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How I Use BuySellAds to Monitor Blog Traffic and Goals

This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of WordPress Mods.

One of the biggest mistakes new bloggers and webmasters make is to check traffic stats and affiliate reports too often—often enough for it to stop them doing real work on their projects. That being said, it is still important to check stats from time to time.

A quick review once a week, and a slightly longer recap once a month, is more than sufficient for most bloggers (affiliate marketers will obviously check stats much more because of how closely their income is tied to converting campaigns). It’s very important to check your blog’s progress, particularly within the first year or two of its life. Tracking important metrics can not only show you how your blog is progressing, it can also highlight what needs to be addressed in order for your site to grow.

Tracking can also be a fantastic motivational device. By tracking your site correctly and setting achievable goals, you can spur yourself to work harder and make things happen.

Everyone uses different scripts and services to track traffic. Here, I’ll show you the metrics I track for a blog I’m developing, and how BuySellAds indirectly helps me achieve my goals.

What to track

The BuySellAds ad network lists the following information for websites that sell banners ads through them:

  • Alexa Rank
  • Compete Score
  • number of Delicious bookmarks
  • number of Yahoo inbound links
  • number of RSS subscribers
  • Twitter followers
  • Facebook Fans
  • Page Rank.

Basic metrics

It is possible to add your blog to the BuySellAds network without adding any banner zones to your pages; if you do, you can automatically track these metrics with ease.

These stats are useful for two reasons. Firstly, by keeping note of your own score on a regular basis (e.g. via a spreadsheet), you can see the progress your site is making over time and predict future growth.

Secondly, by tracking metrics which are publicly listed in a directory, you can quickly and fairly accurately compare your blog to hundreds of competitors within your niche.

The BuySellAds metrics can be divided into three types:

It’s really up to you which metrics you track for your site. For example, if you are actively trying to increase the number of inbound links then you would track your Yahoo inbound links score.

I like Alexa and Compete to give me an external view on how my traffic is growing. Their figures can be quite erratic and unrealistic for low-traffic websites, however these are reliable metrics for established blogs. RSS subscribers is a metric which I also like to track. Like any metric, it’s not 100% accurate, however it’s one of the best ways of seeing how popular your blog is and how fast it is growing.

I don’t feel so strongly about some other metrics, though—search engine presence, for example. I do try and make sure that my blog design is SEO friendly, and link internally and externally frequently, however I strongly believe that for most bloggers it takes care of itself. That is, if traffic and readership grows, and you continue to write good content, your inbound links will increase. This is also true for social media bookmarks. Every single post on high-traffic blogs gets shared, dugg, retweeted, and stumbled; therefore it’s not something I believe you need to actively check (I know social media junkies will disagree with me on this, though).

I have, however, come to the conclusion that while I may value some metrics more than others, it’s worth tracking everything, as over time these values may prove incredibly useful and highlight areas which need to be addressed.

Another metric which I always track for myself is the number of daily uniques. For this I use Google Analytics and Webalizer (a traffic script which most hosting packages offer).

Once you have decided on what you are going to track every week or month, you should create a spreadsheet to store all this info. Spreadsheets are better than simply noting details down, as you can compare figures from month to month more easily, and you can import the data into charts for further analysis.

How I use BuySellAds advertisers to set my goals

You can of course track all of the metrics mentioned above without using BuySellAds (though adding your site to the directory will save you some hassle). What their marketplace does give you, though, is access to a lot of useful information on other blogs and websites within your niche. Not only can you easily view any website’s traffic, social media, and SEO presence, you can also see exactly how much they are making.

The BuySellAds marketplace has websites from a number of different niches including automotive, business, gaming, and travel. A high percentage of publishers are from the design and development niche, however everyone should be able to find at least a few websites within their own niche.

If you look at their advertising information page or a website you will see a description of the site, some traffic stats, and information about where you can advertise.

BuySellAds stats

Above is a screenshot from the AngryBirdsNest information page. The page confirms that the site has two ad zones: a 260 x 125-pixel banner area on the right-hand side of the page, and a 75 x 75-pixel banner area to the right of that.

BuySellAds ad information

The 260 x 125-pixel banner costs $300 for 30 days whereas the 75 x 75-pixel banner costs $50 for 30 days. There are six slots available for the larger banner area and seven slots available for the smaller one. All advertising inventory has been sold; therefore the ad zones bring in $1,800 and $350 respectively for a total of $2,150 per month. BuySellAds takes a cut of 25% of any advertisements sold, so we know that the owners of AngryBirdsNest make $1,612.5 every month through the two banner positions on their sidebar.

This information is incredibly useful. For every website listed on BuySellAds you can find out the approximate traffic levels and the money generated from ad zones (though most sites generate income from other sources too). If you also track your own traffic levels regularly you are in a great position to work how much money your blog could potentially earn once it reaches a certain point.

Bear in mind, though, that websites with similar traffic levels cannot always charge the same rates, so reaching a certain traffic level isn’t a guarantee that you will make a given amount of money. The more sites in your niche there are on BuySellAds, the more accurate your estimate is likely to be.

For example, let’s say you start a brand new blog and want to get a rough idea of the sort of income you can expect in the future. You could track competitors through a number of metrics, but the most reliable is number of impressions. If you looked at 30 websites within your niche and noted their monthly impressions and the money they earn through BuySellAds (using the method I noted above), you may find:

  • Those with an 50,000 impressions earn around $100 per month.
  • Those with an 250,000 impressions earn around $800 per month.
  • Those with an 1,000,000 impressions earn around $5,000 per month.

Once again, I remind you that stats from one source only tell you one part of the story, so it’s important to look at each website individually and see why some sites are selling ads and others aren’t.

Monitor your progress

It’s very difficult to gauge when your blog will start making good money, particularly if it’s in a niche you don’t have experience with. We should all be setting goals and tracking our blogs’ growth over time. What the BuySellAds marketplace does is give us an idea of the right time to start selling ads, and an indication of how much we could potentially earn at certain levels (BuySellAds could obviously be substituted with any ad network that displays ads and confirms the rates publishers are being paid).

It isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s a great way of monitoring your blog’s progress and I believe anyone who is still developing their blog will find this useful. It gives you a a tangible target that you can aim towards, which should inspire you and keep you focused on what you need to do to make your blog a success.

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

A Blog Traffic Strategy: Quality vs Quantity

This guest post is by Marcello Arrambide of Wandering Trader.

When it comes to blogging, there are different mentalities around both the quantity of traffic and the quality of traffic. At different stages in a website’s development, we tend to focus on one or the other, but when we start a new blog, we primarily want to get traffic to it. Even if you are a famous celebrity, your new website isn’t going to get anywhere without some effort.

If you write quality content, eventually the traffic will come. Check out this great post from John Burnside to get a better understanding of site traffic in general.

I am a day trader that has forayed into travel blogging and I’ve been able to start generating $1,000 in revenue off my travel blog in six months. My approach has been to try to become an authority online before I start focusing on anything else. Without having a legitimate blog, trying to do anything else in your niche is pointless. So becoming a legitimate source of information online should be your first priority. This will enable to you attract organic Google searches more quickly—with or without focusing on SEO.

Why you should focus on quantity first

You want to give your site a jump-start. When you have a group of friends, you don’t let them drive your car, or come to your house right away. You want to see them a few times and have a conversation. Eventually, over time the new people gain your trust, and you become friends.

The Internet is very similar to a new friend joining a group. Google isn’t going to automatically start sending people your way if you just started writing about a topic. Who are you to Google? Similarly, President Obama did not run for President before he ran for senate. You don’t get a high-paying job unless you have extensive experience in the field or in school.

By focusing on quantity first, you can build an audience and spread the word that you’re an authority in your niche. Google will start to peek into your activity once you have an audience of some size. Once Google finds you, and is able to prove that you have an audience alongside quality content, your site will be able to grow traffic organically. Without any traffic, Google and other big online entities aren’t going to take you seriously. How do you expect to get the word out if no one is coming to your site?

How to focus on quantity

There are several different ways to build traffic to your site. The best way to immediately get new visitors is by focusing on StumbleUpon and Reddit. What these two sites do is provide a surge of new visitors to your site to provide you with exposure, and start legitimizing your site in the eyes of Google and Alexa.

However, the quality of the visitors that come from StumbleUpon and Reddit is absolutely atrocious. Bounce rates are over 80% and the page views are normally one or under. This means that out of all the people that come to your blog from StumbleUpon and Reddit, over 80% of the traffic immediately leaves once they see your site and look at a page. These numbers are derived from the stats of seven travel bloggers that I personally know, who have over 15,000 unique visitors on their sites.

Why would you want anyone to visit your site if they’re only going to look at an average of one page and leave? The answer is because that traffic really does count overall. I have personally tested traffic levels that correlate directly with surges in traffic from both sites. Once I get a surge in visitors, my keywords hits have immediately gone up, my Alexa score has dropped, and I have instantly gained hits on Google for that specific post.

The reason why you want to start with this technique is because by getting a surge in traffic, the major search sites, as well as your visitors, will see you as a legitimate blog much faster. Plus, what advertiser doesn’t like you to have more traffic? Not only will these sites provide you with short-term and long-term benefits, it’s also easy to get started on both sites, and it doesn’t take up much of your time. StumbleUpon will generally continue to send traffic to all your posts, while Reddit will usually give you a surge that stops after a few days.

Once you have a consistent flow of traffic, you can start focusing quality. With all those visitors coming to your site, thanks to your focus on traffic quantity, you might attract the eyes of someone important. You may get direct traffic the next day and possibly another surge from another person.

Focusing on quality

Once you have a consistent flow of traffic, you can then start to focus on the quality of traffic. If you have good content, over time, traffic quality will build on itself as you become an authority in your niche.

Speeding up the process is time-consuming, especially when you have to go out and find that quality traffic. Think of it this way: if you are looking for quality then you are going to have to provide quality. Engage with other people in your niche by thinking out of the box. If you are focusing on travel, for example, and you’re living in Buenos Aires, then consider searching for expat communities in Buenos Aires. My Argentina tourist attractions post didn’t get any traffic until I posted it in a forum. Now it’s sitting on the second page of Google for that term. I get random visitors to my blog all the time for people who have included links in forums related to travel and day trading.

In summary, once you have established your authority on the Internet with both companies like Google and Alexa, and visitors to your site, you can focus exclusively on traffic quality. It’s a love and hate relationship for me because I hate to receive such low-quality traffic to my blog, but in the end, it’s worth it, because it helps with Google rankings. Once you combine that with other factors like link-building, you can create a powerful three-punch combination of tactics to reach new heights with your blog.

What’s your traffic strategy? Share your experience in the comments.

Day Trading from 7 different countries Marcello Arrambide has begun to chronicle his travels around the world on his Wandering Trader Travel Blog. He has traveled to over 40 countries in his lifetime and is currently exploring South America. You can find out more about Marcello on his Facebook Page. or RSS Feed.

All You Need to Know About Educating and Selling

This guest post is by Jean Compton of jeancompton.com.

In the Febuary 2011 issue of Inc. Magazine, Gary Vaynerchuck was interviewed regarding how he runs his many business ventures under the umbrella of VaynerMedia.

Talking about his show, Wine Library TV, he was quoted as saying:

“Some people think I’m a huckster, but with the show, my intent isn’t to sell our wine. It’s to educate people about wine. There’s a big difference.”

Are you educating or are you selling? Because if all you’re doing is selling…

”You turn your site into QVC,”

and—in Vaynerchuk’s mind—you lose.

“Engagement is the key to building real relationships with the people you do business with.”

Selling is one-sided. Educating is servicing. It builds trust so that people recognize you as the authority and know they can come to you for quality information.

It’s more of an interaction. You’re giving away free content, useful information that makes them come back for more.

Now you have a dialog going. The reader, viewer, fan, etc., begins to recognize your “brand.” They trust what you say.

“People want to be heard and feel like their opinions matter.”

Maybe they show up to “buy” your unique personality. But, even if they’re not necessarily liking you, they are enjoying the benefits of all that juicy, free info and useful, actionable tips that they can take away. In other words, you fill a need.

“Too many people think this one-on-one stuff doesn’t scale, but giving a shit has an enormous return yield.”

Your sharing is a win/win and, in the long run, you’ll have their attention for the long haul, not just for the fly-by-night latest fad. With time and hard work, naturally people will be directed to your door—and your business.

“Once everybody understands the value of engagement, everybody will do it.”

So, don’t be a one-hit-wonder. Educate, build trust, develop a dialog, and make a built-to-last brand.

Jean is a blogger. She mostly writes about topics to help you relax, de-stress and change your world. Contact her/get a free, guided meditation at: http://jeancompton.com/.

10 Blogging Lessons from the Dalai Lama

This guest post is by Annabel Candy of Successful Blogging.

The Dalai Lama recently came to visit me on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. Well, not me specifically but the thousands of people who drove miles, piled into buses, and waited under bright skies to hear him speak.

It wasn’t what I expected. I joined Toastmasters to learn the art of public speaking but I don’t think the Dalai Lama needs to. His speech wasn’t polished but his message came over crystal-clear, and it’s obvious why he’s built up such a massive following, even without the help of social media.

Here’s a man who doesn’t need to use blogging to build his business, earn more money or establish himself as an expert in his field. He’s already the spiritual leader of the world.

He doesn’t even write a blog, but the Dalai Lama still has a lot to teach bloggers.

1. Have a sense of humor

The prayer flags on stage hung a bit low and the Dalai Lama peeped out from behind them, instantly making the audience laugh. Then he worried that the Aboriginal dancers, clad only in a small red cloth, might be feeling the cold.

There’s already enough dry, tutorial style information around. People learn more and want to come back to a blog that’s fun to read and bloggers should make the most of that.

2. Be humble

There was a comfy sofa sitting centre stage for the Dalai Lama to recline on while he spoke. He’s an old man but he said we wouldn’t be able to see him there so he chose to stand at the front of the stage under the hot sun where we could see him better.

Blogging is all about relationships, interacting with your readers and being present for them on your blog and on their favourite social media outposts

3. Be human

The Dalai Lama wasn’t sure of the protocol. He didn’t know if he was to speak first or if someone was going to introduce him. He’s just a normal human being like us trying his best.

We all make mistakes—typos slip into blog posts or links are forgotten. Just acknowledge them, fix what you can, and do your best.

4. Smile

Be happy and show that happiness. More people will want to hang out with you. It definitely works for the Dalai Lama who spreads happiness wherever he goes.

Do you like hanging out with and working with happy people? Then make sure your blog and gravatar photos makes you look friendly and open.

Don’t use photos where you look cool or sexy … you may come across as bored or grumpy instead. Unless you’re really cool and sexy, of course.

5. Be you

You can shave your head like the Dalai Lama, wear thick glasses, and sport deep wrinkles on your face and arms. It doesn’t really matter. As long as you are you, people will only notice the good things—your smile, your twinkling eyes, and your dimples.

There’s a lot of talk about authenticity in blogging and social media and being you makes your blog stand out better than anything else.

6. Speak from your heart

The Dalai Lama didn’t need to read his speech from notes. His message is there in his heart and in his soul. We know he really believes it.

Bloggers need to really believe their message and be passionate about it. Practically you need to blog about what you love because you’ll be blogging about it long-term. Passion will shine through on your blog and in your writing, videos or podcasts.

7. Take time

The Dalai Lama didn’t feel the need to rush his words. Sometimes he had to reflect and think a bit about what he wanted to say.

Don’t rush your blogging or try to keep up with other bloggers. I only post once a week own blogs (I have two) because I have other writing to do and I like to spend time making sure all my posts are as good as they can be.

Blogging is a long-term investment so you need to be patient to see the results.

8. Get help

The Dalai Lama had a friend to hand who whispered in his ear when the right word didn’t spring to mind.

Bloggers need to get help with the bits they find hard. For some it might be blog design, others need help with content creation, others with Facebook.

Accept that you can’t do everything, do the bits you love and the fun bits as best you can and seek help for other things.

9. Have a strong and universal message

Thousands of people flock to hear the Dalai Lama speak because his message of peace and love is crystal-clear.

Bloggers will have to work out what their message is before they can share it fully with their readers.

10. Use stories and anecdotes people can relate to

The Dalai Lama used relevant stories mentioning local Queenslanders who showed co-operation, friendship, and trust by helping each other out voluntarily during the floods.

Bloggers need to capture their readers’ imagination and give people concrete examples they can relate to. Story-telling is the best way to get your readers reading and keep them hooked until the end.

Does the Dalai Lama’s popularity resonate with you as a blogger? What else can bloggers learn from him and other inspiring leaders?

Annabel Candy is a web design, copywriter and born again blogger who shares her travel stories at Get In the Hot Spot and blogging tips at Successful Blogging.

Add That Special Something That Makes Your Readers Adore You

This guest post is by Kirsten Simmons of Personalized Productivity.

Imagine your dream customer.  The person who comments on every post, and opens every email you send.  The person who replies to your tweets and tells their friends about you on Facebook.  The person who immediately scrolls down your sales page to hit “Buy Now” without even reading through the pitch.

easter eggs

Image courtesy aussiegal, licenced under Creative Commons

One of the best ways to cultivate these sorts of relationships (once you’ve got the whole write epic shit thing down) is to seed your posts with Easter eggs—obscure references that aren’t apparent to anyone who doesn’t know what you’re talking about.  The people who don’t get the reference are none the wiser, and the people that do love you all the more for including it.

“But Kirsten,” you say, “I don’t have an endless well of obscure knowledge to create my Easter eggs with!  Must I give up on ever using this valuable tip?”

Of course not!  The idea here is to connect with some of your readers on a higher, more personal level and help them relate to you as a fellow human instead of an untouchable expert.  Your Easter eggs don’t have to contain obscure references; you can use references to a common problem among your readers that you also struggle with yourself.

Let’s take productivity (unless you’re a productivity blogger, in which case you might want to go with something else).  If you’re like the vast majority of people, you’ve tried a boatload of different theories and systems, and most of them didn’t work.  You have difficulty finding the motivation and time to maintain your system, and you often let pieces of it slip until it’s so far off track that you have to scrap it and start over.  Your productivity is a niggling source of frustration, but you don’t really know why and you’re not sure how to go about fixing it.

(The reason you’re having trouble is because you’re working against your personality type and you need a system that’s in harmony with how your brain works.  But that’s not the point of this post.)

Guess what?  If you’re having so much trouble, that means your readers are likely having the same trouble.  So if you sprinkle your struggles into your blog posts as Easter eggs, your readers will respond just as if you’d made a reference to a 90s British anarchist punk band.  You’ve just proven you have something in common with them and hinted at a very human flaw to boot.

The result?  Instant connection and adoring fans.  And you didn’t even have to dig through Wikipedia to get there.

Nine months ago, Kirsten started wondering about the connections between personality type and productivity strategies.  She started digging through the library, and came out with a business on her hands!  Interested in learning more about the Productivity Personality theory?  Come visit Personalized Productivity and take our free quiz.  You’ll learn about your type and get specific tips to begin customizing your productivity strategies to your personality.

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

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Six ways to get feedback

1. Look at your current comments

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

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

2. Ask around on Twitter or Facebook

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

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

3. Find a blogging partner

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

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

4. Post a message in a forum

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

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

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

5. Join a blogging-related course

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

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

6. Hire a writing coach

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

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

The review

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

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

Your cornerstone content

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

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

Your About page

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

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

Your Services or Hire Me page

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

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

Your next steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

listening

Copyright Vladimir Voronin - Fotolia.com

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

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

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

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

1. Do you speak the language?

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

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

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

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

2. Is there a market?

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

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

3. Will you be able to monetize your blog?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me explain.

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

What will you choose?

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

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

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

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

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

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

No.  Such.  Luck!

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

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

Here are the only details you need to know:

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

Check out how my message fared with both groups:

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

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

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

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

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

Do the math, kid!

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

47.8% versus 41.6%?  Who cares?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1.  Create hounding curiosity with your email subject line

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

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

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

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

#2. Tell people what’s in it for them

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3. Direct people where you want them to go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s so smart about split testing?

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

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

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

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

Tactical Tips for Building an Online Community

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

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

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

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


How to build community on membership sites

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

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

Epilogue

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

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

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