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How to Turn a Blog Post into a Press Release

This guest post is by Erika Gimbel, a Chicago freelance writer.

If you’re an ace at writing blog copy, you can write an excellent press release. Both have many of the same elements: strong headlines, top-down format (most important stuff up front), etc. You already know that press releases are a powerful way to promote your blog, and they’re an effective way to get your message out without duplicating content.

So, if you’re ready to put your news out there, here’s some basic steps to re-writing your blog post into a press release. To get started, take a newsworthy blog post and…

1. Make sure it’s news

A press release has to announce something. Unlike most blog posts, it’s not commentary, a how-to guide or a numbered list. However, the following blog post topics would work perfectly as the basis for a press release:

  • launch of a new company
  • client success story (“Client Doubles Income After Completing Online Course”)
  • new product, service or event announcement (e-book, webinar, meetup, seminar)
  • awards, either that you’ve won or awarded to others (invent some!)
  • new employees/hires/contributors
  • milestones (one year in business, subscriber growth of 500%, etc.)
  • survey results

If you don’t have any of the above news, come up with your own, like predictions (“ProBlogger Announces Top Blogging Predictions for 2012”), or a response to current news (“Company Provides Immediate SEO Assistance for Google’s New Algorithm”).

2. Change everything to the third-person voice

Both the headline and the body of the press release should be in the third person. Instead of “we” or “I” use the company name. Instead of “you” use “customers,” or “clients.”

3. Revise the headline

Both blog posts and press releases ideally should have keywords within the first few words of the headline. Unlike most blog posts, press releases also have a subhead, which either emphasizes the headline’s point-of-difference—whyyour news is so important—or provides factual backup for the headline.

To format the headline and subhead…

PRESS RELEASE HEADLINE: IN ALL CAPS
Subhead in Title Case, Except the Little, Non-Important Words

4. Rearrange the post to contain these press release elements

  • Dateline: If you use a press release distribution service they’ll make sure you get this right, but if you’re writing it on your own, the format is: “CITY NAME [all caps], State abbreviation (Month Day, Year) – “ So as an example, you’d have “POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y., (Aug. 31, 2011) – [First sentence starts here.]”
  • Lead: The main news. You can be creative with your first sentence, but make sure you get the who, what, where, why and how in the first paragraph. Your keyword/s should be in the lead as well as the headline.
  • Quote: A quote isn’t required, but it always helps to illuminate the press release and give it some personality. Go ahead and use “I”s and “you”s here. The quote is usually the second paragraph, but again, not required.
  • Boilerplate: At the end of every press release, include a short paragraph about the company, again in the third person. Your website and phone number go here, too.

5. Get familiar with AP Style, at least the basics

AP (Associated Press) Style is the writing blueprint for journalism—every grammar and punctuation question you have, the AP Stylebook has the answer. When I’m working on press releases, several unique-to-AP rules come up again and again.

For example, the AP Stylebook says that state names should be shortened like the old-fashioned mailing names. Florida is not FL, it’s Fla. And some cities are so well known (Chicago, Denver) that it’s not necessary to include the state. “Email” doesn’t have a hyphen but “e-commerce” does.

For a concise guide to the most relevant AP style notes, see this online AP Style guide from Purdue. AP continues to update its guidelines, so for the latest you can follow the AP Stylebook on Twitter.

6. Look at other people’s releases

For examples of press releases, go to sites like PR Newswire and PR Web and see what others have done.  Some of these press releases are not great, so use a critical eye. 

Many do not follow the “third person” and “AP Style” advice that I recommend (you’ll spot them right away … they look like blog posts), but please take a few minutes format your press release this way: it reflects expertise and professionalism, and in the end, isn’t that the image you want to portray with your blog?

Have you converted a blog post into a press release?  What else would you recommend?

Erika Gimbel is a Chicago freelance writer who writes press releases as well as articles, brochures, newsletters, websites and blog posts for business and nonprofit clients.  She loves helping clients figure out what to write about: if you’re stuck for topics, download her free report, 50 Ideas for Business Articles and Blog Posts.

7 Habits of Professional Bloggers

This guest post is by Ali Luke of Aliventures.

Your blog isn’t growing as fast as you’d hoped.

You’re working hard—and trying to follow all the advice which you’ve read online—but you’re not seeing the traffic or subscriber levels that you’d like, and you’re not making quit-your-day-job levels of money. Actually, you’re not making much money at all.

Professional blogging isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme—and I’m sure you’ve discovered that for yourself. But although building a successful, income-producing blog might take a bit longer than you wanted, it’s far from impossible.

In fact, it’s just a case of slowly but surely improving your game. These are seven habits which top bloggers share. Are you missing any of them?

1. Learning

Being willing to learn, consistently, is crucial to success in today’s fast-moving world—but that’s especially true in blogging, where technological changes mean that last year’s top sites are this year’s has-beens.

As I’ve met more and more great bloggers, I’ve been struck how much they invest in learning. They go to conferences, they read ebooks and take ecourses, and they make sure they keep improving their skills in the two areas which matter most: being able to write well and being adept with technology.

First step

Become a regular reader of great blogging and writing related blogs. My top three are:

Take it further

Buy an ebook or take an ecourse that’ll help you take your blogging further. A great one to start with is 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, because it combines solid theory with practical exercises, and it covers a wide range of beginner-friendly topics.

2. Sustainability

Your blogging needs to be sustainable. While you might not be making much money to start with, you should aim to make enough to invest in some learning materials—and to cover your hosting, domain name registration, and other blogging expenses.

You also need to make sure that you’re being realistic about the time you can spend on your blog. Sure, you might have the energy to write all weekend when you first start out—but will you be able to do that month after month? An awful lot of would-be probloggers give up after a few weeks because their blogging schedule just wasn’t sustainable.

First step

If your hosting and other expenses mean that your blog’s currently running at a loss, find one simple way to monetize it. That might mean finding a great affiliate product to recommend, installing a donation button, or putting up Google AdSense.

Take it further

Plan out major purchases—like ecourses or conference tickets—in advance. Look for ways to cover the costs from your blogging income, rather than out of your own pocket. The first time I went to South by South West, I released an ebook which paid for the cost of my trip (you can read how I did it here on ProBlogger).

3. Consistency

Can you imagine reading a post like this on ProBlogger?

Sorry guys, I know I haven’t updated in a month, I’ve just been really busy…

Of course not. In fact, if even a couple of days went by without a ProBlogger update, I bet Darren would be inundated with emails from worried readers asking what was wrong. Professional bloggers post consistently—whether that means once a week or three times a day.

Posting consistently shows that you take your blog seriously. It gets readers into the habit of coming back to read new posts—and it gets you into the habit of writing regularly.

First step

Decide on a sensible, sustainable posting schedule. It’s fine if that means one post a week—readers would rather have one great post every week than seven rushed posts one week then nothing for a month.

Take it further

Write posts ahead of time, so that you’ve got some “banked” for busy periods. You can schedule a post to publish in the future using WordPress, so your posts can keep going up consistently even if you’re jetting off on holiday.

4. Self-discipline

The sun’s shining outside. There’s a show I want to watch. And I really should do the dishes…

It’s all too easy to think up excuses to leave your desk and your blog. Even if you love writing, you probably find it hard to sit down and stay focused while you’re working on a post. I write for a living and I still find it challenging!

That’s why self-discipline is so important for professional bloggers. You need to be able to work on your blog without checking Twitter every two minutes, and without getting distracted by everything else that’s going on around you.

Self-discipline doesn’t just mean sitting down and working, though. It also means knowing when to stop working. That might mean being self-disciplined enough not to check your emails during dinner, or not obsessing over Google Analytics.

First step

Next time you sit down to write a post, close your internet browser first. Don’t open it up again until you’ve been writing for at least 30 minutes.

Take it further

Find ways to bolster your self-discipline by changing your environment:

  • Take your laptop to a coffee shop that doesn’t have wi-fi.
  • Get up earlier so you can blog before work, rather than struggling to have motivation to blog when you get home.
  • Block websites which you find yourself accessing too often.

5. Integrity

This might seem like an odd habit to include on the list, but I think integrity is extremely important for professional bloggers. The best bloggers I know are people who I put a lot of trust in. I buy their products—and I’m confident that these will be worth my money. I buy products which they recommend—and I know that the blogger isn’t just hyping something in order to get a few dollars in commission.

I can’t tell you what integrity means for you and your blog. But I suggest that you give it some thought. It’s very easy to lose readers’ trust—and once you’ve lost it, they won’t be coming back. Worse, they might warn other people to steer clear of you.

First step

Make sure you always disclose affiliate links. This isn’t just to help readers trust you—it’s also a legal requirement if you live in America.

Take it further

Think through any moral grey areas carefully. For instance, would you run a sponsored post on your blog—and if so, would you disclose its status? Would you promote a product which you hadn’t tried out yourself—and if so, would you make that clear to your readers?

6. Courtesy

I’ve seen a few train-wreck situations in my time in the blogosphere, where comment threads have got out of hand, or where two bloggers have attacked one another in their posts. It’s never a pretty sight, and it always gives me a dim view of the people in question.

So courtesy is a vital habit. That means responding politely and pleasantly to people—even if they’ve said something which makes you angry. If your blog is still small, courtesy might also mean replying to all your comments. If your blog is too big to do that, courtesy might prompt you to explain on your “About” page that you can’t reply to everyone but that you do value their comments.

First step

If you’re ever tempted to post a blazing angry comment, stop. Walk away for a while—at least an hour if you can.

Take it further

Consider having a comments policy which encourages (or requires) all your blog’s readers to interact respectfully. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree—but they have to avoid using aggressive language or posting personal attacks. Remember that many readers may read the comments, even if they never post one.

7. Growth

Finally, professional bloggers don’t stay in the middle of their cozy comfort zone. If they did, they’d never have got far. They keep on growing—stretching themselves, trying new things, bringing in new readers, and launching new products.

Growth isn’t always easy. There’ll be plenty of times in your blogging journey where you’re nervous about taking the next step. Perhaps you’ve never sent out a guest post, because you’re worried about being rejected. Or perhaps you’ve not made a start on that ebook you’ve got planned, because you know it’ll be a lot of work.

But every single problogger had to write their first guest post, launch their first product and go to their first conference. I’m sure they were all nervous—there’s nothing wrong with that—but what matters is that they did it anyway. And that’s how they, and their blogs, grew.

First step

Try something which challenges you: maybe emailing a blogger who you admire, or sending out your first guest post.

Take it further

Keep looking for new ways to grow. That might mean trying a joint venture, taking an ecourse, going to a conference, writing an ebook, hiring a personal assistant … or almost anything. It’ll probably feel scary the first time you do it, but it’ll quickly get easier.

So—which of these seven habits could you work on today? And if you think I’ve missed out a vital habit, add an eighth (or more!) in the comments.

Ali Luke has just released a (totally free) mini-ebook, Ten Powerful Ways to Make Your Blog Posts Stronger. It’s packed with great advice, clear examples and quick exercises to get you to take action. Click here to grab your copy now.

How My Blog Landed Me on Yahoo’s Homepage (Twice) in the First Year

This guest post is by Jaime Tardy of EventualMillionaire.com.

Within six months of starting my blog I was contacted by a reporter from CNN. Less than a month later I was on CNNMoney.com and did an interview on CNN Newsroom with Tony Harris. A week after that, my story (and face!) was on Yahoo’s Homepage. Since then I’ve been in Kiplingers Personal Finance Magazine, iTunes New and Noteworthy list, MSNMoney.com, Probloggers Top 40 to Watch List, and on Yahoo’s homepage again.

If someone told me this would happen a year ago, I would have said they were crazy. I started EventualMillionaire.com in March of 2010 as a way to talk about my story of getting rid of $70,000 in debt and quitting a job I disliked. Plus I have a goal to become a millionaire and I wanted to chronicle what I was learning in business to help others increase their net worth too. I was one out of hundreds of new blogs in finance and business, but I really wanted to learn about online marketing and blogging so I figured I would give it six solid months of trying.

Here are a few important lessons I learned in my first year of blogging:

Lesson #1: Believe your story is awesome, then tell it often

We all have a story. Before you ever get mentioned in other blogs or press, you need to believe your story rocks. You are telling your story for a reason on your blog. Is it awesome? Sometimes we are too close to our own story so it sounds easy or not good enough. What do others think about your story?

(If they don’t think it’s at all interesting, then go out and create a more interesting story in your life!)

I asked the journalist from CNN how she found my blog and why she contacted me. She couldn’t even remember how she found my blog, but she did say that she loved my story. She said she was always on the look out for great stories.

Most of the media has found my story from my guest posts on large blogs like Get Rich Slowly. I’ve also used Helpareporter.com to submit to journalists.

Action #1: Believe that other people need to hear your story. Then: Tell your story. Tell your story. Tell your story.

Lesson #2: Don’t quit

The month before all of this press, I was so close to quitting blogging. I had done it for six months and had less than 500 subscribers. It was a ton of work, and I wasn’t getting much in return for all of the time spent.

I even told my coach that I would email my subscribers to tell them I was going to put all of my blogging on hold for awhile. For some odd reason, I could not send the email. Logically it made sense to quit. After six months I didn’t have a lot to show for it, but I couldn’t pull the trigger.

A week after that feeling the first journalist contacted me.

Action #2: Listen to your gut! If you feel pulled to continue, do it.

Lesson #3: Some tech stuff is important: SEO and shared hosting

Yahoo is mostly a content aggregator and takes stories from other sites like CNNMoney. So the first time I was on Yahoo it was a repeat of the CNNMoney story, and there was no link back to my blog. That meant there were a lot of people looking up my name.

When someone looked up my name on Yahoo, my blog didn’t show up first. First was my LinkedIn profile. Then there were links to comments and forums where I had posted. Then my blog. People couldn’t find me! It was a huge mistake.

Action #3: Make sure your websites are first when you look up your name.

The second time I was on Yahoo because Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine did a story on me when they found my blog. This time I had a link. I was so excited, but within two hours and over 9,000 visitors my site crashed and was down for the two days I was on the homepage.

I never thought I would be on the homepage of Yahoo the first time, let alone twice. This mistake cost me all of the visitors to my website, but also my image. There were people commenting about how my site was down for two days. The worst part was that I never fixed my SEO so when you looked up my name my blog wasn’t even on the first page!

Action #4: Prepare for traffic just in case. Now I have a VPS but there are services like Cloud Flare that help with traffic spikes too.

Lesson #4: Prepare as best as possible

I was asked to be on interviewed on CNN on a Friday. The interview was going to be live on TV on Monday. My husband was out of town so I asked my Mom to watch my two small children so I could prepare my blog.

I set up an Aweber account, created a 49-page ebook with worksheets called “The Eventual Millionaire Starter Kit” and created the best blog post I could to greet the new visitors.

The preparation paid off. I received about 5,000 new visitors from mentioning the site, and I converted almost 500 people to my email list.

Action #5: If a guest post or media outlet will mention you, find out ahead of time when it will go live. Then prepare your site to make your new visitors have the best experience possible. (And have a way to contact them in the future!)

Lesson #5: Figure out how to make any success even better

Usually we are just so excited to get attention we don’t think about what more we can do afterward. I wanted to capitalize on the appearances as best I could. I brainstormed and spoke to my mastermind group and mentor. I ended up sending out a press release to local newspapers and TV stations. I even sent a note to RIT, the college I went to.

It took about an hour or so to write the press release. It landed me on the cover of the local newspaper, and an interview with the TV station. I’ve also been in RIT’s magazine and newsletter.

Action #6: Capitalize on the successes you already have. Ask yourself, “How can I take advantage of the success I’ve already had and make it better?”

This past year has been incredible, and it was all because of my blog. Even if your blog isn’t financially rewarding yet, it can open up a lot of new opportunities that you never would have found without it. It’s a long road with twists and turns but it’s an amazing ride and I highly recommend it. Keep on blogging!

Have you had any rollercoaster rides following coverage of your blog? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Jaime Tardy is a business coach and consultant who helps you make and keep more money. You can find her at the blog at EventualMillionaire.com, and listen to her interview millionaires about business and finances at the Eventual Millionaire Podcast.

Set Up Your Blog for Product Reviews

This post is by Mike Essex of Koozai.

Regardless of the niche a blog operates in, it is possible to convince brands to provide free products for you to review.

If it’s a well known niche, such as trainers, then the brands will already have products available for review, as that’s the same way they gain exposure in the media, so the issue becomes more about standing out from the crowd.

Alternatively, if a niche is smaller (such as high-powered lasers), the focus shifts to educating the brand owners on why they should send you a product, and the exposure they can get in return.

In short, every product is crying out for exposure, whether it be from a big brand or a really obscure niche. This creates a need for bloggers to spread the word, and is where you can step in by talking about the product in the form of a review.

Through this article I’ll outline some of the best ways to build this connection with a brand through blogging, and how to turn that connection in to free stuff.

Step 1: Preparing your blog

The first step is to make it clear that you accept products to review on your blog. This can be done simply by adding additional modules of text on the template of every page to include:

  • Your reviews policy: A short paragraph that states you are sent products to review on the blog and that all opinions are your own.
  • Contact details: Include an email address on every page so it is as easy as possible to contact you. This can be written in the format of mike (at) blagman (dot) co (dot) uk if you have fears about spam.
  • A tag line: Under your site logo / title make sure you include a line of text such as “Product Reviews of X” or “X News and Reviews” to make it clear you offer that service.
  • About Me box: Include a paragraph about yourself that explains why you blog about that particular niche and that you are looking for products to review.
  • A Twitter feed: If companies can find you online in other places this is another indicator you are a real person.

Having these elements in place will help your blog stand out and make it explicitly clear what you can offer.

Step 2: Creating sample content

Next we need to prove to the companies that we can write, and that we understand their niche. If you’re writing good, regular content then you’re already half-way there. Alternatively, if your site is new, or you want to refresh the content, you should include the following:

  • Prior reviews: If you already own anything from the niche, review it. It doesn’t matter if it’s an old product as this can be called a “retrospective” article rather than a review, and is still a good way to prove yourself.
  • Up-to-date content: Make sure your newest blog posts is never more than three days old. The more freshness your blog has, the easier it will be to appear as an active blogger in your niche.
  • News: This is a nice way to get on the good side of companies early on. If you find any news in your niche, then write your own take on the events and email it to the company.
  • Opinions: By writing opinionated content on your blog you become part of industry conversations and will start to become a voice that brands want to engage with.
  • Guest content: If you are struggling to get a good amount of content then invite people to write for your site. You can then build up several reviews on your blog before approaching companies.
  • Tweets: Every time you write content be sure to tweet it, and link to other content. This makes your Twitter account stronger before you contact companies.

Although there are a few steps in this process, the more of these items you complete, the higher your chance of success when contacting companies. It’s better to do the preparation rather than putting a company off the first time you contact them. All in all, about ten good posts will be enough.

Step 3: Contacting brands

With the content in place, and a blog that screams “I review stuff!”, it’s time to contact companies. An email which simply asks for a freebie won’t go down very well, so instead focus on what you can offer the company and why they should give a product away for a review. This could be a mixture of:

  • your number of visitors or average traffic levels
  • your expertise in the niche
  • a list of the pasts brands you’ve featured (people love to be places their competitors are)
  • how quickly you can write a review
  • your number of Twitter followers
  • your number of posts (if it’s high)

I call this the “unique offer” and it’s about selling the brand on the idea of your blog. So an example for a website that reviews photography equipment could read something like this:

“Hi X,
I’m writing from Blog X, a photography website that reviews any photo equipment we are sent. Our URL is http://www…com. In the last month we have featured Cannon, Sony and FujiFilm and would really love to run a feature on Camera X.

In the past month, our blog has been viewed by 1,000 visitors in the photography community, and although we cannot return products after they have been reviewed, we offer a three-day turnaround for all coverage. The article will also be sent to our Twitter readership of 1,000 followers.

For more information please call or email me using the details below,
Kind Regards
NAME
PHONE
EMAIL
POSTAL ADDRESS”

Short emails work a lot better, and you just need to layer on a few core benefits of your blog to get them to visit it. If you’re lacking in one area (e.g. visitor numbers) then don’t talk about it.

When the company rep reaches your blog, they’ll then find the other content we prepared earlier, and your review policy information. We’ve also told them the product can’t be returned, which I always like to get out of the way in the initial email. If it’s a niche with very expensive products, you can try to get a long-term loan instead of a freebie if you wish. It’s worth trying your luck either way.

If they like your offer, they can use the address you’ve given to send it over, or as we’ve provided a phone number, they can call you if more information is required. You’ll get a lot more products if you’re not afraid to take a phone call or two, but if you are shy, you don’t have to include it. There will almost always be a second form of contact after your initial email so if you hear nothing after a week, be sure to send a follow-up.

My best tip is to always find contacts at brands’ PR or marketing departments. This is the ideal type of person to deal with and most sites have a press area that lists these details. Find the person’s name and add them on Twitter and Linkedin. You can email them and engage with them on social networks at the same time. They’ll then be more aware of you, and it can be nice to re-tweet a few of their comments before you email them. The more personable you can appear, the more likely your chance of success.

Over time, as your blog grows, this process becomes easier. Track everything on a spreadsheet so you know who was contacted, when, and if they sent a product. You can return to previous companies who have sent you products and see what they’ve got coming up next. Plus, the more brands you feature, the stronger your site will appear to other brands. Eventually you will get to a point where brands find you through word of mouth and then contact you first asking for a review (which we prepared for in step one)—and that’s when things really get interesting.

How do you seek products for review on your blog? Share your tips with us below.

Mike Essex is a search specialist at Digital Marketing Agency Koozai and author of the book Free Stuff Everyday which explains how anyone can stuff for free by blogging. He can be found on Twitter as @Koozai_Mike.

How to Blog Without Comparing Yourself to Others

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

Is your blog the best in the world?

Often when we want to blog, we can struggle with what we see in the blogging universe. These blogs are doing better than our blog. Why is that? This blog has more followers on Twitter, has better and longer comments, has more views, has more Likes…

Just calm down.

Why should you be upset that a blog has more of something than your blog has? Is it really that bad that they are, technically, “better” than your blog?

ProBlogger has more of a lot of things than my blog does, but that doesn’t frighten me and make me want to hide away. No, I carry on blogging, leaving comments on other blogs, and writing guest posts for sites such as ProBlogger.

A lot of the time, I see bloggers get frustrated with themselves because they’ve just encountered a blog that they think is superior to their own. One such blog post from Blogging Bookshelf illustrates this envy. Some bloggers realize that another blog might have something that their blog doesn’t—in this case a better About Me page—and then they become frustrated or overwhelmed at the task that has suddenly appeared before them.

“How can I get my ‘x’ to look as good as their ‘x’?” they ask themselves.

The simple answer is, you don’t.

Just let go

Do you really want to go through your blogging career, come to the end, and then have everyone remember yours as the blog that often tried to emulate other blogs? Do you really want to be known as someone who studied other blogs, tried out their best features and improved their own blog to match theirs, only to find that nothing really worked?

I’m sure you don’t want this, no-one does. Sure, you can study others and what you perceive them to do well, but that’s something entirely different from getting annoyed with yourself and seeking to emulate them.

For example, Steve Jobs and Apple studied from Bill Gates and Microsoft. This is good. But did Apple then get annoyed with themselves for not being as good as Microsoft, and then start doing what Microsoft did? No, they studied from the best, then did their own thing anyway.

Another example, Martin Luther King Jr. studied Mahatma Gandhi and his quest to achieve peace. Again, this is good, but did MLK then become frustrated with himself because Gandhi did things better than him? No, King learned about Gandhi, and then did things his own way.

I could give you some more examples, but I’m hoping you’ll see my point. By all means, study what others did that you admire, learn what you can, but never sacrifice your own individuality and authenticity in an attempt to be like others. You travel in a downward spiral by doing this. Remember, studying and learning is a different concept than comparing and self-doubting.

The comparison trap

The real trap that will ensnare you every time you compare your blog to another blog is fear: fear that this blog will somehow overtake you and reach your goals faster than you. Or that they will become so big that none of their readers will want to go anywhere else to get their blogging fix—and that includes your blog.

The fear that our blogs will somehow “miss out” drives us to keep pushing harder and harder in order to get our deserved recognition, our dues. With the amount of work that we put in, we deserve to have 20,000 subscribers, we deserve to have at least 100 comments on each post, we deserve to have 25,000 followers on Twitter.

We feel that we deserve to have whatever success we can conceive, and that if it isn’t delivered to us, then life isn’t fair and why should we even bother? That’s the awful trap of comparing your blogs to other blogs.

But there is another way of thinking.

To blog for blogging’s sake

The whole idea of a blog (short for web-log) is that we chronicle our thoughts and musings down onto computer form, so that we can share this with the world. It started out as an online diary, but has now become a multiverse of niche websites, content marketing tips and funky YouTube clips.

Blogging has come a long way, but what’s important to realize is that now, there are so many different blogs out there, and so many different successful blogs, that it’s nearly impossible to emulate everyone in the blogging universe. There will always be someone successful who you can’t emulate.

With that in mind, why bother emulating at all? We’ve seen that practically any kind of blog can make it today, so why not your own blog? It’s meant to be creative, and written in your own voice, as it’s your own blog. So why not blog for blogging’s sake?

The idea of blogging for pure enjoyment has become a little lost over recent months. Bloggers need to make money now, they need to be successful. Did Leo Babauta of ZenHabits need to be a mega-blogger? No, he blogged because he loved to blog, and success happened anyway. Even if Leo only got 100 subscribers after two years, I don’t think that would have derailed him. So find something that you enjoy blogging about. Whatever it may be, I’m sure it’s got the potential to be successful anyway.

This means that you need to have some creativity. Creativity is tied in with originality and innovation. You create something that’s not only good, but original and unique, and that can help others. Sound tough? It doesn’t have to be. Helping others is something that comes naturally to us all, no matter how much we hate the world. And you’re being creative every minute of the day, especially if you blog regularly. Publish a post twice a week? That’s being creative twice a week. And originality and innovation? That comes with speaking your own voice. No other voice but your own.

Granted, if you’re struggling to get your blog going and you’re constantly looking to others’ blogs for inspiration, being creative and innovative may seem a little alien to you right now. But at least try. Everyone has got inspiration and genius within them, they just need to dig in and find it. Going back to Leo, he didn’t believe that many people would find his work interesting at first. He just wrote what he felt like writing, and the rest followed. Go back to his first posts, and you’ll see what I mean.

If you’re really struggling to be creative after reading those first entries, then check out this post from Darren, where he discusses nine attitudes of highly creative people.

Your blog is you

Whatever you write about, realize that your blog is your “avatar” in a way. It’s how you’re going to be recognized by the online community, it’s how you’re going to be marked and labelled. Darren has been labelled as a blogging guru. Leo Babauta has been labelled as a Zen guru. It happens to us all, because it helps others to remember you more easily by. Don’t reject it, but don’t pay much attention to it either. Just do your own thing and keep doing it.

This will ensure that you are recognized for being you, and for being no-one else in this world. If you’re known as the blogger who copies from others, then that will be your label, and no-one wants to buy a cheap imitation copy. Just be yourself, every day, every hour, every minute.

How do you bring yourself to every aspect of your blogging? I’d love to hear your stories!

Stuart Mills is an experienced writer who wants to help you improve at life. He thinks you’re awesome. You can often find him at Unlock The Door, where he writes constantly to make it a better day for everyone, and you can subscribe to his content here.

The 5 Forgotten Keys to Extraordinary Blogging Success

This guest post is by Mr. Self Development of Mr. Self Development.com.

Success is not the result of luck, chance, or coincidence.  Success comes when an individual decides to follow the principles of success.

The principles of success will produce success every time.  So today I want to talk about five success principles that will result in successful blogging.

1. Get motivated

“Motivation is the fuel necessary to keep the human engine running.” ~Anonymous

Motivation is like water: you don’t fully understand its importance until you don’t have any.  Nothing happens without motivation.  You can have all of the talent, all of the time, and know all of the blogging success principles, but if you don’t have the motivation to turn your blogging dream into a reality, it doesn’t matter.

You must have a vision that motivates you.  If you’ve lost your passion, get a new vision to re-ignite the ashes so your blogging dreams burn bright again.

2. Work harder

“Success comes before work only in the dictionary.” ~Anonymous

Successful bloggers don’t just work harder than other bloggers: they work much, much harder.

To be the best, you have to give your very best.  One of my favorite quotes is by Greg Evans. He said, “I do not have superior intelligence or faultless looks.  I do not captivate a room or run a mile under six minutes.  I only succeeded because I was still working after everyone went to sleep.”

There is no success without very hard work.  Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and it looks like work.”  Don’t miss your opportunity because it looks like work.

To succeed in blogging it’s going to take hard work, and a lot of it.

3. Fail

“If at first you don’t succeed, try not to look too surprised.” ~Anonymous

In blogging as in life, failure is not only certain, but it’s necessary.  It’s necessary for your growth, and it’s necessary for progress.  Your failures will make you better, sharper, and more relevant; your failures are your teachers and they will qualify you for success.  So embrace failure, learn from failure, fail some more, and then dust yourself off, look up, and succeed.

Les Brown has a saying: “When life knocks you down, try to land on your back, because if you can look up, then you can get up!”

You will certainly encounter failures in your blogging ventures, but remember, if you can look up, you can get up.  You can learn from those failures and emerge victorious.

4. Do what you ought

“If you would live your life with ease; do what you ought, not what you please.” ~Anonymous

It’s easy to do what you please, but to succeed you must do what is necessary.  You must create the habits that cause success.  If you can create the habits that produce success, then success is assured.  Labor to understand the habits of the successful, and then work to make their habits your habits.  Study the successful bloggers, and then get in the habit of doing what they do.

5. Be willing

“Success: willing to do what the average person is not willing to do.” ~Anonymous

Anyone can write a good blog post, but everyone’s not willing to write a good blog post every day.  Successful people do what the unsuccessful are unwilling to do.  Not what they are incapable of doing, but what they are unwilling to do.

To succeed in blogging, you must do what others are unwilling to do.

And it’s not about discipline; discipline is a highly overrated limited resource.  To succeed you must be willing and committed to creating the right habits.  When you create the right habits, your habits will carry you to blogging success.

What other factors do you believe play into your success as a blogger? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Mr. Self Development is an author who teaches a motivational and practical guide to success. Please visit him at Mr. Self Development.com.

A Journalist’s Approach to Blogging

This guest post is by Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Journalists and bloggers are doing double duty these days. With massive layoffs and fewer staff, many are publishing press releases word-for-word. It’s been nicknamed churnalism. It’s when we get a little sloppy and use press releases as our own words.

As a freelance journalist and blogger who covers pets and wildlife, I get the same press releases as other pet and wildlife bloggers. I’ve often seen the same press release appear on different pet blogs. What’s wrong with this is that it doesn’t set our blogs apart, and what’s worse is that press releases always praise a product, person, or company. The press release on the dog-friendly hotel never talks about size and weight restrictions for dogs. (Some hotels only welcome small and medium sized dogs.) Or the release about cat food fails to talk about a recent recall. Usually press releases are one sided—and that point of view doesn’t tell the whole story.

A while back, I received a press release about a new organic human grade dog food created by a husband and wife team. The wife was feeding her husband dog food for one month to launch the product and they were raising money to fight canine cancer. I didn’t want to run their press release verbatim, so I called up the wife and started asking questions. I found out that they were also going to serve the food at a local upscale restaurant, and that the chef was pairing their dog food with different wines. I got a fun blog post from that interview, and my story was different from the others who ran the press release.

An easy out

A colleague of mine is working with a company that has 11 web sites. He complains that 80 percent of the copy on each of them use recycled press releases. He writes more than a dozen stories a week—many where copy gets pulled from press releases.

Public relations people love it when you run their press releases word-for-word. Unfortunately, you are not serving your readers.

As a freelance journalist and blogger, I have written hard news stories, features, and have gone over to the other side (public relations) to write press releases. The money over there is better. And as a journalist, I like getting press releases. Many fuel ideas for future stories. I do hold the line on printing press releases word-for-word. As a blogger, I cover animal welfare, pet care and people who work with and on behalf of animals. Pet and wildlife bloggers are a growing niche. There are thousands of us, and the same can be said of other niche blogs.

How to use a press release

If the press release seems like it would make an interesting post, look for a different angle. I may call or email the contact on the press release with questions.

Depending on the story, I may contact other experts to broaden the scope of the post. I just wrote a story that started from a press release about the negative effects the TNR (Trap Neuter Return) policy has on the environment. The Wildlife Society is against TNR programs. I’ve been hearing about this for a long while—and not just from The Wildlife Society. Veterinarians, wildlife professionals, and many birders deeply dislike feral cats.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to cover this point of view. I love all animals, and cats are at the top of my list. Still, I thought I should explore this fairly. I contacted The Wildlife Society and got quotes on why they are against TNR. Since this is a blog, I told my readers my side of the story. And because I love cats so much and disagree with The Wildlife Society’s point of view, I ran a follow up—this time with quotes and data from Best Friends Animal Society and Alley Cat Allies supporting TNR.

Thinking like a journalist and blogger

As a journalist, I need to present well balanced stories. Since it’s a blog, my opinions are often evident. Still, I think it is essential to get the entire picture. So, I email contacts and call them too. I usually start out by coming up with a list of questions. That has always been easy for me; maybe because I can be nosey.

If you have trouble doing this, go online and read other stories. Check out your favorite blogs and see if you can come up with a different angle on a story that you have enjoyed reading. Then ask yourself questions about the story. Is there more information that you would like to read? What questions are forming in your mind? Write them down.

Use the press releases; just don’t run them word-for word. Write your list of questions. If you have trouble coming up with them, talk to a colleague or friend. It’s easy to email questions to the people you interview. This way they can write down their answers and send them back to you.

At the end of all of my interviews, I always ask, “Is there anything we didn’t cover that you want to mention?” This is a good way to make sure you are not missing anything important.

I also like the person-to-person interview. When you are talking to someone, other thoughts and comments come up. This always leads to more information that is not covered in a press release. Personal interviews also build stronger connections. Many of the folks I’ve interviewed read, subscribe and comment on my blog.

Have you used press releases to create blog posts? How did you do it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Michele C. Hollow is a journalist who writes the blog Pet News and Views. Her blog covers animal welfare, pet care, and profiles people who work with and on behalf of animals. She is also the author of “The Everything Guide to Working with Animals.”

A One Month Guide to Money Blogging

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

A desperate reader of mine recently asked how she could make the most amount of money her first month blogging. In order to help her I decided to share with her my “secret” method.

Before I had even begun to explain the same guide I’m about to share with you, she worried that her lack of experience blogging and time to work on the project would limit her success. As I explained to her, this method doesn’t take a lot of work, it takes a lot of “smart” work. Using your time wisely to do the most good in a single month is the key to success. When I told this reader that she could make as much as $800 in her first month, well, her response was classic:

What?! $800 in my first month of blogging!?”

As I explained to her, you have to keep in mind that your mileage is going to vary when you adapt this strategy for your own endeavors. For starters, this may be the very first time you venture forth writing for any audience, let alone knowing how to write as a blogger. What took me a month could very well take you a year depending on how accomplished you are as a writer, blogger, community leader, and communicator.

Therefore, think of this guide as a grand, overarching strategy which you can attempt to slowly implement and learn from in your own blogging career.

I did make $800 my first month blogging with this strategy, but I may have just gotten lucky. I wrote the right stuff on the right forums and the right blogs at the right time. I had a blog of 187 subscribers in a single month, sold a product worth $37 to this beginning audience (I made $20 per sale) and if you do the math you’ll realize that I sold 40 of them. Possible? Yes. Plausible for your current level of experience? Maybe.

Regardless of your skill level this strategy will teach you how to think correctly when it comes to planning, building up to and executing a sales pitch online.

Week one

Well, if you’re really starting from scratch, you’ll need to create a blog. With a number of automated blogging sites out there, like blogger.com and wordpress.com, this really isn’t all that difficult.

Granted, you won’t have anything beyond a free template to start with, but you can still get a minimalistic site up and running without too much effort. I would recommend having an RSS Feed-subscribe widget, contact page, and an archive widget as a bare minimum.

Once that is complete, your next task is creating content about your subject area—enough that you will have posts for the rest of the month. I would recommend a minimum of two to three posts per week of 500 words each. Leave out the last week’s posts, however, as those will be reserved for your sales pitch.

In a single week, I definitely think that you can write six posts. All you do in this week is write posts and set up your blog, so you will most likely not have any traffic coming to your blog from these efforts.

As you write, cross-link all of your posts to each other, so that when your site does start getting traffic, both users and bots will find themselves being sent to many of your posts from any one location. As new posts go live, go back to old ones and keep cross-linking. Obviously you cannot start linking posts until they have gone live, so going back to cross-link will be a must over time. This does two things: makes robots happy and also makes your blog look much bigger than it actually is to first time readers.

So what kind of content should you focus on writing? For starters, I would recommend anything that is timely, easy to follow, and useful to your audience. Be concise (after all, you only have 500 words) but try your best to make people think when they come to your blog. Be unique, be yourself, and create enough well-thought-out content that you will make a great first impression on the people you send to your blog in this first month of writing.

The best way to make this first impression worth a return visit is to provide something no one has ever seen before. This could involve putting a new spin on old dogma in your niche, or coming up with something completely revolutionary by thinking outside the box.

Do a great job of building excellent content and you’ll have enough subscribers to feed that $800 target earnings you’re hoping for. Honestly, this takes a lot of experience in the subject area you are focusing on. You either have the knowledge and personal skill to write for an audience in your chosen niche, or you do not, and if you fall into the latter category then you need to focus on improving that before you can implement this strategy to the fullest.

Week two

Now that you have all your posts finished and they are being published on a biweekly basis, you can start focusing on more than just cross linking new and old posts together. It’s time to get traffic, and I’ll leave much of this up to you.

If you want to participate on forums, send guest posts, write comments on blogs or any other form of traffic, feel free to do so with your free time now.

Don’t advertise yourself per se, but if the opportunity arises then you can leave a link or two to helpful posts you have written on any one subject. Just do your best to engage in conversation with leaders and non-leaders alike in your particular niche. Be helpful, ask great questions, and give even better answers.

Focus all of your efforts this week on guest posting, developing a reputation in your niche, and going to where your potential audience gathers. Most of your week should be spent on places outside of your own blog in order to maximize your exposure and get your name out there. This could mean you spend an entire day in conversations on various forums in your niche, or you take the time to look up related blogs and leave constructive comments on them.

Of all the things you focus on, however, guest posting will most likely be your most effective traffic driver. For this reason alone you should be putting your largest effort into contacting fellow bloggers and writing great guest posts for them. Explore their blogs, read their comments and figure out what information you can share with their audience in order to enrich the experience that is their blog.

Week three

While continuing with cross-linking posts and building exposure for your blog, you should also look into finding a product which you can sell to your initial audience.

Realistically, you probably won’t have more than fifty followers by the end of the month, but the ones you do have will hopefully really love your work. As long as you do a good job of coming across as someone who understands your niche and loves writing, you should have no problem pitching a recommended product by the end of the month.

Your job now, in week three, is to find that product and also talk to the creator of it. What you want to ask is for some sort of interview, whether that be a Skype recording, a written interview done via email, or any other form of communication that will show your audience that the person who made this product is not only a real person but knowledgeable about their subject area as well. Get the conversation started and have the interview asap.

Be sure to communicate with your audience throughout the month, and don’t be afraid to ask for their questions and/or feedback in a post at some point. This will enable you to build a deeper connection with your initial readership as well as get conversations started on your own blog in the comments section.

Week four

At this point, you have a starter blog that is getting some traffic from whatever methods you’ve chosen and you may even have a decent number of followers. With your interview in hand, you will now want to write two posts for the end of the month that both lead into the product you hope to sell to your audience—as well as actually sell the dang thing. Here’s how you should break these two posts down.

Post 1

Write about the problem that this product can solve. Don’t solve the problem, just write about it and ask your audience for solutions. Above all, be honest. Tell them that you have a solution in hand and that you are trying it out.

Actually do this, please—do not pitch a product you can’t honestly recommend.

If the problem is something that your audience can relate to and which they want solved, then this post should be aimed at whetting their appetite. Tell them that you have found a product creator with the solution to their problems and that you are setting up an interview with that person very soon. Again, do not reveal the product just yet.

Post 2

Now show the interview, write about your personal experience with the product and ask for feedback from anyone who ends up buying it. Gather the feedback (you should get some if you ask for it) and if you have enough then I would recommend that you also write a third post for the following day. Include in this third post your audience’s reviews of the product, good and bad, and then thank those that chose to leave reviews.

That’s the whole strategy and yes, you honestly can make quite a bit of money if you master it. Really, what you’re learning is how to build a presence and sell to an audience, which is a simple marketing concept adapted to blogging online. Do you think that you could follow this strategy and be successful?

Chris is a self proclaimed expert at showing bloggers how they can get traffic, build communities, make money online and be successful. You can find out more at The Traffic Blogger.

3 Simple Changes to Increase Your Subscribers by 50%

This guest post is by Goddess Leonie of GoddessGuidebook.com.

In blogging years, I’m approaching my mid-life. Instead of having a crisis though, there’s life (and new tricks) in this ole goddess dog yet! In the last three months I’ve increased my subscribers by a whopping 50%. All with three simple changes. Because simple is fun and good, and really, it’s the best way to do things.

Are you ready to hear them? Hurrah!

1. Getting people in

I’ve SEO’ed the heck out of my website. I’ve commented like a fiend on all my favorite blogs. I’m aTwittering and FriendFace-ing with the best of them (a li’l “IT Crowd” joke in there for those playing at home). Want to know the thing that’s lovingly ushered people through the doors into my blog?

Guest blogging.

I had it on my to-do list for a bazillion years. “Yus yus yus, sooo important. OMG must be all ova dat! But mmm, can’t be bovered.” Every week, I put it off. Until I kicked my own butt (somewhat lovingly) into guest blog town.

  • I asked all my affiliates if I could guest blog for them.
  • I popped an “Interview me!” button on my blog.
  • I contacted all the places I knew that accepted guest blog submissions.
  • And I asked all my favorite blog peoples if I could write for them.

Whenever I wrote the guest blogs, I made sure I infused as much of my trademark ridunkulous silly and soppy language in them. Just to shoot up a little beacon of a freak flag so my right people knew I was a ginormous raving hippy, and that I was one of their kind.

And people spilled through the doors, and it was grand.

Mission Getting People In a success! Hurrah!

2. Making them welcome

But the next mission is just as important, and it’s one that we totally ignore.

We all know that the bounce rate on our websites is super-high. When you jump on a blog for the first time, it’s hard to know where to begin, or if you belong. We need a better doormat, people. And a lounge room to welcome them into. We need to help them recognize instantly that our blog is a home for them.

Some ways we can do that:

  • Add a New Here page to your blog introducing yourself, explaining what your blog’s about, and sharing some of your best posts to get them started.
  • Add a YouTube video to your sidebar welcoming new readers, and introducing yourself and your blog.
  • Do some brainstorming. If your blog was a magazine, what themes would it cover? Then make those themes prominent on your blog—whether that’s written in your banner, or as an image.

Here’s the one I popped together:

Mission Make Them Comfy complete! *confetti*

3. Helping them stay

How do we get our guests to become regular drop-in-aholics?

The best way I know is the What Would Seth Godin Do plugin. It appears the first five times a new friend visits your blog, and asks them if they’d like to subscribe by RSS or email.

Since using it, I’ve noticed a 20% increase in subscribers alone. Happy days!

Mission: Stay foreva, my one true reader-love = done.

3 simple changes = 50% more delight

It’s been dang glorious. And I’m pretty sure it’s been way more fun than having an existential blogging mid-life crisis!

Let us know your secrets for upping subscribers in the comments.

Goddess Leonie is the creator of GoddessGuidebook.com, a popular creativity and spirituality blog for women. She’s also the creator of the upcoming Become a Business Goddess ecourse.