus for inner drive.

Disappointment sets in when you work for results. But even worse, your work will be totally misguided due to the lack of controlled focus for direction.

Now if you have a dream, which everyone should, do keep it in the forefront of your memory; when you visualize your expectant life and realize certain things must initially take place for you to get there, you will understand what’s next—you must create those “certain things” to help you move forward.

This is what visualizing is for—to help you prepare yourself for the skills you’ll need to gain and to give you a direction to begin creating that dream.

As you create your way through the smaller incremental steps giving you advancement towards the dream, make those individual processes your sole focus.

Creativity will help define a passion for you

Being creative will help to create a since of pride in you, yet the process of creation will always leave you humbled. The result of this is the constant urge to continue.

When you learn to enjoy the creative process and feel a great deal of satisfaction from your creations, that’s the birth of passion.

Creative passion is one of the most powerful driving forces for producing effective, high quality content in record time.

Furthermore, you will also strive to exceed any current “limitations”—this is just how the creative process is!

Applying creativity towards any kind of work you do will allow you to spark a new connection with what you’re doing, and your progress will grow positively.

No matter what side project(s) you are involved with, such as a blog project, some form of art you want to try out, or any other kind of objective—if you search out a creative aspect in it, you will see things in an entirely new perspective.

The best part of creativity: a new-found perspective

Creativity gives you flexibility without expectation. This gives you a full enjoyment for what you do.

As a creative blogger:

Rather than creating blog posts just for the rewards of blogging, you will find yourself stretching your limits to create the best post you can, just for the challenge of creation.

Rather than focusing on distant realities in your mind you will develop solid concentration on tasks that are enjoyable.

You’ll also begin feeling passionate for these tasks.

Also, a lasting impression for seeking creativity is the new mannerism developed for modeling the success of others.

Rather than seeing limits that seem to impose themselves on you when considering yourself in comparison with a notable leader, you’ll just see the distance as mere obstacles that you will overcome in increments … creative increments, that is.

The only steps separating you from the most established professionals are the many smaller and focused processes of creation, which have given these professionals every asset, tool, and skill they use to travel the path of achievement.

Your steps to becoming a more creative blogger

To become a more creative blogger is a very wise thing to do. However, it takes time and effort to establish and build a mind that leans towards creative thinking.

Here are the things you must do in order to be more creative:

  1. You must be more positive with your outlook on everything. For any situation, try to find the positive aspect or potential outcome. This is key for creative people.
  2. Stretch yourself past what you may perceive as limits. There is a simple mindset to consider for doing this effectively. You need to learn this mindset in order to expand your own abilities.
  3. Observe any professionals in your field or niche. Try to discern what makes their work different. Whatever it is that gives them a pizazz comes from creative thinking.
  4. Master the aspect of innovation. By learning how to take an idea and improve it you not only give yourself room to expand the originality of your own ideas but also can benefit from observing the professionals you admire.
  5. Practice the habit of writing every day. Writing a journal is one of the best ways to initiate a creative spark. A lot of ideas come to us every day, but only those who discipline themselves to organize their thoughts in ways that can be referenced are able to hold on to the good ones.
  6. Learn how to be flexible. Allow yourself to take on new ideas, allow yourself to question your inner beliefs, but don’t change who you are for anyone. Flexibility just opens you up to new channels of thought and is not meant to make you have a different belief system, only a more acceptable one for good ideas.
  7. Learn how to experiment. Experimenting is the essence of creativity. When you do something that’s different than everyone else, you will not know how the results will be. Learn to do this and improve from it.
  8. Learn to accept criticism and how to give criticism. Find positive results either from yourself or others who critically analyze what you do is a great way to make improvement.
  9. Above all, enjoy the process of providing quality content to the rest of humanity. You will grow as a passionate person and will establish a lasting legacy on this planet if you can do these steps.

Let creative blogging help you

As you can see, creative thinking isn’t something you can expect to master overnight. There is a lot of information pertaining to our imaginations, most of which we have yet to discover.

According to what I’ve gathered from modeling success and acquiring new skills is that those who balance their thinking by relying more heavily on creativity than average people tend to stand out as above average.

These people are the ones who establish influence, trust, and higher levels of success using originality and boldness—both directly gained through creative thinking.

Unfortunately space is limited here, I like to keep my posts from turning into small novels! However, comments are a great way of continuing this discussion.

In what ways do you think you are creative already? How are you working to improve your creativity?

Chris Kahler has recently discovered the definition of a creative personality. He has also discovered that there are a million things still left unsaid which you should know about. Maybe subscribing to his RSS feed is a good idea? He thinks so, oh and while you’re at it follow him on twitter as well.

Finding Your Passion For Your Ideal Business

This guest post is by Lori Meyer of listbuildingwithlori.com.

I wanted to chat with you about passion and how it can make or break your online business.

Most online entrepreneurs create squeeze pages and blogs that target desperate niches and people who are looking for answers to their problems. But how many of those entrepreneurs are truly passionate about what they’re doing?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is it that keeps me going?
  • What motivates me to do better?
  • What comes naturally to me?
  • What fulfills me?

I want you to be successful, and following your passion is one of the key steps to getting there.

The thing is, if you don’t believe in what you’re doing and you’re simply in this for the money, you’ll never build a solid, sustainable business, and you’ll never be fulfilled.

How can you make money doing something you don’t believe in?

For example, if you don’t like golfing and know nothing about it, you shouldn’t pursue any business that involves golfing because your website and content will lack passion and purpose, and your visitors will know it.

When you have a true passion for something, money doesn’t matter and time doesn’t matter.

Nothing will matter but indulging in your passion.

You’ve heard it said: “Do what you love.”  If you truly love what you’re doing, you will work passionately, willingly and fearlessly.

It’s easy to tell when someone is truly passionate about their business because they’ve taken the time to provide valuable, in-depth content for their readers.  Their passion shows in everything they do.  They go out of their way to over-deliver with amazing information.

Here’s the key, your passion, what you’ve been wanting to do forever, will lead you to your ideal clients:

  • to those who want what you’re offering
  • those who will come back again and again because of what you’re offering
  • those who will gladly pay for what you’re offering.

When you have found a business that makes you truly happy, that lights a fire under you and motivates you to want do better, you have found your passion.

  • You can work your tail off.
  • You can daydream.
  • You can hope for the best.
  • You can survive.

But, you won’t live until you follow your passion.  And once you’ve found it, go after it with gusto!

Here are some exercises that will help you find out exactly what your passion is.

First and foremost, you must:

  • remove any fear
  • remove any unforgiveness
  • remove any and all expectations
  • remove all judgements.

Now, grab a pen and paper and answer these questions (and please be honest!):

  1. What do you daydream about?
  2. What would you be doing if you could be a kid again?
  3. What motivates you?  Inspires you?  Makes you giddy-happy?
  4. What are you passionate about?

You must use that passion to speak to your subscribers. To infuse your writings with words that will go beyond the surface.

You need to speak their language.

You need to understand what it is they want and need, then use that same passion to give it to them.

To do this, you’ll need to work on yourself.  To be totally and brutally honest with what you’re doing and how you approach your business.

Your ideal client needs you to be passionate about what you do.

That beautiful glow you get when you do what you love will shine like a beacon in everything you do.

Fire is what people follow and passion is the one thing that will help you achieve the life, and business, of your dreams.

Lori Meyer is a full-time blogger with a passion for helping others succeed in their online business. Her blog, listbuildingwithlori.com, is dedicated to everyone wishing to move forward fearlessly with confidence and motivation.

What to Do When You’re so Boring You’re Boring Yourself

This guest post is by freelance writer Jocelyn Anne.

Have you ever finished one of your own blogs written by yours truly and finished the dang thing bored out of your own mind? To the point where it’s too painful to even re-read it for basic proofing?

Well if you haven’t, not to fear, your day is coming. It happens. All good things must come to an end, or so they say. Not that I’m saying you’ll be boring forever. It’s just a phase. Or something. Anyway. Here’s what’s up.

If you’re bored, your readers are bored. And if your readers are bored, they’re going to stop coming back—like, super-fast. Readers are finicky like that. While you may have faith that your temporary boredom is just a phase, and I may have faith that your last irritatingly boring post was just a fluke, other readers aren’t likely to be so kind. They flee boring like mad.

So, what this boils down to is that you don’t have a whole lotta time to dwell and wallow in your phase. Maybe a few posts (if you’re lucky). Boredom calls for desperate measures. You’re gonna have to ditch yourself altogether and become someone much newer and cooler and hipper than you are. Sayonara baby.

My favorite way to break the boring posting doldrums is to create an entirely new person. New alias, new pen name, what have you. I decide what I’ll look like (always some sort of super model, of course), what my past was like, where I’m headed in life and how many hundreds of dollars I’m getting paid to write this blog (it helps). Then I decide what I’m passionate about. Who cares if it’s even remotely relevant to what I typically blog about. Clearly neither I nor my readers can bear to read any more of that right now.

So. You’re a new person, with a new passion. If you’ve got guts, you can post as yourself. If you’re not so gutsy yet, post it as a guest blog. Bottom line, do whatever will allow you to have the most freedom and most fun. Be wacky. Be crazy. Be fanatical. It honestly doesn’t matter. What matters is that you regain a voice again. It could be a superhero, it could be a cartoon character. It could be your super sexy blonde neighbor with the Greek goddess tan you despise. It could be the nerd who lurks behind the recycling at the Piggly Wiggly. You get the point. Pick one and write about bananas. Or maybe boxes.

Now, depending upon the severity of your boredom “condition” you can decide how far to take this. Do you need an entirely new blog? Probably not. But if you feel like the one you’re on is just too far gone for recovery, then do it! Break a new and start afresh. Sometimes a new little WordPress layout is all it takes. If you think you just need to snap out of it, then more likely than not, a few posts will do the trick and bring back some pizzazz to the normal, every-day you. If you feel like you could slip back at any moment though, then instill something like Friday Fun Day and post under your alias once a week from now on. Your readers will develop a bond with the two of you and you’ll get to be you and someone probably a whole lot more exciting.

What will happen is that you’ll have fun. Believe it or not. I know, I know, sometimes blogging is torture. But this won’t be. You’ll have to use an entirely new area of your brain, an entirely new capacity of your humor and wit and your sass that probably hasn’t seen the light of day in far too long. And, especially if you post as a guest, you have no fear of consequences. There’s nothing that can touch you or harm you because whoever the nut is that wrote that piece, wasn’t you! Brilliant, eh? Write a couple pieces. Write until you regain the spark and vim and vigor you used to have in your area of expertise.

Now, while I suggested this idea primarily for those of you suffering from boredom, or at least for those of you making your readers suffer from your boredom, it’s actually not the only thing this handy-dandy technique is good for. It’s also awesome for the wanna-be-writer struggling with finding and settling on a voice. Heck, try out a new voice a week. Toronto Tom this week, Sweetly Sara next. (A gender writing voice mix-up is always interesting.) Once you find a voice you’ve fallen in love with, then step into your own. Claim your own name and attach it to the voice you connected with. This might even be helpful for Writing 101 when your professor hates everything you do.

And finally! It’s also grand for the blogger who desires to be controversial but hasn’t the backbone, the experienced blogger who needs some work improving his technique, the ancient blogger who’s been blogging for far, far too long and my personal pet peeve: the blogger who has seemingly forgotten that blogs once consisted of words and has since taken to posting irritating iPhone pictures of what he ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner instead. (Isn’t that annoying?!)

Perhaps you know of a blogger or two you could forward this article on to? I know I do.

Freelance writer Jocelyn Anne is an avid blogger and sometimes writes as Ella Stella if she’s getting dull.  But, right now you’ll find her writing about captivating uses for a portable air conditioner!

Ramit Sethi: I Will Teach You To Monetize (In 6 Steps)

This guest post is by Michael Alexis, producer of WriterViews.com.

They thought that I cared about making $300 or $500 a month. Honestly, I didn’t give a damn about that.
– Ramit Sethi, iwillteachyoutoberich.com

How many of your readers tell you that you have to monetize your blog? Do they call you crazy when you don’t? After three years of giving away free content, these are the exact comments blogger Ramit Sethi was getting from his readers. So, he surveyed his audience and from the results started developing systems and processes to monetize. After all, when you call your personal finance blog, I Will Teach You To Be Rich (IWTYTBR), you have a lot to live up to.

Ramit Sethi

Ramit Sethi, used with permission

Since then, Ramit has leveraged his blog’s popularity to display ads, run profitable courses, and launch a best-selling book. I invited Ramit to do this audio interview to find out exactly how he grew his blog, inspired the kind of readers that begged him to sell to them, and monetized in a way that creates lasting value.

Here, I wanted to explain the specific strategies Ramit used to monetize IWTYTBR, and spans from his earliest trials with display ads, to his recent success with video courses.

Don’t try to monetize too quickly

If it’s not going to cover my rent, then why do I care?
– Ramit Sethi, on why he doesn’t use display ads any more

Ramit suggests a wholesome approach to making money from blogging, and that means starting by truly understanding the world of monetization. Research the options, try out a few of them, and realize that your first three or four attempts are probably not going to be the level of success you want. Your options include ads, products, speaking, consulting or coaching, and they each have both direct and indirect costs.

For example, despite Ramit’s friends at Google saying all his traffic was going to waste, he didn’t want the negative perception that comes with display ads. When his friends persisted, Ramit decided to survey over 1000 readers and asked if they minded him testing some unobtrusive ads. With 81% of responses being yes, he experimented and found ads only brought in a few hundred dollars every month. So he stopped using them—it just wasn’t interesting money. In Ramit’s words, “If it’s not going to cover my rent, then why do I care?”

Offer value, then offer more value

I’ve always been a big fan of building value. Giving people 100 times before you even ask them for anything.
– Ramit Sethi, on building relationships with your readers

You know how some people are obsessed with SEO? Or getting the design of their subscription box just right? Or making their “buy now” button orange? Ramit’s obsession is providing so much value to his readers that they keep coming back for more. How do you create value with that kind of gravity? On a personal finance site, value means getting visitors to a post detailing step by step how to call their credit card company (with scripts and everything) that make their fees just melt away.

Ramit says when you show people how to get big results in a short amount of time, they become readers for life. How can you create that kind of value for your readers?

Don’t be afraid to sell

Honestly, that was one of my biggest fear moments in my entire blog career, because I was petrified of charging for content. I thought that people would not pay, and they would think I was selling out. I was legitimately afraid.
– Ramit Sethi, on how it felt to launch his first product

Maybe your first go at monetization will be a course, or an email subscription list, or affiliate links. Ramit did a collaborative ebook with a bunch of other bloggers, got it professionally designed, and called it Ramit’s Guide To Kicking A**. They sold it for $4.95. Sounds okay, right? A few vocal readers didn’t think so, and said things like “Ramit’s jumped the shark” and called him a sell out. Some of those readers even said they’d never come back to his site.

For $5.

Ramit expected to sell 100 copies in the first year. What do you think happened? He sold over 1000. That’s when he realized that people are willing to pay for value, despite the few outliers complaining about everything not being free. Ramit thinks of this as his turning point, “I realized there will always be people that complain and freeload”. Focus on providing great value for your real target audience. The readers who are engaged, willing to invest in themselves, and actively looking for solutions.

Sell your readers what they want

When the economy tanked in late 2008, nobody cared about investing. All they wanted to read about was how to save money.
– Ramit Sethi, on why he created a subscription product for money saving tips

Sometimes the information your readers are looking for isn’t what you usually write. Be flexible. Knowing that the world had recession on the mind, Ramit created a 30-day plan to save $1000. On day two the Wall Street Journal and MSN started writing about and linking to his series. With a huge influx of traffic, it was time to monetize.

Ramit’s friend Erica Douglass told him, “just make a subscription program, put it in an email, and have people sign up for one tip a week”. He called it The Scrooge Strategy and sold it for $8 per month. Hundreds of people signed up. What could you be writing about that your audience will pay for?

Make your product so good that it pays for itself

We collected 50,000 data points. So we know precisely what is holding people back, what is really helping them earn money on the side, and we used some very sophisticated psychological techniques to build a product that’s a leader in its space.
– Ramit Sethi, on how he developed a course about earning more money

Should you price your ebook at $9.99 or $14.99. It doesn’t matter. Make your products extremely detailed, and don’t show them to anybody. Visitors to Ramit’s site can’t even buy a product until they go through an extensive funnel – over twenty five pages. During those pages readers learn to identify a freelancing opportunity and find paying clients. Ramit says “I try to get them to make the cost of the course back before they even see the sales page.”

Another key is being really clear about who you want and don’t want as a customer. That’s right—there can be customers you don’t want. On IWTYTR, those people are the ones whose first question is “how much does this cost?” because they are obsessed with cost and not value. There are even people that Ramit refuses to sell to. He tells potential buyers straight out that if he finds out they have credit card debt he will refund their money, and they won’t be allowed to buy anything else.

Ramit’s ideal customer? Someone who says “show me three others like me who used your techniques to earn more money on the side”. Who is your ideal customer? How can you make your product pay for itself?

Don’t sell out

If someone came to me and said, ‘here is a really sleazy way to make $25,000′, I would turn it down in a second. If someone came and said, ‘send one email and I will give you $10 million’, I’d think about it. Everyone’s got a number where it gets really difficult.
– Ramit Sethi, on tempting offers

When you run a popular personal finance blog, all kinds of people want to pitch your audience. People selling investment products. People selling income opportunities. Don’t sell out. With IWTYTBR, Ramit isn’t building something that will just make money today, but that will be of incredible value tomorrow, next year, and 10 years from now. When you’ve worked so hard to build a relationship with your readers, there is no price you can put on their trust. Don’t sell out. It’s not worth it.

As we finished the “how to make money” part of our interview, Ramit shared one last thought. He told me “it’s important to think really long term, and think about your values. Do the right thing with your readers. Offer incredible value to your readers, and you will make more money than you can ever imagine.”

Michael Alexis is the co-founder and producer of WriterViews, a daily video series where accomplished writers share their tips, strategies and stories. Learn more about him here and follow him on Twitter at @writerviews.

The Pimp, the Grocer and the Hit Man: Magnetise Your Headings Using the Power of the Unexpected

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

In addition to death and taxes, there is another bitter pill you have to swallow as a blogger. It is that pimps, grocers and hit men all have an unfair advantage when it comes to commanding attention in the marketplace.

Be it an advert, a news story or a how to article, those who sell sex, food or danger attract more attention than the rest of us. Our subconscious minds are programmed to take note of these three things, and disproportionately assign attention to them.

Beyond sex, food and danger

So does that mean the rest of us are ruined? Does that mean that we are forever subject to the tyranny of the sex-selling pimps, food-flaunting grocers, and gun-toting hit men?

No. Because we have our own weapon for attracting attention and it is equally as powerful as sex, food, and danger.

What is this weapon of mass attraction?

The power of the unexpected.

You know what happens if we catch you smoking here at Southwest, don’t you?

“If I could have your attention for a few moments,” said the voice overhead. The passengers looked up to hear what exciting message the flight attendant had for them that day, only to realize that it was just another in-flight safety demonstration.

You know: “fasten your seat belts, place your tray tables in an upright position, don’t smoke on the plane and, in case of an emergency, follow the lights along the side of the aisle.”

One by one, the passengers started tuning out as quickly as they had tuned in, going back to reading their magazines, peering out the window or whatever else they had been doing previously.

Then it happened.

“If you haven’t been in an automobile since 1965, the proper way to fasten your seat belt is to slide the flat end into the buckle,” unexpectedly announced the attendant. Suddenly the tired old message to fasten your seat belts sprung to life.

So did the one to follow the lights along the side of the aisle.

“And as the song goes, there might be fifty ways to leave your lover, but there are only six ways to leave this aircraft: two forward exit doors, two over-wing removable window exits, and two aft exit doors. The location of each exit is clearly marked with signs overhead, as well as red and white disco lights along the floor of the isle. Made ya look!”

As for the “don’t smoke on the plane” part, the attendant had a way of spicing that one up as well.

“Speaking of smoking, there’s never any smoking aboard our flights. You know what happens if we catch you smoking here at Southwest, don’t you? You’ll be asked to step out onto our wing and enjoy our feature movie presentation, Gone With The Wind.”

And just like that the flight attendant had attracted the attention of everyone on board. Even the most indifferent passengers were listening intently and smiling. Most importantly, for our purposes here, she did it without implying sex, showing food or threatening danger.

What was her secret?

The flight attendant’s secret

At the heart of her feat was the use of the unexpected. We all know what an in-flight safety demo is meant to look like. We have an existing pattern and picture of that situation. What the attendant did was to break that pattern. She used humor, which in itself works because it makes unexpected connections, to challenge and change, and thus draw attention to, the tired old demonstration.

As remarkable as the flight attendant example is, however, it is not instructive of how most bloggers can use it on their blogs. To understand that we have to look at the Freakonomics Formula.

The Freakonomics formula for writing killer headlines

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s books, Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, have sold over 5 million copies worldwide. Apart from being controversial and insightful, what make the books attention worthy are their catchy chapter titles. By pairing two unrelated entities and connecting them in some way relevant to the message of the chapter, the authors create magnetic titles.

Here are some of the chapter titles from their books:

  • What Do School Teachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common?
  • How is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents?
  • How is a street prostitute like a department-store Santa?
  • What do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo have in common?

The titles work because you do not normally associate teachers with sumo wrestlers, nor prostitutes with department store Santas. They break existing patterns of association, evoke curiosity and result in, as the flight attendant put it, the “Made ya look!” phenomenon.

So if you want your blog posts to stand out give them catchy blog post titles using the Freakonomics formula. Find two entities and create an unexpected connection between them.

Here are some more examples to get your mental juices flowing:

  • 5 Things a Bad Dog Can Teach You About Writing Good Copy
  • How Are Entrepreneurs Like Young Children?
  • What do Charles the Great and Genghis Khan Have in Common?
  • Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
  • 5 Diseases I would Pay Money to Get
  • 3 Ways to Impress Your Partner by Being Less Romantic
  • 5 Ways Porn Created the Modern World

Have you used magnetic headlines on your blog? How did they do at pulling crowds to your content?

Aman Basanti writes about the psychology of buying and teaches you how you can use the principles of consumer psychology to boost your sales. Visit www.Ageofmarketing.com/free-ebook to get his new ebook—Marketing to the Pre-Historic Mind: How the Hot New Science of Behavioural Economics Can Help You Boost Your Sales—for FREE.

The Secret Fairytale Magic to Irresistible Blog Posts

This guest post is by Amy of Harrisonamy.com

From Jack and the Beanstalk, to Little Red Riding Hood, to Cinderella, fairytales have been enchanting audiences for thousands of years. They are constantly being retold, modified and even made into blockbuster movies. Despite their apparent simplicity, they enrapture and engage audiences time and time again.

Copyright Arto - Fotolia.com

By using the following five key elements of a fairytale, you can harness the secret storytelling magic to write irresistible blog posts and keep your readers coming back for more.

1. Create desire

Every fairy story starts with some desire. Whether it’s Cinderella wanting to go to the ball, a poor man wanting to be king, or a girl taking some food to Grandma’s house, the story starts with a desire for something.

No enchanting tale starts without some kind of hope, dream, want, or wish. Even if it’s the wish for things to stay the same, the characters have to want something.

So how does this relate to your blog? Well your customers are reading your articles because they also want and are hoping for something, whether it’s entertainment, advice, or tips on a particular subject.

One of the best ways to stimulate that desire is by using your headline to show them that you have something they will want. For example:

  • 7 Ways To Go To The Ball If You Are A Beautiful But Poor Step-Sister
  • The Best Way To Get To Grandma’s House While Avoiding Wolves
  • How To Get Your Magic Beans To Grow In Just 2 Days

2. Overcome challenges

In every good story, there’s some kind of challenge or obstacle and your blog readers are experiencing the same thing.

The challenge is usually stopping them achieve what they truly desire. Red Riding Hood had to face the wolf, Cinderella had to get past her wicked step-sisters and Jack had to try and get round the giant to get his treasure.

So what is it that your blog readers desire and what is their ugly step-sister, wolf, or ogre that stops them? Perhaps your blog readers desire more traffic but are confused by the different methods to attract more readers. Or perhaps they want to write a novel but are getting stuck with writer’s block.

When writing a blog post, ask yourself what challenges come between your audience and what they desire, and how you can help overcome them.

3. Give them a hero to help

You might not be a woodcutter, a fairy godmother, or a king, but on your blog, you are your reader’s hero!  Heroes have experience, knowledge, and special skills, and your blog is the perfect place to show your readers that you are the right person to help them on their adventure by:

  • explaining how you’ve done something that they want to do
  • pointing out mistakes you’ve made on the way so others can avoid them
  • giving them shortcuts and tips to get results quicker than learning first hand.

If your audience grows to see you as their own fairy godmother of marketing, crafts, or blogging, they’ll want to keep coming back for more.

4. A transformation

Fairy tales always include some kind of transformation. It might be a pumpkin into a chariot, or a wolf into an old lady, but the most popular transformations are the ones that satisfy our desire for the fairytale ending.

So we love Cinderella becoming a princess, or Aladdin becoming a prince, and your readers are also looking for a positive transformation when they visit your site.

For example, after reading your blog post:

  • Can they do something they didn’t do before?
  • Do they feel better and inspired, or not so alone?
  • Do they have access to resources that will give them results?

Try and give some form of transformation, and your reader is more likely to not just enjoy your post but bookmark it and come back to it again and again.

5. A happy ending

Most fairy tales have happy endings. Now that doesn’t mean every blog post you have has to end on a high note, what it means is that your reader should be satisfied that they got what they were looking for.

So if they were coming to your blog for satirical remarks on celebrity relationships, then a photo casebook of embarrassing shots of the latest A-list couple is going to be their happy ending. If others are looking for mediation advice, finding out how to turn their office into a centre of calm is going to be their happy ending.

Consistency in delivering to your audiences expectations is important when writing a blog. You are essentially writing stories every time that you publish and just as we want a happy ending when we decide to read a fairy tale, your customer wants that same consistent experience when reading your blog.

Now it’s over to you. Are you already using these five fairytale elements, or do you have a different approach in writing irresistible content? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Amy is a copywriter for entrepreneurs and in addition to writing for clients, she coaches others to smash through their copy obstacles and get their message out to their audience. She provides free copywriting and content marketing advice on her website Harrisonamy.com