Interview: Benny Lewis of FluentIn3Months

This guest post is by Kevin Muldoon of

Recently, I interviewed Benny Lewis, the man behind the successful blog Fluent In 3 Months.

Over the last month or so I have been organising everything for my move to South America. Since reading The Motorcycle Diaries at University in my late teens I had thought about travelling South America and learning Spanish. I was all set to go four years ago when I was living in New Zealand, but decided to head back to the UK to save more money so that I didn’t have any financial difficulties. Weeks turned into months and months turned into years—until I finally took the plunge this year and made the decision to go.

While looking for help and advice about the quickest way to learn Spanish I came across the fantastic blog, Fluent In 3 Months. It’s run by self-titled “Irish Polyglot” Benny Lewis, who has managed to become fluent in around ten languages (and several dialects too) in just eight years. Don’t believe me? Check out this video.

Fluent In 3 Months is a fantastic example of how sharing a passion for a subject through your blog can be profitable. By regularly adding great content and taking the time to connect with readers every day he has managed to create a blog with over 100,000 monthly visitors in just two years.

The main source of his income comes from sales of his Language Hacking Guide. This multi-format guide is available in dozens of languages and includes a 32,000-word ebook, worksheets, and three hours of audio interviews with well-known language specialists.

Benny kindly took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for ProBlogger readers.

You travelled for a number of years before launching your own blog. What was the motivation behind launching Fluent In 3 Months?

How I finally learned how to get along with ParisiansFor the first six years of non-stop travel, I had been moving to new countries and challenged myself to learn their languages quickly. It was fun, but I noticed that I got a lot further when I was more public in announcing my project to as many people as possible, for some accountability.

So when I decided to speak fluent Czech in three months, I registered the domain and started blogging about the journey! I had no intention to monetize on the site; it was just to document my mission and share my tips.

This is not, however, one of those ‚Äúonly my mother read it first‚Äù stories. I had definite intentions for the blog’s readership to grow as I knew that I was giving unique advice and stories that people would appreciate.

The blog grew quicker than I could have imagined so I went on to document other missions, changing every few months and constantly giving all the advice I could for others who wanted to learn languages quickly and travel easier.

Your blog launched with a consistent flow of high quality articles right from the start. Did you find it difficult to update your blog with such regularity when travelling?

Although I have technically been “on the road” for over eight years, it’s actually been a string of two- to three-month stays where I rent an apartment with Internet. So travel only slows me down for the couple of days that I transition between places.

Ever since the blog started I’ve remained pretty consistent in updating very regularly, with the exception of two separate months when my financial situation was in tatters (credit card debt) and I had to focus on my previous job as a freelance translator, accepting overtime work to compensate.

Since I started earning full-time from the blog a year ago, there have always been about two in-depth posts (two to five thousand words) per week without fail.

Is it better to travel to villages for language/cultural immersion?

How much research and planning did you do before launching Fluent In 3 Months?

None. Came up with the summer project idea and the blog name one morning, registered the domain name, bought the ticket and started blogging all just one week before moving to Prague.

Even though it was my first time ever blogging, I had been reading other (travel) blogs for many years and already had a popular multilingual Youtube channel, so I had a vague idea of what would work for promotion and keeping readers’ interest.

Had you always envisioned using the blog as a platform to sell a digital product or had you considered monetizing the blog in other ways?

I had no experience in online monetization—my previous understanding was that it involved covering your website with irrelevant and noisy advertising, which as a long-term online reader I always find irritating. So I never ran a single advertisement on my site, in order to maintain the kind of user experience I myself appreciate.

With this in mind, I simply accepted that I’d never make money from the site. I had a donation button, but in the first year of its use I managed to get 50 Euros, total, and most of that was from just one enthusiastic reader. Not enough to do anything more than cover hosting costs!

Then when I was in Thailand I met some interesting people like Chris Guillebeau, Adam Baker, Sean Ogle, Cody McKibben, and more. They gave me some encouragement that with my traffic I could market a product specifically outlining how I learn languages, and advice about how to approach doing it.

First impressions of Thailand

With no time to waste, as soon as I got to Germany I took six weeks off my work as a translator and focused on writing the Language Hacking Guide. One of my greatest talents in language learning, traveling, and many other things has been to ditch perfectionism and (as Seth Gothin always says) ship. No excuses, no time-wasting, no waiting until everything is “just right.” I applies this to creating the product too. Six weeks after I started writing I put the product on the site, and interest in it was tremendous!

I managed to cancel the debt that had been haunting me for years, and even build up a nest-egg. From this I could add more to the product, improve the look, add more content etc. (always a free update for those who already had it). Enthusiastic readers offered to translate it and the full version download now includes 23 native written translations.

I created another product about Why German is Easy, but only got a burst of sales from it initially. Basically in the entire last year I have been funding my travels and entire lifestyle from one product! Sales have been consistent for over 14 months now!

This has meant that I haven’t had to force myself to create new stuff just for the sake of making money, or spam my readers. I continue to focus on the content, and the site’s traffic grows naturally enough to ensure every day I make the sales I need!

In a recent complete redesign of the site, I even went as far as to take all visual banners to my product off! The whole site looks so much better now. It’s kind of hard at a glance to even see that I have anything to sell on the site, and despite that I’m still earning what I need!

I also offer Skype based consultation, but earnings don’t compare to sales of my product. Soon I’ll finally start developing my second product, which will be entirely video based.

Getting rid of your English accent when speaking a foreign language

You promote your newsletter “The Language Hacking League” using Aweber. How important has email marketing been in promoting your blog and promoting your hacking guide?

It’s been quite important—when I had a major update to the product I would increase the price, and give people a few days to get it at the old price. The vast majority of those sales were from the email list, and these have given me incredible boost to help me cover travel and other expenses, especially to allow me to go to conferences to spread my message more.

But I would only make those pitches once every few months. To make it worth their while I send very regular pure content (no pitches) to email subscribers. It’s almost as much work as the blog! I want to make sure people enjoy and open them. Even though I have a decent sized list, my open rates are still hovering around 65% so I must be doing something right!

I could get more people onboard with plugins that black out the screen and force an email signup form on you, but I think too many bloggers get greedy about the numbers and come across as too pushy—this is especially true for international readers who find American sales/closing tactics frustrating.

My email list has been important also in that I focus on it way more than RSS subscriber numbers. I realised very quickly that monitoring my Feedburner count was stressful because a) it jumps around too much and thus isn’t even accurate and b) it’s irrelevant for non-techie blogs.

The Many Benefits of Engaging People‚Äôs Curiosity in Your EmailsSo many of my readers have told me that I’m one of five or so blogs that they have bookmarked in Internet Explorer, so expecting them to subscribe by RSS is silly. So I decided a year ago to never log back into feedburner and don’t care what it says my subscriber numbers are. The RSS subscription logo is on my site for whoever wants it, but I focus on getting people subscribed by email—this is something all of my readers can understand.

In each email I link to recent blog posts, so they get updates and move back to the site from that!

I get a surge of sign-ups as I build up suspense about what my next language and destination will be, announcing it first in the email list, and my suggestions for that were so unique that Aweber themselves invited me to guest post on their blog about it.

Free Hug For All ProBlogger Readers!

What lessons have you learned from blogging over the last two years?

That focusing on the numbers rather than content is a terrible idea. Since I ditched checking my RSS subscriber numbers and only logging into Google Analytics every few weeks max (mostly only to follow up on incoming links), it’s been way more enjoyable! As long as you get positive comments directly on the site, by email or via social networking, then you know you are on the right track!

What I focus on is to make it more personal. For example, I’m one of the only bloggers who has a photo of himself in every post (apart from occasional guest posts on my site), and I share both tips and personal stories. I also answer almost every single comment directly.

This level of personalisation means that people really see who I am and that I’m not in this for the money, so they share my site passionately, knowing that I’ll treat new readers well.

Describe a typical day in the life of a travelling blogger.

I wrote a blog post about one such day in Colombia, with video to document it. It involved getting up early, working very efficiently and dancing salsa with cute girls.

Here in Istanbul I’m getting up late and being quite lazy. In Rio I worked most of the day from a penthouse apartment with a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and in India I had a hut with no hot water or kitchen where the power would go out several times a day. There is no typical for a travelling blogger!!

What’s would be your advice to someone who is learning another language for the first time?

Many people will have learned a language in school and failed and believe it proves that they don’t have the right genes or whatever. The problem was that it was a totally unnatural way to learn something that is actually a means of communication. You can’t teach that in the same style as you would mathematics!

My advice is to speak from day one. Learn a few phrases, flick through a cheap book course and then just find a native and speak to them. Yes, what you have won’t be award winning stuff, but you will certainly be able to get by if you try hard enough. Through lots and lots of practice and exposure you will improve quickly.

Real use and not over-studying dusty books (or even pointlessly expensive new software or audio courses) is how people genuinely end up speaking a language. Use it or lose it!

As well as this, being public about your “mission” is important. Either blog about it, or start a thread on my site’s very active language learning forum for encouragement and to set solid end-goals.

Why I love Brazilians

What plans do you have for yourself and your blog over the next 12 months?

I really enjoyed my experience speaking at TBEX (both as a main speaker about language learning and as a panelist about branding and growing website traffic). I’ve applied to speak at larger events and hope that they will accept me, as I feel this is the next step to getting my message out to more people. I’d like to use my blog as a stepping stone to other media; my goal is to convince the entire world that language talent is irrelevant, and that anyone can become fluent in a second language.

Otherwise, every few months I will go to a new destination and learn a new language, and write about it in detail as always. The completely new story in the blog so frequently always brings in a fresh wave of new readers and new opportunities!

While I know where I’m going for the next few months, I don’t know where I’ll be next year at all. If you’d like to find out, just come on over and subscribe!
A huge thank you to Benny for taking part in this interview. You can find out more about Benny, his views on language and his latest travels through his website at Fluent In 3 Months or via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google+.

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

3 Questions to Ask Before You Publish Your Next Blog Post

This guest post is by Eric Transue of

“Warning: this post may cause dizziness.”

This is not a warning you want to put at the top of a blog post. But guess what? Many should.

Why? Because some blog posts leave visitors feeling dizzy and confused.

They come in with the intention of either being entertained or learning something. But they leave saying, “What the heck was that?”

Part of the reason readers feel this way is because the author has “Lost syndrome.” What is it exactly?

Well if you watched the series Lost, you probably felt exactly that at the end of many episodes. Lost. Why? Well I have a few theories. But the top one is this. I think the writers were creating the story as they went along. That may or may not have worked for them, depending on who you ask.

But for bloggers, this is not a good idea.

You want to have a focused message that you can deliver to the focused eyeballs on your site.

Focused eyes on an unfocused message? Not only will your readers feel confused, they’ll possibly be a bit dizzy from trying to piece together your message. That is, if you even have a message.

So before you hit Publish on your next blog post, here are some questions you can ask yourself to increase the chances of getting your message across.

Question 1: Who is the target audience for this post?

Knowing your target audience will help you create a clear message that directly addresses them.

It’s far better for a few targeted readers to read your content and take action than it is for many un-targeted readers to read it and do nothing.

Fix your sights on your desired audience and speak directly to them. Address the emotions they are feeling and the questions they have on the subject you’re writing about.

Build a bond with them. Put yourself in their shoes and then speak to them directly. Address the emotions they have towards your subject. And answer the questions that are burning inside of them.

When you can bond with a person to the point that they say, “This person actually gets me,” you have taken a huge step towards getting that person to trust you and listen to what you have to say.

Question 2: Why am I writing this post?

In order for your readers to clearly understand your content, you should clearly understand why you’re writing it.

It’s great to do a brain dump into your notebook or journal, but that’s probably best kept for your eyes. Remember, just because something you write makes sense to you, it won’t necessarily make sense to your reader.

Understand why you are writing the post. Then, as clearly as possible, present the content to your readers.

If you aren’t sure why you are writing your post and want to do it anyway, it might be a good idea to let your readers know beforehand. That way, they aren’t left scratching their heads when they get to the last word of what you have to say.

Question 3: What action do I want my readers to take?

Your readers shouldn’t need a secret decoder ring to decipher what you want them to do after reading your content. Clearly state the action you want them to take. If you leave it up to them to figure out, they probably won’t.

What do you want them to do? Click a link? Buy something? Leave a comment? Share your post?

Let them know in simple terms. People are much more likely to take action when they know exactly what to do and how to do it.

By asking yourself the three questions above you’ll deliver a clear message that your readers can understand and take action on. This will help separate you from the pack of blogs that leave people scratching their heads and wondering what just happened.

How does your most recent post perform in light of these three questions? Let us know in the comments.

Eric Transue is a part-time blogger and product creator focused on showing you how to succeed online without all the BS. Download his free ebook on How To Create Your First Product Online and visit his blog at to learn more about him.

FeedBurner vs. Aweber: Do You Really Need an Autoresponder for Your Blog?

This guest post is by Aman Basanti of

When it comes to turning casual visitors into regular readers there are two main options—FeedBurner and Aweber.

FeedBurner uses Feed-based technology (RSS and Atom) to send updates to your blog subscribers. Owned by Google (Google bought it in 2007 for $100 million), FeedBurner is one of the biggest feed syndicators on the Internet.

It works like this: a site visitor subscribes to your feed and every time you add a new post, a message is sent to them alerting them of the addition. The subscriber needs special software (a feed reader) to access the feed.

For more information on feeds, see Darren’s post, What is RSS?

Aweber is email-based technology that allows you to send automated email messages to your subscribers. It works similarly to a feed but does not require special feed-reading software, only an email address to subscribe to a blog.

Aweber is the most popular autoresponder software system on the Internet. Other popular brands include Infusionsoft, MailChimp, and GetResponse.

Advantages of FeedBurner

  • FeedBurner is free, Aweber costs money: The key advantage of using FeedBurner instead of Aweber (or other auto-responders) on your blog is that FeedBurner does not cost anything. Aweber, on the other hand, can cost $20-$100 a month depending on the number of subscribers you have.
  • FeedBurner take less effort: Most popular blogging platforms (WordPress, Blogger, TypePad etc.) publish feeds automatically. There is nothing more to do on top of publishing a post. With auto-responders, however, you have to manually setup the messages and sequence them (but you can now set up a blog broadcast in Aweber, which creates an automatic email newsletter).
  • FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email subscribers: The key advantage of auto-responders like Aweber used to be that you did not need special software to subscribe, only an email address. As millions of people still do not have feed readers or prefer email, this meant that you still needed an aut-responder to capture those readers. But FeedBurner changed all that by allowing people to subscribe to a feed using an email address. This means that while an autoresponder only supports email, FeedBurner supports both feed readers and email.

Given that FeedBurner is free, easy to set up, effortless to use, and supports both feed readers and email, why would you want to pay for an auto responder?

The fatal flaw in feeds

The key thing that you cannot do with a feed is sequence messages: you cannot create a series of messages to be sent to your subscribers. This means that your subscribers only get alerts for posts that are added after they subscribe.

For example, say you post four articles over four weeks, and a visitor subscribes to your blog after week three. This means they will only get alerted about the fourth post, and will not receive posts one to three, as shown in the image below.

Feedburner alerts

In FeedBurner, you cannot send alerts for older posts

Now, if you post time-sensitive information (news or latest developments) on your blog, this doesn’t matter. But if you publish evergreen content, or you want to take your blog readers through a specific set of messages, the ability to sequence is crucial.

Autoresponders allow you to do just that. You can create a sequence of messages, set how long the wait is between each message, and the autoresponder will execute that for you for each subscriber, regardless of when they join, as shown below.

Aweber sequencing

Aweber allows you to create a sequence of messages

Then there are the other benefits of auto-responders like Aweber—customization of look and feel of emails, personalization (“Hi John”), controlling the wait period between messages, solid delivery rates, split-test multiple lead capture forms, and so on.

The audience factor

A third factor in deciding which system to use is your audience. If you have tech-phobic audience, then an email-based system like Aweber is likely better for you.

For tech-savvy audiences, on the other hand, FeedBurner may be better. Technically inclined people are more likely to use and prefer to get their blog updates through feeds. Feeds also have the added benefit of allowing another blogger to include your feed on their blog, creating free exposure and traffic for your blog.

The best way to find out what your audience wants is to have both options on your site for a month and see what your readers prefer. You may even find that it is useful to have both.

The bottom line

If you have a small budget, publish time-sensitive information, and/or cater to a tech-savvy audience, FeedBurner will be sufficient for your blog.

If, on the other hand, you want to take your subscribers through a sequence of messages and control the wait periods between the messages, then Aweber is better suited to your blog.

What are you using: Aweber, FeedBurner … or something else? Tell us how you do it in the comments.

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 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.

How Offline Promotion Landed 300 New Blog Visitors

This guest post is by Kyle Taylor of The Penny Hoarder.

I’ve been blogging for six short months and I’m bored.

I still love writing new content, but like many of you, I have spent so many countless hours commenting, tweeting, and begging for backlinks that I’m simply too bored to keep it up.

What makes the situation worse is that I have spent months establishing myself as a unique brand in my niche, yet I’ve been employing all of the same marketing strategies as my competitors. My marketing is the first impression I give potential readers and, by reusing old strategies, I have been leaving readers with the impression that I was just another personal finance blog. Sure, the traffic has grown, slow and steady, but I decided that I needed to do something different this summer; not only to grow the site faster, but to make marketing more enjoyable for myself.

My experiment

My first move was to step offline. Offline is a scary place, but there happens to be millions of people out there that have never heard of my blog. And these are the kind of people who aren’t trolling comment threads and message boards like the rest of us. I wanted to reach them and I was confident that once they found me, I could hook ‘em.

bumper sticker

My bumper sticker

I once read in a ProBlogger article that when advertising online, you shouldn’t necessarily send people to your homepage. Rather, you should sent them to a page deep within your blog. I decided to run with that advice and apply it to my offline endeavor. Instead of promoting my entire blog, I picked a popular article on my site titled, “I Get Paid to Buy Beer,” bought the domain, and permanently redirected the domain to the article hosted on my blog.

Maybe it wasn’t quite what Darren had in mind when he shared that advice, but what the heck?

It had all the makings of a page ready to go viral offline:

  • A rather juvenile web address. Check.
  • An article that represented my blog well. Check.
  • And, well … free beer. Check.

My hope was that some of the new visitors would like what they saw in the article and start exploring the rest of the blog. The downside of promoting a separate web address was that we wouldn’t be promoting our actual brand or website. However, I was hoping the novelty of “free beer” would successfully launch our regular website to stardom, or at the very least, bring about world peace.

Naturally, this type of article and domain address was perfect to market to the under-30 demographic. To promote the new domain, we had simple bumper stickers made and hired willing college students from and to put the stickers up around their college campuses, apartments, and hangouts.


All told, we spent about $120 dollars. The printing cost us $45 for 250 bumper stickers. And five college students were paid $15 each to put up 50 stickers in their towns.

The campaign is only in its second week, and we have already had more than 300 new visitors come from our bumper stickers. At $0.40 per visit, our costs are certainly cheaper than an AdWords campaign, and there is no telling how many more visitors we will get in the coming weeks.

It’s also easy to track our campaign using Google Analytics, because the visitors show up as a “referring site.” Plus, using the Advanced options, we can look at our visitors’ cities to see if word-of-mouth has found us readers in locations other than the ones we targeted with our stickers.

Get creative

Start brainstorming ways you can promote your website that you haven’t seen done before. Get crazy. Have fun with it.

Maybe you could make a video of yourself planking and post it on Youtube? Maybe you could give out free lemonade at the beach and put your blog’s logo on the cup? What about passing out flyers at the farmer’s market?

The strategy you choose will largely depend on your site’s niche, but if you want to be different then everybody else, you are going to have to start thinking differently about your marketing.

Have you ever completed offline marketing—or done something completely outside the box? Let us know how you went in the comments.

Kyle Taylor is a personal finance blogger that blogs about weird ways to make money at The Penny Hoarder. Connect on Facebook or join the newsletter and get our “5 Wackiest Ways to Make Extra Money.”

How to Recruit Evangelists for Your Blog

This guest post is by M.Farouk Radwan of

Today, every successful blogger knows that diversifying traffic sources is a practice we can’t afford to ignore. Search engines update their search algorithms all the time, social media sites keep rising and falling, and new traffic sources keep appearing and disappearing.

In order to ensure your long-term continuity on the Web, and in order to be able to live through these changes, you need a team of evangelists who can help you market your content whenever a new traffic source appears.

For example, if you had a blog before the time of Twitter, and then Twitter came into existence, you need loyal evangelists who can help you develop strong presence on the social network, who tweet your posts, retweet your tweets, and follow you.

In this post I will tell you about powerful and effective methods that can help you recruit evangelists for your blog.

Recognize potential evangelists

How many times you ignored a mail, a comment, or a request of help from a reader? Each of these people can become potential evangelists when you provide them with the help they need.

When I get a mail from someone asking for help I do my best to answer him on time. If he replies to say something like “thanks,” or if he doesn’t reply at all, I don’t consider him an evangelist. But if he replies saying that he is very thankful, I then ask him to become an evangelist for my blog.

Of course I don’t ask him to do this in a direct way; instead I tell him something like, “You are most welcome. If you want to help me as well, then you can do that by sharing my content.”

People who send you thank you emails are evangelists. When they use powerful words, you know they are already existing evangelists who are eager to do what you ask. Never be ashamed to ask someone for a favor if you really helped that person through your blog.

Never block all communication channels

I often come across blogs that have no content forms, no method to comment on a post, and no communication method that can help you reach the owner of the blog.

Of course you might want to disable one or two features for technical reasons, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t keep at least one communication channel opened between you and the people who might become evangelists. After all, if those people can’t reach you, you will never be able to recruit them.

Spend more time communicating with people

Before understanding this fact, I used to spend no more than 30 minutes answering emails, and sometimes I allowed many messages to accumulate in my Facebook inbox. After understanding my mistake, I started spending more than one hour per day answering emails and searching for potential evangelists.

Post an announcement

Even if you keep all communication channels opened between you and your readers, there will still be many potential evangelists who won’t offer help unless you ask them to do so.

Post an announcement that states that you need help from loyal readers in your forums, on your blog, or on your Facebook page.

Assign tasks to your evangelists

  1. Once you have a team of evangelists, you can ask them to share your content and to promote it on the newest potential traffic sources.
  2. Keep an excel file with the names and emails of your evangelists, so that you can reach them whenever you want.
  3. Keep looking for potential evangelists and keep increasing their numbers all the time.

Remember: successful blogging is all about connecting with your loyal readers on a deep level so that they can help your blog come into the light.

Avoid overburdening your evangelists with tasks

People who believe in you should be treated as if they are precious treasure. You don’t want to overburden those people with tasks and have them turn away from you.

If you asked one evangelist for help, make sure you don’t ask her again for a reasonable period of time. In the Excel sheet where you keep the names and contact details of your evangelists, make notes so that you can check which ones have been contacted before, and which have not.

Also, repay the favor your evangelists gave you, even if you have initially helped them. For example, if you sell products or have membership areas, give those people free access to some of your products.

This will help to increase their loyalty even more, and they will never turn away from your blog. The key point to keep in mind is to not ask for more than those people can tolerate, or else you will risk losing them.

And the next time you need help, ask those loyal evangelists indirectly, for example, by announcing on your fan page that you need help with a task. Only those who really want to help another time will get back to you, so you can be assured you’re not overburdening anyone.

Does your blog have evangelists? How did you build up a core group of loyal followers? Share your tips in the comments.

Written by M.Farouk Radwan, the founder of, which gets more than 600,000 page views per month.

Blogging Without a Computer

This guest post is by Janek Makulec of paylane.

Blogging is actually a set of activities, but writing is always fundamental. Promoting your blog or presenting an outstanding layout is one thing, but you always have to offer good content first. Otherwise, the best you can achieve is being “the master of the form.”

What’s wrong with a computer?

Nothing, of course. People are the problem here, computers are just tools. It’s our psychology, the human nature.

So what should we use, if not a computer? There’s no good general answer. It depends on what you prefer. My choices are: pens and pencils, paper, a typewriter, and brains.

Whoa! Is it 1940 or something? Where do you even get a typewriter from?

Okay, such reaction is surely understandable, but let me explain how I find such “oldschool writing methods” more effective and easier to use.

Improving your style

There’s a well-known story about F. Nietzsche. It’s said that when he got himself a new typewriter and learned to use it, his writing style changed. It became more concise.

Of course typewriters or pens (like computers, text editors, etc.) are just tools, but it’s not like they’re not altering our writing style. When you can add, delete, or copy and paste every sentence or paragraph with pretty much no effort whatsoever, you stop concentrating. You lose your self-discipline.

Having the comfort of going back any time, repairing something, and keeping such corrections untraceable makes your mind more likely to lose focus. Less concentration means less creativity, and worse writing. And you’re done, thank you very much—there’s the door.

Furthermore, it’s more likely you’re going to write longer pieces, which are usually … well, boring. People would rather scan web articles than read them—a long text might scare them away. Mark Twain once said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” He was talking about the very same thing. Writing short pieces is more difficult, but the effects are better. You have to tell the same thing in fewer words, but this way you’ll keep your reader’s attention.

Of course, it’s just a psychological trick. We somehow feel more responsible for what we write directly on paper—there’s physical evidence of what we’ve written. But if it works, why not use such a fact?

Getting rid of distractions

A computer is the greatest digital distraction center, especially when connected to the Internet (which is every computer nowadays). And I’m sure that’s obvious.

Of course you can turn off all notifications, and even disconnect, but be honest (not to me—to yourself): will you really be able not to think about checking your email or Twitter until you finish your work? You’re always one click away from doing this. Why keep being tempted or get distracted and waste time?

There’s no minesweeper or Facebook on a piece of paper! Turn off your computer and just write. Do you even remember what your handwriting looks like? I mean apart from your signature on the credit card!

The worst thing that may happen to you here is that you either have a pen that shows a lady getting undressed when it’s turned upside down, or you start drawing silly stuff. If you do, get a typewriter—there’s no drawing there. And it requires you to concentrate more on the writing itself, which is another advantage.

Of course there are fullscreen text editors that turn off all notifications and are supposed to keep you concentrated on your writing. There are even ones that simulate a typewriter. If this works for you, great! You’re one of the lucky ones. But if you have to use your will and fight not to use Alt+Tab, try a pen instead of a keyboard.

Fewer mistakes, better quality

I assume you’ve read some articles on proofing and correcting—you can find such posts right here on It’s very important to reread your texts—you always find something to correct.

But it’s even better to rewrite it. Even a few times, if it helps. Leo Tolstoj rewrote War and Peace seven times (my edition of this book is ~1600 pages). But it was simply worth it.

So here’s the trick—if you write the first version on paper, you’ll be forced to rewrite it. And that’s it. Nothing fancy, but honestly, how often do you rewrite a blog post? You probably read it once or twice, edit it, and hit Publish. Maybe you even wait a day or two before that. That’s good, but I’m saying there’s a good chance to make it even better. If you won’t rewrite your text strictly mechanically, you’ll probably have better results.

Creativity and motivation

Yes, you can even affect your thinking with the tools you use—not any particular ones, but with a variety.

Whenever you create a habit, you lose a part of your creative thinking. Or you show your brain how to do so—just work out a rule that works, and repeat it. This way, nothing new will ever happen, only a routine will be born.

Try to write with a pen in a red notepad, another time use a typewriter, later make notes with a 2B pencil on a lined (or maybe plain) piece of paper, then make an exception and use a computer…

This way, each time you write something, it’s different, and it makes you feel like you’re attempting something new. It doesn’t matter how silly all this may sound, the important thing is whether it works for you.

There’s one last advantage of writing with your computer turned off. Eyes. If you’re blogging (which means doing research, commenting, using social media, etc.) and spending much time in front of the monitor, you should use every opportunity to take a break from the screen.

What tricks do you use to mix up your blogging? Share them with us in the comments.

Janek works as a copywriter in the online payments industry, but writes also on many other topics on Across the Board.

Being Relevant and Reputable—Google’s Sweet Spot

This guest post is by John Hoff of Blog Training Classroom.

I’ve written many articles online over the years. Many deal with WordPress, blogging, and making money online; however, there’s one subject I’ve noticed which consistently takes the “most popular” topic award … search engine optimization.

The concept of search engine optimization at times can really make your head spin. In one respect, it seems like a concept which is extremely complicated to understand and implement because there can be a ton of moving parts which you have to consider, like:

  • keywords
  • keyword density
  • attaining backlinks
  • who you link to
  • duplicate content
  • how to structure your link text
  • heading tags
  • meta tags.

And now with terms like Panda and Google +1 getting tossed into the mix, I feel like grabbing our buddy Googlebot by the shirt and saying, “Really? I mean, come on. I’ve got way more important things to do online then trying to understand how your Google brain works!”

But then there’s the simplicity of search engine optimization.

The simplicity part comes when you start thinking about Google as if it were a human. By thinking of it like a human, we can better understand what it wants in terms of concepts we understand and use in our everyday lives.

The human side of Google

The above list shows all the mechanics of SEO. Google is not a human, it’s an algorithm.

Now to throw you for even more of a loop: it’s an algorithm which is trying to act like a human. You ask it something and it wants to be the smartest guy on the block.

How does it get to be the smartest guy on the block?

By giving you the best answer to your question.

And that, my friends, is what Google wants.

While Yahoo! and Bing give “okay” answers, Google wants to give you the best answer, just like your most trusted friend would, because if it can do that, you’ll keep asking it questions.

So what is the human side of SEO?

It’s the concept of helping Google get what it wants in terms of how we humans think. And by giving it what it wants, it will reward you.

How to give Google what it wants

Here’s where all those mechanics of SEO come into play. They are the way in which Google tries to determine two very simple concepts. Is a site or article:

  • relevant
  • reputable?

Now those are concepts we humans can understand a little more easily.

The relevant part is the easy part—all you have to do is stay on topic. It’s the reputable part which takes a little more work, but we’ll talk about that in just a moment.

Case study:

Let’s take a look at how Darren Rowse and his site are giving Google what it wants.

As of the date this article was written, has a PageRank of 6. Not too shabby. This tells us that Google thinks this site is important.

How then would Google see that Darren and his site are both relevant and reputable?

The “relevant” part

When you arrive on Darren’s blog, it’s obvious his site is all about the concept of blogging. Here’s a quick list of how he shows Google his site is relevant to blogging:

  • He offers products on the subject.
  • He’s got an incredible number of articles written which relate to blogging.
  • The word “blogger” is in his URL.
  • The word “blog” is sprinkled throughout his website.
  • His site’s home page title clearly tells people what they will find here (blogging tips).

And the list goes on.

Okay, so that was the easy part: just stay on topic and show Google what your site is all about. But what about being reputable?

The “reputable” part

Back in the day (years ago), simply being relevant was good enough—remember those keyword meta tags?

But being only relevant these days just doesn’t cut it and the reason is because the Internet has grown from a few thousand websites to millions of websites, with many talking about exactly the same thing.

So tell me then, who’s article would you rather read and trust?

Someone who knows nothing about blogging but wrote a “how to make money blogging” article, or an article Darren wrote which was about “how to make money blogging?”

Both articles are relevant to making money through blogging, but whose article would you trust is more correct?

Take that evaluation you just did in your head, and that’s exactly what Google is doing.

It sees that both articles are relevant to the topic but then, just like you, it makes a decision at who is more trustworthy.

And that’s where the reputable part comes into play.

Darren and his site are reputable for these reasons:

  • People (a lot of people) link to his site.
  • People mention his name and site even when they don’t link to him.
  • He’s like seriously everywhere: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ (how do you do it, man?).
  • His articles get retweeted, Liked, Stumbled, appear on Digg, etc.

In other words, he’s mentioned everywhere online … and in a good way.

So Darren has shown Google, just as he has to you and me, that his site is both relevant to blogging and a reputable resource people can use. By showing this to Google, he has attained decent search rank.

That’s the simple side of search engine optimization. It’s not about the mechanics, it’s about the human side of SEO.

How to get into Google’s good graces

In my opinion, the way to achieve the best search engine success is by concentrating the majority of your time on the human aspect of SEO.

Don’t get me wrong—if you’re really wanting to dive into search engine optimization, then you’re going to have to learn the mechanics. There’s no way around that. You can think of the mechanics (keywords density, header tags, etc.) like tools.

But tools don’t build buildings, people do.

Chances are that many of you want to rank your articles in Google, but have better things to do with your time than become SEO experts.

If that’s you and the idea of studying search engine optimization is as appealing as watching reruns of Rocky III all day long, then I’d suggest at the very least familiarizing yourself with a few of the more important mechanics of SEO, and then focusing the rest of your time on just building epic stuff.

Concentrate on people, and do what entrepreneurs did back in the day before the Internet.

Create that epic stuff—articles, blogs, ebooks, tweets, etc.—and then get out there and hit the digital pavement. Share your epic stuff with other people and they will like you.

And when other people like you, Google will like you. Hence Google +1.

By the way, what the heck do we call Google +1? Twitter has “tweets” and Facebook has “Likes”, but what do you say when you +1 something?

And how important do you think this tool will be after reading this post?

John Hoff the blog training instructor at Blog Training Classroom and is an Internet Marketer. If you’d like to learn more about SEO and how he ranks sites and articles in Google, he’s got a free SEO brain dump download – no email address required.

How to Use Blogging to Get Clients Flocking after You

This guest post is by Onibalusi from

I have been writing for others as a freelancer for over seven months now and within that period I have made over $20,000 just by writing for others. I keep on getting new client requests every month and due to an agreement with my current and main clients, I have rejected almost ten clients in the past six months.

I have also noticed that in the blogosphere and in the freelancing world, less than 20% of the people get 99% of the results, so I decided to write an article on how to use blogging to get more clients to your business.

Before I continue I’d like you to know that the tips in this article won’t help you get “cheap clients” who really don’t care about the quality of your work. I’ll be giving you tips that can help you get high paying, recurring clients that you can choose from.

I’d also like you to know that every aspect of this article is essential. Don’t think you can skip my first point to go to the next and then expect the results to come. This is definitely not the ultimate guide on getting clients—I’m far from someone to write an ultimate guide on the subject. The tips in this article can also be modified to give you better results than I’m getting, but some people like to skip the main parts and try to rush into it for the money, then expect the results to come. That just won’t happen!

Okay, let’s get to the tips.

Focus on what you’re best at

Try to put yourself into the shoes of your client first. Let’s say you’re a small business with a tight budget and you want to get the word out about your business. You think the best thing to do is to hire a marketing consultant to give you advice based on your business model and you decide to go out in search for one.

You came across two people—the first is someone who is really desperate to make money and is therefore claiming the title of a “marketing consultant” because he hears that others with that name are making it big. The other, however, is a dedicated marketing consultant who lives, eats, and breathes marketing and who has helped several people with marketing their business. Which of the two will you go with?

You might try to play smart and think clients won’t be able to see through you but as someone who hardly advertises my service but keeps on getting client requests regularly, I will tell you that the best thing to do is to focus on what you’re best at. Doing so won’t only increase your chances of getting a lot of clients, it will ensure you’re paid double what you’re worth, and it will also ensure your clients stick with you for a very long time.

After all, the only thing your clients want is results, and once you can give them a lot of those, they will happily stay with you forever.

Know which kinds of clients you want and tailor your blog posts to them

I’m not trying to tell you to start writing blog posts every day inviting clients, or to be writing aggressive blog posts with the sole aim of getting clients. I’m taking about being specific about what you talk about, and letting potential clients see you as an expert on your subject.

Take a look at Darren Rowse, for example. If a big client is looking for someone to give the best advice about building successful blogs, you can be sure they will hire Darren. Not only does Darren have three very popular blogs in different niches, he also has the most successful blog in the blogging niche (which has been the most successful for several years now). That alone speaks a great deal to show that this guy knows what he’s talking about.

If you want clients to hire you to do their website design work for them, you need to be blogging about web design, and doing case studies that help analyze other people’s blog designs for better results. The more you can show someone that you know your stuff, the higher their chances of hiring you will be.

I try to know how my clients have found me, and I have noticed that every single one of them discovered me through my blog posts about guest blogging, which assures them that I know my stuff as far as writing is concerned.

Be a living example of what you have to offer

If you’re a web designer who wants to have clients flocking after you, having a very poor website design won’t help you go far. The best way to get clients is by letting them know that you know your stuff—and what better way to do this than to be using your services yourself?

Why will people ever hire you to write for them when you don’t even have a blog? Why will people hire you to help design their websites when you have never designed for someone else and the website template you use is one of the worst they’ve ever seen? Why will people hire you for SEO when you hardly get any visits to your blogs from the search engines? Why will people hire you to write their copy when you can’t even convince them to use your service?

Since I’m human, just like you, I’d like to tell you that my number one concern isn’t my mother, it isn’t my siblings, it isn’t you either. It is me, and since every human thinks alike, I’d like to believe this is the same for everybody. Our major concerns are ourselves, and we think about ourselves before others. No one will hire you if you can’t prove to them that you’re an example of what you have to offer and that hiring you will be their wisest decision.

Market yourself

You will notice here that I’m not actually saying you should market your service.

I’m not against marketing your service altogether, but my point is that being a living example of what you have to offer is enough marketing of your service in itself. So spreading the word about yourself will let a lot of people see you, and will result in them asking to buy your services.

Look for the best tactics that those who are getting results in your industry are using, and start making use of them yourself. Don’t just rush after guest blogging because people in the IM niche says it is working for them. Facebook might be what’s working in your niche. Search engines might be the best friend of those getting the most results in your niche.

So instead of following the general approach to marketing, try to take a look at how some of the people getting the most results in your field are marketing themselves. Then, start marketing yourself using the same approach.

Use your blog

Getting clients flocking after you isn’t as difficult as most people think. It isn’t about joining one freelancing site or the other. Blogging is the most powerful tool at the disposal of everybody, and you can easily make the best use of it to your own advantage. Utilize the tips above to get clients flocking after you—and let us know how you go in the comments.

Onibalusi Bamidele is the founder of, a blog where he teaches people how to write for traffic and money. Get his free 7 series eCourse on How to Build a Successful Online Writing Business

Take 5 Minutes to Make WordPress 10 Times More Secure

This guest post is by David Wang of The ClickStarter.

Hacktivist groups Lulzsec and Anonymous are on the prowl again. Their actions have generated lots of attention for hacking, and you can be sure that many bored kids and shady characters are interested to start hacking too.

What if your blog was the target of a rookie hacker, honing his skills to make it to the big leagues? All of your hard work building a better blog, growing traffic and readership, and making money with your blog would be jeopardized—or, worse, lost forever.

Thankfully, WordPress is pretty secure out of the box and they provide frequent security updates. Even better are the following super-simple actions that you can take to make WordPress ten times more secure. (Not scientifically verified! Your mileage may vary.)

Move wp-config.php up one level

The wp-config.php file contains all of your WordPress configuration information and settings. It’s game over if hackers gain access to this file—they would be able to inject malware into your blog pages, or *gulp* delete all of your blog content.

A little-known feature of WordPress is that you can move the wp-config.php file one level above the WordPress root. On most Linux servers, wp-config.php would be located in:


Simply FTP into your server, and then move wp-config.php above the public_html directory so that it is located in:


This way, wp-config.php is outside of the public-facing web root, and no longer accessible to scripts and bots that hackers may employ over the Web.

There are no other settings to configure—WordPress will automatically know to look for wp-config.php one level above. Easy, right?

Caveat: This tip will not work if you install your blog in a subdirectory (e.g. public_html/blog) or as an add-on domain in cPanel (e.g. public_html/

Time required: 1 minute

Delete the ‘admin’ account

The default Administrator account on WordPress has a username of ‘admin’. Every n00b hacker would know that, so using ‘admin’ as the username is like having a back door to your house that every thief knows about. Do not ever use this as the main account. Choose a different username when installing WordPress.

If you have been using the ‘admin’ username, go into the Dashboard » Users » Add New User screen. Create a new user with the role of Administrator. Now log out, and log back in as the new user.

Go to the Users screen again and delete ‘admin’. You can transfer all of the content created by ‘admin’ to your new user account before confirming deletion.

Time required: 1 minute

Update WordPress, plugins, and themes

WordPress makes it so easy to update itself, plus plugins, and themes, to the latest version. It’s so easy that you (almost) deserve to get hacked if you don’t stay updated. Spending one minute installing updates will save you hours or days of frustration and headaches if you ever do get hacked.

Plugins and themes should also be updated regularly. All plugins and themes from the WordPress directory integrate with the automatic update feature. Many premium plugins and themes also have automatic updates, which is another great reason to invest in a high-quality theme framework for your blog.

Time required: 1 minute

Install WP Security Scan and Secure WordPress

Finally, plugins that deal with security are another great way of reducing the likelihood of your blog getting hacked. Two really good plugins that do this are WP Security Scan and Secure WordPress by WebsiteDefender.

WP Security Scan comes with several tools to help make your blog more secure:

  • The Scanner checks the permissions of the WordPress files and highlights any with the wrong permissions. FTP into your server and change the permissions accordingly.
  • The Password Tool tells you the strength of your password, and also generates random and super-strong passwords that you can use.
  • The Database tool allows you to backup the WordPress database and change the database prefix. Use it to change your database prefix to something like ‘7yhj2_’. This makes it difficult for hackers to guess your database table names when trying to perform SQL injections.

Secure WordPress takes a different approach and helps improve security by removing clues that can help hackers detect vulnerabilities in your system. The plugin’s settings screen is a simple list of checkboxes that do everything from removing login error messages, removing WordPress version numbers and even blocking malicious URL requests. I recommend activating all the checkboxes, unless you have a specific need for one of the features that it blocks.

Time required: 2 minutes

Stay vigilant

The steps above will drastically improve your blog security and prevent it from becoming a target of opportunity for rookie hackers. However security is an ongoing process, and also involves practicing security as a habit.

Stay vigilant and make it a point to keep up with the latest security news for WordPress, especially if you use it to run your business. You should also learn as much about security as you can. The ProBlogger archives are full of great posts that contain much more information on keeping your blog hacker, spammer and spyware-free and even planning for a blog disaster!

Now, please take five minutes and perform all of the steps above. I wish you good luck and hope your blog stays hacker-free!

David Wang blogs about his journey to generate the majority of his revenue online at The ClickStarter. He is also a WordPress evangelist and recently launched a free online course called Getting Started with WordPress. Follow David on Twitter – @blogjunkie